10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,
11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain.
12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,
14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
16 They profess to know God, but by their works they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and unfit for any good work.
In Revelation 2:18-29, Jesus addressed the church in Thyatira this way: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your last deeds are greater than the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and deceives My slaves so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent, and she does not wish to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”
Notice that the address began with congratulatory remarks: Look at your love and faith and service and perseverance! You are clearly maturing, in that the deeds you’re doing now are even greater than the deeds you were doing in the beginning.
But what did Jesus have against them? You tolerate that woman Jezebel, that false prophetess. And because you tolerate her, because you let her say what she says and she goes unchallenged, she has deceived the brethren, so that there are many who go after sexual immorality with her.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the qualifications of a pastor. Last week, we focused on just verse 9, which says that a pastor or an overseer or an elder is to hold “fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to reprove those who contradict.” As John Calvin said, and this is a quote I have hanging in my office, “The pastor ought to have two voices: one for gathering the sheep, and another for driving away wolves.”
In today’s passage, we see what happens when a flock does not have a sound shepherd who directs the sheep and fends off the wolves. There’s a contrast between the sound teacher described for us in verses 5-9 and these false teachers Paul warns about in verses 10-16.
In verses 10-11, he says, “There are many rebellious men… empty talkers and deceivers.” And because they go unchallenged, “they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain.” The next part in verses 12-14, Paul says what the people are like where Titus has been sent to minister. And because they are like this, here’s what they need: “Reprove them severely,” he says, “so that they may be sound in the faith.”
The last part in verses 15-16, Paul again contrasts the sound with the unsound, but more than that, he connects doctrine with life. “To the pure, all things are pure,” he says. “But to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure.” We’re being shown here that a person’s doctrine and his behavior go hand in hand. Your doctrine affects your living and living affects your doctrine.
So to summarize this section once again: False doctrine must be silenced, so reprove those who teach and who follow false doctrine, because doctrine and life go together.
I. Silence Them
Let’s come back to that first section in verses 10-11 where Paul says that false doctrine must be silenced. He says in verse 10, “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision.” The false brothers that Paul has in mind here are described in these three ways: they are rebellious, their talk is empty and deceptive, especially but not limited to the Judaizers.
Now, I want to be clear to qualify these men as false brothers, not just false teachers. Certainly, Paul includes false teachers here, but not exclusively. I could use the term false teacher, and that would be correct, especially considering what Paul says in verse 11: they are “teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain.” But if I were to say false teacher, you might have in your mind that Paul is just warning against someone who stands in a pulpit or maybe someone who teaches a Sunday school class. And we don’t have any false teachers in our church, do we? So why should we share the urgency this passage clearly contains?
But do you have to officially be granted the role of a teacher in order to be a teacher? No. We can get together for lunch and talk theology, and we’re teaching each other, right? So recognize that these empty talkers and deceivers are not just people who have some kind of teaching platform. This especially makes sense when you look at verse 13 where Paul says, “For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” That’s whether they are a false teacher or they are following false teaching.
So these that are causing the disruption are false brethren. They are first defined as rebellious, meaning that they neither believe nor obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is not just something to be heard but to be believed in and even obeyed. We obey in the sense that we respond to the call of the gospel and put our faith and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. Believing in Jesus means more than believing that He exists, or even that He died on the cross and rose from the dead. You also believe the words that He said, and you show that you believe what He said by doing what He said.
John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” 2 Thessalonians 1:8 says that Jesus will “execute vengeance on those who do not know god and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
I saw a comment earlier this week from a Reverend Jacqui Lewis of Middle Church in New York City. There’s already a problem there with a woman calling herself a Reverend. But she said, “The Apostle Paul did not write 1 Timothy.” If that wasn’t problematic enough, she went on to say, “But also, not every word of the Bible is of God.” Straight-down rebellion, folks. They do not want to believe nor obey the word of Christ.
Paul goes on to say that they are empty talkers and deceivers. They might sound like they can talk a big game, but does their talk actually lead anyone to the truth? In John Bunyan’s famous work Pilgrim’s Progress, there’s a character named Talkative. And Faithful is taken by him at first. This guy really seems to know his stuff.
But Christian is wise to Talkative’s rhetoric. He tells Faithful:
“He talks of prayer, of turning to God, of faith, and of the new birth; but he knows only to talk of them… His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is of savor. In his home, there is neither prayer nor sign of turning from sin… His poor family finds it so: he is such a fault-finder, such a railer at, and so unreasonable with his servants, that they neither know how to do for or speak to him… For my part, I am of the opinion that he has, by his wicked life, caused many to stumble and fall, and will be, if God prevent not, the ruin of many more.”
Perhaps, when John Bunyan wrote the character Talkative, he had the empty talkers in mind that Paul mentioned here.
Thirdly, Paul says these false brothers are especially from the circumcision. These are the Judaizers who say, as in Acts 15:1, that you must be circumcised in order to be saved. These are men who held to their traditions and believed the works we do or even the foods we eat make us either pure or impure. You could purify yourself just by doing certain things, rather than putting faith in Jesus who “cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Now for Paul to say especially those of the circumcision group, I don’t think he’s talking about them exclusively, but they may have been the most prominent example of those whom Paul called rebellious, empty talkers, and deceivers.
And what does Paul say needs to be done with them? Look at verse 11: “They must be silenced.” Why? “Because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of dishonest gain.” This reference to families may not be to like the nuclear family—mom and dad, kids, grandma and grandpa. This is in reference to churches who are being described as families, because that’s what we are—brothers and sisters in Christ.
How are these false brothers upsetting whole families? It might be that these families are being thrown into confusion, resulting in unrest, uncertainty, and doubt. When Paul wrote his second letter to the Thessalonians, they were a mess because someone had written a letter to them claiming that the Day of the Lord had already taken place. A false teacher had caused them confusion.
Another way these churches are being upset is that they’re being threatened. I led a man who was a Mormon to faith in Christ—the true Christ of the Bible, not the false Christ of Joseph Smith. His family immediately began shaming him to get him to convert back to Mormonism. They said he would be disowned and they would never talk to him again. The Mormon religion reserves its worst judgments for those who try to leave Mormonism. No one really goes to hell according to Mormonism except for Apostate Mormons. It’s a spiritually abusive cult.
A third way these churches are being upset is simply that there are people who are turning from the truth and wandering after lies, which these false brothers are pushing for their own personal benefit. When 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” that’s not some generic proverb. If you read the context there in 1 Timothy 6, Paul is saying that the love of money is at the root of all kinds of false teaching, “and some by aspiring to it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Paul also says in 1 Timothy 6 what happens to a person when the leave the sound words of the gospel of Christ:
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. But he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and quarrels about words, out of which arise envy, strife, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who imagine godliness is a means of gain” (v.3-5).
The sound words of the gospel of Jesus Christ produces godliness in the lives of those who believe it. But when someone leaves sound doctrine for something else, what happens? Their behavior goes south. And they do so at their own peril.
This is why Paul says, “They must be silenced.” Go back to the example I opened with in Revelation 2. Here was a false prophetess who was going unchallenged by the church. And what was happening as a result? She was leading professing Christians into sexual immorality. And Jesus said if they do not repent, they will be destroyed with her. Bad doctrine leads to bad decisions that leads to destruction. Silence the false teaching. Not only silence them, but reprove them severely.
II. Severely Reprove
Look at this next section, verses 12-14. “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” Remember, Titus has been sent to the island of Crete where the gospel has already been preached and many churches have been planted. He was being sent to put the churches in order and appoint elders over those churches (that was back in verse 5).
And so for this work the he was appointed to do, it was necessary for Titus to understand what kind of people he was dealing with. That’s not so unusual. Andrew and Jeremy are about to head to India. It’s good for them to know what the people are like in the region where they are headed so they know how to more effectively minister.
We’ve got a team going to Houston at the end of the month who are going to be witnessing to Muslims. I’ve sat in on a few of those calls, and one of the things the team has been taught is what to wear. Certain kinds of clothing could offend a Muslim, and you don’t want to offend them before you even have the opportunity to share the gospel with them.
In this particular case, Paul is telling Titus what Cretens are like so Titus will understand the reason why a Creten needs to be severely rebuked. (You know, I was really curious when I saw how these Cretens were described. I wondered, “Is this where we get the word cretin from? You know, cretin as an insult? Meaning, a stupid person? It comes from the people of Crete? But it turns out there’s no connection there.)
These people have a reputation for being liars, cruel, and lazy. And Paul shows this to Titus by quoting one of their own, a poet by the name of Epimenides. And again, this is so Titus understands the need for a stern rebuke. Not everyone needs to be severely rebuked, but in order to get through to the men of Crete, that’s what it was going to take.
In just a few verses here, Paul has said that false teaching must be silenced, and in order to get through to these people, reprove them sharply. Through this, it’s important for us to recognize that the Bible is not glib when it comes to dealing with false teaching. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees publicly, in their presence and the presence of the people. Paul named false teachers: “Alexander the Coppersmith did me much harm. Watch out for him.” John named false teachers, too: “Diotrephes, who loves to put himself first, does not welcome what we say.”
A pastor, and in fact every believer, must do more than simply say, “Stay away from false teaching.” We must also name the false teaching, and at times the teachers who teach it. Otherwise, we leave things to nuance, generalities, and obfuscation. That might be less offensive, but how can that be helpful?
My friends, do you believe that there is teaching that leads to hell? And do you believe that there is teaching that leads to everlasting life with God? As Leonard Ravenhill once said, “There are millions of ways to hell, but only way to heaven.” If you see someone you love following after a philosophy or religion or an ideology that the Bible says will lead to their eternal damnation, are you just going to sit there and go, “I wish they wouldn’t do that. But you know, I just don’t want to offend them by telling them they’re doing something wrong.”
My youngest is 22 months old, and he loves to play in the street. We’re fortunate to live in a neighborhood with very few cars, because there is nothing else in the world his little legs will carry him to faster than when he wants to go play in the road. What kind of father would I be if I just watched him run out there, and I said, “That’s not the path I would take. I wish he’d make better decisions. That’s probably not the safest option.”
How do you think I respond? I yell, “Zeke, no!” as I’m running to snatch him up before he reaches the street. And I will punish him because the sting of a spanking may very well save his life.
This is why Paul speaks so sharply about how to deal with bad doctrine. Silence them. “Reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.” He’s not looking for an excuse to yell at people or bash them over the head. He cares for these men. He wants them to be sound in the faith, so that they would not be easily led astray by rebellious, empty, deceptive talk.
Look at verse 14: so that they wouldn’t pay “attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” In Matthew 15 and Mark 7, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and said, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.'” Jesus said to them, “You are good at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” It appears as if the same problem was happening in Crete.
But by exhorting in the truth, silencing false teaching, and giving those who follow it severe reproof, the brethren will not be led astray but will be sound in the faith. And their lives would become a reflection of their sound doctrine.
III. Doctrine and Life
Look at these last couple of verses, verses 15-16: “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”
Now where it is said, “To the pure, all things are pure,” this does not mean that for the Christian, everything is permissible and there’s nothing sinful anymore. Rather, we are to understand it this way: whatever God has not forbidden is good. If the Scripture doesn’t forbid it, then there’s no reason for us to forbid it. We still must be responsible with our Christian liberty so that it doesn’t cause anyone to stumble. Paul talks about this in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. Nonetheless, there’s no reason to consider anything impure that God has not called impure.
Though there is nothing in God’s creation that could be called impure, to those whose hearts are impure, nothing is pure. Since they are in rebellion against God, nothing that they do is unto His glory, so everything they do is impure. Does that make sense? “Both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” They take that which God calls good and they sin with it.
Verse 16 says, “They profess to know God, but by their works they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and unfit for any good work.” Just like Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress—he professed to know God, but his works didn’t match his words but rather the true condition of his heart. He was detestable and disobedient and unfit for any good work.
How about you? Do you profess to be a Christian but meanwhile your mind dwells upon things that aren’t very Christian? Do you show people one version of yourself in public but you’re someone else completely different in private? Do you care nothing for spiritual things but you’d rather have the things of this world or the passions of your flesh? Are you quicker to anger than you are to forgive?
Two years ago, when preaching through the Sermon on the Mount, I presented to you this question: Why does God allow false teachers? The Joel Osteens, the T.D. Jakes, the Ed Young Jr’s, the Beth Moore’s, the Kenneth Copelands, the Todd Whites, the Beth Allison Barr’s, the Robert Morris’s, the John Hagees… and that’s just in Texas, y’all! Why would God allow these huge mega churches led by false teachers to go on preaching so many, many lies?
The Scripture gives us two reasons: testing and judgment. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us walk after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for Yahweh your god is testing you to find out if you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
And as we’ve been going through the book of Romans, we heard in chapter 1 how God will turn the wicked over to their own passions to be consumed by them and come into judgment. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says, “God sends upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Are you storing up for yourself teachers to suit your own passions (2 Timothy 4:3), or will you listen to the truth and be saved? Paul told Timothy to keep close watch on himself and on his doctrine; “persevere in these things, for as you do this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
My friends, there was once a time in my life I went after the passions of my flesh, and I listened to false teachers who would tell me what I wanted to hear so I could have what I wanted to have. It’s because of doctrinally sound men, who specifically named my sin and reproved me sharply, that I turned back to the path of righteousness and the good doctrine that leads the way. I hate to think what would have happened to me if there hadn’t been someone to set me straight. Maybe someone needs to do that for you, or maybe you know someone who needs to hear the truth. You might just save their life.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
As theologian Charles Ellicott said, “Purity and sound doctrine are inseparable… Who are the pure to whom all things are pure? Only those in this world who have sought cleansing by faith in the precious blood of Jesus.”
Christ by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, all who believe in Him, He has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), because doctrine and life go together.
In the next section, we will see what the life of a person looks like whose doctrine is sound and is pursuing godliness. What does such a church look like? What should we look like? That’s coming up next in chapter 2.
Originally preached on the Lord’s Day, July 9, 2023, at First Baptist Church in Lindale, TX. This is not an exact transcript of the sermon in the video. Rather, this is a publication of the manuscript that was used in the sermon. Some portions may have been skipped over or added to due to time.