DETECTING HERETICAL DOCTRINE [11/11/23]

Second John cautions about receiving heretics and has much in common with First John regarding the danger of false teachers that deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ; it was written to urge discernment in supporting travelling teachers, otherwise someone might unintentionally contribute to the propagation of heresy rather than truth (NIV Study Bible).

A study of 2 Jn.1:1-13

The first section of this letter instructs us to Abide in God’s Commandments <2 Jn.1:1-6>, and John, in his opening remarks <2 Jn.1:1-3>, addresses his readers – “To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth” <2 Jn. 1 (NIV)>: some Bible scholars take the statement “chosen (elect) lady and her children” literally as referring to a specific person and her children; others prefer to take it figuratively as describing a local church (Nelsons).

He then continues to say: “all who know the truth—because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever” <2 Jn.1-2 (NIV)>: those who know the Truth are those who have had a personal relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ; He is the Truth <see Jn.14:6a; 18:37b-38a>; and those who have accepted The Truth have The Truth forever, He is with us “forever” wherever we go.

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” <2 Jn.3 (NIV)>: grace and mercy was a common greeting but here it is used to remind us of God’s grace and mercy expressed to us in the person of Jesus Christ God’s Son, who will be with us forever; this is the true grace, mercy and love of God.

John continues to instruct us to “Walk in Truth” <2 Jn.1:4>. “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” <2 Jn.4 (NIV); 3 Jn.4>: it was gratifying to John that those converted under his preaching were continuing in the faith. It is unfortunate that in some cases, believers get lured away and refuse to comply with God’s word, they follow non believing partners and friends in rebellion to what God’s Word teaches and God sometimes has to deal severely with them. This is what happened to God’s chosen people who were sent into exile: “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.’ Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law.” <Jer.6:16-19 (NIV); cf. Prov.13:20; Heb.10:25>. A warning to us that when we need to know God’s will in making decisions, we should never question what God’s Word teaches.

He further reminds us to “Walk in Love” <2 Jn.1:5-6>; and is reminding his readers that this is not a new command, it is Christ’s teaching and refers back to Old Testament times <see Jn.13:34-35; cf. Lev.19:18; Matt.22:39-40; Rom.13:8-10>; and he further defines what true love is: “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” <2 Jn.1:6 (NIV)>; living our lives in obedience to God’s command is how we walk (live) in true love, for if we are not living in obedience to God’s command, our “so-called-love” for others is meaningless since we do not practice what we say. True love for others is not self-satisfaction but effectively loving others as we love ourselves; and this love originates from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the love that defines a believer in Christ!

John continues to instruct us “Abide Not with False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:7-13>, reminding us of the “Doctrine of the False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:7-9>. He cautions his readers of the danger of false teaching carrying on from his previous instructions; “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.” <2 Jn.1:7 (NIV); cf Jn.1:14>; referring again to the Gnostic heresy that was creeping into the Church. Such a person, John declares, is a deceiver or antichrist <2 Jn.1:7b>; should not be considered as a true disciple of Christ, and should not be allowed to teach such heresy in the Church. All believers in Christ must be extremely careful of what we accept as doctrine in our churches today as the heresy of Gnosticism is still being taught, we must be students of the Scriptures so that we can identify false teachers. John here warns of the result of accepting false teaching: “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.” <2 Jn.1:8 (NIV)>; since our acceptance of false teaching will rob us of our reward that Christ will hand out to each of us at His return <see 2 Pet.2:1-3; Rom.14:11-12; 2 Cor.5:10; 2 Tim.4:7-8>. John concludes his warning by comparing the false teacher to the true believer; “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” <2 Jn.1:9 (NIV); cf Gal.1:10>. We should always strive for a better understanding of the revelation given to us in Christ, but we must never go beyond what the Scriptures reveal!

We must stay away from the “False Teachers” <2 Jn.1:10-11>. John closes with a final warning regarding “travelling teachers”; those that were going from city to city preaching and teaching the gospel. He is cautioning the believers that their hospitality could give public approval to the wicked work of false teachers. He is not condemning hospitality to strangers for general conversation, but we should be careful to compare their teaching with what the Scriptures teach: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” <2 Jn.1:10-11 (NIV)>.

In his closing remarks he says “…. I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.” <2 Jn.1:12-13 (NIV)>; it was his desire to be able to make a personal visit the church to discuss his teachings with them. “Chosen sister” could be a reference to another local church.

Detecting heretical doctrine is very important to all believers in Christ, and our discernment of false teaching will only be possible if we are true disciples of Jesus Christ having a personal knowledge of what the Scriptures teach.

THE BASIS OF FELLOWSHIP [4/8/23]

In writing this epistle, John had two purposes on mind: first, to expose and address false teaching (Gnosticism) that was creeping into the Church <see 1 Jn.2:26>; secondly, to assure believers of their salvation; “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” <1 Jn.5:13 (NIV)>.

The Subject matter of the book counters false and erroneous doctrine, and encourages the reader to live in the knowledge of truth. The important theme is fellowship with God <1 Jn.2:28>; showing the Basis of fellowship <1 Jn.1:1 – 2:27>, and the Behaviour of fellowship <1 Jn.2:28 – 5:21>. The Basis of fellowship is further divided into Conditions, Cautions, and Meaning of fellowship. The Behaviour of fellowship is also divided into Characteristics, Consequences, and Manifestations of fellowship. It also speaks to Abiding in God’s light and love.

GNOSTICISM

“One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the church was Gnosticism. Its central teaching was that spirit is entirely good and matter is entirely evil. From this unbiblical dualism flowed five important errors:

  1. Man’s body, which is matter, is therefore evil. It is to be contrasted with God, who is wholly spirit and therefore good.
  2. Salvation is the escape from the body, achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis, hence Gnosticism).
  3. Christ’s true humanity was denied in two ways: (1) Some said that Christ only seemed to have a body, a view called Docetism, from the Greek dokeo (“to seem”), and (2) others said that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left him before he died, a view called Cerinthianism, after its most prominent spokesman, Cerinthus. This view is the background of much of 1 John (see 1Jn.1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3).
  4. Since the body was considered evil, it was to be treated harshly. This ascetic form of Gnosticism is the background of part of the letter to the Colossians (2:21-23).
  5. Paradoxically, this dualism also led to licentiousness. The reasoning was that, since matter-and not the breaking of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4) -was considered evil, breaking his law was of no moral consequence.

The Gnosticism addressed in the NT was an early form of the heresy, not the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries. In addition to that seen in Colossians and in John’s letters, acquaintance with early Gnosticism is reflected in 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Peter and perhaps I Corinthians.”  [Source: The NIV Study Bible]

A study of 1 John 1:1-4

Beginning his letter, John speaks to the unique experience which he and the other disciples (apostles) shared; they had a personal contact with The Word of life, God’s eternal Son, they saw Him in person, they observed, they watched every action, they listened to His teaching; they missed nothing: “…we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched” <1 Jn.1:1 (NIV)>. He references this to what has been recorded in the Gospel of John chapter 1 where he speaks to the coming into the world of Christ the eternal Son of God, The Word of God: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” <Jn.1:14 (NIV)>.

The Word – God’s Son, became a human being – “….Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man…” <Phil.2:5-8 (NIV)>. This was in God’s plan of salvation, someone had to die for sin, and that sacrifice had to be perfect and sinless, and was portrayed in the O.T. Burnt and Sin offerings <see Lev.1:6-8; 4:1-5>. But we are told that animal sacrifice is not capable of removing our sin, it only covered them from God’s sight for a period of time, and that is the reason why these sacrifices had to be repeated continuously; so, there had to be a better sacrifice <see Heb.10:3-7; 11-12>. Since there was no perfect (sinless) human being, God had to send The Perfect sacrifice in the person of His Son. Faith in God’s sacrificial provision gives us the salvation from our sin that we need <1 Jn.2:1b-2; Jn.1:12>.

The twelve disciples (apostles) had the privilege of His presence, His teaching and His miracles for three years of His ministry on the earth, so John is able to give an actual report of all that Jesus said and did. Because of his close encounter with Jesus Christ – The Word of God – he is able to declare; “…we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.”” <1 Jn.1:2-3 (NIV); cf Jn.1:1-2, 14>, so that we all can have fellowship with Christ and each other, as believers in Christ.

Thus, the basis of our Christian fellowship is our faith in Christ for which we have received eternal life, and this gives us communion with God and a friendship that can be shared and experienced wherever we meet other believers in Christ.


TEACHING THE TRUTH [9/17/22]

A study of 1 Tim.4:1-16

“The notion that there are many truths might seem well suited to a diverse society. But when everyone is free to define truth as he or she prefers, as at present, the result is an intellectual and moral shouting match in which the people with the loudest voices are most likely to be heard.” (Citation: Mary Lefkowitz, a professor of classical studies at Wellesley College, in New York Times Book Review (January 23, 2000) [Perfect Illustrations – ‘Many Truths’])

False teaching (doctrine) was not only a problem that faced the early Christian Church, it has been a problem from the beginning of time, for it was Satan’s way to bring sin into the world <see Gen.3:1-5>, and this has continued down through the ages to the present time. The major difficulty we have in the Church today is that Church members do not know what the Bible teaches because it has not been faithfully taught, and most Church members are reluctant to learn for themselves by faithfully reading and studying the Scriptures, for they prefer to only hear it from the pulpit. At the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ, Pilate asked “What is truth?” <Jn.18:38 (NIV)>. The New Testament is filled with Christ’s words “I tell you the truth…” for we learn that Jesus Christ is TRUTH <see Jn.1:17; 14:6a>, also that the Church is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” <1 Tim.3:15b (NIV)>; and for this very reason it is required of God that the truth be preached and taught to the members of His body – the Church! There is also a warning to those who do not faithfully preach and teach the truth <see Rev.22:18-19>.

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” <1 Tim.4:1-2 (NIV)>. False teachers are described as deceitful liars having no conscience, causing insidious harm or ruin, they are evil (demons) and are wicked, all because they follow deceiving spirits, and their end is judgment by God <see 2 Pet.2:4; Jude 6>. Paul had already warned the Ephesian Leaders to expect this <see Acts 20:28-31>, and here he reminds Timothy that they will attempt to creep into the Church causing spiritual harm and ruin. They will introduce such false teachings as relating to marriage and eating certain foods; “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” <1 Tim.4:3 (NIV)>; which is an extreme form of Gnosticism taught by the Nicolaitans. Unfortunately, this doctrine was a major problem facing the Ephesian Church and is quite rampant today. There are those that hold to the belief that Priests and Bishops should remain unmarried (celibacy), but this is not what Paul is teaching here. He has already addressed this by saying that a Bishop must be the husband of one wife (not a polygamist) <1 Tim.3:2>, and a Deacon should abide by the same rule, addressing the subject of the “wives” of Deacons <1 Tim.3:8, 11>. The Scriptures teach that marriage is ordained by God <see Gen.2:20-24; Mal.2:15; Heb.13:4>. Another subject relates to the consumption food, we find that Scripture declares all food in whatever form is provided by God for mankind’s good and nourishment <1 Tim.4:4; cf. Gen.9:3; Mk.7:18-19; Acts 10:14-15; 1 Cor.10:25-26>. Here then, we are warned that such false teaching is, and will always be a threat to the Church, so Elders, Bishops, Deacons and all members should be on guard, and where such teaching, or any other falsehood is introduced, it must be immediately rejected, and the misleading teachers dismissed from the membership.

In order to be a competent teacher in our secular society, one must know the content of the course, what is covered, what is expected to be understood, how is the content going to be processed, what is the “take-away”, how is it going to be evaluated. This is also a requirement for the True Teacher of God’s Word <1 Tim.4:6-10>, and Paul communicates this to Timothy; “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” <1 Tim.4:6 (NIV)>. Timothy is to be a good minister of Christ in the Truth of the faith inspired by the good teaching that he has received; and to do so he must “Have nothing to do with godless myths” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.4:1-2>, for these have no place in the Truth of the gospel; individually we must “train yourself to be godly” <1 Tim.4:7 (NIV)>. In order to become more efficient in any profession one must commit to constant training, and so it is with the teacher of God’s Word; this requires self-discipline; we must constantly be a student of the Scriptures. In so doing, the teacher will be able to maintain godliness which has a greater value than anything physical or secular since godliness ensures “promise for both the present life and the life to come” <1 Tim.4:8 (NIV); cf Heb.11:1>; meaning that godliness is eternal. Godliness in this present life is possible because “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” <1 Tim.4:10 (NIV)>. God does not save every person from eternal punishment, only those individuals that believe in Christ as Saviour and come to Him in faith; to such, godliness is possible. This then, must be the message of the True Teacher.

cropped-mp900443601.jpgThe faithful teacher must “Command and teach these things.” <1 Tim.4:11 (NIV)> and also live by example in: speech, love, faith, and purity; so often what is preached from the pulpit is not practiced in the pulpit or in the pews. We hear what the Word of God teaches: “…set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” <1 Tim.4:12 (NIV)>; but sometimes it is difficult to put these instructions into practice. Paul emphasizes that Timothy should commit himself <1 Tim.4:13> to three forms of public worship: public reading of the scriptures, preaching and teaching, and this should be done by all teachers as this was the practice in the early churches <see Lk.4:16; Acts 13:14-16; Col.4:16; 1 Thess.5:27>. The faithful teacher should “not neglect your gift” <1 Tim.4:14 (NIV)>; and like Timothy, all teachers must continually update themselves otherwise negligence of the Word of God can lead to preaching and teaching that has no depth or truth. Therefore, the faithful teacher must “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them” <1 Tim.4:15 (NIV)>, so that progress and maturity can be evident in the lives of the teacher and the students; and both teacher and students should “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them” <1 Tim.4:16 (NIV)>, otherwise the teacher has failed to teach or the students have failed to learn <see 1 Cor.9:27>.

INSTRUCTION CONCERNING DOCTRINE [6/4/22]

(A study in 1 Timothy)

1 TIMOTHY 1:1-20

Paul addresses his personal letter to Timothy “my true son in the faith” <1 Tim.1:2 (NIV)> his spiritual son. Each believer in Christ can look back to a time in life where an individual, male or female, guided you to the acceptance of salvation. You now have a Christian mother or father in the faith. Paul then proceeds to instruct Timothy as to his previous assignments in the Church at Ephesus: “I urged you …stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” <1 Tim.1:3-4 (NIV)>, since such teaching only promotes controversies and impedes the work of God which is achieved by faith only, and continues to explain why. First, he states that “The goal of this command is love” <1 Tim.1:5 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.13:4-7> and must be the underscoring objective of any Church leader when correcting false teaching.

Secondly, because false teaching has led to controversies, “Some have wandered away” <1 Tim.1:6 (NIV)> from the faith; primarily because they are ignorant of the facts that are taught in the very Law that they are persistently teaching in error. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” <1 Tim.1:8 (NIV); cf Gal.3:3, 10-13>; they want to be teachers of the Law but they do not know what they are teaching <1:7>. The Law is good, says Paul, and was not given to condemn the righteous but to condemn the lawbreakers and rebels <1 Tim.1:8-10>, “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” <1 Tim.1:10b (NIV)>, and this conforms to the gospel message entrusted to Paul.

Paul then digresses from his instructions to Timothy to express his own experiences of the gospel that he so faithfully preached <1 Tim.1:12-17>. He commences by giving thanks to “Christ Jesus our Lord” who considered him faithful and appointed him to serve in preaching the gospel <cf Gal.2:7; 1 Thess.2:4; 2 Tim.1:14>, and that he has faithfully guarded his responsibility. He also speaks to the fact that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.1:14 (NIV)>; and what was true of Paul is also true of every believer in Christ. None of us are worthy of God’s favour, but He freely and abundantly poured out His grace upon us, even though we were rebellious, and even though in our self-righteousness we claimed to live by the Law and commandments <cf Rom.1:32; 3:20-24; 5:1>. This was made possible because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” <1 Tim.1:15 (NIV)>, reminding Timothy of the fact that our salvation and justification is by faith in Christ only and not by observing or keeping of the Law <see Gal.2:16>. So, Paul concludes this section with praise to God for His wonderful grace to all mankind; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <1 Tim.1:17 (NIV)>.

Paul now gives Timothy his first directive <1 Tim.1:18-20>, consistent with the predictions made about him. Nothing is said as to what these prophecies were, but consistent with other instances where men were ordained for specific duties, we can assume that there were some specifics revealed to Timothy at his ordination <cf 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 13:1-3>. “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” <1 Tim.1:18 (NIV)>: Timothy is expected to fight the good fight of faith, and the same expectation is required of all Christ’s disciples today.

What does it mean to fight the fight of faith? God expects us to live by faith in Him; this means that we should follow His commands even though we do not know the outcome, acknowledging that whatever happens, God is in control. He does not allow us to see the outcome, but He expects us to follow His leading <Matt.10:39>. “I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, “Don’t scratch your nose at the wrong time, son.” He said to me, “Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price.” That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. Jesus does not allow us to set that. “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it,” said Jesus [Mark 8:35]. Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.” [from Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: Preaching Today #204]

So, like Timothy, we are expected to fight, for that is exactly what it is. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church reminds them that our struggle is not against the enemy that we know or can see, but against the enemy that is unknown and unseen <Eph.6:12>; and this was what Timothy encountered in carrying out Paul’s charge to him; he was to do so by “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV)>; that is the outcome from the love, pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that Paul had referred to earlier <see 1 Tim.1:5>. It is unfortunate that some believers in Christ then, and presently, have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV); cf. 1 Tim.1:6-7; 6:21; 2 Tim.2:18>. It is extremely important that all believers in Christ be cautious of false teaching, avoiding meaningless discussions of subjects that do not pertain to, or are not taught by scripture.  We do so by individually educating ourselves in studying the Bible and not being entirely dependent upon what others teach.

Paul then closes this section by making reference to two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander <1 Tim.1:20>, and very little is said as to who they were, but they are used here as examples of church discipline; he states, “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” <1 Tim.1:20 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.5:5, 13>. Being handed over to Satan is a figure of speech where the individual is expelled from the Church fellowship and left in Satan’s “territory” in an attempt to destroy the sinful nature of that individual.

What is Blasphemy as is used in the Scriptures? It signifies speaking evil of God or to curse the Name of God <cf Psa.74:18; Isa.52:5; Rom.2:24>. There are two general forms: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good; (2) Giving the attributes of God to a human being <cf Lk.5:21; Matt.26:65; Jn.10:36> which was the accusation of the Jews given to Christ. The punishment given under the Mosaic Law was either atonement, when committed in ignorance or thoughtlessness; but if when in rebellion against God the punishment was by stoning <see Lev.24:11-16>. In the New Testament Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “unpardonable sin” <see Matt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10>; where it appears to have been based on attributing Christ’s miracles to the power of Satan, and it is questionable whether it may be extended beyond this one limited and special sin [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].

In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, the punishment was separation from the fellowship and care of the Church, having been sent back into the outside world where they would learn not to blaspheme.

From the very beginning of the Church age false teaching was a problem for the Church elders. During the early years of the Church, Paul and the Apostles were constantly harassed by Judaizers who insisted that all converts to Christ must adhere to the Mosaic Law; that is, a Gentile could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew; further adding that Gentile converts should practice physical rituals of the Law such as circumcision, for faith in Christ alone was not sufficient <see Acts 15:7-11>.  Judaizers caused much turmoil which affected the evangelical work of the apostles and for the Church leadership. Church leaders also had to be careful of Gnostic teachings that crept into the Church; teaching such things as Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son, and that Christ and God could not have united in the person of Jesus; they professed to have special insight to the secret truths of life. There were also those that taught the beliefs of the Nicolaitans, which was a more extreme form of Gnosticism, they claimed that only what their spirits did was important and because their physical bodies were evil, they had freedom to indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships, that they could do anything they pleased with their bodies, and were free to practice idolatry <cf Rev.2:14-16>. Such doctrines have been combined and modernized in today’s society and have affected the Church in all forms of worship; Satan has duplicated our worship and praise to God and introduced false worship into our Churches and we must be constantly examining anything new that is introduced to our practice of worship to God.

False doctrine in the Church must be swiftly and severely reprimanded!

PROCLAIM AND REPRIMAND [8/23/20]

LEADERSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” <Titus 1:5 (NIV)> The implication here is that at some time, not elsewhere recorded in Acts, Paul and Titus were together in Crete, and Paul is now instructing Titus to get the Churches organized by appointing Elders. Both Timothy and Titus were instructed by Paul to appoint Elders and Deacons in their respective Churches over which they ministered. However, the problems affecting the Churches in Ephesus; Gnosticism, Judaism and severe self denial, required a different approach for Timothy <cf 1 Tim.3:1-7>. Titus had a different problem in Crete; the difficulty he faced was that the people had a deplorable morality, they were dishonest, gluttonous and lazy <Titus 1:12>; so, the qualifications that he had to look for were slightly different to Timothy. Differences can be seen in the qualifications given to Titus: “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient…. not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” <Titus 1: 6-7 (NIV)>. Since the Elder is entrusted with God’s work <Titus 1:7>, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV); cf 2 Tim.1:13-14; 4:3-4>; for the Elder or Bishop must be thoroughly educated in the doctrine of the Scriptures since he is required to live by such doctrine and to teach such doctrine to the members of the Church. This has been the objective in the Church from the time of the Apostles until the present, but Satan has worked very hard to ensure that there are those in the Church, then and today, who do not meet this qualification! Unfortunately, there are leaders of the Church who do not hold to the Truth of God and do not teach or defend The Truth; they remain under the control of Satan and teach false doctrines, and are therefore unable to truly encourage the people under their leadership.

Titus was instructed to avoid three groups of individuals: those that were rebellious against God and God’s Word, gossips and deceivers; and those that belonged to the “circumcision group” who taught that salvation was dependent upon circumcision and keeping the Mosaic Law. “They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach — and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” <Titus 1:11 (NIV)>. Because the Cretans were liars, lazy, gluttons and “evil intimidators”, the possibility of these behaviours being taken into the church was very real, so Titus was instructed “Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” <Titus 1:13-14 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.5:20>.

Paul then makes a statement in regards to virtuousness, “To the pure, all things are pure” <Titus 1:15 (NIV)>, but to the corrupt nothing is pure. He implies that to Christians, who have been purified by Christ’s atoning death, all of God’s creation is good and nothing should be rejected or condemned if received with thanksgiving <cf 1 Tim.4:4>, contrary to what those who are corrupt believe; such have unbiblical principles against foods, marriage etcetera and do not enjoy the freedom of choice of true believers in Christ. Such unbelievers, says Paul, “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” <Titus 1:16 (NIV)>, which concludes that believers should be consistent not only in word but also in deed <cf Jas. 1:22; 2:14>.

Our salvation depends upon the reliability of God, the preachers of the gospel and ourselves. First, we can depend upon God’s trustworthiness, for the scripture teaches that anyone who calls upon Him will be saved. We can also depend upon the faithfulness of preachers who deliver God’s message of salvation. But as an individual, one must accept the good news of salvation, for faith in God comes from hearing the message through the preaching of the Word of Christ. The Preacher or teacher of God’s word has a great responsibility before God in that “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV)>. For the servant of God, by whatever given designation, must be able to encourage God’s people in whatever the circumstance by applying sound doctrine, and renouncing those that oppose sound doctrine. The message of the gospel will always be challenged by false teaching, deceivers and those who refuse to recognise God’s authority; and the instruction given to Titus is that “They must be silenced” because they are deceiving other individuals in the church. <Titus 1:11>.

Paul refers to sources of weakness in the church-life at Crete: liars; nastiness, unpleasantness, displeasing; laziness and gluttons: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” <Titus 1:12 (NIV)>. Titus is to reprimand them severely so as to encourage them to be sound and healthy Christians.

Unfortunately, our salvation does not entirely remove or silence our old sinful nature, and this old temperament oftentimes rises above our new personality that we have in Christ <see Rom.7:21-23>; and this condition is the same for all believers in Christ. We then as believers must be sure to subdue the “old nature” through the help of The Holy Spirit, first and foremost for our influence on other believers we need to live godly lives <see Col.3:5-10>. This was Paul’s message to Titus, and this is God’s message to all believers today; ungodliness, false teaching and sinful living cannot be permitted in the Church or in the lives of the individuals that constitute the Church; so, let us all be conscious of what the Scriptures teach!