WOLVES AMONGST US; THE ELDERS ROLE IN PROTECTING THE FLOCK OF GOD
(TITUS CHAPTER 1 VERSES 9 THRU 16)
As we come to our text this morning the temptation may be to point fingers, name names, and condemn with wild abandon many high profile religious leaders (some of whom may deserve it); however, I believe we would run the risk of doing so in error by taking our passage out of context. Not because, as we shall see it should not be done, but because we may not be doing it for the right reasons. You see as we come to Titus Chapter 1 verses 10 thru 16 we must view and study them in light of the preceding verses speaking of Elders and even the remaining chapters of the book.
As you will recall from our study of verses five through nine Paul had given Titus a list of qualifications for those men that would serve as elders or overseers in the church body. In verse none in particular Paul writes:
“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”
Keeping this in mind we will begin to unpack the first order of business the elders will face as we read verses ten thru sixteen together:
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 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, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. 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. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and worthless for any good deed.”
As we move into the passage I want us to see that there are three things the Elders must recognize and act upon when dealing with false teachers. The first of these is:
RECOGNIZING WHO TO REFUTE
Right at the beginning of or passage this morning Paul tells Titus that:
“there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.”
Notice that verse ten says there are many, that they are rebellious, empty talkers, deceivers, etc. The Greek words used in these instances indicate that these men were unruly, they would not submit themselves to proper authority, they would speak of anything and of nothing, they were liars. These verses also indicate that in this instance the grossest offenders were the “Jewish Christians” or “those of the circumcision”. These men were teaching both in and out of the church services, likely visiting homes and other places where Christians might be gathered.
These empty talkers were teaching things they should not teach…which is most likely a reference to a Jesus plus theology that required adding to the work of Jesus on the Cross for Salvation; something the Judaizers of the day were known for. You may also see this theology at work even today in different cults, false pseudo-Christian religions.
But not only were these men teaching these false doctrines, they were doing it for a reason, a selfish reason…sordid gain. Sordid gain is ill gotten money, power, influence or advantage. See these weren’t just men that were merely mistaken, maybe they just didn’t quite understand; No! Quite the opposite, they were teaching these things they should not teach for the sake of feeding their own fleshly desires. These were not men that were teaching for the sake of the Gospel being spread, they were teaching for their own sake; for their own benefit. We see this even as we are able to identify false teachers today; they are most often times men and women seeking after sordid gain by teaching a Jesus plus theology, teaching you that Jesus can love you just a little more if you would just sow a seed of money to (insert name of false teacher here). Folks, Jesus died on the Cross for you in your place to pay a debt that you and I owed and couldn’t pay, Jesus can’t love me any more than that and I am incapable without the intervention of HIM in saving me of loving Him enough.
Which brings us to our second point this morning, we want our Elders to:
RECOGNIZE WHO TO EXHORT
In verse twelve Paul quotes a Cretan poet named Epimenides who lived around 600 B.C. when he wrote:
“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
So I guess it is safe to say that Cretan society had not changed much in the six hundred or so years between the time of Epimenides and Paul, which I don’t think is a compliment to the Cretan people. But what Pal is really driving at here is the influences of the world around the Christians is disgustingly sinful even by the world’s standards. So is Paul’s response to this problem to say” so make sure you ease into the Gospel message, don’t confront these fellows in or with their sin, be amicable with everyone” no; Paul says exactly the opposite.
In verses 13 and 14 Paul tells Titus that because of the nature of Cretan society and the influence that it may have over the Church members, that he is reprove those leading others astray all the more staunchly.
Look here with me at verse 13:
“This testimony is true.(speaking of the nature of Cretans in verse 12) For this reason reprove them severely”
Paul teaches that we should reprove or correct severely those that would teach false doctrines in the Church. Paul does not teach that we should correct without love, however. I know that may sound contradictory but any parent knows you can, yes you even must be strict and unyielding at times because of love not in spite of it.
And that Brothers and Sisters is what we see here as continue to examine who the Elders are to exhort. The Elders are to approach those in the Body that are in error and may be teaching it to others and correct them out of love that they may repent and be restored. Let’s look now at all of verse 13 and follow into verse 14:
“This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”
So even in the case of these terrible men that are described in verses 10 and 1 the goal is not only that the flock is protected but that these men also turn away from these falsehoods and evil to the Truth. This is an echo of Matthew 18:15:
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “
We want our Elders to be able to hold fast the faithful word recognizing who refute, recognizing who to exhort, and finally:
RECOGNIZING WHAT IS AT STAKE
As we come to the close of chapter one we are left with this parting shot:
“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. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and worthless for any good deed.”
Let’s take just a moment to look at the short phrase:
“To the pure all things are pure”
This is by no means an invitation or a license to sin even though it has been used by many over the ages for that very purpose. This is more of a state to our standing before and desire to please God.
And we must examine the second group; defiled, deceived, unbelieving, detestable, disobedient, worthless.
This is the state of all sinners and it is a sad state indeed, but I am convinced that Paul was speaking of people that were in the Cretan churches, and in our churches today, claiming and maybe even believing to be Believers.
That is what is at stake when we allow unqualified leadership in our midst. When we, the creation, think we know better than the Creator on how to pick leaders for His Church.
Men that are unable to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict are unable to protect the flock from being tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men in craftiness and deceitful scheming (Tit 1:9,Eph 4:14). They will be unable to stop this because in many cases today these so called leaders won’t even be Believers themselves, sadly enough.
These are people who say with their mouth that they are Christians and prove with their actions day in and day out they are anything but; and they do it without ever being confronted by a fellow Church member or leader.
These are the tares that are in among the wheat, the goats among the sheep, we may not always be able to tell them but once identified they should be confronted in their sin and evangelized, in the hopes that the tares don’t choke out the wheat harvest.
Brothers and Sisters the lord our Savior has been very gracious to us to provide Elders, Undershepherds, Shepherds, Overseers, Bishops, Pastors, well you get the picture… The names are different; the job isn’t and one of those jobs is protecting us, the flock from false teachers, and even evangelizing false teachers, so that we would not be taken advantage of and the Name of our God would not be soiled.
But let us not forget that it is up to us to be good Bereans so that we might examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11), so that we might alert the Shepherd to any danger in our midst.