1. Theme: The good works of Jesus Christ
2. Key Verse: Titus 2:14
This outline partitions Titus into sections of verses. Each section is labeled to relate to the theme of the whole book.
I. The Good Worker, Jesus Christ * Chapter 1:1-3
A. He planned the Gospel before the world (Titus 1:1-2)
B. He preached the Gospel in the world (Titus 1:3)
II. The Good Workers, Believers * Chapter 1:4-9
A. The source of their good works (Titus 1:4)
B. Their preparation for good works (Titus 1:5-9)
III. The Evil Workers, Unbelievers * Chapter 1:10-16
A. Their evil motives (Titus 1:10, 11)
B. Their evil challenged (Titus 1:12, 13)
C. Their evil message (Titus 1:14)
D. Their evil morals (Titus 1:15, 16)
IV. Good Works Described * Chapters 2:1 - 3:2
A. Of the aged (Titus 2:2, 3)
B. Of the young (Titus 2:4-6)
C. Of the minister of the Gospel (Titus 2:1, 7, 8, 15)
D. Of the servants (Titus 2:9, 10)
E. Of citizens of God's Kingdom (Titus 2:11-14)
F. Of citizens of the earthly Kingdom (Titus 3:1, 2)
G. Of God our Savior (Titus 3:3-7)
V. Good Works Protected * Chapter 3:8-11
A. By faith (Titus 3:8)
B. By avoiding evil talk (Titus 3:9)
C. By avoiding evil men (Titus 3:10-11)
VI. Good Works Among Friends * Chapter 3:12-15
4. General Comments
Titus was a part of Paul's life since before Paul was commissioned and sent off on his missionary journeys (see observations on Galatians 1:16 - 2:1). Titus was a Greek (Gal. 2:3) and since Paul had a calling to the Gentiles after his conversion (Acts 9:15, Gal. 1:16, 2:7), it is possible that God used Paul's preaching to save Titus. However, there is no reason to insist that Titus was Paul's convert. The phrase "mine own son" in Titus 1:4 does not tell us anything. We could just as easily suppose that Titus was converted by the work of Philip who was quite willing to preach to Gentiles (Acts 8:26-40). But trying to figure out the means of Titus' salvation is nothing more than unsupported conjecture. The only thing we need to know is that Titus' salvation was the good work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Titus 1:4, 3:5).
Paul rejoiced to have a man equal to himself in commitment, concern and competency, not only to help in the ministry, but also for the personal support he derived from Titus. Paul sought his fellowship more than once (II Cor. 2:13, 7:6, Titus 3:12). In fact, we could infer from II Timothy 4:10 that while Titus was on another assignment, he was missed by Paul during his last days on earth.
Titus seems to have served for quite some time in Corinth, for he ministered to the Corinthians long enough to develop a genuine concern for them (II Cor. 7:14,15). At first Titus was sent to Corinth to complete the job of collecting money for the saints in Jerusalem (II Cor. 8:6). But then we read that Titus volunteered to go to Corinth to continue to work among them (II Cor. 8:17). Titus had much success in Corinth and returned to Paul with an encouraging report (II Cor. 7:6,7).
The Bible twice mentions Titus' name in relationship to the Jerusalem church's physical relief. Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas on a relief mission to Jerusalem before they were commissioned as missionaries (Gal. 2:1). Titus was also asked to complete the collection in Corinth for the saints in Jerusalem (I Cor. 16:3, II Cor. 8:6). As an uncircumcised Gentile it is interesting that Titus would be so occupied with a church that was dominated by Jewish Christians. It is doubtful that Titus had a personal interest in Jerusalem in the sense that he had relatives there. More likely, in Paul's mind, Titus was an excellent man to have along as an example to the Jewish Christians of God's grace working in a man who had found righteousness apart from the law. There must have been many people who, like Peter, at first struggled with accepting Gentiles into their fellowship, as well as accepting a relationship with God apart from obeying the ceremonial laws that had previously dominated their lives.
Paul's decision to send Titus to lead the congregations in Crete was based upon more than the friendship that had developed between the two men. First of all, Titus' firsthand encounter with Jewish pressure to obey the law for the wrong reasons (Gal. 2:3) gave him the experience he needed to deal with the works gospel that plagued the congregations on Crete (Titus 1:10, 3:5,9). Secondly, Titus had a proper disinterest in the wealth of this world (II Cor. 12:18). Therefore, Titus was not only a good candidate to preach against as well as arrest the teachers in Crete who falsely taught the congregations "for filthy lucre's sake" (Titus 1:11), he could also be trusted to supervise the gathering of provisions for the work of Zenas and Apollos (Titus 3:13).
Paul's counsel to Titus to sharply rebuke the gainsayers and assert his authority over the congregations (Titus 1:13, 2:15, 3:10) is a measure of the seriousness of the spiritual problem in Crete. Titus faced stubborn and insolent opposition to his work, for the "vain talkers and deceivers were unruly," that is, they were insubordinate. We can assume that this rebellious attitude was beginning to influence the members of the congregations as a whole in as much as Titus needed to instruct them to respect both the position (Titus 3:1) and person (Titus 3:2) of authority. Paul felt the need to share his own personal rebellion as an example of the terrible nature of disobedience (Titus 3:3). No doubt strong words were needed for people who were being subverted by such teaching, for the attempted deception was an imitation of Satan's methods that began in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1,4,5). Everyone needed a message of submission and obedience. Resistance to sound doctrine was not only an affront to God and His ministers, and a scary indication of the spiritual condition of the rebellious people's heart, it also interfered with the good works that the obedient people were trying to do for the Lord (Titus 2:14, 3:8).
At this point, we ought to say a few things about the term "good works" since it has several dimensions. First of all, while there are two Greek words that are mostly used in the Bible to mean "good," we need not concern ourselves with their differences. One is a word used in the phrase "good works" found in Titus 2:7,14, 3:8,14 and can mean good in the sense of perfect or pure in itself, while another word used in the phrase "good works" found in Titus 1:16, 2:5,10, 3:1 means not only perfect, but also beneficial to others. However, in reality the distinction is of no real consequence, for God who loves His elect uses all the things that are intrinsically pure and beautifully holy to bless them.
All good works start with God. What He does is good simply because He does it. Since He is the kind of God that He is, all that He does is perfect and will turn to the good of believers. God's design and organization of salvation before the world began was a good work (Titus 1:2). God's proclamation of that promised redemption is a good work (Titus 1:3). God's fulfillment of His promise in Jesus Christ is a good work (Titus 2:14). God's application of His salvation blessings to His people is a good work (Titus 3:5). God's qualifying and equipping of some of His people to special appointments to lead His church on earth are good works (Titus 1:1,5, 2:15). God's return to complete His salvation plan is a good work (Titus 2:13).
While it is God who motivates and animates believers (Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13), we can nevertheless list the various services of God's people as good works. Believers' challenges to the teaching and behavior of evil men is a good work (Titus 1:11,13). The instruction of the members of God's congregations and the obedience of those members to that instruction are good works (Titus 2:1-10). Believers' rejection of the world and their ambition for the things to come are good works (Titus 2:12,13). Believers' submission to authority is a good work (Titus 3:1). Believers' avoidance and rejection of the logical entanglements of unbelievers is a good work (Titus 3:9,10). Believers' efforts spent supplying the needs of other believers are a good works (Titus 3:12-14). But above all, sharing the news of the grace of God, as a light shining in a dark world, is a supremely good work (Matt. 5:16, Titus 3:15).
We ought to add that the good works of God and His people, upon which we have focused in our survey of Titus, can be easily reconciled with the gospel of grace which also shines through the letter (Titus 1:4, 2:11, 3:7). (Incidentally, the relationship between good works and grace is quite different than the relationship between works and faith which is described in the book of James.) The only good works that provide spiritual benefit for men are the ones the are done by God alone, and are listed two paragraphs above. The good works of believers are the responses of thankful love for the grace of God, and are displays of what He has wrought in their hearts through His word (II Tim. 3:17). In fact, the good works of believers are really the works of a good God who works within them (Phil. 2:13).
5. Observations on Specific Verses
a) Titus 1:2-4
First let us look at the phrase "God, that cannot lie, promised." The promise referred to is "eternal life." But can God just dispense eternal life without any more ado than a benevolent feeling toward those to whom it is promised? No, God must have a just cause. The promise of eternal life leaves understood the requirement that something has been done to give eternal life to those who do not deserve it. Therefore, the words "cannot lie" imply that God provides for all things that are necessary to fulfill the promise to sinners so that the promise is not just vain talk. We could say that the good work of the promise is based upon the good work of Jesus, which enables God to be just and at the same time the justifier of the ungodly.
Next we shall consider the phrase "God ... hath ... manifested his word through preaching." Above all, we see that preaching God's word must be thought of by both the man who speaks and those who listen, as God Himself speaking (II Cor. 5:20). This means that the results of faithful preaching, whether to save (Rom. 10:14-17) or to condemn (Acts 13:46), are the good work of God and not men (I Cor. 3:7). That is, the power of God's word is manifested or displayed in the impact true preaching has on its hearers.
With this in mind we should understand that preaching is more than a lecture on Biblical information, schooling people in the facts and demands of the gospel. It is a device God uses to work in the hearts of hearers, forever changing them (I Peter 1:23). If it is true to God's word, preaching is dynamic, an encounter with Holy God that never leaves the hearers the same. It is also authoritative, for the preacher brings the words that God wants man to hear, and if a man has a quarrel with what is said, then he really has a quarrel with God.
Listeners must never despise any preaching that is not clever, smooth or exciting. It is not a sin to preach convincingly. Preachers ought to use the English language in a clear and effective way. But the most important thing is to be faithful to God's word. The power of preaching is of God and not in the proper choice of logic and illustrations (I Cor. 2:1-5). Listeners must reckon with the authority behind what is being said. They must take heed to the warning to turn from their sins or face the consequences. They must answer the call to forsake the affairs of this world and embrace the service of the Lord. They must trust and rejoice in God, the only one who gives them hope in a hopeless world.
A preacher must also understand the nature of his task. A preacher who does a good work brings the full counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27, II Tim. 3:16). In that way, over time, his preaching will be balanced, including a message from all parts of the Bible. This will in turn reinforce the value and authority of the whole Bible in the minds of the members of the congregation.
A preacher who does a good work bases his exposition and applications only on the Bible. This means that he must do his own personal preparation in the Bible and resist the temptation to trust and largely use the thoughts and comments of other men. This also means that he must resist the temptation to fill up his preaching with illustrations and stories. For they crowd out and become substitutes for the word of God.
A preacher who does a good work must never stop at the historical or moral issues of the word. His objective must always be to find and drive home the spiritual issue of what he finds in the Bible. This means that he must always seek to present Christ and Him crucified. This also means it is necessary for everyone who hears to examine their own situation before God.
A preacher who does a good work supports his words by his example. In that way, the listeners are encouraged to obey God's words, so that anyone who has a different word to bring will not be able to say anything against what he says.
A preacher who does a good work leaves the results of his preaching in the hands of God. This means that he is bold but humble, recognizing the sovereignty of God, and he is concerned but at peace, trusting that God will do all things well.
Finally we shall settle an issue concerning the phrase "God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour" (see also Titus 2:13). The word "and" in this phrase in verse 4 seems to make a distinction between God and Jesus Christ, and support the idea that Jesus is not God Almighty. However, this is not the implication at all. The word "saviour" in Titus 2:10 is applied to the word "God" instead of "Jesus." This interchangeable use of the word "saviour" does not mean that Paul is sloppy, confused or contradictory, but rather is proof that Jesus is indeed God. It was unnecessary for Paul to make sure he carefully applied the word "saviour" to the right proper noun because there is no difference between God and Jesus.
b) Titus 1:5
Since Titus was a trusted minister of the gospel, it seems unnecessary and therefore out of place for Paul to write what he did in Titus 1:5 and 3:12. Why did Paul need to explain again to Titus the reason that he asked Titus to remain in Crete? After all, Paul would certainly have already discussed with Titus the situation at Crete and the necessary remedy before he left and transferred leadership to Titus. Also, why would Paul explain that he would send Artemis or Tychicus to Crete, and yet in this letter ask Titus to leave Crete and come to him. Certainly it would make more sense for Paul to send that request with either of those men who arrived in Crete to replace Titus. In the absence of any scriptural information, we may make any assumptions we like and come up with any kind of natural explanation. However, we must understand that these verses are not a reminder meant to prod a reluctant Titus to do his job. Titus was not forgetful or lacking in self-motivation. These two verses are a real puzzle until we look at them from a spiritual point of view.
We can only understand Titus 1:5 and 3:12 if we realize that God intended the letter to be read not only by Titus, but also by all the members of the congregations on Crete. One point of Titus 1:5 is that God wanted all the members of the congregations to recognize that Titus worked among them with an authority that was equal to Paul's. Titus was not a new kid on the block who was meddling in some one else's affairs, nor was he a pushy prima donna. Rather, he was doing what was necessary and what was asked of him by Paul himself, an apostle with authority and the founder of the Crete churches. The words "set in order" could imply that Titus was to put right a structure that had been previously erected but had fallen apart since Paul left. The word "wanting" means a lack of something. So Titus would be trusted with both repairing Paul's work and building on his own. Some people had claimed to be Christian and had slipped in their walk. Titus came to seek to restore them to the faith. He also came to evangelize the island.
Similarly, Titus 3:12 was a message intended for all the members of the congregations on Crete. God did not want the people to get the wrong idea when Titus finally left them. With this prior information, the heretics that harassed the congregations could not use Titus' departure as a sign that he was too weary to continue and was not cut out for the job, or that he was so disgusted with them that he shoved them upon someone else, or that he had such a weak doctrinal position that he gave up the argument and left a beaten man. They must understand that good work of building the kingdom of God is a worldwide and long process, continuing until Jesus returns. It should be no surprise that Titus would be needed to straighten out and build up congregations elsewhere or that eventually Titus would be replaced by other men who would continue the good work in Crete.
c) Titus 1:15,16
We could think of verse 15 as equivalent to a maxim that states someone with a clean mind will look at something or someone and have clean thoughts about which he sees, while someone with a dirty mind will often find cause, even in something wholesome, to think lustfully or ascribe evil motives to what he sees. While that statement is an observation that many times is true, it is a conveniently easy interpretation of verse 15 which does not clearly explain all the phrases, and which does not fit the context as well as it could.
The words "Unto the pure" refer to believers, for the word "pure" describes the righteousness that clothes those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 19:8), as well as the hearts of those made pure by God's redeeming grace (Matt. 5:8). The words "all things are pure" certainly does not mean anything at all is pure. Sin is not pure in any sense, nor do believers think that it is. It is best to render the phrase "all things (that are pure), are pure." That is, the phrase "all things are pure" is an ellipses, a phrase that is incomplete but which can be understood by putting in the missing part demanded by the context. It is similar to the elliptical phrase "Mary cleaned up her room, and John his," with the word "room" understood and mentally added after the word "his" to complete the thought. In the case of I Timothy 1:15, the justification for the addition of the words "that are pure" comes from a comparison with all the rest of what the Bible teaches about "pure" things.
The idea of verse 15, then, is that believers are able to recognize the purity of those things that are pure, as for example the Holy Bible, God's pure word (Psalm 19:8) or more to the point, the pure doctrine that it teaches. Believers hear the preaching of the gospel of grace and understand that nothing else is needed for salvation. They see and value the beauty of the pure gospel of grace.
The words "but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving," by contrast, refer to those who are not saved, to those whose "mind and conscience is defiled." To these people, "is nothing (that is pure) "pure." Some men were seeking to deceive the members of the churches in Crete with Jewish fables (Titus 1:10,14). We can surmise that these "commandments of men" were similar to the Jewish problems discussed in other parts of the Bible, namely the attempts to force people to obey the Old Testament laws concerning clean and unclean foods in order to be right with God (I Tim 4:1-4, Col. 2:16,20-22). In addition, it seems these people had assumed some sort of leadership position in as much as they were "... talkers (verse 10) ... teaching things (verse 11) ... profess that they know God (verse 16)."
The situation was similar to what we find in Ezekiel 34. The condemnation of God was against the leaders of the congregation (Ezek. 34:1,2). God pictures their evil by cattle that fouled the deep waters of the gospel so that God's sheep could not drink (Ezek. 34:18,19). The indictment is also found in the terrible words of Jesus against the Jewish leaders of His day found in Matthew 23:13. These unruly teachers in the Cretians' congregations corrupted the pure gospel in their minds, and in their rebellion seared their consciences, which could have pointed them to the truth that could save them. They also sought to deceive others by muddying the truth, hoping to turn the members of the congregations away from the truth and toward their lies.
Another thing that the phrase "but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure" could refer to is the principle that we read in Haggai 2:11-14. Leaders of God's people, who mix unclean things, such as false doctrines and corrupt behavior, with their service to God, make their outward worship, even that worship according to the law, an unclean thing. As we read in Titus 1:16, no matter how correct their words, their works denied God, being "abominable" (Isaiah 1:1,10-17). Their works stunk to God, making Him nauseated. Their service was unclean to Him. In addition, they corrupted the corporate witness of the church, making the name of the pure God to be blasphemed among the community in which the church resided (Rom. 2:22-24).
Truly the unbelieving members if the churches on Crete were useless for any good work, for they were "disobedient" and "reprobate." The word "disobedient" means "not + persuaded" (as in Acts 28:23 and II Tim. 1:12). Therefore, verse 10 means that when they heard the preaching of the pure word of God, they were not persuaded or convinced that they were in need of grace or that they ought to lead a life that pleases God. In fact, they were not persuaded that the words they heard were the word of God. Thus they were not motivated or willing to do any good work.
The word "reprobate" is a combination of the prefix a which reverses the sense of the root, as the prefixes "non" or "un" in English do, and the Greek root dokimoi that means judgment. The idea is that these people who sought to subvert the families of the churches in Crete had no ability to judge what is a good work and then do it. They did not have the ability to discern the truth which is presented in God's word, or obey it (Rom. 8:8).
d) Titus 2:1,7,8
The word "become" means to fit or to belong to. Not every thing a man says fits "sound doctrine" any more than any key fits a particular lock. Only the key that fits, only the key that belongs to the lock, proves to be useful. The word "sound" can be thought of as "whole" or restored to health as in Luke 5:31, 7:10. It is a translation of a similar word, which occurs as "whole" in Matthew 12:13 and Acts 4:10. The word "doctrine" is really the word teaching, emphasizing not just the proclamation of a catalogue of scriptural facts and principles, but also exhortation with a view to convincing men that what is said is indeed true and requires the proper response from them.
Therefore, in verse 1 Titus is enjoined to speak those things that fit the kind of teaching that is true to God's word and which when obeyed by those who hear, will restore them to spiritual health. Some of the things that belong to that kind of teaching are listed in this chapter. Without going into detail we can say in general that the things which fit the gospel apply to everyone in the congregation without exception. The "aged" members are not too old to be reshaped by the word of grace and the "young" members are not too immature to understand and obey the Bible.
The word "shewing" in verse 7 is based on a word that is often translated "give," as in Colossians 4:1 and I Timothy 6:17. Therefore, Titus must contribute something in all situations in which he is present. The word "pattern," tupos in Greek, refers not to a shadow or picture of something but to a real object itself ("print" in John 20:25). A pattern is an original design of which all others are a copy, as is Hebrews 8:5. All together, the idea in verse 7 is that if Titus comes to Crete, as an outsider so to speak, and begins to preach, he must always contribute a pattern of behavior that illustrates the good works of which he speaks. Titus is never "on break," so to speak, from doing good works. He must be an example of the good work that God has wrought in his life which the members of the congregations could seek for themselves and imitate with profit. Titus' example of good works will help his listeners understand what he says and believe that it is true.
Verse 8 also highlights the value of good works in silencing the criticism of men who are eager to teach a doctrine that is different than the gospel of salvation by grace alone. When unbelievers have no convincing way to make others doubt what faithful preachers say, then God's word shines forth even brighter, exposing the false preachers for what they really are.
e) Titus 2:14
This verse describes the good work of Jesus Christ for the elect. That Jesus "gave himself for us" describes the beauty of His good work of love for His people (John 15:13) and the benefit that they can expect from it (Romans 8:1-4). The words "gave himself" also emphasize that even though Jesus died as a man, to be the substitute for His elect, He was always God, in full control of the good work He did (John 10:17,18).
One benefit of Jesus' good work is that believers are redeemed from "all iniquity," in the sense that they are free from the condemnation that their iniquity requires. Another benefit is that believers are purified and "zealous of good works." That is, they are redeemed from the power of iniquity. They no longer have to continue to live in sin, but are free to do the good works God has planned for them.
The word translated "peculiar" occurs only here in the New Testament, but from Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 14:2, 26:18 we arrive at the idea that God's "peculiar" people are distinct from all the other people in the world in that they do the will of God, not imitating the works of unsaved men. In the words of Titus 2:11,12, the grace of God that brings salvation appears unto all men in the preaching of the gospel. But only those who heed the teaching, who deny the attractions of the flesh and the world, as well as live wisely and obediently, are the peculiar people of God.
On one hand we can think of redemption and purification as two separate issues, the first authorizing the second. On the other hand, redemption and purification are one act. God does not redeem unless He also purifies. A redeemed man who is not yet purified is a theoretical idea that has no counterpart in reality. A man who claims Jesus as his Savior must show in his life that Jesus is his Lord, or his redemption is a figment of his imagination.
f) Titus 3:5
This verse describes the good work of Jesus Christ in the elect. Salvation includes not only a justification before the law, but also an inner separation from sin, called a "washing of regeneration" and a "renewing of the Holy Ghost." This refers to the new life believers receive, not in the sense of life in addition to what they already have, or life in replacement for the life that they have, but in the sense of life where they had no life before. These phrases are two of a variety of ways that the Bible expresses the same thing. Other ways are "baptism in the Holy Ghost," "born again (from above)" and "born of the Spirit." Altogether they refer to the one good work of creation that God performs in the hearts of all of His children (Psalm 51:7-10, II Cor. 5:17).
The phrase "works of righteousness" could refer to the things all men do which they think are good, and which they believe will either merit blessings from God or balance out the evil that they know they do. But from the context of Titus, the phrase is really limited to the works of the law that the Jews obeyed to gain favor with God. In this regard it can refer also to the religious works or a gospel plan that teaches human participation in some form, which is taught in evangelical churches today.
What a blessing that salvation is not according to our "works of righteousness," which cover us like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). What a blessing that salvation is "according to his mercy," for His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136). The words "according to" highlight the fact that not only are men saved by the power of God, but also that men are saved in the way that He has planned. God is in total control of the plan and the details of its fulfillment. Psalm 119:170 puts it this way, "deliver me according to thy word."
On one hand, words "according to" are hard words for humans to hear. It is embarrassing to be found to be a sinner by God, but it is really humiliating to be told, much like we would treat a wayward child, that we can only expect to be delivered in exact accord with God's word. The Bible insists that we must fall in line with the means God has prescribed to secure salvation. This is abrasive to our pride and self respect. Like a child, unbelievers want to "do it myself." So the Bible is terribly direct. We must humbly submit to another's way, God's way. But the relief is that abandoning ourselves to the mercies of God is the only successful way to be saved. With God totally in control, we find the grace we need.
On the other hand, these words are a joyful wonder. The blessing of the words "according to" has sometimes been explained in this way. Salvation does not mean that God is rich in mercy, but only provides us something "out of" that wealth, as if it could be illustrated by a millionaire who gives a man one hundred dollars. Rather, salvation means God gives us "in proportion" to His riches. That is, we are blessed to the same degree that God is rich in mercy, illustrated by a millionaire who gives a man all that he is capable of giving to him (Eph. 1:7).
g) I Titus 3:9-11
Titus 3:4-8 explains the contents of the "sound doctrine" that is to be "exhorted" against the "gainsayers" (Titus 1:9). There are men who are "unruly and vain talkers and deceivers," especially those who seek to supplant grace with works or add works to the mercy of God. Having no basis in scripture or logic for their fables and inventions, they must fill the air with "foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law" (Titus 3:9). These foolish arguments are "unprofitable and vain." They do not equip, motivate and enable men to do the good works of God, but rather lead to the exaltation of wicked men and the promotion of their philosophy. Therefore, God's counsel to Titus is to "avoid" such men.
The word "avoid" is a translation of a word used only 4 times in the Bible. It is composed of the prefix peri, meaning "around" and the root isteemi, meaning "stand." In Acts 25:7 it is translated in a literal way as "stood round about," and in John 11:42 as "which stand by." II Timothy 2:16 renders it as "shun." Titus 3:9 does not mean that a believer ought to stand around idly and let a heretic have his day in the sun, listening to what the heretic says. After all, according to verse 10, Titus must admonish the man twice, implying that instead of letting the heretic talk, Titus ought to prepare some strong words of warning for anyone who seeks to harangue the church with his own doctrines. Properly understood, verse 9 means that a believer is idle in the sense that he does not participate in the same activities in which the heretic is busy.
Titus must not take the bait and allow himself to be drawn into a discussion with a heretic, who is an expert in and enjoys using words to cover truth. Even though Titus knows the truth, even though Titus is convinced that he could easily show the heretic to be a liar, Titus must not dance when he pipes, so to speak. Rather he must avoid the heretic's attempt to lead him into a conversation that will only entangle and confuse him, thereby leaving him open to deceptively wrong conclusions about what the word of God teaches.
It is not a show of weakness to avoid the arguments of heretics. It is a show of wisdom. A man who knows the truth does not need the investigation of a lie to further convince him of its vanity, or the truth's value. After all, a man does not need to jump into a garbage can to know that it stinks and everything inside is worthless to him.
It is never a good idea to study or listen to ideas which are rivals to the Biblical gospel. For example, there is no profit in listening to the teachings about other religions, cults and the occult. Nor should people spend a great deal of time analyzing those doctrines commonly held in evangelical churches which are contrary to the Bible. A man who knows the truth does not give a lie an audience, for that only leads him away from the truth.
Despite the advice of many, studying what heretics believe about God does not help us better understand what the Bible teaches, nor does it help in our attempts to lead others to the truth. The only way to handle a lie is to know and stand for the truth (Eph. 6:11-17, I Pet. 5:12). Paul's counsel to Titus is not to understand and answer the man's heresy point for point, but to "speak thou the things that become sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). "These things speak and exhort" (Titus 2:15).
The word from which "heretic" is translated is used only here in the Bible. It is based upon the word that means "to choose." A similar word is used once in Matthew 12:18 as "have chosen." Another closely related word is translated "shall choose" in Philippians 1:22, "hath ... chosen" in II Thessalonians 2:13 and "choosing" in Hebrews 11:25. We can say, then, a heretic is a man who has chosen or is a chooser in the sense that he is a man who has made up his mind and is set in his way. The man to be avoided is not a man who is honestly trying to figure out the way of grace and is open to suggestions from a believer. A man to be avoided is a man who has decided that the way of grace alone apart from works is not for him, and indeed ought not to be the way for anyone else either. That kind of a man must be asked to stop his teaching. He cannot be permitted to "subvert whole houses" nor does he deserve the opportunity to debate the merits of his position, for that would lead nowhere and wear everybody out.
Another reason that a believer must never pursue a discussion with a heretic is that he really does not want an honest debate. He is "subverted." That is, he has already turned his back upon the gospel. He is beyond repair for anyone one but the grace of God. Further more, and here is the big reason, the man who is perverted in his views and in his life knows that he is! In the words of verse 11, he is "condemned of himself." It is true that his sinful words can be and will be used to judge him on the last day (Rom. 2:1, Matt. 12:36), but the idea here is that the man knows full well in his heart of hearts that he is wrong, even as he speaks, and argues only to justify his position and in an attempt to conscript others to follow his evil ways.
This view of verse 11 is supported by Titus 1:11, which shows that the heretic's motive is not a misguided zeal. Instead, the heretic is determined to fulfill his perverted desire for the things of this world, no matter what he has to say in order to get them. In addition, the character sketch in Titus 1:12 shows them to be "liars," that is, men who deliberate say what is not true, knowing all along that what they are saying is false. They are "deceivers" (Titus 1:10). Not only that, Paul gives a personal witness to the fact that men deviously and knowingly reject the gospel of grace apart from the works of the law (Titus 3:3).
Paul must have winced when he recalled his former attitude and behavior to the gospel. Paul admits that he knew what he was doing, seeking not to bring truth, but to fulfill his private lusts and pleasures. Incidentally, this illustrates what we have said in a previous paragraph, for we recall that God did not lead Peter or Barnabas to present a long convincing discussion in order to change Paul, but rather He used His overpowering grace. Salvation is a work of the mercy of God, which today is manifested by the preaching of His word (Rom. 1:16, 10:17, I Pet. 1:23).
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