Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Warning against false teachers

Titus 1:10-16

1 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

"They of the circumcision" were the Judaizers, Jews who taught that the Gentiles had to obey all the Jewish laws before they could become Christians.  This confused new Christians and caused problems in many churches where Paul had preached the Good News.  Paul wrote letters to several churches to help them understand that Gentile believers did not have to become Jews first in order to be Christians - God accepts anyone who comes to him in faith (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:2-7)  Although the Jerusalem council had dealt with this issue (See Acts 15), devout Jews who refused to believe in Jesus still tried to cause problems in the Christian churches.

11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not , for filthy lucre's sake. 
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies
 *filthy lucre sake - the sake of dishonest gain, slow bellies - lazy gluttons

Paul was quoting a line from a poem by Epimenides, a poet and philosopher who had lived in Crete 600 years earlier. "To play the Cretan" had become a phrase meaning to be a cheat and a liar.  Paul used this familiar phrase to make the point that Titus's ministry and leadership were very much needed. 

13 This witness is true.  Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of mean, that turn from the truth. 

Paul warned Titus to be on the lookout for false teachers.  Some false teachers are simply confused - they speak their misguided opinions without checking them against the Bible.  Others have evil motives - they pretend to be Christians only because they can get more money, additional business, or a feeling of power from being a leader in the church. 

You can recognize false teachers because they will
1) focus more attention on themselves than on Christ
2) ask you to do something that compromises or dilute your faith:
3) de-emphasize the divine nature of Christ or the inspiration of the Bible or
4) urge the church to make decisions based more on human judgment than on prayer and biblical guidelines.

15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Some people see good all around them, while others see nothing but evil.  What is the difference?  Our souls become filters through which we preceive goodness or evil.  The pure of heart (those who have Christ in control of their lives) learn to see goodness and purity even in this evil world.  But "defiled and unbelieving people" find evil in everything because their evil minds and hearts color even the good they see and hear.  Whatever you chose to fill your mind with will affect the way you think and act.  Turn your thoughts to God and his Word, and you will discover goodness more and more, even in this evil world.  Fill your mind with what is good, and then there will be little room for what is evil (Philippians 4:8).

16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Many people claim to know God, to be "born again." How can we know if they are telling the truth?  We will not know for certain in this life, but a glance at their life-styles will quickly tell us what they value and whether they have ordered their lives around Kingdom priorities.  The way we live says much about what we believe (1 John 2:4-6).

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