Lesson 16: "They Profess That They Know God; But in Works They Deny Him" (Titus 1:16)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome again to our study in Titus. This is lesson #16. As our time ran out in our last lesson, we were trying to quickly go over the elder qualifications that Paul gave to Titus (1:6-9). You, I trust, have gone over those one by one and digested the implications in each of these qualifications. Perhaps the question might have occurred to you, I'm sure it occurred to someone: why must - one have all these characteristics to qualify as an elder, i.e. an overseer of a local- congregation of the Lord's church? Paul is ahead of you, he apparently anticipated that question! V.10, the next sentence, begins with the word "For," F-O-R. What does "for" mean? "For" is usually used as a preposition meaning "in place of." However, here it's a conjunction with the meaning: because of or for this reason. Now, what's the reason? Here it is! It begins in v.10 and continues down through v.16, i.e. it consumes the rest of this chapter. Paul gave the reason for these qualifications. So, let's read the rest of ch. 1, are you ready? We'll begin in v.10 and read down through verse sixteen. I'll read from my Bible, you read from your Bible, we will both read. Beginning in v.10, are you ready? Let's read.
"FOR there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 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. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." As we have said before, there were problems in the Cretan congregations. We don't have a list of those problems, just 1, 2, 3, 4... However, if you'll put these things together, I'm talking about v.10-16, it forms a framework of empirical tips, hints and clues from which we can deduct a rather conclusive picture, I believe. I suggest you re-read this over two or three times and try to visualize the situation that must have prompted the apostle Paul to say these things to Titus and even beyond that what Paul was saying to those whom Titus passed this letter on to. It is only when you can get that image of the circumstance in Crete burned deeply into your mental storage system and that in contextual arrangement that this becomes a reference from which you can confidently draw upon to guide your own spiritual footsteps. That generation of people and that community and that society has long since disintegrated into historic rubble. However, the difficulty in those congregations in Crete is still a difficulty with us. Thus, these things are said for our edification and our learning. These Cretain churches were congregations of people, real people, breathing people with• pain and anxieties and passions just like those of us who make up congregations of the Lord's church today. They were engulfed by the desire for riches and the cares of this old world just like us. I don't know if they had a state lottery or not. But, they were short and fat and tall and slender and some were bald, just like us. They got tired easy, just like us. Down in v.16, Paul said: "they profess that they know God; but in works they deny him..." Now, things haven't changed much, have they? There must be a thousand sects of the so-called Christian religion today in America, who all claim to know God, just like the Cretans. All of them claim to be on the inside track. Some claim to be following Henno Simons, Martin Luther, John Wesley and John Calvin and the history books are full of them...Mary Baker Eddie, Jospeh Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Judge Rutherford, Pope so-and-so and on and on. They all claim to know God. Have I got it right? There is just one Bible, there was just one Jesus, there is just one Holy Spirit, why hundreds of churches? Paul said, "there is one body, and one Spirit...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4:4). How can there be hundreds of doctrines today? Well scripturally there can't! The Lord's church is not some grafted up hybrid. Paul said there in Ephesians, "there is one body!" That word "body" is synonymous with the word "church." The apostle Paul himself gave that very definition just 44 verses up the page before he said: "there is one body." How in the world can that be so misunderstood? My friend, this is why Paul said to Titus: "Rebuke them sharply" (up in v.13). There sure is a lot of need for that same sharp rebuke today. Now, why did Paul say to rebuke them, Titus? "That they may be sound in the faith" (that's v.13, look at it close). What does it mean to be "sound" in the faith? Well, I just looked up that word, "sound" S-0-U-N-D as an adjective, i.e. as it is used here... [do you want to hear it?] the first line definition is: to be CERTAIN, to be RELIABLE, to be DEFINITE, to be SURE, to be POSITIVE, and to be TRUSTWORTHY. That's just the first line. Do you get the idea? To be sound in the faith is to follow sound doctrine. Is it important to follow sound doctrine? It must be! because after Paul gave all that list of qualification for elders, the apostle said concerning elders (v.9) in closing out that list: "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, [Why Paul?] that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." Why did Paul tell Titus to "rebuke them sharply?" "That they may be sound in the faith." You better believe this is important. In 2:1, Paul said to this same gospel preacher: "speak the things which become sound doctrine." In the next verses he said: THAT, (i.e. for this purpose): "that the aged men [among other things] be...sound in faith." Speak where the bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent. This same Paul said back in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ, who [WHO WHAT PAUL?], WHO walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." You see, not to be condemned requires walking in sound faith, sound doctrine. This was Jesus' closing thought that night he met with Nicodemus (John 3:19-20-21).
Now, if sound doctrine is that important, the difference between being saved and being lost, then how can the doctrine of Christ be kept pure? Have you thought about that? Now, think about it just a minute! Isn't it of first-line importance that the preacher(s) and the elders of the Cretian congregations (those closest to the Christian of Crete), thus, be qualified and speak sound doctrine, just like Ephesus? Just like where I live and just like where you live. If sound doctrine is not important, then you can just appoint anybody as an elder, it doesn't matter what they teach. But, if it matters (and it does), then you better get qualified elders and sound preachers. Paul said that in Crete, "there [were] many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers." Things haven't changed much, just turn on your radio. Paul said, "whose mouths must be stopped." What about today? Does all this American —thousand denominations— business need to be stopped? Sure it does. It should not be. How can we stop it? By teaching the truth, by teaching sound doctrine. It's the same formula today as it was in Titus' day. It hasn't changed! Do you see why the book of Titus and the books of Timothy and all the N.T. is so important? This is the book that will be used on the day of judgment. It won't be creed book "A" or creed book "B." It won't be some book called a church discipline or a church manual or a prayer book. Some of these things subvert a person here and a person there. Some of these false teachings of our day subvert whole houses, whole families, whole communities. It was happening in Crete (according to v.11). Things haven't changed in that respect. Some of it was done for "filthy lucre's sake," i.e. to say: for money. Today it's "send me a dollar!" Those dollars have made many tele-evangelists millionaires and multitudes (who are paying the bill) are marching toward the gates of hell. What a terrible thought. Some today sneer about it, tell little jokes about St.. Peter at the golden gate and talk about pie in the sky and the water, dogs who .baptize by immersion, etc. The Cretans joked about themselves saying that all Cretans were liars (v.12) and sensual, i.e. they lived like animals. The idea of "slow bellies" is translated by some as "lazy gluttons." It was their own comment about themselves. Paul didn't argue the case, he said in v.13, "this witness is true." They may have joked about it; but, they said it right. "Wherefore," Paul said: "rebuke them sharply." Christianity is not a social gospel, it is not a party, a celebration or a festival like our world makes it on Easter, Christmas, Halloween, St. blankety-blank's day. Christianity is serious business! Oh, I know, to some it's a joke; but, it's going to get serious on the day of judgment. So, don't bring all that terror upon yourself. Why not get prepared now? It's the smartest move we can ever make. Get serious now, don't wait until the judgment day or when you are old or when you are consumed by Alzheimers or something worse. If you believe in Jesus, it just takes ten minutes to be baptized for the remission of sins and you can start to work in the Lord's vineyard, today, live a faithful life and He has promised. You can believe His promise. If the atheist is right and there is no resurrection from the dead, and there is no hell, they'll never know it. If the Bible is right, you better believe the atheist is going to know it and every believer and every false teacher is going to know it, too. Compared to any worldly life, Christianity is the best life you can ever live. The atheist and the evil minded have nothing to offer; but, doom. Do you want to live your life headed for doom? Doomed for hell? If that wouldn't make a psychological pervert out of somebody, I don't know what it would take. What does it take to get on the right track? Sound doctrine! It's so important, it's worth more than any worldly possession. This old human body didn't just evolve from an amoeba through a lizard on down through a monkey or something else. That's the dumbest thing I ever heard. A frog developed eyes over a million years by evolution, little cells on the frogs back became sensitive to sun light and developed slowly over thousands of years into an eye. Now, stop and think! Why does a frog have just two eyes, symmetrically placed on the top of his head, just in the right place, with eyelids to cover them up? Why are they not scattered all over the frogs back at random if they developed at random? Why isn't there hundreds of little rudimentary eyes in all stages of development even now? And no body, NO BODY, has ever seen ONE of those little rudimentary eyes in any stage of development at any time. Billions of frogs out there, millions have been observed; but, no rudimentary developing eyeballs. Not one has been observed. Then after all that, the frog can reproduce itself in a few months from one cell starting from a fused sperm and an egg that can in turn produce millions. It just happened! Evolution is not sound doctrine. Evolution is not CERTAIN, it's not RELIABLE, it's not DEFINITE, it's not SURE, it's not POSITIVE, and it's not TRUSTWORTHY. It's not sound doctrine. Why did Paul give qualifications for elders? That they may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (v.9). It take a stable, intelligent, family oriented, believing person to do that. They don't have to be a lopsided PhD. All they have to have is common sense and be taught and understand sound doctrine. A PhD degree won't keep them from it; but, it's like bodily exercise, Paul said: "it profiteth little." Wouldn't it be great, if everyone would just take the Bible at face value, learn what it teaches before they go out spreading a lot of garbage. Wouldn't it be great if everyone would just throw away all their creed books, all the doctrines manufactured in their conventions and general conferences and get rid of all that excess baggage? Traditions, observances, customs, formalities, rites, fashions...get rid of it...throw it out. You see, they're trying to interpret the Bible in light of all their creeds and trying to make it fit their doctrines. Do you remember how it was at Colossie when we studied that book? Friends, the world was a mess then, it's a mess now. Why did Paul write these things to Titus? Well, I think that's pretty clear. Why do we need to select elders following divine qualifications? Well, I think that's pretty clear too, if you'll take the time to think about it. Jesus said either you are with me or you are against me (Matt. 12:30). So, may I be so bold as to ask you: where do you stand? If you believe in Jesus and you're not doing it right, why don't you go now, find a gospel preacher, an elder or some Bible knowledgeable Christian to baptize you scripturally for the remission of sins, just like the Bible teaches; rise out of that watery grave, let the Lord add you to his church and start to work. Do you need help? Call me, I'll locate somebody for you if it too far for me to come. If you have done that and you made a mess out of it or didn't then understand and you now understand, call me, I'll still do my best to get you on the right track and working. Do you want to preach the gospel, just like Titus? Let's work together. Let's do it like Titus did it, like Paul did it, like Timothy did it! This book, and the books of Timothy are the best preacher schools you will ever find.
Before we close this lesson; let me say, if you'll re-read v.10, Paul's comment about "specially they of the circumcision," i.e. the unruly and the vain talkers and deceivers as Paul called them and then take note of what he says about "NOT giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth" (v.14); I believe there is evidence here, strong evidence, that the false teachers in Crete that Paul was grappling with and that Titus was grappling with were the Judiazers, i.e. teachers of the Jewish religion who had been partially converted and claimed to believe in Jesus and yet they were trying to shackle Christians with the law of Moses, circumcision and those things of the O.T., their doctrine as is made very clear back in Acts ch. 15, which we have already talked about. It was essentially the same slick, gummy, religious mess then as we see in the world today. It was doctrines and commandments of men. Jesus talked about the doctrines and commandments of men in Matt. 15:9; He said: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." That's another way of saying "they profess to know God; but in works they deny him." (v.16). Why not lay aside all prejudice and all the ingrained and inbred religious nonsense that we find around us and simply be a Christian, like Paul, like Titus, like Timothy and like the Bible teaches? I'll be with you in lesson #17. Until then have a good day!