Lesson 20: "Avoid Foolish Questions. . .A Man that Is A Heretic. . .Reject" (Titus 3:9-10)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson # 20, our final lesson in the book of Titus. In lesson #21, we shall begin the book of II-Timothy. However, right now, let's close out on the book of Titus. This lesson begins in Tit. 3:9, please turn to Tit. 3:9. This is Paul's close to that letter he wrote to the preacher named Titus in that place called Crete. Let's read v.9-10-11, are you ready? Titus 3:9 beginning. Here we go: "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
These three verses end Paul's instruction to Titus concerning how to instruct and what to teach the Cretan churches. The final four verses (v.12-15), Paul made certain personal requests of Titus concerning the next phase of their work and concerning Titus' final work before departing Crete. Verse 15, we might call a benediction, i.e. a final request for God's blessings and what we might call closing thoughts. But, right now, back to v.9 and let's try to see this in light of what has already been said. Let's review just a moment. After Paul's salutation to Titus in the first few verses of this book; the apostle gave or reviewed with Titus what we have called qualifications for elders. Paul instructed Titus to ordain elders in every city, i.e. every congregation. Then the apostle in the last part (of what we call) chapter 1, highlighted the Cretan attitude and the problems internally and externally that Titus must deal with. In (what we call ch. 2), the apostle got more specific in dealing with the different social groups involved, the aged men, the aged women, the young men, the young women and finally Christian slaves. As Paul closed chapter two and began (what we call ch. 3), we said he restated the gospel, i.e. reemphasized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. We are justified by God's grace and He saved us by the washing of regeneration, i.e. baptism for the remission of sins. This Paul put in the form of one of his FAITHFUL SAYINGS (v.8) and emphasized that Titus must constantly re-affirm this over and over. Then, after stating these things in a positive way, the apostle gave some cautions, i.e. some negatives to avoid. This section begins in v.9, (where we just read): Titus should, #1, "avoid foolish questions." Then, #2, avoid "genealogies," tt3, avoid "contentions" and finally #4 avoid "striving about the law," i.e. the law of Moses. And before we leave this (notice also), these words clarify somewhat and strengthen our concept of the Jewish teachings (I should say false teachings) and some of the problems plaguing the Cretan churches. First, Titus, you must avoid foolish questions. Now, what is a foolish question? Well, first of all it's an irrelevant question. A question that's probably impossible to answer. Secondly, it's a question that if you had the answer, it still would not help. This reminds me of Bro. Otis Gatewood in his book entitled: You Can Do Personal Work. He tells about their experience in debating the Hermans back in Utah. On one occasion, in a question and answer session, one of the preachers received a question, that asked: "Will you please explain the difference between you and a monkey?" This was an attempt to belittle the preacher, really. In answer to that question, the preacher said, if the person who wrote that question will come to the platform and stand beside me, the audience can judge for themselves. I thought that was a good answer. However, Paul said: "AVOID foolish questions!" In other words, just do not spend your time with such things that do not enlighten. The gospel is important! Repeat it over and over (v.8). Spend your time on things that are "good and profitable unto men" (end of v.8). Then, the second "avoid" (implied, v.9, where we just read): what about "genealogies?" Why avoid genealogies and why are they vain? Genealogies are people pedigrees, i.e. studying the decent of families from their ancestors (etc.). Paul's point here obviously has reference to the Jews and gives us one more little insight as to their teaching. They thought and believed that their decent from Abraham made THEM exclusive. John the Baptist SAID that is absolutely not true (Matt. 3:9). However, don't miss the underlying thought that permeates the reason for Paul saying this, i.e. that every person is individually responsible to God. Now, there's nothing wrong with trying to find out who your great grandfather was or some other ancestors, where they lived or what they accomplished, their state of health (etc.). The point you need to understand here is simply this: as interesting as such a study might be and as informative as it might be medically in understanding your genetic makeup, your resistance to disease and all that; it really has nothing to do with obeying the gospel. Spiritual things really have nothing to do with family lines or genetic lines. We are made spiritual heirs "according to the hope of eternal life" (up in v.7). Learn what the Bible teaches! Then (v.9), Titus also AVOID "contentions," i.e. what you contend for or what we might call hobbies, in other words: points of doctrine you cannot substantiate biblically. Now, this preacher was told to "affirm" the gospel constantly (up in v.8); however, the point is: we must be careful not to go beyond that. Then finally, the last AVOID, "strivings about the law," goes back to the teaching of the "circumcision," so-to-speak, (as Paul used this term back in Tit. 1:10). My guess is that it goes back to that same issue aired out many times before (do you remember Acts ch. 15:Iff?). You got it! Now (Tit. 3:10), how do WE handle people, who insist on these things (i.e. foolish questions, genealogies, contentions and strivings about the law), and that further insist on persisting in these things? How do we handle this? The word is in v.10, we are to "admonish" first. What do you do when you admonish? To admonish is to warn, to advise against, to remind and urge strongly. Hopefully when that is done "in love" (Eph. 4:15), that will be sufficient. But, then, what if it's not? Well then, that word is in v.10 also, after a couple admonitions the word is "reject." Now, I didn't say that! The apostle Paul by inspiration said: "reject" them. Do you remember II-Thes. ch. three? Well! Do we do what it says, or do we go soft, ignore our duty and encourage error? Do we obey or do we disobey? Christianity is not easy! You can't stand on the sidelines. Either get in there and do your duty or be rejected (you might want to re-read Matt. 12:30 just here). This concludes Paul's spiritual instruction to Titus.
We have already said (v.12-13-14) are personal instructions, i.e. between Paul and Titus. Let's read v.12-13-14! Are you ready? Here we go! "When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful."
Alright, Paul wants Titus to help him, i.e. travel with him, in the months ahead and to be with him the following winter. Winters were hard in those days. There was almost no travel in midwinter. This is an invitation, not a command in the sense that Paul is ordering Titus around. Paul had left Titus in Crete for a purpose (Tit. 1:5) with Titus' consent, of course. The Cretan work was not finished, so Paul had plans of sending another preacher to continue the work in Crete and to continue nourishing the work of preaching the gospel in Crete. Paul planned to send either Artemas or Tychicus to be with the Cretan churches and to pick up where Titus left off. The preacher named Artemas does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. We know nothing about Artemas. Nevertheless, we may deduct that he was a grounded and capable preacher, capable of replacing Titus. The other man mentioned, I think you remember: Tychicus, visited Paul back in that Roman prison (Eph. 6:21-22). This preacher named Tychicus was from Asia (according to Acts 20:4), probably from Ephesus. Tychicus (along with Onesimus, you will remember) probably delivered the Ephesian letter, the Colossian letter and the letter to Philemon. Paul described Tychicus (in Col. 4:7) as "a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord." Paul had made plans already to spend the coming winter in Nicopolis. Now, whether this was the winter of AD 64-65, AD 65-66, or AD 66-67, we can only guess. From this, it is logical that, Titus received this letter either in late summer or early fall. Nicopolis was a seaport town on the Adriatic Sea. This city was located about 100 miles N.W. of Corinth on the western edge of Achaia, or possibly in Macedonia near what was then the Achaian-Macedonian border. Take the time to look up Nicopolis on your maps. This city is not mentioned in the book of Acts. Now, this is a guess; but, Artemas was probably the one that came to Crete to take Titus' place. I base this guess on the fact that Paul later wrote a letter to Timothy, who was at Ephesus (you will remember), and Paul told Timothy (II-Tim. 4:12), "Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus." Thus, my conclusion would be that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus as a replacement for Timothy. Thus, Artemas then was most probably the one sent to replace Titus in Crete. Notice, that by the phrase "be diligent" (in v.12), that Paul places some urgency upon Titus' coming to Nicopolis to assist the apostle.
Then in v. 13, Paul touches on another matter of which we know nothing (other than what is written here). The apostle speaks of two men, named Zenas and Apollos, obviously gospel preachers going about their work very much like Timothy and Titus. When Paul said: "bring [them]...on their journey," he did not mean to bring them to Nicopolis. They were obviously transients, i.e. headed to some other place for the purpose of preaching the gospel... missionaries we would say. The man Zenas (like the man Artemas) does not occur in the New Testament elsewhere. It is stated (in the passage at hand) that he was a "lawyer." About all that we can conclude from that is that he was an educated man. It could mean that he had been a Jewish rabbi, studied and taught the Jewish law before becoming a Christian, or, it could mean possibly that Zenas had studied Roman law and was a lawyer of the state (so-to-speak). The other man, Apollos, I trust you remember, was from Alexandria, Egypt. We learned in Acts 18:24 that Apollos was born in Alexandria...the Egyptian city of higher learning, so-to-speak. Apollos was likewise an educated man, very polished, very eloquent, according to that Acts passage (Acts 18:24). That same verse says: "He was mighty in the scriptures," i.e. he had a strong and thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, what we would call the Old Testament. We learned a couple other characteristics of this man (Apollos) back in those passages, (first) he was "fervent in the spirit" it says, i.e. he was a sincere man, and very dedicated to his religion. Secondly, he was a meek man, i.e. temperate and submissive. He was NOT a know-it-all. The passage back there says he was "instructed in the way of the Lord." It further says he "taught diligently the things of the Lord, [listen now!] knowing only the baptism of John," i.e. John the Baptist. He was not a Christian. Like a lot of modern day denominational people, he didn't know he was not a Christian. He was educated, polished, psychologically adjusted and he was mighty in the Scriptures, he knew those 39 books we call the Old Testament. However, he had NOT been taught "the way of God more perfectly." And yet, he was humble enough to let a couple lowly tent makers named Aquila and Priscilla teach him the way of God more perfectly, you will remember. He was a polished public speaker, he was very knowledgeable and he spake "boldly in the synagogue" of the Jews, it says. He was doing the best he knew how. I believe you will find a lot of Apollos in your hometown, today. They are doing the best they know how, they think they are Christians. They ARE polished public speakers. They are very knowledgeable people. They teach what they know very boldly. Unfortunately, they have not yet been taught the truth of the gospel, just like Apollos when he came to Ephesus; before he met Aquila and Priscilla and before he learned and obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ. OH! Like a lot of denominationals, he had been baptized. But, he had not been baptized scripturally. John's baptism was preparatory, i.e. getting people prepared for the coming Christ. However, at the time of Apollo's being taught by Aquila and Priscilla, the Christ had already come about two decades before. The law of Moses was no longer in force, the baptism of John the baptist was no longer in effect. John's baptism was no longer valid. Luke, in the first few verses in Acts ch. 19 tells us THAT about a dozen people (having the very same baptismal status as Apollos, before Aquila and Priscilla got hold of him) that Paul then scripturally baptized those twelve people, i.e. re-immersed them for the remission of their sins, this time in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, i.e. great commission baptism (as Jesus taught in Matt. 28:19). Obviously, the very same thing that Acquila and Priscilla did to and for Apollos. This tells you a lot about the man, Apollos. We learn here in the book of Titus (3:13), that Apollos was still at it, preaching the gospel. When he found himself in error, he didn't throw up his hands and quit. He didn't try to justify the error and just persist in it. He corrected that error and went on from there. This is what the N.T. teaches. There's a great lesson here. He had spent some time in Ephesus, back when Paul was there (we learn this in I-Cor. 16:12). Apollos had spent some time in Achaia, most likely Corinth (Acts 18:27), commended by the brethren. Apollos and Zenas were not part of that group of trouble makers in Crete that Paul referred to (back in Titus 1:10-11). They were gospel preachers, apparently on their way to someplace els,e, just like Titus would be in a few months. Paul said, "bring [them]...on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them." This is all we know about that situation involving Apollos and Zenas. However, it tell us that others were working with Paul besides Titus and Timothy, besides Artemas and Tychicus.
Then in v.14, Paul says: "let ours," i.e. the Christians at Crete "learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful." Or, in other words, that they may produce something spiritually constructive. The fact that this follows what the apostle said about Apollos and Zenas, (I think) means that Titus should use this occasion to urge their support and to teach the Cretans to be missionary-minded and to give accordingly. Our time's up! I believe you can handle v.15. Some that were with Paul, where ever Paul was, sent greetings to Titus. I'll be back in lesson #21. Until then, have a good day.