A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 1: 14b-16. d). Their errors (continued).
Finally, these false teachers and their disciples, whom Paul is delineating, *are detestable* (for their tenets provoke a certain disgust in the people of God), *disobedient* (dismissive of God’s word) *and unfit for doing anything good* (16b). Of these three outspoken epithets perhaps the middle one is the most significant, for the theme of disobedience runs through the chapter. A pastor’s children must not be disobedient or insubordinate (6). But now the very same Greek word (*anypotaktos*) is used of the false teachers. ‘Rebellious people’ they are called in verse 10. A similar word describes the Cretan errorists (16). J.B.Phillips translates verse 16, ‘there are many…who will not recognize authority’. They are disobedient, insubordinate, rebellious, Paul writes. It is strong language.
But in the final analysis this is the big question before the church. Is there such a thing as divine revelation? Do we concede that truth, having been revealed by God, *ipso facto* has authority over us? Are we ready to submit to it, that is, to him, in humble faith and obedience? Or are we brash enough to behave like unruly children and reject God’s authority? An authoritative revelation, Harry Blamires has written, leaves us with only two alternative reactions: ‘it is either the bowed head or the turned back’.
Looking back over this chapter within the context of the contemporary church, there are two major lessons we need to learn.
First, *let us copy Paul’s strategy*. He was profoundly disturbed by the prevalence of false teaching in the churches. He refers to it in all his letters. The Pastorals are full of allusions to deceivers, deviationists, empty talkers, speculators, divisive controversialists and hypocritical liars. The question is this: how did Paul react to this distressing situation? What was his strategy in the face of spreading error?
He refused to give in to it in a feeble spirit of defeat. He did not remain idle or silent on the ground that everybody has a right to his or her own opinion. He did not secede from the church in the belief that it was irredeemable. No, Paul was neither a defeatist, nor a pluralist, nor a secessionist. So what was his strategy in fighting the good fight of faith? It was this: when false teachers increase, we must multiply the number of true teachers. Titus was to appoint elders in every town (5), who would hold fast God’s reliable word, teach it faithfully and refuse those who contradict it (9). Why? Because of the number of rebellious people or deceivers (10). So the more false teachers there are, the more true teachers are needed.
This is why the key institution in the church is the seminary or theological college. In every country the church is a reflection of its seminaries. All the church’s future pastors and teachers pass through a seminary. It is there that they are either made or marred, either equipped and inspired or ruined. Therefore we should set ourselves to capture the seminaries of the world for evangelical faith, academic excellence and personal godliness. There is no better strategy for the reform and renewal of the church.
Secondly, *let us maintain Paul’s standards*. When there is a shortage of pastors, the temptation is to lower the standards of eligibility, and accept and appoint everybody who applies, even if they are not blameless in home life, behaviour and doctrine. Virtually all churches have selection procedures. But they do not always maintain apostolic standards. Instead, in some churches today it is no barrier to ordination that a candidate has a public reputation for a lack of Christian integrity and consistency; is married, divorced and remarried, even more than once; is a practising homosexual; has children who are both unbelieving and undisciplined; has a serious flaw in character or conduct; or holds liberal theological views with little respect for the authority of Scripture. It is something of a scandal that, in defiance of the apostle’s teaching, such persons are recommended and accepted for ordination.
So let us do what we can to copy Paul’s strategy and maintain Paul’s standards. The church would be in a far healthier condition if we did.
Tomorrow: Titus 2:1-15. Doctrine and duty in the home.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.