A Commentary by John Stott

Titus: 1: 10-16.  2). The false teachers.

The two paragraphs of chapter 1 (verses 5-9 and 10-16) are linked by the conjunction *gar*, ‘for’ or ‘because’. The reason Titus is to appoint elders in every town and to ensure that they meet the standards Paul lays down is that there are many false teachers who are leading people astray. That is to say, when false teachers increase, the most appropriate long-term strategy is to multiply the number of true teachers, who are equipped to rebut and refute error. We need to be convinced that this is possible.

An example of how false teaching can be decisively overthrown by sound scholarship may be cited from the life of J.B.Lightfoot, who was a professor of divinity at Cambridge University from 1861, and Bishop of Durham from 1879. The publication of an anonymous book entitled *Supernatural Religion* upset many people by its vigorous attack on the credibility of the early church fathers. Praised by its reviewers, it quickly went into several editions. But Lightfoot, in a series of essays in the *Contemporary Review* between 1874 and 1877, so thoroughly exposed the book’s many errors and demolished its arguments that, according to one bookseller, before the articles were finished ‘the book was already a glut in the second-hand market’. For ‘under Lightfoot’s searching criticism the foundation of the book had been destroyed’. The articles reveal Lightfoot’s best qualities – ‘his patient investigation of the facts, his scrupulous fairness, his generosity to an opponent, and above all his absorbing motive of loyalty to Christ’. God give us scholars of his calibre in our day!

In this paragraph (10-16) Paul alerts Titus to the identity, influence, character and errors of the false teachers.

a). Their identity (1:10).

Paul first describes them as *many rebellious people*. The adjective is *anypotakos*, meaning ‘insubordinate’. Unlike the faithful presbyters who are to ‘hold firmly to the trustworthy message’, the false teachers refuse to submit to it. Next, they are *mere talkers (mataiologoi* as in 1 Tim.1:6. purveyors of ‘empty, fruitless talk’, BAGD). Their teaching lacks health-giving substance. Worse than that, they are *deceivers*. Not only does their talk fail to edify; it actively leads people astray. And *especially* Paul is referring to *those of the circumcision group*. So the false teachers were Jewish, not the Judaizers who argued that circumcision was necessary to salvation (E.g. Acts 15:1, but a Jewish group obsessed with ‘Jewish myths’ (14) or ‘myths and endless genealogies’ (1 Tim.1:4). There are other parallels between Titus 1:9-14 and 1 Timothy 1:4-10. Both passages call the false teachers ‘liars’ (12; 1 Tim.1:10) and ‘insubordinate’ (10; 1 Tim.1:9), and both say their teaching is ‘futile’ (10; 1 Tim.1:6) and deviates from apostolic truth (11; 1 Tim.1:3).

b). Their influence. (1:11)

*They must be silenced*, Paul writes, or ‘muzzled’ (REB). A policy of *laissez-faire* will not do. The need to take action to stop them teaching (whether by argument or discipline is not divulged) is due to their growing influence. It is not only individuals who are being deceived; the errorists *are ruining whole households (house churches?) by teaching things they ought not to teach* (11a). In addition, despicable though this is, they have an ulterior motive, namely greed for *dishonest gain* (11b), the avarice from which all true teachers must be free (7).


Tomorrow: Titus 1:12-14a.  c). Their character.


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.