Troublemakers in the Church

Titus 3

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2011

We have been studying the Book of Titus. It was a short letter that Paul wrote to Titus in the Greek island of Crete. We have not been doing a verse by verse study if the book. Instead, we have looking at some of the main themes in the book. I want to pass a little outline of the book that I found online. Let’s read chapter 3 again. I want to finish the book tonight.

Titus 3 deals with three topics. The first topic was the Christian and the government, the Christian and society and the Christian and troublemakers in the church. Last week, we saw that we are to be good citizens. Christians should be model citizens.

The Bible teaches that out citizenship is in heaven in Philippians 3:20 but make no mistake our citizenship is also on earth. We are all American citizens as well. We have a dual citizenship and we have responsibilities to the state as well as to God. Jesus said that we are to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to render to God the things that are God’s.

The Christian and Society

This deals not how we relate to the government but how we relate to society in general or all people (3:2).

Be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

What is our responsibility to society? To do these five things.

The first thing he says that we are to DO GOOD.

Christians should be a bunch of do-gooders. If we are saved, we should be a model of good works (2:7). We should be rich in good works (I Timothy 6:18). We should not just have a few good works but a lot of them. In fact, that is one of the reasons God saved us so we would do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:13-14).

Good works do not save you. Good works do not buy your way into heaven but we were created to do good works. When we do good works God is glorified. Good works are proof of our salvation (1:15-16). James says that faith without works is DEAD.

What are some examples of good works? Some are spiritual in nature (Bible study, prayer) and some are more physical (giving to the poor, helping someone out who needs your help, visiting widows and orphans, being a good neighbor or coworker).

Good works are not always religious. They may or may not be. Paul says “Do good works,” not religious works. Finding the owner of a lost cell phone and returning it is a good deed. Giving someone a few dollars so they can buy some lunch is a good deed. Who are we to do good works to? Everyone (Galatians 6:10; Matthew 5:13-14).


What good works are you doing? What metaphors does Jesus use to describe Christians? Christians are the salt of the earth (5:13) and the light of the world (5:14). This should describe ALL Christians. Christians have an influence on the world in which we live.

We are not to leave the world and join a monastery or be like the Amish. We are to be in the world and to be salt and light. First, we are to be LIGHT.  We are to be the light of the world, not the light of the church. It is the world that needs the light. We are to shine our light in the darkest of places and we are to expose the darkness.

We are also to be SALT.  We are to be salty Christians. This is just a metaphor. It is a figure of speech. Too much salt is actually bad for you. How is the character of a Christian to be like salt? There are many uses of salt and many functions that most people do not know about (soothing a bee sting, killing poison ivy and fleas on animals).

Some Characteristics of Salt

1. Salt has a distinct taste.

A Christian should be different from the world. If we are the same as the world, we are like salt that has lost its flavor (5:13). It is completely useless.

2. Salt is essential to life.

We need salt to live. We couldn’t live without sodium. It is essential for body metabolism. It is an important component of our blood. We are supposed to get 2.4 grams a day (the recommended daily intake).

3. Salt is used in cooking

We use salt in cooking to season food, to flavor meat and enhance taste. It gives flavor and taste to bland food.

4. Salt is used as a preservative

Salt keeps things from going bad and decaying. It can help preserve food by killing bacteria that might cause food poisoning. Salt is antibacterial. Christians act as a preservative in society. God judges sin. He judges individuals and nations.

5. It also makes you thirsty

If we live different from the world, we should attract people to us.

6. Salt melts the ice

People use salt to melt ice on the sidewalk and on the road.  We sprinkle salt over the snow in the winter to keep us from falling.

Christians are also light in the world, not just the light of the church? Jesus says that we are the light in a dark world. Every day we are surrounded by people in great darkness – religious darkness, moral darkness and spiritual darkness). Jesus says that in this dark world WE are to shine (5:16). We are saved to shine. In what way are Christians to be the light of the world? What does it mean to be light?

8 For you were once darkness, BUT NOW YOU ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:8-14 NIV)

How are Christians the Light of the World?

1. They act different from the world.

The world will see a clear difference between our actions and those of the unsaved. The world should see a clear difference between the children of God and the children of the devil, between the sons of darkness and the children of the light.

2. They have a visible testimony.

Don’t be ashamed of your faith.  They are out and open about what they believe.  They are not secret believers and they are not ashamed of their faith.

3. They take a stand on things.

We are to expose the deeds of darkness. The church growth movement tells us pastors that we should make the church a place where unbelievers feel comfortable. So, we’re supposed to not talk about certain topics subjects like sin and Hell. That might offend people if you tell people that they are sinners and need to repent.

We are just supposed to tell people how much God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life! Paul says that are also supposed to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness. You will get some resistance. Jesus said that people love darkness (John 3:19).

The second thing Paul says is that we are to slander no one (NIV) or “not to speak evil of anyone” (GNT).

The Greek word is βλααφημέω.  This is something that all of us have done. What does that mean? First, let’s go over what he does NOT mean. He is not saying that we have to be naïve about people and say nothing but good things about people who are completely rotten.

He is not saying that you have to lie about people. He is not saying that you can never expose evil or that you can never criticize anyone. There are actually several ways we violate this command.

Ways We Speak Evil of People Today

1) We speak evil of people when we lie about them.

Slander is saying things that are false about someone. It is lying about someone, slandering and smearing people’s reputations. If the allegations are true, that’s not slander (1:12), although the Bible says that we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

2) We speak evil of people when we insult or make fun of people.

We do this all the time for fun.  We do it so much that we often are even aware we are doing it.  The truth is that put-downs are rude and they hurt people.

3) We speak evil of people when we say bad things about them behind their back.

It is stabbing people in the back. Why do we bad-mouth people to give a bad impression of them to others. This is something we love to do when someone is not around. It is human nature. If we have a problem with someone (perhaps we have a criticism of them and it is valid) we should tell it to their face.

The third thing he says is that we should be peaceable (άμαχος).

Christians should not be known as terrorists or assassins or violent individuals but peaceable. Peace is one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22. We are to be peaceable as much as possible and as much as it lies in us (Romans 12:18; 14:19). It is not always possible. We are to be peace-loving (James 3:17) and peace-makers (Matthew 5:9).

We should try to remove hostilities between two people who do not get along. The NLT says that we should avoid quarreling. What is the definition of a quarrel? Is every argument or disagreement a quarrel?

What is the difference between the two? A quarrel is a verbal fight. You get into an argument with someone and at the end you are not speaking. Husbands and wives can quarrel. Some people love quarrels (Proverbs 17:19; 20:3).

The fourth thing is to be considerate.

Are we considerate? Do we think of the needs of other people or just yourself? Do we put others first?

The fifth thing is that we are to show humility to people.

This is similar to the last trait (Philippians 2:4)

The Christian and Troublemakers

How do you deal with problem people in the church? Paul deals with that topic in Titus 3:9-11. It is an extremely important and misunderstood topic but what kind of people are we talking about? There are two different interpretations of Titus 3:10. Some believe that this is talking about a heretic.

Titus 3:10 reads in the KJV “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject.” A heretic is a false teacher. It is someone who is doctrinally unsound in major areas of the faith (e.g., someone who says that Jesus is not God or Hell is not eternal). The KJV is the only Bible to translate the word “heretic.”

Others believe that this is NOT talking about someone who is off doctrinally but is talking about someone who causes divisions in the church and goes around splitting churches (someone who stirs up divisions in the church not necessarily about doctrine).

The second view is held by every English translation since the KJV (RSV, ASV, NASB, ESV, NLT et al). Even the NKJV takes the word “heretic” out of the verse. Why do no other Bible translations have that word “heretic” in Titus 3:10?

Why the word “heretic” is not used

1) It is politically incorrect.

It is unpopular. If you know anything about history, that very word conjures up images of the Inquisition and burning people at the stake. It is a little out of vogue today to speak of a group of people today and to call them “heretics.” It was real popular in the Middle Ages.

2) The word “heretic” in Greek (α̉ίρετικός) is only used one time in the NT and that is in Titus 3:10.

In the immediate context, Paul does not say anything about this group denying any major doctrines of the faith. Instead, he mentions four other things (foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law). On the surface, it looks like this group of people is obsessed with things that are foolish, rather than false

3) The word “heretic” is anachronistic.

Some have even said that the word did not have anything to do with doctrine until the second century. Who is right? I grew up on the KJV. I was saved on it but it is not one that I read regularly today. It is a little archaic.

The translation is four hundred years old written around the time of Shakespeare. It is Elizabethan English and is not even based on the best Greek manuscripts but in this case the KJV got it right and all of the other Bible translations got it wrong.

There are several reasons we know that this is the CORRECT  translation of α̉ίρετικός.

a)  The noun form of the word α̉ίρεσις means “heresy” (II Peter 2:1).

It is clearly doctrinal in this passage. Every Bible renders it “heresy” there (KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, ESV, NLT). There is no debate there. It did NOT get this meaning in the second century.

b) The broad context of the book deals with false teachers.

That is clear from the first chapter of the book. That is why Paul Titus to ordain elders in the churches, because of the presence of false teachers in Crete. They were called deceivers (1:10) and saying things which they ought not to (1:11).

c) I Timothy specifically mentions genealogies, arguments, controversies and quarrels in the context of false teaching.

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach FALSE DOCTRINES any longer nor to devote themselves to MYTHS and endless GENEALOGIES. These promote CONTROVERSIES rather than God’s work—which is by faith (1:3-4)

If anyone teaches FALSE DOCTRINES and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in CONTROVERSIES and QUARRELS about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. (6:3-4).

Paul says, “As for a person who is a heretic, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.” (3:10).

Practical Implications of Titus 3:10

1. We have to know the truth.

The only way to know something is false is to know what is true. If you do not know the truth, you cannot detect error. If you do not know what the Bible teaches, there is no way you can identify false teaching or false teachers.

2. We have to know the difference between major and minor doctrines.

Heresy only deals with major doctrines. If you cannot distinguish between the two, you will think that anyone who disagrees with you on the smallest point is a heretic. Heresy is not when someone disagrees with you.

Heresy is not when someone disagrees with the church. Heresy is when someone disagrees with God. The Bible says one thing very clearly and a heretic says the exact opposite.

3. We have to label certain teaching as error.

This is something that some Christians would never do. They believe it is wrong to judge people and they would never say one view is right and another is wrong. They would just say, “They believe what they believe and I believe what I believe.”

There are some people who do not know the Bible. They may be a young Christian and say some things out of ignorance but they are open to the truth and want to be taught what the Bible says.

There are other people who are completely closed minded. They believe what they believe and are not open to anything you have to tell them or anything that the Bible says.

The person in this situation does not have an intellectual problem. He or she has a spiritual problem. That is what Paul says in 3:11. The individual is warped and sinful. He has spiritual problems. He does not believe what the Bible clearly says and is not open to any correction.

4. We have to reach out to people who have doctrinal errors in the church.

If someone is way off doctrinally (they are in left field and believe all kinds of goofy stuff) and you talk to them and that doesn’t work, there is a tendency to want to write that person off and to give up on them.

They don’t believe the Bible. You showed them what the Bible says and they flat-out rejected it. Paul says to be patient. Give them a second chance. Give them some time and talk to them again.

5. We have to reject those who refuse to repent.

That is a command in Greek (present tense – “be rejecting”). Some today work with heretics, rather than reject them. Some make them their friends. Paul says that they are to be rejected. Both the teachers and the teachings are to be rejected.

Their teaching is to be rejected (I Timothy 4:7; II Timothy 2:23) but the teachers are to be rejected as well (Titus 3:10). Paul says that they are to be rejected.

He doesn’t say to burn them at the stake or use force or violence against them. He says to reject them. The point is that there is a time to stop working with them. If the first two times you work them are unsuccessful, you stop working with them.

You don’t stop praying for them but you stop talking to them about the matter. You don’t go back a third and fourth time to debate them.

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