10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
This is a tough passage. In continuing with Paul’s thought, he is talking about those who do not “practice what they preach.” In verse 10, we see Paul reference “those of the circumcision.” Don’t let this be a term you gloss over. In this instance, he is talking about those who are supposedly religious and holy. He is saying there are rebels (of the faith) most specifically in this group of people. Who is he calling out? Converted Jews; he is talking about people in the congregation of the church Titus is serving in! His example is that those who are perverting the Word of God must be silenced. I know that seems like a general term; to be clear, Paul is not instructing Titus to kill them off. Rather, he is suggesting that Titus confront these people so they stop teaching one thing and doing another.
He gives an example of one of the teachers professing about the people of Crete at the time. It is annotated that to “Cretize” was to lie, because the society in Crete at the time was very deceptive. Paul points out here the hypocrisy in the church because they speak of others like this, yet they act similar to those they are teaching against! Paul is saying this is why Titus must reprove them severely so they may be sound in the faith. It is at this point I would like to reference the definition of reprove again that Paul introduced us to in his letter to Timothy:
To reprove is to expose the truth (or lack thereof) in someone’s life. It is to tell someone what you observe and how it contradicts the truth. I think this is most applicable to someone who is saying one thing but doing another. In other words, someone says they are a follower of Christ but their actions prove otherwise. Or someone says they believe in Christ as their Savior but acts as though they are burdened with sin.
Verse 14 is a direct reference to Jesus’ lessons while He was on earth. Jesus taught His disciples that there are people of high religious stature that use made up rules and scoff at those who do not follow them when they are actually contrary to the heart of God’s message. These are the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (and probably those after His time as well). Paul is warning not only against the instruction of these men, but he is encouraging Titus to confront them and teach them their wrongs.
I feel that today’s message addresses two people. It addresses those who are hypocritical: acting contrary to the very things they are teaching. It also addresses those who recognize it and how they handle themselves. Let us never forget that we are called by God to do it lovingly and effectively, sticking to the truth and from a position not of self-righteousness, but rather of love and concern for the health of the Body of Christ.
Which category do you fall into and how can you be a better steward of the knowledge with which God has gifted you?