Today, we have arrived at our final study of the book of Titus. Over the course of this book, we have seen old Pastor Paul give young Pastor Titus several instructions about running the church in Crete. He was to set things in order, to appoint elders, to rebuke false teachers, and teach the believers that doing good deeds is sound doctrine. Now, we come to Paul's final exhortation to Titus before closing with some personal notes.
"Titus, I want you to remember that there will always be people in the church that major on the minors. Don't waste your time with the arguments, because it's worthless."
I can't tell you how many times I've failed to apply this pastoral command. All the time, people approach me with their latest and greatest "discovery" or doctrinal weirdness that they've bought into. They tell me how they've just read this new book that has caused them to finally understand what the Bible "really" says. They've gotten tuned into some new teaching, or have bought into some supernatural strangeness.
And thick-headed me, I actually think that when they ask my opinion on these things, that they're teachable. That they're sincerely wanting to know what the Bible has to say about it. And so I dive right in, and find myself in no time arguing with them about how wrong it is, how it's not based in truth.
I'm really trying to get to the point where I stop as soon as I recognize that they're not teachable, and they're just trying to show me how they have the "real wisdom," because those disputes are unprofitable and worthless.
Many times, the guys arguing about doctrine are arguing about lots of other things, too. And when someone moves from having his own private opinions to spreading them around and causing division, they've just entered a whole new category.
They become like Korah, who disagreed with Moses' leadership style in Numbers 16. Korah got about 250 leaders of the people to side with him, and together they told Moses in super-spiritual language that he thought he was a dictator, and had a "holier than thou" attitude.
Four chapters earlier, Miriam and Aaron decided that Moses was a sinner, and that they had just as much right to lead the people as he did.
Moses wasn't perfect, but he was God's appointed leader. But the divisive person always focuses on the leader's imperfection, and disregards the Divine promotion. The divisive person spreads his disease and makes people pick sides.
Interestingly, the root of the Greek word rendered "factious" here is the verb "to choose." This describes a person who takes a stand in the church saying, "it's him or me, them or us. My opinion or theirs." It's someone who tries to build their "team" against Moses, or Pastor Titus, or whoever the Lord has called to lead.
We know that the devil quite thoroughly understands the concept of "divide and conquer." Truth be told, there is no greater killer of churches than division. And so we are continually exhorted in the Bible to avoid it. Paul told the Corinthians,
1Cor. 1:10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
There must be no division in a local church body. If someone has a different view, or cannot submit to the authority over that church, if they were truly godly, they wouldn't stay and cause division. They would leave quietly and alone, without mounting a rebellion and building a team.
When David was under the leadership of psychotic King Saul, who would throw spears at him, he didn't gather his friends and say, "Look everyone! Can't you see the king is crazy? Let's rise up against him!" Instead, he slipped out at night, quietly and alone.
But the ungodly, divisive person stays and causes trouble. Divisive people are so dangerous, because they draw the innocent into their bitterness and deception. Paul said that...
Rom. 16:18 ...by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
Here's a guy you know from church. He wouldn't deceive you, right? He wouldn't lie to you, would he? Because you're unsuspecting, you get blindsided. He's charismatic and likeable, seems stable and knowledgable. "He'd never steer me wrong..." You were unsuspecting, didn't know it was coming, and now you've been drafted onto his team, before you even knew there were teams.
So, how is the church to deal with divisive people? How do you deal with a factious man? Reject him after two confrontations. The NIV renders this verse,
Titus 3:10(NIV) Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
The same instruction was given to the Romans:
Rom. 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
And Jesus gave the same command:
Matt. 18:17 "...Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
What does it mean to let someone be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector? Peter described the relationship that the Jews had to Gentiles, saying...
Acts 10:28 ..."You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him..."
And the Jews' relationship to tax collectors was the same. That's why Jesus caught so much flack for eating with them (Matt. 9:11) and befriending them (Matt. 11:19).
Does complete rejection and removal seem harsh? It always seems to be when it happens, because let's face it - the guy who was causing division was able to gather a following because he's likeable. A lot of people say, "Well, I still want to be his friend. I'll just steer our conversations away from the subject when he begins to trash the pastor and find fault with the church leadership." But that kind of approach is clearly unbiblical. It is inevitable that you will be infected with his divisive disease.
And when the divider isn't removed, the congregation will be destroyed. We saw this happen in King David's life.
David's son Ab-shaw-LOME didn't like David's decisions. He rejected the king's leadership and took matters into his own hands. Ab-shaw-LOME's bitterness grew inside of him, and he began to cause division. As people were coming to King David for judgment, Ab-shaw-LOME would make sure to "coincidentally" run into them. He would listen to their case and say, "You know, if I were the king, I'd definitely decide in your favor. But David isn't going to listen to you. He's all messed up" (2Samuel 15:1-6).
David should have kicked Ab-shaw-LOME out of the kingdom, but he didn't. And ultimately, it lead to a complete division and rebellion in the kingdom against David, whom God had appointed as the leader.
So, there is to be no tolerance for those who cause division in the church. They are to be removed, rejected, and disfellowshipped until they repent and change their ways.
These guys are described as being "perverted, sinning, and self-condemned." The word translated "perverted" there is "ek-STREF-o," which means "twisted and turned inside out." They have gotten so tweaked by their bitterness and wrong understanding that they become convinced they're right, entering into the sin of dividing the church, and bringing about condemnation upon themselves.
So, with Paul's final exhortations to Titus given, he makes some personal notes:
Although Artemas and Zenas are unknown to us outside of this reference, we are familiar with the other two.
We've examined the ministry of Too-khee-KOS in our studies of Ephesians (6:19-24) and Colossians (4:7-18).
And Apollos is the best-known of the four, being an Alexandrian Jew who was a powerful Bible teacher that became an evangelist and a leader in the church after he learned the complete gospel message (Acts 18).
Finally, Paul tells Titus that true Christianity is not inactive or unfruitful. It is to serve others. Titus' job as the pastor is to teach the people of the church to do good deeds and meet pressing needs. As Paul told the Ephesians, the very reason that God gave the church pastor/teachers was...
Eph. 4:12-13 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith...
Real Bible teaching teaches the real body of Christ to do real ministry until there really is unity. May God's grace be with us all.