The Subtle Influence of Error
Beware the danger of empty talkers.
The church in Crete was threatened by some within the community of faith who were nevertheless marked by rebellion. They were like those who enlist in the army, report for duty, and put on a uniform, but as soon as battle commences, they refuse to obey their commanding officer.
Such insubordinate individuals are, Paul says, “empty talkers.” They talk about nothing, but they make it sound as if it’s the most important thing that you’ve ever heard in your life. They want to deviate from the main things and the plain things of Scripture and get everybody to focus on the sidelines, on their traits. And shockingly, although they are “deceivers,” they are able to draw people after them.
Some people are peculiarly susceptible to this kind of nonsense. It’s not possible to have a product that sells unless you’ve got a market that is buying. If a congregation is not well versed in the truth, and if it doesn’t have elders like those described in Titus 1:5-9 to safeguard the flock, then it will be vulnerable to individuals who rise from among the believers and seek to draw the faithful away.
The greatest danger is not necessarily an all-out onslaught from outside the body of faith. More often than not, it is creeping and subtle, and it comes from inside. Those who deceive in this way are not necessarily easy to recognize. They won’t say, “Follow me, I’m turning away from the truth.” Rather, they say, “Follow me, because I know the key teachings that you need to believe. You need to make sure that you’re doing these things and not doing those things.”
The gospel is the amazing story that through Jesus and His work upon the cross, God completely transforms the lives of His children. Along with this change in our hearts, He gives us the unchanging truth of His word—and that truth is worthy of our prayers for the church and its elders. It is worth defending with all our might. So let Paul’s words be a reminder to guard against deceitful empty talkers and to be vigilant as you check your own heart. Listen to those whose words are full of grace and truth, and ensure that your own words are saturated with those two hallmarks of the true Christian life, too.
Qualifications for Elders
5This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife,3 and his children are believers4 and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7For an overseer,5 as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound6 doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.7 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12One of the Cretans,8 a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”9 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
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