Silencing False Teachers
“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced.”- Titus 1:10–11
Certainly, the need for elders to hold firm to apostolic doctrine is a permanent requirement for the office, and this need is particularly strong when false teachers arise to threaten the peace and purity of the church. This was the case in first-century Crete where its young churches were in desperate need of godly, biblically literate men to stem the tide of error that was beginning to rise.
We know this to be the case from Titus 1:10–11 wherein Paul gives the presence of “insubordinate, empty talkers, and deceivers” as one of the reasons for appointing theologically grounded pastors and teachers (v. 9). It is difficult to identify precisely the erroneous creeds circulating in Crete, but as is the case with the letters to Timothy, there are certain clues as to the falsehoods being taught there. Apparently, they had a particularly Jewish cast to them because the apostle names the “circumcision party” as being especially responsible for the upheaval there (v. 10). Unlike the situation Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 6:12–13), this does not necessarily mean they wanted to impose circumcision upon the Cretan believers; in fact, most commentators believe the practice of circumcision itself was not an issue. But it is clear that the teachers causing difficulties in Crete were either Jewish Christians or Gentiles enthralled with certain “Jewish myths” (Titus 1:14).
As is often the case with false teachers, the ones on Crete were motivated by a lust for money, not the glory of God, “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (v. 11). Citizens of Crete were well-known in the ancient world for their greed, and so the preachers of error were guilty of absorbing Cretan morals instead of having their lives transformed by renewing their minds according to apostolic doctrine (Rom. 12:1–2).
The presence of “teachers” who rebel against the Word of God is the reason why our Lord has ordained elders to provide correction and guidance to the church. Elders therefore, John Calvin says, must “be on the watch, so as not to give silent permission to wicked and dangerous doctrines to make gradual progress, or to allow wicked men an opportunity of spreading them.”
It remains true in our day that money often follows erroneous teaching, and, unfortunately, sinners often seem more willing to throw their income at people and institutions who water down the gospel or teach an outright perversion of it. We who are committed to the biblical gospel must be even more willing to support those persons, institutions, and churches that proclaim Scripture faithfully.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 6:10
2 John 7–8