************ Sermon on Titus 1:9-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 2, 2013
"Hold Firmly to the Trustworthy Message"
Installation of Elders and Deacons
Do you know what it means to "go negative"? It means you emphasize the negative about something or someone.
The 2012 election campaign was the most negative in recent history. Analysis shows that 70 percent of ads aired in the 2012 presidential race were negative. It didn't help that Obama did not have a good track record to run on and that Romney had a lot of things to explain.
Someone recently told me why he doesn't go to church. He said the classic line, of course, that we all worship the same God so there is no real difference between any of the faiths. And, he added, all that they do is criticize each other.
This person illustrates how many people today find criticism of another person's religion to be distasteful. The Political Correctness movement goes a step further and says we have no right to criticize other people's beliefs. Instead, we are to be tolerant. We are to live and let live. Though we have the right to our convictions we can say nothing negative about the convictions of others.
On this Installation Sunday we hear the opposite in our Scripture reading. Those in church office are to "encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). It is not enough to say the positive. You also need to go negative.
I The Charge
A In our text we first see a charge that is given to those in church office. Paul writes, "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9). This charge is especially applicable to elders, pastors, and teachers. But it certainly applies to deacons and every believing family and home as well. "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9).
Paul mentions a "message" that "has been taught." Think of what this tells us about the early church. Paul is saying there is a fixed and authoritative body of doctrine in the early church. A doctrine that comes by the Spirit and through the apostles and prophets. A doctrine that is known and taught to the people of God. A doctrine that is acknowledged by all true Christians.
B Paul uses a favorite word of his to describe the message or doctrine that has been taught in the early church. He says it is "trustworthy." Or, as another translation puts it, "faithful." Paul uses the Greek word 7 times in his letters to Timothy and Titus (1Tim 1:15; 1Tim 3:1; 1Tim 4:9; 2Tim 2:11; Titus 1:9; Titus 3:8).
What does Paul mean by "trustworthy" or "faithful"? Paul is saying this is a teaching one can depend on. Paul is stating it is true, reliable, and inerrant. Paul is swearing it is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Of course, in the final analysis any "message" is trustworthy and faithful not because Paul can swear it is but only because it comes from our God Who is trustworthy and faithful and cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Because we can depend on Him we know we can depend on what He says to us.
The message, the doctrine, that has been taught in the early church is trustworthy. There can be no doubt about its truth and reliability.
C So, what is this message, this doctrine? You know it and have been taught it, congregation. It is the doctrine summarized in our creeds and confessions, namely:
-the sovereignty of God
-the creation of all things
-man made in the image of God
-man's fallen nature stemming from original sin
-the atoning sacrifice of Christ
-the satisfaction of God's justice
-the thankful life of service
The Heidelberg Catechism summarizes this doctrine as Sin, Salvation, and Service. The Canons of Dort sums up this doctrine with the acronym of TULIP – Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints.
Take note that two times Paul's uses the phrase "sound doctrine" to describe the trustworthy message (Titus 1:9; 2:1). What is sound doctrine? Sound doctrine is not only facts but also Christian living. So, in Titus 2, Paul describes how sound doctrine will show itself in the lives of older men and women, younger men and women, and even servants. Sound doctrine, says Paul, reveals itself in a certain kind of lifestyle. Look over the characteristics mentioned by Paul: temperate; worthy of respect; self-controlled; sound in faith, in love, and in endurance; reverent; not slanderers; not addicted to much wine; pure; kind. Paul tells us that sound doctrine goes hand-in-hand with godly behavior. Christians who live according to sound doctrine make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:10).
D Now, with this in mind, listen again to the charge given to all of us but especially to those who are elders, pastors, and teachers: "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9).
Paul is charging us to "hold firmly" to the doctrines of God's Word. To hold fast. To cling. To hang on to. To grasp. Positively, it is a call to understand them and believe them. Which, of course, requires reading the Word, studying the Word, contemplating the Word, and memorizing the Word. All Christians are being called to grow in their knowledge of these doctrines and all Christians are being called to love these doctrines. Negatively, to "hold firmly" means there is to be no superficial thinking about nor half-hearted commitment to the teachings of Scripture. Christ has no use for those who pay only lip service to Biblical teaching.
I want to challenge our elders to be men of the Word. I want to challenge you to set the believers an example in devotions and Bible Study. I challenge you, as Paul says, to "hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught." As I already mentioned, this charge applies to deacons and every other believer as well.
II The Purpose
A "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9). Our second point tells us the goal or purpose of doing this: "so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9).
The first goal: "Encourage ... by sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9). Congregation, think of the men up here as shepherds. What is their first responsibility as shepherds? Their first responsibility is to nurture and care for and feed the sheep. And the only diet that God has prescribed for His sheep is the sound doctrine of His Word (Heb 5:12-14; 1 Pet 1:23; 2:2). The sheep of God's flock are to be led to the green pastures and quiet waters of God's Word so that they can eat and be satisfied and drink and be filled.
"Encourage ... by sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9). The church member who says, "We don’t want doctrine; just give us helpful devotional thoughts!" does not know what he is saying. He is being naive because apart from doctrine, there can be no spiritual help or health.
"Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so you can encourage others by sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9). This is the positive goal mentioned by our text.
B Paul also mentions a negative goal or purpose of holding firmly to the trustworthy message. Says Paul, "refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9).
As I said in the introduction to this message, this is where Paul goes negative.
Let's go back to the image, congregation, of these men up here as your shepherds. Besides feeding the sheep, what is the second big job of shepherds? Their second big job is to defend the sheep. More specifically, it is their job to defend the sheep against false doctrine. Brothers, you can only defend the sheep against false doctrine if you hold firmly to the trustworthy message.
I was talking with someone about Q & A 80 of the Catechism. This is the question that attacks the Roman Catholic view of the Mass. This person was most upset by a sermon on this question. But she also gets upset by sermons that explain how we disagree with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons and Baptists and Arminians. She said, "State the positive. Don't state the negative."
To her way of thinking, if you preach the truth error will just fall away. So there is no need to criticize those with whom we differ. Ignore them. Stick to the positive. No need to go negative.
Really? Look at the language Paul used to describe the false teachers in verse 10 and following: rebellious people, mere talkers, deceivers (Titus 2:10); liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons (Titus 2:12); detestable, disobedient, unfit for doing anything good (Titus 2:16).
Jesus was no different. Listen to how Jesus talked about the Pharisees: vipers, fools, hypocrites, blind guides, white-washed tombs. Even Jesus goes negative. So, even Jesus wouldn't fit into our modern Politically Correct world.
Jesus and Paul and our elders and pastors sometimes have to go negative because we are guarding and protecting the sheep. We are guarding and protecting eternal souls. We are refuting those who oppose sound doctrine.
III The Reason
A We have heard the charge: "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9). We have heard the purpose: "so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). In our third point we hear the reason: "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group" (Titus 1:10).
The young Christian community on Crete has been infiltrated by false teachers. It is difficult to identify precisely the falsehoods being taught, but Paul does indicate it is largely Jewish in origin when he mentions the "circumcision group" (Titus 1:10) and "Jewish myths" (Titus 1:14).
First, the false teachers bring a message about "Jewish myths." In my office I have "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," Volumes 1 & 2. The word "pseudepigrapha" says it all. It joins together two Greek words: false and writing. I have two volumes of false writings that some have claimed to be part of the Bible but aren't. These false writings are filled with extra-biblical stories about angels and genealogies and biblical characters that have nothing to do with the gospel or the history of redemption. These are the sorts of things being taught by the false teachers.
Second, the false teachers also bring a message that reflects a Jewish or pharisaical view of purity – a purity based upon externals, a purity that emphasizes what you are not to do: do not taste, do not touch, do not marry, etc. This view of purity does not take seriously the work of Jesus and His fulfilment of the law of Moses.
"They must be silenced," says Paul, "because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach" (Titus 1:11). Their teaching and influence is destructive.
B The gospel is supposed to transform and renew minds so that Christians do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (Rom 12:2). Instead, says Paul, these false teachers reflect the worst aspects of Cretan culture. Quoting from Epimenides of Crete, a philosopher who lived around 500 BC, Paul says, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12).
A fundamental plank of the Christian faith is that all truth is God's truth. Obviously, the truths of Scripture find their origin in God; but, so do the truths of philosophy, science, mathematics, and so on, whether or not the person proclaiming the truth follows the one, only, true God. In other words, Christians can learn from non-biblical authorities when these authorities speak the truth.
Paul quotes from Epimenides to show Titus and the Cretan Christians that the false teachers embraced the brutish ways of Crete instead of the new life of the Spirit: they are liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons; they conform to the ways of the world instead of being transformed by the gospel.
C As is often the case with false teachers, the ones on Crete were motivated by a lust for money, not the glory of God (Titus 1:11). Citizens of Crete were well-known in the ancient world for their greed, and the false teachers of Crete were no different.
It remains true in our day that money often follows erroneous teaching. Check out the religious programs on TV and radio. Generally, the most trustworthy ones, like Back to God Ministries International, never ask for donations. The ones to watch out for are always making appeals for money. Unfortunately, sinners are far to willing to throw their money at people and institutions who water down the gospel or distort the gospel – as was the case with the false teachers on Crete.
D In his parting words to the elders at Ephesus Paul warns about false teachers:
(Acts 20:28-30) Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (29) I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. (30) Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.Paul warns that there will be false teachers in the church. So, keep watch.
The whole history of the Christian church shows the truth of Paul's words. The only way to guard against the destructive influence of these false teachers is to appoint men who "hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9).
We have heard the charge: "Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught" (Titus 1:9). We have heard the purpose: "so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it" (Titus 1:9). We have heard the reason: "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group" (Titus 1:10).
Now, let me end by emphasizing the "must." Paul says elders, pastors, and teachers "must" hold firmly to the trustworthy message. It is a "must." It is not optional. For, remember, these men are shepherds. It is their job to feed and protect the souls of God's sheep.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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