Study 3 DANGEROUS PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH
THE LETTERS TO TITUS AND PHILEMON
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Titus 1: 10 – 16)
Are there dangerous people in the Church? There were in Paul’s day, and there are today. In his letters Paul frequently warned his readers about people who were a danger to the life of the Church, to its growth, prosperity, purity and testimony. Look up Romans 16:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11; 11:26; Galatians 1:6-7; Ephesians 4:14-17; Philippians 3:18-19; 4:2; Colossians 2:4 and 8; 1 Timothy 1:3, 19-20; 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:14. Then read Matthew 16:18, where our Lord foretold that the Enemy would make great onslaughts on the life and witness of the Church. This reminds us that there are two reasons why people who are a danger to the life and witness of the Church are found within it. First, because of the Devil, for Satan’s chief purpose is to upset the Church – look up Ephesians 6:12. He failed to destroy the Seed (Genesis 3:15); he failed to destroy and to deflect Christ from the purpose of His advent (Matthew 16:23); so now he attacks the Church. Second, because the Church is composed of people. True, they are those who have been redeemed (1 Peter 1:18-19), born again (John 3:5), and have received new life in Christ (1 John 5:12-13); but they are still human and possess the old Adamic nature. There are also those in the Church who are only professors (compare Titus 1:16) and not possessors of eternal life (John 17:3). There are two chief ways in which people can be a danger in any church: the first is by holding and propagating false doctrine, and the second is by undisciplined living. If doctrine is wrong then duty is also wrong. Now turn to Titus 1:10-16 and see the conditions that prevailed in the church in Crete.
1. THEY WERE NUMEROUS
Verse 10 tells us that there were ‘many…people’. This was serious, for whereas one person can do much damage to the work of the Lord by their indiscipline, what a potential danger many such people are!
2. THEY WERE DISOBEDIENT TO GOD’S WORD
Verse 10 tells us they were ‘rebellious’; they refused to submit to the authority of the scriptures and were insubordinate and ungoverned. If there is trouble in Christian work it is not necessarily a clash of personalities, though it may include this; it is due to refusal of someone to submit to the authority of the Word of God. In Crete these dangerous people ‘were like disloyal soldiers refusing to obey the word of command.’
3. THEY WERE DISOBEDIENT, AND THIS AFFECTED THE WAY THEY LIVED AND WHAT THEY TAUGHT
They caused harm by life and lip. The word ‘rebellious’ in verse 10 refers to their manner of life, and the words ‘mere talkers’ refers to what they said. Their much talking achieved no useful purpose, so by what they were and what they said they were ‘deceivers’ – serious indeed! Notice it was the Jewish church members who were particularly guilty in this respect. We need to remember that people who prior to their conversion were judaistic, or were caught up in some sect or group contrary to the scriptures, are especially susceptible to be used by Satan in creating difficulties and problems in the Church.
4. THEY EXERTED A VERY BAD INFLUENCE ON MANY PEOPLE
Verse 11 tells us this. ‘They must be silenced’, or (as the word means literally) ‘muzzled’ with a ‘gag’ because of their widespread influence. ‘They are ruining whole households’ – compare 2 Timothy 3:6. What harm one unspiritual person can cause in a church influencing even whole households of people!
5. THEY WERE GRIPPED BY IMPURE MOTIVES
Verse 11 tells us that their motive was ‘dishonest gain’. When anyone is acting harmfully in God’s work it is right to ask, ‘What is his real motive?’ This could be the gain of position, like Diotrophes – look up 3 John 9; or power or authority or popularity. Some people long to be recognised by others. There are many unworthy motives that can grip hold of us – look up Psalm 139:23-24.
6. THEY WERE ESPECIALLY SUSCEPTIBLE DUE TO THEIR BACKGROUND AND TEMPERAMENT
See verses 12 and 13 – ‘No people ever had a worse reputation in the ancient world than the Cretans.’ They were well known as an insolent, untrustworthy and lying people; they were known to be drunken and gluttonous. It might be said, ‘But surely when someone becomes a Christian their old way of life is completely changed?’ Is not this the meaning of 2 Corinthians 5:17? Yes, but this change does not always take place immediately, and when it does we are always in danger of being greatly influenced by our background, custom and temperament. Paul had this in mind when he quoted (in verse 12) one of the ancient poets: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’; and in verse 13 he says, ‘This testimony is true.’ Background and temperament play a very great part in the lives of people and in the life of the Church.
7. THEY WERE TO BE REBUKED AND STOPPED FROM DOING FURTHER HARM
Notice in verse 13 that these dangerous people were to be rebuked, but not dismissed. The rebuking was with a view to their restoration – compare Galatians 6:1. Notice three areas of our personality which must be guarded:-
- We must have a pure heart. Contrast, in verse 15, the words ‘pure’ and ‘corrupted’. We need constantly to pray the prayer of Psalm 51:10.
- We must have an enlightened mind. The reference in verse 15 is to a corrupted mind. How can a corrupted mind be purified? – look up Psalm 119:9.
- We must have an unseared conscience. Verse 15 speaks of a corrupted conscience – look up and compare Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Peter 3:16.