I am sure the title of this lesson got your attention. Good, that was the point. There are some in our modern world today that teach that the church is a hospital for sinners. It sounds like a nice analogy, but . . ., this is not the picture that the Bible paints about the church. Biblically speaking, the church is the gathering of those who are called out from darkness (sinful lifestyles) to light (a new life of righteousness in Jesus Christ). Does this mean that everyone who attends your local church is a genuine follower of Christ? NO!!!
In the previous article, I wrote about God’s description of a believer according to what He inspired the Apostle Paul to write to Titus. Is there a danger to the rest of the church when there are ungodly people in the church? YES!!! God explains why this is dangerous and what needs to be done about the ungodly who have infiltrated the ranks of the local church.
I. They are insubordinate
There are two signs that mark these people. In fact, they mark themselves out by these signs. The first thing that Paul teaches about them is that they are insubordinate to the sound (healthy) teaching of the Word of God. The wording that Paul uses is that they “contradict sound doctrine”. This is an interesting phrase that Paul uses. The Greek word Paul chose that is translated into English as “contradict” is “antilego”. This word comes from two Greek words “anti”and it means to set up against, to oppose. They oppose the sound teachings of the Word of God and give themselves over to myths and arguments about the laws of men that are not important. God’s Word penetrates our hearts and reveals our wrong thinking so that God can correct us through His Word. These guys oppose this and do not allow the clear teachings of God’s Word to penetrate their hearts and minds. The second Greek word that forms antilego is the Greek word “lego”. It can be translated “teaching” or it can be translated “speak”. Not only do the ungodly not allow God’s Word to transform them, they also speak/teach things that are in opposition of the sound doctrine of the Word of God. So, they are insubordinate to the sound doctrine of the Word of God. The second sign that marks them as ungodly is the fact that they are insubordinate to the spiritual leaders whom God has established in the local church. Paul says that they are “rebellious men”. The word that is translated rebellious is the negative form of the military term that means “to arrange under another person’s leadership”. Ungodly men rebel against authority, usually any authority, but more specifically, spiritual authority. This is critical and will be made evident as the spiritual leaders of the church rebuke and exhort with sound doctrine. We may not immediately notice their insubordination to the sound teachings of the Word of God, but, we will see when they rebel against the leadership of the local church, whom God has allowed to be in place.
Are you submissive to the sound teachings of the Word of God? Are you submissive to the authority figures whom God has placed in your life, especially the spiritual leaders? What about the people with whom you associate, do they encourage submission to authority figures or do they encourage insubordination?
II. They have influence
These ungodly people in the church are dangerous because sinners do not like to sin alone. They want to influence and encourage others to join in with them. They speak loudly and often to anyone who will listen. Paul says that they are empty talkers which means that their words are not beneficial yet they constantly speak. If they are allowed to do that they do without being confronted by the leadership, they will begin to influence others in the church because what they do appeals to people’s sin nature. In Crete, they were so influential that they began to upset entire families with their influential tactics. In fact, in Crete, they had worked their way into leadership positions. This is a universal truth for any local church in existence. They have teaching positions and when they teach, they do not encourage sound doctrine. If there are people who do not have discernment, they can be easily deceived because these teachers profess to know God in their speech and teachings yet, with their attitude and actions, even in what they teach, they end up denying God in their actions. God’s Word teaches submission to sound doctrine and spiritual authority figures, yet these people deny that and teach the opposite, either directly, or, indirectly, which is by far the more dangerous of the two.
III. They are successful
How do we know that they are successful in what they do? Well, in Crete, they had upset entire families. When others follow their teaching, people end up turning away from the Truth and this is seen in their actions. They become insubordinate to sound doctrine like their mentors. Division is created in the church. Strife is common. This is seen in bouts of bickering and arguing over things that are not important. The members of the church become factious. The factiousness is a result of unsound doctrine and unsound faith both of which were taught to them by other ungodly people in the church. If you have been in a church for more than 5 minutes then you have seen bickering and arguing, factious people, and strife. All of this is a result of ungodly people being allowed to influence the people around them.
IV. God’s solution
The question is, “how do you handle them”? Paul gives Titus the answer. Before we delve into Paul’s answer, I would like to address our natural response. Our natural reaction to confrontation is to avoid it. We ignore it and try to avoid those who are the troublemakers. The problem with this method is that, most of these troublemakers are vocal. In Titus’ case, they were teachers in the church. Paul’s advice to Titus, and to all leaders, is to confront them. Now, the other extreme usually comes in here. Most do not want to confront. Others, when they confront, they do not do it for reconciliation, for the good of the troublemaker. They do it to destroy the troublemaker. Paul urges Titus to confront the troublemakers with the purpose of helping them grow in their faith. They are not growing because of their attitude and actions. They need someone to take the Word of God and show them where they are wrong, with the purpose of helping them get right and grow as they now walk the right path. If you are going to make disciples, you are going to have to confront with the Word of God, in humility, for the good of the troublemaker. Are you willing to do this? How do you handle conflict and confrontation? Do you avoid them? When you do confront, why do you do it? Do you do it for reconciliation or to destroy the troublemaker?
May the Lord help us recognize the troublemakers in the church, examine ourselves to see if we are one of them or not, and confront with sound doctrine for the good of all.