Thursday, November 23, 2023

2023.11.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 3:9–11

Read Titus 3:9–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What sort of disputes is Titus to avoid (Titus 3:9)? What other three things is he to avoid? For what two reasons? Whom is Titus to reject (Titus 3:10)? After doing what? How many times? Why—what three things are true about such a man (Titus 3:11)? 

What must a pastor do, in addition to affirming the truth? Titus 3:9–11 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in addition to affirming the truth, a pastor must avoid uses of the Bible that are not in keeping with the Bible. 

Avoid misusing the Bible. The church in Crete had begun to lose the gospel, as was evidenced by a people who were not zealous for good works (Titus 3:8), thereby giving evidence that the actual grace of God had not saved them (Titus 3:3-7). So, as part of his reformation work, Titus was to “affirm constantly” the truths of the gospel.

But not all “Bible study” is affirming the twin truths that salvation is all of grace and that it makes a revolutionary difference in the works that people do. There was “Bible study” (or teaching, or preaching) that Titus was to avoid! We can see that what the apostle warns against in Titus 3:9 includes much that would have claimed to be Bible study, Bible teaching, or Bible preaching by the inclusion of “genealogies” and “the law” in verse 9. 

How do we know if the Bible is being used properly? Well, if it’s being used in a biblical way by biblical people is one test. Scripture is written in words and phrases and clauses and sentences, presented in several different types of literature. All Scripture must be understood in a manner consistent with the grammar, and with the point that that particular style of literature is making within the particular part of the literature. Additionally, every part of Scripture must be understood in light of the whole rest of the Scripture. This is to understand the Bible in a biblical way. Perhaps the most instructive way to learn this is to develop skill in understanding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. We have also already learned, in this particular book, that the Lord Who gave us the Scripture has also ordained particular men (cf. Titus 1:5) to be teachers of Scripture, and that these must first have submitted to and learned from the ones whom the Lord ordained before them (cf. Titus 1:9, “as he has been taught”). 

But those are NOT the tests of correct Bible study that the apostle gives here in Titus 3:9. The test that He gives here is whether the Lord is using the Bible study/teaching/preaching to produce wisdom in the heart, love in the church, and growth toward God. 

“Foolish disputes” refers to teaching that produces not wisdom but folly. The more someone is engaged in them, the more his speech and conduct display things like pride, self-righteousness, laziness, indulgence of the flesh, etc. 

“Contentions” and “strivings” are, literally, fighting words. This isn’t just referring to divisive doctrines (the truth has to divide from whatever error this is!) but rather personal animosity. Teaching that leads to a despising of one another—that is being weaponized to turn people against each other.

“Unprofitable” and “useless” refers to that which does not bring advantage to the hearer. It doesn’t point him to the kind and merciful God, Who saves us not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy (cf. Titus 3:3). It doesn’t affirm that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). It is especially this antinomianism (“grace” without obedience or holiness, setting “grace” against God’s law) that is being warned against as “unprofitable and useless,” because it is the counterpart of “good and profitable” from verse 8.

God’s Word, employed God’s way, will be used of the Spirit to do God’s work. If Titus is to be a faithful pastor, he must avoid using the Bible in any other way.

Avoid men who misuse the Bible. Understanding Titus 3:9 is the key to identifying the man in Titus 3:10-11. He’s not just making mistakes of how to interpret the Bible. That would, indeed, be unprofitable. But the “divisive” man in Titus 3:10 handles the Bible in a way that reflects his own character, rather than God’s character. 

The Bible is a means by which the Holy Spirit works into Christians that Christ-like character that they are to work out with fear and trembling (cf. Philippians 2:12–13). But we can see from Titus 3:11 that the divisive man’s teaching doesn’t seek to bring out of the Scripture that which is from God; rather, as the divisive man handles the Bible, what comes out is an indication of that which is in himself! 

The man himself is divisive (Titus 3:10). The person himself is warped and sinning (Titus 3:11). There’s no reason to heed someone whose teaching is an expression of himself; he is already self-condemned (end of verse 11). The preacher/teacher who is hoping for a creation-level miracle of God in his hearers (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6) will refuse to preach from what is in himself, because he is eager that the Spirit would use the preaching to show what is in Christ Jesus the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:5). 

Not only is such a man not to be heeded, but the apostle actually commands Titus not to have much patience with him. The implication does seem to be that this “rejection” is with regard to the man’s being considered for the office of elder, and the abruptness of the protocol shows just how important is the character of the teachers and teaching in the church. They get two (2!) chances, and then they’re done. Out of consideration for the teaching office.

If the Lord doesn’t want us to have such teachers, then we may be sure that He doesn’t want any of us to be such people. May He give to His church such teachers and teaching that will be used by His Spirit to save graciously, sanctifyingly, and productively in the lives of His people. So, may He give to His church to obey this portion of His Word.

What are some ways that you are tempted to misuse the Bible? What is the right way of using it? Whom has Jesus given to you to model and teach that right way of using it? What are some tests that this passage gives you for whether or not the Bible is being used in the right way? Why is it so important that the elders in the church be of proper character in their life and manner in their teaching? How can you, before God’s face or in interaction with them, be a help to your elders in this area of their ministry?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your good Word—genealogies, law, gospel, all of it! Forgive us for how we have used it in a way that produced folly in our hearts rather than wisdom,. Forgive us for when we have used Your Word in a way that produced hatred in our relationship rather than love. Forgive us for when we have used Your Word in a way that made no difference in our lives. Truly, such failure comes not from Your Word, but from within us ourselves. But in You is all grace for us to forgive us and cleanse us. So, forgive us for Christ’s sake, and help us by Your Spirit, we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH426 “How Vast the Benefits Divine”

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