I have a rule where there is no Christmas music allowed before Thanksgiving. It is probably the only instance in our marriage where I have had to “pull rank”. False teachings are like Christmas music before Thanksgiving. The music gives a false impression – that it is the Christmas season, when it is Thanksgiving season. That’s what false teachings do, they give you a false reality, making you believe or feel something is true when it is not.
False teachers are Satan’s gifts to the Church. Ephesians 4 says that Jesus gives certain people to the Church as gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Satan gives his own gifts, and they are the counterfeits of each one Jesus gives. And while Jesus gives these men to build the Church up, Satan gives his men to tear the Church down.
Their Description: Many. Rebellious. Empty talkers. Disobedient. Jewish legalists.
#2: The Damage caused by these False Teachers (v11a)
Now that we have had them described to us, let us turn to what sort of Damage they were causing on the island of Crete. Verse 11 says, “They must be silenced because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach…” Some translations say “they are upsetting whole families…” The word for ruining/upsetting means to destroy, or to overturn, which is what “rebellious” people try to do. These people were overturning the faith of believers with their teachings. They made confusion of the truth rather than clarification. They did this not in the public church services, but, notice it says in households, or families. They snuck around spreading their ideas one house at a time, undermining the whole church one family at a time. Second Timothy 3:6-9
Sometimes a false teacher needs to be called out by name publicly so the congregation knows who to be aware of. Paul named Alexander the Metalworker, Hymanaeus, and Philetus. John the Apostle named Diotrephes. In Revelation, Jesus named a group called the Nicolatians as well as “that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess” in the city of Thyatira. People like these were ruining individual households and the household of God, the Church, wherever it met.
Paul warned Timothy of the damage false teachers cause if they went unchecked in 2 Timothy 2:16-17, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” Gangrene is when tissue in the body dies due to blood not being able to reach that tissue. If it is “wet” gangrene, it means there is an infection, and that infection can very quickly spread throughout the body and become life-threatening. This is what Paul described false teachings like. Just like gangrene causes tissue death, false teaching causes spiritual death. And just like the infection of gangrene can spread quickly, so too can false teaching spread throughout the Body of Christ, and cause decay and death.
No danger to the health and vitality of Christians exists than that of false teaching. It causes decay in the person who pays attention to such things. They become spiritually sick, unhealthy.
#3: What Drives these False Teachers (v11b)
What causes these guys to want to wreak such havoc on people’s lives and spout such erroneous things? The 3rd point is their Drive. Notice verse 11 again, “and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” They were driven by money. Second Peter 2:3 says, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.” In verse 14 Peter says “they are experts in greed”. Referencing an OT event, Jude 11 says they rush for profit into Balaam’s error, meaning they will say whatever someone wants to hear as long as the pay is right. Jude 12 speaks more of their selfish ways when he says they are shepherds who feed only themselves. They teach for their own gain, not the gain of those who hear them.
They get fat while the flock of Christ starves. They are spiritual pirates, robbing the people they taught. They do it in two ways, mind you. First, they robbed people financially by taking money from them (in exchange for false teaching). Greedily they solicited funds and took payment while giving nothing of any value in return. Secondly, they not only robbed people’s finances but they did it by robbing their faith. False doctrines deny people the truth of God’s word which is the only thing that can strengthen people in the faith. Like their father, the devil, these worthless windbags come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That’s because there’s great profit in plundering the body of Christ.
Jesus said some very sobering words – for anybody – but especially for false teachers. “A man can’t serve two Gods. Either he will serve God or he will serve Money”. False teachers love money, not God; and are driven not by service to God, but, by motivation for wealth. Paul actually declined payment from the Corinthian Church so his motives couldn’t be questioned (2 Corinthians . First Timothy 6:1-5 says, “…” Then notice verses 6-10, “…”
#4: Their Discipline (v13-14)
Now notice their discipline in verses 13 and 14, “…” Paul said in verse 12, “They must be silenced….” Which literally means they must be muzzled, or, put a stop to their mouths. American values include freedom of speech and the ability to say whatever you want, but, not in the Church of Jesus Christ. As Paul says in verse 11, there are things that are not supposed to be said and taught. The Church is not a place for the melting pot of ideas or doctrine by consensus. The truth is a trust from God where we are responsible for giving it out as it came to us, not altering it to fit our liking or our ideas. And when people come in and teach things contrary to God’s Word they must be dealt with according to the Bible’s instruction.
Unlike Geneva under John Calvin this doesn’t mean we imprison, flog, drown or burn at the stake people who teach falsehoods. Such punishment is reserved for God, and you can be sure no one will be judged more severely than false teachers.
It means to bring conviction on them by our words, by verbally confronting their error, by calling it error, and through teaching true doctrine show the reasoning for error. Sometimes this means names must be named publicly so the church knows who to avoid. Paul named guys like Hymenaeus, Philetus and Alexander. John the Apostle named Diotrephes. We don’t unleash a flamethrower and burn everyone down, but, for some false teachers there comes a point where it is irresponsible to not publicly point them out by name.
They must be disciplined, they must be confronted about their false teachings that caused damage. Why do this? To be combative and get a thrill out of conflict? Of course not. First, to protect the Church from damaging teachings, and second, so that the person spreading false teachings repents and promotes sound doctrine. Disciplining false teachers is done from hope, not hatred. Hope for their repentance. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.” Correction of an erring brother is done from love and hope, not hatred or pride. There is hope, and that comes through in Paul’s statement to Titus. Notice verse 13 again carefully, “Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith.” The key word is “so that”, it’s a cause and effect phrase. The rebuke is what causes them to become sound in the faith, no longer meaning in order for these guys to be sound in the faith they need to be rebuked. It’s not fun for anyone, but, once it’s done, and they get straightened out, everyone is much better off.
Titus was to lead the way in Church discipline of these people to bring about their repentance so they would be sound in the faith, or, he would have to eject them from fellowship. Church discipline is not just for cases of gross immorality, as in 1 Corinthians 5. It is also for cases of gross doctrinal rebellion. Paul says that both doctrinal error and sexual sin are like yeast that will spread throughout the whole batch of dough if it is not removed. Remove it. Before you do that you try to bring repentance by convicting the false teachers of their sinful ways. You pray for them and desire their repentance, use the word of God to show them their error – but, if they don’t then they must be removed. Their teachings will spread like gangrene and infect the whole body and result in a decayed church worth nothing.
#5: Their Defilement (v15)
Next we learn of how they are defiled in verse 15, “…” The teachings these men held to contaminated them, and, the people who listened to them. Warning: Do not take this verse to mean that all conduct is pure if you think it is pure. In other words, don’t think that adultery is pure because you feel good about it. Don’t think that your bitterness, or pornography, or any other sin is now something “pure” because “to you it’s pure”.
This phrase is in a context and the context is Jewish legalism. Jewish legalism related to what foods were clean and what foods were not. Clean simply meant God permitted them to eat it. Unclean meant He prohibited Jews from eating that food. The early Church underwent a lot of conflict over this issue. Brand new Jewish Christians who grew up with this paradigm of clean foods and unclean foods had a difficult time understanding that all foods were clean and in Christ no food was off limits. Jewish Christians had a hard time fellowshipping with Gentile Christians around a meal where “unclean” foods were served. Peter struggled with this in Acts 10. Jesus said in Mark 7 that all foods were clean. Paul said in Romans 14, addressing this very issue, said, “I am convinced that no food is unclean…”
Jewish legalists were pressing other Jewish Christians to maintain the clean/unclean food customs as a means to please God. Paul called them false teachers who confused and defiled believers with these teachings, as in 1 Timothy 4:1-5.
So when Paul says to the pure all things are pure he means a Christian who understands that no food is unclean in and of itself – he is “pure”, that is, he has a clear conscience. As someone who is pure, he understands that all things – that is foods – are pure. But to the person whose conscience is corrupt and defiled, nothing – that is no food – is pure.
Application: Our conscience is important in how we live. God judges us to some degree based on how we lived by our conscience. Our conscience can be reshaped according to how it is informed by God’s Word. We want our conscience to be sensitive to the things Scripture calls sin, and, we don’t want our conscience condemning us for things Scripture doesn’t. That means we need to be giving attengion to God’s Word.
#6: Their Deficiency (v16)
Being defiled, they are lastly, deficient. Notice verse 16, “…” They are useless to God because of their abject spiritual condition. They often believe they are being used by God, but they are not. Usefulness to God depends strictly on humble submission to His will. Obedience. Holiness. Turn to 2 Timothy 2 with me… Do you want to be useful? These men were not. Look again how Paul describes them: “