DUNCAN/Shun foolish controversies and be fruitful
Please turn to Titus 3:9-15. In this letter, Paul is drawing attention to two fundamental issues within the context of ministry in these local congregations on the island of Crete. Specifically, this congregation is being pressured by the world to conform to its immorality, and it is being tempted by false teachers in the church to defect from the truth. As a result, Paul is constantly urging Titus to exhort them to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior with the way that they live. In fact, he addresses five important issues in these final verses of the book of Titus. First, in verses 9-11, Paul tells Titus how to respond to factious teachers in the local congregation. Next, in verse 12, he tells us that pastoral care is a constant need for the local church. Then, in verses 13-14, Paul makes it clear that we mature in the Christian life. Furthermore, in verse 15, he addresses the importance of fellowship among believers. Finally, at the end of verse 15, Paul reminds us of how essential God’s grace is in the Christian life.
I. Address False Teachers.
In verse 9, Paul says, “But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law.” Paul has a two-fold strategy for dealing with those in the local church who are going to oppose the biblical preaching and teaching of Titus which is in accordance with Paul’s preaching and teaching and the teaching of the apostles. First, they are to be avoided. They are not to be engaged as to bring the minister down on their level to dispute and debate about their particular theories. And then, if they persist in that teaching, they are to be warned twice. After the second warning, if they have not responded, Paul says to reject these factious teachers in verse 10. Paul is concerned that the local church not become a free thought society where the apostolic teaching is viewed as just one of the many valid options. No, the local church is there to proclaim absolute truth. And so, Paul simply says that false teachers are to be avoided, and they are to be disciplined and rejected.
II. Provide Pastoral Care.
In verse 12, Paul addresses the importance of pastoral care in the local church. Specifically, he says, “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” We see here that Paul wants Titus to be there with him, but he doesn’t want Titus to be there until there are some replacement ministers in Crete to continue working with the elders in the local congregations for ministry in those local churches. Paul is concerned about the need for constant pastoral oversight because these Cretan churches are vulnerable. They are being disturbed from within, and they are being tugged from without. They need pastoral care. And my friends, so do we. We need one another. We need accountability to our elders in the church. And we need people who are inspiring us to love others and to good deeds.
III. Mature in the Christian Life.
In verses 13-14, Paul makes it clear that we mature in the Christian life. Specifically, he says, “Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Zenas and Apollos are engaged in the work of Christian ministry. And Paul says to Titus to tell these congregations to support that work, and to throw themselves and to give themselves to the support of that kingdom work. Paul is saying to these Christians, “You have false teachers troubling you and you are living in the midst of an immoral culture. Let me give you something to do. Throw yourself into the work of the kingdom. Make it a priority. Sacrifice. Give of yourself. Determine that you are not going to let the work of the kingdom be hampered.” Friends, we need to have that kind of a kingdom vision. We need to be praying for the work of missions, and we need to be desiring to see the discipleship of the church enhanced.
IV. Fellowship with Other Believers.
In verse 15, Paul says, “All who are with me greet you.” Notice how Paul is always with somebody. And notice how he is always pausing to give greetings to other people in local churches. Do you know why that is? It’s because fellowship, shared life, and the communion of the saints are important to Paul. He loved God’s people. And he thrived on the mutual encouragement of Christian friendship. But notice what he also says, “Greet those who love us in the faith.” Paul is saying, “Give greetings not just to people who like me, not just to people who have a normal, human friendship with me, but greet those who have a gospel friendship with me. Those who love us in the faith.” Thus, Paul wants to cultivate mutual Christian communion and true fellowship because he knows the Christian life requires it. And that message is just as important for us today as it was for the Christians in Crete.
V. The Necessity of God’s Grace.
At the end of verse 15, Paul says, “Grace be with you all.” He reminds us there in that benediction of God’s powerful, prevailing, and unmerited favor. Paul is telling us that God’s grace is absolutely essential for the Christian life. His word of blessing reminds us of the centrality and necessity of grace in our personal growth and in our growth as a body of believers. He is saying, “Grace be with you all. God’s personal favor be towards you. God’s unmerited pardon be pronounced on you. God’s strengthening power be in you to grow you up in grace.” Paul knows the necessity of grace. He wants the congregation to be fruitful but if they’re going to be fruitful, they are going to need grace. And so he pronounces grace on them. Even in Paul’s final words in this letter, we see him speaking to Titus about how to pastor in the context of false teaching, and how to pastor a congregation that is in the midst of an immoral culture. In relation, Paul provides guidance as to how congregations are to mature in the faith by committing themselves to kingdom work, and as to how congregations are to enjoy true fellowship with one another. Finally, he emphasizes how we all are to depend upon God’s grace in the Christian life. My friends, Paul’s message is no less important today than when it was first uttered. May God bless His Word in us so that we would adorn the Gospel in all of our lives.