Tag Archives: confrontation

Spotting deceivers in the church – Titus 1:10-16, Part 1

1 Jul

“They didn’t teach that in seminary.”  I had a wonderful seminary experience, and I would recommend my seminary to anyone. But there are some aspects of pastoral ministry that you just have to experience, and it is about those that pastors can say, “they didn’t teach that in seminary.” Dealing with funerals.  The emotional toll.  How it can feel being on call.  But for sure one of the most difficult is dealing with church discipline.  I’ve never met a church discipline situation that I liked, and we’ve had a number of them over the years.  Each is unique.  Each is emotional and taxing. But each one is important. 

I became senior pastor in July 2008, and by the first week of August we were embroiled in a really thorny situation.  I’ll never forget the day in the office as the phone rang, and who was on the other end, but my bishop at the time.  In my denomination the bishop is leader of the whole denomination. In that era, there were actually mid-level conference ministers who were my direct “bosses.” The bishop was their boss. So I was getting a call from my boss’s boss. Maybe you’ve experienced that too. I answered and said, “Hey Bishop Kevin, how can I help you?”  Imagine my surprise when he revealed that he was calling me because some of the people in the difficult situation in my church had called him to tattle on me!  I will admit that I had not handled that difficult situation perfectly, and as I talked with the Bishop, I conceded that there were some things I would have done differently. 

The larger context, though, was that there was sin in the church family, and not just me alone, but our Leadership Team had confronted the sin, and the disgruntled people ended up leaving the church. We tried very hard to handle the situation in a faithful manner, and the result was very hurtful. Just about every church discipline situation I’ve encountered has been like that. I’ve learned that when our Leadership Team has confronted people, they usually don’t say, “Thank you, I needed that.”

As we continue reading other people’s mail, we come to Titus 1:10-16, where Paul talks about confronting sin in the church.  What Paul says relates to church discipline for any reason, but what Titus needs to deal with in Crete is a very specific situation.

When we studied Titus 1:5-9, we learned that Paul gave Titus his primary mission, which was to select leaders for the churches in Crete.  Now in this series of posts we learn why Paul had such specific guidelines for who Titus should appoint as leaders. 

Remember the one word that Paul used to describe the leaders?  It’s like bookends to verses 6 and 7: blameless.  There Paul gave Titus a variety of lists, so Titus had an unmistakable idea of what blameless leaders are all about. 

Why?  Because those blameless leaders had a job to do in Crete.  Look at verse 9.  Those leaders were going to hold firmly to the message as it had been taught, so that they could encourage others by sound doctrine, and refute those who oppose it. 

There were people in the church in Crete, Paul is saying, who opposed sound doctrine.  Now in verses 10-16, Paul teaches Titus who these people are and how to refute them.  Go ahead and read Titus 1:10-16, and see if you can discover why Paul is so concerned. 

Verse 10 presents a very negative view of a certain group of people in the church.  Who were they?  He calls them, “rebellious, mere talkers, and deceivers.”  Paul’s mention of rebellious people needs to be seen in the context of what he has just talked about in verse 9, sound doctrine, which is the true faith.  The rebellious ones are rebelling against that true teaching, as Paul will go on to describe in the verses that follow.

Paul describes them as mere talkers which conveys the idea of idle talk, empty talk, that they are foolish babblers.  They talk a good game, and likely talk a lot, but it is empty, and it is not in line with the true faith.  Think about babbling.  It is what infants do when they are learning to talk.  They love to hear themselves make sounds.  But their noises have no meaningful content.  Paul says those rebellious people in the churches in Crete are teaching something that has the doctrinal equivalency of baby talk. 

Finally, he says they are deceivers.  That flows from the rebellious description and from the mere talking.  By being rebellious and by their empty talk, they are deceiving the church. 

Next he points out a subset of the larger rebellious group.  Paul has a special name for them: the “circumcision group”.  That’s a pretty focused word, and it is not coded at all.  Paul is talking about Jews.  They were Jews who said that they believed in Jesus, but also the believed that Christians must still follow the Old Testament Law.  Do you know the outward sign that indicated that a person was a Jew who followed the Law?  Circumcision.  All male babies in Jewish families would be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth, showing that they were a part of the covenant God made with Israel.  It was a special mark that distinguished Jews from others. 

There on the island of Crete where Titus was going to appoint leaders in the churches, many people were not Jews, and thus were likely not circumcised.  Paul is saying that the circumcision group, the Jewish Christians were especially the problem in the church.  We’re going to see why in the next post.

How to handle confrontation

11 Apr

Spies, taxes, a woman with seven husbands, and the most intelligent man in the world.

That pretty much sums up the next story in our ongoing series on Luke’s Gospel, which you can read about in Luke 20:20-40.  In the story, Jesus is in the final days of his life, and he has bunkered down in Jerusalem, spending each day teaching in the temple courts, and each evening in prayer outside the city.  The religious leaders hate that not only is he on their turf, but he is doing their job leading the people, and the people adore him.  They send two groups to try to take him down.

The first group the NIV calls “spies”.  Jesus had wrapped the religious up in a lose-lose situation just before, so now they are hiding in embarrassment, and they hire secret agents to try to do their dirty work.  These secret agents come up to Jesus while he is teaching in the temple courts, and after buttering him up (“You’re such an amazing teacher!”), they try to snag him with a political controversy.  About taxes.

One scholar tells us that “The secret agents are in effect asking, ‘Are God’s people exempt from paying such a tax to a foreign power? Jesus, are you loyal to Israel, looking for its independence, or should we knuckle under to Rome?’”[1]

Though the Romans did bring some benefits, the Jews hated being occupied.  As any people would. So obviously the Jews were no fan of paying taxes to Rome.  Imagine if China invades the USA and occupies our land.  Then they start taxing us.  And our taxes don’t stay here to help improve our land, our taxes go over to China to help improve theirs.  How would you feel?

Paying taxes was as much an issue back then as it is now!  So Jesus is in a really tough spot here. If he agrees with paying taxes, he could be perceived in a very negative light by the people who hated paying taxes (pretty much everyone).  If he disagrees with paying taxes, he could be accused of sedition and charged with inciting insurrection, arrest by the Roman governor, and tried as a criminal.

There seems to be no right answer.  It’s another lose-lose situation.

As we see in verses 23-26, Jesus asks for a coin, then asks them to tell him whose picture is on it.  They say “Caesar” and Jesus responds with genius: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”

Response by the secret agents?  Astonished silence.

Then Luke tells us that the religious leaders come out of hiding.  This second group, the Sadducees, try to trap him with a theological controversy.  

What was their theological issue?  Theology is the study of God.  So a theological issue is an issue about the Bible or doctrine, in this case, resurrection and marriage.  Luke tells us the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.  They create what appears at first glance to be a bizarre case study thinking they could trap Jesus and hopefully discredit him in front of all the people.

Maybe it was a real story, a woman who outlived seven husbands.  The theological issue? In heaven whose wife would she be?

It sounds outrageous, but their example is using something from the Old Testament Law called Levirate marriage.  You can see from this passage in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 that if a husband died, his brother would marry his widowed sister-in-law to preserve his brother’s line.  So the Sadducees ask Jesus to imagine a family with seven brothers.  One gets married first, then dies.  One by one the brothers marry their sister-in-law and one by one they die.  Sound impossible?

My grandma outlived three husbands, which would have been enough to prove their point.

The Sadducees believe they have created a situation that clearly shows the ridiculousness of the doctrine of the resurrection.  A woman in heaven with seven husbands?  Who gets her?  You can see them looking at Jesus saying “There, how are you going to respond to that, smart guy?  Resurrection, which we have heard you talking about, is stupid!  Our situation proves it.”  Basically they are saying that Levirate marriage disproves resurrection.

But Jesus theologically outduels them.  He says “Well gentlemen, you are wrong in many ways.”

  1. This life is not like the afterlife. They are different!
  2. Not everyone goes to heaven. Only those considered worthy.
  3. And what’s more, there is no marriage in heaven.
  4. Resurrection is TRUE. Want proof?  Just open your Torah which you love so much.  What do you read there?  God is the living God, the God of the Living. Disproving your faulty disbelief of resurrection.

See what he does there? Another genius response that silences the religious leaders.

We can learn from Jesus’ Way.  How did he handle people who tried to trap him?

Have you ever been confronted?  I’m sure you have.  The confrontation could be about what you believe.  Could be about choices you’ve made.  Could be about a great many things.  How do you handle it when you are confronted?

Look at how Jesus handles himself:

  1. Remains self-controlled. He’s okay when people disagree with him. He doesn’t get offended, take it personally, or get angry.  He shows us a calm confidence.
  2. Does not cave on the truth just because high-powered people are confronting him.
  3. Knows the Word.
  4. Speaks the truth in love.

In the end Jesus silences both groups.  But not by force.  Not by telling the crowd to attack them.  He doesn’t use aggression or bully tactics.

Let us be people who respond to those who confront us in love.

That is true intelligence. Let us become like the one who was the most intelligent of all.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 1611.