12 “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.” (Titus 1:12–14 (ESV)
A popular saying is that old age is not for sissies. A sissy is a cowardly person. With the bodily aches and pains that come with increasing age, an individual needs courage to face their daily, physical challenges.
The saying can also be applied to pastors. Being a pastor dedicated to biblical truth and leading a congregation is not for sissies. It is a responsibility requiring courage, conviction and commitment.
I recently discussed this with another pastor. He is facing a challenging situation that could become a church conflict. He could either pretend the situation did not exist, or prepare himself for an inevitable confrontation. He chose the latter and not the former. He is prayerfully preparing for a possible ministry firestorm.
The Apostle Paul counseled Titus concerning a situation in Crete. A common saying at that time was “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” In other words, the people of Crete were perceived as liars, wicked and lazy.
“Crete had a bad reputation for arrogance, treachery and greed. “Gluttony” was associated with love of pleasure as opposed to love of knowledge,” explains Craig Keener in the IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament.
“Epimenides, the highly esteemed sixth-century B.C. Greek poet and native of Crete, had characterized his own people as the dregs of Greek culture. Elsewhere, Paul also quoted pagan sayings (cf. Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33). This quote is directed at the false teachers’ character,” states Dr. John MacArthur.
These false teachers, of whom Paul spoke to Titus (Titus 1:9-11), behaved in this way. Paul commanded his protégé to rebuke them sharply. To rebuke (ἐλέγχω; elencho) means to refute, to show one’s fault, implying that there is a convincing of that fault (Mt 18:15; John 3:20; 16:8; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9; Heb. 12:5; James 2:9; Jude 15; Rev. 3:19). Titus was to do this sharply (ἀποτόμως; apotomos) or severely and rigorously (2Co 13:10; Tit 1:13). There was no room for compromise or accommodation in confronting false teachers in the church.
The goal was for false teachers to become sound in the faith. Sound (ὑγιαίνω; hygiano) means to be presently and actively healthy and accurate in the faith (πίστις; pistis). This refers to trustworthy, biblical doctrine (Titus 1:9). These false teacher were to no longer follow Jewish myths and commands from other people who rejected God’s truth (I Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4).
“True and pure doctrine was to be required of all who spoke to the church. Any who fell short of that were to be rebuked. Paul reemphasized (see v. 10, “those of the circumcision”) that most of the false teachers were Jewish. They taught the same kind of externalism and unscriptural laws and traditions that both Isaiah and Jesus railed against (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:1–9; Mark 7:5–13),” explains Dr. MacArthur.
This pastoral responsibility to confronting false teachers has not changed. Unfortunately, some pastors follow the path of least resistance. To do so is not to fulfill the responsibilities of pastoral ministry (Titus 1:5-9).
Being a pastor dedicated to biblical truth and leading a congregation is not for sissies. It is a responsibility requiring courage, conviction and commitment. Pray for your pastor that he would be such a man.
Soli deo Gloria!