Titus: Character of False Teachers.

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:15–16 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul initially instructed Titus about the character of godly elders (Titus 1:5-9). He then expounded on the characteristics of ungodly false teachers (Titus 1:10-14). Today’s text continues with this examination.

False teachers lack purity. To be pure (καθαρός; katharos) means to be “acceptable to God’ or ‘good in God’s eyes’ or ‘good as God thinks’.” Purity belongs to those  who are pure by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Matt 5:8). They understand life and God through the insight of faith. All of life is perceived in how God thinks.

1 Corinthians 2:14–16 (ESV) says, 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”  

However for the defiled and unbelieving, no part of life is understood by thinking as God thinks and wanting what God says is acceptable. To be defiled (μιαίνω; miaino) is to be morally filthy or unclean. It is the opposite of purity. This is the spiritual condition of the unbelieving (ἄπιστος; apistos). The unbelieving do not trust in, commit to, depend upon or worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

The defilement of the unbelieving extends to their minds. The word mind (νοῦς; nous) is a way of thinking, a disposition and manner of thought. “It is the facility of understanding, reasoning and deciding (Rom. 7:25; 1 Cor. 14:14),” explains theologian James Swanson in the Dictionary of Biblical Languages.

The defilement of the unbelieving also involves their conscience (συνείδησις; syneidesis). The conscience is an individual’s God given moral sensitivity which distinguishes right from wrong.

In the historical context of today’s text, the perception of right and wrong, distinguishing the godly from the ungodly, extended to what food believers in Christ should eat and drink.

“With Paul’s reference to “the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:14), it becomes clear that whatever the exact nature of the false teaching Titus confronted on Crete, it involved the imposition of manmade laws upon the people. Again we have to infer as best we can from the epistle what these commandments were, but the apostle’s description of things impure in today’s passage means the false teachers likely emphasized some idea of ritual purity, viewing ceremonial cleanliness as the heart of the gospel. If these teachers were like those whom Timothy faced in Ephesus, these purity laws probably included abstention from marriage and certain foods (1 Tim. 4:3), with only the latter having any kind of basis in the Old Testament,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“By His work, Jesus made all foods clean (Mark 7:1–23), and every person who has had his conscience purified through faith in Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit comes to learn that all things are pure (Titus 1:15) and that nothing God has created “is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5). Ritual purity is no longer a concern for those in Christ Jesus, for the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, and this kingdom “is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17),” continues Dr. Sproul.

“In the freedom that Jesus has brought, individuals may choose which foods to eat and which days to celebrate, but they are never allowed to impose their personal choices regarding things “indifferent” on other people (vv. 1–12). Those who would bind the consciences of others where God has left them free reflect a deficient understanding of the gospel at best and at worst a conscience that has not been regenerated to see the true nature of God’s kingdom and its ethics. And those whose hearts remain impure shall by no means ever enjoy the blessed vision of our Creator (Matt. 5:8),” concludes Dr. Sproul.

Have you known such impure and defiled individuals in the church who strive to restrict a believer’s liberty in Christ? They are legalists. They focus on disputable   matters because they are likely unconverted and unrepentant. Believers in Christ must guard their hearts from such morally defiled teachers (Prov. 4:20-27).

Soli deo Gloria!

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