THOSE LIKE THE CRETIANS
Titus 1:10-14 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
The need to expose and disprove the error of false preachers and teachers, was ever present in the world in which the church of Christ was established, and it continues to be so today. Given the many warnings in God's holy and inspired word, we know that the teaching of error, for what ever the personal reason may be, was in times past, and continues to be today, to be extremely dangerous to the church universal, and to each member that makes up each individual congregation of the church of Christ. Today false teaching, designed by the human wisdom of men and women of the world, is far more prevalent than the righteous teaching of those that proclaim the true wisdom of God.
The seriousness of the teaching of false doctrines can be found in these warnings of the apostle Paul. (1) He warned the elders of the body of Christ in Ephesus to take heed,because,after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and they shall speak perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30). (2) Paul admonished the Roman Christians to avoid false teachers because they would cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and that they, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:17-18). (3) He warned the Corinthian brethren that false teachers would take on the form of Satan by transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13-14). (4) In his letter written to the entire congregation of the church of Christ in Ephesus, Paul wrote that they must not remain as children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they (false teachers) lie in wait to deceive (Eph. 4:14). (5) To the church at Thessalonica Paul assured them that false teachers would come in among them and deceive them after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders (2 Thess. 2:8-12).
The apostles, Peter and John also warned and admonished Christians to beware of false teachers. Peter said that they shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, ...and many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of (2 Pet. 2:1-2). John said, that in the days after the establishment of the church, there would be many antichrists that would ...bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, ...and many shall follow their pernicious ways (1 John 2:18, 4:1).
In the lesson text, Paul warned Titus that there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision. Throughout the history of the church of Christ, the prevalence of false teachers can be noted. They come, not only from the Gentile world, but also, at the time of this writing, false teachers from the Jewish nation were more numerous. The teaching of these deceivers, Paul said, must be stopped, because they subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not. Likewise,Paul tells us that what motivated them, is the same thing that motivates the majority of false teachers today. Not for cause of Christ or for the glory of God, but they teach an erring doctrine for filthy lucre's sake - for the personal, covetous gain of material wealth.
False teachers often tell their audiences that "love gifts" are needed to continue their "ministry" to bring the message of salvation throughout the world, or it is needed to feed orphans, or poor, starving children, or possibly to relieve devastations from natural disasters. Yet, without remorse, or any sense of guilt, the majority of the contributions they collect are retained to satisfy their personal, avaricious, greedy ways. With few exceptions for the misunderstanding of God's word, it is evident that covetous greed was the driving force behind false teaching during the days this letter was written, has continued to be the reason throughout the ages, and is most certainly the primary influence that drives false teachers to proclaim error in today's society.
To establish the cynical nature of these false teachers, Paul compares them to "the Cretians" - a well-known example to all on the island of Crete. It is evident that this term carried the meaning of liars - those that are false witnesses; that constantly speak things that are untrue without moral constraint. They were compared to evil beasts - unrefined and savage men and women, having no regard for civil authority. They were considered to be slow bellies - addicted to laziness and idleness; indigent individuals that rely on society to supply them with their needs. This witness, that is, this description of these false teachers, is to be believed, because it is true.
It must be remembered that the majority of the members of the church of Christ, founded on this island, came from such a society that was described, and well known, as "Cretians." Therefore these false teachers were not standing on street corners preaching their perverted gospel, neither were they members of some "religious" sect or cult. Rather they were within the body of Christ - they were members of His church, that were teaching their ungodly error. We know this to be true because Paul admonishes Titus to rebuke them sharply. They were to be severely censored for their disrupting character, and the divisiveness of their teaching. The false doctrine, which they professed, was to be exposed, and corrected, by the sound doctrine that was delivered to them, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God; to cause them to repent, be righteously converted, and realize their error, in order that they may be sound in the faith.
It is evident that these false teachers were turning aside from the truth,whichhad once brought them to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior; the truth that had cause them to repent of their past sinful life and submit to baptism for the remission of their sins; the truth by which they were added, by God, to His church. It seems that they had great difficulty giving up their past - a past that centered around Jewish fables and commandments of men.These false teachers - those like the Cretians, desired to include their religious and social past in the present New Testament doctrine of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Spiritual and doctrinal soundness within the church of Christ is, not only desirable, but God, and His Son, Christ Jesus require it. It should not, and must not, be compromised or changed in any manner to accommodate any false doctrine that is based on fables and the commandments of men. The truths found in the inspired word of God, and the doctrine under which the church of Christ was founded on the island of Crete, as well as all congregations of God's people throughout all ages of mankind, must be kept pure and unadulterated from the deceitful, erring, false teaching,based on the wisdom of spiritually frail, human men and women of the world.