HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
This morning I want to speak on the subject UNITED AGAINST DIVISION. I will use the text from the letter of Paul to Titus. We will the third chapter and verses 10 to 11. Turn in your Bibles and read with me. Titus 3:10-11
We are to stand united in the church’s testimony of truth by lovingly confronting anyone who causes division within the church family.
We are drawing near the end of our study of Paul’s tiny but powerful New Testament letter to Titus.
There’s been much in this little letter to encourage our church family. It reminds us that we have the privilege being fellow-heirs together of God’s saving grace through His Son Jesus Christ; and along with it, the privilege as a church family of declaring the good news of that salvation to the people of this world.
- It urges us in chapter one to make sure that our church is always served by good, godly, spiritual leaders who will faithfully teach and defend that gospel from God’s word.
- It urges us in chapter two to make sure that each individual in the church family is living the kind of personal life that truly adorns the gospel of salvation that we proclaim.
- And it urges us in chapter three to make sure that we impact the people in the society around us with the sort of good works that spring forth from a genuine faith in that good news.
I have grown to love what this wonderful little letter teaches us. What’s more, reflecting on it all has helped me grow in my love for our church family. And as a minister, I believe that if we faithfully keep hold of the things we learn from it, we will grow to be even more of a strong, fruitful, and blessed church than we already are.
But now, Paul brings us to a final word of instruction about something that—if we don’t watch out—will completely spoil it all. Within the context of the life of the church family, he writes;
10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10-11).
I admit that this isn’t a very pleasant passage. It sounds harsh; and certainly doesn’t make for a ‘feel-good’ message. But the fact is that I have personally seen church families that I have loved end up closing their doors—and have even seen their witness to the world destroyed—because of what this passage describes. And I wouldn’t be a good minister to this wonderful Mystical church family if I didn’t make sure we spent some time in these two short verses—learning from them how to protect the truly blessed fellowship that we share together.
I think a good way to begin would be to look back and remember the sort of situation that motivated Paul to write these words.
Paul had written to his ministry assistant Titus that he was to remain on the island of Crete and provide leadership to the several churches that were there. I want you to note here that Paul did not write to the entire church, but to his assistant. He said, “For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you” (Titus 1:5). There was a serious need for each church to have a good, competent, spiritually qualified minister, one who was “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus1:6).
And he went on to tell Titus why this was such a serious need:
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.(Titus 1:10-14).
False teachers were creeping in among the community of believers and were bringing spiritual destruction upon entire households. Paul wasn’t indifferent about this. He didn’t treat these individuals as well-intentioned but misguided. He considered these false teachers to be insubordinate, deceitful, subversive and self-serving in their destructive behaviour. They were “church-dividers” who had turned from the truth.
As we look around day by day those same spirits have crept into the church under the disguise of prophets, sucking the very life from the saints as Paul warns us when he spoke to Titus. These days everyone is a prophet, or some title holder proclaiming to be sent by God cussing and claiming they are speaking in tongues. They have taken over most of the groups on Facebook and as Paul said, ministering for money. Well not in my groups. (As soon as I see you I will remove you and block you. My Spiritual Baptist group is not for this generational bad behaviour. Find another forum to be a tinkling cymbal or of sounding brass).
One of the ways that Paul wanted Titus and the leaders he appointed to deal with these aggressive “church-dividers” was to take away from them the kind of environment in which their divisiveness could spread. So, Paul wanted Titus to make sure the church family kept its focus on the essentials of the gospel. He carefully described that gospel to him in Titus 3:3-7, 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. and then said “8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:8-9).
When I think of this, I think of one of the most important and practical life lessons I ever learned as a young minister. Do not argue over the Scripture, if ever you are approached and ask your understanding or for your interpretation of the Scripture, put the question back in the lap of that person and just listen. When they are finished be polite and say thank you and keep moving. Afterwards, they will realize that they are not getting anywhere with you and they will leave you because they are not getting any energy from you.
I learned that tactic and it works with certain people. And I believe that that’s one way Paul wanted Titus and the church leaders to deal with those insubordinate big-mouths, know-it-all that were dividing and destroying the churches. They were to just refuse to get into arguments about the non-essential issues—that is to say, to “avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” Church-dividers thrive on that sort of material; but if we don’t get into such disputes with them, we’ll be no fun to them anymore.
That is an essential part of the solution But note carefully that that’s only half the solution. That first half takes away the sort of environment in which church-dividers do their work. But the second thing that Paul urges Titus and the leaders to do is to directly confront the character of the church-dividers themselves. That’s why, right after instructing the church to stick to the message of the gospel and not get into side-arguments about non-essential matters, Paul then says, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”
All the other things that this letter says is very important for our church. But what is said in these two verses is particularly important; because if we fail to heed the warning Paul gives in them, much of the other good things will be lost. This passage teaches us to stand united in our church’s testimony of truth by lovingly confronting anyone who causes division within the church family.
I will continue this message with the help of God and I pray that we will learn what Paul is telling us about the division in the church.