Sunday, July 13, 2008

Matt's Messages "True Elders and False Teachers"

“True Elders and False Teachers”
Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus
July 13, 2008
Titus 1:5-16

Last week, we briefly looked at the greeting section of this letter, this epistle. The letter is written from the Apostle Paul and to a man named Titus, who was a close ministry partner of Paul’s in his church-planting and church-establishing ministry.

Today, I’d like to give a title to our whole study of Titus and that is this: “Applying the Gospel: The Message of Titus.”

We’re going to see, in a second, that Paul had left Titus on a island called Crete that is in the Mediterranean. And the reason he had left him behind on Crete was to straighten out some things out that had not yet been finished in establishing the church on the island.

There was work still left to be done. Items still left to be checked off on the to-do list of establishing the church at Crete.

And Titus was the man. He was Paul’s apostolic representative left behind to straighten things out so that what was left got done. “Left behind to do what’s left.”

And it seems that most of what hadn’t gotten done yet was the training of the believers in the application of the gospel. Paul’s going to tell Titus to teach “what is in accord with sound doctrine.” And to stress the good news about Jesus Christ and how it affects people’s lives.

The picture I get when I read this letter is that Paul had reached some people for Christ, the church had begun, there were new believers and they had the basics, but they hadn’t yet gotten organized and they hadn’t yet been taught how what they now believed worked out in real life situations.

So that’s what Titus is left at Crete to do.

And the first thing on Paul’s left-to-do list for Titus is to recognize and install elders in the local church. What we’re going to call today “True Elders” [Following John Stott in his helpful little book on The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus (The Bible Speaks Today).]

That’s in verses 5 through 9. And then in verses 10 through 16, we’re going to see why these True Elders are needed. It’s because of False Teachers. “True Elders and False Teachers.” Let’s read it together and then see how this applies to us today.

[scripture reading, prayer]

The first thing that Titus was called to do was to find some godly men and get them into church leadership. V.5

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”

Paul hadn’t gotten a group of elders together before he had to leave Crete. Titus was called to find godly men to be elders, train godly men to be elders, and install godly men as elders.

The elders in the New Testament are those men who are called upon to lead the local church. They are like, in our church, our “combined Leadership Board.” V.7 says that they are “entrusted with God’s work.” That is, they lead the charge for the church. And their work is very important–it’s God’s work. 1 Timothy 5 says that they “direct the affairs of the church.”

They are not more important than any other member of the local church in and of themselves, but their role or function is crucial, and it’s very important to find the right kind of men to do the job.

I’m thankful for the godly men who serve on our combined leadership board here. This last Tuesday night, one of them said that I’ve had a pretty ideal situation here in the first 10 years. And he’s absolutely right.

We don’t need a Titus here to hunt for godly men to lead the church. They are right here in front of us.

But I also said a couple of weeks ago that we need “younger elders” as we train the next generation of church leadership. And that’s true, too.

Remember that I said that I’m on the lookout for you? Younger men? That I want to meet with you and help you to be what you should be. I see a large part of my job description as equipping men to be elders.

I believe that every man should aspire to be the kind of man that Titus was looking for.

Not that every man ends up functioning as a elder in a local church, with the “office” of elder, but that every man’s desire is to be this kind of a man.

Not just a “man’s man,” but a “God’s man.”

And ladies, this is what you should be looking for in a godly husband and praying for in the young men in your life, if you are a mom or a grandma or a aunt. This applies to you, too. We should all be hoping and praying for these things in the lives of the men of our families and church.

It’s interesting to me that one of the extraordinary things about the qualifications for being an elder is that they are not that extraordinary!

They are mainly character qualifications. Who we are at heart. How we conduct ourselves. Not how gifted we are or what credentials we have.

But who we are.

Are we True Elders?

I can remember when God first put it into my heart to be this kind of a man. It was about 17 years ago in my first semester at Moody Bible Institute. It was the first time that these verses had jumped out at me. I remember being shaken with the question, “What kind of man does God want me to be?” And in response, I wrote these verses and the similar ones in 1 Timothy 3 on the side of a box and put them on a shelf in my room right at eye-level above my bed. So that whenever I laid in my bed and my eyes drifted around the room, they would eventually land upon these verses.

A constant reminder of God’s will for my life. And slowly, I began to want what God wants for me.

Let’s see in verses 6-9 what an True Elder must be.


“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

Now the catch-all phrase to describe a true elder is “blameless.” But that doesn’t mean “perfect” or “flawless.” Who could be an elder if that’s what it meant? Only Jesus!

The word “blameless” means “unaccused.” It means having a good reputation. It means that those who know you know that you are a, True Elder, a faithful man, a godly man.

That there is nothing in your life that calls into question your leadership.

It doesn’t mean that people won’t still talk about you. It just means that you haven’t given them something to talk about!

And here, it’s in regard to your family.

A True Elder Is Faithful at Home.

First, with his wife, if he has one. The NIV translates it “the husband of but one wife.”

I would translate the Greek here: “A One-Woman Man.”

I don’t think it’s talking here about marital status. It’s talking about fidelity to your wife. It’s talking about purity of mind and heart. And a single-focused-ness.

It’s a character word. If you are married, then you are married to that one woman. She is your focus. She is your wife and no one else is! She’s your main squeeze. You don’t pursue intimate relationships with other women either physically or emotionally! You don’t entertain lustful thoughts about other women. You are a one-woman man.

If you aren’t married yet, then you aren’t “a ladies’ man.” Believe it or not, this was one area that God had to really get a hold of me in. I’ve told some of you before that same first semester at Moody, I earned the label, “The Chick Magnet.” And I was proud of it back then. But I was completely un-focused in my search for a soul-mate. My heart was scattered over two countries and several young ladies. And I was leading them all on a wild goose chase. It was irresponsible and unhealthy for everyone involved.

And God had to clean me up and make me a one-woman man. And I’m glad that one woman is here today!

Because if I was that same man, I couldn’t lead you here. I wouldn’t be True Elder. Because my thoughts and my actions were unhealthily unfocused and double-minded.

What about you, men? Could you be described as a one-woman man? Or are you distracted by that lady at work? Do you have a female friend that you are closer to than your wife? Who is the queen of your thought life? What’s your reputation with women?

A True Elder is faithful at Home, a one-woman man.

And a True Elder is faithful with his children, too. Especially faithful to teach and train them.

The NIV translates verse 6 as, “a man whose children believe...” but I think that the King James is a better translation here. It says, “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”

The word could mean that all elders’ children must believe the gospel, but that seems to be out of the hands of a father to me especially if the children are not old enough yet to understand the gospel or out of the house and out of our sphere of responsibility.

I think this is asking the question of whether or not the man’s children, in the home, obey him and are faithful to him–and are not out of control. [Following the thinking and scholarship of D.A.Carson.]

It’s a question of teaching and training. Does this man do that? Does he discipline his children in love?

You can tell a lot from a man’s family.


“Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless [there’s that word again. Not perfect but clearly godly and an example to others. V.7]–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

Verse 7 talks about temptations that all men deal with.

We are all tempted to be overbearing (prideful), quick-tempered (angry), given over to our pleasures and desires (like strong drink or other addictive past-times), using our strength to overpower others (violent), and our love of money.

If verse 6 talked about controlling our children, verse 7 talks about controlling ourselves.

Verse 8 uses the word “self-controlled.” Paul uses that word several times in this short letter. We’re going to see it again and again.

The gospel empowers us to be self-controlled.

Men, do you need work in this area? I know that I do.

I know that some of you don’t like hearing about the continuing saga of my battle with gluttony, but I think it’s important for me to publicly share what I’m struggling with and commit to being a True Elder.

I have gained back 13 of the 25 pounds that I lost last year. And it’s directly related to my self-control.

I want to be blameless, someone for you to follow. And I know that I need repentance and forward movement on this or I won’t be a True Elder.

Men (and women, too), what area of your life do you need to wrestle under control?

We’re going to come back to that several times in next month. Ask God to show you what changes need made so that you’re faithful in this area.

Faithful in life. And faithful in ministry. V.8

“Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.”

True Elders are hospitable. They use their resources in ministry–whether those resources are a home or whatever. If it is a home, they open their home and love people with their home.

And they love what is good. They love righteousness and seeing righteousness done.

Now, one of the hard things about being a True Elder is that you have a hard time figuring out if you are one on your own.

I mean, what humble godly guy is going to say, “I think I’m hospitable, loving what is good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Choose me to be your elder!”

Not many!

It is possible to have confidence that God has worked these things in your life [It’s definitely possible to know if you WANT to be a man like this], but most of the time, we need someone to recognize these qualities in us and point them out to others.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad that our church is congregational in form of government. Together, we get to recognize who are the True Elders among us and affirm them in leading us.


“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

This is, arguably, the most important thing that elders do in their function as church leaders in new covenant churches.

They teach the truth of the gospel and defend the truth of the gospel.

The gospel has been given to us as a sacred trust. Here is it called “a trustworthy message.”

And elders (and all church leaders, too, but especially elders) must be faithful to it.

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught...”

We are not allowed to change it!

I told you a last week about the new EFCA Statement of Faith.

If our leaders had been trying to change the truth, then I and we should have had no part of it!

But they weren’t. They were restating in new and (I believe) stronger words the unchanging truth of the gospel.

Here’s why that’s important (v.9 again): “ that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

The truth of the gospel is encouraging to those who believe it and needs defending against those who don’t.

In verses 10 through 16, we find out why these True Elders are so needed.

The first reason is that #1. THERE ARE LOTS OF FALSE TEACHERS OUT THERE. V.10

“For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.”

Notice that very important word: “FOR.”

Why are True Elders needed? Because there are false teachers.

Paul says that these teachers are “mere talkers” that is they don’t really believe what they’re saying. And “deceivers,” that is, they’re trying to get you to believe what they say.

And he singles out the “circumcision group.” Remember those guys from our study of Philippians during Family Bible Week? Paul called them the dirty dogs!

What were they teaching?

That it’s Jesus plus what I do that achieves my standing with God.

Yes, Jesus, sure. But Jesus plus my performance. Jesus plus something I do (like get circumcised or take on the yoke of obedience to the Law). Jesus plus something I do (my works)–gets me a ticket to heaven.

But Paul says that’s no gospel at all! How many good works are going to be required?

Can you keep the Law in every detail?

Can you add to what Christ has already done?

No! He says (v.11), “They must be silenced.”

He’s not talking about killing them. He’s talking about defending the gospel against them so that their false gospel is shown to be what it is!

There are lots of false teachers out there today.

Just turn on the T.V.

Just read your newspaper.

Paul believes that the way to silence false teaching is to raise up True Elders.

Why is this important? Because doctrine matters!


“They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households [which was the family, plus the family business really] by teaching things they ought not to teach–and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” Watch the money.

Notice how much doctrine matters.

If you come to believe the wrong things, it will affect your life.

And if you come to believe the wrong things enough, it will ruin your life and your family.

We have got to maintain our grasp on biblical truth or our lives will come crashing down around us.

And the church needs protected. That’s one of the chief reasons why we need True Elders.

That’s one of the reasons why I am here. I want to serve you in this regard, helping you to see what is true and what is false in the teaching out there.

If you have a question about some person you see on television or hear on the radio or a book you’re reading or someone else is reading, I’d be glad to help you to identify truth or error. Because it matters. It really matters.

Right now there is a widely popular book out called “The Shack.” And I guess everyone is reading it. It’s supposedly Christian and has helped many people in their faith. I don’t doubt their sincere intentions, but I’m concerned about it.

I haven’t read it yet, I can’t read everything (try as I might), but from what I’ve read about it, it’s a harmful book for the people of God. Beware it.

The same is true of what comes from the church of Oprah. In the last year, she has pushed a book that claims to be compatible with Christianity called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Beware that book.

I could go on. False Teachers are out there and believing false teaching ruins families.

Understand! False teaching doesn’t always sound false. Sometimes it comes with a beautiful face and a big smile. But the inside of it is ugly and will harm you.

These false teachers had figured out a way to profit from it. They were prophets for profit. Which is a temptation of Christian leadership that the New Testament often addresses. V.11 calls it “dishonest gain” or (KJV) “filthy lucre.”

Which was “business as usual” on the island of Crete. V.12

“Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.”

The folks that lived in Crete had a reputation! And it wasn’t a good one. That’s why it was important to find Cretans that didn’t act like Cretans to be True Elders for the church.

Titus was to rebuke those who were trying to infiltrate the new church with false teaching so that they didn’t get caught up in ruinous doctrine.

That doctrine, it seems, included Jewish myths and probably dietary and ceremonial rituals imposed on believers (v.14) “the commands of those who reject the truth.” V.15

“To the pure [pure at heart], all things are pure [including ceremonially pure], but to those who are corrupted [at heart] and do not believe, nothing is pure [you’ve got to follow these rules and they won’t save!]. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

Those are strong words.

And they highlight the third and last reason why True Elders are needed.


These folks CLAIM to know God, but their actions deny Him.

Do you know folks like that?

Unfortunately, I think that the West Branch area is full of people like that.

They claim to know God, they have a religious affiliation, but they aren’t living as faith-followers of Christ, having believed the gospel of GRACE and know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

People Need to Know the Lord!

It’s the only way for them to NOT have their minds and consciences corrupted!

If you don’t know the Lord yet, then I urge you to come to Him.

Turn from the false teaching that this world offers.

It’s Cretan! It’s just words and deceptive and empty and dangerous.

And turn to Jesus Christ.

He died on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice for your sins.

And everything He did is everything you need! You don’t have to add to it to get to heaven.

Turn and trust in the Savior. He’s a wonderful savior!

You need to know Him.