Note: This post is adapted from a message I preached in in Graduate Chapel here at Grace Theological Seminary. Unfortunately, no audio is available.
All one has to do is walk into most Christian bookstores or tune into so-called Christian radio/TV to realize that false teaching is alive and well. So how should a gospel-centered church respond?
Titus 1:10-16 shows us how. But before noting what that passage tells us, it is important to note that Titus 1:5-9 provides us with qualifications for elders. Within the context of Titus, then, the necessity of biblically qualified elders is in part rooted in the need to deal with false teaching.
Having established that, in Titus 1:10-16 Paul identifies three ways that gospel-centered churches handle false teaching:
1. Gospel-Centered Churches Recognize False Teaching/Teachers (Titus 1:10-13)
When doctors are in medical school, part of their training involves diagnosing illnesses by the symptoms that present themselves. In the same way, Paul provides us with some diagnostic tools to recognize false teaching. He instructs us to observe their character (insubordinate, empty talkers, deceivers, etc.), their tactics (upsetting whole families, playing to the culture), and their motivation (shameful gain).
2. Gospel-Centered Churches Rebuke False Teaching/Teachers (Titus 1:13-14)
When Paul says “Rebuke them sharply” he uses a play on words with the false teachers’ promotion of circumcision. In effect Paul says something like, “Use the sharp knife of correction with those who wield the dull blade of circumcision.” Paul is not advocating legal action, nor is he promoting a witch hunt. But false teaching is so dangerous that it requires corrective action. The goal of that corrective action is “so that they may be sound in the faith” (1:13). The word translated “sound” can also mean healthy. True spiritual health comes from the gospel, not false teaching.
3. Gospel-Centered Churches Resist False Teaching/Teachers (Titus 1:15-16)
Knowledge of what the gospel teaches about various subjects is the preventative vaccine that enables the believer to resist false teaching. Truly embracing this vaccine produces not merely head knowledge of the gospel, but good works that flow out genuine saving faith.
Regardless of whether you are an elder or not, every believer is responsible for being so familiar with the true gospel that false teaching is immediately obvious. The gospel is the only way that we can be made pure, because it points us to the only one who is truly pure-Jesus Christ. And everyone who has their hope set on him purifies himself in anticipation of his return (1 John 3:1-3).
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Since 2006 Dr. Matthew S. Harmon has served as Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He is also a member of Christ’s Covenant Church, where he serves on the Preaching Team, leads a small group, and teaches regularly in their Life Education classes.
Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology, which is a forum for all matters pertaining to biblical theology (and some entirely unrelated).
Follow him on Twitter: @DocHarmon