The trustworthy message
After giving Titus clear expectations for how a church leader is to treat his family, conduct himself, and interact with others, Paul then moves to the most important requirement…how the leader handles God’s message of salvation.
Titus 1:9 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.
If our church leaders are going to be God’s representatives, then they must know God well. Knowing God begins with hold[ing] firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, for the Scriptures are how God has revealed himself to humanity. If he doesn’t know God, he will be unable to give those under his care the encouragement they will need, nor will he be able to correct those who oppose God’s message.
Opposition will come. Although rescue from the penalty of sin is good news, not everyone wants to hear it. Among those that actually do hear the message that Christ paid the full penalty for our sins are plenty of people that think they must still also earn God’s favor, as Paul points out:
Titus 1:10-11 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.
The “circumcision group” were those who taught others that in addition to believing in Jesus, a person must also be circumcised and follow the Jewish law. This wasn’t just a local problem on Crete either, as all throughout his ministry, Paul dealt with those who preached
Belief in Jesus plus following the Jewish law equals Salvation from sins
Whenever anything is added to Jesus’ death on the cross for our salvation, the message is no longer “good news”. In fact adding anything to the gospel message negates the work of Christ. Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians deals with very subject.
Galatians 2:16 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:21 …for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Galatians 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.
Do Christians today deal with these kinds of pressures? While no one is proclaiming circumcision as a salvation requirement, there are many who insist that in addition to faith in Christ it is necessary to “do good works” or “persevere to the end of their life” or “make Christ lord of their life” in order to be truly saved.
Don’t get me wrong, those are good things to do. And we should endeavor to reach for those goals. However, adding any contributions on my part to Christ’s death on the cross is doing the same as what the “circumcision group” was trying to teach. Do you believe that Christ was telling the truth with his last words on the cross? It is finished – the single Greek word means “Paid in Full”. Either Christ paid it all, or he lied to us just before he died.
This is the trustworthy message – that Christ paid our entire sin debt, we add nothing to his payment – and Paul wanted Titus to only select leaders who 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.
If we want to avoid being led astray, we must have leaders that get this right.