Titus 1:10-16 Confronting The Insubordinate.
In the previous passage it was seen that the elder/bishop must both “exhort and convict those who contradict” (v. 9). In this passage Paul first carries on with the task of convicting “those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers” (vv. 9c-10ab). It is remarkable that Paul lumps “idle talkers” together with “deceivers.” We know that these are two separate categories, because he says “both.” One might imagine that there may be those who see idle talk as harmless, but Paul evidently saw idle talk as being as pernicious as outright deception. Both are insubordinate. This is the one of two things which he said should not be found in the children of elders-“dissipation or insubordination” (v. 6c). Dissipation speaks to a wasteful expenditure or consumption, and insubordination speaks to an opposition or defiance of all authority.
Idleness with respect to people speaks to those who waste there time on that which is without purpose or pointless. Therefore, these idle talkers, in opposition to all authority, waste there time in pointless or purposeless chatter. Deceivers, on the other hand, while also being insubordinate, do have a purpose behind there activity-to deceive the people of God. Paul draws particular attention to those of the circumcision-those who were teaching that one had to be circumcised in order to be a Christian. These had failed to see the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant administration, and thus they were deceiving others in the church to follow their own deception. This issue in particular was something which would indeed impact “whole households” as Paul warns (v. 11b). In this case it would impact whether covenant boys would need to be circumcised according to the law.
The mouths of both idle talkers and deceivers had to be stopped lest they “subvert whole households, teaching things they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain” (v. 11). Apparently there was some financial motive behind there behaviour, rather than a sincere love for the truth. Paul even refers to one of their own countrymen to bear witness against them (v. 12). Paul is not necessarily saying that this poet is on the same level as a biblical prophet, but he simply refers to this one as someone bearing witness to their own reputation. In fact, Paul calls the words of this prophet as “testimony” against them, which he as a second witness said was true (v. 13a). These persons required a sharp rebuke, with the hope that they might “be sound in the faith” (v. 13bc).
Verse 14 appears to mirror the two categories of insubordinate ones which he refers to in this passage. Those engaged in “idle talk,” were those preoccupied with “Jewish fables.” Those who openly deceived, in particular on the issue of circumcision, were those who were teaching the “commandments of men who turn from the truth.” With the transition to the new covenant, the commandment to circumcise was replaced with the command to baptize. Therefore to command circumcision with the inauguration of the new covenant was to teach what was only now a commandment of men. Both idle talkers and deceivers are those who have turned away from the truth. These are those who are “defiled and unbelieving” for whom nothing is pure, because they have not been made new creatures in Christ Jesus. Their impurity goes to the core of who they are, where even their minds and consciences are defiled (v. 15).
On the other hand, those who have been sanctified by God, having also been justified, have a purity which does go to the core of who they are. For true believers things are pure because they are judged by the truth which they turn to and not away from. A profession that one claims to know God is meaningless if one does not govern themselves according to the truth. Our works will ultimately reveal who we are. As Jesus said, by one’s fruits a person is known (Cf. Mt. 7:16). There is a special judgment for those who profess to know God but live contrary to the truth. Paul calls these people “abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (v. 16b). Abominable is that which is repugnant, causing moral revulsion, detestable, loathsome, or that which the bible would also call unclean. This speaks to the nature of said persons-to their very core.
Being also disobedient speaks to the fruit they bear, or the character which flows out from their natures. Both their natures, or the core of who they are, and their character, or the fruit they bear, show a turning away from the truth. For both reasons these persons are “disqualified from every good work” (v. 16c). For those who are abominable in nature, and disobedient in character and acts, even if they should happen to do some otherwise “good work,” because it is they who do it, it becomes unclean. Only those who have turned to the truth in repentance and faith, are qualified to be engaged in good works which are truly good, done from the motive of God’s glory. Titus needed to engage in teaching that which was in accord with “sound doctrine” (v. 9). This required opposing those who contradict that truth.