Unto the pure, all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” (Titus 1:15)
When reading the first chapter of Titus, we are struck by the caustic language Paul uses when describing false teachers. The first thought is how forceful the apostle is when speaking of those who would teach doctrines that subvert the truths of the gospel. In this passage, he commands Titus to “rebuke them sharply” (v. 13), which is very much uncharacteristic of the way these situations are handled in churches today. Niceties are usually the norm because calling someone out for false doctrine is considered uncharitable or even rude. Much error is tolerated because pastors are afraid of being offensive to those that may not be in agreement.
If Paul and the other apostles were too afraid of being offensive, imagine how the gospel would have been affected. If he had not been very clear about justification by faith alone, how would we understand this indispensable doctrine? If he had allowed subversion of the gospel of grace, how would we come to salvation in Christ? The past two thousand years of church history have seen these doctrines attacked incessantly giving rise to the largest pseudo-Christian church in the world, Roman Catholicism. If heresies concerning these doctrines were not confronted at the inception of the church and then recorded in scripture, there would be no checks on their perversions.
Similarly, the apostle John was blistering in his refutation of teachers that denied the incarnation of Christ. His favorite terms were “liars,” “antichrists,” and “children of the devil.” He taught there are only two spirits operable in the world. Either a teacher is led by the Holy Spirit or he is led by Satan. He leaves no room for other possibilities. Therefore, a preacher or church that says Jesus Christ is not Jehovah God manifested in the flesh, is teaching the doctrine of devils. It is certainly unpopular to say Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and other cults are satanic, but this is exactly what scripture says. In fact, both Paul and John would agree that any group that subverts any part of the gospel is satanic.
Is it too harsh to make such declarations? Consider the alternative. Jesus’ words to the Jews that refused to believe He was Jehovah God are these: “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). “I am he,” are words that refer to the oneness of Jesus with the Father and His full equality in all of the attributes of Almighty God. “Die in your sins” means eternal death in the fires of hell. The alternative to calling out false teachers and exposing their heresies is to allow them to lead people into the pit of hell. Paul said, “Their mouths must be stopped” (Titus 1:11).
The gospel includes the truth of the deity of Christ and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Paul told the Corinthians it is the gospel by which we are saved. Faith in the true gospel is the only hope for a world of lost and dying sinners. No, Paul was not afraid of being offensive with the truth. He knew the awful consequences if he was not!
Pastor V. Mark Smith