Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.” This is true. So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith. They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth.
Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.” Titus 1:12-16 NLT
Titus is not the only place in the New Testament where the importance of contending for the truth is emphatically stressed. The Lord’s brother, Jude, began his letter by saying,
“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
Many NT books are arguments against false teaching that has intruded upon the mind and heart of the church. Galatians is such a book, so is Colossians and Hebrews.
The truth is subject to attack at every turn; corruptions of it are constantly being insinuated into the mind of the church. To deny and refute those corruptions has from the very beginning been the first duty of the church’s leadership.
Now we have only to read these seven verses aloud to appreciate how strange, even how unpleasant they sound in modern Western ears. To characterize people with a different opinion of things as rebellious, empty talkers, and deceivers; to say of them that they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for anything good; to order that they be sharply rebuked sounds not only very un-modern but harsh, cruel, judgmental, and arrogant.
Who is Paul to claim that he alone is right and all these other men are wrong? Who is he to cause doubt and slander the motives of these men, as if orthodox Christian preachers and teachers never have false motives? But, fact is, it is a shame to take offense at Paul’s stern portrayal of the false teachers as charlatans and wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The language Paul uses here makes perfect sense and is appropriate.
Stop and think of how many churches there are, where congregations sit Sunday after Sunday without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Think of how many congregations there are that come on a Sunday to their church and leave again still in the dark about God and salvation. Think of how many so-called Christian congregations there are who have generation after generation lost almost all their children to the world because they no longer proclaim a message sufficiently different from the world’s to justify any continuing commitment.
False teaching kills the church and it also means that it kills human beings forever. No wonder Paul speaks of these false teachers and the need to refute them and root out their teaching in the stern and uncompromising language he uses here.
But heresy, false-teaching in the church is far more deadly because it not only destroys the souls of people in the church but cripples and sometimes renders entirely impotent the church’s witness to the world. Who is to speak the truth to the world if the church, the foundation and pillar of the truth, has lost it? How is the world ever to find the salvation of God if the church herself no longer knows where it comes from, what it is, or how it is to be obtained?