“For there are many disorderly and unruly men who are idle (vain, empty) and misleading talkers and self-deceivers and deceivers of others. [This is true] especially of those of the circumcision party [who have come over from Judaism].
Their mouths must be stopped, for they are mentally distressing and subverting whole families by teaching what they ought not to teach, for the purpose of getting base advantage and disreputable gain.
One of their [very] number, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, hurtful beasts, idle and lazy gluttons.
And this account of them is [really] true. Because it is [true], rebuke them sharply [deal sternly, even severely with them], so that they may be sound in the faith and free from error, 14 [And may show their soundness by] ceasing to give attention to Jewish myths and fables or to rules [laid down] by [mere] men who reject and turn their backs on the Truth.
To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.
They profess to know God [to recognize, perceive, and be acquainted with Him], but deny and disown and renounce Him by what they do; they are detestable and loathsome, unbelieving and disobedient and disloyal and rebellious, and [they are] unfit and worthless for good work (deed or enterprise) of any kind.” Titus 1:10-16 AMP
False teachers promote legalism, not God’s grace. Paul says that these false teachers promoted “the commandments of men” (1:14; Col. 2:20-23). Legalism involves emphasizing certain non-essential external matters to the neglect of essential heart matters. Legalism focuses on outward conformity to man-made rules, rather than an inward conformity to God’s righteous commands in Scripture.
Legalism always appeals to the flesh. It feeds the proud human heart that thinks that it can attain righteousness apart from being humbled before the cross. Legalists congratulate themselves for doing their religious duties and they self-righteously condemn those who do not do these things. But they do not judge the sin in their hearts or seek to please God from the heart.
That’s what verse 15 refers to: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” Paul does not mean that if you think something is not sinful, then it is okay. Rather, he was referring to the Jewish ceremonial and dietary laws.
The false teachers claimed to be pure because they kept these rules, but in God’s sight, they were unclean because their minds and consciences were defiled. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse our consciences so that we can serve God (Heb. 9:14; 10:22).
Paul is making the same point that Jesus made where He indicted the Pharisees because they kept all of their manmade rituals, but their hearts were far from God. Jesus said that external things, such as eating certain foods, could not defile a man, but rather, what defiles a man is the sin that comes from the heart (Mark 7:1-23) .
Bad doctrine always results in evil behavior. On the surface, false teachers often seem like nice, moral people. Sometimes, the veneer of morality is due to their legalism. But as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, legalists look like beautiful, whitewashed tombs, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness (Matt. 23:27).
Their hearts remained corrupted because their trust was in what they did to make themselves pure rather than relying upon the righteousness of Christ on their behalf.
Note how Paul describes the behavior of these false teachers:
They were “rebellious” (1:10). This is always at the root of false teaching.
Sinners refuse to submit to God’s Word, so they invent teaching that fits with their sinful lifestyles. Paul went on to say, they were empty talkers and deceivers (1:10). Like a dishonest salesman, they could talk well, but their motive was to deceive for their own advantage. These men were greedy (1:11).
False teachers often exploit their followers, milking them for more money while the false teacher goes first class all the way. Furthermore, Paul continues to say, they are liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons and they are defiled, unbelieving, detestable (the word means to stink), disobedient and worthless for any good deed (1:12, 15, 16).
False teachers are not usually so honest as to say that they are atheists or the antichrist. However, “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him” (1:16). As first John makes clear, the true test of genuine faith is our behavior; “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3-4). Jesus said that you can identify these wolves in sheep’s clothing by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-16).