The Why and the What

by J. Randal Matheny, editor
Before and after. Flesh and spirit. Heavenly and earthly. Scripture makes effective use of contrasts. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul draws a sharp contrast between godly men capable of serving as overseers and the rebellious who must be silenced. Let’s note two areas of contrast in Titus 1.
In the description of the elders whom Titus should seek out in every town, this characteristic stands out: “He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught” (Titus 1:9 NET).
The last phrase is literally, “according to the teaching,” a reference to the doctrine of Christ as received through the apostles. An elder is, in the best sense of the word, conservative. He is careful to stick to the doctrine of Christ received through the apostles.
When the gospel is being taught, the overseer is preservational, concerned to maintain the truth in its original form. When the gospel is perverted, he is restorational, seeking to return to the truth as it was in the beginning.
Only when he holds firm to that teaching can he exhort and correct (1:9), for the salvation of all.
Such correction is necessary “[f]or there are many rebellious people” (1:10). These must be silenced. They “mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught” (1:11). Paul mentions the motives behind their bad teaching. The NLT translates, “they do it only for money.”
So much for the modern denouncement of judging motives! Paul knows that the love of money moves the world (1 Timothy 6:10). So the overseer must not be greedy for gain (1:7); rather, he must be “free from the love of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). Greed becomes evident when it causes people to change the teaching of Christ for self-advantage.
Mixed, or impure, motives are the bane of the Christian. Modern thinkers deny that pure motives are possible, but Scripture asserts they are essential in order to please God. We should “please him in all respects” (Colossians 1:10).
In both motives and teaching, not to mention behavior, Paul draws a stark contrast between the man who can strengthen Christ’s church and the rebellious who are “unfit for any good deed” (Titus 1:16).
We do well to seek purity of motives and faithful teaching, so that God may be pleased with us and that we may be found building up the church rather than destroy people for whom Christ died.

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