33. “An Heretick” (Titus 3:10)
We come next to Paul’s warning to Titus, the elder of
the ecclesia (or ecclesias) on the island of Crete:
“Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and
contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A
man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject
(paraiteomia); knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth,
being condemned of himself” (Tit. 3:9-11).
The word paraiteomia has also been translated
“avoid” (2 Tim. 2:23) and “refuse” (1 Tim. 4:7; 5:11);
it points to the clear duty of rejecting or excommunicating a
“heretic”. However, the provision of a first and second admonition
must not be forgotten, and this points the way to a comparison with the similar
order of admonition in Matthew 18:15-17 (see Chapter 9). The disfellowship, if
such is finally deemed necessary, must be done in the spirit of meekness, and at
every step the brethren so acting must endeavor in love to reclaim the offender.
Such matters must be handled locally, and not be allowed to unsettle
“There is need for a faithful rather than a harsh observance of this
apostolic counsel today. The most serious consideration should be given to the
question of whether a brother’s nonconformity is of such a nature as to
justify the grave decision of exclusion. Each elder should ask himself the
question, in all cases, not ‘Do we traditionally disfellowship for this
divergence?’ but ‘Can I, as a responsible elder and shepherd, give
full satisfaction to my Lord at his judgment seat, that I do well to exclude
this brother?’ “ (J.B. Norris, The First Century Ecclesia, p.
Furthermore, it must be noted that those brethren or ecclesias
that fail to excommunicate “heretics” are not to be equated
with the “heretics” themselves. (Such a notion is based solely, but
erroneously, on 2 John 10,11.) They may be disobedient to the apostolic
injunction, but this shortcoming does not of itself constitute them guilty of
the same or as serious offence as their erring brother. These words of Paul do
not sanction the judging and disfellowshiping of large numbers at a distance
— for how then could the “admonitions” be properly
administered? In fact, no Bible passage sanctions division from a nominally
sound ecclesia because of its supposed failure fully to discipline an
The seventeenth-century translators have made a rather
unfortunate choice of words here. “Heretick” is a quite interesting
and complex word, but subject to misinterpretation. Transliterated from the
Greek, it is hairesis, or “heresy”. The word denotes a
“choice”, or that which is chosen; hence, an opinion. Secondarily,
it means a “sect” or division — a party formed, either as a
subgroup of a main body, or in extreme cases entirely independent (W.E. Vine,
Expository Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 217, and Vol. 3, p. 335). It is not
even implied that the distinctive character of the “sect” is a
doctrine at all (Speaker’s Commentary, New Testament, Vol. 3, p.
817). The Sadducees and the Pharisees were called “sects” or
“heresies” (Acts 5:17; 26:5), as were the “Christians”
before their break from Judaism was complete (Acts 24:5,14; 28:22). The Greek
word has no inherent suggestion of an error, only of party spirit tending toward
division. It was only in post-apostolic times that “heresy” acquired
the invariable meaning of doctrinal divergence; the term was so applied to all
deviations from the Roman Catholic apostasy during the fourth century and beyond
(Imperial Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, p. 86; International Standard
Bible Encyclopaedia, Vol. 3, p. 1377).
A “heretick”, therefore, would signify an
“opinionated person” (W.R. Mitchell, “The Epistle of
Titus”, The Dawn Ecclesial Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 12 — Dec.
1957 — p. 274), a separatist, a causer of schism or division, for
whatever reason. Paul says that a heretic is “self-condemned”
(Tit. 3:11), apparently because of the position of separation in which he has
placed himself. Thus the ecclesia’s rejection of him is more or less an
official acknowledgement of the “status quo”.
The main accompanying idea in the other passages where
hairesis occurs is of some sort of division:
All this agrees well with the context of Paul’s letter
to Titus. Therein he more than once characterizes the Cretans in general as
liars, lazy gluttons, and envious (1:12; 3:3), men naturally given to
controversies, dissensions, and quarrels (3:9) — in short, men who are
always combative, never satisfied, potential sectarians, troublemakers, or
“heretics”. It is an extraordinary irony that those brethren who
feel they are most scrupulous at resisting “heretics” (i.e. teachers
of false doctrines?) through their policy of absolute separation are
themselves guilty of b
- In 1 Corinthians 11:18,19 it is used synonymously with
“schisms”, which, however, had not yet resulted in full-scale
ecclesial division, but only in factions.
- It is listed with strife,
seditions, and envyings as one of “the works of the flesh”
(Gal. 5:19-21); the list, however, includes no false doctrines.
- In 2 Peter
2:1,2 “heresy” is the division which certain men cause
unjustly, not the false doctrines they teach!
eing “heretics” (schismatics) in the Biblical