42. “Whose Mouths Must Be Stopped” (Titus 1:11)
The party in the Cretan ecclesia or ecclesias to which these
words applied were “they of the circumcision” (v. 10). These
Judaizers were a great and constant source of opposition to the truth as it was
in Christ, and it was periodically necessary to warn new converts against their
Jewish fables and traditions (v. 14).
The particular disciples to whom Paul here refers must have
been unusually dangerous, in view of his further comments:
“....who subvert whole houses, teaching things which
they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake... liars, evil beasts, slow
bellies...” (vv. 11,12).
It is difficult to imagine such strong language ever being
applicable to brethren today. Hence Paul’s warning has an unusually hard
edge: “Rebuke them sharply” (v. 13), he says. The first step
must be to cause these brethren to cease their propaganda. When the agitation
has died down, then hopefully a policy of instruction and restoration may be set
As in many New Testament passages, there is implied here a
great gulf between ecclesial action toward the active offenders and toward the
more passive followers. The mouths of the teachers must be
stopped. But the minds of the hearers, if already confused, must
be set right. Certainly there is no warrant in this verse, neither in any of the
previous verses, for a “blanket” disfellowship of errorists and
“tolerators” alike. Paul, ever the shepherd of the Lord’s
flock, simply did not advocate such a policy.
It would be pleasant indeed if there were no such problems in
the ecclesias such as “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers” (v.
10). However, these things are part of the necessary pattern of our training and
“It is important that the Truth be defended, but it is equally important
that it be done with the pure, calm sword of the Spirit, and not with any
of the ugly weapons of the flesh, since, ‘The wrath of man worketh not the
righteousness of God’ (James 1:20). It takes no special effort or ability
to criticize and condemn error. Any limited minds can do that, and enjoy the
boost it gives their ego. But it takes much self-discipline and self-preparation
to confront error with a calm manifestation of personal godliness and a
constructive, upbuilding presentation of the deep beauties of the Truth”
(G.V. Growcott, “Zealous of Good Works”, The Berean
Christadelphian, Vol. 56, No. 8 — Aug. 1968 — p.
Here is the problem that, sooner or later, faces all ecclesias
and all brethren. It is easy enough to be like Peter in Gethsemane, to
“sleep” while the crisis is brewing, then to awake suddenly, grab
the “sword” and “cut off” an ear, thinking this is the
only way to serve God (Luke 22:45,50). But it is far more difficult, though
infinitely more spiritual, to do as the Master did: wait and watch, pray and
prepare, consider the alternatives, and then act gently but firmly, with an eye
to healing and not rending (v. 51). It is true, sometimes mouths must be
stopped. But this can often be done without resort to cutting off
And what else may be learned from this passage in Titus 1?
Surely there is a warning to all of us, whether Judaizers or not, in regard to
vain talking and gainsaying:
“It would seem that the Judaizers’ contention was largely to gain a
debating ascendancy and to display their intellectual skill. Is the same
possible in an advocacy of the Truth? Is it possible to be an exponent of the
Truth and yet be a vain talker and deceiver? It is possible to ‘preach
Christ even of envy and strife... of contention, not sincerely’ (Phil.
1:15,16), to engage in wordy warfare for the sake of a verbal victory and for
the elevation of human pride... We received the Truth with meekness of heart; we
should live the Truth with lowliness of mind, and we should be ‘gentle
unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose
themselves’ (2 Tim. 2:24,25)” (W. Mitchell, “The Epistle of
Titus”, The Dawn Ecclesial Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 11 — Nov.
1957 — p. 255).