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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 in motion.

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 development.

“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. 240).
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 heads!

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).
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