Online Bible Commentary
They Claim to Know God
Titus 1:10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (NIV)
In this passage, Paul continues writing his pastoral epistles, consisting of the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. This is important to remember so that we know the context of which he is writing. In the Pastoral Epistles, or pastoral letters, Paul is giving instructions and qualifications for pastors to heed. These are the commandments from God, to pastors and churches. Paul refers to today’s pastors and church leaders as elders and overseers.
Paul is writing to Titus, who is helping Paul to establish churches and appoint pastors in Crete, an Island in the Mediterranean Sea. Previously he wrote to Timothy who was helping the established churches in Ephesus. Both Titus and Timothy are having to deal with false teachers in the churches. In Timothy’s case the false teaching is primarily Gnostic in nature. In Titus’ case the false teaching is primarily Judaism in nature. The island of Crete has a large Jewish population, and their teaching is creeping into the churches as Jews convert to Christianity.
The first word of this passage, “for” (v.10a), refers back to the previous verse where Paul calls for Titus to refute those who oppose the “trustworthy message”, meaning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is referring to the false teachers. They are described as “rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group” (v. 10b). The literal Greek translation for this verse is “Insubordinate men, empty talkers, and mind-deluders”. These are men who are insubordinate to the Christian teachings, not upholding the teachings of the Lord.
The false teachers “must be silenced” (v. 11a). The reason that they must be silenced is because of all the damage they are doing to the new Christians, and others who do not know better (v. 11b). The motivation of these false teachers is the motivation of all false teachers, in every generation. Paul describes that motivation as “for the sake of dishonest gain” (v. 11c). This is a reference to financial gain. In the words of the Greek historian Polybius, “So much in fact do sordid love of gain and lust for wealth prevail among them, that the Cretans are the only people in the world in whose eyes no gain is disgraceful”. This thinking also was prevalent in Ephesus, and is prevalent in the United States today.
Paul then quotes the words of the Greek philosopher Epimenides, a “prophet” in about 600 B.C. (v. 12). The word “gluttons” is a reference to being a glutton of wealth. He applies these words to the false teachers in Crete, calling it “true” (v. 13a). Paul calls for the false teachers to be “rebuked sharply”, “so that they (both the teachers and those they teach) will be sound in the faith” (v. 13b). The reason for the rebuke is so that they “will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth”, the false teachers, (v. 14).
Paul refers to those who live by the word of God as “pure”, but “nothing is pure” to the false teachers (v. 15a). The use of the word “pure” by Paul is a direct contradiction to the Jewish Christians who are teaching the ritualistic Jewish customs, the Jewish myths, regarding the purity of what they eat and touch. He describes their “minds and consciences” as being “corrupted” by the teachings of the Jewish myths (v.15b).
The false teachers and their converts “claim to know God but by their actions they deny him” (v. 16a). Paul then finishes this passage with perhaps his most stinging condemnation of false teachers, as being “detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (v. 16b).
As with all my commentaries I want to apply this teaching to today’s world. This is impossible to do without being accused of being judgmental, politically incorrect, intolerant, or downright hateful by those who think otherwise. Still, I choose to please God, despite the opinions of men. False teaching is out of control in the churches of America. We see everything, from the prosperity gospel, to embracing sin (including homosexuality), to violating the qualifications when appointing pastors, being taught in churches today. The word of God says that these false teachers claim to know God, but they deny Him by their actions. Be wary of them. Do not become a convert of their false teaching. Do not deny God by your actions.