Online Bible Commentary
They Claim to Know God
Titus 1:10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to Titus, who was helping to organize the new churches on the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean. After Paul’s two-year house arrest in Rome, he and Titus traveled to Crete and evangelized several towns.
Paul then left Titus there to complete the organization of churches. This letter was written about mid 62 to mid 64 A.D. from the city of Nicopolis, Greece.
The letter was written at about the same time as Paul wrote 1Timothy. This book is one of the three pastoral epistles of Paul. 1 and 2 Timothy are the other two.
Titus was a Gentile from Macedonia. He was led to Christ by Paul. He was a travelling companion of Paul’s at times, as they went about their missionary work.
Paul wrote this letter to Titus to help him with the organization of churches in Crete. Titus was being confronted by Judaizers, Jewish Christians who wanted to enforce some of the Jewish religious traditions, such as circumcision.
Paul is writing this letter through his amanuensis, believed to be Luke. In this passage, Paul continues writing his pastoral epistles. 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.
Previously Paul 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 “faithful word”, also referred to as the trustworthy message. This is a reference to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by Paul.
Paul writes “there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision” (v. 10b). He is referring to the false teachers.
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. Their talk is ”empty”, void of meaning. And their minds are delusionary.
Paul continues by writing “whose mouths must be stopped” (v. 11a). These false teachers must be silenced. They are teaching a false gospel.
Next, Paul writes “who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not” (v. 11b). 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.
Paul continues with “for the sake of dishonest gain” (v. 11c). The motivation of these false teachers is the motivation of all false teachers, in every generation, that of 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.
Next, Paul writes “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (v. 12). Paul is quoting the words of the Greek philosopher Epimenides, a “prophet” in about 600 B.C.
Paul writes “This testimony is true” (v. 13a). He applies these words to the false teachers in Crete, calling it “true”.
The false teachers are described as “liars” and “evil beasts”. The word “gluttons” is a reference to being a glutton of wealth.
Paul continues with “Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (v. 13b). 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”.
Paul writes “not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth” (v. 14). 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,
Next, Paul writes “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure” (v. 15a). Paul refers to those who live by the word of God as “pure”, but “nothing is pure” to the false teachers.
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. This is a reference to the Jewish myths of the purity of circumcision, and what they eat and touch.
Paul continues with “but even their mind and conscience are defiled” (v.15b). He describes their minds and consciences as being corrupted by the teachings of the Jewish myths.
Next, Paul writes “They profess to know God but in works they deny Him” (v. 16a). The false teachers and their converts claim to know God but by their actions they deny him.
He writes “abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (v. 16b). Paul finishes this passage with perhaps his most stinging condemnation of false teachers, as being detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
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.