Tuesday, 5 June 2018
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. Titus 1:16
Paul continues speaking in line with previous verses which highlight those who spread “Jewish fables.” In this, “They profess to know God.” In knowing the Jewish culture, and in teaching from Jewish traditions and writings, these people appear to be sound in their theology. The Christian faith is derived out of the Jewish Scriptures which detail the coming Messiah. Therefore, it seems only natural that those who teach “all things Jewish” must be the most spiritual of all!
As ludicrous as this may sound, it is a theme which continues on 2000 years later. If someone is Jewish, no matter how bad their doctrine is, they are held up as specialists in the church. If they can read and speak Hebrew, they are almost idolized. If they know Jewish traditions, whether biblical or extra-biblical, they are fawned over. This is a dangerous attitude to have, and it is exactly what Paul is warning against. Because of all of these frills, they do profess to know God, but such is not always the case. Each should be carefully checked, as with any other preacher or teacher, for a close adherence to the word of God. For many, “in works they deny Him.”
What this means is that just because someone brings the Jewish culture into a church, it does not mean that they accept the work of Messiah. The easiest and most obvious tenet is that of dietary restrictions. If a person holds to the Jewish law concerning not eating pork, and teaches that to others, together they deny what God has revealed, and thus they deny Him. Christ fulfilled the law, including dietary restrictions. To teach others that we are to adhere to such obsolete laws is to deny God. This is true with Sabbath observance, circumcision, teaching non-biblical traditions and fables as if they were Scriptural, and etc. Paul says that those who teach such things are “abominable.”
The word thus translated is found only here in the Bible. It signifies that which is detestable, especially idolatrous. Paul uses this word because it is exactly what they profess – that which is contrary to God. It exalts something ungodly above what is of God.
He next calls them “disobedient.” The word gives the sense of a person who is “unwilling to be persuaded.” For them, what is correct and obvious concerning what God prefers is rejected. Think of a person (Person A) who is teaching something out of the gospels, and which is based on a proper reading of the Old Testament precepts, and which is clearly laid out in the Gospel accounts as being in line with those Old Testament principles. However, instead of relying on that, another (Person B) inserts Jewish traditions into his doctrine (something Jesus specifically warns against in the Gospels), and the result is a muddy, convoluted theology concerning these precepts which are being taught. Even after being shown that what he (Person B) is espousing is contrary to Scripture, he continues, being unpersuaded. This is what the word signifies.
Paul says such are also “disqualified for every good work.” The word “disqualified” signifies, “not standing the test,” or “unapproved.” If there is a test of theology, it must be in line with the source of that theology. The ultimate source is Scripture. When these false teachers introduce their “Jewish fables,” they cannot stand the test, because their source material is unapproved. Their doctrine is worthless, their teachings are castaway material, and they are reprobate. How unfortunate that so many people are following exactly this strange and already-warned-against theology by following traditions rather than Scripture.
Life application: Why is it so important to study the pastoral epistles, even when not a pastor? It is because one can properly evaluate the pastor, preacher, or teacher by knowing what is allowed, and what is forbidden. Paul is very clear that Scripture is to be our source for doctrine. It is not inappropriate to teach things from Jewish culture, but those things are not suitable to be taught as doctrine unless they are already in accord with Scripture
Heavenly Father, help us to not insert traditions or myths into our theology. You have given us Your word for our doctrine. When we apply cultural traditions or teachings and elevate them to the same status as Your word, we have erred greatly. May we be found approved because of a total adherence to Scripture alone for the basis of our theology. Give us wisdom in this. Amen.