Sunday, 3 June 2018
…not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. Titus 1:14
Paul has just told Titus to rebuke the Cretans sharply in order to keep them sound in the faith. He now explains the necessity for this with the words, “not giving heed to Jewish fables.” The church is established upon the finished work of Christ. That work was to fulfill Scripture. Scripture, at that time, consisted of what we now call the Old Testament. It was, at that time, all of the word of God revealed to man for doctrine.
And so that, along with any teaching or writing from a duly recognized apostle, was what was needed for sound doctrine concerning the Christian faith. However, the Jews had (and still have) a giant body of “fables” that they hold to and which they teach. The word is muthos, and it is the direct ancestor of our word “myth.” It signifies “a false account, yet posing to be the truth; a fabrication (fable) which subverts (replaces) what is actually true” (HELPS Word Studies).
The Jewish society had developed so many of these myths that it completely obscured the simplicity of Scripture. Cultural traditions, written traditions, and etc., were heaped one upon another until Scripture itself simply became a side piece of the whole. Today, a great many of these “fables” are found in the Talmud. In addition to these, Paul adds in the words, “and commandments of men.” These will be further defined in the next verse as things concerning purity.
What this is then saying is that man had added to the commandments of Scripture their own commandments. Jesus spoke about this on several occasions, such as in Mark 7 –
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
7 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” Mark 7:5-8
However, Paul’s words certainly go beyond this. Jesus’ words to the Pharisees were spoken to them while they remained under the law. Upon completion of His earthly ministry, the law is annulled through His shed blood (Hebrews 7:18, for example). Therefore, Paul’s warning to Titus is inclusive of any commandment of man which would put us back under that now obsolete law. Any such teachings are from “men who turn from the truth.”
God’s word is truth. When man rejects His revelation, they reject His truth. God revealed the law, and man was bound to that law. However, God continued to reveal that the law was only a temporary stepping stone, leading to the work of Christ. Therefore, when man rejects Christ’s fulfillment of the law, they reject God’s truth. This is what Paul is warning about. As noted, an example of this is coming in the next verse.
Life application: It has become hugely fashionable in Christianity today to add to God’s word. Some churches have a “Book of Discipline,” or the like, which is held in higher esteem than God’s word. Some churches reinsert the law, or add in other Jewish traditions, holding them in as high (or higher) esteem than the word. Both of these are errors, and both are warned against by Paul. God has spoken. His word is recorded, and it is to be taken in context to the times in which man exists. We live in the dispensation of grace and, therefore, we are to adhere to Paul’s writings as our main source of doctrine. From there, other portions of Scripture are to be applied in regards to how Paul explains them to us.
Lord God, help us to take Your word in the proper context intended, and in accord with the times in which we live. The law was given during a certain period and for a certain purpose. It was intended as a temporary tutor to lead us to Christ. Now that He has completed this work, we are under grace. Help us to live in this time with that in mind. Grace is unmerited favor, and we thank You for that which is lavished upon us. Amen.