Titus 1:15–16 (HCSB)
15 To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.
In this passage, following Paul’s greeting, is the statement of Titus’ ministry in Crete. And Paul expands on this duty of Titus as well.
- Paul starts with stating what Titus task was when Paul left him in Crete: “to appoint elders in every town”. We need elders. We need men to help guide us. We need examples, men of God to lead and lift us. And then Paul describes what these elders should look like. Although the description provided in Titus 1:7-9 sounds like someone we all should be, the text feels as though this is an even higher standard and expectation of one who looks over God’s people. We should absolutely hold our elders to these standards as well! It can be easy to justify short-comings under the guise of, “we are all sinners,” but scripture here seems to be clear in that those leaders should be held to a higher standard. After all, don’t we tend to emulate those we lead and teach us? Shouldn’t we expect those that influence spiritual decisions and growth to hold to the standards God has set for them?
- Paul then goes on to, apparently, describe why this need for elders exists, or at least part of it. These Godly elders are to be able to “refute” the claims of those that come against Jesus, which apparently is a real concern and issue (Titus 1:10). This is clearly a call to oppose false teachings, and to actively rebuke those that adhere or pursue it. But notice that the “rebuke” is not just a negative thing, it is apparently meant to be regenerative as well. In Titus 1:13, Paul says to “rebuke them […] that they may be sound in the faith.” Certainly just denouncing or proving someone wrong does not lead to them adopting a true view of the faith. So it would seem that the rebuke Paul speaks of must have not just a tearing down of false doctrine and beliefs, but an education of the true doctrine and beliefs. And certainly this makes sense, and aligns with the Biblical theme of God constantly working to draw people to Him.
- The final two verses are tough. Titus 1:15-16 are not politically correct in our current culture. It is interesting how Paul makes the contrast between saved and lost. Everything is pure to the pure (i.e. the saved), yet nothing is pure to the unbelieving: it would seem that “everything” is impacted by the state of the person in the sense that it takes on the state of their relationship with God. Paul’s example of the “mind and conscience” are wonderful: neither is necessarily good or bad, but instead they naturally assume the state of the person, either pure or defiled. And as believers we should not be hesitant to recognize the lost through their works, even if their words claim faith. This is hard! It is uncomfortable, and it requires us to be holy lest our own sight be skewed, but it is not something we should shy away from, despite the cultural pressure to accept all behavior, even that which is detestable.
Lord, thank You for lifting up and providing men like Paul and Titus, and the countless in the world today, to act as elders: blameless men You have crafted to lead Your people. I pray that we all would resist temptation, walk holy, and especially those that are in the role of elder. We pray that You would continue to strengthen and embolden Your church, Your people, to rebuke sin, and lead people to You. Amen.