Tit 1:12-14 “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply,that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”
It is helpful, when we are going into a situation, to know something about what we will be facing: it can also be disquieting. As ministers of God, the only way to not be overwhelmed by some of the things we are called on to face is to have our focus fully on Him. As we read this epistle, we need to remember that Paul is not acting of his own accord in sending Titus to Crete. Paul was not merely expressing a greeting, but rather stating his condition to Titus in verse one.
Paul, being a bond-servant of Almighty God, was not directing Titus to Crete. He was rather being used of God to affirm to Titus that this was the labor God had for him. As ministers, we sometimes feel a leading of the Spirit for a certain area of labor. However, God often sends us a witness through a fellow-laborer. The scripture gives a number of instances where a witness is beneficial, and God is still the same today.
One reason this witness was important was because Titus was not going into a situation where he was being anxiously awaited. The Cretians did not have a good reputation, even among themselves. The word translated as “prophet” here means “a foreteller (“prophet”); by analogy an inspired speaker; by extension a poet.” Most scholars agree that the word as used here probably referred to a poet from the island rather than any connection with those like Isaiah. So, one of their own poets said of the Cretians that they regularly engaged in falsehoods, behaved like dangerous animals, and were lazy.
There was nothing about this report to encourage Titus. Then Paul adds his assessment of the situation: the report is true. The Cretian poet did not just have an ax to grind. He saw the inhabitants of Crete for what they were, and Paul wanted Titus to know this. In my mind, there are two important lessons being taught here. The first is that what was true of the Cretians is true for each of us without the grace of God in our lives to deliver us from the first Adam. Secondly, we do not do ourselves or those we care about any favors by trying to sugar-coat a bad situation.
Paul did not make any attempt to give Titus a view of the Cretians through rose colored glasses, and neither did he expect Titus to gloss things over with the Cretians. The instruction was plain and simple: rebuke them for their willfully sinful actions. It is important to recognize that it had already been determined that these accusations were true. We should never express a rebuke without first ascertaining the truth of the situation.
When a rebuke is necessary, it should be done sharply. This does not mean (as we often suppose) that it has to be delivered heatedly or with anger. The word “sharply”as used here means “(to cut); abruptly, that is, peremptorily.” To use a more common phrase, we are expected to nip it in the bud. A rebuke is not designed to anger or alienate those being rebuked. It is expected to be delivered in a way that brings conviction and a desire to repent. We should approach the need to rebuke with humility, love, and a clear desire for the deliverance of those to whom the rebuke is given. After all, the scripture says the desired outcome of sharp rebuke is to help those that hear it to be sound in the faith.
There were two things in particular that Paul felt it needful to be included in this rebuke. First, we are admonished to not adhere to (give heed) to religious myths (Jewish fables). While we may not necessarily be plagued by strictly Jewish fables, the world is rife with religious myths. These myths include the notion that we serve a God who has to wait on the decision of His creation before He can act on their behalf and the idea that Jesus’ death on the cross was simply not enough. We need to always declare, with love and power, that Jesus is alwaysenough!
The second thing that we are specifically warned against is falling prey to the commandments of men. Even when the injunctions of men may seem well-intentioned on the surface, our rule should always come from the word of God through the leadership of the Holy Ghost. These two things (religious fables and commandments of men) turn people from the truth. Following these things causes us to seek the ways that seem right to a man (Pro 14:12), but the conclusion of doing so is always separation (death).
May the desire of our hearts be always to admonish ourselves and others with God’s word to the end that we may have a healthy faith and be grounded in the truth of Jesus Christ!