Tit 3:8-11 “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”
Paul asserts here that his reasoning (saying) is faithful (trustworthy). He knows this to be true from His own experience with our Lord and Savior. He has lived these things and seen them at work in the lives of others. The admonition that Paul has given in his letter to Titus bears a thorough and constant confirmation to the people that have believed in God.
Our belief in God is closely aligned with good works. There are some that say believing in the absolute sovereignty and election of God is a license to live any way we choose. However, Paul clearly teaches here that true belief in God engenders in us the desire to maintain good works. A true belief in God is sufficient to cause us to make a conscious effort (careful) to practice (maintain) virtuous actions.
The scripture plainly tells us the reason why good works are important. Good works do not in any fashion obligate God to do something for us. Our good works do not gain anything for God. Further, our good works are not to be performed out of selfish desires. Works that are truly good in the eyes of God are valuable and helpful to our fellow man. Thus, true belief in God will lead us to do things that are good for those around us and do them in a manner that gives God the glory.
We are further instructed that actions are better than words. There has been much heartache in the churches over the years because men got caught up in foolish disputes. Men have been judged, for good or ill, because of their lineage. Men have divided over the genealogy of their religion in tracing their origin through this or that individual. It was this thinking that Paul addressed in First Corinthians 1:12. The simple truth is if we are the church of the living God, then we have only one source to look to.
The scripture goes on to tell us that quarreling (contentions) and fighting (strivings) about legalities are also to be avoided. These things are worthless and empty in the church. They often lead to hard feelings to the extent that the congregation becomes divided. When a brother is determined to be divisive, we are to avoid that brother. In order to do this, we need to fully examine what it means to be “an heretick.”
When we think of heresy, we generally think of false teaching. However, the Greek word “heretic” literally means “a schismatic.” A schismatic is someone who fosters a division. While that division could be about doctrine, it can just as easily be about a lack of charity toward others. Lust for power or preeminence is often at the root of heresy, even if doctrine is adhered to. Over the years, churches have split over such things as what type of hymnal would be used or whether to have night services.
We are clearly admonished to reject false prophets and teachers. Here, Paul is telling us that even if a man is not teaching something that is patently false, we are to reject him if he is willing to cause division just to get his way. Paul says we know that anyone who would do this is subverted and is sinning by this action: His own behavior condemns him.
May we never just give lip service to the work of faith, but live in a way that testifies of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ!