As Paul continues in his letter to Titus, in chapter 1 verses 10-16 we see that the importance of qualified elders is explained in regard to the job that they do using sound doctrine to exhort and to convict those who are living in contradiction to the truth. Teaching sound doctrine is their duty because there are always false teachers and those who twist the truth of God’s Word trying to lead people astray.
The Church has never been without false teachers. In fact, most every epistle contained in the New Testament addresses some doctrinal error or false teaching that has crept in and is affecting the lives and daily walk of the congregation. No church is exempt from attempts at infiltration by our true Enemy, the great Deceiver who appears as an Angel of Light. In fact, Satan loves to spread division, to appeal to our pride and our lust to drive us apart. In doing so he manipulates our own fallen flesh to sow discord among brethren to silence our witness and destroy our testimony so that others are not draw to Christ through us.
The truth is that there are false teachers out there trying to get in to our churches. They try to become teachers, pastors, and often these days even bring evil influences to bear through programs, methods, books, and other resources made available to the church all in the name of reaching more people for Christ. Sadly what they do to reach people is to make the gospel more palatable to the lost. This in reality actually just diminishes and denies the very gospel that they claim to believe.
Paul says these false teachers are idle talkers (talking about things that don’t really matter or performing semantic gymnastics to keep people guessing at what they really mean), deceivers (that is they lie and deceive to convince people that what they are saying is true), and greedy (they teach false doctrine for dishonest gain). They lead whole households astray from the truth.
These false teachers trying to gain entry into our lives as instructors through whatever means possible must be rebuked sharply. Their false doctrine must be identified and discredited. Who can do this? Who should do this? Primarily this should be done by those who use sound doctrine to exhort and convict those who contradict. It is one of the tasks of qualified elders to defend the congregation against these false teachers.
That is why preaching is so important to the worship of the church. Interesting isn’t it that we have fought for over a generation about music in the church? The worship wars – fighting and dividing over traditional vs. contemporary music – have lead us to focus on the style and methodology of singing and in the wake of the battle the importance of preaching has all but been forgotten. People choose a church now based on the music and atmosphere, and rarely based on the quality of the preaching.
Quality preaching is not necessarily eloquent, but it is always anointed. It is not pleasing to men, but pleasing to God. We can tell all we need to about the health and life of a church based on what is being proclaimed from the pulpit. Is the preacher preaching to meet felt needs, making the congregation the focus, as if everything revolved around them? Or is he preaching to exalt God and His Word, to rightly explain and apply the Word to our lives with a God-ward focus? Does he preach to tell us what we can get from God or to tell us what God expects us to give for Him and others?
False teachers profess to know God. Their preaching may sound good and right for a time. But ultimately we must judge the fruit of their lives. A qualified elder will bear the fruit of the Spirit at home and in the world. An unqualified elder, a false teacher, will by his very works deny the truth of God’s Word. In fact, Paul tells Titus that false teachers and unqualified elders deny Christ, being detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Qualified elders must protect the congregation, but the congregation must also be on the lookout for those who would presume to teach the Word for personal gain all the while living in such a way that Christ is denied and self is exalted.
If we follow these false teachers then we will also eventually deny the gospel and our Savior. We will live lives that are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified.
Join us this Sunday, May 15, as we examine Titus 1:10-16 in a message titled “Disqualified”, continuing in our series “Qualities of a Sound Church.” After church we will be having a Fish Fry Fellowship. We hope to see you there.