Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11
Was Titus really supposed to tell a certain person in the church to cease causing divisions or he could lose the right to fellowship in the church? That can sound so extreme. What does this mean for us today? Does it mean all kinds of divisive people?
Divisive people are all around us. They are often Christians, not Spirit-driven, but flesh driven. They thrive to find fault with others, to nit-pick over all kinds of issues. Their negativity spreads like a cancer. Argumentative people are attracted to them and what unfolds is a community of gossipers. While this instigator should be confronted by church leadership, this is not the kind of person of whom Paul spoke. This passage is not about a disgruntled believer who loves to complain and stir up trouble.
The Greek word Paul used to identify this ‘divisive person’ was the same word for heretic. It was the only time in scripture ‘heretic’ was used. Paul knew of a certain man on the island of Crete who had turned against some of the fundamental teachings of the Gospel. He re-fashioned his own brand of the Gospel to form a doctrine that had no foundation whatsoever in the Old or New Testament. It was a doctrine conceived from his own heart and mind. His audience consisted of immature believers and discontented souls who would follow him to the point of splitting off to form a rival church. Titus was to warn this heretic twice, and if there was not repentance, he was to have nothing to do with him. The heretic was to be put outside the church lest he do more damage to God’s fragile flock who were not yet on solid footing.
Let me be clear. This was not related to the holy crusades in the Medieval church when heretics were arrested, tortured, and killed during the Inquisition. God never sends church leaders out on a killing rampage.
God loved His people on Crete and was the Shepherd of the sheep. He knew how easily the early church could fracture under the influence of someone who did not treasure the Gospel. False teaching would destroy their faith, a faith designed to anchor them to Jesus during a time of persecution. God would have been a poor shepherd if He had allowed a heretic to destroy the body.
This is comforting news for us! We have a Heavenly Father who promises to lead us home safely. That becomes quite impossible under the care of a false prophet. God must clear our path and make a way for us to walk safely under the umbrella of sound teaching. In this story of Titus and Paul, God made a way to deal with wolves who would foster instability. Sound doctrine tethers us to Jesus, the One who is Truth without compromise.
Lord, if you label someone warped, sinful, and heretical, it is for my protection. You see the heart and know what I cannot know. Give me the courage to trust You when You label something dangerous. Amen