No Going Back
Paul's assessment of the national temperament of the Cretan people may seem harsh. But He merely agreed with a Cretan philosopher, based on his own experience of preaching on the Island. When people received the gospel and were converted – they gladly believed God's truth, rejected lies and told the truth and became people who were kind to others. And God's energy motivated lazy people so that they started to live productively for Christ (Titus 2:11-14). However, having been raised in an evil society, the new believers found that old habits remained.
So, although believers now met together in every town, Titus had to appoint leadership to teach the people that there was 'no going back' (Titus 1:5). They were to reject their former ungodly way of life and make new godly habits which were counter-cultural (Titus 3:3-8). They were to reject the call of old religious teachings to revert to what they had known; and were to resist the appeals of new false teachers.
But their old lifestyle would be hard to break, because it was still being encouraged by the everyday culture around them. So, Paul advocated a 'zero tolerance' policy. Those who had allowed Christ to embrace them must not go back to the old ways. Those who would not listen should be rebuked (Titus 3:10-11), otherwise the gospel of God's grace would be corrupted, and the churches would crumble as the doctrinal basis for saving faith was eroded.
Although many believers hope their pastors will just encourage them, Paul commands that church members should be taught, trained, rebuked and corrected (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Christian ministry which focuses on 'teaching' and 'training', while minimising 'correcting' and 'rebuking' will miss God's intended purpose. Such teaching encourages syncretism (the merging of Christian faith with old ways of living) and will produce a sterile church, unable to reproduce gospel hearted believers, however popular it may seem to be today. So, pray for church leaders: ask the Lord to give them courageous hearts, daring to preach the truth in the face of error, willing to rebuke the rebellious, correct the confused, as well as teach and train those who are hungry to know God's will.
© Dr Paul Adams