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Steer Clear! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
April 1, 2022 4:00 am

Steer Clear! (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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April 1, 2022 4:00 am

Disagreements arise in the local church just like they do in any organization or family. Some controversies can be beneficial, but others are divisive. Learn how to know the difference and to steer clear of danger, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Music playing I invite you to turn with me Chapter 3. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness but according to his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.

Knowing that such a person is warped and sinful, he's self-condemned. When I send Artemis or Tichicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I've decided to spend the winter there. Do your best, to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way, see that they lack nothing.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works so as to help cases of urgent need and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Thanks be to God for his Word. Gracious God, we humbly pray that what we know not you will teach us, what we have not you will give us, and what we are not you will make us, for your Son's sake.

Amen. Well, we're coming close to the end of these studies in Titus, and it's important for us to remind ourselves that Titus had received a very clear assignment from the apostle Paul. And this letter was a follow-up to that assignment—the assignment we can read of in verse 5 of chapter 1, where Paul says to him, This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. All of us who have any part in any kind of organization at all understand that delegation is an essential extension of effective leadership.

It is really impossible to be a leader of any use whatsoever unless one is willing and able to delegate, and to delegate in such a way that people are able to serve effectively. And Paul, we see from all of his letters, is someone who is more than willing to do that. He was not only willing to do it, he was able to do it, and you don't see it any clearer than what we find in these pastoral epistles in writing to Timothy as a young pastor, and here also writing to Titus. He not only provides Titus with a very clear job description, but he also gives him helpful and careful instructions so that he is enabled to complete the task. And the chapters of Titus are essentially the helpful and careful instruction so that Titus can be about the business of exercising pastoral leadership in the congregations here on the island of Crete. We noted last time that the role of Titus is that of a pastor and of a teacher, and he, like Timothy, therefore needs to be the kind of individual who is studying to show himself approved to God—this is 2 Timothy 2.15—a workman that doesn't need to be ashamed, because he is rightly dividing the Word of truth so that when his people listen to the instruction of God's Word, they're able to read it for themselves, they're able to parse it, they're able to cross-reference it, and they're able to adjudicate on whether this individual is actually a servant of the Word or not.

And we saw last time that this involved, first of all, being prepared to affirm what is profitable. And we noted that Titus had a reliable message. It was trustworthy, verse 8, that he himself was to be a resolute messenger, insisting on these things, putting his foot down, as it were, and then in turn that the congregations in Crete would be a responsive congregation, and that the result would be that they devoted themselves to good works.

And we tried to think a little about what that might mean. Now, from verse 8 into verse 9, he moves, if you like, from the positive to the negative, where he gives instruction about what should not be taking place. If verse 8 is what Titus is to affirm, then verse 9 is what Titus is to avoid. And we're going to notice in verse 9 just the issues that are to be avoided, and then in verses 10 and 11 the kind of person who is to be confronted.

All right? So that's the layout for the time that we have. Verse 9, what are the kind of issues that are to be avoided? And then in 10 and 11, what is the kind of person who is to be confronted? Well, first of all, the issues he outlines for us. Avoid, he says, foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law. And then he tells us why, for they are unprofitable and worthless. So, essentially, he's saying, I don't want you to waste your time on this stuff, Titus.

Don't waste your time, and don't waste anyone else's time. Now, for cross-references in relationship to this, I commend you—and I'm not going to turn all the way through this all the time—but to 1 Timothy, to chapter 1, and verse 3 through to verse 11, where in the context of Ephesus Paul is giving instruction concerning false teachers. And then in chapter 2 of 2 Timothy, and in verses 23–26, you will find that this is a fairly familiar refrain for Paul. This is a concern that is not unique to Crete.

It's not a concern that was unique to simply a time in history or to a place in geography. But it is an ongoing concern for any and all who become pastors and teachers. And so the pastor is to flee the youthful passions and to pursue righteousness. And then in verse 23 of 2 Timothy 2, he is to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies, because he points out in that context, because you only know that they breed quarrels, and that's no good, because the Lord's servant is not to be quarreling.

All right, well, I think that's fairly straightforward, isn't it? Here are the issues that are to be avoided. But there are two questions that emerge. The first is, what does he mean by this?

What does he mean by this? He is clearly not ruling out all controversy. Paul himself is not unfamiliar with controversy.

You only need to read the opening of the book of Galatians to realize how concerned he was about the issues of the gospel, how prepared he was on one occasion to take Peter on to his face, although he was also an apostle, and at the very heart of it all was the issue of the gospel. And as we've already seen in chapter 1 here of Titus, he is concerned that those who are false teachers would be rebuked sharply in order that they might be sound in the faith. So we have to immediately recognize that this is not a blanket condemnation of controversy. When I was in England in March, one of the people at the conference gave an address on the benefits and dangers of controversy. The benefits and dangers of controversy.

And I never really thought much about it until I sat and listened. And he pointed out how theological controversy gave rise, for example, to the creeds, the Nicene Creed, and so on, as people recognized that there were controversial views of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, and that controversy gave rise to the creeds. Those controversies have given rise to catechisms in order that people might understand what it is that we affirm. And it was controversy, of course, which gave rise to the Reformation itself, as the flame of the gospel was lit in the heart of Martin Luther, and as he realized just how controversial it was going to be for him to challenge the papal authority, for him to uphold his discovery of a righteousness that was not his righteousness, making him acceptable to God, but a righteousness that was in Christ, that was by grace, through faith, in Jesus alone. And out of that controversy, the history of the church has emerged. In the sixteenth century in England, it was controversy which allowed Ridley and Latimer to remember light of flame, such as may never be put out. And why was that flame lit? Why, in 1555, were they chained up to stakes in the center of Oxford and burned at the stake? Because the issue was the doctrine of justification. How is a sinner put right with God? Because the issue was the atonement.

What does it mean that there is a sacrifice once and for all? And how quickly they were followed by Cranmer. Within six months, Cranmer was also put there. And you perhaps don't remember the words of Cranmer. You remember better the quote from Ridley and Latimer, from Latimer to Ridley, Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall today, by God's grace, light a candle in England, as I trust will never be put out.

And here we are all these years later. Cranmer, who was wrestling with the beginning of Titus chapter 3—remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities—found himself in the most difficult of situations because Mary, the queen, insisted on him exercising his jurisdiction within the framework of Roman Catholicism. And so he then, in trying to be a good citizen a la Titus chapter 3, wrote letters of submission to Her Majesty's authority. Every one he wrote, except the last one he tore up. Wrote it once and tore it up, a second time and tore it up, a third time and tore it up, a fourth time and tore it up, and the fifth time he sent it to her, I submit to your authority even though you're asking me to violate the gospel. And the queen said, You don't even believe what you wrote in the letter, and I'm still gonna burn you at the stake. And when Cranmer was burned at the stake, he said, I have sinned in that I signed with my hand what I did not believe with my heart.

And the hand with which he signed the letter he placed first in the flames and let it burn. So let's be really clear here. Paul is not saying any kind of controversy is out. That's why it's important to look carefully at our Bibles, and you will notice that the adjective is the thing that keeps us on track. He says, I want you to make sure that you avoid foolish controversies. Foolish controversies.

In other words, where theology is replaced with mythology, where biblical convictions are challenged by human concoctions, where the discoveries in the Bible that people want to point us to are right up there with the sightings of the Loch Ness Monster—absolutely hopeless and worthless stuff. And some people rejoice in that. I get lots of letters, as you know, and some of them are just completely fascinated and want me to engage in all kinds of foolish controversy. But I'm able to tell them that I can't, because it says in the Bible that I mustn't. It gets me off the hook quite a lot.

It's wonderful. Not everybody agrees that the controversy is foolish. Most of them don't think it is. But it is enough that the Bible covers it for us. And what about the genealogies? Are we not supposed to pay attention to the introduction that we have in the Gospel of Luke and in the Gospel of Matthew? Aren't they there for our benefit?

Of course they are. Now, why do we have the genealogies? Well, the genealogies are present there in order that the readers of them might know that Jesus is a very man, that he is a true man, that he is a real man, that this Jesus is the seed of Abraham, that Jesus is the great King who sits on David's throne. So we read the genealogies in order to discover that Christ is the Redeemer promised in the Old Testament. But that's not what these people were doing.

No. They found in the genealogies all kinds of speculative ideas and concepts, and they managed to fiddle with them in such a way as to rest them to their own destruction. Says Calvin, the Holy Spirit does not provide the genealogies so that we might wander into heedless speculations. And you know what it is.

It happens every year. Somebody says, Have you read the hidden Gospel of Thomas? And did you know that there were three other people whose name was X? And if you multiply them and then spin them around three times and turn them upside down and read your Bible backwards, you will discover that this is everything that you've ever needed to know about the Bible. It's such nonsense, isn't it?

I had a fellow start on that stuff with me this week. I had to bite my tongue every time he mentioned it. He was telling me an elaborate story about someone with an unpronounceable name. And I just wearied from it. I said, Dear, dear. But it wasn't my place to set him right at that point.

Because you can only do so much when you're playing golf with people. But anyway, but avoid—he's trying to get me off my game, you see—but avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, and what about these dissensions and quarrels about the law? Dissensions and battles about the law. Well, I think this is where you need to go back to verse 10 of chapter 1 to help us to discover that this element here is present, and it was unsettling, folks, in Crete. Notice, there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers.

You see that adjective again? They talk. A lot of talk.

But it's empty talk. They want to engage in controversy. They want to get you all tied up in genealogies. They want to quarrel about the matters of the law. And especially, he says, those of the circumcision party. So the inference is that these individuals treated the law of God, the Old Testament in its entirety, perhaps the Jewish law in particular, as a kind of happy hunting ground for their speculations. And Paul says to Titus, Make sure that you don't get embroiled in this stuff. Make sure that your people don't become masters of this. You will have folks who are able to provide plenty of speculative hot air, and you will have people who have itchy ears that twitch every time there is the sound of this nonsense in the air.

It's like a little rabbit listening. Whoa! And there are people just like that. It's a speculative hot air is now in the breeze. There we go.

There's some good stuff coming now. Avoid. Avoid these things.

That's what he means. Well, why does it matter? He tells us why it matters—the reason it matters. Because when you have the inventiveness of these false teachers matched by the curiosity of naïve listeners, it may create the impression that there is a sort of meaningful debate and wonderful discovery being made. But not so says Paul, because these sort of things are unprofitable and worthless.

They're worse than quack remedies for physical ailments. Don't you tire of that stuff on the radio? Do you ever hear these people selling everything?

It's usually in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning when all good people should be asleep or at work. And, you know, I hope you don't buy that stuff. And maybe you do. Maybe you sell it.

Then I feel even worse, I suppose. But I always find myself saying, Does this fellow really expect me to believe this? And especially when he tells me that I will get the third bottle for nothing, you know? It's so wonderful that we're giving the junk away. But if you rub it, whatever… No, I mean, that stuff, those quack remedies for physical ailments, we can handle. We can fiddle with them if we want. They're just absolutely useless. They're usually not harmful. I haven't discovered anybody growing a second nose with it or anything unusual like that.

Usually they're either self-verifiable or they just get put in the bottom of the medicine cabinet. But what he's saying here is that this kind of stuff is actually harmful. You see, this harms people. When people begin to get a mindset that treats the Word of God, the truth of God, as some kind of gigantic jigsaw puzzle whereby they can move the pieces around to suit their own satisfaction, then they will be chaotic. And so these things are to be avoided because they lead nowhere, and they settle nothing.

They lead nowhere, they settle nothing. There is certainly a huge difference between the questions of someone who is sincerely seeking the truth and the divisive speculation of what Alistair called empty talkers. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Let me remind you, if you're enjoying Alistair's sermons from the book of Titus, you can hear his teaching through all three chapters at your convenience.

Maybe you missed a message and want to get caught up, or you'd like to relisten to a message or share it with a friend. The series is titled Get It Right. You can find these messages available for free online at, or you can search for the series in our mobile app, or you can purchase the teaching on a USB drive for a cost of $5. Telling people about Jesus and his power to save is what we're all about.

Alistair's teaching reaches people in thousands of locations through radio, via our free app on YouTube. Those are just a few of the ways people connect with us, and it's all because of your prayers and your giving. Our practice at Truth for Life is to offer as many free or at-cost resources as possible. We want to provide clear, relevant Bible teaching to anyone who desires to learn more. We're able to do this because of our Truth Partners. These are generous listeners like you who have agreed to pray for the ministry and who give consistently to help cover the cost of producing this daily program. If you're not already a Truth Partner, I want to invite you to become part of this essential team today. Your monthly giving allows us to tell a worldwide audience about God and about his plan of salvation.

Give us a call today at 888-588-7884 to become a Truth Partner, or you can sign up easily on the app or online at slash truth partner. And when you sign up to become a Truth Partner, we want to say thanks by inviting you to request two monthly book offers. Our featured book today is a new release from Sinclair Ferguson, a book we're recommending as you begin to prepare for Easter. It's titled Lessons from the Upper Room. In the book, Sinclair invites you to imagine that you're present in the private upper room where Jesus and his disciples gathered on the evening before Christ's death. The book is a close-up examination of the scene described in the Gospel of John in chapters 13 through 17. As Sinclair explains, it's here that we're given a window into Jesus' heart, his instructions for his followers, and the promise that he will prepare a place in God's kingdom for all who believe.

These chapters in Scripture overflow with foundational teaching from Jesus. When you read Lessons from the Upper Room, Sinclair Ferguson will help you navigate it all and understand it more thoroughly. Be sure to request the book when you sign up to become a monthly Truth Partner, or you can request Lessons from the Upper Room when you give a one-time donation. Just visit slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you enjoy your weekend and hope you can join us Monday for the conclusion of today's message. We'll find out what to do when we find a wolf in sheep's clothing. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-13 11:35:30 / 2023-05-13 11:44:06 / 9

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