Avoid the unprofitable, avoid the useless, avoid the worthless: Devotional Commentary for February 18-24
3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
So far in our meditation on Paul's letter to Titus, we have noticed how Paul carefully mentored his child in the faith to come to a more sound knowledge of the Truth and how to communicate the same to the believers under his care. In last week's devotional meditation, we closely observed how Paul carefully expounded on God's work of the redemption of the lost, explaining what "the appearing of God's Grace in Jesus Christ" actually meant. However, as a seasoned apostle, Paul was well aware that plain knowledge alone would not be enough to offer a fruitful teaching and an effective leadership. So he alerted Titus on the hidden hazards of ministry and counseled him on the pitfalls of Christian service which must be avoided without hesitation.
Simply put, Paul told Titus to avoid any conversation which serves no useful purpose. Actually, Paul's admonitions were quite specific. He told Titus to avoid any contentious controversies regardless of the subject matter.
It was necessary for Titus to understand that there is no redeeming merit in engaging in strife, endless arguments, and heated debates over matters of the Law, genealogies, and interpretations and implications of the Scriptures. That is, there is no virtue in fighting over the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, as God's Truth is not subject to our private judgment. Such practices simply fuel unprofitable controversies and are, therefore, foolish.
Paul was concerned for Titus that, in an effort to defend the Truth, he could possibly be drawn into an unprofitable contention with the Judaizers regarding their belief in heritage for validating their redemption, or the corrupt Cretans who might resist the merits of his teaching. But he simply told him to stay clear of such unhealthy, unprofitable, and worthless practices by continuing to teach the sound doctrine of the Gospel faithfully and courageously.
10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,
11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
We must exercise caution here lest we erroneously conclude that Paul instructed Titus to summarily ignore everyone who disagreed with him. In telling Titus to avoid contentious people, Paul was alerting him to be watchful of such people and occasions lest his ministry is subverted by unfruitful engagement. Titus was still called to preach the Gospel and teach the Truth to all who would listen through a healthy conversation leading to a profitable understanding of the Truth. Still, he must quiet the contentious and reject the factious.
However, Paul was uncompromising in telling Titus that, if anyone willfully and intentionally sought to undermine the Gospel after plainly hearing the Truth repeatedly, steps must be taken to stop the obstinate among them from sabotaging the ministry of the Gospel. Anyone who remained standing contrary to the Truth after having heard the Gospel repeatedly, would be already condemned by his or her own recalcitrant behavior. So Titus must be alert and watchful that his work would not be subverted by the fractious and by the contentious in their midst. the essence of Paul's admonition to Titus is that, no one should facilitate the work of the enemy of the Gospel by being silent, passive, or unresponsive.
12When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.
13Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them.
14Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.
15All who are with me greet you Greet those who love us in the faith Grace be with you all.
Having concluded his instructions to Titus, Paul proceeded to make arrangements to meet with Titus in person at a specified location. He invited Titus to come to Nicopolis where he intended to spend the winter; a popular Roman city on the Adriatic Sea just North of Actium.
It is obvious that Paul was quite fond of Titus. But he also deeply cared for the churches in Crete. So he promised to send Artemas or Tychicus to Crete before Titus would leave his post to come to Nicopolis to meet with him. This way, he would see his child in the faith without abandoning the churches in Crete.
Little is known of Artemas. This is the only place in the Bible that he is mentioned. Early church traditions claim that he later became the Bishop of Lystra, a town in Asia Minor. He was probably one of Paul's trusted ministry companions to have gained Paul's confidence to care for the churches in Crete while Titus was gone to Nicopolis to be with Paul in person.
The other disciple mentioned to serve the churches in Crete while Titus was gone was Tychicus who is mentioned in the New Testament more frequently. He accompanied Paul when he took an offering to the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering a severe persecution. He was also the courier of Paul's letters to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and perhaps others.
In his concluding remarks, Paul continued to encourage Titus and the churches under his care, to stay the course in doing good. He urged Titus to support Zenas and Apollos in all the things they did and places they went to serve God. Although much has not been said about Zenas, he was apparently a lawyer and a servant of God in the proclamation of the Gospel. But Apollos was an eloquent expositor of the Gospel, having been nurtured by Aquila and Priscilla.
Paul's instructions to help Zenas and Apollos in every way possible, is rooted in the principle that believers ought to be always prepared to help one another in life and in the service of God. Whether it is special needs, encouragement, or the work of the Gospel, believers constitute a godly support network standing behind the community of the faithful as living tools in the hands of God. Paul spoke from experience.
Paul closed his letter to Titus with the benediction of Love, Faith, and Grace. He loved Titus both as His child in the faith and as a fellow-laborer in the work of the Gospel. All who were with Paul also sent their greetings. Finally, Paul said his farewell to Titus with the benediction of prayer that God's grace would be with the whole body of believers on the island of Crete. These were not parting words of goodbye. Paul simply committed Titus and the churches in Crete to God's Love and Grace so that His Truth would prevail and destroy the strongholds of corruption and contention.
It would not be out of norm to assume that well-informed and deeply learned believers do indeed have a solid theological knowledge of the Scriptures and all the precepts issued by God. But Paul reminds us that, while knowledge is necessary, erudition alone does not generate faith, godly life, or a meaningful Christian service. He instructed Titus to appoint leaders who meet certain criteria and to train them in the True doctrine of God's revealed Word.
But Titus's role as a leader would not end there. As he taught the leaders he appointed, he must exemplify his teachings through an observable life of obedience. He must reflect faith and courage in what he taught and in how he lived and served. He must discern the pitfalls of serving a community infiltrated by blending intransigents.
As he exhorted Titus, Paul urges us to believe the Truth, to Speak the Truth, and to practice the Truth faithfully and courageously. He tells us to avoid foolish controversies and contentious arguments because they serve no useful purpose for the Kingdom of God. God's Truth is unassailable and can never be influenced either by the reactions or responses of the audience or by the opinion of the moderator. It does not need any defense. It speaks for itself because it is self-evident. It is the Truth; not just correct or factual, but God's revealed Truth. Therefore, any argument against the clear and accurate declaration of God's Truth is simply an act of defiance disguised as conversation, study, or an exchange of ideas.
Christians and churches alike must always be consciously aware that what God had said is enough. God said and it is so. Our call is to declare the same to the lost world both with the spoken word and a life lived accordingly. Avoiding foolish questions, heated debates, contentious arguments, and divisive controversies is essentially believing in the solidity of God's revealed Truth as given to us in the Scriptures. So, as it is to Titus, the word for us is still, be faithful and courageous in declaring the Truth and in resisting falsehood as we serve Him in our island of Crete to which He might call us.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the faithful and immediate Fellowship and Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Love and surpassing Peace of God our Father be with us all. Amen!