The Challenge of Faith: Differences

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By: Raymond Harris
Contributor: Bryan Walden
Regarding Scripture: Titus 3.8-11

Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of Titus in conjunction with this article.

The Challenge of Faith: Differences

Welcome to our closing study of Titus, and what is also our closing study of Paul’s letters to the evangelists, Timothy and Titus. Hopefully, it has been as profitable a study for the reader as it has been for this writer. Our Elder, Bryan Walden, has asked us to look at some verses from the third chapter of Titus. While our Elder found the first six verses worthy of study, he has asked that we spend our brief period of time looking at verses nine through eleven. These verses should prove to be interesting and challenging, but the primary reason these were chosen was concern for the brevity of article space. With that in mind, let us begin our look at these few verses of Titus chapter three.

A Sacred Faith
As believers, at some point, someone shared with us not just the Bible, but faith in God and his son. Because of our gratefulness and our need to spiritually mature, we have looked up to them. We believed them. They helped us in our understanding of the Bible, not to mention how they have inspired us.

They inspired us to be more than what we were. They inspired us to be more of what God wants us to be. They shared their faith with us, and in some ways their faith has become ours. Without mentors, without teachers, without those who cared enough to share, all we can say, really, is that we would be different people.

We not only hold these mentors near to our hearts, their convictions can also have a major influence on our faith. Their convictions can become personal to our individual faith, and so valuable that each of us can hold these things not just near and dear, but sacred. While each believer has at center faith in God and faith in his son, sometimes these items we hold sacred can cause tension between us as brothers and sisters. Now, tension is not always negative, yet sometimes it is difficult when others hold as sacred, matters of faith that differ from ours. It seems that this tension is at the center of Paul’s comments in Titus 3.8-11.

A Sacred Work
Closing an important communication to Titus about teaching a church (please refer to our previous article Sound Doctrine), Paul leaves a final admonishment to Titus. The reason it is considered the last item is because from verse twelve to the end of the chapter and letter, Paul primarily includes personal items regarding Titus in the last four verses. Perhaps an exception could be argued for the application of verse fourteen.

While our Elder has asked us to consider verses nine through eleven, we will include verse eight. Verse eight is Paul’s concluding thought to his previous statements, and it is important that we see verse eight as a concluding statement because verse nine begins with the word but which begins counterpoint thoughts that stand in contrast to Paul’s previous arguments, yet still considered part of “a faithful saying.” With that in mind, let us consider Paul’s spiritual insight as translated by the King James:

     This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
     But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.1

These short verses help address what can be a great congregational difficulty. The goal seems twofold: one, maintain peace; and two, reject those who do not seek peace because they squabble. Aiming for and maintaining peace is a worthy goal yet it is difficult. While the word reject is more difficult and requires more time, we should spend just a moment defining this word. Strong’s2 helps identify the word reject by using the words shun, and avoid. Why shun and avoid those that squabble? It seems that their aim is not to be at peace with the church. While this topic deserves a study itself, our article space requires us to focus more on the first goal – maintaining peace.

While Paul wrote this advice to Titus, an evangelist working with the churches in Crete,3 it seems that based upon verse eight, Titus was to make the Christians aware of this advice from Paul. Part of that advice of doing good work is maintaining peace. Peace, according to Paul, is found in verse nine – that being avoiding certain arguments because these arguments prove ultimately to be non-helpful to the church and empty to edification.

Church peace, congregational harmony, Christian brothers and sisters living amongst differences of scriptural and doctrinal interpretation and application requires tremendous sacrifice by all. Doing this is not a sacrifice of principle, ethics, or morals; doing this is a full out application of Romans 14. In the face of interpretive differences, love for each other triumphs over differences. Dreaming of accomplishing this goal is a beginning. Praying for this goal is hopeful. Accomplishment of this goal is not just fulfillment of apostolic doctrine but fulfillment of divine edict via Holy Spirit inspiration.

Conclusion
Each believer is called to the sacred work of building up, encouraging, nurturing, and loving fellow believers, summarized nicely by the writer of Hebrews as, “provoking one another to love and good works.”4 It is the hardest things to realize that we can all be part of the body of Christ and yet have differences that can cause foolish controversies, quarrels and fights. There is a tight-rope that church leaders must walk between encouragement and correction, between upholding the Biblical truth and letting that truth become evidenced in the assembly of the saints.

It is no small task to achieve Paul’s goal of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”5 May our LORD and Father bless us all as we seek Paul’s goal, accepting the sacredness of our personal faith, and yet inviting each other to greater works of righteousness found in the Sacred Writings, and binding each other together with love.6

Endnotes
1. Titus 3.8-11, KJV.
2. “Reject.” Shun, Avoid. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Definitions, e-Sword 8.0.6, August 27, 2009.
3. “Titus worked in Crete.” Titus 1.5, NASB.
4. “Provoking to love and good works.” Hebrew 10.24, NASB.
5. “Righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14.17, NASB.
6. “Binding together with love.” Colossians 2.2-3, KJV.

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