Avoid Foolish Disputes (Titus 3:8-15)

© 2011 Tony Garlanda


  1. Chapter 1: the needs of the fledgling church in Crete
  2. Chapters 2 and 3: instructions for the believing community, the church

Titus 3:8-15

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.1

Three Primary Themes

  1. The lives of believers are to exhibit good works
  2. Unprofitable contention and strife are to be avoided
  3. Christian fellowship is to be safeguarded from disruption

First theme: The lives of believers should exhibit good works.

  1. Believers are to be careful to maintain good works.

  2. What are good works?

    1. Duty to the disadvantaged

      God's concern for the disadvantaged and vulnerable is evident in Ezekiel 22:7, “In you [Jerusalem] they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow.”

      • Elderly (including father and mother)
      • Stranger (foreigner, alien)
      • Fatherless (orphans)
      • Widows
      • Poor “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16)
    2. Duty to family

      1. Provide for family members when they are in need
        “Honor widows who are really widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God.” (1 Ti. 5:3-4)
    3. Duty to government and society

      Includes obedience to civil authorities (Rom 13:1-7; Titus 3:1)
  3. Motivation is love

    Favoring others over self. Greek word for intense love is ἀγάπη [agapē]
  4. The problem of 'sloppy agapē'

    An aspect of 'works' which is often overlooked or deemed unimportant.

    1. James - the book emphasizing the importance of works

      • “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No,' lest you fall into judgment.” (James 5:12)
      • TRANSLATION Christians are to meet their commitments!
    2. How are we doing on our commitments?

      1. Social commitments
        • Standing other people up
        • Arriving perpetually late
        • Inconsistently participating in Christian fellowship
      2. Family commitments
        • Lacking commitment to our spouses: divorce is rampant
        • Lacking commitment to our children:
          • Raising children in absentia
          • Entertaining or distracting children because it is easier than giving them our time or employing Biblical discipline
      3. Monetary commitments
        • Frequently late on paying our bills
          • Not necessarily due to lack of money
            • Misdirected priorities
            • Unbiblical financial practices
        • Unable to consistently hold down a job
          • Failure to consistently showing up to work on time
          • Working less than a full day
          • A poor investment for our boss
        • Result: unable to meet urgent needs of others (e.g., the poor)
      4. Abusing Grace
        1. Grace
          • Grace: another extends forbearance that we don’t legitimately deserve
          • Dependant upon the good will and volition of the party which has suffered wrong
          • Not unconditionally extracted or assumed by the party doing the wrong: this is presumption, not grace
        2. Extorting grace from nonbelievers
          • Paying a bill late is akin to extracting an interest-free loan from the lender, often an unbeliever
          • When unbelievers react appropriately to our “sloppy agapē,” we are quick to cry, “I’m being persecuted for the cause of Christ!”
      5. Faithful in little, faithful in much principle
        • Parable of the Ten Minas, “And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.'” (Luke 19:17)
        • God cares about the details - the little things matter: they are a tell-tale indicator of the depth of our Christian walk.
  5. Good works are a witness to God

Second theme: Unprofitable contention and strife are to be avoided

  1. What are we to avoid?

  2. Why?

Third theme: Christian fellowship is to be safeguarded from disruption

  1. Characteristics of the divisive man

  2. Example of a disrupter

  3. God’s program of discipline

    1. Initially, God’s concern is for the correction and restoration of the errant individual

      “... avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Ti 2:23�26)

      • Elders are to be gentle, patient, and humble when attempting to apply correction
      • The desire is for the disrupter to come to understand the error and repent
      • Notice too: such a person Paul says has been taken captive by the devil to do his will. What is the devil’s will?
        • To get us to play defense rather than offense.
        • To distract with questions and arguments which undermine our progress and dilute our effectiveness in ministering to those who truly are learning
        • The time-wasting power of endless questions (e.g., the child who always asks 'why?')
    2. Ultimately, God’s concern is for the safety of others in the fellowship

      “... their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.” (2Ti. 2:17-18)

      1. Separation for protection of His Sheep
        • Jesus to Peter: “Do you love Me? . . . [then] feed my sheep . . . tend My Lambs ... feed my sheep” (John 21)
        • God has established a point at which we favor protection of His sheep over restoration of the wayward individual
        • Paul evidently understood American baseball: Three strikes and you're out!
          • “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned”
          • Warped: ἐξέστραπται [exestraptai], “departed from the patterns of correct behavior”
          • “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Ti 6:3�5)
        • Assumes an authority structure is in place in order to reject the divisive one
        • Hence the need for established elders to be present in every church (Tit. 1:5)

Summary of Titus (if time)

  1. Christian fellowship is to be ordered with an established authority structure of elders
  2. The job description of an elder
  3. Qualities of a sound church
  4. Anchored between advents in the present age


1.NKJV, Tit. 3:8-15


NKJVNew King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Links Mentioned Above
a - See https://spiritandtruth.org/id/tg.htm.