Titus Heading: Shaped into God's Community

Bible Study Questions
Titus 3:9-15

Paul J. Bucknell

The Bible Teacher's Commentary


Titus 3:9-11 'Discerning Conversations,' part 2 of 5 of The Bible Teacher's Commentary on Titus 3:9-15, sets out for us a clear understanding on how to or not to discuss or argue with those having differing opinions or points of view from the Bible. A Bible Study is included at the end.

Titus 3:9-15 Introduction | Titus 3:9-11 Conversation | Titus 3:12-14 Relationships | Titus 3:15 Goodbyes | Titus 3:9-15 Questions

A) Discerning Conversations (Titus 3:9-11)

“But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (9-11)

Two verbs" Shun and RejectThere are two main verbs in verses 9-11: Shun (9) and reject (10). Both of them call us to stand aloof at those who have become self-appointed teachers. If Paul was such an expert in this area, we should certainly learn from his instruction. Notice his reasoning in verse 11. He concludes that the person is perverted and sinning, being self-condemned. Let’s pause and think what Paul is saying here.

Shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (9-11)

Satan has a whole series of ways to distract us from God’s truth. In this case Paul tells us to shun four things:

– foolish controversies
– genealogies
– strife
– disputes about the Law

Why? They simply are unprofitable and worthless. They don’t help us so we should avoid them. If we are not careful, those who cannot discern might believe there is some truth to these foolish words.

We are also called to reject people who speak these foolishness without accepting our warning. The word used here to pervert is to make inside out. One takes something but twists and turns it and comes up with something else. We are not talking about minor teachings. We are talking about major concepts of our Lord and His work. Paul says they are sinning. By living by false teaching, they live sinful lives.

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Observe what they teach

Let us spend a bit more time looking at what they were teaching and try to better understand how we are to respond to such things. In today’s world, write a book and you become an expert. Appear on a talk show or write a movie, and people accept what you say as true. We need to be careful who we listen to.

Paul points out in Titus 3:11 four categories of things to be shunned: foolish controversies, genealogies, strife and disputes about the Law. We cannot very well appreciate what Paul was mentioning since we live in a different kind of world, but we can understand how such conversations can get nowhere very quickly.

1 Timothy is a book similar to Titus. Evidently, they both faced somewhat similar situations. Satan was confusing the young churches. Notice what Paul said to Timothy.

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 ¶ But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7).

Not all of our conversations build up one another. I rarely argue many doctrines and false teachings. You do not often see me doing this, not because I do not like to, but because I find it as Paul had said, not profitable and without value. It is like asking, “How many angels can stand on a head of a pin?” Is it worth spending time on such issues? Absolutely not. It is irrelevant. Time spent in arguing such nonsense brings us away from discussing what should be discussed and applied to our lives. We need to focus on major truths according to their prominence in the scriptures.

Jehovah Witnesses will talk a lot about certain theological doctrines, but rare is the time they talk about the importance of self-control. Paul speaks about the importance of this. How does the truth of God shape our lives? This is the ultimate question. Speaking authoritatively on speculation is absolute nonsense. This is where the modern church has largely moved. They will talk and talk and sing and sing. They say they are open to people with all different persuasions. In the end, they have no truth by which man should be shaped into Christ’s image.

The Gnostics were noted for their genealogical discussions. This was important to them because the right knowledge about the genealogies of angels were directly linked to their salvation. They focused on what knowledge they needed to know for salvation rather than only belief in Christ. We could spend hours talking about it, but in the end, if a person is not attracted to the truth in the scriptures, then we do not see God drawing him or her. Maybe later they will be interested, but right now they are not.

These kind of discussions often turn into strife. What was a discussion, has now become an argument. Before there was nothing personal between us but now there is something hurting our relationship. We should carefully enter conversations about doctrine, and know when to step out. We cannot argue a person into belief. God needs to touch his or her heart. I am not saying that we shouldn’t speak the truth but that we need not discuss all the ramifications of their beliefs. Discuss some and then be willing to stop discussion, especially if it is not producing any real interest in the heart of the person. Strife is a form of rivalry. Often one wants to win the argument just for argument sake. This must be avoided.

Disputes are the same. Some people can crystalize exactly where conversation ends and argument begins, but most people cannot. People can argue for hours and still not be sure what they are arguing over. There was a large discontented Jewish population that were unwilling to listen to the scriptures and the proclamation of Jesus the Messiah as Lord and Savior. They kept focusing on issues of the past. They just couldn’t get it. That was the old covenant. Now there is a new one. Why keep talking of the old? It just didn’t make sense. If the purpose of the old was to point to the new, once the new is here, the old loses its importance. For example, does it matter what counts as an imperfect lamb? Not now. Back then, it did.


We need to remember that we need godly men and women who know God’s truth. But if you do not become committed to the church of God, then you cannot be used as God wants to use you. We need to know how to clear minds of those who were falsely taught by Gnostic scriptures, but even more we need to have brothers and sisters who love God’s Word.

Dealing with False Teachers

Paul lists some common points in dealing with those who are confused in their false teaching.

1) Identifying them (a factious man)

Paul is not very willing to put up with these people. They are confused, but they are much more. They are certain. They have this false faith which puts them in a whole different category. The confused person says, “I don’t know.” But the contentious says, “You are not right.” Before going on, let us understand a bit more about arguments.

Is it right to argue about scriptures?

We find here Paul says to rebuke a person and if once or twice they are not willing to listen, then stand aloof from them. It seems that Paul is unwilling to argue. This is interesting because Paul was a skilled apologist. He was trained to argue fine points. We see how he can do this in books like Romans. Very few of us are so skilled as he. He did not say he would train us how to debate them. We must put less confidence in our abilities to argue the skeptics to belief. Generally, we can easily tell the difference. A seeker wants to know; the prideful is willing to look down on God’s word.

2) Talk with them (at first)

Here are a guidelines in conversations with those who are argumentative.

• It is always okay to explain the truth of God’s Word to those who are interested.
• It is okay to explain God’s Word to someone with a strong opposing opinion once or twice.
• It is wrong to keep arguing with someone who clearly opposes God’s Word.

3) Refusing to argue (a second warning)

There are two main verbs in verses 9-11: Shun (9) and reject (10). Both of them call us to stand aloof at those who have become self-appointed teachers. If Paul was such an expert in this area, we should certainly learn from his instruction. Notice his reasoning in verse 11. He concludes that the person is perverted and sinning, being self-condemned. (For more discussion see postscript– Observe what they teach).

The word used here to pervert is to make inside out. One takes something but twists and turns it and comes up with something else. We are not talking about minor teachings. We are talking about major concepts of our Lord’s life and His work. Paul says they are sinning. By living by false teaching, they live sinful lives.

A rejection of the truth of God brings with it a life of sin. They use their thoughts to develop a thinking that enables them to justify immoral living or otherwise sinful lifestyles. Paul has alluded to this all along in this book.

He points out what the men, young men, women, young women are to do. If they cannot accept this, then they show themselves that they are being driven by something other than God’s truth. This is confusion. But if they go ahead and start teaching others to do something different from the scriptures, then we know they have rejected God’s Word. In Romans, Paul is more careful to show how the rejection of truth is connected with a rejection of upright living. But here, at the closing of the book, he does not time to elaborate.

The Devices of the Evil One

The Devices of the Evil OneThe apostle was concerned with delivering the powerful truth of God to the people of God. They are the ones who have come to love God’s Word. They treasure it. Satan, however, is clever in his tactics. He figures if he can confuse the young Christian, then he can strip the Christian from any real power. If it is the truth of God that builds up the Christian, then it makes sense to attack the means by which truth enters the minds and hearts of God’s people. What means does he use? He has a number of tricks.

Keep away

The oldest and most common method was to keep God’s Word away from God’s people. By that, I mean, keep the actual text away from God’s people. Books were luxury items in the past. Only the richest could afford them. But also, a book would not help a person if they were illiterate. So he tried to keep education back. Another means was to keep the Word of God from being translated into their language. The church worked along with the evil for many centuries by keeping the scriptures largely in the Latin version. Latin as a common language phased out earlier on but, they kept using it to speak the Word of God to the people. The people did not understand it. This changed in the 1500-1600s with Martin Luther and others. Wycliffe, in the 1300s, faced persecution for translating the Bible into English. A new form of ‘keep away’ is to make the possession or purchase of a Bible illegal.

Keep unmotivated

But once book publishing became common, and it became legal to read the Bible, Satan had to come up with other devices. A common means the evil one uses is to cultivate slothfulness. A person has very little motivation. He never gets around to doing what he think he should. Part of this is the lack of discipline to read God’s Word. Part of it is the way the evil one chips away at your faith. You really no longer believe the Word of God is important and is helpful. Sometimes this is because the evil one has caused you to lose hope in God’s Word because you have failed God. You feel bad about your failure.

Keep distracted

This is the evil one’s most common techniques. The question today is not whether the Bible is available but whether one has time to read it. We have too many choices. We are distracted with a very busy life. There are two popular forms.

1) People are too busy.

People are extra busy. They are busy students, researchers, have children, get sick, and the list goes on. The evil one has his special agents about you to keep you from God’s Word. He reminds you of a phone call you need to make, that quiz, that job interview. He always keeps your mind going so you don’t study God’s Word. I recently met up with someone and asked how many times he read his Bible each week. About twice he said. I challenged him with each day. No physical food until we have our spiritual food. Unless we make reading God’s Word a priority, it will rarely just happen.

2) People are caught in the mode entertainment.

Entertainment is a snare of its own, and although it has many forms, it is inherently not wrong or evil. Some forms are clearly wicked. Entertainment, however, possesses a form of enticement which stirs up desires and pursuits. Sometimes it is competition. We just must win. Sometimes it is stimulation. Sometimes curiosity. It is amazing to see the company Youtube bought up for 1.65 billion. The company just started one year ago! Myway, another web sharing site, has just escalated in popularity. People just love relating to others. Nothing is wrong with this. Entertainment has its evil side too, though. Sometimes lust. At other times violence. People get lured in and ‘got caught’ watching.

Many factors are at work. But one must remember, the time, not to mention the money, one spends in entertainment is not spent in God’s Word. For us, it is a harmless passing of time, but from Satan’s viewpoint, it is his way he keeps God’s people spiritually anemic. Learn to set times and limits before one starts playing. Never play if one has not read God’s Word. If you say to yourself, I will first read God’s Word, but find yourself only thinking of playing, then you should know that you have the evil one tempting you. Rebuke him with a simple decision that you will not play or go to that website all that day. You will use that time to read God’s Word.

Keep Confused

There are a number of ways to confuse God’s people. Let me point out a few but talk largely about the one that Paul writes about in Titus. It happens to be the same one that we have been warned against in the last times and is now growing in popularity.

Cults. Cults claim to hold God’s Word but do not genuinely believe in Christ. They are deceptive. Before Jehovah Witnesses would call the church the Babylon in the Scriptures, but now talk softly and say they are Christians too. They have a special and memorized way of interpreting the Bible convincing their predators.

Mormons (Church of the Latter Day Saints) are the same. When one actually gets down to their beliefs, they resemble some Hindu religion with a plethora of gods (each person becomes a God) rather than the worship of the one true God.
But the most devious, perhaps, are those without a name. In the early church, they faced what we now know as Gnosticism.

It has come alive again with the popularity of the discovery and publishing of Gnostic scriptures. I expect their popularity will grow even though the stories are nonsense and the teachings are heavily infiltrated by Gnostic doctrine. This is not because they speak truth, but because they speak what people want to hear.

Please understand, the truth of God in all its power, is totally revolutionizing. But few are the Christians who are discipled in God’s Word. Few are mentored. Most are content with going to church but never learn to study God’s Word on their own. They are susceptible. Others, of course, are focused on mystical experiences. They are willing to pay more attention to their experiences or the experiences of others. This is where a lot of these cults get started. “What happened to you?” “Really, tell me more about it.”

When people talk about foolish things in a straight forward manner, people become gullible. Their method works, because there are people who don’t really study the scriptures for themselves. They rather watch a film than read God’s Word. Read the Bible and instantly you know the truth. They are unsure because they have never seriously read what God has said in His Word.

The next section on Titus 3:12-14 focuses on having right relationships. Next =>


Other BFF articles for further study:
Detecting Errors in and outside the church
Battle for the Truth (Origin of the Bible)

    Book of Titus: The Bible Teacher's Commentary

    Titus Outline | Titus Map | Titus Commentary (see below)
    Intro to Titus | Titus 1:1-4 | Titus 1:5-9 | Titus 2:1-2 | Titus 3:9-15

    Titus 1:1a Calling | Titus 1:1-4_Introduction | Titus 1:1-3 Calling | Titus 1:4 Training | Titus 1:1-4 Questions

    Titus 1:5-9 Introduction | Titus 1:5 Organization | Titus 1:5 Leadership | Titus 1:6-9 Standards | Titus 1:5-9 Questions

    Titus 2:1-2 Introduction | Titus 2:1 Beliefs | Titus 2:2 Lives | Titus 2:1-2 Questions

    Titus 3:01-4 Questions | Titus 3:09-15 Introduction | Titus 3:09-11 Conversation
    Titus 3:12-14 Relationships | Titus 3:15 Goodbyes | Titus 3:09-15 Questions


    Book of Titus - Inductive Bible Training Study Questions Series

    Learn how to do inductive Bible Studies! Purchase here

    Inductive Bible Study Questions: Introduction | Book study
    Study Questions: Titus 1:1-4 | Titus 1:5-9 | Titus 1:10-16
    Titus 2:1-10 | Titus 2:11-15 | Titus 3:1-8 | Titus 3:9-15

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    New American Standard Bible used

    Biblical Foundations for Freedom

    By Paul J. Bucknell