24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 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 Timothy 2:24–26, NKJV)
We noted in yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1799) that gospel preaching gets personal by making personal applications that convict and convert. This by no means sanctions personal, verbal abuse while doing so. “Defending the truth” is not a cloak behind which envy and strife may hide (1 Cor. 3:3-4). Identifying a false teacher is not a personal attack when it is supported by Scriptural evidence of error being taught, endorsed, and promoted. Publicly identifying opponents of the truth is entirely Scriptural when it is aimed at (1) Saving the lost, and (2) Protecting the saved (see Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10). This is very different from being quarrelsome and malicious toward those same people (which today’s passage forbids). Gentleness (not weakness) – when combined with the ability to teach, endurance, and humility – produces a powerful faith that equips the servant of the Lord to correct those who oppose truth (25) so they may repent and escape the devil’s clutches (25-26). The servant of the Lord does this by remembering the “good fight of faith” is not about him, it is about laying hold of eternal life – and about helping others do the same (1 Tim. 6:12).
“holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, NKJV)
In today’s verse, the bishop (overseer or elder, Titus 1:5, 7) is charged with having unwavering devotion to the word of God he has learned. While several reasons for why he must be “holding fast the faithful word” may be cited from other passages of Scripture, Paul gives a defining reason here which explains part of his work as a bishop. His steadfast devotion to the word of God enables him to use its sound teaching to exhort and to convict those whose lives and teachings are contrary to divine truth. To exhort means to implore a person, to call near, to beseech (Strong’s). To convict means to “convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove” (Ibid). The overseer does not demand or force “gainsayers” (KJV) to stop their rebellion because of his position as overseer or because of the force of his personal character. Their rebellion is against the truth. Therefore, he uses the force and power of the “sound doctrine” of the “faithful word” to exhort and to convict those who contradict (defiantly reject) the will of God. Undoubtedly, this work of an overseer is meant to build our faith upon the word of God and not upon the force of the will, wisdom, or personality of the overseer.
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Matthew 21:45–46, NKJV)
How do you react when the Scriptures pierce through to your heart and you know they are addressing your life? Are you receptive and humbly responsive to God’s call of repentance, redemption and spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ? Or, do you castoff its rebukes and promptings like these priests and Pharisees did? They knew Jesus had been addressing their rejection of Him and God’s punishment for doing so (Matthew 21:42-44). But, they obstinately tried to silence God’s Son instead of accepting His message of truth. And, so it goes today. The truth of God’s word melts the tender heart even as it hardens the prideful heart of unbelief. Receive its indictments of sin and offerings of redemption. God’s warnings and rebukes bring life in the Son to those who are corrected by them. Those who oppose the word of Christ will be ground to powder (Matthew 21:44). Those whose hearts are broken by it will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7–11, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit is “the Helper” Jesus promised to send to His apostles, who would “guide them into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). Jesus kept His promise on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4). By the preaching of the apostles, the Holy Spirit began convicting the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. By their word, the Spirit of God convicted the audience of their sin (“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,” Acts 2:37). He convinced them how to become servants of righteousness (“repent,…and be baptized,” Acts 2:38). And, he convinced them of judgment (“save yourselves,” Acts 2:40, ESV). The Holy Spirit continues to convict the world by the inspired message of the apostles, and by it, to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).