“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.
9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them. (Ezekiel 6:9–10, NKJV)
Israel was unfaithful to God by committing adultery with idols. The Lord was crushed by their adulterous heart as their eyes pursued harlotry. Clearly, the rebellion of His people grieves the Lord (Psalm 78:40-42). So, He understands the pain caused when a spouse is unfaithful. He knows the crushing grief of a child rebelling against parental rule and God’s will. Experiencing such pain causes some to compromise God’s will to avoid the emotional trauma of such rejection. But, a temporary “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a winning spiritual strategy (Jeremiah 6:14-16). Though crushed, God punished Israel for her sins while leaving a remnant to escape and reclaim their faith (Ezekiel 6:1-8). Our sin crushes the heart of God, but He will not abandon truth to win us back. Instead He calls on us to repent and to return to faithfulness, warning us of eternal punishment if we persist in our sin. May we quickly sorrow over what our sin does to the heart of God and to the hearts of our loved ones, and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isaiah 30:8–10, NKJV)
God wanted there to be no doubt as to why Israel would come under the penalty of His judgment and be fragmented as a nation (Isaiah 30:12-14; Jeremiah 30:11). The prophet’s inscription of God’s word has left an indelible explanation that instructs us today. Like the rebellion of lying children who refuse to obey their parents, Israel rebelliously rejected and opposed God’s servants the prophets (Jeremiah 7:23-27). They rebelled at His word and called for smooth teachings instead of the right things of God. They were willing to be deceived by sin and error. Their rebellion was their downfall. Do not argue against the word of God. Do not call for smooth teachings that feel good but deny the truth (God’s word). One who refuses the truth of God is in rebellion against God. That is a most unenviable, most repulsive, place to be. If that is where you are, leave your rebellion and go back to your heavenly Father. He is merciful, and ready to forgive (Luke 15:11-24).
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” (Isaiah 30:8–11, NKJV)
The rebellion of Jerusalem was reaching a climax in the days of Isaiah. God told Isaiah to announce their spiritual condition without ambiguity. They were rebellious liars who refused to listen to God’s word. They preferred “smooth things” – false messages that soothed their ears yet deceived their hearts. Therefore, they were on a path away from the Holy One of Israel — and they liked it that way! This still happens today. Better to hear and accept the stinging rebuke of truth that leads to repentance, correction and divine mercy, instead of rebelliously refusing to listen to God’s word and by doing so, push God out of your life.