“Tough love” is never easy. The early church was prey to many false ideas because there were few biblical texts. Many teachers would appear claiming to be prophets or apostles.
In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as a branding iron” (1 Tim 4:1–2).
Peter likewise faced the same problem: “There will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Pet 2:1–3). Such changes are subtil, wraped up in spiritual phrases.
Titus was warned that these people were “insubordinate, both idle [or empty] talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10). Their words were appealing, but they said nothing, and they wrapped their falsehoods in distorted concepts and took biblical references out of context.
Titus’s responsibility concerning these false teachers was to ensure they were “silenced because they [were] upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach” (1:11). One of their own prophets said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (1:12); Paul added, “This testimony is true” (1:12a).
In Titus 1:13, Titus is commanded, “For this reason rebuke them sharply,” which means to “expose, shame, disgrace, or prove one in the wrong.” The word sharply means “severely, cutting off, or [to] show harshness.” False teachers are hazardous to the faith of many and must be cut out of the leadership and any influential roles to demonstrate the seriousness of the danger of incorrect doctrine.
Paul commanded us to be strict with those who contradicted the commands (“if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him” (2 Thes 3:14). This seems harsh in our pluralistic and politically correct society, but by deviating from God’s word it has damaging effects in lives. Leaders must be courageous.
Paul’s objective is “that they may be healthy in the faith”; this is tough love. Paul’s concern always was for obedience to truth without concern for whether people liked him or not. This is what makes leaders. Can you handle the responsibility?
“Lord, teach me to be as willing to give exhortation and correction as to receive the same, especially when I deserve it.”