Titus 3 is one my favorite chapters in the Bible. But I struggle with a proper interpretation of Titus 3:9: “Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” Is there a simple way to differentiate between meaningful and foolish questions? Where’s the no-go zone for Christ’s followers?
@Lauri_Lou_Jones Great question Since we are on RZIM Connect, I think we should acknowledge that all questions, if asked sincerely, have value, even if the answer is that it is the wrong question to be asking. However, I think that the false teachers highlighted in Titus and Timothy were in error in two distinct ways:
- their life did not match their teaching - if we see teachers who claim to have amazing revelations but are living in sin, then we should not heed their teaching because they are denying God with their life
- their teaching did not build up believers or lead them deeper into the obedience that comes from faith no, instead it simply led to empty speculation. Empty speculation takes our minds off of Christ and puts them on questions that lead nowhere. I think some good examples are looking for word patterns in the Bible or trying to trace the lineage of a particular race back to the Jews or trying to determine the date when Jesus will return. Those things have the potential to take the focus off of Christ and put it somewhere else - on empty speculation.
Hope that helps
Myths and interminable genealogies . These myths were legendary tales characteristic of the false teachers in Ephesus and Crete. See parallels in [1 Tim 4:7]; [2 Tim 4:4]; and [Titus 1:14]. They were perhaps built by speculation from the patriarchal narratives in the OT; hence the connection with genealogies and with wanting to be teachers of the law. NET Bible
1 Timothy 1:3-7 - As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. 5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.
Titus 1:13-16 - For this reason rebuke them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith 14 and not pay attention to Jewish myths and commands of people who reject the truth. 15 All is pure to those who are pure. But to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed.
How to Grow
I think Peter gives us a great outline on how to grow in Christ rather than partake in empty speculation. One of my favorite passages.
2 Peter 1:3-11 - His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
@SeanO, really helpful answer!! Thank you!! Will mull that over.
Proverbs mentions 5 types of people you meet. Steadfast fool, scoring fool, and a sensual fool. We don’t answer a fool according to there folly. We change the question. If we give the right answer to a wrong question the answer or the dialogue will be incorrect. Proverbs mentions simple and silly fools. After a short conversation you will know which type person your talking to. If the person seems insincere we ask, if l answer your questions correctly to your satisfaction will you repent and follow Jesus? If they answer no then they are building a straw man and no answer will satisfy them. If they think or give sincere thought plz give them as much help as they need. We have given hours of dialogue to these 2 groups. We do sidewalk counseling, we share at colleges and intercity communities. A great book is tactics by Greg Koukl.
I think in Paul’s writing to Titus in the quote you used, Paul is warning Titus not to get involved in ongoing debates around legalistic arguments about salvation with people in the church who are deliberately being antagonistic, self seeking and deceptive. In chapter 2 and verse 11-12 Paul says " For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age." The Gospel is about our salvation by grace through faith, not by what laws we follow or who our parents are or whether we enforce circumcision or the like. Titus 1:10-16 makes this clear who the people Paul is referring to who are causing trouble in the church. These are people not seeking truth but teaching wrong doctrine for ‘shameful gain’ (Titus 1:11).
So I think this is not talking about a person outside the church who may have arguments from lets say, a Jewish or Muslim background , of why they believe certain practices or laws are important to follow. We want to be gracious to them and give them our time and respect to respond to such questions. But if you go to church on Sunday and somebody meets you at the door and tells you that you are unwelcome because ‘members’ from your family are not welcome there, then that certainly is a very different type of discussion. But I would certainly suggest having a read through Titus again to see how some of the passages are related to each other for context.
But certainly with your question on differentiating between meaningful and foolish questions, my suggestion would be on whether the person asking is actually seeking a meaningful answer. Further questioning can often help to determine this I think. I am not entirely sure I understand your question on ‘where the no-go zone is’ so would be happy if you want to elaborate more on that question.
I hope that is of some help and a great question
Others did a great job, but for me, this is a simple criteria. “Avoid questions that doesn’t lead to answers but arguments”. Jesus was able to see the motives of the questioner when they came to Him, but we can’t always know. So just don’t get into conversations that have no eternal importance and even with definite answers don’t help the other person come to Christ.
Thank you, @ammu! Avoiding what leads only to arguments rather than answers—love your way of putting it!
Thank you, @125sMill! Appreciate your answer, as well as that recommended source!