Titus 3:10-11 contains what is perhaps some of the hardest words in the New Testament scriptures concerning what would be a particular case in the matter of corrective church discipline. It has to do with a certain type of person who may rise up in the life of a local church. “A person,” whom the apostle Paul describes as one, “who STIRS UP DIVISION.”
This expression is the translation of the Greek term airetikos. It’s root meaning has to do with the power of choosing, but came to characterize those people who were self-willed in their opinions and assertions which they placed above the truth, refusing even to consider views contrary to their own. In short, they are a law to themselves, having no concern for either truth or unity. It is very significant that from this same Greek word is derived the term “heretic.”
But here in Titus 3:10, Paul is employing this word to describe anyone in the church who is both divisive and disruptive. And what we must especially understand about such a person, is that they are some of the most destructive and dangerous people that any local church may have to face. Why is this? R. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Titus 3:10, answers this question by helping us to see what is behind the factious or divisive person. He writes:
Those who are divisive…lust for the fray, incite its onset, and delight in being able to conquer another person. For them victory means everything. So in an argument they twist words, call names, threaten, manipulate procedures, and attempt to extend the debate as long as possible and along as many fronts as possible.
In John Calvin’s (1509-1564) exposition of Titus 3:10, he said of the factious person that there is no end to their quarrels and disputes. They will never lack words, and they will gain fresh courage from their shameless bold endeavors to keep on fighting. And Calvin observed, that for faithful pastors, such divisive people in the church are the tools of Satan to entangle them and draw them away from their diligence and calling to shepherd the flock of God. This is why Calvin warned the church of such people by saying:
This person so described includes all ambitious, unruly, contentious people, who, led away by sinful passions, disturb the peace of the Church, and raise disputing. In short, every person who, by his overweening pride, breaks up the unity of the Church…Whenever the [stubbornness] of any person grows to such an extent, that, led by selfish motives, he either separates from the body, or draws away some of the flock, or interrupts the course of sound doctrine, in such a case we must boldly resist.
Needless to say, the factious or divisive person in the church, is not to be taken for granted nor handled with “kid gloves.” They are an opposing menace to the peace and unity of any local church. So, how then, does God inspire His apostle to instruct the church in the way they must deal with divisive people? Consider the rest of Titus 3:10 – “…after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.”
What does this mean? What’s the application we’re to follow here? It’s really simple and direct. A factious person in the church is to be given ONLY two warnings to repent. They are to be admonished concerning their divisive behavior only “twice.” And if these two efforts in calling them to repent prove ineffective and unfruitful, then the church and its leaders are to “have nothing more to do with him.”
You say, “What could that mean?” It means you have nothing more to do with him. This expression is the translation of a Greek term that means literally “to reject.” Moreover, it is used as a present middle imperative. The rejection is a divine command of God and it is a rejection that is total and ongoing. You don’t keep company with them. You don’t break bread with them. You don’t do business with them. You don’t have little private meetings with them. And if they have already left the church, then you don’t, under any circumstances, seek to reach out to them because you think that somehow you can help them and win them back. No, you can’t! God says, “Have nothing more to do with them” – and God means what He says!
But it might be asked, “Why is God’s command so severe about divisive people?” The answer to this question is found in the next verse. Titus 3:11 says, “…knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” In these words we are given, by divine inspiration, what is really going on in the heart of a factious person. First, they are “warped.” This term, used in the perfect tense, describes a factious person in a continual state of moral perversion, being twisted and turned out in their thinking, wholly out of touch with the truth. Second, they are “sinful.” This is a present tense verb. It means the divisive man is sinning by deliberately missing the mark of God’s divine standard, through his refusal to receive correction and repent. Lastly, they are “self-condemned.” This term describes the divisive person as someone who knows that in his deliberate refusal to abandon his self-chosen views, he is wrong and stands condemned by his own better judgment.
Is it any wonder then, that God commands us as the church to have nothing more to do with divisive people? A person in this spiritual condition, in this settled pattern of sin, cannot be reached. They do not care about the truth. They do not care about the peace and unity of the church. All they care about is their self-willed agenda. It’s their way or the highway. And they will do whatever it takes to win their agenda and reach their goal, as long as people in the church give them an audience. Thus, God, in His infinite wisdom, orders us as His church to admonish the factious person only twice – and if these two efforts fail to bring them to repentance, then we’re to cut off all our ties with such a person – because they are “warped and sinful; [being] self-condemned.” This therefore is how we must deal with divisive people.