Paul has a sense of humor. Even in the middle of a lesson on ministry, Paul finds a way to use tongue in cheek humor to get his point across. He uses it to encourage Titus to know the people he is ministering to and the philosophies they hold. For present day pastors, it is important to understand those that we minister to as well.
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
The false teachers
One of the groups that Paul identifies in Crete that teach false doctrines. A common phrase for that day, “mouth must be stopped” seems to be a strong medicine. It means to show these teachers to be what they are. Let the people know about the lies that they share and they will stop listening. Hence, the pastors preaching must be filled with right teaching so that the people may discern what the truth of God is.
The false teachers that Paul specifically points out are the traveling Judaizers. These people taught things such as circumcision were required for salvation. Others taught similar ideas; that particular initiation ritual had to be performed for people to obtain specialized knowledge. Paul’s point here is not identifying the particular doctrines or how to defend against them. Instead, Paul is only asking Titus to be aware of where a majority of his problems will come from.
The second group of people that Paul identifies is the inhabitants of Crete. The Cretians had a disciple stereotype. This is where Paul’s humor comes into play. He quotes one of their philosophers, “the Cretians are always telling lies.” The joke comes in when Paul says, “This Cretian is telling the truth” (this is called the Epimenides paradox). Paul is helping Titus to understand the culture of the people around him. To effectively minister to the people, Titus needed to know how they thought and how they lived.
At times, pastors and other church leaders can give into the temptation to use programs that are modeled after churches. While it is not wrong to learn from other congregations, a major misstep is usually taken. That is the failure to understand the culture and problems that were being addressed in those other churches for such programs to be used. Without knowing the people in our Churches and communities, all efforts will be fruitless or minimal at best.