"Open Pulpits" Or "Stopped Mouths?"
There is a single word in Titus 1:10 that goes a long way in demonstrating what the context is about. The word is "for." Here's what I mean:
Paul's letter to Titus begins with emphasis on "the truth which accords with godliness," (1:1). This truth was "manifested ... through preaching," (1:3), and Titus was told to "set in order the things that are lacking" by appointing "elders in every city," (1:5). These men would hold fast "the faithful word" and use "sound doctrine ... to exhort and convict those who contradict," (1:9). Hence, the opening words of this letter to Titus call attention to sound doctrine and elders using sound doctrine. Why this urgency?
Verse 10 says: "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision." The conjunction "for" (gar) introduces a reason. The point is clear. There was the urgent need on Crete to appoint elders, who would use sound doctrine to deal with the kind of people described in verse 10! When insubordinate, idle talkers and deceivers have some influence in a local church, elders must react by using sound doctrine to exhort and convict.
In this holy work, elders will need to do what verse 11 says: "whose mouths must be stopped!"
In our polite, free and politically correct society, many believe this is just "not nice," certainly "not cool!" In some circles this would be considered an outrage. We believe in "freedom of speech" (even though absolute, unlimited free speech has never enjoyed legal endorsement). In and out of churches, the politically correct view is, ANYBODY SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY ANYTHING THEY WANT TO SAY. So today, to use an expression like this; to say that there are some people "whose mouths must be stopped." Well, that's "not cool." In fact some would argue, "that's appalling! Our churches should be free and open. Everybody should be allowed to say whatever they want to say."
I believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures. I believe this statement in Titus chapter one is part of God's instruction to His people. I believe elders cannot allow just anybody to say anything. And when men give behavioral evidence that they are insubordinate, idle talkers and deceivers, I believe it is outrageous and appalling to give them the floor.
Sometimes, when a controversy arises in a local church, everybody wants to say something. Everybody wants to talk. Occasionally, folks who want to say something will demand this right and even quote the constitution or claim majority rule. This is ignorant. Christ rules in the church. And when men are teaching things which "they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain," or subverting whole households, it is thoughtless and perilous to give them the floor. Elders are to use sound doctrine to deal with these kind of people.
If the expression "open pulpit" means that anybody should be able to get up and say anything, this passage in Titus plainly rules out such a concept. This would be like shepherds letting anybody come in and feed anything to the sheep!
Especially in time of crisis, controversy and contention, it is essential for good elders to hold fast the faithful Word and do all they can to silence those who would draw away the disciples. Yet, after a division or withdrawal, the complaint is often made: "We were not able to speak. We are not given access to the congregation. We were muzzled! There was no open pulpit."
May God bless and strengthen men to become qualified to be elders. May we support and encourage men who hold fast to the faithful Word and stop the mouths of gainsayers.
By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 5.8; August 1998