In Paul’s letter to Titus, he writes:

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Titus 1:16 (NIV)

Some of us may know people who profess to be Christian, but their actions say something different. Perhaps they galavant around partying and behaving much like the world. Generally, they don’t have a lifestyle that aligns with being a disciple of Christ. We could say that their actions don’t reveal knowledge of God. Can we say that such individuals aren’t really Christians? Can we apply the description found in this verse to them?

Proverbs 9:10 gives us this intelligence.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Job tells us something similar. 

And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Job 28:28 (NIV)

We are also given this clarification between knowledge and understanding in Proverbs.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

These verses tell me that it’s possible to know of God. Perhaps even claim to be a Christian, but act counter to that claim. We are told that knowing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear we read of is not being afraid but standing in awe of God. After all, God created everything, and yet he cares for us. In Job 28:28, we read that “shun[ing] evil is understanding.” Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” These verses indicate that fearing and being familiar with God is only part of being a Christian. Being obedient to God is essential.

I’m reminded of something my parents used to say to me when I was a child and asked them, “Why?” 

“Because I said so,” they said.

No other reason or explanation was given. Because they were my parents, I should do what they said. I expect that they were saying what Jesus said in John 14:15:

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

John 14:15 (NIV)

Let’s examine Titus 1:16 within the context of Titus 1. 

Titus 1 opens up as many of Paul’s letters do. The first four verses serve as his introduction and greeting to Titus. We discover in verse five that Titus is in Crete and is responsible for the church there. Paul describes to Titus the qualities an elder should possess in the church in verses six through nine. Verse nine also serves as an introduction, of sorts, to a new topic. Or does it?

9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.

Titus 1:9-10 (NIV)

Verse ten may seem like the beginning of a new topic, but it’s not. Paul explained to Titus what an elder should look like in verses six through nine. Paul is giving Titus a “heads-up” on a threat to the church at Crete through false teachers. These are the people Paul spoke of in verse nine who refute sound doctrine. Paul singles out one group in particular for chastisement; “those in the circumcision group.” These are Judaising Christians. People who taught, among other things, that Christians had to follow the law to be Christians.

We read that these false teachers were causing all manner of problems amongst those who listened and believed their teaching. 

They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Titus 1:11 (NIV)

Paul tells Titus to “rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14 NIV). Here, Paul is advising Titus to rebuke the teachers and those who listened to the teachers. 

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Titus 1:15 (NIV)

These false teachers Paul has been talking about were teaching things like circumcision. Hence, the circumcision group. However, they were also teaching people about purity, of things clean and unclean. Certain foods couldn’t be eaten, and maybe certain people should be avoided. In other words, these false teachers were teaching their extension of the law that had everything except love for Christ. Ideas like food bring us closer to God.

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

1 Corinthians 8:8 (NIV)

Even the Apostle Peter struggled with the idea of clean and unclean food until God brought him clarity. 

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Acts 10:15 (NIV)

Jesus also had this to say about purity.

“Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Mark 7:15 (NIV)

Let’s revisit Titus 1:16.

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Titus 1:16 (NIV)

Now we know that the “they” Paul is talking about are false teachers, and the actions Paul’s referring to have to do with “Jewish myths” and “human commands” (Titus 1:14). Their claims that they know God are followed by what Paul described as “a form of godliness but denying its power” in 2 Timothy 3:5 (NIV). 

Therefore, applying Titus 1:16 to those we don’t see behaving like Christians would be an error since that’s not what Paul was talking about. 

There’s a difference between claiming to know God and doing your own thing and claiming to know God by following something else that is supposed to honor God. How we handle the two situations is fundamentally different. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.