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In Titus 3:10, Paul tells Titus

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him (ESV).

The phrase “a person who stirs up division” or as the NASB has it, the “factious man,” is a notorious anchor for those who want to claim all dissent from their “rule” is such a sin as to warrant ejection from the congregation. But does it really mean someone who asks a question?

If we back up and consider the immediate context, we see that Paul is concerning himself with doctrine:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Titus 3:9 (ESV)

In the verse 11, such a man is “warped and sinful; he is self-condemned”. Therefore, an examination of the immediate context leads one to think of a false-teacher: which is precisely what we see when looking to overall structure of Paul’s argument.

Beginning in Titus 1:5, Paul lays out the criteria for appointing elders in each town. In verse 9, Paul comes to the element:

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke [elegchein] those who contradict it. Titus 1:9 (ESV)

Note these the elder/overseer must be one who is able (1) instruct, and (2) and is able to rebuke those who do not understand doctrine (ἐλέγχειν, elegchein). This aspect of the overseer’s responsibility parallels the command of Titus 3:10 to warn (nouthein) “an heretick”. The command to “rebuke” will also be given in 2:15.

In Titus 1:10, Paul moves on to the question of false teachers whose doctrine is stirring up debauched lives, “empty talker and deceivers” he calls these people. These are confused Christians, these are absolutely outside:

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:15–16 (ESV)

Then in Titus 2:1 Paul returns to matter of correct doctrine:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Titus 2:1 (ESV)

Thereafter, Paul gives instruction about sound doctrine which runs through Titus 2. Having given such instruction, Paul pauses to remind Titus:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke (elegchein) with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15 (ESV)

Thus, Paul is instructing Titus to act like the overseer Paul described in Titus 1:9.

Paul then returns to the matter of doctrine. In Titus 3:1, Paul resumes, “Remind them to ….”. In 3:8, summarizes his instruction to Titus:

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:8 (ESV)

Paul then having summarized the instruction which he expects Titus to proclaim turns to those mentioned earlier who refuse such instruction:

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:9–11 (ESV)

The structure thus runs as follows:

1:5 Appoint overseers who meet these requirements:

1:9   Overseers must be able to (a) instruct in sound doctrine; and (b) rebuke those contradict.

1:10-16: Explain of those who reject sound doctrine/those who teach false doctrine.

2:1-14: Here is sound doctrine you are to teach.

2:15: Remember (a) instruct in sound doctrine; and (be) rebuke those who contradict.

3:1-7: Here is more sound doctrine.

3:8: Summary of sound doctrine

3:9-11: Since you are overseer: remove those who reject sound doctrine.


A: Instruct & rebuke those who contradict.

            B: Rebuke false teachers.

                        C: Here is sound doctrine.

A’: Instruct & rebuke those who contradict.

                        C’: Here is sound doctrine.

            B’: Rebuke false teachers.


Paul’s concern is with false & sound doctrine. The false teachers, the one who “stirs up division” is a heretic.

Spiritual Abuse:

A related concept is the leader who thinks that anyone who disagrees is such a “heretic”. Leadership in some congregations often thinks that all who ask questions or offer contrary opinions are the factious man who stirs up division. However, such an attitude in leadership is often a demonstration of the leader’s sin. Since such sin is abuse of spiritual authority given for the good of the congregation 2 Corinthians 1:24 (ESV) “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.”), it is often called “spiritual abuse”. In an interview by Tim Challies of Bob Kelleman, Kelleman explained “spiritual abuse”as follows:

There are “symptoms” that we can identify that might point to a heart moving toward spiritual abuse. These might include actions and attitudes such as:

Using our spiritual position to control or dominate another person.

Overriding the feelings and opinions of others.

Using spiritual authority defensively to bolster the position and “needs” of the leader.

Considering oneself above questioning.

Labeling the person who questions us as wrong and rebellious, thus subtly shifting the focus and blame. Questions are assumed to come from a wrong spirit, not simply from an honest attempt to have give-and-take dialogue. The worst is assumed of the other; the best is assumed of oneself.

Labels can include accusations such as, “You’re rebellious.” “You’re disrespectful.” “I detect a pattern of anger and a critical spirit.” “You are unspiritual and emotionally immature.” Such labels heap condemnation on the recipient, rather than offering wise counsel and constructive feedback.

Interpreting our spiritual authority to mean that my thoughts and opinions are supreme.


This is the overwhelming conclusion of the commentators:


  1. This monster’s cavern, your sacred Majesty, thick laid, as seafaring men do say it is, with hidden lairs, and all the neighbourhood thereof, where the rocks of unbelief echo to the howling of her black dogs, we must pass by with ears in a manner stopped. For it is written: “Hedge thine ears about with thorns;”3 and again: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers;”4 and yet again: “A man that is an heretic, avoid after the first reproof, knowing that such an one is fallen, and is in sin, being condemned of his own judgment.”5 So then, like prudent pilots, let us set the sails of our faith for the course wherein we may pass by most safely, and again follow the coasts of the Scriptures


Ambrose of Milan, “Exposition of the Christian Faith,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth, vol. 10, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 208.


  1. The Apostle Paul hath said: “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”2 But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it, such men are not to be counted heretics. Were it not that I believe you to be such, perhaps I would not write to you. And yet even in the case of a heretic, however puffed up with odious conceit, and insane through the obstinacy of his wicked resistance to truth, although we warn others to avoid him, so that he may not deceive the weak and inexperienced, we do not refuse to strive by every means in our power for his correction.


Augustine of Hippo, “Letters of St. Augustin,” in The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. G. Cunningham, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 276.


  1. But for the rest, let our most beloved brethren firmly decline, and avoid the words and conversations of those whose word creeps onwards like a cancer; as the apostle says, “Evil communications corrupt good manners.”5 And again: “A man that is an heretic, after one admonition, reject: knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.”6 And the Holy Spirit speaks by Solomon, saying, “A perverse man carrieth perdition in his mouth; and in his lips he hideth a fire.”7 Also again, he warneth us, and says, “Hedge in thy ears with thorns, and hearken not to a wicked tongue.”And again: “A wicked doer giveth heed to the tongue of the unjust; but a righteous man does not listen to lying lips.”


Cyprian of Carthage, “The Epistles of Cyprian,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 346.


And Polycarp himself, when Marcion once met him13 and said, ‘Knowest14 thou us?’ replied, ‘I know the first born of Satan.’ Such caution did the apostles and their disciples exercise that they might not even converse with any of those who perverted the truth; as Paul also said, ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.


Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 187–188.


I well know, my dear friend, that when thou hast read through all this, thou wilt indulge in a hearty laugh over this their inflated wise folly! But those men are really worthy of being mourned over, who promulgate such a kind of religion, and who so frigidly and perversely pull to pieces the greatness of the truly unspeakable power, and the dispensations of God in themselves so striking, by means of Alpha and Beta, and through the aid of numbers. But as many as separate from the Church, and give heed to such old wives’ fables as these, are truly self-condemned; and these men Paul commands us, “after a first and second admonition, to avoid.”8 And John, the disciple of the Lord, has intensified their condemnation, when he desires us not even to address to them the salutation of “good-speed;” for, says he, “He that bids them be of good-speed is a partaker with their evil deeds;” and that with reason, “for there is no good-speed to the ungodly,” saith the LORD.


Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 341–342.


But nothing severs those who are deceived by their own inventions, from the light of the Gospel so much as their not thinking that the LORD’S Incarnation appertains in a true sense to man’s, that is, our, nature: as if it were unworthy of GOD’S glory that the majesty of the impassible Word should have taken the reality of human flesh, whereas men’s salvation could not otherwise have been restored had not He Who is in the form of GOD deigned also to take the form of a slave. And hence since the holy Synod of Chalcedon, which was attended by all the provinces of the Roman world and obtained universal acceptance for its decisions, and is in complete harmony therein with the most sacred council of Nicæa, has cut off all the wicked followers of the Eutychian dogma from the body of the catholic communion, how shall any of the lapsed regain the peace of the church, without purging himself by a full course of penitence? For what licence can be granted them for discussing, when they have deserved to be condemned by a just and holy judgment, so that they might most truly fall under that sentence of the blessed Apostle, wherewith at the very outset of the infant Church he overthrew the enemies of Christ’s cross, saying: “every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ to have come in the flesh is of GOD, and every spirit which dissolves Jesus is not of GOD, but this is antichrist1.” And this pre-existent teaching of the Holy Ghost we must faithfully and stedfastly make use of, lest, by admitting the discussions of such men the authority of the divinely inspired decrees be diminished, when in all parts of your kingdom and in all borders of the earth that Faith which was confirmed at Chalcedon is being established on the surest basis of peace, nor is any one worthy of the name of Christian who cuts himself off from communion with us. Of whom the Apostle says, “a man that is heretical after a first and a second admonition, avoid, knowing that such a one is perverse and condemned by his own judgment.”


Leo the Great, “Letters,” in Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Charles Lett Feltoe, vol. 12a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1895), 106–107.


HAVING spoken of the love of God to man, of His ineffable regard for us, of what we were and what He has done for us, he has added, “These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works”; that is, Discourse of these things, and from a consideration of them exhort to almsgiving. For what has been said will not only apply to humility, to the not being puffed up, and not reviling others, but to every other virtue. So also in arguing with the Corinthians, he says, “Ye know that our Lord being rich became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9.) Having considered the care and exceeding love of God for man, he thence exhorts them to almsgiving, and that not in a common and slight manner, but “that they may be careful,” he says, “to maintain good works,” that is, both to succor the injured, not only by money, but by patronage and protection, and to defend the widows and orphans, and to afford a refuge to all that are afflicted. For this is to maintain good works. For these things, he says, are good and profitable unto men. “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain.” What do these “genealogies” mean? For in his Epistle to Timothy he mentions “fables and endless genealogies.” (1 Tim. 1:4.) [Perhaps both here and there glancing at the Jews, who, priding themselves on having Abraham for their forefather, neglected their own part. On this account he calls them both “foolish and unprofitable”; for it is the part of folly to confide in things unprofitable.3] “Contentions,” he means, with heretics, in which he would not have us labor to no purpose, where nothing is to be gained, for they end in nothing. For when a man is perverted and predetermined not to change his mind, whatever may happen, why shouldest thou labor in vain, sowing upon a rock, when thou shouldest spend thy honorable toil upon thy own people, in discoursing with them upon almsgiving and every other virtue? How then does he elsewhere say, “If God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tim. 2:25); but here, “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself”? In the former passage he speaks of the correction of those of whom he had hope, and who had simply made opposition. But when he is known and manifest to all, why dost thou contend1 in vain? why dost thou beat the air? What means, “being condemned of himself”? Because he cannot say that no one has told him, no one admonished him; since therefore after admonition he continues the same, he is self-condemned.


John Chrysostom, “Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to Titus,” in Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. James Tweed and Philip Schaff, vol. 13, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1889), 540–541.


3:10 Paul gives instruction in this verse and the next on how to deal with a αἱρετικὸς ἄνθρωπος. The adjective αἱρετικός** (a NT hapax) is used here of one who has chosen to follow the false teachings and practices described in v. 9 over against the apostle, Titus, and others in the Christian community who embrace the true teaching and its good deeds. Thus it may properly be rendered “heretical,” as long as we do not read later ideas back into the text (cf. BAGD, Lock, and the use of αἵρεσις in 2 Pet. 2:1). Since this choice with regard to teaching and practice sets the one so choosing against apostolic teaching, it also makes such a person “factious” and one who is “causing divisions,” which are also meanings of αἱρετικός. Paul uses this adjective in a pleonastic construction, perhaps for emphasis, including the noun ἄνθρωπον, the word used generally in Greek and in the NT for “human being,” rather than using a simple substantive adjective


George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1992), 354.


10 αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον μετὰ μίαν καὶ δευτέραν νουθεσίαν παραιτοῦ, “Avoid the factious person after a first and second warning.” To shun foolishness is only part of the answer (v 9). The person spreading foolishness should be confronted, and if there is no repentance, then that person should be avoided. The problem of a church separating into smaller divisions was common (cf. Acts 6:1–7). In Corinth the divisions were based on a party spirit. In Ephesus and Crete the divisions were along the lines of the heretical teaching of myths, genealogies, and asceticism. It is no wonder that Paul’s instructions were so stringent. If people subscribe to what is described in v 9, Titus is to warn them once. If they do not listen, he is to warn them a second time. If they still do not listen, he is to have nothing to do with them. This is not as severe as the excommunication of the main opponents (1 Tim 1:20), but it is in line with Paul’s teaching elsewhere that believers who live in sin must be socially ostracized to the point of not even eating with such a one (Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 5:11 [but cf. Fee, Corinthians, 226, who argues that this applies only to community meals and not private ones]; 2 Thess 3:14; cf. Matt 18:17). Paul is not spelling out in detail how to deal with the issue of church discipline; no significance should be attached to his silence here on related issues.


William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2000), 454.


(3:10, 11) “Heretick” is hairetikos (αἱρετικος), from the verb haireō (αἱρεω), “to take, to take for one’s self, to choose, prefer.” The noun means, “fitted or able to take or choose, schismatic, factious.” A heretic is one therefore who refuses to accept true doctrine as it is revealed in the Bible, and prefers to choose for himself what he is to believe. “Subverted” is ektrepō (ἐκτρεπω), “to turn or twist out,” used in a medical sense of limbs; “to turn aside.” Vincent says: “More than turned away from the right path: rather, turned inside out.” “Condemned of himself” is autokatakritos (αὐτοκατακριτος), literally, “self-condemned,” made up of autos (αὐτος), “self,” kata (κατα), “down,” and krinō (κρινω), “to judge,” thus, “to judge one’s self down,” thus, “to condemn one’s self.”


Translation. A schismatic individual, after one or two admonitions be rejecting, knowing that he that is of such a character, is turned inside out, and keeps on constantly sinning, being self-condemned.


Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), Tt 3:9–10.


  1. heretic—Greek “heresy,” originally meant a division resulting from individual self-will; the individual doing and teaching what he chose, independent of the teaching and practice of the Church. In course of time it came to mean definitely “heresy” in the modern sense; and in the later Epistles it has almost assumed this meaning. The heretics of Crete, when Titus was there, were in doctrine followers of their own self-willed “questions” reprobated in Tit 3:9, and immoral in practice.


Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 435.


3:10 Concerning those persons who promote false teaching, Paul commanded that Titus “warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” Paul described a false teacher as a “divisive person” (hairetikon). The terms heresy and heretic are derived from this Greek word. Although this adjective appears only here in the New Testament, the noun form hairesis refers to sects within Judaism (Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 28:22) and factions or parties within the church (1 Cor 11:19). Paul even included “factions” as one of “the deeds of the flesh” (Gal 5:20). While Paul stood squarely against false teaching (1:13; 2:15), his use of the term “divisive” indicates the destructive nature of those promoting error among believers (cf. 1:11). Divisions within the church result in believers who are confused, frustrated, angry, and hurt. They become ineffective in ministering to one another and to a lost world in desperate need of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the “good works” characteristic of genuine Christians. Reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching (Matt 18:15–17), Paul required personal confrontation characterized by patience (i.e., two warnings).19 If this failed, Paul allowed no hesitation in “having nothing to do with him” (lit. “reject” him). Hiebert aptly sums up the reasonableness of this rejection by stating, “Further efforts would not be a good stewardship of his time and energies and would give the offender an undeserved sense of importance.”


Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, vol. 34, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 327–328.


Ver. 10. An heretical man, αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον, hœreticus; whoever, by his own forwardness, breaks up the unity of the church (comp. 1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20; Rom. 16:17), especially by propa gating errors which conflict with the orthodoxy of sound Apostolic doctrine.—After one and a second admonition; after thou hast repeatedly, but fruitlessly, warned him to turn from his error, to profess the pure doctrine. Νουθεσία, from νοῦς and τίθημι, admonitio, occurs elsewhere in the N. T. only in 1 Cor. 10:10; Eph. 6:4.—Shun, παραιτοῦ (1 Tim. 4:7). Cease to exhort and warn him any farther, since it will certainly be fruitless. A formal excommunication (Vitringa) is certainly not here spoken of. The ground for a direction which might seem severe and arbitrary is given in what immediately follows.


John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Titus (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 21.


3:10. Paul was gentle with unbelievers because they lived in ignorance of God’s goodness and power. With Christians, however, he was often forceful. Christians have little excuse for unloving, selfish behavior. They know God’s goodness, have experienced his grace and love, and are indwelt by his Holy Spirit. Paul recognized that arguing with false teachers pulled a person into their convoluted dialogues, accomplishing nothing. Therefore, he told Titus: Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time.


Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 386.




Titus 3:10


After mentioning the teachings and actions of the heretical teachers, Paul now turns his attention to the teachers themselves, although in a subtle manner, referring to them by the expression a man who is factious. The word for factious appears only here in the whole New Testament; it is the word from which the modern word “heretic” is derived. The term is derived from the word that means “division” and therefore is used to describe the act of being divisive or causing divisions and splits within a certain group. KJV has used the word “heretic” in this verse, which seems to be less than accurate, since “heresy” as it is now understood puts focus on wrong or false doctrines that are professed by people, whereas the focus here is on the negative behavior of these people that for whatever reason gives rise to divisions and splits.



Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton, A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and to Titus, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1995), 308–309.


  1. A man that is an heretic (αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον). Ἁιρετικός heretical, N. T.o. For αἵρεσις heresy see on 1 Pet. 2:1.


Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 4 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 351.


Reject is from paraiteomi, which is also translated, “have nothing to do with” (1 Tim. 4:7) and “refuse” (2 Tim. 2:23). In the first case Paul is referring to “worldly fables fit only for old women” and in the second to “foolish and ignorant speculations that … produce quarrels.” Factious is from hairetikos, from which heretic is derived. The original word simply meant “to choose,” but eventually the term came to signify the placing of self-willed opinions above the truth, refusing even to consider views contrary to one’s own. In its noun form, it is associated with such serious “deeds of the flesh” as “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing” (Gal. 5:19–21, emphasis added). The factious person will not submit to the Word or to godly leaders in the church. He is a law to himself and has no concern for spiritual truth or unity.

Although false teachers certainly are the most devastatingly factious, Paul is here casting a broader net, which includes anyone in t he church who is divisive and disruptive. Because the consequences of insubordination, nonsubmission, and bickering can be so destructive of unity among the Lord’s people, the apostle commands that a factious man, or woman, as the case may be, should be rejected by the church if they do not heed a first and second warning. The issues themselves may be trivial, but arguing about them is not.



John F. MacArthur Jr., Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 163.



There were men in the Cretan churches who were doing harm to the believers by the things they were teaching. Paul has already addressed himself to the problem in chapter 1:10–16. Here at the close of his letter he returns to it.

It is difficult to be entirely sure of what these troublemakers were actually saying. In verse 9 Paul refers to ‘foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law’. In chapter 1:14 mention is also made of ‘Jewish myths’. It would seem that the false teachers were Jews who in their teaching were majoring on fanciful stories about Jewish ancestors whose names appear in the genealogies of the Old Testament. They also had plenty to say about Old Testament law and, though the apostle gives us no details, it is clear that they were astray in their interpretation and application of it.

Furthermore, it seems that it was in an atmosphere of argument and quarrels that they were airing their peculiar views. They were possibly fighting among themselves—disputing with one another over the details of their fanciful teaching. It is possible, too, that their disputing was spreading among those members of the church whom the troublemakers had impacted and who had begun to embrace their teaching.



David Campbell, Opening up Titus, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2007), 108–109.


Ver. 10.—Heretical for an heretick, A.V.; a for the, A.V.; refuse for reject, A.V. Heretical (αἱρετικόν); only here in the New Testament, not found in the LXX., but used in classical Greek for “intelligent” i.e. able to choose. The use of it here by St. Paul is drawn from the use of αἵρεσις for “a sect” (Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5, 14; 26:5; 28:22; 1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20; 2 Pet. 2:1), or the doctrines taught by a sect. The heretic is one who forsakes the truth held by the Church, and chooses some doctrine of his own devising (αἵρεσις). The tendency of such departures from the doctrine of the Church to assume more and more of a deadly character, and to depart wider and wider from the truth, gave to the name of heretic a darker shade of condemnation in the mouth of Church writers as time advanced. But even in apostolic times some denied the resurrection (2 Tim. 2:11, 12); others denied the Lord that bought them (2 Pet. 2:1); and there were some who were of the synagogue of Satan (Rev. 2:9); so that already an heretical man, drawing away disciples after him, was a great blot in the Church.


  1. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Titus, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 45–46.


  1. Avoid an heretical man. This is property added; because there will be no end of quarrels and dispute, if we wish to conquer obstinate men by argument; for they will never want words, and they will derive fresh courage from impudence, so that they will never grow weary of fighting. Thus, after having given orders to Titus as to the form of doctrine which he should lay down, he now forbids him to waste much time in debating with heretics, because battle would lead to battle and dispute to dispute. Such is the cunning of Satan, that, by the impudent talkativeness of such men, he entangles good and faithful pastors, so as to draw them away from diligence in teaching. We must therefore beware lest we become engaged in quarrelsome disputes; for we shall never have leisure to devote our labors to the Lord’s flock, and contentious men will never cease to annoy us.

When he commands him to avoid such persons, it is as if he said that he must not toil hard to satisfy them, and even that there is nothing better than to cut off the handle for fighting which they are eager to find. This is a highly necessary admonition; for even they who would willingly take no part in strifes of words are sometimes drawn by shame into controversy, because they think that it would be shameful cowardice to quit the field. Besides, there is no temper, however mild, that is not liable to be provoked by the fierce taunts of enemies, because they look upon it as intolerable that those men should attack the truth, (as they are accustomed to do,) and that none should reply. Nor are there wanting men who are either of a combative disposition, or excessively hot-tempered, who are eager for battle. On the contrary, Paul does not wish that the servant of Christ should be much and long employed in debating with heretics.



John Calvin, Titus, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Tt 3:10.


3:10–11. The term translated “factious” (NASB) or “divisive” (NIV) had not always been used negatively; the related noun came to designate different sects of philosophers, and Josephus used it to designate different schools of thought within Judaism. But Paul uses it negatively here (also Gal 5:20; cf. 1 Cor 11:19) for sectarian or divisive tendencies. He presumably refers either to the false teachers or to their disciples in the congregation (cf. Tit 3:9 with 1:10).

Jewish law required several private rebukes before bringing a person before the religious assembly for discipline; this procedure gave the offender ample opportunity to repent. One severe form of punishment against an unrepentant offender was exclusion from the religious community for a set time or until repentance ensued. Because Paul uses this penalty only in the most extreme circumstances, the divisiveness in view here must be serious; the person has already excluded himself from the life of the community.



Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Tt 3:10–11.


3:10–11. As to the people who are advocating these useless things and thereby exerting a divisive and otherwise destructive influence in the church (cf. 1:11), Paul’s instructions to Titus were direct and specific. He was to give such a person two warnings. If that did not work, he was to have nothing to do with him. The assumption is that a failure to respond to two warnings is a clear sign that the offender is warped and sinful, and self-condemned. Paul’s thought here is similar to the Lord’s instructions (Matt. 18:15–17), when He taught that after giving an offender three chances to repent, he is then to be cut off (but cf. 2 Thes. 3:14–15).


  1. Duane Litfin, “Titus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 767.


10 A man that is an heretick uafter the first and second admonition xreject;

A man that is an heretic: two things make up a heretic according to the common acceptation of the term now: 1. an error in some matters of faith. 2. Stubbornness and contumacy in the holding and maintaining of it. Whether it so signified so early I cannot tell; it seems to refer to the former verse, supposing some that, notwithstanding all the endeavours of Titus, would be striving and contending for niceties about questions, genealogies, &c. After the first and second admonition reject: for such, saith the apostle, admonish them once and again; if they will not have done, refuse them, reject them. Whether excommunication can be certainly built upon this text, may be doubted; παραιτεόμαι signifies no more than to avoid, reject, or refuse.


Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 3 (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1853), 804.


  1. What We Must Avoid 3:9–11


While we don’t know the exact nature of the problems on Crete, it appears that some people were doing research into the Old Testament genealogies and then instigating controversies (3:9) by drawing false conclusions about them. Concerning these contentious teachers, John Stott observes, “They were certainly speculators. They treated the law (that is, the Old Testament) as a happy hunting ground for their conjectures. To Paul their whole approach was frivolous.”3 Paul deals with a similar problem in his first letter to Timothy (see Introduction to 1 Timothy and 1 Tim. 1:3–7).

There always seem to be some people in the church who have “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels” (1 Tim. 6:4). These people love to engage in debates, but their arguments never produce a positive result. They lead only to quarrels and controversies (Titus 3:9) that alienate one believer from another. In Greek, the words quarrel and sword are derived from the same root. Quarreling over meaningless things too often divides God’s people.

Quarreling or discord was a widespread enough problem in the early church that Paul warns against it in several of his letters (Rom. 1:29; 13:13; 1 Cor. 3:3; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20). In contrast to the things Paul declared profitable (Titus 3:8), these controversial squabbles were decidedly unprofitable.

Paul’s recommendation to Titus for dealing with controversy was first of all to warn a divisive person (v. 10). The Greek word translated divisive is the one from which we derive the word heretic. Paul uses the term to indicate a person who takes a minor point and makes a major problem of it. A divisive person can generate tremendous difficulty in the church because he or she lacks a sense of proportion. Instead of building bridges, such a person divides believers into opposing camps.

Paul’s sound advice is to warn a divisive person once and even a second time. [But] after that, have nothing to do with him (v. 10). Paul knew that further time spent on such an individual would be wasted. Indeed, such people often thrive on attention. Paul believed that such people were warped (v. 11), meaning twisted in their thinking. Ultimately, they are self-condemned because their behavior is sinful (v. 11).



Robert Black and Ronald McClung, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2004), 259–260.


TITUS 3:10

αἱρετικὸν (Root: αιρεω, LN: 39.17; adjective, accusative, singular, masculine)

factious, divisive

Contained in: Sentence

Syntactic Force: Attributive adjective


Words Modified by αἱρετικὸν

  • adjectival relation: The word αἱρετικὸν modifies ἄνθρωπον (noun) in Tit 3:10, word 2 (ἄνθρωπον is within the current clausal unit, after αἱρετικὸν).



Albert L. Lukaszewski, Mark Dubis, and J. Ted Blakley, The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, SBL Edition: Expansions and Annotations (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2011), Tt 3:10.