“…there are many…vain talkers…of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1:10,11).
When Paul warned Titus about vain talkers of the circumcision “who subvert whole houses” with their teaching, that word subvert means to turn something upside down. The prefix “sub” should make you think of the ships that travel under water, and the suffix vert refers to something vertical. So subvert means to turn something vertical upside down.
Now that’s an interesting thing for Paul to say about these unsaved Jews, for that was a charge that they were leveling at him. They were saying that Paul and his helpers had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:5,6). Paul wasn’t turning the world in general upside down, of course, for the world in general was taking little note of him. But when some other unsaved Jews called Paul “a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world” (Acts 24:5), it shows that the only world they cared about was the world of the Jews. That was the world that Paul’s new message of grace was turning upside down!
Now here I should point out that saved Jews accepted Paul’s new ministry of grace among the Gentiles (Acts 15:19-29; Gal. 2:9). But unsaved Jews didn’t want their world turned upside down, and they weren’t going to take it lying down! They fought back by teaching the Law, subverting those Gentiles who are not under the Law (Rom. 6:15), and trying to take the world that Paul had turned upside down with his message of grace and turning it upside down again back to the Law. God calls that subversion.
Does that remind you of what happened when some Jews first taught the Law to Gentiles? The leaders at the Jerusalem council heard about it and wrote a letter to those new Gentile converts, saying,
“…we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must… keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24).
The saved leaders of the Hebrew church said, as it were, “We didn’t authorize those Jews to teach the Law to you new Gentile converts.” And they said the same thing Paul says here in our text, that teaching the Law to Gentiles was “subverting” them—subverting their very “souls.” Beloved, it turns the soul of a Gentile upside down to put him under the Law, for he’s bound to wonder why the Law doesn’t work in his life!
For instance, he is going to wonder why God isn’t blessing him with good health when he obeys God, as God did for the Jews under the Law (Ex. 15:26). He is going to wonder why God isn’t blessing him with wealth when he pays his tithes, as God did for the Jews under the law (Mal. 3:10). It is sad to think of how the souls of men are still being turned upside down, all because men are still teaching the Law to this day.
When Paul adds that they were teaching the Law “for filthy lucre’s sake,” that means they knew better than to teach the Law, but didn’t care because it was profitable. Men do some pretty despicable things for money. Human traffickers prostitute women—and even children—for money. Evil men scam elderly people out of their life savings for money. But there is nothing lower on the face of the planet than religious men who know the truth and teach error for filthy lucre’s sake. So if your pastor is teaching grace, why not encourage him to continue in the message he received from Paul (I Tim. 3:14)?
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.