“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are…evil beasts…” (Titus 1:12).
When that Cretian prophet said that the Cretians are “evil beasts,” he was saying that they were men who “despise government…brute beasts” who “speak evil of dignities” (II Pet. 2:10-12), men who “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities…as brute beasts” (Jude 1:8-10). A wild beast refuses to let a man impose his will on him, so men who won’t let civil rulers impose their will on them are called beasts.
When Paul added,
“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (v. 13),
he was asserting that it is impossible to resist “the powers that be” in government (Rom.13:1,2) and still be considered sound in the faith.
We see further evidence that this was a problem in Crete when Paul later told Titus,
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates… to speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:1,2).
Christians who speak evil of magistrates and other men in government are so plentiful these days that they could be called “Legion,” for they “are many” (Mark 5:9). But the Apostle Paul immediately regretted it when he learned that he had unwittingly spoken evil of the leader of his nation (Acts 23:1-5).
We sometimes hear Christians object that it is not speaking evil of dignities in government if the criticisms we level against them are true. However, everything Paul said about his leader was true. God will smite him someday because he was a “whited wall” (Acts 23:3), a hypocrite who feigned to judge Paul according to the law, but commanded him to be smitten contrary to the law. Yet we know that Paul considered the true words he had spoken against his leader to be evil words, for he went on to admit that he had violated the interdispensational principle of, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” (v. 5).
This is reminiscent of Christians today who say we don’t have to obey our leaders in government because they often act contrary to the constitution of the United States, the law of our land. But Paul regretted speaking evil of the leader of his nation even though he had commanded Paul to be smitten contrary to the law of their land, the law of Moses.
The bottom line is, there is simply no justification or excuse of any kind for the shameful way that God’s people often speak of the civil leaders whom Paul calls “God’s ministers” (Rom. 13:6),
“Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord” (II Pet. 2:11).
Over the years, you may have had to struggle mightily to be sound in the faith as you came to realize what Paul taught about difficult and sensitive subjects such as water baptism, speaking in tongues, and healing. But if your heart yearns to be truly sound in every aspect of the faith, if you long to be Pauline in all matters of faith and practice, I would invite you to consider following Paul as he followed Christ in this critical area of the faith as well (I Cor. 11:1).
After all, the power that Pilate had to crucify the Lord was certainly an evil power, yet the Lord said that it was given to him “from above” (John 19:10,11). Learning not to speak evil of the often evil power of civil leaders is an unfathomably difficult path to tread at times for some, but it is the path trodden by the Apostle Paul and his Christ. And it is my earnest plea that it is the path you will choose as well.
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.