Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10-11).
If believers, specifically church leaders (as was Titus, the original recipient), are to obey this Scripture we must understand what is meant by the word “factious.” Due to the King James Version’s rendering as “heretick,” many believers have understood this verse to apply merely to those who teach strange doctrines in the church. However, its meaning is not limited to false teaching, but includes much more.
What does hairetikos mean?
Hairetikos, from which we get the word “heretic,” is used in Titus 3:10 and refers to a self-chosen party or sect, causing division, not necessarily heretical in the sense of holding false doctrine. It refers to one who is involved in “drawing disciples after him[self]” (Linquistic Key to the Greek New Testament). Strong’s Concordance renders it “schismatic.”
Another New Testament word exposes the prideful heart behind the thoughts and actions of the schismatic. Erithia (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:20; Phil. 1:17; James 3:14, 16; 2 Peter 2:21) “denotes ‘ambition, self-seeking rivalry,’ self-will being an underlying idea in the word; hence it denotes ‘party-making.’ It is derived, not from eris, “strife,” but from erithos, ‘a hireling;’ hence the meaning of ‘seeking to win followers’…the order ‘strife, jealousy, wrath, faction,’ is the same in 2 Corinthians 12:20 and Galatians 5:20. ‘Faction’ is the fruit of jealousy” (Vine’s Dictionary) and strife is often ignited by an angry person (Prov. 10:12; 15:18; 29:22; 30:33).
Therefore, though a theological heretic certainly causes division in a church, the focus of the apostle’s warning is directed at the self-willed man whose self-serving agenda causes people to choose sides. Often it’s an existing leader or a leader-wanna-be who, after entering into the life of a church, seeks to win followers, or the church bully (you can read about the first church boss in 3 John 9-11). However, note that “not self-willed” (Titus 1:7) is a qualification for spiritual leaders in the local church. Self-willed (authadns) refers to one who is obstinate in his own opinion, filled with arrogance, and refuses to listen to others. He is stubbornly resistant to correction. Elders are to shepherd the flock of God…according to the will of God not their own will (1 Peter 5:2). A spiritual overseer, therefore, must be committed to pursuing God’s will above his own agenda. A factious man is unwilling to do what the Word of God requires in order to resolve conflicts he is involved in and, therefore, deepens divisions (factions) in the church.
The biblical response to the factious man is clearly stated.
Titus 3:10-11 is strongly stated. “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” As is Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” Because of potential harm to the sheep, church shepherds must take swift and firm action with factious men (who are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing), thus escalating action beyond the slower, more methodical process outlined in Matthew 18:15-17 for other sins. Not surprisingly, no one in the church is more likely to shout “Foul!” while accusing leaders of violating Matthew 18 than the factious man whose power of influence lingers on while church leaders are intimidated and their rightful action stalled.
God hates divisive people.
It is important we not simply recognize that God hates divisions among His people. Although that is certainly true; it does not go far enough. Included in the list of abominations to God is the “one who spreads strife among brothers” (Proverbs 6:19). Clearly, God not only hates division among His people, but He hates the divisive person. God despises the man (or woman) who disturbs the peace in a local church and destroys it. That’s pretty strong! (See also 1 Corinthians 3:17).
Therefore, let us each diligently seek to guard and “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
[2016 update: There is a new mini-book that I would like to recommend to you entitled HELP! I’m In a Conflict.]