As far as we know, the well-known expression found in our title wasn’t around in Bible days. But it certainly would have been an apt description of the inhabitants of Crete, where Paul had left Titus to minister (Tit. 1:5). Even one of their favorite sons had to admit this was true!
“One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are always liars…” (Titus 1:12).
But before we talk about this prophet’s assessment of his countrymen, I want to point out that Paul’s words here prove that there is nothing wrong with quoting unsaved men if what they say is true—and what this unbeliever said was true, as Paul hastened to add (v. 13). I say this because sometimes we here at Berean Bible Society are taken to task if we quote a non-dispensational pastor or teacher in our Two Minutes devotionals, or in our Berean Searchlight magazine. We know that the Apostle Paul would not have had a problem with this, however, for he quoted an unsaved man—and not just once (cf. Acts 17:28).
Now the reason Paul quoted this Cretian is that he had just finished warning Titus about “vain talkers…of the circumcision…who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not” (Tit. 1:10,11). Since the Jews of the circumcision loved the Law of Moses, these “vain talkers” were probably teaching the Law, just like the men who had “turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law” (I Tim. 1:6,7). And they were probably saying something like, “The Cretians are always liars, and everybody knows that the only way to deal with a liar is by putting him under the Law that forbids lying (Lev.19:11).”
But the members of the Body of Christ found in the churches of Crete weren’t under the law, they were under grace (Rom. 6:15). To put them under the Law would be to put them under the curse of the law (Gal. 3:10), something that would subvert their very souls (Acts 15:24). Yet the vain talkers of the circumcision in Crete had been so active in this that Paul said that they had subervted “whole houses” (Tit. 1:11).
But you don’t have to put a sinner under the curse of the Law to help him overcome lying! Grace teaches us to reject lying, and all other forms of ungodliness (Tit. 2:11,12). The apostle of grace said that we should be “putting away lying” (Eph. 4:25). And when he added, “for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25), he was providing us with tremendous incentive not to lie. I mean, think it through. If we are “members one of another,” and we lie to one another, we’re actually lying to ourselves. And bad things happen when a body lies to itself.
When you are in pain, there are drugs you can take that will make your body lie to your brain about the pain you are feeling. But those lies can cause the body a lot of damage when the warning signal of pain is silenced. There are also drugs that will make a body lie to itself about being tired, but those drugs can also damage your health. There are still other drugs that will make your stomach lie to your brain about being hungry. But some of those drugs are so dangerous that they had to be taken off the market.
The point is, when you lie to another member of the Body of Christ, you can do a lot of damage to that Body as well. How much hurt could be avoided in the local church if every one of us were to heed Paul’s admonition to “speak every man truth with his neighbour” (Eph. 4:25). And with powerful incentive like knowing that we are members one of another, there’s no need to put a sinner under the curse of the Law to get him to stop lying.
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.