In Titus 1.10-16, Paul addresses the false teachers that had unsettled the churches on the island of Crete. These false teachers were of a Jewish kind, not unlike the Pharisees that we read about in the Gospels and the Judaizers that Paul condemns in the book of Galatians. Basically, they were teaching that in order to be forgiven of one’s sins – to be justified before God – one had to keep various laws for purification, many of which were a repeat of Old Testament ceremonial laws for cleansing and separation (like circumcision).
The false teachers had made the massive mistake of overlooking the fact that Jesus had kept the law perfectly on behalf of sinners, even the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, and cleansed a people for himself through his sacrificial death (Galatians 2; Titus 2). Therefore, any law that is added to faith in Jesus Christ alone through grace alone for salvation, whether found in the Old Testament or not, is in essence no different from man made tradition or worldly religion or myth (cf. Colossians 2.16-23). In Titus 1.10-16, Paul uses scathing sarcasm to expose the wretched condition of the false teachers. Contrary to their belief that they had escaped the impurity and defilement of the world by separating themselves from all kinds of things found in the world – including Gentiles and good things like certain kinds of food and drink – the Jewish false teachers were in fact no different from worst of filthy pagan society that they were trying to escape! While the false teachers may have looked and acted polished and clean on the outside, they were nevertheless no better than the worst Cretans citizens on the inside: “liars”, “evil beasts” and “lazy gluttons.” Again, why?
They had failed to put their faith in Jesus Christ alone. Because they did not know the peace and liberty that Jesus brings to a soul stricken by guilt for breaking God’s law, they were trying to silence their conscience and purify themselves through keeping the law. They had failed to understand that as Christians our relationship to the law has changed. It no longer condemns us and therefore our conscience can be at peace, because we are justified and sanctified in Jesus (Romans 7-8.4).
Are you perhaps believing and acting like the false teachers? Are you resting in Jesus alone for salvation? Or are you trying to purify yourself by separating yourself from this world? Is your conscience at rest in Jesus? Or are you trying to deal with your guilt and an accusing conscience in some other way?