The Big Bad Wolf
Main Text: Titus 1:10-16
Most people know the story about Little Red Riding Hood. She went to visit her grandma, but
the big bad wolf had arrived earlier and dressed up like Grandma. When Little Red Riding Hood
saw her “grandma,” she should have instantly known something was wrong and wisely fled. But
instead, she kept creeping closer and closer. “Why Grandma, what big eyes you have!” “The
better to see you with, my dear.” “What big ears you have!” “The better to hear you with, my
dear.” “What a big nose you have!” “The better to smell you with, my dear.” And finally,
“What big teeth you have!” “The better to eat you with,” was the wolf’s final reply. Little Red
Riding Hood had flirted with the wolf in Grandma’s clothing, and she barely escaped with her
In Matthew 7:15, Jesus describes something similar. He talks about false prophets who are
wolves in sheep’s clothing. False teachers have been a problem since the beginning of time, and
they are still a problem. In these verses, Paul gives some instruction concerning false teachers in
the church. They are the big bad wolves that are dressed in clothing designed to deceive us and
lead us astray. So let’s see what Paul had to say about the big bad wolf.
Paul presents three aspects of false teachers: who they are, what they do, and why they do it.
First, let’s look at who false teachers are. Verse 10 gives a list of characteristics concerning
these people. They are rebellious, which means they do not submit to God’s Word or any other
authority. Instead, they give themselves over to their empty words that deceive people. They
are, in essence, very impressive speakers; but their words are just a lot of hot air. They can talk
and not say anything. Verse 16 summarizes Paul’s feelings about these people, saying they are
“detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (NASB).
They have a bad character, which is evidenced by the fact that they do bad things. As Jesus
taught about wolves in sheep’s clothing in Matthew 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits.
Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” Paul says in verse
16 that they may claim to know God and follow Him, but their deeds reveal that they don’t know
What exactly are their actions that reveal that they are false teachers? For one thing, they teach
things that are not true. Paul mentions that one of the biggest groups of false teachers that Titus
had to contend with on Crete was of the circumcision, which means they were Judaizers who
tried to convince the Christians that they had to be circumcised and follow the Law as well as
believe in Christ in order to obtain salvation. That is what Paul is referring to in verse 14 when
he mentions Jewish myths and man-made commandments.
False teachers are very disruptive. They cause division and trouble rather than promoting unity
and peace. Paul tells Titus that they were disrupting entire families. This word for families
refers to a household or dwelling place. Most churches in the first century met in houses, so Paul
may be referring not just to families being disrupted but to entire congregations. Churches are
disturbed, upset, and divided when false teachers show up. This is because the focus has shifted
from Christ to the teacher, teaching, or anything other than Christ. When the focus is not on
Christ, the unity of the body is uncertain.
Why do false teachers spread false teachings? Paul says in verse 11 that they teach things they
should not teach “for the sake of sordid gain.” They are doing it for their own benefit. For the
most part, they do it to line their pockets with the money that they can get out of religious
people. This works surprisingly well, which is why there are still so many televangelists in
business that are not true teachers of God’s Word. People will send in large sums of money to
these people, even after hearing all the warnings and horror stories about fakes and phony TV
So what can be done? Paul provided Titus with some very straightforward advice on what to do.
They must be silenced. They and those who listen to them must be rebuked sharply in order to
keep sound doctrine in the church. The hope and goal is that even the false teachers will realize
their errors and turn, but the church must be protected in the process.
When Paul refers to all things being pure for those who are pure, he is referring to the fact that
certain Jewish teachers were trying to impose the dietary laws on the people. But for those who
are free in Christ and made pure by His sacrifice, all food is acceptable. For those not purified
by Christ’s blood, nothing is pure, not even the so-called clean foods. Their minds and hearts are
polluted, and so everything else in their lives is too. With this in mind, the goal is to fight false
teaching with the truth.
We could spend a lot of time talking about some of the false teachings that surround us today.
The problem is that false teachers are constantly cropping up, and new teachings are always
being introduced. Further, many of these teachings are clothed in Christian language, using parts
of the Bible (generally out of context) to make it appear to be legitimate Christian teaching. So
how can we protect ourselves and our church from these things if new threats are always
cropping up and are sometimes very subtle? The answer is to know the truth.
The Secret Service is trained to spot counterfeit money on sight. They are extremely good at it,
able to spot even the best counterfeit bills. How do they do it? They study the real thing. They
know true money so well that if anything, even the slightest tint of the color, is off, they spot it
immediately. That is why it is so important for Christians to know the Bible. Read it every day,
because that is the way to protect yourself. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My
word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make
you free.” We need to know what Christ says and teaches, and that is how we will know the
difference between truth and falsehood.
The greatest need that false teachers and those who follow them is the same need that you and I
have. That need is Jesus Christ. They need to know the truth and be set free by that truth, the
same as anyone else. The goal of sharp rebuke is to keep false teachings silent, maintain the
truth of Scripture in the church, and provide the chance for people to come to know Christ and
False teachers are just like the big bad wolf. They clothe themselves so that they appear to “fit
in.” Many are like Little Red Riding Hood, who should have known that there was danger and
had the discernment to flee from danger but didn’t. We need to be on the lookout for the big bad
wolf and not get caught off guard. Don’t let false teaching deceive you. Instead, be like the
Christians of first century Berea. Acts 17:11 says of those in Berea, “ Now these were more
noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” Study the Scriptures daily,
and don’t be deceived by a big bad wolf.