The false teaching in Crete
Perhaps the most important historical context for understating Titus is the false teaching affecting the church at Crete. Paul specifically addressed this false teaching in Titus 1:10-16, and in fact it seems that the very reason for Titus 1:5-9 was to ensure that there were sound leaders in the church in Crete who could stand against these false teachers. So what can we know about these false teachers plaguing the church in Crete?
They emphasized Judaism
Paul refers to especially those from Judaism in 1:10, and the false teachers seem to have been paying attention to Jewish myths (1:14). Given that Paul told Timothy to avoid disputes about the law, it seems likely that the false teachers might have had a special focus on the Jewish law. These false teachers might have had similarities to the false teachers in 1 Timothy, who wanted to teach the law but did not know what they were talking about (1 Timothy 1:7).
They were focused on myths
There seems to have been a particular focus on the uncertain rather than the certain. The false teachers were full of empty talk (1:10), and they focused on Jewish myths (1:14). In contrast to the false teachers, Titus was not to engage in foolish arguments over genealogies or quarreling over the law (3:9). The false teachers seem to have focused on debating things they could not know for certain, debates that were unprofitable and useless (3:9). In contrast, Titus and the church leaders were to focus on teaching the faithful word as they were taught it (1:9).
They demonstrated their unfitness for leadership by their living
Paul referred to these teachers as rebellious (1:10) and as defiled in their mind and conscience (1:15). He said that though these false teachers professed to know God, that they denied him by their works (1:16). They were detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work (1:16). Paul’s statement in 3:3 seems to set his present life in contrast to the lives of the false teachers with their disobedience, envy, and hatred.
They taught for money
The love of money seems to go hand in hand with false teachers in the Pastoral Epistles. In 1 Timothy 6:5, some imagined that godliness was a means of financial gain, while in Titus, Paul accused the false teachers in Crete of teaching what they ought not to teach for the sake of shameful gain (1:11).
They caused harmful effects on the church
False teaching always leaders to immoral living, but here Paul notes that the false teachers in Crete were overthrowing households with their teaching (1:11). Their false teaching and their rejection of the truth (1:14) were causing great harm to the churches in Crete.
They needed to be silenced
The false teachers in Crete needed to be silenced (1:11), and this task was to fall to Titus and the other leaders of the church in Crete. Paul told Titus to rebuke the false teachers (1:13), and the church in Crete was to disassociate from these divisive, warped, and sinful teachers (3:10-11).