From Titus 1-3
Titus is another of Paul’s coworker’s in the gospel. Paul has left Titus behind with instructions for choosing leaders for the fledgling churches that have sprung up as a result of their ministry. What qualities would you look for or avoid? What challenges do our church leaders face?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Paul gives an extended introduction to his letter. Normally the introduction reveals what is on his mind and gives a hint at the contents of the letter.
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,
for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,
2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Tit 1:1–4)
Paul says he is an apostle for the sake of others. Their faith and their knowledge are both ‘in accordance’ with godliness. Presumably he means a person’s faith and knowledge set the limit on how godly a person can be.
He and all Christians wait in hope for eternal life.
This was promised before ‘the ages’ by God. Their promises have now come to fulfillment through the preaching of the gospel. And that is Paul’s job. Jesus commanded him to preach the gospel.
Paul addresses the letter to Titus, one of his co-workers. They share a common faith, as all Christians do. The letter has a similar flavour with his letters to Timothy in this respect. Paul is giving him some instructions in how to lead and direct churches in his absence.
The letter emphasizes the interrelationship between doctrine and ethics.
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Tit 1:5–8)
Titus originally was with Paul when they first came to Crete. But after some success in planting some new churches. Paul had to leave abruptly. Much work still remained. So he left Titus behind to finish off the work that needed to be done.
Paul cannot do this alone. He requires the help of others to continue his work.
One of the main things he needs for these fledgling churches is elders. Leaders who will pastor the new Christians who live in Crete. He gives a list of qualifications. Being above reproach necessary for Paul for leadership (1 Tim 3.2). This is how Paul wants to present all people in his churches before Christ (Col 1.22; 1 Tim 5.7).
Paul gives a list of attitudes and behaviours which disqualify a person (he) from being a leader in church. Arrogance (smug, self-righteous), easily angered, alcoholic, violent or greedy. Arrogance is listed first because it is the worst. Leaders need to be humble.
On the other hand the list of positive traits and behaviours are hospitality, love good, self-controlled, upright (righteous), holy and disciplined. Once again the first is the most important. Hospitality. He must be able to invite people in and look after them well.
9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Tit 1:9)
Lastly Paul states he must not budge from the word he has been taught. Paul expects him to be involved in teaching others and opposing false teaching.
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. (Tit 1:10–14)
The circumcisions party are also mentioned in Gal 2 and Acts 15. They believed it important Gentile converts to the Christian faith observe the law of Moses and be circumcised. I can’t imagine the Gentiles were eager to get it done. Paul was dead against it.
They were causing a disturbance to the early Gentile churches by joining them and arguing their position.
Titus is meant to choose elders and overseers who know the gospel well enough to stand up to them.
Paul gains support from a prophecy which he believes is from God. The prophecy is not flattering. It condemns the Cretans of the circumcision party. The term ‘Cretan’ has been a derogatory term since. The prophecy gives Paul warrant to instruct Titus to rebuke the Cretans.
15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Tit 1:15–16)
The gospel made everything clean. Paul says at another point by ‘the word of God and prayer’ (). Everything not done out of faith was sin (Rom 14.23). But the circumcision party didn’t see things that way. Fault finders, they kept seeing a distinction between the pure and defiled.
Paul says the way we behave is a demonstration of the sincerity of our faith.
They might have been reasonable practitioners of Judaism, but their dodgy Christian theology contributed to their evil works.
The growth of a church, spiritual and numerical, is God’s work. God gives the growth (1 Cor 3.7). God works through the leaders of the church. Which is why Titus had to be careful when he chose leaders. Once appointed, leaders have their work cut out for them.
Leading in church is demanding. Support your leaders. Pray for them. Thank them for their ministry.
Some disrupt the church and make their work difficult. Grieving them. Don’t be like these.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.