The following was delivered on a recent Sunday morning at New City Church in Bath, Maine
Having read Titus 1 in its entirety, It’s important that we understand a few things from the introduction.
We know that Paul is the author, because he includes his own name in the greeting.
We also see two identifying marks that he mentions about himself. Though this is addressed to Titus in particular, no doubt this letter would be widely read among the churches of Crete, so these credentials would go a long way in earning their trust.
1. A servant of God
2. An apostle of Jesus Christ
The word Paul uses for himself is doulos, and what it literally means is…slave. He’s actually saying that he is a slave of God. Owned by God.
He’s in His service
He belongs to Him
This is true of every Christian in this room. Some believe it more than others. So let me use this as a reminder to you that you are not your own, but belong body and soul to God, and to our Savior Jesus Christ.
He has bought you and saved you FOR HIMSELF, out of your sin and death, out of your enmity with God, and has made you his servant.
And no matter your calling, your vocation, or your office in the church, your calling is this – to be a servant of God and do His will.
Paul was also an apostle, which is a word that has both a narrow and a broad application. The word in a broad sense means to be sent forth with orders. So there is an apostolic nature to all of Christian mission because we are all representatives and ambassadors of Christ.
But In the narrow sense, there were only 12 who were directly called and commissioned by the risen Christ in person. Judas was among that number for a season, in order to fulfill another purpose of God, but Paul took his place when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and gave him these words. “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.
He further explains his apostleship in the rest of this verse, as well as v 2 and 3.
Titus 1:1-3 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;
Couple points to make here.
Paul’s ministry was in agreement with the faith of God’s elect, and their knowledge of the truth.
The words translated from the Greek into “For the sake of” is more accurately rendered, according to, or down from.
It’s the Greek preposition “kata”, and it would be read this way in the sentence.
An apostle of Jesus Christ, according to, or down from, the faith of God’s elect and according to the knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness…
In other words, what Paul is saying is that His calling to apostleship and to the preaching of the Gospel, including in the city of Crete where Titus is, is connected to the same faith and purpose of all of God’s elect since the beginning of time. That’s an incredible credential. It is as if Paul is saying, if you are truly God’s chosen people, and you have believed the truth of the gospel of eternal hope, promised by God who cannot lie…then you will receive this letter and do what I am instructing you to do.
At the close of his salutation we see the primary recipient of this letter is Titus, and he calls his true son in a common faith.
This is what Paul did. He developed leaders by taking young men under his wings and pouring into them the faith that is common among us. He calls him his true son, or sincere son in the faith, indicating that Paul’s visit to Crete resulted in Titus believing the Gospel, and then taking the care of His spiritual growth and discipleship upon himself, And this is the kind of culture the church needs today.
Now we get into the body of this letter.
v5. 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…
God cares about order. One of the signs of God’s fingerprints on a society is its orderly nature. It seems from this text that Paul had been in Crete and had preached the Gospel to the effect that several new groups of disciples were gathering in various towns. When he left Titus there he did so with directions to establish leaders in each of the towns, and to water what Paul had planted.
Perhaps it wasn’t going as smoothly as Titus thought it might. No doubt, based on the rest of the letter he needed some encouragement, and the churches there needed some reminders. So Paul picks up the pen with the authority of an Apostle to set things in order.
That’s why I’m titling this series: Order In The Churches
Some of what we cover will apply directly to you, and some indirectly. All of it is useful to the church
1. If we want order in the church, we need a plurality of biblically qualified male leaders.
And if it’s not currently possible in a particular church, the sites need to be set, and the steps need to be made to move in that direction.
Where do we see this in the text?
v5. Appoint elders (plural)
Luke says it in Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Again in Acts 20:17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them.
Elder plurality is first right because it is biblical.
But also you have a team of men committed to shepherding together which means shared accountability and shared responsibility.
But plurality isn’t enough. A church could have a team of guys, but still have a team all the wrong guys, men with unbiblical or ungodly character.
So we’re given qualifications in v6-10. Paul lays this out to Timothy as well in 1 Timothy 3. But this is the list he gives to Titus as he’s prayerfully seeking to appoint elders. And this is the same list that elders and churches are to use today when appointing new leaders.
We can’t exhaustively look at each qualification, but let’s read through and I’ll highlight a few things.
v6. 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.
Above reproach is to say…an elder should not have open cases of accusation or blame against him because of poor character, and his transformation to Christlikeness would keep him from constant disqualifying-sins. This is not to say that an elder needs to be sinless, (that’s not possible) but an elder must be able to lead a congregation by example away from sin, and toward Christ.
The husband of one wife. This is not saying an elder has to be married. Although I think it’s wisdom for an elder to be married. But remember this is about character. So the character of an elder in the church is one of devotion and commitment and faithfulness to biblical sexuality. So, for the married elder, this man is not giving in to sexual temptation, or cheating with his eyes, or flirting with other women, but he is a one woman man. For the unmarried elder, this man is committed to all these same ideas and will be faithful to obedience to Scripture.
What about this next one… “His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”
Paul’s words to Timothy help us understand what’s trying to be conveyed here.
1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?
The point being, that Titus needs to appoint men to oversee the churches that will be an example of Christlike leadership and headship. The home of an elder will not be one of blatant disrespect to Christian faith or to Christian values in the home. His children must not be openly accused of excess living, or sensuality, or insubordination. Basically, because the elder is tasked with shepherding the church in spiritual matters, his home will reflect this conviction and ability to do so. So if an elder has unsaved children, is he disqualified? The text does not place a burden on the elder that is greater than what he could control. God saves. But if the unconverted children in his home cannot submit to his leadership to the point that his home becomes an example of disorder and rebellion, how can he shepherd the house of God?
v7 and 8 fire off some really important things, but we’ll just read them for now and then focus in on v 9 for a moment.
Titus 1:7-9 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. 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.
It’s assumed that if someone is a pastor by title, and they teach the Scriptures to people in some fashion, then they must be qualified to be there. But this is not the case. v9 is just as much of a qualification, although it’s not a character trait. This is an obedience issue regarding the backbone, and spiritual strength to hold up the truth of God’s word as a form of instruction AND REBUKE.
People want to go to churches where nothing negative is ever said. There are churches in our town and state where men and women fill the pulpits who are utterly disqualified due to the fact that they do not hold firm to the TRUSTWORTHY word “AS TAUGHT”.
How should we teach the Word? As they were taught by Jesus and the Apostles, as infallible, true, trustworthy, authoritative, holy, life-changing, and powerful to save.
As an elder holds firm to this Word, and believes every word, he is then able to instruct in sound doctrine, and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
And the rebuking is not talking about heretic hunting TV Prosperity Preachers, and trolling social media. This is a shepherds job within the church, because there will be those who contradict sound doctrine, not always with hostility, but contradict nonetheless.
2. If we want order in the church, pastors must hold fast to the Word, instruct the teachable, and rebuke the gainsayer with sound doctrine.
It would seem that today we have more and more churches and pastors who are pandering to rebellion and doubt, and creating breeding grounds for contradiction. They do this in hopes not to offend anyone, but in the end you have weak Christians and a weak mission.
An elder is to do this by example, and so lead the church to hold firm to the trustworthy word.
Chapter 1 wraps up with a real world shepherding scenario. Paul knew this region, having begun the work there…and he sees the urgency of establishing elders in the churches who would uphold sound doctrine. One reason being that the Cretans were known for grievous sins such as laziness, gluttony, lying and beastly behaviors.
This was even testified to by one of their very own, v12.
But something that falls in line with our day and context is Paul’s instruction to stop the mouths of the circumcision party. This was a Jewish sect that continued to teach that in order to be saved one must keep the law of Moses, and be circumcised.
Titus 1:10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
The Church is not given physical authority to overtake the rebellious, but spiritual authority through the Word of God to speak the truth so that lies are revealed and the enemies voice just becomes useless noise.
What’s the end result if we ignore false doctrine, and allow anti-gospel teaching to go unchallenged around us? It spreads from the individual, to the family…all the while supposed Christian ministries gain financially.
I have a hard time putting my finger on the pulse of our community, and pinpointing a singular sect as the problem, but what I think I discern is a culture that embraces feel-good religion…so the better you feel the closer you are to God, and the worse your trials, the further you are from God. Which isn’t very different from any works based salvation that puts the weight of assurance on the person rather than on Christ’s finished work.
The hope is to return anyone who thinks this way to sound faith, to be free from myths and foolishness, and from any pursuit of God that is not by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Clearly this region of Crete was not going to be easy.
So when we think about hard areas of spiritual darkness and apathy around us, we’ve not been given the excuse to move on because of difficulty…but to establish churches in those areas that teach sound doctrine and transform families.
Let me close with a few challenges related to the importance of elders in the church.
If you’re a man in this room, the only reason you should not be considered for eldership at New City should be because of calling, gifting, or timing, not disqualification.
If you’re a woman in this room, being female is not a disqualifying trait, as if you’ve done something wrong. Ask God for the courage to love God’s plan for leadership in the church, and just know that there’s important Gospel work for you to do.
Finally, if there’s one thing this first chapter of Titus teaches us, it’s that no matter the corruption, deception, or rebellion in a particular community, the answer is Jesus Christ made known through preaching that comes from the Church of Jesus Christ! Paul’s instruction to establish leaders in the churches is our instruction to plant churches and establish leaders wherever we can. It’s also a reminder of how seriously we are to be about eldership in this church, and that doctrine, and teaching, and rebuking by the truth are never sacrificed for selfish and worldly gain.
This is what stops the effectiveness of the mouths of deceivers.