Today we intercept another spiritual ‘e-mail’ from Paul to one of his best mates – this time, Titus. This young man was a Gentile (unlike Timothy) who again deputized for Paul when his mentor was off on his missionary travels. Titus also carried the letters from Paul to the church in Corinth and helped to smooth over the Corinthians’ ‘ruffled feathers’ when they read them! Paul and Titus also worked together in Crete and when Paul left, he appointed Titus as the one in charge of the churches on that large island (the fourth largest in the Mediterranean).
This letter to Titus was written by Paul between AD 63 and 65, at around the same time as he wrote 1 Timothy – and probably from Philippi too. Apollos and Zenas were the ‘postmen’ this time (see 3:13). It was clear from the letter that Titus’ role in Crete was a short-term one since Paul commands him to leave as soon as a suitable replacement leader arrives and to re-join Paul at Nicopolis (3:12).
You can get a good idea of what one of Paul’s letters is about by thinking about the first line: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…”. Implicitly, Paul’s mission becomes Titus’ mission – as every faithful disciple understands!
Paul wrote this to “…further the faith of God’s elect (chosen) and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…” (v1). Some of this bible is written to strengthen our understanding of the gospel and to model how it should be most effectively delivered. But passages like this are to strengthen our faith and to teach us truth – in the hope that it changes our lives to become godlier.
“God our Saviour” (v3) is a phrase that appears frequently in Titus. Interestingly Paul deliberately assigns the title of ‘Saviour’ first to God the Father, then to Jesus alternately. See 1:3; 1:4; 2:10; 2:13; 3:4; and 3:6. The book of Titus is a very powerful defence of the deity of Christ and these verses support that strongly. If you also include Isaiah 43:11; 45:21; and Hosea 13:4, then it proves that Jesus and the Father are of one substance. In the whole of the New Testament, God is called ‘Saviour’ 8 times and Jesus 16 times.
Just as Timothy was commanded, so Titus was sent to appoint elders in every town church, based upon the ‘checklist’ criteria that Paul had already mentioned in 1Timothy and in Titus 1. There would not be more than one church (or denomination!!!) in a particular town, so this shows that a plurality of elders was the norm for every given church. The anomalous modern role of ‘Pastor’ who runs the entire church under his own authority is not something recommended by the New Testament.
There was no way of Titus knowing whether a particular person would turn out to be an effective leader, but at least the candidate would not be a total disaster if they satisfied Paul’s qualification criteria. This was a ‘rush’ job, and in a more normal local church setting that we live in today, we can afford to be more selective and take more time. Those qualities that Paul emphasizes in Titus (and omits from 1 Timothy) are ‘Not overbearing’, ‘Not quick-tempered’, ‘Loves what is good’, ‘Upright and holy’, and ‘Disciplined’. And a leader needs also to put into practice sound doctrine (not just to agree with it) so that he/she has the credibility to steer others in it direction too.
Crete was full of false teachers and troublemakers – most of whom declared that a man had to be circumcised in order to be saved, and to keep the whole Law. Furthermore, the native population was known for being liars, brutish, lazy, and gluttonous. This trait would obvious have been evident in the new converts – we don’t instantly lose all our cultural ‘baggage’ when saved – and so the church leadership had to have the opposite qualities (see my previous paragraph).
But the Christian does have the advantage of an inbuilt ‘filter’ in our hearts, minds, and consciences: “To the pure, all things are pure…” (1:15), which basically means that we have protection against anything that might cross our minds or tempt us – so long as we are walking with the Holy Spirit daily.