Titus 3:9-15

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.
(Titus 3:9-15 NIV)

Previously, we looked at Paul’s reminder of our calling in Christ, and our salvation in Christ.  Paul ended his thought (v. 8) by saying that these truths are applicable to and good for everyone who claims to be Christ’s follower, that we can count on these teachings as foundational truths and stake our life on them.

As we look at Paul’s final words in his letter to Titus, Paul reminds Titus to focus on the main thing – the truths he just wrote about – our salvation in Christ and our calling to live like Christ.  Paul also offers some personal notes in his concluding remarks.

In contrast to verse 8 where Paul tells Titus to focus on the core truths of salvation in Christ and living for Christ (vv. 4-7), Paul issues a warning in verse 9 to avoid getting sucked into the Judiazers’ arguments about following the Old Testament law and genealogies and other controversies that would waste his time.  Paul calls these arguments “unprofitable” and “useless”.

Isn’t that just like the enemy of our souls?  If he can’t convince us to walk away from the Gospel of Christ, then he tries to get us entangled in frivolous arguments about stuff that is emotionally charged but really does not matter.  And in so doing, the enemy has sidelined us by keeping us from focusing on our main truths – our salvation in Christ and our calling to live for Christ and tell others about Christ.

Paul had already reminded Titus about not getting involved with the Judaizers (1:10-11, 1:14), and had given Titus the authority to deal with these false teachers (1:13, 2:15).  Now Paul gives Titus a specific process to follow: give these folks two warnings; if they don’t respond to the Gospel, then have nothing to do with them (vv. 10-11).

Finally, Paul wants to see Titus face-to-face, so he is sending someone (either Artemas or Tychicus) to carry on the ministry in Crete while Paul spends time with Titus as he is in Nicopolis for the winter.

Paul also reminds Titus to fully support others that are laboring for the Gospel – people like Zenas and Apollos.  Paul tells Titus to remind the believers in Crete to live out their calling in Christ; that includes caring for others, not just living for themselves like the other Cretans.

Finally, Paul sends his greetings from all who are with him to all who are with Titus in Crete.  Paul ends his letter by reminding Titus (and us) to live in and carry God’s grace with us wherever we go and in whatever we do.

May we boldly and lovingly say “no” to things or people that waste our time and keep us from living out our calling in Christ.

May we live out our calling in God’s grace, where our inner lives are reflected in our outer lives and our love toward others.

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 3:1-8

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
(Titus 3:1-8 NIV)

In our previous time together, we finished chapter 2, looking at Paul’s instructions for the attitudes of slaves (employees) toward their masters (bosses), followed by all believers’ mandate to live out their calling in Christ.  Chapter 2 was focused on each person’s inner and outer character traits.

As we begin chapter 3 today, Paul begins by reminding us to live out our calling in Christ in relation to others in addition to our personal lives.  In verses 1-2, Paul reminds Titus to remind the people of Crete that they are to obey, to be subject to the government authorities.  Even though Crete was an island, they were still part of the Roman empire.  Paul did not say this out of loyalty to Rome, but out of obedience to Christ, with the full understanding that even governmental leaders are under the authority of God (whether they acknowledge God’s authority or not).

These outward behaviors toward others (obedient, ready to serve, not slanderous, peaceable, considerate, gentle) were not a “happy face” to be worn only in the presence of others.  Rather, these behaviors were the outward manifestation of the inner and outer character traits Paul laid out in Chapter 2.  These outward behaviors toward others were the culmination, the end result of a life centered in Christ.

In verse 3, Paul reminds Titus (and us) of our common heritage, our sordid past of sin and brokenness and selfishness and damaged relationships as we try to live out life on our own and fail miserably.  Notice that Paul does not exclude himself from this mess – he says “we too”.  No one is immune to this way of living – not Paul, not Titus, not me, not you – no one.

The contrast, however, is in verses 4-7, as Paul reminds us of our salvation and new life in Christ.  Verse 4 is so rich, as Paul says “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared”.  First of all, God showed up in flesh and blood in the person of Jesus!  And what was God’s attitude when He arrived and saw the mess and brokenness of humanity?   In His righteousness, did He destroy them all?  No – Paul says God showed up in kindness and love.

Paul goes on to say that God saved us, not because of any good that we had done, but because of His mercy toward us.  God knew that despite our best efforts, we could never do enough good things to earn His favor as a righteous and holy God.  His standard is perfection (no sin) and we all fall desperately short of His standard, which is Himself.

The judgment for our sin is separation from God.  But God intervened and paid the penalty for our sin through His own Son, Jesus.  Jesus took the penalty for our sin on the cross and paid it once and for all.

When we accept God’s free gift of salvation, we are telling God that we can’t earn our way into His presence, that we are depending on His Son alone for eternal life.  When we yield our life and will to Jesus and tell Him so with our words, then Paul says that God saves us and transforms us through regeneration (spiritual rebirth) and indwelling our lives with His Holy Spirit (v. 5b).

As a result of us yielding our life to Christ, God justifies us (wipes out our record of sin) and accepts us, lavishly pours out His love on us, takes us in as family (He calls us heirs), and gives us hope (assurance) of eternal life with God (v. 7).

Paul then stops in verse 8 and tells Titus that verses 4-7 are a trustworthy saying, that Titus can count on these teachings as foundational truths and stake his life on them.

Paul then goes on to tell Titus (and us) to preach and teach and demonstrate these truths in our daily lives so others will do the same.  Discipleship, learning to live like Christ, is both taught and caught, and we must be intentional in teaching and leading others by example.  Paul ends his thought by saying that these truths are applicable to and good for everyone who claims to be Christ’s follower.

May we have a “Paul” in our lives to teach and demonstrate what it means to be more Christlike, to encourage us and give us a nudge or prod as we need it.

May we be a “Titus” to others, providing a living example of what it means to follow Jesus through both our words and our actions, investing in them and walking with them through the joys and pains of life.

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 2:9-15

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
(Titus 2:9-15 NIV)

In our previous two passages, we looked at the character traits of adult men and women, both young and old, that demonstrate God’s life in and through them.

Today, we look at character traits of slaves (employees) toward their masters (bosses), then our calling as a follower of Christ to live out our salvation in Him.

Verses 9 – 10 summarize our attitude and actions as employees working for our bosses.  Paul again uses the phrase “be subject to” (one word in the Greek language).  This is is a military term, meaning that one puts themselves voluntarily under another’s authority as a soldier puts himself under the commander’s authority.

Paul says that the employee’s role is to please their boss.  There is no opt-out clause for bad bosses or that the work is easy or that the employee finds ultimate fulfillment in what they are doing.  In fact, Paul says that not only do employees need to do the work they are given, they are to do so with a good attitude, not talking back to their bosses.

Paul also says that employees are not to steal from their employers.  The word used for steal indicates petty theft, not grand larceny.  A good example of this in our day and age would be employees taking office supplies from work for use at home.

The best compliment that an employee can receive, Paul says, is that their employer trusts them.  By living their lives with integrity and honesty, employees make Christ attractive to unbelieving bosses, making it easy to share Christ with them.

In verses 11-14, Paul summarizes God’s exhortation and calling to all ages, genders, and occupations.  God’s grace is made available to all people, and salvation is offered to all.  We are all undeserving, and yet God still offers His love and mercy freely to all who will accept the death of His Son Jesus as payment for their sins and Jesus’ resurrection as the assurance of eternal life spent in heaven with God.

So are salvation and eternal life the end of the story?  Paul says that those who accept God’s gracious gift are transformed both inwardly and outwardly.  God’s purpose is to redeem us for His use, and for His glory.  Our hope is found only and completely in Him, whom we look for, long for, and wait expectantly.

Finally, Paul’s instruction to Titus is to teach, encourage, and rebuke with the full authority of the Gospel.  Even as a young pastor on a very difficult assignment, Paul tells Titus to not let anyone ignore him or dismiss his teaching.  Instead, Paul tells Titus to stand his ground for the sake of the Gospel, so that people hear and learn the truth of God’s love and offer of salvation and eternal life.  Either a person’s teaching is moving them toward Christ, or away from Christ.  As Paul had stated in chapter 1, the Gospel is clearly about Christ, not some mere human’s twisted idea based on tradition or desire to control others or to profit from them.

May we live out our salvation, first from our inner lives, and second from our outer lives that are a reflection of our inner lives, Christ living in and through us.

May we share Christ in love with all who will listen, encourage other followers of Christ, and lovingly correct all who preach anything or anyone other than Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 2:4-8

Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
(Titus 2:4-8 NIV)

In the previous passage, Paul began by reminding Titus what to teach the adult men and women of the congregations.  Not everyone will be a spiritual leader, but all (including us) have a responsibility and calling to live a life that is Christ-centered and honoring to God.  Last time we looked at what Paul told Titus to teach the older men and older women.  Today we will see what Paul says to teach the younger women and the younger men.

As Paul transitions to teaching the younger women, he switches gears.  Instead of having Titus teach them, Paul tells Titus to have the older women teach the younger women.

Before Paul talks about what the older women are to teach the younger women, he addresses how they are to teach.  The word “urge” can also be translated “encourage”.  The idea here is to train by example, as the older women invest in the younger women and show them how to live out these character attributes and behaviors.  This is training that cannot be learned in books; it must be learned by walking alongside another person, learning by imitation and example.

Now to the “what” that older women are to teach younger women:

  • Love their husbands – to be fond of and affectionate toward their husbands, to see the positive in them instead of only seeing the negative.  This is a choice of the inner person that manifests itself in outward behavior of the wife toward her husband.
  • Love their children – to be fond of, affectionate, and maternal toward her children.  This is an inward choice that is manifested outwardly, even when the kids are crying, clingy, needy, disobedient, have poopy diapers, are sick, or tired.  You get the idea.
  • Self-controlled – with a sound mind – clear-headed.
  • Pure – clear of carnality, of impure thoughts; chaste.
  • Busy at home – at first, this may sound quite passive, just cooking, cleaning, and other domestic duties.  But the deeper implication and picture here is that of a mama bear fiercely protecting and defending her home and her cubs, keeping watch over her domain.  There are no shrinking violets in this word picture!
  • Kind – good-natured, beneficial to others.  This starts with a heart focused upwardly and outwardly, noticing the needs and hurts of others and responding to them.
  • Subject to their own husbands – this is a military term, meaning to voluntarily put oneself under the leadership of another.  Paul is not telling the younger women to be doormats for their husbands.  He is saying, however, that they should be about the same purpose and direction as the husband, that they should form a team (like an army works together) to accomplish their life objectives.  Again, this starts with an inward choice that is demonstrated in outward behavior.

Finally, Paul instructs Titus on what to teach the younger men.  Paul tells Titus to “encourage” the younger men.  This word “encourage: could also be translated “urge”.  This word picture is that of one person calling another to their side in order to instruct, to admonish, or exhort.  Think of a coach calling a ballplayer over to the sideline to give them correction and instructions, then sending them back into the game.

At first glance, it looks like the young men get off the hook easily, as Paul tells Titus to teach them to be self-controlled (to be of sound mind and choices, to curb their passions).

On further examination, however, Paul’s instructions to Titus run so much deeper.  In verse 7, Paul tells Titus to be an example to these young men.  Titus was a young pastor, and the other young men were to emulate Titus’ walk with the Lord.

And what characteristics should Titus display in his life that would be worthy of replicating in other young men?

  • Integrity in teaching – teaching God’s truth; sticking with what God says in His Word and not chasing after other things as Paul noted that others were doing in Chapter 1, where some were teaching that you had to become a Jew before following Christ, or leading others astray for their own financial gain.  This required singleness of purpose and dedication to study and leading others, starting with their own families.
  • Seriousness – like the older men, this was a mix of gravity of character and dignity that showed their inner life was the same as their outer life.  While they did not have the years of demonstration of this trait that the older men had, they had the foundation of a life dedicated to the Lord.  This was a weightiness of character that would ground them in the things of the Lord and intentional care for others, again starting in their own families.
  • Soundness of speech – healthy words on the outside reflecting a healthy heart and soul on the inside.

In the end, Paul says that by demonstrating on the outside the positive traits of their inner lives, Titus, along with the other young men, would convict the hearts of those who would oppose him and the message of the Gospel.

May we live out Paul’s calling for our age group and gender, living in community with one another for God’s glory and our good.

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 2:1-3

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 
(Titus 2:1-3 NIV)

In the previous two passages, Paul laid out the prerequisites for spiritual leaders (elders) in the local church.  Paul then gave Titus the reason he started with the attributes that spiritual leaders must have, describing the problems in the Cretan believers and the churches.

Today, Paul reminds Titus what to teach the adult men and women of the congregations.  Not everyone will be a spiritual leader, but all have a responsibility and calling to live a life that is Christ-centered and honoring to God.  Paul begins by focusing on the older men, then the older women, then the younger women, and finally, the younger men.  We will look at the instructions for the older men and women today, and the younger women and men next time.

Paul instructs Titus to teach the older men first.  This was likely a formidable command to Titus, a young pastor.  So what character attributes does a godly older man possess?

  • Temperate – to be sober, not drunk, not intoxicated by anything, to have a clear mind not influenced by any substance.  Remember that Crete was known for its wine exports, so alcohol was in abundant supply.  This character trait was an inner choice to have a clear mind and an outer choice to maintain that clarity.
  • Worthy of respect – a combination of gravity of character and dignity which together inspires deep respect in others.  This involved both the person’s inner life (their focus of heart and seriousness of purpose) and their exterior life (reverence in conduct).
  • Self-controlled – mentally fit, with a sound mind.  This is an inner trait that manifests itself in the outer life in multiple ways, particularly how the person responds to tough circumstances.  Do they weather the storm and remain unflappable, grounded in Christ, or do they respond negatively or poorly?
  • Sound in faith – healthy in the quiet conviction of belief, not wavering in their relationship with God.  This is a person that, when you question how deeply their relationship with God goes, they look you in the eye and say, “I know that I know that I know.”  This is King David saying, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 37:25)
  • Love – this is the Greek word “agape”, meaning unconditional love.  This is the deepest type of love, the love that God has for us, the primary character trait of God.  This is not an emotion, but a deeply and firmly held conviction of character.
  • Endurance – to have endurance is to abide and be steadfast under trial, to hold up under intense pressure or persecution.  This comes from an ordered inner life and is manifested or shown in our outer lives.

Next, Paul instructs Titus on what to teach the older women:

  • Reverent – of godly character on the inside and behavior on the outside.  This is befitting a person whose life is fully given to the Lord.
  • Not a slanderer – not one who is a false accuser, not one who jumps to conclusions before listening and knowing the facts.  The Greek word that Paul uses for slanderer has the same root word used for Satan.
  • Not addicted to much wine – not in bondage to alcohol.  Just like Paul told Titus to tell the older men to be temperate, he instructs Titus to tell the older women to not be dependent on alcohol.  With wine abundantly available on the island of Crete, it would be easy to lean on alcohol to drown the sorrows and hardships of the day.
  • Teach what is good – to intentionally instruct others on worthwhile subjects.

 

May we reflect on God’s teaching through Paul’s words to Titus and live out our calling for God’s glory and our good.

Regardless of our age group, may we desire and intentionally live our lives so that we may finish well and reflect the character attributes of God, where at the end of our lives, He says, “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 1:10-16

10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
(Titus 1:10-16 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, the Apostle Paul outlined the character qualities that are prerequisites to being an elder (spiritual leader) in the local church.  These character attributes are both internal (what someone believes and holds dear) as well as external (what they say and what they practice through their actions and attitudes).  Paul makes it clear that it’s not an “either-or”, but a “both-and”.  Our doctrine (what we believe) must match our behavior (what we do).

At the end of yesterday’s passage, Paul told Titus that in addition to possessing the character qualities and integrity outlined prior, church leaders also had to have a certain “backbone” or groundedness in what they believed.  This firmness of conviction would be necessary to hold to God’s truth and lovingly refute any and all attempts by others to teach anything other than the truth of God’s Word.

In today’s text, we see the reason that Paul ended with this admonition to stand firm in the truth of God’s Word.  There were teachers and leaders in some of the churches that were passing off lies and half-truths as God’s truth.  Great discernment would be needed, as well as strength of character and boldness of conviction to refute these false teachers.

It might be easier to sniff out false teachings when the teacher is outside the church.  It’s often harder to recognize false teachings when they come from someone inside the church.  In these early churches, Jewish followers of Jesus often mixed their long-held traditions of following God’s laws with salvation in Christ Jesus.  They taught that you had to become Jewish first, and then follow Jesus.  This “becoming Jewish” included keeping certain ceremonies like circumcision for the men and following the dietary laws and observing Jewish religious festivals for all.

Paul called these false Jewish teachings “meaningless talk and deception” (v. 10), and noted that their teachings were disrupting whole families (v. 11).  These false teachings were not only wrong and disruptive, but they were wrong morally as well.  These teachers were not interested in seeing people grow to be more Christlike; they were only interested in making money from their followers.  These false teachers were truly wolves in sheep’s clothing, preying upon the trust of those they were misleading.

Bottom line, these false teachers had to be stopped.  This would not be an easy job for Titus.  This would not be any fun, either, as the false teachers would do everything they could to maintain their power and control over the people as their source of income.

Paul goes on to quote the Cretan poet Epimenides:  “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”  Paul agrees with him and says their testimony is true – they are all those things, and in fact, this is the only truth that they speak.

So what is Paul’s charge to Titus?  To rebuke them sharply – in tough love, of course, but firmly so that they may be sound in their faith in Christ.  Remember Paul’s Greek word that he used before – “ortho”, like orthopedist, the doctor who sets broken bones so they can heal?  That was Paul’s instructions to Titus.  He needed to reset the churches’ broken beliefs and practices so they could heal and be whole in Christ again.

Part of that healing involved learning to ignore (pay no attention to) the false teachers who were telling them to follow Jewish religious practices as the means of following Jesus.  Paul called these teachings “myths” and “merely human commands” (v. 14).

So how would Titus know when someone was healed (restored) and firm in their faith in Christ and no longer following the false teachers?  Paul says that they would have a new attitude toward food and events.  No longer would they follow the Jewish dietary laws, seeing many foods as “impure”, and certain days as “holy” where no activity could take place, including activities that furthered God’s kingdom (v. 15).

Paul concludes this section by saying that the words and teachings of these false teachers would not match.  They would claim to know and follow Christ, but their actions would not reflect their beliefs, and would, in fact, deny Christ.  Bottom line, the self-righteousness of these false teachers was worthless; there was no inherent good in them, nor could they do anything to merit God’s favor.

Paul’s words to Titus are true for us in our day as well.  We must be careful to stay within the boundaries of God’s teaching and truths as recorded in His Word, the Bible.  And when someone strays from that teaching, then the church elders have a responsibility to lovingly but firmly correct the teacher.

May we pray for our church leaders as they point us to Biblical belief and practice, both in word as they teach us and in behavior as they demonstrate what it means to follow Jesus in their lives.

Blessings,
~kevin

Titus 1:5-9

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
(Titus 1:5-9 NIV)

In our previous passage, Paul uses a lengthy introduction to encourage Titus and remind him (and the churches where Titus would read this letter) of their calling by God, their purpose for God, their hope in God, their promise of eternal life in God, and their reality of God in them.

Paul’s introduction is a great summary of the good news of the Gospel that Paul has entrusted Titus to pass along in word and example to the churches in Crete.

I must confess that today’s passage has been a bit of a struggle to process, particularly to know what to share.  The overall message of today’s text is quite clear – the inward and outward character traits that God’s people must possess before they can lead their local congregations as elders.  These prerequisites are not tied to physical maturity as the title “elder” might indicate.  Rather, these are marks of spiritual maturity that one must possess before stepping into a leadership position.

So my struggle has not been with Paul’s commands to Titus (the content).  It would be easy to take a clinical view of today’s text, examine each character trait Paul lists, ask ourselves how well formed that character trait is in us, and move on.  But if we limited today’s study to just that, I think we would be missing a key part of the story.

After several day’s studies, and also hearing a sermon on part of today’s text, I realized the missing piece of what I need to write about – the context of Titus’ ministry in Crete.

As we introduced the book of Titus, we noted that this was a particularly tough assignment for the young pastor Titus.  Crete was a rotten place to live, with drunkenness, idol worship, immorality, and perversion of every sort.  But where sin abounded, God’s grace abounded even more.

To help set the context, we need to understand how the good news of Christ came to this island in the first place.  Acts chapter 2 describes the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles gathered in Jerusalem.  As only the Lord could orchestrate, there were also God-fearing Jews gathered nearby.  As the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, each of the gathered Jews heard the good news of Christ in their native language.  Among those gathered were people from Crete (Acts 2:11).  These people from Crete were among the three thousand that came to Christ on that day.

So fast forward several years from the Day of Pentecost.  People from Crete had come to Christ in Jerusalem, then eventually made their way back home to their island nation.  The Lord had called Paul from persecutor and prosecutor of Christians to preacher, evangelist, church planter, and encourager of all to live for Christ.

Paul certainly had been made aware that people on Crete knew Christ.  Paul also knew of the terrible reputation of sin on the island, and that Christ followers there needed training and encouragement.  Hence, Paul sent Titus to help.

In verse 5, Paul tells Titus to “put in order”.  Part of the Greek word that Paul uses is “ortho”, meaning “to straighten”.  From this Greek word, we get the English words “orthodontist” (one who straightens teeth), and “orthopedic” (one who straightens or mends broken bones).  This “straightening” is done with great skill and care, to make the “patient” better and heal properly.

In today’s text, we see the process of discipleship at work.  Paul did not tell Titus to teach these truths at each and every church on the island of Crete every Sunday; that was a physical impossibility, as Crete is approximately 10 miles wide and 160 miles long.  Rather, Paul told Titus to find Christ followers of character and integrity who could lead others to more Christ-likeness.

Remember that discipleship is both taught and caught.  We can learn from Scriptures, from the writings of others including those who have already gone on to be with the Lord, but learning and head knowledge are not enough.  We must also practice what we know through our attitudes and actions.  Learning fuels pride and arrogance; living it out (and making mistakes along the way) humbles us and makes us more like Christ.

Discipleship begins in our inner world and is manifested in our outer world through our actions.  Paul emphasized both the inner and outer worlds of would-be leaders as he described these character qualities.  Paul knew that church leaders are responsible for their own lives as well as the lives of those church attendees that they lead.  Leadership requires skill (teaching of doctrine) as well as practice (example by behavior).

Paul knew that Titus had a tough assignment.  Titus had to be able to know and teach God’s word clearly and also put in order (“straighten”) some wrong or misguided teachers that were leading the Christ followers down the wrong path.

Paul knew that Titus had to do all this in love.  The Christ-followers on Crete were doing the best that they knew how to do, but there were some fundamentals still lacking that Titus could help them grow into.  Titus needed to accept the people where they were in their spiritual journey of following Christ, then help them back on the path of following Christ and sharing Christ with their fellow islanders and all who would hear.  Sometimes, as Paul reminded Titus in verse 9, this process of discipleship would require tough love, but it was still to be done in love.

May we grow in our walk with Christ, both in knowledge and in practice.  May our Christ-likeness be exemplified through our thoughts, our words, and our actions, reflecting these character qualities that Paul reminds Titus of in today’s text, even if we don’t hold the office of a church elder.

And most of all, as we invest in the lives of others, may we do so with love and care.

Blessings,
~kevin