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

Titus 1:1-4

From the NIV:

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— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
(Titus 1:1-4 NIV)

From the NLT:

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began. And now at just the right time he has revealed this message, which we announce to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him.

I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share.

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace.
(Titus 1:1-4 NLT)

In order to better understand today’s passage, I have included both the NIV and NLT texts to make it a little more approachable and less confusing.

As we begin our journey through the letter from Paul to Titus, we start with Paul’s greeting to Titus.  Normally this would not be a big deal – the author identifies themselves, their intended recipient, and a short salutation.

In Paul’s letter, however, Paul uses this introduction for much more.  So why would Paul go on and on with such an extended introduction?  Was Titus failing in his duties?  Was Paul chastising Titus or trying to teach him something?  Or was Paul just being long-winded?  (After all, Paul was both a lawyer and a preacher!).

I think the answer lies outside our initial negative conclusions that something was wrong.  While this letter is pastoral in nature, from one pastor to another (Paul to Titus), we should not necessarily conclude that it was a private letter.  As was the custom in Paul’s day, Titus would have likely read aloud this letter from Paul to the church congregations.

Paul did not explicitly tell Titus to read the letter to the churches that he served on the island of Crete, but that would have been the customary thing to do.  So Paul was writing with the larger audience in mind – the churches across the island would hear Paul’s words as well.

Paul begins by saying that he is a servant of God by his choice and an apostle of Jesus Christ by God’s choice.  Paul goes on to say that his purpose is to proclaim the news of faith in Christ to those whom God has chosen and to teach them God’s truth.

Paul reminds them of the hope they have in Christ of eternal life.  This hope is not “pie-in-the-sky”, wishful-thinking hope, but a calm confidence “that God will do what He promised” kind of hope.  Paul goes on to say that this is God who is making this promise, and in fact, He made this promise long ago.

Paul makes a special point of saying that God, who does not lie and cannot lie, is the one who made this promise.  This was a big deal, as the Cretans were known to be liars and proclaimers of empty promises (verse 12).

Paul then reminds Titus and the churches that God fulfilled this promise – God kept His word by sending the Word, that is none other than Jesus Christ, the one Paul preaches.  Paul (and likewise Titus)  is now entrusted with proclaiming the truth of Christ (an honor) and is commanded to proclaim the truth of Christ by God (a responsibility Paul gladly bears).

As Paul identifies Titus as the recipient of the letter (verse 4), he calls Titus a “true son in the faith”.  Paul most likely led Titus to Christ, so the title of a spiritual son is fitting.  Paul finishes the salutation by offering grace and peace from the Lord to Titus.

As followers of Christ Jesus, may we take Paul’s introductory remarks as a reminder of God’s calling of us, of His purpose for us, and of our hope, our promise, and our reality in and through Jesus.

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to Titus

Today we begin our journey through the New Testament book of Titus.

This book was written by the Apostle Paul (1:1) to Titus (1:4).  Titus was currently on assignment as a missionary and church planter on the island of Crete, south of Greece (1:5).

While we call Titus a “book” of the Bible, it was originally delivered as an epistle (letter) from Paul to Titus.  This is generally considered a pastoral epistle, similar to the two letters to Timothy.

The timeframe for this letter was somewhere around AD 62-64, likely after Paul’s first Roman imprisonment but before his second Roman imprisonment.

Titus likely came to faith in Christ by way of Paul, as Paul refers to Titus as “my true son in our common faith” (1:4).  We know that Titus accompanied Paul on many visits to churches, including extended time in Corinth, as Paul refers to Titus nine times in his second letter to the Corinthians.

Titus was a Gentile believer (Galatians 2:3) and fully embraced Christ alone, rejecting the common teaching of the Judaizers that he must become a Jew first and follow the Jewish Law to become a “true” follower of Jesus.

Titus was on a difficult assignment as a missionary and church planter to Crete:

  • Crete had a selfish and pleasure-seeking culture (1:12-13)
  • Judaizers were teaching the Law in addition to Christ (1:10-11, 14)
  • Those who teach Eastern mysticism had also crept into the church (3:9)

Paul’s letter to Titus was not corrective in nature; rather, it was a letter of love, encouragement and wise counsel to a young pastor in a very difficult environment.

Titus was having to deal with those outside the church and their influence from a cultural standpoint, as well as those within the church that were teaching false doctrine.

Paul does not teach or explain any big doctrinal truths to Titus, as Titus was likely well-versed in God’s Word, even as a Greek (Gentile) convert.  Paul simply reminds Titus to stay the course and offers some very practical advice and measures for godly living.

These measures for godly living were for church leaders, for men and women (both younger and older), for slaves (employees), and for all in general.

May we look forward to our walk through Paul’s letter to Titus and take encouragement in our walk with the Lord as we serve Him faithfully as Titus did in his day.

Blessings,
~kevin