The book of Titus or “To Titus” in the Greek was authored, as claimed in Chapter 1 verse 1, by the Apostle Paul.
“PAUL, A BONDSERVANT OF GOD AND AN APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST…”
Unlike many of Paul’s letters, the epistle to Titus was to an individual vice a group of believers in a particular church or region. As the title suggests Paul’s intended recipient is Titus as is indicated in Chapter 1 verse 4.
“TO TITUS, MY TRUE CHILD IN A COMMON FAITH:…”
Titus was a young Pastor and Fellow worker left by Paul to minister to the Believers in Crete, as we see in Chapter 1 verse 5.
“FOR THIS REASON I LEFT YOU IN CRETE, THAT YOU WOULD SET IN ORDER WHAT REMAINS AND APPOINT ELDERS IN EVERY CITY AS I DIRECTED YOU,”
As you may or may not know, Crete is a small island off the coast of Greece that is known by the same name even today. Titus was there to continue in the work of an evangelist/church planter; a work that was started by the Apostle Paul. You see Paul did not show up; preach the Gospel; acquire a card with a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and leave the people to flounder in their new found faith. On the contrary, he left Titus in Crete in order to disciple the Church at large as we saw earlier in Chapter 1 verse 5.
This was done in much the same way as we expect our missionaries of today to operate; do we expect them to gather support for their mission in order that they only superficially minister to the people they are sent to. Absolutely not! As much as it pains us to lose them from our daily interactions, we expect them to faithfully preach the Gospel of Christ and then disciple and train up these new Believers in righteousness. So that they (the new Believers) may participate side by side with them in ministry.
And just as the these missionaries will have to overcome the cultural mores of the culture in teaching and preaching the Gospel, so did Titus. As we can see in Chapter 1 verses 12 and 13 the Cretans (you may have heard this term before) were not exactly know for good behavior.
“ONE OF THEMSELVES, A PROPHET OF THEIR OWN, SAID ‘CRETANS ARE ALWAYS LIARS, EVIL BEASTS, LAZY GLUTTONS.’ THIS TESTIMONY IS TRUE. FOR THIS REASON REPROVE THEM SEVERELY SO THAT THEY MAY BE SOUND IN THE FAITH.”
I am sure that outside of God’s grace none of us would want to face so formidable a task as was given to Titus in discipling these Believers.
Fortunately for Titus, the Holy Spirit was at work changing the hearts of the Cretan Believers so that they would desire the very discipling that Titus was to provide. Additionally, Paul left him (and by application us) some instructions outlining what he needed to “set in order”.
Namely, the behavior of those within the Church in demonstrating and living out their calling to salvation. This was to be a part of their interactions with one another and as a testimony of Christ to those in the World. And he did this by writing this Epistle to Titus by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, Paul, like us, did not include chapter and verse breakouts with subheadings when he wrote to Titus; but, fortunately our modern translators have included them to help us better reference and understand the flow of scripture. So keeping this in mind let’s start with a brief overview of the entire Epistle broken down by chapter. We want to do this because this entire Book is in fact, as stated before, a letter. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I never read the middle paragraph of any correspondence I receive with the hopes of having an understanding of what the writer desires to convey.
As I briefly mentioned earlier the main theme of the Epistle is the conduct of those in the Body of Christ (or the Church). In chapter 1, Paul begins by establishing the authority he has from Jesus as an apostle to give the instructions that are forthcoming. Following this, Paul gets right to the point of explaining what he wants Titus to accomplish, by first addressing the need for EACH of the Cretan Churches to have qualified Elders to lead them. Paul makes it very clear that these leaders are NOT to be chosen at random or without examination as he lays out a list of qualifications for Elders in Chapter 1 verses 6 through 9, that contains among more these examples of what makes an Elder:
- he must be the husband of one wife
- not quick-tempered
- not fond of sordid (or ill gotten) gain
- he must love what is good
- be self controlled, but not self willed
- be loving and devout
We also see this list paralleled in 1 Timothy Chapter 3 verses 1 through 7.
But Paul doesn’t just tell Titus (or us) what the qualifications are he gives some reasons why these qualifications are important as he goes on to explain some of the things the Elders in Crete (and by application everywhere) are going to be dealing with, namely false teachers and the individual Believers. Earlier I described Cretan society by reading to you from Titus Chapter 1 verses 12 and 13, which does not paint a complimentary picture of the past of these particular Believers. It is because of this that the Elders must be on guard that the pasts of the flock do not overcome them either individually or corporately.
Paul systematically moves from the need for leaders and their respective qualifications and duties to the instruction of the lead or if you prefer the congregations in chapter 2. He accomplishes this by addressing the behavior of five distinct groups within the Body and also Titus himself as an individual. The five groups are in order of appearance the older men in verse 2, the older women in verses 3 and 4, the younger women in verses 4 and 5, the younger men (and Titus) in verses 6-8, and slaves (or by application to us today; employees) in verse 9.
Paul goes on to explain or give reason for the Body behaving in such a way in Chapter 2 verse 11 through Chapter 3 verse 9. In this section of the Epistle Paul reminds Titus (and us) that our behavior is an outpouring of our service and love to/for Christ, it is a response to not a condition of our salvation. Paul is driving home the point in this section that but for God’s grace and mercy in saving us we would have remained in our previous foolish state and that this salvation was a free gift from God that had not and could not be earned.
Chapter 3 verses 3 thru 5 drive this point home.
“FOR WE ALSO ONCE WERE FOOLISH OURSELVES, DISOBEDIENT, DECEIVED, ENSLAVED TO VARIOUS LUSTS AND PLEASURES, SPENDING OUR LIFE IN MALICE AND ENVY, HATEFUL, HATING ONE ANOTHER. BUT WHEN THE KINDNESS OF GOD OUR SAVIOR AND HIS LOVE FOR MANKIND APPEARED, HE SAVED US, NOT ON THE BASIS OF DEEDS WHICH WE HAVE DONE IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, BUT ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY, BY THE WASHING OF REGENERATION AND RENEWING BY THE HOLY SPIRIT,”
But Paul doesn’t stop there, interestingly enough he even addresses Church Discipline in this short Epistle, even though many of us may have overlooked in our reading. All we need to do is look at Chapter 3 verses 10 and 11:
“REJECT A FACTIOUS MAN AFTER A FIRST AND SECOND WARNING, KNOWING THAT SUCH A MAN IS PERVERTED AND IS SINNING, BEING SELF-CONDEMNED.”
If we view this passage in light of Matthew 18 verses 15 through 20, I believe we can see exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote this to Titus.
So here in this short Epistle we have laid out for us how the Church should be lead, along with the qualifications of those leaders; how the congregation should seek to conduct themselves in the Christian Walk; why we should all strive to do these things; and even what should be done if someone in the Body is rebelling against these instructions.
Lastly, Paul closes his letter with some final instructions to Titus in regards to the immediate future, and I hope that we will all gain much in our immediate future by studying this Epistle to Titus together.