Monthly Bible Study

Each Month, Pastor Ted will introduce a Book of the Bible in synopsis form. These can be a great jumping off point for your personal, more in-depth Bible study, by digging into the referred Scriptures. This month:  Titus

Titus—Able Minister to Liars, Beasts, and Gluttons

Paul’s brief epistle to Titus, his “true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4), was probably written during the time between Paul’s first and second Roman imprisonments, ca. AD 64.[1] It is in many respects similar to Paul’s first epistle to Timothy which was written at approximately the same time. Paul succinctly explained the purpose of the letter in an opening sentence, exhorting Titus to straighten out what remained unfinished and to appoint elders in every city (v. 5). Given the high level of devotion Paul had for the Lord, and the intense level of commitment he displayed in fulfilling God’s call on his life, it can be deduced that he placed a great deal of trust in Titus.

            Their relationship as apostle/disciple had been ongoing for a lengthy period of time. Titus had accompanied Paul and Barnabas two decades earlier when they travelled to Jerusalem in order to address doctrinal controversies arising because of Paul’s ministry to gentiles (Gal 2:1; Acts 15:1–4). Scripture also records that Titus had proven to be Paul’s “partner and fellow worker” among the Corinthian believers, bringing glory to Christ (2 Cor 8:23). Paul’s selection of Titus as the church organizer for the young churches on the island of Crete was wisely made because Titus was a man who could be trusted to fulfill the tasks at hand.

            Paul’s initial emphasis pertained to the selection of overseers “in every city” (Titus 1:5). This is important in any church setting, but was especially critical on the island of Crete. Paul illustrated his concern for making wise and informed selections by invoking a curious utterance from a Cretan mystic. The prophet, testifying on behalf of the moral quality of the Cretans, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12). Any overseer, or elder, who would be dealing with people characterized by such strong images would need to be men of exemplary character, and Paul knew this well. Elders, therefore, were to be above reproach as God’s stewards, men whose households were in order. They were to be examples of self-control in all areas, quick to demonstrate hospitality, loving what is good while shunning selfish behavior. Above all, they were to hold fast to truth, while proving themselves able communicators and defenders of sound doctrine (1:5–9). In other words, they were to be the bipolar opposites of the people they ministered to.

            In addition to the qualification of elders, Paul spoke directly to the proper conduct of believers toward each other. The older men were to be models of self-control, sound in faith, love, and perseverance (2:2). The older women were to be reverential, not engaging in gossip while teaching the younger women to love their families by bringing honor to God’s word (vv. 3–5). The younger men were to show sensibility in all things. Also, bond-slaves were to remain subject to their masters, proving themselves to be living examples of godly doctrine in all things. Paul then exhorted Titus to instruct the Cretans to respect their government officials (3:1). They were to malign no one while refraining from any contentious behavior, showing a peaceful and gentle spirit instead (v. 2). In short, men and women, young and old, bond or free, were to shun the reputation Cretans had rightfully earned and embrace the reputation due humble servants of Jesus Christ.           

            Paul did not invest much ink in the Epistle to Titus addressing theological issues. It can be assumed that since Titus had spent a great deal of time under Paul’s direct tutelage, Paul was fully assured he would remain faithful to doctrinal purity. Paul did, however, stress two important theological fundamentals. First, he reminded Titus that God’s grace was the source of salvation for all men (Titus 2:11). He continued by recounting that it is the grace of God that causes believers to renounce worldly behavior and engage in sensible lifestyles (Titus 2:12). Above all, God’s grace compels believers to watch for Christ, who vicariously gave Himself in order that His disciples would be zealous for good works (vv. 13–14). In addition, Paul stressed the importance of the means of salvation. It is not the result of good works. Instead, salvation is the direct result of God’s mercy displayed through His regenerative cleansing and renewal by the Holy Spirit (3:5–6).

            Paul’s awareness of the difficulties Titus would face in implementing his charge is evident. He reminded Titus to speak things fitting for sound doctrine with all authority while allowing no one to ignore him (2:1, 15). In closing, Paul communicated an important character trait to all those charged with ministry obligations. He told Titus to speak with confidence, for a confident communicator comports authority and authority demands respect. Titus would be representing Jesus Christ, and as His ambassador he was speaking an authoritative message meant to produce lives worth living, “good and profitable for all men” (3:8).



           

            [1] Scripture quotations are from the NAS translation unless otherwise noted.