Titus only appears 13 times in the New Testament. While he traveled with Paul, he has an interesting designation: the Bishop of Crete. He’s not an apostle, but he’s been traveling and involved in these churches, and he’s dispatched by Paul’s authority to set things in order and appoint elders for these young churches.
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. Titus 1:5
This verse is the summary of the letter.
Paul’s Practical Wisdom on how to organize a local church
1. Good, godly, proven character
Observe: elders should be good, godly, and have proven character. It’s the first order of business.
Above reproach: we’re not looking for a sinless man, there are no perfect people. The point is: is this person generally a good and godly man, a person that’s trustworthy, with proven character?
Paul is describing a person’s character, not just his qualifications.
God’s steward: In antiquity, a steward worked for a master and shepherded the resources so as to be responsible for their fruitfulness.
Above reproach as God’s steward: you’re not just working for a landowner, you’re working for the Lord.
Two terms used interchangeably in the New Testament:
Presbuteros, πρεσβύτερος: Elder, an older, mature person instructing a younger person.
Episkopos, ἐπισκοπή: Bishop or overseer.
…but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:8-9
Essentially: you’re picking men to lead the church. They need to be good men. In Paul’s instructional letters about this process to Timothy and Titus and Peter, nothing is mentioned about education, pedigree, titles, a CV, wealth, or success. What he’s looking at is the character of the person that is going to shepherd God’s flock.
2. Deal decisively with rebellious and false teachers
It strikes me that this was already an issue in Titus’s day. It will always be among us. Reprove them, why? So that they may be sound in faith.
3. Encourage and instruct believers of all ages to live worthy of the gospel they profess to believe. (1.)
In these three short chapters, “good deeds” (or “works”) appears 5 times.
The tension of faith and works will always exist in the heart of man because, I think, sown in somewhere to our sinful life is: “I gotta do good.” The motivation for what we do, and why we do it, is the hard part to diagnose.
We are to please God, but we’re not doing good to gain favor with God.
Our good works attribute nothing to our salvation, nor the security of salvation—but we may have lost the weight that our good works are important.
Some will say, “you can’t live X way and be a Christian,” but I can’t embrace the gracious, merciful Savior when I know my own sins. I want to be very careful before I say another person doesn’t know Christ.
Five uses of good works:
- Titus 2:7-8 – be an example of good deeds
- Titus 2:14 – be zealous for good deeds
- Titus 3:1 – ready for every good deed
- Titus 3:5 – saved not on the basis of good deeds
A very important verse for understanding salvation on the basis of faith!
- Titus 3:8 – be careful to engage in good deeds (compare to Ephesians 2:10)
- Finally: Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14 This passage is talking about money. One of the good deeds we do is to write a check. I hope you’re growing in generosity and experiencing that it’s better to give than receive.
In your marriage: get on the same page with your giving.
The reason we give is because we love Christ.
Because it’s His, not ours. We’re just stewards of what He gives us.
- Significantly adapted / edited cp. Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 437.