Titus' Mission

By Mike Mazzalongo Verse: Titus 1:5-16 Posted: Sun. Mar 17th
In this section, Paul provides more information concerning the qualifications necessary for church leadership and the type of challenge these men will face as leaders.

In the pastoral epistles (I & II Timothy and Titus) Paul specifically warns and equips two young preachers in how to deal with various forms of heretical teaching called Gnosticism which was circulating in many of the early churches, especially those made up of predominately Gentile converts.

  1. Churches where Jewish converts were in the majority struggled with false teaching from the "circumcision party" or "Judaizers" who insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity had to first be circumcised and keep various food laws and other regulations before they could become Christians. They argued that since Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, those who wanted to be His disciples had to first adhere to Jewish laws before they could become Christians.
  2. Those churches where Gentiles were in the majority also struggled with false teaching, but the heresy being promoted was rooted in Greek philosophy and referred to as Dualism. The teaching was different than what the Judaizers taught, but the goal was similar. Both groups required a "works" approach to salvation. The Judaizers demanded circumcision and obedience to the various Jewish laws as a condition to salvation. The Gnostic teachers promoted severe restriction of the body (i.e. food laws and celibacy) to free the spirit from its evil flesh and be with God.

Both of these groups were in error and promoted ideas that contradicted what Jesus and the Apostles taught concerning the gospel. The "good news" announced that salvation was freely offered by the grace of God and received on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ initially expressed through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). In his letter to Titus, Paul outlines the practical way that this preacher was to guard against both false teaching and the teachers who promoted these heresies:

  1. Preserve and pass on the sound doctrine he had been taught.
  2. Train and appoint sound leaders who would do the same.

Outline — Titus

Let's review our outline in order to fix the point that we are at in our study:

  1. Salutation - Paul's mission - 1:1-4
    1. Preserve and pass on sound doctrine - 1:1-4
  2. Body - Titus' mission - 1:5-3:11
    1. Appoint sound elders - 1:5-16
    2. Provide sound doctrine - 2:1-3:11
  3. Conclusion - 3:12-15
    1. Personal greetings / instructions - 3:12-15

In the previous chapter we reviewed the salutation. In this chapter we will examine a portion of Paul's instructions concerning Titus' ministry.

Titus' Mission: Appoint Sound Elders — 1:5-9

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

Paul used Titus in various ways in the past. For example, he had sent Titus to Corinth in order to monitor this church's progress in light of specific instructions contained in the Apostle's first letter to them (II Corinthians 7:13-16). After Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment he travelled to various places to preach (i.e. Crete), and returned to churches he had previously established to encourage their ongoing faithfulness as well as provide further instructions concerning their growth in Christ. In verse 5, Paul recalls the historical context and purpose for this letter to Titus. He had preached and begun a church in Crete but had not stayed there long enough to mature the groups that were formed. This task he left to Titus along with additional instructions contained in this present letter written and sent to the young evangelist during Paul's brief time of freedom between 62-64 AD.

Titus, therefore, was left to organize the church for worship and service. One of his tasks was to appoint elders in every city. We note that there is a considerable amount of information contained in just this one verse.

  1. "Appoint elders" does not simply mean 'to pick or choose,' but to set into place those who qualify to lead the church. Paul's written authority gave Titus, an evangelist, the practical authority to "officially" commend certain qualified men into positions of leadership in the local assembly.
  2. Note also that he was to raise up "elders" - plural. Apparently there were several cities that had churches and each church was to have multiple elders.
  3. No one man was made bishop or elder over several churches or cities. Each congregation had its own leadership comprised of several elders.

Many commentaries describe Titus as the first "bishop" of Crete and argue that as a kind of "arch-bishop" he appointed other men to leadership positions who remained under his authority in the church hierarchy:

This is what you see if you look at this passage from a Catholic or Protestant denominational view; a structure that neatly fits a preconceived notion concerning church organization. However, if we view Titus' role and authority from a strictly biblical viewpoint, allowing the New Testament to speak for and interpret itself, we see a different picture:

  • Titus was an evangelist, not a bishop/pastor/elder (note that Paul never addresses or refers to Titus in this way).
  • The evangelist's work was to plant and organize churches by the preaching of the gospel and teaching of God's word.
  • Evangelists, especially in the early church, served many different congregations who were at different stages of development.
  • Titus was not in charge of all the churches in Crete, but he served all of them as an evangelist.
  • He was not the arch-bishop over all the other bishops; he was an evangelist charged by Paul to establish a leadership structure in each individual church on the island.
  • Once these men were put into place as elders (another term referring to church leaders), they were in charge of their local congregation, not Titus.
  • We also note (by reviewing the New Testament teaching on the topic of church organization and leadership) that local elders were only responsible for the congregation where they served and no other. Their authority was not automatically transferable to another church.

Once Paul stated the overall mission (to raise up elders in every city/church) he provided Titus with details regarding the type of men he needed to look for, Titus 1:6-9. There were similarities in this letter with the list of qualifications given for elders in I Timothy 3:2-7, but Paul added more details in his letter to Titus:

1. Above reproach (verse 6)

namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion
-Titus 1:6

A man who cannot be accused of a wrongdoing or moral failure in or out of the church.

2. Husband of one wife (verse 6)

As mentioned in the study of I Timothy where this same phrase is used: a one-woman man whose married life has been clean. A man focused only on his wife having no other improper relations with other women.

3. Having children who believe and behave (verse 6)

Not only children who have been baptized but those who conduct themselves as Christians. Rebellion = disobedience; dissipation = waste. If a man has not succeeded in forming a lasting faith in his own children, why would the church give him the responsibility for the faith and spiritual life of the church?

4. Able to be a good steward over the church (verse 7)

For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain
- Titus 1:7

Paul has mentioned the need to be unaccused in the family or society. Here he repeats this qualification and provides details on how one acquires this reputation among those in the church. He begins with negatives, what the elders should not be:

  • Not self-willed (verse 7). Can't take advice or correction/ has to win every time on every issue.
  • Not quick tempered (verse 7). Able to control his emotions and his tongue; able to see someone else's point.
  • Not addicted to wine (verse 7). Not a drunkard. Addicted is the operative word here - not addicted to drugs, alcohol, ice cream, shopping, etc.
  • Not pugnacious (verse 7). Not a bully, easy to provoke, over sensitive, a brawler.
  • Not fond of sordid gain (verse 7). Enjoys gambling or other forms of immoral practices to gain money. Some people will work three times harder to collect money from a scheme or a theft rather than honest work or business dealing.

Paul then switches to positive virtues that a church leader must have and must continue to cultivate:

8but hospital, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9holding 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

  • Hospitable (verse 8). The word means, "lover of strangers" in the Greek. Not only offering food and shelter willingly but a person who accepts those from different cultures and backgrounds. Hospitality is one of the most effective means of evangelism.
  • Loving what is good (verse 8). A lover of what is beneficial. Loves doing good for others and seeing good being done; enthusiastic for good work.
  • Sensible (verse 8). Sober-minded. Not ruled by emotion. Does not create "drama" for its own sake. Prudent.
  • Just (verse 8). Conduct that meets the approval of the Lord as our Divine Judge. A man who is just lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.
  • Devout (verse 8). Devoted to the things of the Lord: His word, His church, ministry in His name.
  • Self-controlled (verse 8). Literally means "in control of strength." This means that his love and devotion to God is not spoiled by too weak a flesh that is constantly returning to worldliness, or too strong a religious zeal that leads to self-righteousness and pride. The strength to avoid the two extremes of spiritual life.
  • Holding fast the word of God (verse 9). The elder, like Timothy, Titus, and Paul, must maintain the gospel and subsequent teachings received from the Apostles and their disciples. They were not permitted to change, add or take away these teachings. In doing so they would be equipped to teach the church with sound doctrine and also able to correct or refute false teaching that was contrary to what they themselves taught. The elders knew, taught and defended the faith given to them by Paul and his co-workers: Timothy and Titus.

Again, not a duplicate list of what was in I Timothy but a complimentary list of qualifications that confirmed the main requirements (spiritually mature married men with faithful children).

The Need for Sound Elders — 1:10-16

Once Paul has outlined the qualifications to look for in men to serve as elders, he reminds Titus why the church needs these type of leaders.

10for there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.
- Titus 1:10-11

He describes the character, motivation and damage that false teachers were causing at the church where Titus served:

  1. Character – Rebellious: disobedient to God's word and those who teach it. Empty talkers: their teaching and opinions had no spiritual value and produced no spiritual fruit. Deceivers: they were not simply mistaken or uninformed, they knew that what they promoted was false. They were Jews (circumcision) but not part of the Judaizers/circumcision party who were in error, but believed that they were doing God's will.
  2. Motivation – Unlike the Judaizers who were guarding their Jewish heritage in the midst of a great change, these Jews were motivated by greed and the love of money. They were religious hucksters trying to profit from the teachings they knew to be false.
  3. Damage – Titus was told to silence (gag) them because theirs was not simply a difference of opinion on a religious topic, but teaching that compromised the faith and salvation of entire families. They first overtook families with their false notions and used this as a base to address the entire congregation. Titus and the elders he appointed should have the knowledge to be able to refute false teaching, and the confidence to block these types from speaking to the congregation and do so without fear.
12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." 13aThis testimony is true.
- Titus 1:12-13a

Paul quotes the Cretan (from Crete) poet Epimenides who penned these words in a hymn to the Greek god Zeus (the god of sky and thunder). It was a generally held stereotype about the Cretans which was reinforced in popular culture with this poem. (A little like generalizing about California being a liberal state or that all Canadian people knew how to play hockey.) Paul confirms this popular notion and says that the Cretans (Jewish troublemakers from Crete) prove his point and confirm the stereotype.

13bFor this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, 14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
- Titus 1:13b-14

Titus' task was to reprove them severely. In other words, Titus was to silence these false teachers spreading their lies for money, and ruining the faith and families in the process. Paul exhorts Titus to not simply appeal or bargain with these people, but silence them altogether.

In addition to this, Titus is to reprove those listening to these false ideas and jeopardizing their faith in doing so. The reproof or admonition will direct the members to stay focused on sound teaching (given to them by Paul, Titus and the elders) and avoid the useless and destructive ideas of the false teachers (myths, genealogic tables, and man-made religious ideas as opposed to revelation from God Himself).

15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
- Titus 1:15-16

Here, Paul makes another reference to these greedy charlatans. To those who are pure (purified by the blood of Christ) all things are pure. Why? Because believers know how to use all that God has created. For example, food is purified through prayer; money is a tool to care for needs and the needs of others; sex is honorable and blessed within marriage, etc. To those who are unbelieving, however, nothing is pure; they eat without thanksgiving and dishonor God who feeds them. For them, money is a goal unto itself and without its connection to God, easily becomes an object of worship or idolatry. Without the context of faith, sex is devoid of its spiritual component and reduced to producing only physical gratification instead of also being a means for creating family and a facilitator for spiritual insight as it was originally conceived to be.

Paul says that because of their disbelief and misuse of spiritual tools (teachings about God) both their intellect and conscience were defiled and thus rendered these men unable to see the truth. In a final summary statement he says the following:

  • They professed to know God and know Him in a superior way. Theirs was a statement only backed up with words. A self-professed spiritual maturity and knowledge which had no basis in truth or wisdom.
  • Paul echoes James where he says "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works" James 2:18. Paul directs Titus and the church to judge these men based on their works/deeds/actions. Their deeds denied God because they didn't produce what God wanted: growing faith expressed in loving deeds (I Timothy 1:5-7, Galatians 5:6). These men were producing the opposite: loss or confusion in faith as well as a noticeable absence of good deeds motivated by love. On the contrary, what they produced were debate, division and loss of faith.

At this point, Paul ends the teaching section concerning Titus' responsibility to raise up and appoint qualified men who will lead the church, maintain sound teaching and deal effectively with those sowing division and discouragement in the assembly with their false teaching and unspiritual lifestyle.

In the next section the Apostle will provide Titus with both an example and pattern of the sound teaching he wants this young evangelist to maintain and pass on to the next generation.