The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to Titus, one of his protégés, in between writing his first and second letters to Timothy. Titus was a ministry partner of Paul’s dating back to Paul’s first missionary journey. Titus had been entrusted with shepherding the believers on the island of Crete. This letter, like Paul’s other two pastoral epistles, is meant to instruct Titus (a younger, less experienced shepherd than Paul) as he leads the believers on the island of Crete.
This letter is sort of an instruction manual for how the church should function. Paul uses this letter to talk about everything from the selection and qualification of elders to the dangers of false teachers. He talks about how to care for different people in the church and ends with a warning about divisive people within the church. Any member of a local church should read these words and make sure their church is living out the biblical expectations we see laid out in scripture for local churches. The words written for Crete are directly applicable to us today.
Let’s learn from these words from Paul today. While this book is short (only three chapters long), it is full of practical wisdom for us to absorb today. Ask God what He wants you to learn from this letter to Titus. Grab a journal, a pen, a highlighter, and take good notes as we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word.
Read Titus 1
1 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— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 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,
4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Appointing Elders Who Love What Is Good
5 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. 6 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. 7 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. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 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.
Rebuking Those Who Fail to Do Good
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, a fellow missionary and close companion of Paul, is assigned to do ministry on the Greek island of Crete. Crete, however, has a culture that goes against Christ’s teachings. Cretans are known to be liars who engage in treachery, violence, and sexual immorality. Furthermore, Cretans intertwine their understanding of a Christian God with their views of Greek gods. The culture is a complete mess. Worse, the undisciplined Cretan culture is reinforced by bad leaders and false teachers in the church. Paul’s letter encourages Titus to establish order and effective leadership over the congregations in Crete.
So, what makes an effective leader? What measures should Christians apply to church leaders? There are countless books, blogs, and podcasts on effective leadership in today’s world. Yet, we have Paul’s letter (written around A.D. 64-65) to provide us with truth about church leadership that is as relevant today as it was long ago in Crete.
Paul’s guidelines for choosing leaders to govern the church and its decisions require that they know the doctrine of Christ and fully incorporate it into their lives. Leaders need more than just head knowledge of Christ. Also, leaders must teach truth and correct those in church who teach it wrongly. Crete has many false teachers, especially among Jews in the church, but also among local Cretans. Paul instructs Titus to rebuke these people.
To rebuke, which means to reprimand and convict someone by exposing a wrong, may sound harsh. However, wrong teaching is dangerous, so Paul instructs Titus to sharply correct those who are hurting the church for their own gain. As Christians, we are also called to correct brothers and sisters who are in sin. When coming from a place of love, to rebuke someone for an observed sinful behavior is biblical (Matthew 18:15, James 5:20, Proverbs 27:5-6, 1 Timothy 5:20, Galatians 6:1). Yet, it is important to remember we are all sinful. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all need loving correction. However, as was the case with Titus, the goal of good rebuke is not rebuke itself. The goal of godly rebuke is restoration.
To rebuke well, we must examine our own hearts, seek God, and reference His Word to understand what is and is not sin. Only then can we approach others lovingly, boldly, and graciously. As we live life together, care for one another, and live in truth, we will all have times when we need correction. May we humbly offer and receive correction as God directs, remembering His heart is to fully restore all of us to Himself.
- Do you have a friend you can count on to rebuke or correct you if needed?
- Do you know a sister or brother in the faith who is wandering away from Christ? Pray for them, and ask God to show you how you can remind them of the truth and hope of Scripture, and help them return to the path of righteousness.
- When was the last time someone told you that you were wrong?
Listen to Peter Greer, author and CEO of HOPE International, give a short presentation on inviting individuals to give prophetic critique about the things in our life, attitudes and affections, that may need change. When was the last time you invited someone to tell you about the spinach in your teeth?
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