Set the Church in Order - Titus 1

 

God is by nature orderly. We see His orderliness in Creation (Gen. 1-2), His covenantal plans (e.g. Gen. 12), His Law (e.g. Exodus 20-25), the plans for His Tabernacle and the priest clothing (e.g. Exodus  26-31, 35-40), the sacrificial system (e.g. Leviticus), and really throughout the revelation of God.

In the New Testament Jesus presents an orderliness in ministry when He instructs the apostles and disciples to first wait in Jerusalem until they receive the empowering baptism with the Holy Spirit (e.g. Luke 24; Acts 1-2). This empowering is directed through a mission outline of witnessing the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and then to the whole earth (Acts 1:8).

In Romans Paul is inspired and directed by the Spirit to instruct Christians to cooperate with God-ordained government (Romans 13). The apostle Paul spoke of God's orderliness when ministering to the chaotic Corinthians (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:33 and 40).

Jesus in the last book of the Bible lays out God's End Times plan to John by the orderly directive, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are and the things which will take place after this" (Rev. 1:19). From Genesis to Revelation we see the orderliness of God. Therefore it should be no surprise to us when Paul instructs Titus to "set in order the things that are lacking" (1:5).

There are people in the church who mistakenly equate a lack of order with spirituality. They misinterpret Paul's mention of liberty in the Spirit as a justification of chaos in the church (cf. 2 Cor. 3:17 in context). However, just as anarchy leads to the threat of danger and the abuse of power and stifling enslavement in fear, so too does disorder in the church lead to the quenching of the Spirit and limiting the work He would do in and through the church. The Spirit liberates through order. We are never so free as when we surrender our sinful chaotic life to the order producing gospel of God's grace in Jesus Christ. Freedom and God's power in life come from operating and living within the parameters of the Scripture. It is a lie of the devil that living within the limits and parameter of scripture is enslaving (Gen. 3). The devil works through chaos. He loves to blow things up and destroy. He loves to work through the labyrinth of lies that lead to his dead ends (John 8:43-44).

Therefore, after his opening introduction to Titus, Paul instructs him to put the church in Crete in order. And Paul's instructions as to what such order entails is instructive to life and ministry for us too.

 

Titus (NKJV)

From One Man of Purpose to Another

1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

Paul introduces himself as a bondservant. A bondservant was a servant by choice. By choice Paul served God. An apostle is one sent out with a message. Paul had been commissioned by Jesus to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 9; Galatians 1-2).

according to the faith of God’s elect

God foreknows all those who will be saved. But He does not circumvent or save people apart from their graciously given free will decision. God has done all the heavy lifting of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. The saving benefits of the salvation from sin and its consequences and the possibility of experiencing eternal life are all offered to all humanity as a gift of God's grace to be received by faith. "Elect" (Greek eklektos) means chosen, select, elect.

Who elects who? When we think of election we most likely think of it in terms of a democratically elected political candidate. The voting populace listens to and assesses a number of candidates running for an office and then votes for the candidate they feel is best qualified and suited for the office. In this system many people vote for one person to elect them to a position. When we talk about Biblical election there are parallels but there are also very important differences. In Biblical election God is the One who sets the criteria for electing and is the only vote that counts.

Election is a sovereign work of God. It is God who sets the parameters and requirements of those who are counted among His elect. He is the one who says that the elect are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. Gal. 1; Eph. 2:1-9). He is the One who says the way to eternal is narrow not broad (Mat. 7:13-14). He is the One who says it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that sins can be forgiven and eternal life with Him experienced (John 14:6; Acts 4:8-12). God is the Author, Provider, Distributor and Sustainer of salvation and eternal life. All is provided by His grace, even humanities' capacity to choose. Therefore no person can boast. All the sinner can do is be thankful that although the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

What is God's basis of election? The sovereignly set criteria that God uses to determine if someone is to be counted among His elect is faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and Lord of life. Election is all about faith in Jesus. We can't work our way into favor with God. We can't earn our election. To attempt to do so in light of God's provision in Jesus is to actually act in the most offensive way toward God. God has sent His only Son Jesus to justly solve the sin problem. He is the only way to solve this disqualifying sin problem. To suggest or seek otherwise is to blaspheme God's sovereign work of grace in Christ. Forgiveness of sin and election by God is all and only a provision of His grace (Romans 11:5-6). No, it is only by faith in Jesus that God elects people to be a part of His eternal family.

Sinners, disqualified to be counted among God's elect because they have broken His Law, cannot work off their offense or guilt. They are hopelessly lost and disqualified to be elected because of their sin. A sinner is a law breaker (1 John 3:4). God gave laws to protect His people from the pain and suffering caused by sin. The law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). The Law is also the way of rightly relating to God and people. Sin separates us from God (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2; Hab. 1:13). When we break the Law we step away from God and greatly harm all our relationships.

Sin is like cancer; just one cell of sin will spread and metastasize. And as it spreads it destroys life and everything that is good. Therefore God judges sin and the sinner. He will not allow His heavenly abode to be polluted by sin or sinners. The bad news is that all humanity have sinned and are disqualified for God's election because of sin. And worse news is that all humanity are incapable of solving this sin problem. Thankfully, that's not the end of the story.

God who is rich in mercy in His sovereign determination has decided to solve this human sin problem (cf. Ephesians 2:1-9). God, from the foundation of the world, foresaw the plight of humanity and provided a plan to solve their problem. The solution for the sin problem is that God sent His only Son, as the representative Son of Man, to live a sinless life. As the sinless representative Man Jesus qualifies to be our sin-bearer. Jesus and Jesus alone is the sufficiently legal, just, substitutionary  atoning Savior for all humanity.

According to God's sovereign just and holy determination the just penalty for sin is death. Jesus, sinless perfect Jesus, therefore died on the cross and paid the penalty for all the sins of all humanity. As our sin-bearer Jesus becomes the solution to humanities' sin problem. God offers Jesus and His atoning work on the cross and all its blessed benefits of forgiveness of sin, spiritual birth, and eternal life, as a gift of His grace to humanity. There then is only one thing a person must do to appropriate and benefit from Jesus' atoning work. That one thing is to trust Him as Savior and surrender to Him as Lord by faith. When a person admits their sin, turns away from it, asks God's forgiveness based on faith in Jesus and His atoning work, they then pass from the sea of the disqualified to the family of God's chosen elect. This is why Paul uses the words "elect according to faith."

Who are the "elect"? The elect are those who have received Jesus "according to faith." The elect are those who enter into a saving sin forgiven eternal relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ. And they are those who continue in a walk of faith in Christ for the rest of this life and on into the next phase of existence, eternal life (e.g. Romans 1:17; 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7).

Faith is not a work. The capacity to make a faith decision is part of God's gracious creative provision. The capacity to chose and make a faith decision is part of creative image of God in humanity. The capacity to make a free will decision is what makes us human. The capacity to choose gives value and credibility to love and relationship. This is created in humanity by God as an inherent attribute. Humanities' capability to choose is part of God's image in them (cf. Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15-17; 3:1-24). Therefore even our faith and ability to make decisions is a gift of God's grace. Faith is not a work. Faith is merely acting in a way that God has created us to act.

Elected for what? Election has a positive and negative consequence (e.g. Matthew 25:46). Positively, when we talk of election we are talking about those who God determines to be forgiven their sin. The elect are those who are given spiritual life through a second birth; a spiritual birth. The elect are chosen by God to spend eternity with Him in the most blissful of existence. To be elected by God is to be invited and provided with a glorious opportunity to enter into an eternal relationship with God Almighty. That is incredible!

Negatively, election is sparing a person the eternal and just sentence of eternal death and torment in a place called hell. Hell was created for Satan and his angels, not for people (Matthew 25:41). But those who reject God's gift of salvation through faith in Jesus and persist in the sin of rebellion against God refusing His gracious provision in Christ, these who die in their sins will be among those elected for hell because of their unresolved sins. Hell is real. It is an eternal state. You don't want to go there. You don't have to go there. Repent of your sins. Accept Jesus as your Savior and join those elect who will spend eternity with our blessed God!

and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness,

Right from the start Paul begins to lay the groundwork for a proper view of God's grace. Grace is not an excuse to sin. Grace is not a de-emphasis of holiness and godliness. Grace in "the acknowledgement of the truth" is freedom from having to sin, "which accords with godliness." Paul will explain this mighty truth further in the body of this letter.

in hope of eternal life which God,

"Hope" (Greek elpis) is a faith based anticipation and expectation of good. Hope is faith in God for the future.

who cannot lie,

Our God is a Self-limiting God. God can move any mountain and any obstacle in this universe. But there is one thing that God chooses to allow to stop Him in HIs tracks. That something is a "lie" (Greek apseudes) or the absence of truth, falsehood. God's word is truth (Psalm 119:142, 160; John 17:17). God will operate according to His word. And if God says something, such as the promise of forgiveness of sin and resultant eternal life by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you can count on it!

We need to personalize this fantastic truth. If God says we are saved from damnation and the consequences of sin by grace through faith in Christ, THEN IT IS TRUE; WE NEED NOT DOUBT IT; WE CAN AND SHOULD BE CERTAIN OF OUR SALVATION AND ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST. IT IS GOD'S PROMISE FROM "BEFORE TIME BEGAN" AND WE CAN COUNT ON IT.

promised before time began,

This is a statement of God's grace. It tells us that before creation, before time began, God knew humanity would sin against Him. It tells us that even though He knew humanity would make the wrong choices He created them anyway. He didn't create us because He needed us. He created us "for His good pleasure" (cf. Eph. 1:7-12; Phil. 2:13). He created us even though He knew we would disobey and sin against Him. And before He created us He planned to provide a hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ for those who He knew would sin. God's plan of redemption in Jesus was not an afterthought but was part of God's plan from the beginning. THAT IS GRACE! And that is God's own love revealed (e.g. Romans 5:8). Grace and love go hand in hand.

 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;

This Divine plan of grace is communicated to fallen humanity through preaching.""Preaching" (Greek kerygma) is proclamation, the proclamation of a herald. That proclamation was entrusted ("committed" - Greek pisteuo - to have faith in, commit to, to entrust) to Paul "according to the commandment of God our Savior." Notice, Paul says, "God our Savior" here. In the next verse He says, "the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior" which is a clear and undeniable equating of Jesus deity and equality with being God.

To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

The name "Titus" (Greek Titos) means nurse. This is a fitting name for one sent onto the ministry battlefield to care for the casualties of sin and life.

 

Paul puts his arm around Titus and draws him close. This is his "true son in our common faith." Paul affirms the faith of Titus and voices his commitment and connection to him by referring to him as his son.

 

As Paul did in his letters to Timothy, to his normal greeting of grace and peace are added mercy. Paul knows those in ministry need God's mercy and need to be reminded to share that mercy with others.

 

The Purpose of the Epistle - Set the Churches of Crete in Order

 

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking,

 

Paul now mentions that he had left Titus in Crete. A work had begun there. Who started the church in Crete? We don't know for sure. A Cretan contingency was present on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:11). Perhaps some of those saved at Pentecost and who returned to Crete started a church there. Whatever was started there, Paul's appraisal was that it was not what it ought to be and needed someone like Titus to go in and bring it up to speed.

 

The phrase "set in order" (Greek epidiorthoo) means to straighten further, set in order, arrange, correct. The grammar of this verb (Aorist/Middle/Subjunctive) conveys the idea of you might go on to set aright. Evidently there was something "lacking" (Greek leipo) or left undone, failing, absent that should be there, destitute.

 

The First Step of Order - Appoint Elders

 

and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—

 

The first order of business to get the church in Crete up to speed was to "appoint elders in every city as I commanded you." "Appoint" (Greek kathistemi) means designate, to put in place, appoint, ordain. Notice, Paul doesn't call for an election of elders in every city. He specifically instructs Titus to "appoint elders."

 

The idea of appointing elders rather than voting them in is closer to God's plan of election. We are called to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1f.). God looks on the sea of humanity throughout the ages and elects those who have put their God-given faith in His Son Jesus Christ. (Pre-cross Old Testament saints were forgiven their sins as they put their faith in God. But upon death they went to Sheol and into the compartment known as Abraham's bosom [Luke 16:19-31] to be comforted until Jesus' actual atoning work on the cross was complete. Jesus then descended into Sheol and led Old Testament saints to heaven with Him [Ephesians 4:7-10].) A pastor appoints other pastors and leaders based on an assessment of their character (see below). When he sees a qualifying candidate he elects or appoints them to their position. The appointing of elders is based on a number of qualifications as well as a free will desire to be an elder (e.g. 1 Tim. 3:1ff.). God doesn't elect people based on having His angels take a vote on them. God the Father, Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit set forth their sovereign plan that has genuine saving God-given faith in Jesus Christ as His sovereignly set criteria for election.

 

Now you may protest that the three Persons of the Trinity discussed and voted for the plan and or the people but God is One and casts the one and only vote by His sovereign choice and willful criteria for election. That is far from the practice of having many people in a congregation vote for a pastor or elder. Now human pastors are not perfect and they may appoint the wrong people at times, but their scriptural mandate to have authority to do so is nonetheless real. Because of their imperfects the pastor who appoints elders would be wise to consult other leadership and people close to the candidate. And this is all the more reason to be sure to pray for pastors and church leaders (1 Tim. 2:1ff.).

 

The idea of appointing elders as opposed to electing them by vote is not something that is dogmatic, it is only an observation on how God inspired Paul to instruct Titus to do things. There are other arguments and opinions for the polity and order of church government. But when scripture teaches something it would be good to take it to heart and obey it. I believe the idea of pastors appointing other pastors and or elders is scripturally sound practice for the orderly functioning of the church. I can't say that all alternatives are "sin," just less scripturally sound.

 

"Elders" (Greek presbyteros) means older, mature, senior, one mature in faith. We should also note that this noun is masculine which would disqualify women from consideration for this position. This would be in accord with what Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy prohibiting women from the pastorate (cf. 1 Timothy 2:12-14).

 

Titus was to put  elders in place in each city presumably to oversee the ministry in each city. The gospel was spreading, it needed godly leaders to oversee and direct the work of the Spirit. Titus was to use the criteria of qualifications laid out next by Paul for such elders. Not just anyone was eligible to be an elder. An elder must demonstrate a certain character and life qualifications. But Titus had the responsibility to appoint such men, it was not put to a vote.

 

The Second Step of Order - Appoint the Right Leaders

 

if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination.

 

The first qualification for an elder was that they should be considered "blameless." "Blameless" (Greek anegkletos) doesn't mean never sinned or never sins. If it mean that every elder or church leader would be disqualified. What "blameless" does mean is unaccused, irreproachable, one who cannot be called to account for sin, not open to accusation. The idea is that an elder must first be someone with a good reputation. He should be one who walks the talk. An elder is not a walking contradiction of what he speaks or teaches.

 

The second qualification for an elder was that they be "the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accuses of dissipation or insubordination." In other words an elder needs to demonstrate their ability to lead in their first place of ministry that is their marriage and family. I like what Bible Teacher and Pastor Jon Courson comments on this qualification:

 

      Ministry must be established at home before one can have credibility in the church. I         once read an article about the first man to scale Mount Everest without oxygen. He was            recovering in a hospital after falling off a wall at his home because he had locked himself        out of his house. Here’s a guy who conquers every mountain in the world. But where does he fall? At home. There are men who can conquer mountains on the job or with             finances, but as far as ministry is concerned, if a man can’t keep his balance at home,         Scripture says he is disqualified from ministry in the church. That’s not a word of          condemnation. It’s a word of re-prioritization.

 

      Get your home squared away, Dad. Get your kids grounded and walking with the Lord.   Whatever you want to do in ministry, you can do with your kids. You can lead them in    worship; you can serve them Communion; you can preach as long as you want! True        ministry may one day extend beyond your family, but not before it is established within       your family.

 

      Now that my kids are grown up and beginning to leave home, I don’t regret one moment I spent having devotions with them. I only wish I had done it more. I don’t wish I had     taken them to more baseball games or more movies. I’m just thankful for the time we         logged together talking about the Lord, learning His ways, studying His Word.

     

      Train up your kids, Mom and Dad. Other ministry will come, but that’s where it all            starts.[4]

 

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.

 

The third qualification for an elder is that they must have skills to oversee. The word "bishop" (Greek episkopos) simply means a superintendent, one in charge of overseeing the workings of a local church or churches. That Paul mentions again that this candidate is "blameless" (same as in verse 6 - anegkletos) would indicate that in terms of their ability and experience as overseers, there is no basis for an accusation of sin or evidence that when they had overseeing types of responsibilities there were grounds to bring an accusation that they weren't capable or didn't properly carry out such responsibilities. This would be in line with the idea that an "elder" is a spiritually mature person; one who by practice and experience has demonstrated a leadership aptitude.

 

The fourth qualification for an elder is to have a servant's heart. Paul says someone eligible for eldership needs to be "as a steward of God." "Steward" (Greek oikonomos) means a house-distributor, a manager of household affairs, a fiscal agent, one to whom the management of a house has been entrusted to, a servant. This is a term that is rooted in the idea of construction. One being considered for eldership should be skilled in building things; in particular building relationships through serving. Service is also an aspect of this term. To be qualified as an elder one must be willing to serve God as a household servant served their master. That means being available and ready and always willing to do what the master beckons them to do no matter how menial or meaningful.

 

The fifth qualification for an elder is to "not be self-willed." "Self-willed" (Greek authades) means self-pleasing, arrogant. To be qualified to be considered to be appointed an elder a man must be selfless. Jesus said He didn't come to be served but to serve and give Himself a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). That attitude must be at the heart of anyone who would be an elder or pastor. Otherwise those in leadership will be more interested in fleecing the flock of God instead of feeding the flock of God. And that is blasphemous.

 

The sixth qualification for an elder is to not be "quick tempered." "Quick-tempered" (Greek orgilos) means prone to anger, easily aggravated, irritable. Ministry is filled with potentially irritating and aggravating situations. Moses was disqualified from entering the Promised Land because in anger he misrepresented God (cf. Numbers 20:7-13). An elder must be wary of the danger of repeating such a sin. To be eligible for eldership consideration a person needs a healthy amount of grace and patience with people. Otherwise it could lead to misrepresenting God.

 

The seventh qualification for an elder is to "not be given to wine." Anyone going into ministry as an elder/pastor needs to understand that when they do, they are going into a war zone. The elder has a big bulls eye on their back. The enemy and his instruments are targeting the elder from around every corner, relentlessly, all the time. The elder does not have the liberty therefore of diminishing their senses or alertness in any way. To do so with "wine" or any similar substance would be suicidal; like going into a vicious war zone with weapons either out of place or unready to be used and the soldier a sitting duck for the enemy.

 

The eighth qualification for an elder is that they are "not violent." "Not violent" (Greek plektes) means not pugnacious, not quarrelsome, not impulsive to react with blows, not contentious. There is no place for violence for an elder. There may those rare situations where an elder has to intervene to protect a victim who themselves is in danger of physical violence. But generally speaking an elder should not be one who does looking to duke it out with people.

 

The ninth qualification for an elder is that they are "not greedy for money." "Not greedy for money" (Greek aischrokerdes) means not sordid, not greedy for base or shameful gain. An elder can't be in ministry for the purpose of personal gain. Assignments can't be chosen based on the profit they will make the pastor. Ministry should never be primarily a money making scheme. A candidate for eldership should be free of material motives so that they are willing to take assignments which might cost them and show no monetary profit. This is especially the case with those who plant churches or who are called by God to take and salvage a floundering church.

 

The tenth qualification for an elder is that they are "hospitable." "Hospitable" (Greek philoxenos) means fond of guests, given to hospitality, one who likes to have people around them. To be an elder called to minister to people requires a desire to be around people. The elder should be one who is a people person. They should be open to inviting people into their homes and spending time with people. They should be interested in visiting people.

 

The eleventh qualification for an elder is that they are "a lover of what is good." "A lover of what is good" (Greek philagath) is a promoter of virtue, one who loves good men, one who loves goodness. A candidate for eldership should seek out good and have a desire to see good flourish.

 

The twelfth qualification for an elder is that they are "sober-minded." "Sober-minded" (Greek sophron) is one who is of a safe, sound mind, self-controlled, discreet, temperate. The idea here is one not given to extremes but who is settled and comfortable in God's word and its parameters.

 

The thirteenth qualification for an elder is that they are "just." "Just" (Greek dikaios) means innocent, holy, righteous, one who observes God's law, upright, impartial. To be considered for eldership one must have a healthy reverence for the law of God and living within its boundaries. Such a person applies the law of God equitably not as an instrument to impose one's will on others.

 

The fourteenth qualification for an elder is that they are "holy." "Holy" (Greek hosios) means of divine character, consecrated to God. The candidate for eldership must be one who gives priority to living properly in the sight of God. That would mean loving God supremely and others sacrificially.

 

The fifteenth qualification for an elder is that they are "self-controlled." "Self-controlled" (Greek egkrates) means one who has mastered themselves, one who controls their appetites, one who is in control of themselves and their desires. Without a doubt the sinful nature and flesh will lurk beneath the surface of one called to ministry. A prospective elder needs to be someone who has demonstrated victory over the sinful nature. Of course this is something accomplished in the Holy Spirit's power (Romans 8 and Galatians 5). But someone being considered for eldership shouldn't be a carnal lustful person who is caught up in sinful activities. A prospective elder must demonstrate spiritual maturity and victory in Jesus. They need to have passed from Romans 7 to Romans 8.

 

Lastly, to be qualified to eldership a man must be known for "holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict." The person being considered for eldership must be able to handle the word of God to defend the faith against false teachers as well as discern, recognize and expose false teachers who have crept into the congregation (cf. 2 Tim. 2-3; Jude 3-4). Titus was going into some dangerous territory. He needed to know how to use the sword of the Spirit and the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Knowing and being capable in the application and use of God's word is INDISPENSIBLE for an elder or anyone in ministry.

 

The candidate for eldership must always be "holding fast" (Greek antechomai - Present/Middle/Participle) meaning constantly holding on to, clinging to, adhere to "the faithful word as he has been taught." No matter what critics or skeptics say about God's word, it is "faithful" (Greek pistos) or trustworthy, reliable. In olden days when the weapons of warfare were swords it was not uncommon that after a battle a soldier who had been wielding a sword for hours would actually be unable to release the sword because their muscles locked into the grip of their weapon. That's how we should be. We should be so fixed and fastened to God's word that it is always with us and we never let it go. We should apply it everywhere in every situation.

 

"Sound doctrine" (Greek didaskalia te hugiainouse) or healthy teaching is what makes us "able" (Greek dunatos) or capable, powerful enough, strong enough to "exhort" (Greek parakaleo) invite, encourage, implore to action and "convict" (Greek elegcho) or convince of a fault, rebuke, reprove "those who contradict" (Greek antilego) those who dispute, speak against, deny, or contradict. There is power and authority in the word of God (e.g. Heb. 4:12).

 

This is true even for those who do not believe the word of God is the word of God. How can this be? Because regardless of whether or not a person believes God's word they still have a God-given conscience. And God's word strikes to the conscience and heart of the sinner. Plus, when we point people to the word we point them to the Lord. Their argument should not be seen as being with us. Their argument is with the Lord and His word. And God's word will not return void. It will accomplish that for which God sends it (Isaiah 55). We need only deliver it in the direction and power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Being an elder and overseer of a local fellowship or in the church is a huge responsibility. No one should endeavor to serve as an elder unless they are called and equipped by God to do so. If you are considering your call and think you might be called to be an elder, go through Paul's qualifications listed here in Titus. If you are called to be an elder God will equip you to be an elder. God's callings are God's enablings.

 

If you have few or are missing bunches of these qualifications and still feel you want to be an elder I would encourage you to take a step back and take some time to be with the Lord and assess your situation. Your "calling" may simply be a delusion of grandeur, a deception of the enemy. Serve as God equips and opens the door for you to serve. Serve joyfully. Understand that success in God's economy is not gauged on bigness or material worth, to God success is faithfully serving in the assignment He gives you.  A good soldier serves and fights under the orders of his command. Otherwise, he may fight, and even fight valiantly, but he may fight futilely and even put his fellow soldiers at risk.

 

The Third Step of Order - Communicate the Mission Purpose of Leaders

 

Why are there so may qualifications and such a high standard for elders? When you see the mission purpose or the task ahead, it becomes clear why Paul listed the qualifications for eldership that he did. Boot camp is hard. But it is essential to prepare and get the solider ready for the battle. When we consider the mission field and the inhabitants in it that Titus and we can and often do face, we will understand better why an elder needs to be a certain kind of person; one prepared and readied for the battle which is ministry.

 

10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

 

The word "for" introduces a substantiating reason for all that has preceded in Paul's letter to Titus. What follows is a description of the people Titus and the elders he appoints can expect to encounter in ministry on Crete. Ministry wherever you are ministering is likely to encounter people like those described here. So as we wade through this sea of sinful types of people don't forget, as we continue to hold fast to God's faithful word we will be enabled with sound doctrine to encourage and convince those who are straying in contradictory ways. God's word is faithful and trustworthy to accomplish this task. We merely have to follow our marching orders on where, when and how to wield the sword.

 

Here is a summary list of those Paul said Titus and his elders could encounter on Crete. And these are the types of people we too can encounter in ministry.

 

10 For there are many insubordinate,

 

"Insubordinate" (Greek anypotaktos) means unsubdued, disobedient, rebelling toward authority, unwilling to submit to authority. These are people who resist the elder simply because they are in a position of authority. Some people's sin is manifested in proud resistance to authority in whatever form it takes. An elder must be patient but firm in such circumstances.

 

both idle talkers

 

"Idle talkers" (Greek mataiologos) means talking senselessly but with a malicious intent, empty talkers, someone who wrangles, talk idly as a means to prevent any substantive conversation. These are people who truly don't want to discuss meaningful truth that might convict them of sin or direct them toward life change. Instead through conversation they are evasive and put off any serious substantive conversation by speaking about pointless topics or superficialities.

 

and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped,

 

"Deceivers" (Greek phrenapates) means a mind misleader, a seducer. This is someone who is able to twist you in a pretzel with their deceptive way of speaking. Paul said this was especially the case for "those of the circumcision" or those who would burden God's people and subvert the gospel by saying salvation was a matter of believing in Jesus and being circumcised or an keeping portions of the law. Such deceivers were well versed in what they believe. They likely would prey on novice believers in the flock. That is why Paul said such deceivers "mouths must be stopped." When a false teacher speaking with scripture twisting deception creeps into a flock of God lusting after and salivating to prey on new believers, it's not time to mince words, it's time to tell them to shut up and leave!

 

who subvert whole households,

 

The word "subvert" (Greek anatrepo) means to overthrow or overturn, disrupt, destroy "whole households" or families. This tells us that such deceivers are after families. They are looking to wreck families are steal them from the Lord's fold and the godly elders overseeing the flock. These are people that will go behind the back of the elder and weasel their way into families to share their "truth" or "another way to see the scripture that the pastor taught about."

 

teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.

 

They will teach things they shouldn't teach because they aren't in line with the faithful word of God. And the reason they will leave God's truth to teach what they shouldn't teach is "dishonest gain" (Greek aischros) shameful gain, dishonorable, disgraceful profit. Such people will know no shame. They will think nothing of taking advantage of people, even ruing them spiritually if they can get profit out of them.

 

The placement of pastors should be according to the scriptural instruction of appointment mentioned by Paul earlier in this chapter (cf. 1:5). Unfortunately there are pastors seeking positions more as sports free agents than any appointment by another pastor. Such pastors go to the highest bidder or where they feel they have the greatest opportunity to make their name known. And there are pastors who are more self-appointed than God or other pastor appointed. Is such a mentality not akin to "dishonest gain"? I think it is.

 

There is nothing wrong with going to a church that can compensate a pastor handsomely or where part of the ministry role is to speak in public settings to large amounts of people. But when money and notoriety and self-appointment are the base motivations for where a pastor serves, that is askew to God's plan. Pastors should seek to go where God ordains them to go regardless of if they can be supported financially or will serve in obscurity or in high positions. Pastors called to new areas yet to be reached with the gospel or to small flocks may have to be bi-vocational in ministry. That may be for a season or for life. Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3). We should be willing to hold secular jobs to minister if the flock of God cannot. It is often through the contacts gained through secular work that God builds a church! Pastor, present yourself a living sacrifice, then you will find His will (cf. Romans 12:1-2).

 

A pastor should not be self-appointed but have the appointment of God as directed through other established pastors. Pastors need to be humble before God because God is opposed to the proud and gives grace to the humble. When the pastor humbly seeks the will and leading of God, God promises to exalt him in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6). Seek God's will and follow it no matter where He leads you. Be humble Mr. Pastor, you need all the grace of God you can get!

 

Remember, the measure of success is not size but surrender, it is not fame but faithfulness (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:2). Faith in Jesus is the basis for the election of the saints. And faithfulness is the basis of behavior of the saints and their pastors and leaders. But God measures success on the basis of faithfulness. It's easy to get lost in the crowd or push a message promising wealth. While healthy churches grow in people and provision, that is something that comes from Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 3:7-9). Increase comes from God not the pastor and pastors and preachers and "servants" of God need to stop taking the credit and stepping in to rob God of His glory when increases are experienced. To teach otherwise is  "teaching things which they ought not."

 

12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.

 

Not politically correct. Paul refers here to a poet from Crete named Epimenides. This poet referred to Cretans as liars, "evil beasts" (Greek therion - venomous wild animals) and "lazy" (Greek argos - unemployed, lazy, useless) "gluttons" (Greek gaster - bellys, stomachs). Paul then goes on to say, "This testimony is true." Hey, that doesn't sound too politically correct does it? You have to give Paul credit that he is willing to go on record and assess the people to whom Titus and his appointed elders will be ministering. But he does so by quoting someone from their own people. And then he emphasizes strong action aimed at their eternal welfare; "that they may be sound in the faith." Sometimes strong rebuke is necessary. It's not too popular. But it is sometimes needed to protect people from "men who turn from the truth."

 

15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.

 

Paul isn't saying that if a person is pure whatever action they do, even sinful ones, are pure to them. This isn't a mind over matter declaration. Paul isn't endorsing spiritual willful ignorance. What he is stating here is that those things such as ascetic rules about eating certain foods, drinking certain liquids, holy days, etc., which legalists, Judaizers, and possibly Gnostics (who believed in dualism; a doctrine that taught all material things are sinful) are not what make us pure. What makes a person pure is the condition of the heart. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of His day for focusing on cleaning the outward while they were dark as night within (cf. Mark 7:15; Luke 11:39-41). Here Paul says the "mind and conscience" of such false teachers and sinful people "are defiled" (Greek miano) or contaminated, stained, polluted, soiled.

 

16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

 

The worst of the worst are those who "profess to know God, but in works they deny Him." Rather than genuinely know and grow in their walk with the Lord instead they are "abominable" (Greek bdelyktos) or abominable, detestable, spiritually disgusting, "disobedient" (Greek apeithes) or unpersuadable, they are not sincerely interested in truth but they are locked into their own sinful ways, and "disqualified for every good work" (Greek adkimos) unapproved, rejected, worthless, reprobate.

 

These are the types of people Paul warned Titus and his elders would encounter in Crete. Sad to say that throughout history and up to the present such people are often found as enemies of the gospel and the church. The only way to wage a victorious fight is to hold on tight to God's faithful, trustworthy word. Keep your Bible by your side. Study it with all your heart. And pray for God to train and equip you to use it effectively as you encounter the opponents and sinners who resist that word. God's callings are God's enablings. Thank God for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] See http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/phc/phc03.htm and

[2] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1414). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[3] http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/titus-11629586.html

[4] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1416). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.