Titus 1 Blog Entry: Hard Thoughts about Eldership
Titus 2 Blog Entry: The Contrast of Self Over Divine Order
Titus 3 Blog Entry: Good Works in His Order
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WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?
As Titus begins, the Apostle Paul relates to God as His slave (doulos = slave, servant). Paul sees his submission to the will of Savior God as servanthood. His self-titled status is followed by the statement of who and what he is… an apostle in Christ Jesus. Paul’s purpose is to further the faith of the Savior’s chosen.
Keep in mind that Paul’s proclamation is of one who has yielded his soul to another’s will, namely God. The status of “Slave of God” is then Paul’s attitude of action toward others and also the example of appropriate Christian leadership. Notice there is no mention of making a name for himself. He only points to self in terms of slave status and doing what Jesus has commanded. He’s been sent by Jesus (which is what “apostle” means).
STANDARDS AND QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERSHIP MATTER
I find all but one qualification for eldership straight forward. One is not clear: “the husband of one wife.” I want to share how I have thought this through as it may help you in considering what it means.
Does it mean married only once?
Does it mean not presently married to more than one woman?
Does it mean never married to more than one woman at a time?
Several thoughts were shared in another blog post. As we think about verse 6, why the particular phrasing “husband of one wife?” Let’s take notice that Biblically speaking divorce is more shameful than polygamy, however, neither “divorce” nor “polygamy” is the Biblical standard. God’s ordained example in Genesis of Adam and Eve gives us God’s standard and intent for marriage. Divorce is viewed as worse than polygamy. That strikes most of us a bit odd in our modern culture.
Think about it: People back then might often come to the Lord with more than one wife as part of their family. They are a polygamist, but found the Lord as Savior. What are they to do? It is not very Christian to just pick your first wife and put the other(s) out to fend for themselves. If we look to how the Early Church Fathers dealt with such issues, we will find they struggle with it. Laws changed because there is no real good solution. We must stick with God’s established intent of one mate as the aim. Much heartache can be avoided when we follow His order. The Apostle Paul sets such a standard in his day for elders for the church in future generations.
There is room to show grace and correct wrong thinking. There is room to show grace and correct relationships that don’t reflect God intent. We all come to the Lord with baggage and commitments we must keep after being forgiven. Some of those commitments (or baggage) may exclude us from roles in the church body and well as draw us into roles that we may have earlier neglected. We are to turn from the wrong lifestyle, but not responsibility for loving those with whom we are in a relationship.
Elders must fit the dictates of Scripture because whatever the case may be… those obligations we accumulate though our life choices can never be a reason to change God’s standard. Elders must fit the dictates of Scripture. This verse says “the husband of one wife” and has a standard meaning. It is the same meaning as in 1 Timothy 5:9 where Paul states that a “true widow” is to be the wife of one husband. The verse means “married once,” but with the inclusion of all the other concerns because of how the verse is stated.
A weakness I see in the above opinion is for windows who remarry. I’m not too sure how remarriage fits with God’s intent and I don’t think it does. It is of course not Biblically wrong to remarry. It is just instead not the circumstance of the most evident example that the church can present. The idea being presented here is the concept of Christ and His Bride (the Church) in an everlasting covenant. I say let the husband of one woman mean “one” because these are qualifications about what we can and can’t do in a family as we reflect Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The phrase in verse 6 about “husband of one wife” means faithful to one woman or maybe better put… “a one-woman man.” This is a possible translation and covers the phase in terms of addressing character. If the man’s character is all Paul is concerned with, then this idea works well.
However, there are some weaknesses with this view such as divorce and remarriage after conversion to Christianity. Such a man would not be beyond reproach. The idea is that many people have good character, but character alone does not qualify for any and every role in the Church. One needs to know how to cultivate relational skills that meet the demand. One can have character without skill or knowledge and skills without character. The elder needs both.
Also, there can arise a weakness in the standard if “faithful to one woman” means “one woman at a time.” This brings a concept to text rather than a concept exegeted from the text. We all can agree that nobody is perfect so it can mean this explanation. The fact that this is a possibility shows the need for an enduring relational pattern demonstrated within the Church from which others can learn.
The pattern should reflect Christ and His Bride. It should not only be present character that is important, but a proven-lasting-fruitful family with children that also follow the Lord. The person with a proven-lasting-fruitful-faithful family reflects the know-how and skills of raising people in the Lord. The person with a proven-lasting-fruitful-faithful family reveals character in demand for the role of elder. Such a standard may also fit the deacon, but an elder must have the track record that people can see with no objections.
Therefore, again, I say let the husband of one woman mean “one.” Such an opinion covers all the possible opinions to “being beyond reproach.” It is a very high standard, but if the goal is to best reflect Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… it is a needed standard in the human family and the Church family (which parallel each other). It would make sense to aim for God’s design and recognize God is over what we are not. Our weakness is overcome by a high standard for God’s people and the roles we carry in reflecting Him.
The Apostle Paul tells us in chapter 2 that self-gain is the goal of many people. We need to recognize that this goal is for those who do not know God and those that claim to know God. He especially points out those in the Church who demand works for membership when Jesus said “deny yourself and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus does not say to follow Him to build up ourselves.
Titus 2:10 explains why each of the groups he identifies (men, women, children, husbands, wives, slaves) must focus on denying self as a basic premise of the Gospel. Titus 2:10 shares with us that holy behavior reveals the beauty of the teaching of Christ. We must also see that our behavior speaks to what or who we worship. By our actions do we worship self? By our actions do we worship God? There is no middle ground really.
Titus 2:11 shares with us, like a slap in the face, that grace trains us. Grace teaches us NOT to sin. Most of us have the idea that grace affords us TO sin. It is worthy of highlighting here in the letter to Titus that grace says NO TO SIN. This fits with the understanding that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ frees us from slavery to sin and does not enable us to sin.
Therefore, we must embrace grace in a corrective manner. When we don’t embrace Grace in a corrective manner, we place ourselves in unhealthy relational patterns that will have a callousing effect on our heart. The most unhealthy our heart can get is hardened not to seek God.
Though our roles differ in our lives as does our gender or our relationships, our behavior generally should match the faith we profess and we should be a people of good works. We do good to follow the Redeemer. In following the Redeemer, we participate in revealing the Redeemer. In revealing the Redeemer, we draw others to Christ’s Nature as His representative.
It all starts by seeking to partake in Christ’s nature by denying self rather than promoting self.
Titus is a book in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul to one of his dear followers and fellow workers named Titus. Titus’ job at the time the letter was written was to strengthen the churches and believers on the island of Crete. Crete was not known for being a Mediterranean island paradise but was known as a home of “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). And that was just how they described themselves! It was into this interesting field of people that Paul had sent Titus and was now sending a letter. Chapter 3 focuses on our identity.
OUR IDENTITY IN HIS ORDER
Paul instructs Titus to “remind the people” in verse 1 of some important facts about their character and their identity. As Christians, they are to do their best to be different than they once were when they were outside of God’s will. He makes quite a distinction between the characteristics of those outside of the family of God and His order and those who have accepted the gift of being a part of it. Just note the list of words he uses to describe those outside of Christ:
Deceived by passions and pleasures
Enslaved by passion and pleasures
Full of malice and envy and hate
The description that Paul gives to Titus about non-Christians would have made total sense to him. Remember, Titus was ministering to people whose claim to fame was being rough and uncultured and all-around despicable. Paul tells Titus that no one is exempt from having those characteristics. We all have temptation to be that way.
Verses 4-5 tell us that something happened to change all that and to change our identity. Paul says very specifically, “kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Jesus Christ made all the difference. Jesus always makes the difference. The picture we get is that Jesus is the Divine Philanthropist who came and shared His love with us and we did not deserve anything. Paul reflects that once Jesus saved us that our characteristics and identity changed from being foolish, disobedient, and all-around “Cretans” to being:
It is Jesus that has made the difference and has washed us new. Our identity is now rooted in Him. He has saved us and we are His. We are people who are committed to rebirth. That is who we are. We are people who are committed to renewal. That is who we are. We are people who are considerate of others and seek the best for those around us. We want to be humble and point people to God as the result of what we say and do. That is who we are.
ORDERS FOR US WITHIN HIS ORDER
Paul tells Titus and us right away in verse 8 that “those who have trusted in God” (that is us) must be “careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Paul not only identifies who is part of God’s Kingdom, but shares with us some actions. He gives the directions for action and inaction. Avoid controversies. Avoid arguments. Avoid useless things. Avoid divisive people. Those are our marching orders. We are to devote ourselves to what is good and of benefit to those around us. 3 key words jump out at me:
The first is Devote. The word “devote” is only used 11x in the Old and New Testaments and 2 of those occurrences are in Titus. In 1 Chronicles (22:19), 2 Chronicles (31:4), Job (11:13), Jeremiah (30:21), and Micah (4:13) all have the object of devotion as God. 1 Corinthians (7:5) and Colossians (4:2) have as the object prayer. 1 Timothy (4:13) admonishes others to devote themselves to God’s Word. And the two uses in Titus 3 tell us to devote ourselves to doing good. Based on how the word “devote” is used elsewhere in Scripture, it would seem it is a word that denotes a high calling for a worthy object. “Doing good” is a worthy object of our devotion.
The second is Excellent. I would hope that we as a Body of Believers are committed to doing things with excellence. Everything we do is done for the glory of God and should be done with excellence. Excellence is our goal. Excellence is the bar that is set for us. Paul says elsewhere in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.” Paul also describes the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13 as the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). I would hope that our orders for excellence would describe for us the amount of effort we should put forth and the criteria by which we judge ourselves.
The third is Profitable. The sense we get is that devotion and excellence in life as we live out God’s order brings about advantage for others. It allows others to benefit from our efforts. In everything we do, we should ask “Who will profit from this?” That is a good guiding question when spending time, energy, money, spiritual gifts, and effort to do good. We should not do things to benefit ourselves and to give an advantage to ourselves, but the verse clearly says “profitable for everyone” (verse 8). The other sense I think we get from this word and from the other two key words is that believers in Jesus Christ should be taking the lead when it comes to good works. The end result is that when you hear about a family being provided for in the community… a church should be behind it. The end result is that when you hear about a church running a program or doing something… that you know it will be done very well. The end result is that people in need benefit no matter who they are or what they look like or what the cost… but that God gets the glory and people are provided for.
OUR OVERALL GOAL
The goal of anything is what must be accomplished. It is the end. It is the completion of the task. I could make this more complicated than it needs to be, but the goal for us as Christians, of those who are committed to Him, is that good is produced from our words and actions. Paul tells Titus in verse 14 “our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.” The goal is devotion to good for the provision of daily lives and productive lives. The goal is that we wage war against the evil and oppression in the world so that good is produced.
I would like to insist these truths to you so that you would be careful to devote yourself fully to the Lord. I would like to insist these thoughts to you so that you have an excellent spiritual life and have blessing from the Lord. I would like to insist from the Scriptures everything Paul is telling Titus.
Eternal life came to each of us because of God’s love. In this passage, it is called loving-kindness. God’s love is not just a feeling, but rather also an action. He sent Jesus as an extension of His love. He did not send Him because of good things we had done… quite the opposite. God sent Jesus because we are sinful and we need mercy. I insist that you know God loves you.
Eternal life is poured out to us only in Jesus Christ. He is our Savior. He is the plan of God that was sent to give us complete forgiveness of sins. That’s what the word “justification” means that Paul writes to Titus. We are completely forgiven in Jesus Christ because of His death, burial, and resurrection. I insist that you know that complete forgiveness is given through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Eternal life is an inheritance given to us. We are heirs of the promises that God has made come true in Jesus Christ. Eternal life is one part of our inheritance. It is ours. It is kept safe. Our souls are given life in Christ because of His payment for our sins. I insist that you know that Heaven is in store for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
I insist on these things for the same reason that the Apostle Paul insisted upon them. Knowing these truths in Christ should motivate us to be moral and good and holy and righteous. We have been given a great gift and we are called to live life forwards towards that gift. We can’t earn it, but we can sure act thankful in our lives for it by going good and sharing Christ with others.