Today: [Titus 1:] The Qualifications of a Leader: In the first chapter of Titus we find Paul addressing what the qualifications of a leader should be. Bishops in Paul’s day were very different from our idea of bishops today. They were elders in a committee of elders responsible for overseeing the church in a given city. Paul instructs Titus as an apostle to set things in order among the elders in this region as well as dealing with various strains of legalism that are disturbing the peace of the churches under Titus supervision.
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[Tit 1:1-16 KJV] 1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; 3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; 4 To Titus, [mine] own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. 5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 12 One of themselves, [even] a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians [are] alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; 14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. 15 Unto the pure all things [are] pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [is] nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
The book of Titus is addressed to a Gentile co-worker of Paul by the same name. Titus is not mentioned in the book of Acts but is referred to in Galatians and is known to have been instrumental in helping mend relationships between Paul and the Corinthian church. In the opening lines of the letter, Paul refers to the plan of salvation made known to men by the preaching of the gospel and then greets Titus as “his own son in the faith.” Titus is in Crete where this letter finds him being appointed there by Paul at some point before writing his first letter to Timothy. The dating of the letter is around 65 AD although once again we find that the majority of scholars debate both the dating and authorship of the letter suggesting it came forth much later in the second century.
Titus is in Crete to set in order certain matters that are found lacking particularly the character of the bishops in the churches there. Bishops in the church at this time had little in common with bishops as they function in the institutional church today. We would understand a bishop as Paul refers to it here as more of an elder serving in a committee of elders over the affairs of the church. The idea of a singular pastor over the church was utterly foreign to the early church. Local leadership in the early church was plural in nature functioning with the general oversight of a founding minister or apostle who would send his representatives into the region such as Titus to maintain the health and strength of the congregations in a given area.
A bishop or elder Paul says in v. 6 is to be blameless, the husband of one wife with children that are not accused of unruliness. The word blameless here refers to the elder’s behavior. He is not to be known as one given to bad behavior. He is likewise Paul says to be the husband of one wife. This verse and others like it are used by various denominations to insist that a pastor or credentialed minister cannot have divorce and remarriage in his background. That is most certainly not the inference in these statements that doubtless apply specifically to the practice of polygamy.
What behaviors are cause for disqualification in an elder? He is not to be self-willed or quick to anger. He is not to be given over to alcohol nor to be a fist fighter. He is not to be consumed with materialism or greed. He is to be in reputation as one given to hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy and temperate. These things mentioned are quite self-evident with one item worth mentioning further. An elder is to be given over to hospitality. This is not a common characteristic in pastoral culture today. Pastors are taught to keep the people at arm’s length and to maintain a discreet distance to maintain an air of aloof superintendence over the people. When is the last time your pastor visited in your home or that you visited in his house? In a smaller church, this is more common but the larger the church, the more unlikely it is that the pastor will meet this mentioned and necessary qualification of being given over to hospitality.
An elder is to be one with teaching capabilities in the area of sound doctrine to exhort and convince what Paul calls “gainsayers.” This word describes those who are given over to contradictory natures and continual disputes against accepted teachings of the word of God. Paul goes on to speak of this sort as unruly and vain talkers and deceivers particularly those given over to legalistic self-style Jewish lifestyles that they impose upon others as a condition of being in right relationship with God.
It is true that legalism in all its forms can spread quickly in the church because we all want to be right with God and it appeals to our religious sense if we adopt some stylized form of prayer or religious lifestyle it makes godliness more accessible to us. Paul’s teachings, however, insisted that we are not justified by our works or religious posturing but rather by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ whose influence on our heart brings about true holiness and not self-styled religious posturing. For Paul (v. 12) the people of Crete were particularly given over to these deceptions, and therefore Paul reminds Titus to rebuke them sharply when they are found to be giving heed to Jewish fables and religious commandments of men that have no grounding in gospel truth.
These religious questions surrounded issues of what one could eat or what they should not eat and Paul addresses this in v. 15 saying that to the pure all things are pure. If you believe that one thing or the other defiles you in such a way as to affect your standing before God you constitute yourself in Paul’s view as an unbeliever because your conscience is defiled. You would think after 2000 years the church would outgrow these errors, but the fact is that modern-day legalism still exists even among those who consider themselves quite enlightened. They will insist you must use certain essential oils, or that you cannot patronize certain companies because they are in league with the devil or if you drink a diet soda you are defiling your body, etc. The church is not to be a breeding ground for these viewpoints, and the warning of Paul is against this with the insistence in our day as in the church in Titus day – to the pure all things are pure.
Those that cling to these errors as a way of adopting an elitist mentality making themselves more spiritual than others are professing they do so because they allege to know God more profoundly. Paul reproaches them saying in fact in their works and their denunciations of their fellow believers they are denying the true knowledge of God in abominable and disobedient ways being reprobate to every good work.
How do you apply these mandates Paul is giving Titus to the modern day? The point can be made that in certain sectors Christians tend to be very uptight. When you are in the company of believers and find you cannot relax because they are looking with a critical eye on what you eat or drink or how you dress that constitutes what Paul is warning about. If you feel God has spoken to you about this thing or that don’t take it upon yourself to enforce your convictions on those around you because that constitutes religious bigotry. Remember that Satan is the accuser and if we look with a disapproving eye upon those who don’t live as we do we are not contributing to the health and well being of the body of Christ. Relax. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enforce against any high-mindedness a sense of the love of God being more important than everyone coming into conformity to how you think they should be living.
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