Basic Facts from Titus (Part 1)

Basic Facts from Titus (Part 1)

Titus was a Gentile Christian. He had accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (almost certainly during the events of Acts 15), where he was accepted as a brother by “those of reputation” (the other apostles, and elders of the Jerusalem congregation) despite the fact that he had not been circumcised. Whether he is also the “Titus Justus” of Acts 18:7 is not clear. It IS obvious that he was a close and trusted companion of Paul in some of his travels and work, especially in Troas, Corinth, and Crete. It was on the island of Crete that Paul parted from Titus, leaving him there in the company of Zenas and Apollos (Titus 3:13), to “set in order” what was lacking in the churches of Crete.

The first line of Paul’s letter to Titus stands out for his description of himself as a “bondservant” of God (the word doulos can also mean “slave”). Paul also mentions “the” faith (cf. Jude 3) – this expression does not refer to one’s personal belief in God, but to the gospel, to the message of salvation through Christ.

Perhaps THE “standout fact” is Paul’s declaration that God cannot lie (vs. 2). The absolute truthfulness of God is a matter of fundamental importance! His perfect truthfulness not only sets Him apart from the ancient heathen concept of a “god” (for whom deceit was a common characteristic), it is also the foundation of everything He has promised since the beginning of the world. If God is untruthful in ANY matter, He cannot be TRUSTED in any matter, either. Paul’s description here meshes with his description of God in 2 Timothy 2:13 and with the words of Hebrews 6:18. Dishonesty in even the slightest matter is completely contrary to character of God.

Paul left Titus in Crete to accomplish a specific “job” – to “set in order” what remained to be done in establishing and grounding the churches there, verse 5. Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and lies about 100 miles south of Greece and about 60 miles west of Turkey. It is roughly 100 miles long, and about 25 miles wide, with a modern population of almost 650,000 people. When Paul wrote of Titus appointing elders “in every city,” the implication is that there must have been at least several different congregations among the various cities (not just one). The expression “set in order” may imply that there were some problems to correct there, perhaps in connection with appointing elders (one meaning of “set in order” is to straighten out). Another important point here is that Titus was told to appoint elders – plural – in every city (singular), which is not the same as “an” elder in each of several cities. This agrees with what Paul and Barnabas had done in Acts 14 (see vs. 23). Note that Paul uses the terms elders, bishop, and steward as descriptions of the same men (vv. 5 & 7). These words offer us insight into the work and responsibilities that go with shepherding the Lord’s sheep (cf. Acts 20:28). A congregation that could have elders but doesn’t is “out of order” because it is not following God’s design for the church.

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