Paul wrote this letter to advise Titus on how to oversee and organize the churches on the island of Crete.
Titus was Paul's "true child in a common faith" (protégé in the Greek). He was from a Gentile background (Galatians 2:3). He represented Paul when there was trouble in Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6-7; 13-15; 8:6, 16-17). Paul visited Crete between his two Roman imprisonments and left Titus behind to "set in order what remains" (1:5) much like he left Timothy behind in Ephesus. The only other thing we know about Titus is that he left Crete to travel to Dalmatia during Paul's second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:10).
This letter was written at the same time as 1 Timothy, sometime between his first and second Roman imprisonments, maybe between A.D. 63-66.
The key words in this book are sound doctrine and deeds.
There were two reasons why Titus was left in Crete:
- To set in order what remains
- Appoint elders in every city
It would be helpful to define the words elder (1:5) and overseer (1:7):
. . . in the Christian churches, those who, being raised up and qualified by the work of the Holy Spirit, were appointed to have the spiritual care of, and to exercise oversight over, the churches. To these the term bishops, episkopoi, or overseers, is applied (see Acts 20:17, 28, and Tit. 1:5 and 7), the latter term indicating the nature of their work, presbuteroi their maturity of spiritual experience. The Divine arrangement seen throughout the New Testament was for a plurality of these to be appointed in each church, Acts 14:23; 20:17; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5.Vine, W., & Bruce, F. (1981; Published in electronic form by Logos Research Systems, 1996).
(Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: Volume 2, p. 21).
By this definition, the elder was not to be a new convert but one who had walked as a believer and exhibited the qualities listed in this chapter. I will comment on some of the qualities that might be difficult to understand:
- Above reproach (anénklētos) - "'unaccused,' that is one whose character or conduct is free from any damaging moral or spiritual accusations. This first qualification, also included in 1 Timothy, stands out as the fundamental qualification under which all other qualifications are subsumed. John Calvin's summary of this overarching qualification is worth repeating: '. . . he [Paul] does not mean someone who is free from every fault for no such man could ever be found, but one marred by no disgrace that could diminish his authority -- he should be a man of unblemished reputation'" (Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch, p. 228-229).
- Husband of one wife - This literally means a "one-woman man." It also seems to indicate that an elder was not to be divorced and remarried, but most commentators believe this does not refer to someone who remarried after the death of their spouse (Genesis 2:18; 1 Timothy 4:3) or for unmarried men. Some do not believe this refers to men who were divorced before they became followers of Jesus. This qualification also indicates that elders were men (1 Timothy 3:12).
- Children who believe - "Having faithful children" is a better translation. "The contrast made is not between believing and unbelieving children, but between obedient, respectful children and lawless, uncontrolled children. The strong terms "dissipation or rebellion" stress the children's behavior, not their eternal state. . . Since 1 Timothy 3:4 is the clearer passage, it should be allowed to help interpret the ambiguity of Titus 1:6. 'Under control with all dignity' is closely parallel with 'having trustworthy children' . . . Those who interpret this qualification to mean that an elder must have believing, Christian children place an impossible burden upon a father. Even the best of fathers cannot guarantee that their children will believe. Salvation is a supernatural act of God. God, not good parents (although they are certainly used of God), ultimately brings salvation (John 1:12,13)" (Strauch, p. 229).
- Not self-willed - Wanting your own way, arrogant, stubborn, inconsiderate of others feelings or opinions.
- Not quick-tempered - "An angry man stirs up strife and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgressions" (Proverbs 29:22).
- Pugnacious - quarrelsome and contentious.
The rest of the qualities are easy to understand. Note the emphasis on character over knowledge and skill!
Paul concludes the elder qualifications by stating "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able to exhort in sound (healthy) doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (1:9). He is saying this in order to lead into his description of the rebellious people in 1:10-16 who are the opposite of the characteristics of an elder.
The "circumcision group" (1:10) were the Judaizers: Jews who believed that Gentiles had to obey all the Jewish laws in order to become Christians. They were part of the larger group of "rebellious" false teachers who taught wrong (unhealthy) doctrine and led others into error, causing division and quarrels. Some did it out of ignorance while others did it to make money or gain power.
In 1:12, Paul is quoting a poem by Epimenides, a poet and philosopher who lived on the island of Crete 600 years earlier. Cretans did have a bad reputation and were famous for their lying. How great that Titus was there to help them grow and mature!
If you have been reading in the Bible Book Club, you might think, "Haven't I read this before?" 1 Timothy and Titus were written about the same time and have parallel content that generally fall under these three categories:
- Ungodly False Teachers - 1 Timothy 1:6-11, 19-20; 6:3-5 and Titus 1:10-16; 3:9-11
- Godly Leaders - 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9
- Godly Believers - 1 Timothy 5:1-6:2; Titus 2:1-15
A good application might be to pray for the elders of your church and future elder selection. This is so important!
This application is bittersweet for me as my husband's last meeting as an elder is this coming Monday. I will miss interacting with these men who exemplify all these characteristics, and I will REALLY miss all their wives. I am having them all over for a soup, salad, and supplication supper while the men are meeting at our church.
Lord, raise up godly leaders in our churches who can encourage others in sound doctrine and refute those in error. Amen.