Devotional Commentary for January 14-20
1Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,
2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
3but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,
4To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Paul's letter to Titus gives the impression that it is somewhat more intense than most of his other epistles. To be sure, the content of his declarations and his passion to convey the Gospel entrusted to him are never compromised in any of his letters. He always spoke the truth with passion.
However, perhaps because of Titus's identity as a Gentile convert and his position as the Bishop of Crete, a more approbative and instructive doctrine is reflected in this short but powerful letter. In other words, Paul opened his letter to Titus with a long salutation, establishing his own authority and commission as the apostle of Jesus Christ, affirming Titus in his faith and ministry, and declaring the common cause of faith and service to which they are both called by Jesus Christ. In just a few succinct words, Paul declared the truth of the Gospel, confirmed his apostleship and his authority in Christ to inscribe the content of his letter to Titus, and affirmed Titus's calling and appointment to ministry.
Titus was the son of Gentile parents. The New Testament narrative does not tell us when or how Titus became Christian. It is generally assumed that he came to Christ under Paul's teaching, but the Scriptures do not specifically state so. Titus was mentioned only in 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, 2nd Timothy, and the epistle bearing his name. Paul openly testified that God's Grace of redemption supersedes judaic ordinances which are fulfilled by Jesus Christ, when he took Titus before the Jerusalem Council to show the evidence of God's Grace upon the Gentiles as well.
Paul's affirmation that Titus was a genuine child of the faith assures us that Titus was a redeemed, wholly transformed disciple of Jesus Christ. He was also a coworker with Paul during many of his missionary journeys. Paul saluted Titus as his son in the Spirit, as one who shared a common faith in Jesus Christ, and as one who received God's Grace and Peace by the ministry of the Gospel.
In his salutation, Paul reiterated to Titus that they shared the salvation, faith, and the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. His declaration was not so much the pronouncement of blessing as it was an affirmation of their mutual experience as God's redeemed children. Paul saluted Titus with the same redeeming Grace and assuring Peace that he himself had received from God in Jesus Christ. Being the bond-servant of God and the apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote to Titus to nurture: the faith of God's elect in Crete in the knowledge of the Truth and their hope of eternal life as revealed by God's sure promises, and as manifested by the finished work of Jesus Christ.
5For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
6namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
While references to Titus in the New Testament are few, it seems that Paul and Titus might have visited Crete together at some point during Paul's ministerial tour of the Mediterranean coast and the Greek Islands. Apparently, Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to organize and instruct the churches which sprung up under his ministry. Like Timothy in Ephesus, Titus was given a daunting task. Crete was a large island with divers populous, and therefore, proclaiming the Gospel, appointing spiritual leaders, and implementing an effective discipleship of the faithful would consume every ounce of physical energy and spiritual stamina of any individual tasked with such responsibilities. But Paul affirmed Titus's salvation, appointment, and commission, exhorting him to look to God's Grace and the Peace of Jesus Christ for strength and for wisdom.
Paul did not issue orders in a vacuum. He outlined specific biblical precepts which would offer godly guidelines for Titus and the leaders appointed by him. These behavioral precepts would underscore the character and the deportment of God's servants called to shepherd Christ's flock, then and now.
Both Titus and the spiritual leaders under him must have good reputation, not only among believers but also throughout their communities. Not only do they serve God, but they represent Him as well. The quality of their reputation must be corroborated by what is reflected in their respective families. Each one must be the husband of one wife and the father of believing and stable children. The leader of God's people must also be a godly leader of his own family.
The leader must also be a man of high moral standards. He should not reflect ungodly attitudes of intemperance, indulgence, and unruly behavior. Nor should he give any reason to be accused of such unwholesome spiritual disorders. In other words, the leader must be effectively different from his culture in the same sense that the Gospel is different from the belief systems of the corrupt culture of the unbelieving world.
7For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
8but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
9holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Paul might have now directed his instructions to Titus himself. Addressing his admonitions to the "Overseer", Paul was possibly outlining the godly attributes Titus must reflect as the one presiding over the church-leaders throughout the island.
Being the bishop of the churches, the Overseer must also be a man of good reputation. He should not be stubborn, irritable, given to drunkenness, addiction, greed, or to violence. He should not be overbearing toward those who serve under his leadership. He should not discharge his duties with a violent disposition or a corrupt self-will. His transactions must be always above reproach, honorable, honest, and free from immoral practice, or any appearance of shameful behavior or corrupt motive. In other words, he should observe the godly attributes he would be demanding from the leaders under his charge.
It was necessary for Titus to understand that he is God's servant even though he was named and instructed by Paul, as the Overseer. The instruction to set things in order, and, the task to appoint and instruct leaders, were commissions from God. He must submit to these commissions and execute them faithfully. He must lead by a godly example as well as by appropriate executive actions.
The Overseer and the leaders under him must realize that they are not taskmasters. As leaders commissioned to shepherd the flock of the faithful, they must lead as one whose heart is conquered by the love of Christ. Therefore, they must be hospitable and wellcoming. They must love the godly good, use mature and godly discretion, be justly reasonable, and altogether godly and self-controlled.
But these qualifying traits cannot induce godliness out of anyone unless one is well-grounded in the Word of God. One must be nurtured by the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Word of God is indispensable for teaching the faithful and for reproving those in error. Then, and only then, can the leaders live, lead, and serve as God's faithful bond-servants and as the loving witnesses of Jesus Christ. Paul made sure that this fundamental truth was clear to Titus and those who would subsequently read his epistle.
Paul opened his letter to Titus with a long salutation, identifying himself as God's bond-servant and as the apostle of Jesus Christ. He wrote as one called and commanded to proclaim the Gospel and to declare to the faithful the true knowledge of the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. After fondly addressing him as his son in the faith, Paul directed Titus to do the work of an overseeing bishop, superintending the ministry of the Gospel and the administration of the churches in Crete. He instructed him to set things in order and to assign elder leaders for each church according to a set of criteria which must be observed by him and the leaders he would appoint.
We must exercise caution here lest we surmise that satisfying a set of character traits would suffice to qualify candidates as Christian leaders. Paul was emphatic that these traits must be portrayed by leaders as God's stewards, not merely as good men. In other words, one must be a redeemed and transformed Christian before seeking or accepting a call to leadership in the service of God. These character traits must be the fruit of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as He applies the precepts of God's living Word in the life of the child of God. That would mean, every Christian who has tasted the sweet savor of the love of Christ must be well-reputed, hospitable, loving, wise, discerning, self-controlled, peaceable, reasonable, just, giving, truthful, and godly in everything, by the permeating effect of the Word of God and by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
Leadership is a calling but Christian traits are the distinguishing attributes of the believer bearing the mark of the seal of God's redemption. A Christian leader is called to serve. But all believers including Christian leaders are redeemed and must, therefore, be the followers of Jesus in faith, in behavior, in action, and in service. We may have different callings. But we have one way of life, the Way of Jesus. Our observable behaviors must reflect God's revealed truth. Our Foundation and our Example is Jesus. Our security is His finished work. Our nourishment is His living Word. Leaders or not, we are Christians first, born of Water and of the Spirit. Before we lead, we must be led by the Spirit and by the Word of God.