“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” <Titus 1:5 (NIV)> The implication here is that at some time, not elsewhere recorded in Acts, Paul and Titus were together in Crete, and Paul is now instructing Titus to get the Churches organized by appointing Elders. Both Timothy and Titus were instructed by Paul to appoint Elders and Deacons in their respective Churches over which they ministered. However, the problems affecting the Churches in Ephesus; Gnosticism, Judaism and severe self denial, required a different approach for Timothy <cf 1 Tim.3:1-7>. Titus had a different problem in Crete; the difficulty he faced was that the people had a deplorable morality, they were dishonest, gluttonous and lazy <Titus 1:12>; so, the qualifications that he had to look for were slightly different to Timothy. Differences can be seen in the qualifications given to Titus: “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient…. not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” <Titus 1: 6-7 (NIV)>. Since the Elder is entrusted with God’s work <Titus 1:7>, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV); cf 2 Tim.1:13-14; 4:3-4>; for the Elder or Bishop must be thoroughly educated in the doctrine of the Scriptures since he is required to live by such doctrine and to teach such doctrine to the members of the Church. This has been the objective in the Church from the time of the Apostles until the present, but Satan has worked very hard to ensure that there are those in the Church, then and today, who do not meet this qualification! Unfortunately, there are leaders of the Church who do not hold to the Truth of God and do not teach or defend The Truth; they remain under the control of Satan and teach false doctrines, and are therefore unable to truly encourage the people under their leadership.
Titus was instructed to avoid three groups of individuals: those that were rebellious against God and God’s Word, gossips and deceivers; and those that belonged to the “circumcision group” who taught that salvation was dependent upon circumcision and keeping the Mosaic Law. “They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach — and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” <Titus 1:11 (NIV)>. Because the Cretans were liars, lazy, gluttons and “evil intimidators”, the possibility of these behaviours being taken into the church was very real, so Titus was instructed “Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” <Titus 1:13-14 (NIV); cf 1 Tim.5:20>.
Paul then makes a statement in regards to virtuousness, “To the pure, all things are pure” <Titus 1:15 (NIV)>, but to the corrupt nothing is pure. He implies that to Christians, who have been purified by Christ’s atoning death, all of God’s creation is good and nothing should be rejected or condemned if received with thanksgiving <cf 1 Tim.4:4>, contrary to what those who are corrupt believe; such have unbiblical principles against foods, marriage etcetera and do not enjoy the freedom of choice of true believers in Christ. Such unbelievers, says Paul, “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” <Titus 1:16 (NIV)>, which concludes that believers should be consistent not only in word but also in deed <cf Jas. 1:22; 2:14>.
Our salvation depends upon the reliability of God, the preachers of the gospel and ourselves. First, we can depend upon God’s trustworthiness, for the scripture teaches that anyone who calls upon Him will be saved. We can also depend upon the faithfulness of preachers who deliver God’s message of salvation. But as an individual, one must accept the good news of salvation, for faith in God comes from hearing the message through the preaching of the Word of Christ. The Preacher or teacher of God’s word has a great responsibility before God in that “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” <Titus 1:9 (NIV)>. For the servant of God, by whatever given designation, must be able to encourage God’s people in whatever the circumstance by applying sound doctrine, and renouncing those that oppose sound doctrine. The message of the gospel will always be challenged by false teaching, deceivers and those who refuse to recognise God’s authority; and the instruction given to Titus is that “They must be silenced” because they are deceiving other individuals in the church. <Titus 1:11>.
Paul refers to sources of weakness in the church-life at Crete: liars; nastiness, unpleasantness, displeasing; laziness and gluttons: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” <Titus 1:12 (NIV)>. Titus is to reprimand them severely so as to encourage them to be sound and healthy Christians.
Unfortunately, our salvation does not entirely remove or silence our old sinful nature, and this old temperament oftentimes rises above our new personality that we have in Christ <see Rom.7:21-23>; and this condition is the same for all believers in Christ. We then as believers must be sure to subdue the “old nature” through the help of The Holy Spirit, first and foremost for our influence on other believers we need to live godly lives <see Col.3:5-10>. This was Paul’s message to Titus, and this is God’s message to all believers today; ungodliness, false teaching and sinful living cannot be permitted in the Church or in the lives of the individuals that constitute the Church; so, let us all be conscious of what the Scriptures teach!
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