The title for this series of outlines has been taken from Titus 3: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (verse 8, emphasis added).1 This text captures the essence of Paul’s message to Titus.
The book of Titus is succinct and focused. Titus 1 has 16 verses, while chapters 2 and 3 have 15 verses each. In this study of Titus 1, we will consider (a) the letter from Paul to Titus (verses 1-4); (b) the appointing of an elder in the Church (verses 5-9); and (c) the role of an elder in the church (verses 10-16).
Included in Titus 1–3 are specific instructions from Paul regarding the qualities of a dynamic elder and leader who is called to a tremendous spiritual responsibility—to watch the flock of God and the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
I. LETTER FROM PAUL TO TITUS
A. Paul a servant and apostle. Verses 1-3—“(1) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness (2) in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, (3) and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.”
B. To Titus my true son. Verse 4—“To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”
II. THE APPOINTING OF AN ELDER IN THE CHURCH
A. Why Titus was left in Crete. Verse 5—“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”
B. The qualifications of an elder. Verses 6-9—“(6) An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. (7) Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. (8) Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. (9) 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.”
III. THE ROLE OF AN ELDER IN THE CHURCH
A. Being on guard against rebellion. Verse 10—“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.”
B. Responding to disruptions and heresy by rebellious people. Verses 11-16—“(11) They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. (12) One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ (13) This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith (14) and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. (15) To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. (16) They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good.”
Elders who truly trust and believe in God are careful and devoted to doing what is good, excellent, and profitable for the spiritual welfare of the church (cf. Titus 3:8). Like Paul, their vision and purpose is to strengthen the people’s faith in God’s leadership in the remnant church. Elders lead by example. They “walk the talk” of Christian life and practice. They build an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth and maturity by transforming people’s lives to godliness of character and Christlikeness. For them, the Bible alone is the ultimate test for truth, and they are relentless in defending the truths of God’s Word against the heresies taught by rebellious people in the church.
Just imagine what the church—now militant, soon triumphant—will be like when it is led by elders who have been called, inspired, and chosen by God to shepherd His flock!
1 Unless otherwise stated, all Bible texts cited in this article are taken from the NIV. The word “trusted“ in Titus 3:8 has been translated as “believed“ in other versions of the Bible.
Limoni Manu O’Uiha, Ph.D., writes from Palmerston North, New Zealand.