Titus 1 Cretins!


Questions: What is the source of our hope? What does God expect of leaders? What must they protect against? How can we tell who truly knows God?

“Read More” to pursue answers from Titus.

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Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Titus 1:1-16

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

There’s that word “godliness” again. As in Timothy, Paul seems to be stressing that the point of truth is to promote godliness (as opposed to, say, disputation). Though, to be sure, the context here is not so much instruction as describing his own calling:

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Paul is very explicit that the basis of his calling is the hope of eternal life, rooted in the promise of God. More, that this promise is somehow prior to everything else we know about the world — even though it just became clear recently:

But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;

And it seems to be that Saviour — and the preaching thereof — which Paul sees as his primary connection to Titus:

To Titus, [mine] own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Thought Titus’ primary duty would actually appear to be leadership development, not evangelism:

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Then follows a list of criteria, quite similar to those we just saw in First Timothy:

If any be

  • blameless
  • the husband of one wife
  • having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;

  • not selfwilled
  • not soon angry
  • not given to wine
  • no striker
  • not given to filthy lucre;
  • But a lover of hospitality
  • a lover of good men
  • sober
  • just
  • holy
  • temperate;

Again, I am astounded that all the criteria are focused solely on character. There isn’t a single reference to theology, or even leadership ability (other than having well-behaved children).

Well, okay, that’s not really true; Paul may have just saved those for the end:

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

I see five implicit qualifications here:

  1. having been taught
  2. holding fast to the faith
  3. possessing sound doctrine
  4. able to exhort
  5. able to refute naysayers

At last we have a concrete description of what constitutes sound theological leadership. Intriguingly, the focus is explicitly on both encouraging the faithful and, well, discouraging the faithless:

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

Anytime you have a tight-knit community, there are parasites who will prey upon it. Paul seems particularly concerned about the culture in Crete:

One of themselves, [even] a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians [are] alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.This witness is true.

This verse is famous for its the much-disputed paradox, but I personally think Paul was well aware of the irony of his affirming the truthfulness of a man who indirectly called himself a liar! The larger point is that Cretan culture had a tendency towards deceitfulness, which made strong discipline even more necessary:

Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

Plus, as implied by the earlier comment about circumcision, the real threat was not so much from Cretan culture but Jewish mythology:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

We don’t know what exactly Paul was speaking against, but it sounds like some sort of legalism — which to Paul is the exact opposite of godliness and personal purity:

Unto the pure all things [are] pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving [is] nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Shocking! Paul’s complaint against the legalists is not that they are overly concerned with purity, but rather than they are incapable of understanding purity due to their own impurity.

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Ah! Perhaps this explains why Paul listed a dozen or more character attributes of leaders before talking about doctrine. The real test of godliness is whether our actions bring glory to God. How well we understand God with our heads is only of interest after we’ve demonstrated that we know him with our hearts. Paul has no tolerance for teachers who may be theologically impressive but personally reprehensible.

Do we?

God, I am convicted of how little I understand your godliness, and what it means to lead your people in truth. Father, help me to love my wife, and submit to your spirit, that I may be a light in the darkness. Teach me to avoid foolish controversy, but still protect the faith. Not with words or out of pride, but through your power shining through me. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:
Today’s title is, ironically, a corruption of “Christian’, and not actually connected to the inhabitants of Crete.

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