Year 3 Day 98
Read - Titus 1
Message - Scott Woodburn
Throughout Paul's letters he makes reference to someone called Titus. Paul describes him as a brother (2 Corinthians 2v13), a comforter (2 Corinthians 7v6), someone who cared for the church (2 Corinthians 8v16), a partner (2 Corinthians 8v23) and a worker (2 Corinthians 8v23). He was from a Gentile background (Galatians 2v3) and had travelled to Jerusalem with the Apostle (Galatians 2v1). It is clear from Paul's testimony that Titus is a well valued worker of the Gospel, so-much-so that Paul leaves him on the island of Crete to oversee the work of the newly founded church (v5).
Titus' first task was to appoint elders in every town (v5). As Presbyterians we take our name from the Greek word for elder - presbuteros. We believe that the office of the elder is the highest office in the church and every local fellowship should be overseen by suitably qualified elders. As Titus sought to install elders in the Cretan church he was well advised as to what to look for.
The elder should be above reproach - he shouldn't be praising the Lord on a Sunday and fighting with the police late on a Saturday night (v6). He shouldn't be a womaniser with a girl in every town - he should be faithful to his wife and have children who aren't living in a manner opposed to the Gospel (v6b). An elder works for God as a steward of the church (v7a). He oversees the spiritual life of the congregation and therefore is to be above reproach. This is the second time Paul mentions this fact. An elder can't be living a double life. He shouldn't be overseeing the church accounts and then stealing money from the government. He shouldn't be peaceful at a church meeting and then running his own home with furious anger and threats of violence. An elder is to be above reproach.
Paul highlights other characteristics that shouldn't be evident in an elder's life. There should be no room for arrogance - he should understand that we boast only in Christ. He should not be quick-tempered - he should endure persecution and be slow to anger. He should be mindful of the sin of drunkenness and keep himself safe from this particular danger. An elder shouldn't be eager to throw punches - he should shun violence and keep his hands in his pockets. Finally, he should not be driven by a love of money always striving to put more cash in his pocket.
Instead an elder will be marked by his hospitality towards the church and strangers alike (v8). He will love that which is good always shunning wickedness and evil. An elder must be able to control himself - it might be around women, alcohol, food or sport but only Christ should be his master. He will be considered an upright, holy and disciplined man - he shouldn't be one thing in the meeting house and then another in the market square. Finally, he must be a man who holds fast to the Word of God. He should be able to teach the Word and instruct others in sound doctrine and just as he instructs, he should also rebuke those who go against the things of God (v9).
The necessity of good and Godly elders was underlined by Paul. On the island of Crete there were many enemies of the Gospel. They did not respect authority, their words were empty, they deceived with their talk and others insisted upon circumcision as necessary for salvation (v10). Such individuals needed to be challenged - their activity was causing turmoil for whole families who were listening to things that should never have been taught (v11).
Paul wasn't surprised. Cretans had a reputation even among their own prophets for being liars, beasts and lazy gluttons (v12). Imagine being described in this way! It sounds incredibly harsh but as far as Paul was concerned it summed up the Cretans accurately (v13). Therefore godly elders were required to rebuke the opponents of the Gospel sharply (v13b). This wasn't to destroy the Cretans but instead that they would be sound in the faith. The temptation was for them to be devoted to Jewish myths and the commands of false teachers (v14). It was the same message of the false teachers in Colossae - don't touch, don't eat, don't drink! Such individuals were defiled, unbelieving and impure therefore godly elders were an absolute necessity to combat the march of falsehood.
Reading such a passage causes me to fall before the Lord. The eldership is a high calling and an extraordinary privilege. As an elder I know that I often fall short of the required standard - may God forgive me and may God reform me. The need for godly qualified men to serve as elders is as important today as it always has been. We may not feel able to describe the people in our towns as liars, beasts and gluttons but make no mistake truth is still attacked and the Gospel is still despised. Brothers and sisters, pray today for your elders. May they take their call seriously and may the Lord equip them for their difficult but incredibly vital work. For Christ's sake. Amen.
Q92 What is a Sacrament? A Sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.