We have only three brief chapters in this little book. Each chapter lends itself to its own study and outline.
Let us look at the outline of truth and teaching in this first chapter. We have:
I. The Serious Introduction (vss. 1-4)
We have set forth here:
"Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour."
This is a common Christian greeting in Paul's epistles. This is a comforting Christian greeting.
This is a crowning Christian greeting.
It is from the Divine Person—The Father and the Son. It conies from Heaven. Titus will need a lot of these divine bestowments as he serves the Lord at Crete. There are problems there to face that will test the spiritual leadership of this young preacher. He had served with Paul and had stood the test.
II. The Solemn Duty, vs. 1:5
There is a special attraction about the study of the content of this Epistle, since it is concerned about the work and witness of a local church. No one understood the church universal as Paul did. It is set forth in his letter to the Ephesians. But no one knew better, and no one was more deeply impressed with the responsibilities and dangers associated with a local assembly. Let me say here, the Apostle regards the character of the pastor as of supreme importance to the local church. In a brief word of explanation, Paul reminds Titus he has been left behind in Crete for a definite purpose, a defined duty. "That you might amend what was defective." To do that in any church requires all the wisdom a man has, and then something more. This task requires Divine help and guidance. Titus has been given his orders. Now he is to do his duty. Paul has spoken authoritatively. His voice has Heaven's approval. He is the Divine agent in the hands of the Spirit. His authority is beyond question, and is final. It is not subject to debate or question. Titus and the believers are to carry it out.
A. It is a very Practical Duty. vs. 5
The church there was faulty in its organization. Some churches are over-orgainzed. The clubs, societies, and organizations have loaded the church down so that the Holy Spirit can hardly find His way through the rules and laws to do His work. That was not so in Crete. The church at Crete was very loosely knit together, and greatly needed something in the nature of co-ordination. There is nothing said about the numbers in the church. Titus was to be led by, and to rely upon, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his work.
B. It was a very Personal Duty "For this cause I left thee in Crete that thou shouldst set in order." That was Titus's job. He was called to do it. Paul had charged him. He was the man who was responsible for the task. No one could do it for him. He is charged with it.
C. It was a Particular Duty.
"Set in order" and "ordain elders."
This was no easy task. It will take strong spiritual leadership to do it. He will likely be criticized often. He needs to remember that "criticism is the price of leadership." He must pay the price, if need be. His task must be preceded by much prayer and careful study. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. There is a lot of "screening" to be done before a choice is made.
D. This was a Public Duty.
He is dealing with the public. His choice of elders is from the public—Yes, from among saved people, but they are still "people," people who have carnal natures. He is selecting elders not only from among the people, but who will be leaders of the people and for the people. This is no easy task. To make the wrong choice means trouble ahead. Sometimes such men are easier to get than to get rid of. Be careful Titus! Men of prominence want to be leaders whether they are qualified spiritually or not. Titus has to perform this public duty in several localities, "in every city." His strain needs to be matched by Divine strength.
E. It is a Providential Duty.
It is in the realm of Divine ordering. This is a work that is ordained of God. Someone must do it. It is the Lord's work. The church needs leadership, and someone must respond to this Divine responsibility. Titus is God's man to do it in Crete. It is to be done under the all-seeing eye of God. It is of Divine ordering. God expects it to be done in every assembly.
F. It is always a Prayerful Duty.
In Acts, when there was a vacancy in the rank of leadership that needed to be filled, the Apostles went straight to prayer for the Lord to lead and guide in the choice of a man (Acts 1:24). A problem arose in the early church because some of the widows were not getting proper consideration, relative to food and care. The Apostles were delivering groceries to them, but they felt this wasn't their duty. They decided they should choose somebody to oversee and help to do this work. They felt they were neglecting prayer and Bible study. They called a prayer meeting and asked God to choose a man to fill the place. God answered the need and the Lord's work went on. Titus has a duty to perform. God will help him to do it.
G. It was Primary Duty.
It had to be done immediately. He must not delay. The demand was urgent if the Lord's work was to go forward. It was to have priority in his life's duties. It wouldn't wait for some "later time." No, now was the time it was to be done. It was of supreme importance. It was an issue that must be taken care of at once. It demanded first place. It had to do with the ordering of church work. He couldn't say, "We can do that any time."
H. It was a Pastoral Duty.
Titus is going to lead that church. The burden rests on his shoulders as he leads the people. There are some duties the pastor must lead. That is why he is there as pastor.
I. It was the People's Duty also.
The method of choosing these elders is not clear, but the choice was made by the whole assembly under the leadership of Titus. Those elected were appointed to office. This was done in every city. Every assembly had its own elders.
III. The Selecting of Church Leaders. vss. 6-9
We have looked at the Serious Greeting, vss. 1-4, and the Solemn Duty, vs. 5; now, we turn to the Selecting of Church Leaders. The words "elders" and "bishops" are used freely by the Apostle. He speaks of them in First Timothy. These words are sometimes used interchangeably. We must rid our minds of the idea conveyed today by the word "bishop." The word "elder" designates the office of leadership in the church. The word "bishop" suggests what they did. They shepherded and cared for souls. An elder was a bishop or a shepherd of the flock, no modern bishop over all the cities.
Paul is now dealing with the matter of leadership in the local church. Let us not underestimate the importance of the content of these verses. There are several requirements that are vital if the local church is to be a true center of spiritual worship, fellowship, and service. For the guidance and information of Titus, the Apostle sets before him the personal qualifications of elders. The men must be hand-picked, but by the hand of God. The need of the church demands the right type of a man. The qualifications were moral and spiritual—not intellectual. The standards are high and absolute. The one who assumes such an office must have a blameless reputation. The choice of those selected to fill the office (1:5) is not to be detached from the choice of the saints (Acts 6:3) and the sanction of the Spirit (Acts 20:28).
Let us hear what Paul has to say about church leaders in verses six to nine:
A. The life of the overseer is described fully, first negatively, things that are not to be in a leaders' life and conduct. See the seven things mentioned here:
Not a single one of these qualities is at all attractive; therefore, whether it be inconsistency, inconsiderateness, impatience, injuriousness, intemperance, or inordinate desire, all are alike banned from the life and conduct of an elder. If any such practices are countenanced in the life of an overseer, he cannot correct the same in the members of the congregation.
B. Now, we have set forth the positive qualities in the life of an overseer. This spiritual leader must be a man who has these qualities:
We see that the elder or overseer in the local church is to be:
His life and testimony are to count for the Lord. The internal administration of the church is dealt with here. Under God and by the leading of the Holy Spirit it is governed by men who are qualified by Scriptural standards. As a church leader, there are five qualities that fit such a man for such a high office:
There is set forth in these verses the fourfold picture of the "Shepherd of the Flock."
He is to separate the saints—not from each other, but from sin. This is dealt with in verses 9-16. The qualifications of overseers are good for all Christians to emulate. Try it.
We have seen that the chief standards that concern the church should be the quality of her overseers. Men who have a poise of spirit and an attitude of soul which arise from three things:
The Cross of the Saviour provides the possibilities for all goodness and godliness as the provision for everyday practice. Only by sharing the life of Christ and shouldering the task can we sense the joys that are to be had in the service of the Lord. All our needs are met by the Lord Jesus. He has a right to expect something of us because He endows, empowers, and enables us.
IV. The Silencing of Erroneous Teachers, vss. 10-16
We have seen the Serious Greeting (1-4), the solemn duty (2-5), the selecting of church leaders (6-9). Now we hear the Apostle telling Titus how to silence erroneous teachers, vss. 10-16. Paul tells Titus what he is to do. Paul appointed him to a certain task. How far is he to go in doing it? Not beyond apostolic designation! The preacher's powers were limited to apostolic control and supervision. Every Christian's duty is set forth in the Scriptures. The overseers chosen to lead were to exhort the saints and convince the gainsayers. There were false teachers in the area of the church's life. Their presence, practice, and profession made it necessary for someone to "speak out" against their false teaching. Here we see the necessity of good strong church leadership, stalwart, capable men who will be able to deal with "evil workers." Let us look at the character and conduct of these men, and how they are to be handled.
A. The Mention of these men, vs. 10
There were difficult people in that day trying to invade the church of God. They have multiplied since Paul's day. "For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision (Judaizers). They were boring in among the Lord's people. Paul warns the leaders of the church that these are dangerous to the life of the church. There were apparently three forms of sin that were rampant:
The situation in Crete was extremely difficult and the problems of the local pastor would be increased. There were "many" unruly and vain talkers and deceivers. Their presence is not to dishearten church leaders. Don't let them frighten you away.
B. The Manner of these Men, vss. 10, 12
They were "unruly"—vain talkers, deceivers, liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
1. They were Undisciplined, "Unruly"
They were headstrong and ungovernable. They were uncontrollable. They refused to submit to final authority, "The Word of God." All church problems are due to a neglect to submit to Scriptural standards of action. Somebody won't allow the Word of God to have its way in their decisions. These people in Crete refused to let the Word be their rule of life and conduct. This is the cause of all church problems.
2. They had Unbridled tongues, "Vain talkers"
What they said was just so much empty chatter. What they said was as sounding brass. It is perfectly all right to talk if it is helpful. But their talk was unhelpful. It produced nothing that was of real value.
3. They were Underhanded, "Deceivers"
They were Pharisees—false friends and plotters. They were wolves in sheep's clothing, bearing a false witness. We have in our day many false teachers who, not only are deceived, but are deceivers. Watch out for them creeping into your sheepfold, pastor.
4. They are often Undetected "Hypocrites"
They are affected pretenders. They are parrots. They are counterfeiters. They are not real. They know the language, but have no reality behind it. They act out their false piety in order to deceive and get attention. They put on a show to attract and draw untaught people after them.
5. They are Ungodly, vss. 12-13a
They are "liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies." They are steeped in the wickedness and corruption of their own carnal desires. They are "lazy, good-for-nothing" folks. They don't want to work, but they do want to practice sin.
6. They were Unconcealed, vss. 12 and 13 a
The public knew the kind of people they were. You can't hide sin. Paul said "Now the works of the flesh are manifest." Sin is never hidden. It is a deadly disease on the inside and breaks out like measle spots on the outside.
In spite of all of this wickedness, there were godly saints in that island who loved the Lord and hated sin. They were like "righteous Lot" in Sodom. They never got accustomed to the corruption around them. No doubt they had to keep close to the Lord and the Word so that they would not be influenced by the filthy deeds of these floundering in sin. They lived in Crete, but acted like citizens of hell.
C. The Motive of These Men, vs. 11 "For Filthy Lucre's Sake"
What they did was all for financial gain. This is not a "mere hasty statement." One of their own prophets says it is true. Their motive was money, money, and more money. They were seeking to secure gain by shameful methods. Their purposes were selfish. What lengths will some Christians (so called) go in order to find personal gain of some kind. It may be for prominence—for position, or for power, or for prosperity. A Christian should get his money honestly. Greed for the "gold that perisheth" has ruined the life and ministry of many a Christian. I heard Dr. Lehman Strauss speak one time in a sermon on First Timothy 6:6 to 19 about the Christian and his money. He spoke about:
The handling of money is a burden:
Never allow an unworthy motive to move you to action. Be sure your motives are pure.
D. The Ministry of these Men, 1:11, 14 and 3:9
They were spreading error as far as they could and as fast as they could. Error travels fast. Evil has power to communicate itself.
E. The Mischief Done by These Men. v. 11b They do three things:
1. They misrepresent the truth, v. 11b
They are teachers of error. They were mixing law and grace. When that is done, we rob the law of its thundering terror and we rob grace of its wholesome liberty. It was wicked to spread such error. It was wicked then; it is wicked now. The world and the church need to hear the unadulterated Word of God. We need the truth presented in all of its warmth and simplicity.
2. They mislead untaught Christians. "Subvert whole houses."
They had a tremendous influence. They wormed their way into homes where there were believers who didn't know the Scriptures. They made error sound like truth. They mixed a little error with a lot of truth until they got the hearts of the "babes in Christ," then they reversed it, and mixed a little truth with a lot of error. They never teach the basic doctrines of the Scriptures. They make their appeal by presenting some "new phase of truth," or some "new teaching that has been neglected."
3. They manifested aggressiveness.
Paul says there were "many" of them. There was no small number of these false teachers. They had "wormed" their way into hearts and lives, and had a large number of followers. They got a weak Christian in this church to follow them, and an untaught believer in another church to listen to their delusions, and soon they had "many" who had been deceived by them. Verse 11 says they "subvert whole houses." The saints met together to worship in houses in that day instead of churches. They upset whole congregations with their error. It was easy for them to get crowds because their appeal was to the natural man. Their message appealed to the flesh. It wasn't hard on the flesh. Error travelled fast then. It can travel faster now since we have television and radio. What error is spread across our land today, and around the world by these means! Don't support radio programs before you examine their teaching, or you may be responsible for helping to propagate error with your money.
F. the Matter of Handling these Teachers, vss. 13-14
They must be dealt with, lest their evil work spreads still further. They are to be stopped from doing continued harm and damage to the cause of Christ. Now, how are they to be handled? There is to be spiritual correction. The language used here is strong. It presents a dark background to the work the local elders had to achieve. These teachers had to be met and muzzled. There were "foolish talkers"—empty talkers and "false teachers"—erroneous teachers. They must be dealt with firmly.
The "all things" of verse 15 refer, not to moral purity, but to such things as "meat and drinks" to which the distinction of pure and impure could be applied. These false teachers placed a lot of emphasis on outward rites. But "things" in themselves have no moral character. They get moral character from the user (Edmund Hiebert). They said eating meat offered to an idol was impure, wrong. Some Christians ate it as a piece of good meat untainted by being offered to an idol. To him it was pure. Those who said "such meat" was impure didn't have a right moral character within. The profession of these false teachers was empty. They grumbled about "little things." This was "wrong" and that "wasn't right." But by their works they proved their hearts were rebellious to the things of God.
This is a wonderful chapter that has to do with the order of the church, the opportunities of the church, and the opposition to the church. It would be well for us to review the problems they had to face in 10-16.