“Living for Christ in a Sinful World”

Titus 1:1-16

We will be reading through the book of Titus for the next three weeks. This is actually a letter which apostle Paul wrote to his companion Titus. Paul had been working with his friend on the island of Crete establishing Christian churches. Paul had to leave the island so he was sending this letter, along with two men, Apollos and Zenas as encouragement and support.  The overall theme of Paul’s letter was to remind Titus and the Christians living in Crete how the good news of Jesus and the power of the Spirit was enough to transform the Cretan culture from within. What an excellent reminder for us today! When we live a life centered on God’s Word, the good news of Jesus and the power of the Spirit is enough to transform any culture from within. 

The letter begins with Paul introducing himself. For Paul it was important to provide his credentials and where he stood on important issues, as he knew this letter would be taken from church to church on the island and read aloud. Little did he know it would be canonized and read all over the world for centuries to come. 

The letter begins with Paul describing himself as a servant. The Greek word Paul used was “doulos” which meant, “bondservant.” This term for servant defined not just someone who was a servant, but designated a low servant, by choice. Why one would choose to be a servant in the first place, none-the-less, a low servant would have perked the ears of those listening in the first century. Paul chose this word on purpose, because Paul did not consider being a bondservant for the God of the universe a low thing. 

Paul also identified himself as an apostle. This was a special type of servant, with a particular call and function. As an apostle, Paul saw himself as a special messenger of God. Paul was using the gifts and talents God had given him to share the gospel and build up the body of Christ. Each of us Christians should ask ourselves, do we know ourselves, our gifts and talents? And are we using them as messengers of God? 

Paul was letting the Christians who were listening to this letter, who had joined him in furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ that he was coming alongside. He also wanted to remind them that the truth they were holding on to, the hope of eternal life, was promised by God, who does not lie and it was because of that truth Paul was called to preach. 

Paul then identified that the letter was going to Titus, his true son in the faith. We don’t have a lot of information on exactly who Titus was. He was mentioned two times in 2 Corinthians where he was sent to Corinth with a brother, who was understood to be Luke. This has led scholars to believe that Titus was Luke’s brother. From the two verses in Corinthians we learn that Titus was seen as a partner and fellow worker with Paul. He walked in the same spirit as Paul and when Paul had something difficult to be done, Titus was who he sent. For example, when the collection was to be made in Corinth on behalf of the poor saints in Jerusalem, Titus was sent by Paul to stir the members up to give.

In verse 5 we read why Titus was left behind in Crete. He was to assist the churches they had started by making sure their leaders were mature and qualified. 

In order for the churches to remain faithful and healthy, they would need to have leaders who were faithful and healthy. Paul then gives the characteristics needed to be such a leader.

Having a list of specific qualifications for leaders in the church sets up a standard. This means leaders were not meant to be chosen at random or just because they volunteered or thought they should be a leader. This list was provided so those who were chosen were actually qualified for the position. Notice this list has nothing to do with giftedness, this list has to do with character, that had been proven over time and there was evidence of a real relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Here is where I am going to go out on a limb. As we read Paul’s letter to Titus we will notice his comments regarding men as leaders. 

This was a cultural standard and at the time of its writing not one person listening to this letter would have questioned his use of placing men as elders. It would have been a distraction to the gospel if women were included and Paul worked diligently to keep out distractions. However, Paul did recognize women who were leaders in their churches where it was not a distraction. I believe Paul was more concerned with the character of the leader, the society chose the gender. Therefore, I will proceed gender inclusive as these characteristics are necessary for all of us. 

It is also important to recognize this list is not rigid. Paul was not demanding perfection in these areas. The goal was the heart of the leader. Was the leader desiring these characteristics and working towards them with their whole heart? Can that desire be seen in their life? 

This list was meant for Titus to use to find those who fit the criteria and then train and disciple them towards being better leaders. 

Here’s the list – each one of us should being running a mental checklist and note where we’ve got it covered and where we need some work:

“Blameless” – this Greek word does not mean “no sin.” It literally means, “nothing to take hold upon.” Which means there is nothing in your life that others can take hold of and use to find you guilty of a grievous sin.  

“Husband of one wife” – the idea is of “committed to one person,” should you be married. It did not mean the leader had to be married. However, if you were married, your relationship was focused on your spouse.

“Whose children believed and were not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient” – The same Greek word for wild and disobedient was used to describe the Prodigal Son. I feel for the Christian parent who has a prodigal child. Who sinned, the parent or the child? Both, I suspect.  I remember listening to James Dobson on his radio broadcast “Focus on the Family,” where he was asked about his children and raising teens. His response was he had lots of suggestions but his best suggestion was once your child hits puberty, commence daily prayer. Amen. The premise for this criteria was that if you were unable to manage your own household, there was a question as to whether you were able to handle God’s family. I think there is room for discussion with this one. 

We continue with Paul’s list of criteria, verse 7, since this leader was entrusted with God’s work they were to be: 

“Blameless – not overbearing” – other translations read, “not self-willed.” Basically selfish people should not be in leadership. The person who demonstrated arrogance, stubbornness and had a proud self-focus should not be given a leadership position. Interestingly enough, many leaders use those very traits to obtain leadership. Perhaps that was why Paul had put Titus in charge of picking who should be leading the church in Crete. 

Here is a list of “nots”: 

  • Not quick-tempered
  • Not given to much wine
  • Not violent
  • Not greedy for money

Pretty good list if you ask me. 

Then we are given a list of the “Haves”:

  • Hospitality
  • Loves what is good
  • Self-controlled
  • Upright
  • Holy and disciplined

With these haves the leaders were called to hold firmly to the gospel message and encourage the believers with the sound doctrine and be able to respond correctly to those who opposed it. 

Here is where we ask, “Yes, but Why?”

I think we can all agree on the list of qualifications Paul has given to guide Titus in choosing leaders for the Christian church. But why did Titus need such a list? Why do we need one still today? 

Because the island of Crete and the world today contain “many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers.” Not just outside the church, but even within the church. Cultural activities are difficult to discern when you are living in the midst of the culture. Paul even quotes one of their prophets as saying, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” When the society you have lived in all your life stresses and focuses on something, it stands to reason that members of the society will follow. 

Our culture infiltrates our minds and thinking still today. There are many examples but one that comes to my mind was brought to my attention when I had a roommate who had recently recovered from bulimia. She had spent over a month in the hospital as they attempted to retrain her body to eat without throwing up. She had lost so much weight she could barely walk around due to lack of strength. 

After months of counseling she had gained some weight and was working as a counselor with me at Chop Point Camp. We roomed together and one day I was reading a Good Housekeeping magazine. She asked me if I could keep the magazine hidden as that was one of her triggers. I was confused and asked her to explain. It turns out, she had spent her teen life reading and looking through magazines focused on what the model woman looked like. The images portrayed in the magazines and on television of what an ideal body shape for a woman was what had trained her mind to believe she had to look like them. This was what started her need to be thin and thus led to bulimia. Even today, when I see the magazines at the check-out lines at the grocery store, I am reminded of the lies they portray. 

Lies are perpetuated in all cultures for a variety of reasons. 

Discerning them comes from knowing the truth and this was the center of Paul’s criteria. The truth comes from the Word of God and the Holy Spirit not culture. 

Paul reminds Titus that even those who claim to know God may have actions that demonstrate they deny Him. That is why Titus needed to be reminded what actions would qualify those for Christian leadership and what actions would not. 

Living for Jesus in a sinful world has never been easy. Since the Christian church began there have been obstacles which begin with our culture. Discernment is the key, and we gain the ability to discern by reading God’s Word, prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to take some time this week and meditate on the list Paul has provided. 

Ask God to assist you in living for Him in a way that those around you will see Christ. It may not be easy, but it can prove to be life changing, for you and possibly for someone else. 

Let’s pray.