As you may remember, beginning last week (April 24th), I began a journey to memorize the book of Titus. If you are interested in doing the same, or want to learn more about this endeavor, just click here for my original post with the 8-week plan to memorize Titus.
Each week, for the next 8 weeks, my goal is to write at least one post reflecting on the previous week’s verses. These posts will be a mixture of commentary on the passage, insights, reflections, and applications to my own life and to the lives of God’s people in general. These notes will be far from comprehensive, as a full sermon on the passage may be. Instead, my aim is simply to reflect on what the Lord is drawing my attention to and how He’s bringing His Word to bear on my life. I pray that these reflections on Titus would be profitable to you.
Week 1 — Titus 1:1-6
(1) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, (2) in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (3) and at the proper time manifested in His Word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; (4) To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (5) This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you — (6) if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.
The first thing that struck me in these opening verses was the purpose for which Paul was a servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ — for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth. Paul’s entire ministry, as you read in the book of Acts or in his letters to various churches, was a ministry of building up people’s faith through knowledge — knowledge of God, His Works, His Ways, and His Gospel.
And this knowledge, he says, accords with godliness. It is often a temptation to gain knowledge for knowledge sake alone. I know that this can be a temptation in my own life — to know more information, more facts, and more arguments for the sake of just knowing more. Though knowledge of the truth is a wonderful thing, God never intended it to just puff us up in our own minds and intellect. Rather, it is meant to result in a changed life, a life that submits to Christ in all things and lives for Him in all manners — a life of godliness.
What a wonderful reminder we get in the next verse that God never lies. Why is this important for Paul’s statement that his apostleship is in hope of eternal life. It is incredibly important because we, as God’s people, have an unshakeable confidence that what God has promised will come to pass. Could you imagine what it would be like if God could lie? Or to broaden the question, if God could change? This brings up the question of God’s immutability, which is the comforting doctrine from Scripture that God does not change.
But what if he could? What if he could change? Or could lie? It would be terrifying. Maybe he lied in promising eternal life. We put our faith and trust and hope in Christ and in the life to come, only to find out it was a big hoax.
Or he could lie in relation to his purposes. He has said that one day Christ will return and judge the living and the dead. What if He has changed His plans? Then all of the admonitions in Scripture to be alert and look forward to His return would be null and void.
But praise the Lord that we have a sure hope in Scripture that God never lies. We don’t have to worry about these what if’s because we know what is! God does not lie. God cannot lie. And that truth gives us a sure foundation for our hope of eternal life.
After concluding the introduction and introducing the recipient of this letter (To Titus…), Paul moves on to why he has written this letter. And the first thing that he says is that he left Titus in Crete to put what remained into order, which is specifically defined as Titus’ job to appoint elders in every town as I have directed you. This is important because Paul shows that he takes seriously the organization and structure of the local church. Paul is not content to have churches formed through his ministry, only to be left without structure and without shepherds (or elders). Therefore, he instructs Titus to appoint these elders in every town, presumably at every church, since there would have likely been a church per town.
Another important note about this admonition is the fact that Paul tells timothy to appoint elders plural in every town. I will not spend much time at all on this point, other than to note that this verse, among many others, points to the fact that the biblical structure for the local church was to be comprised of multiple elders (or pastors) working in conjunction with one another, not just one pastor.
Finally, in verse 6, Paul begins the qualifications for these elders, which he will discuss in more depth in the following verses. In v.6, Paul gives 3 qualifications for these elders:
- Above reproach — This is a qualification that covers much ground. In fact, in v.7 we will see a more extensive idea about what this entails. Click here for a helpful article by Tim Challies on this qualification, including some helpful diagnostic questions to ask yourself.
- The husband of one wife — Much has been written on this qualification. Does it mean that a man can never have been divorced? Is it speaking to the issue of polygamy? Various options and interpretations abound. I understand this qualification of being a “one-woman man”not to disqualify a man who has been previously divorced on biblical grounds. Rather, Paul is speaking about the character of the man in being a man who is solely devoted to the woman who is his wife. Again, click here for another helpful article by Tim Challies on this qualification.
- His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination— This final qualification that opens this section on the qualifications for elders is another that has been the subject of much discussion, disagreement, and confusion. Does this verse require that a man’s children be Christians in order to be an elder? What if the child makes a profession of faith but strays from the faith? Must the man step down? What about men with young children who are not yet Christians? Must he wait until his children believe? Again, this topic could comprise much discussion, but I will be brief. Essentially, I understand this verse to be pointing to the relation between a man’s ability to lead in his home and his ability to lead within the church. The word translated as believers could also be translated as faithful, complementing 1 Timothy 3:4 and pointing to the father’s leadership of his children as obedient and submissive children. As Justin Taylor notes concerning this verse, “What must not characterize the children of an elder is immorality and undisciplined rebelliousness, if the children are still at home and under his authority.” As with the other two, click here for another helpful article by Tim Challies on this qualification.
So how has the Lord been using this passage in my life this week as I’ve memorized the first 6 verses? A couple ways:
First, God has been giving me a continual, needed reminder of the link between faith, knowledge, godliness, and hope. Paul connects these 4 things in the first 2 verses of his letter to Titus, showing the unbreakable link between them. Faith does not come apart from knowledge, but knowledge is useless apart from faith. And both faith and knowledge should result in godliness, a changed life with Christ as king. And as we are living lives of faith, fueled by knowledge, in accordance with godliness, our hope of enteral life should be an ever present reality and driving force in our lives.
Second, the Lord has been reminding me of the high calling of being an elder. While am I privileged to serve as an elder at Grace Bible Church, I must continually examine my life, and have others examine my life, to be sure the my life is in accord with the high calling of the eldership. As we get into next week’s verses, verses 7-12, this will become an even greater emphasis.
What About You?
So that is how the Lord has been using these verse in my life this week. How about you? Are you memorizing the book? If so, what have been the biggest struggles or challenges? What ways have you found to overcome those challenges? And whether you’re memorizing the book, or just reading through it, how has the Lord been using the first 6 verses of Titus to teach, reprove, correct, or train you in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16)? Comment below. I’d love to hear.