In April of 2017 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 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 2 — Titus 1:7-12
(7) For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, (8) but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (9) He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (10) For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. (11) They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (12) One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
Our passage for this week continues the list of qualifications for an elder from verse 6. If you remember from last week, verse 6 introduces 3 qualifications that must be true of an elder (which you can read by clicking here). Now, in v.7, Paul begins to expound on what it means for an overseer to be above reproach (Note: the term overseer refers to the same office as elder and bishop in the New Testament. These are 3 different terms referring to different aspects, or roles, of the same office). Now as Paul expounds on what it means for an overseer to be above reproach in verses 7-8, he does so by giving us a list of what this man must NOT be, followed by a list of things that he must be.
First, he must NOT be …
- Arrogant — This describes a man who has a self-loving spirit, seeking to gratify only itself without any regard for others. A man fitting this description would have a high view of himself, prideful in his disposition, and making sure others knew just how great he is.
- Quick Tempered — This means that he is not to be short-fused or given to sudden outbursts of anger.
- A Drunkard — Paul does not say that these men cannot partake of alcohol in moderation and within the biblical framework (a topic for another article). Rather, it is clear that this man must not be addicted to alcohol, as 1 Timothy 3:3 puts it.
- Violent — This one should be pretty self explanatory. Surely a man that has a violent attitude and temperament is not fit to serve as God’s steward in the Church.
- Greedy for Gain — This man should not love money or other possessions, and in the context of their serving as God’s steward as an elder, they should not do so for the sake of what they may “gain” in a worldly sense from that service.
Next, in v.8, we see the flip-side of the coin. He MUST be …
- Hospitable — He should open his life up to others and be willing to help those in need. An elder/overseer should set the bar when it comes to hospitality and opening his home to those both inside and outside of the church.
- A Lover of Good — Rather than loving and finding joy in what is bad, or evil, the man serving in this role should be known as a man who loves good. This can be seen in his priorities, commitments, entertainment, leisure, etc.
- Self-Controlled — In all manners of life, the man of God should be known as one who is self-controlled, not as one who is given to being addicted to things and unable to discipline himself in those regards.
- Upright — This could also be translated as “just,” and refers to his dealing fairly with others. Does this man deal with people in a just and honest way?
- Holy — This means that his life is pleasing to God. He is to be a man who walks with God, deals with sin, and is intentionally desiring and taking steps to live a life more pleasing to Christ.
- Disciplined — Similar to self-controlled, he is to be a man of discipline.
Now we must remember as we look at these lists that no man is going to meet these qualifications perfectly (except Jesus). Rather, Paul lays out a vision of a man that is striving after and continually growing in these areas.
He continues in verse 9, moving past these moral and character qualifications to now look at the qualification for an elder theologically. He says in v.9 that he must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to provide instruction in sound doctrine, and also to rebuke those who contradict it. There is so much in this verse that I could elaborate on, but I will not for the sake of space. Instead, I just want to note that it continues to strike me every time I read, recite, or meditate on this verse the dual role of the pastor/elder/overseer — to teach sound doctrine AND ALSO to rebuke those who contradict it. We must uphold both sides of this coin that Paul lays out for us. Many times the role of the pastor is going to be a “positive” one, in the sense of teaching what is good. Teaching what the Bible says. Teaching correct theology. And so forth. But we must not neglect the “negative” role of the pastor — rebuke those who contradict it. This is going to be a theme that we see over and over again in the book of Titus — There are false teachers and false teachings that necessitate pastors and elders to take a strong stand against for the sake of the health of the body of Christ and its individual members.
The False Teaching
In fact, verses 10-12 continue the discussion about those who contradict it. As we read verses 10-16, and the many false teachers that are in their midst, it makes Titus’ task of appointing elders in every town (v 5) all the more urgent. What we see in verses 5-9 is God’s answer for the problems of false teaching and false teachers that arise in the church (verses 10-16). So what does Paul tell us about this false teaching happening in Crete?
Though we will get some more information as we move next week into verses 13-16, we see from verses 10-12 that these false teachers were insubordinate (or rebellious), empty talkers and deceivers, part of the circumcision party (they were Jews … likely Judaizers who were trying to enforce the Judicial laws on Christian believers), and they had impure motives — teaching for shameful gain. In verse 12, Paul quotes a Cretan prophet, Epimenides from the 7th century BC, just as an example of what even the Cretans said about their own people.
Essentially what we have going on here are smooth, swift talking false teachers, likely converted Jews, that were urging the people to turn to more than Christ alone and adopt Jewish laws and practice as essential for their salvation. This false teaching was upsetting whole families, suggesting that this wasn’t being taught from the pulpit or the larger gathering of the church body, but in the personal, one-on-one relationships being built, where these false teachers sought to draw individual families away from their devotion to Christ alone and adopt their Jewish myths and commands as we see in verse 14.
What was Paul’s command to Titus in how to deal with this? He uses pretty strong language: They must be silenced, or “muzzled.” Later, in verse 13 Paul tells Titus to rebuke them sharply. He does not deal lightly with these false teachers. Paul rightly recognizes the havoc that can be wreaked by these empty talkers and deceivers, and he tells Titus to deal with them quickly and swiftly. They must be silenced.
As we prepare to look at verses 13 and following next week, we will see even more about the characteristics of these false teachers.
So how has the Lord been using this passage in my life this week as I’ve memorized these 6 verses?
First, as an elder/pastor at a local church, these verses are directly applicable to me and have been a great source of encouragement and examination as I’ve been memorizing them.
If you are a pastor or elder in a church, can I encourage you to take this list and pray over it for yourself. Ask God to build these character qualities in your life in an even greater way. If there are things in your life that do not accord with these qualifications, would you repent of those and ask for the Lord’s grace to grow in that particular area.
If you are not a pastor/elder, would you commit to praying for your pastors and elders in these specific ways. Would you take each of the qualifications and pray that the Lord would graciously work in your pastor to make him an even better example in that particular regard. Would you pray the same for yourself. These qualifications are not things that only pastors must be; rather, they are qualities that should, in some measure, describe every follower of Christ. Yet they are to exist in an elder in an exemplary way.
Second, God continues to remind me through these verses that truth is important. And as important as our task to teach what is true (giving instruction in sound doctrine) is, it is equally important that we oppose what is false. As a pastor, I must be willing, as I stand upon God’s Word, to stand firmly against false teachers and teaching that oppose clear teachings of God. These verses have reminded me of that, and I am praying for God’s grace and boldness in my life to be willing to speak the truth in love where needed.
Are you a pastor or elder? Pray for the same boldness for yourself and your fellow brothers and pastors.
Are you a member of a local church body? Pray for your pastors and elders, that they would eagerly and seriously fulfill this tasking of instructing in sound doctrine AND ALSO rebuking those who contradict it.
Third, these verses remind how serious the threat of false teaching and false teachers is to the local church, and how quickly and decisively the church’s leaders must act to silence such false teaching. Further, I’m reminded of the gift of elders and pastors to the local church to do this work. It is a gift of God that he has given us these godly men to be his stewards in the local church, men that have certain character qualifications (v 7-8) as well as men who are firm in their knowledge of the Word of God in order to teach and rebuke (v. 9).
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 book of Titus to teach, reprove, correct, or train you in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16)? Comment below. I’d love to hear.