Perspectives In Titus: Putting Things In Order

Bible contextContinuing our study of Titus, we’ll look at verses 5-6 today.I had hoped to cover verses 5-9 in this post. Once you stop laughing at my unrealistic expectations of myself (yes, it’s funny that I thought I could get through five verses in one shot), let’s read the passage to get our bearings.

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— 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. 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, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 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. ~~Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

As I prepared this study, I realized that verses 5 and 6 present a theme of putting things in order. Hmm, maybe it’s God’s providence that I will only get through these two verses.

Starting with verse 5, we learn that Titus remained in Crete to finish Paul’s work and to appoint elders.

Jamieson Fausset and Brown comment that Paul spent the winter there on his way to his imprisonment in Rome. So, coupled with the fact that Cretan Jews heard the Gospel at Pentecost (Acts 2:11), the Gospel had gotten to Crete. But Paul left, a prisoner, before the church could be fully organized, so he charged Titus with the responsibility of organizing the church. Gill argues that Paul left Titus there after his second visit.

Paul wanted Titus to “set in order” what remained of constituting the Cretan church.  Vincent’s Word Studies says that the Greek word translated “set in order”   was “Used by medical writers of setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones.” In verses  10-16 of this chapter we’ll see why the Cretan church needed correction.

Paul directed Titus to appoint elders in every town of Crete. Elders were responsible to care for the  spiritual needs of local congregations. Thus they had to be men of maturity. For that reason, they had to be men whose personal lives reflected order.

Titus 1:6-8 parallels 1 Timothy 3:2-4  in listing the qualifications for being an elder.  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown  comment that the reiteration of qualifications in this epistle contrasts the wickedness of the Cretans (see Titus 1:10). An elder, because he will reprove unsound doctrine and behavior, must exhibit godliness in his own life.

Therefore he must be, first of all, above reproach. Obviously, no elder can be completely sinless, but God’s Word through Paul requires that they be men of integrity.  The rest of this passage details how he should be above reproach.

An elder’s blamelessness begins with how well he orders his family life. Faithfulness in marriage, therefore, is essential. Commentators vary on how strictly this principle applies in the case of remarriage, but the general idea is that he be a model of sexual fidelity. They also note that this clause doesn’t disqualify unmarried men from serving. The point is that they be chaste.

His children, the English text says, must be believers. According to Barnes, the Greek word here rendered “believers” simply means that they live respectfully toward the Christian faith. The issue is more about his ability to govern than about whether or not God has given his children the gift of faith  (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Timothy 3:5  Paul explains that a man who can’t manage his own household probably can’t manage God’s church.

Nobody should be able to accuse an elder of spending excessive money or time on selfish pursuits (here called debauchery) or in rebellion against authority. Some commentators believe that this clause applies to the elder’s children.  That explanation seems most consistent with the  text.

As women, of course, none of us will be church elders. But really, every Christian should have the level of integrity that Paul prescribes for elders. Are we faithful to our husbands?  Are we helping our husbands raise well-behaved children? Do our personal lives qualify us to serve our churches?  If not, perhaps we need the Lord to put us in order.

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