Titus 1 | “God’s Steward”


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A Historic Moment for PHBC

Last week was a historic moment in the life of our church. By God’s grace, we unanimously elected a third elder for the first time since I’ve been pastor here. Jared Puls in an answer to prayer and already in his first week he’s serving well with wisdom and grace. We’re going to formally install Jared after I preach, as well as Kali Surguine and Justin Heard as deacons.

Because we’re installing another elder today, we’re going to start a three-week study of Titus. Titus chapter one is one of two places in the New Testament where elder qualifications are laid out. Paul tells us what kind of men can be elders. And Jared Puls is one of these men.

To Bring the Elect to Faith

In Titus 1 we’re going to learn why God made Paul an apostle (vv. 1-4), who can be made an elder (vv. 5-9), and what to do with false teachers (vv. 10-16).

First, why did God make Paul an apostle? Paul gives four reasons in verses 1-3. First, God made Paul an apostle in order to bring the elect to faith (v. 1b).

Paul is saying that he’s God’s chosen means to bring God’s chosen ones to faith. Who are the chosen? The chosen ones of God are the ones who have faith. Paul doesn’t tell us what to do to become elect. He tells us what defines the elect, namely, “faith.”

How can we know if we’ve been chosen by God? If we’re trusting in Christ and Christ alone for our salvation, then we’re elect. Our faith in Christ is evidence that we belong to God.

The doctrine of election tends to divide and upset people. But it’s meant to comfort and encourage us. It tells us that God loved us before we even existed, that his love for us isn’t based on our performance, and that his love for us will keep us till the end.

Remember your election when you’re discouraged, despairing, fearful, and anxious. The God who made all things set his sovereign love on you before you were born. He knew who you would be and what you would do, and he chose to make you his own anyways.

Knowledge of the Truth

Second, God made Paul an apostle in order to bring the elect to an understanding of the gospel (v. 1c). This “knowledge” isn’t intellectual knowledge. It’s referring to someone who’s in a committed relationship with God, not someone who has a head full of facts about God.

God’s chosen ones have a real and living and vibrant and growing understanding of the truth. They’ve embraced the truth of Jesus and staked their whole lives on it.

This kind of “knowledge” is what true Christians and true churches have. May our church never be a place where nominal Christians feel comfortable. May we have a living and growing and obvious zeal for the truth of Jesus Christ.

Truth which Accords with Godliness

Third, God made Paul an apostle in order to teach the elect how to live godly lives (v. 1d). Paul says that “knowledge of the truth…accords with godliness.” Understanding the gospel leads to a willingness to live a new life.

A genuine response to the gospel includes a right understanding of the content of the gospel and a right understanding of the demands of the gospel (cf. 2:11-12). Our faith proves itself as genuine if it results in a joyful pursuit of living like God wants us to live.

God isn’t waiting to love us until we have our lives together. The knowledge of the truth establishes the relationship, not our godliness. As Tim Keller says, “We don’t obey to be accepted, we obey because we are accepted.”

A Christian wants to obey God because they love God, and because they know that God loves them. They’re not interested in other people’s perceptions or wanting people to think they’re religious. They’ve been embraced by God and so choose to embrace a new way of life.

To Proclaim the Hope of Eternal Life

Fourth, God made Paul an apostle in order to proclaim the hope of eternal life which is part of God’s eternal plan now made known through the preaching of the gospel (vv. 2-3). “Confidence” is what the Bible means by “hope.” The truth of Christ creates in us a confidence that God gives his people life after this life.

God brought this “hope” to light through the preaching of Paul. Paul was “entrusted by the command of God” to proclaim this message of hope in Christ to the nations. It’s a message from God, not Paul.

We also have been charged with taking this message to the nations. We don’t know who, of the seven billion people on earth, are the chosen ones of God, but we do know that God’s chosen means of saving them is through the “truth” of Jesus Christ. Romans 10:14, 17, “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

If we want the nations or our neighbors to have the hope of eternal life, they must have a knowledge of the truth. But they can’t know something that they don’t know. We must tell them.

Who Can Be An Elder?

We turn now to verses 5-9 where we see who can be made an elder. Verse 5 lets us know that the churches in Crete were in disorder. Setting them “in order” meant, among other things, establishing a council of qualified elders. Churches can exist without elders (Acts 14:23). But qualified elders must be in place if a church wants to be properly ordered.

Paul makes it clear elsewhere that only men can serve as elders in the church (1 Tim. 2:12). But this doesn’t mean that all men can be elders in the church. An elder must be a certain kind of man. Paul describes what kind of man an elder must be in the following verses.

In verse 6, he says that an elder must be “above reproach.” The term means “unaccused” and refers to someone who’s character and conduct is free from any damaging moral or spiritual accusations.

Interestingly, the first area Paul talks about is the elder’s home (v. 6b). The most important area where he should be “above reproach” is his marriage or sexual life and in the management of his children. Who we are at home is who we are. What we do and say and watch at home reveals our character. Being godly at church isn’t hard at all, which is why a man’s character at home is the litmus test of his godliness.

“His children are believers” can also be translated “having faithful children.” Paul isn’t saying that elders’ children must be believers. That would be an impossible burden that no father could bear. Paul is drawing a contrast between obedient, respectful children and lawless, uncontrolled children. The focus is on their behavior, not their eternal state.

In verse 7, Paul summarizes the elder as “God’s steward.” A steward is a manager, administrator, or trustee of someone else’s property. They act on behalf of another person’s interests. They’re responsible to the owner for what’s been entrusted to their care. The elders manage God’s property. The church doesn’t belong to the elders. The church belongs to God. God hires elders to look after what he purchased with his own blood.

In the remainder of verse 7, Paul lists five vices that must not be controlling an elder. An “arrogant” (or “self-willed”) man wants his own way, is inconsiderate of other’s opinions, and ungracious toward those who disagree with him.

A “quick-tempered” man shouldn’t be an elder because he’ll destroy the unity and peace of God’s family. An elder must deal with people and their problems, so if he’s hotheaded, harsh, or is prone to speak before he thinks, he’ll damage the very people he’s called to help. Everyone experiences anger and frustration, but an elder is a man who knows how to control it.

The shepherds of God’s people aren’t controlled by alcohol (“not a drunkard”), or any other substance. They’re not violent in their temperament, but gentle. They aren’t “greedy for gain,” they aren’t in love with money. Elders are men who love God more than money.

In verses 8-9, Paul lists seven virtues that God requires his stewards to have. They must be hospitable. Caring for God’s bride requires more than a hug and a handshake on Sundays. Caring for the church means being with the church. This most naturally happens over meals and in our homes. Alexander Strauch is helpful here, “An open home is a sign of an open heart and a loving, sacrificial, serving spirit. A lack of hospitality is a sure sign of a selfish, lifeless, loveless Christianity.”

An elder is a “lover of good.” They understand that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. They’re “self-controlled,” or sensible, prudent, exercising good judgment, has discretion and common sense. This is essential because elders deal with people and their problems, so they need to know how to be discreet in how they engage with people.

They’re “upright,” or they live in accordance with God’s standards. A just and righteous man can be expected to make just and righteous decisions for the church. They’re “holy,” or separated unto God. Despite the changing winds of culture the elder clings to God and his word.

They’re “disciplined,” or self-controlled in every area of life. An undisciplined man has little resistance to sexual lust, anger, or slothfulness. Undisciplined elders wouldn’t get the sheep where they need to go. Herding sheep takes initiative, resolve, grit, patience, and hard work.

They must “hold firm to the trustworthy word” (v. 9). He must tenaciously “hold firm” to biblical, orthodox doctrine. He must “give instruction,” or “exhort,” the church in what’s true and right. Exhortation is more than downloading information. Exhortation means urging people to receive and apply the truth of Scripture to their lives. Elders must also “rebuke” those who contradict Scripture. To be qualified to be an elder, then, means that one must be able to detect false teaching and confront it with true teaching.

What to Do with False Teachers

In the next section, verses 10-16, Paul draws a contrast between what the elders should be and what the false teachers on Crete are, and he tells Titus what to do with false teachers.

In verse 10, Paul points out that there are “many” in the Cretan churches who’re “insubordinate,” “empty talkers,” and “deceitful.” They’re “especially” from “the circumcision party.” This means they were likely Jewish Christians teaching that Jewish practices like circumcision must be upheld in order to truly be saved.

Why is this kind of teaching so dangerous? It undermines the sufficiency of Jesus’ work. If the merits of Jesus’ death must be received by faith and certain religious practices, then his death is not sufficient in and of itself to deal with our sin. This is serious because the gospel is at stake.

Because this is such a serious issue, Paul says that these people “must be silenced” (v. 11). Church leaders, like Titus, must prevent false teaching like this from having a platform in the church.

This means that if an elder compromises Scripture or preaches a false gospel, they need to be removed. As a congregational church, our church members have the ability and authority to choose their leaders. This means they’re responsible for the purity of the teaching of this church. Hopefully this increases your sense of the seriousness of church membership. It means you must know the gospel, study the gospel, and be a student of God’s word.

In verse 12, Paul quotes from a Cretan prophet to illustrate his point. Crete was known in the ancient world for its moral decadence. One ancient historian said that it was “almost impossible to find…personal conduct more treacherous or public policy more unjust than in Crete.” The point isn’t that every Cretan is like this but that the Cretan churches are immersed in a culture of dishonesty and greed. This would make them more likely to tolerate these things as normal. Churches are prone to tolerate things their culture tolerates.

Because this Cretan proverb is true, Paul says that Titus must “rebuke these teachers sharply” (vv. 13-14). They must understand that what they’re doing is wrong and will not be tolerated.

The reason why they should be rebuked is “that they may be sound in the faith” and “not devote themselves” to this teaching anymore. Paul wants Titus to rebuke them in order to help them.

Godly correction is always for our good, to make us more like Christ, to help us be more faithful to the Word of God. I hate being corrected, but I know that it’s God’s way of bringing me closer in line with him and his ways in order to give me more joy in the long run. A willingness to give and receive godly correction and encouragement is a mark of a growing and maturing Christian. We should invite correction and give brothers and sisters in Christ permission to do it.

The false teachers in Crete were focusing on outward religion and not dealing with their inward corruption. In verse 15, Paul says that believers, the “pure,” know that they don’t need to obey “human commands” (v. 14) to be cleansed because Jesus has already done that through his sacrificial death. But unbelievers aren’t pure because their unbelief and sin still defile them. Even their consciences are defiled, tainted, and corrupted by sin and unbelief. They confuse right and wrong. Part of God’s sanctifying work in our lives is repairing our consciences. We need the Word of God to reshape our thinking about what’s right and wrong.

Verse 16 says that the works of these teachers prove that they’re unbelievers, despite their claim to know God. A “profession of faith” doesn’t mean someone is a Christian. What we do is the best indication of what we really believe. Our “works” will confirm or deny our “beliefs.”

What kind of “works” reveal true faith? A love and submission to the authority of the Bible. A love for God’s ways. A growing hatred for sin that results in daily repentance. A love for the church that results in serving the church. A love for our neighbors that results in serving our neighbors. A love for the nations that results in working to get the gospel to them.

When we share the gospel with someone who made a profession of faith in Jesus at some point in their lives, but now have no noticeable desire to follow and serve Jesus, the loving thing to do in many cases is to not assume that they’re Christians when their life doesn’t look like Christ. Paul didn’t hesitate to make a judgment about people who professed to know God but didn’t live for God. He even says that they’re “detestable.” Why? Because they’re giving the God they claim to know a bad reputation.

God made Paul an apostle for the sake of the faith of his elect. Those who have real faith will produce real godliness. And those men who grow in godliness and can handle the Word can be elders. But those who sound like they know God but don’t live godly lives should be dealt with accordingly. May God give our elders grace to be the former and not the latter.

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