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Titus (long version)

Job Description

Titus 1:5-16

This passage is usually separated into two lessons. But please note that Paul makes it clear that he has two purposes in writing this letter – and those two purposes are in fact problem and solution.

  • Problem: there is much in the way of unfinished business to be straightened out on the island of Crete.
  • Solution: we will appoint trustworthy men as elders to deal with this.

So this passage tells us not only what to look for in the person to be chosen an elder, but also what that person should be doing.

(Titus 1:5-16 NIV) The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. {6} An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. {7} Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. {8} Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. {9} He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. {10} For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. {11} They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. {12} Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." {13} This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith {14} and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. {15} To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. {16} They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

We may begin with the Apostle himself:

  • Note that he has delegated this authority to Titus. There is no sense in the early church of hierarchy; rather, there is a sense of local responsibility.
  • Indeed, the work is left to the workman. Much more is not said than is said. Paul trusts this man.
  • Note also that elders were to be appointed in “every city.” That means not only local control of the church, but also the fact that the problems described are common and to be expected – and dealt with in God’s way.

I bring this to you so that you might avoid a common error: the checklist. Some have taken this list of qualifications to be a checklist. A man who is a widower is disqualified, in their view. (Interestingly, Chrysostom disqualifies a man who remarries after a first marriage that ends in death – as having too little respect for his departed wife. He takes it as a comment upon the seriousness of marriage in general.) The real connection here is the kind of man required to tackle the problems of the church. The two are connected, and we must see them as problem and solution. Thus, it would seem no great barrier that a man is no longer married due to death, or that his children are now grown.

The character of elders

We may see three elements of the qualifications of elders:

  • Their personal qualities, as men who will oversee the work of God. In other words, what is this man like to work for?
  • Their ability to lead a family, for they will lead the family of God.
  • Finally – and least said – their doctrinal qualities.

In all of these things an elder is to be “blameless.” The point is simple. Not only must a man have these qualifications, the world must know it. The reputation of the church rests in large part upon the character of its leaders.

Personal qualifications

It is interesting that the personal qualifications relate to what we today would refer to a manager. Would you like to see God’s description of a good manager?

  • Not overbearing. The King James uses the word “self willed” – in other words, arrogant. We prize arrogance today as a virtue in athletes, and hate it in supervisors. Hmmmm…..
  • Not quick tempered. The quick tempered are easily mastered by their emotions – and those who have their emotions mastered. I used to manage a manager that way. He’d fly off the handle, leave me a roasting message – and wind up apologizing later. This did not garner a lot of respect.
  • Not a drunkard. Often taken to mean one who never touches alcohol, the phrase in fact means one who is not a habitual drinker – in other words, one who has mastered alcohol, rather than alcohol mastering him. The same thought – mastering one’s passions and addictions – would apply to many other things.
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain. It is surprising how often this one is skipped – if the dishonest gain winds up in the collection plate. Is there a church that would refuse such a man? I hope so.

These are all signs of a particular type of character. As we will see, this is the kind of man who is suited to the task described here. First, because this is a man other people will trust. In addition, this is a man who will rebuke others with a kindness and gentleness that leads to results, not arguments. If your career in management seems stalled, you might want to take a look at this section again.

Such a man is not just a “not a…” person. There are positives to him too, and we can see them also.

  • Hospitable. It is a neglected virtue. Is the man’s home a place which welcomes the stranger? Would you feel comfortable being invited to his home, or is it a place of pinched hostility?
  • Loves what is good. There is a sense of craftsmanship about this – one who knows a good thing when he sees it, and admires it. This is a man who could honestly praise his competitor for a job well done, for example.
  • Self controlled. Not a loose cannon, but rather someone whose reaction to the situation is always steady.
  • Upright. The word in the original carries the meaning of being fair, or just. This is a man who does the right thing because it is the right thing.
  • Holy. Not the usual word for holy, this is one who reverences the things of God – a man who takes his faith seriously and does not make light of it.
  • Disciplined. The word carries with it an idea of having strength – a man of strong character, if you will.

These are signs of a man who is mature in the things of God. It should be easy to admire a man like this.

Family Matters

Please note that the word “blameless” occurs twice in this passage. In one use it applies generally; in the other, it applies to the elder’s marriage. The key to this man’s marriage is found in this. One of the greatest compliments I have ever had paid to me (and it really belongs to Christ, believe me) was that of a woman who admitted that she had never heard my wife complain about me to her. This only comes of having a wife who is equally committed to the faith. But when both of you are so committed, it carries with it the idea that there is only one woman in my life.

The point is two fold: in this passage Paul recommends the married man for the job. Note that celibacy is a later addition. But not just any husband; one who has mastered his own household, for he will have to master the household of God.

This has its results also, in his children:

  • They are believers. Children learn what they see, not what they are told. This is a good test.
  • The children are not wild and riotous. Teenage rebellion is not a requirement for growing up.
  • Most important, they are not disobedient. This comes of the right handling of the elder’s wife – for if he honors her, and she is in submission to him, their children will learn that obedience brings honor, not shame.

In all these we see two things about an elder that are admirable: first, that he cares for his children (and plans accordingly). Second, that he has mastered the art of teaching his children – by example.

Doctrinal matters

It may seem curious that the Apostle says so little about the doctrine of the elder. Perhaps he knows that a man of such discipline in work and family matters will carry over these habits into things of God.

  • He is self-disciplined. Therefore, he will hold firmly to the matters of the faith.
  • He will hold only to the trustworthy message. This is a man who knows the real from the fake, and will have only the real.
  • He will teach only what he was taught – the Apostles’ doctrine. Therefore, this is a man who will study and search the Scriptures, undergirding his teaching with prayer.

Unfinished Business

A particular tool for a particular task: in this instance, some unfinished business. This connection is not usually made. We usually think of elders and their qualifications as being separate from what they are charged with doing in this passage. But why? After all, these are the kind of people who are to deal with this kind of a problem:


The kind of people they will need to contend with are quickly described:

  • They are rebellious – those who cannot abide being under any authority but their own. Thus their opponent must be a man of discipline.
  • Typically, they are all talk. They are perfectly willing to condemn the preacher for his lack of charity and practice none of their own. Thus the elder must be a man whose actions match his words.
  • They are deceivers. They don’t mean to be – indeed, they are usually so out of control that they have no set plan. But their mouths shoot off with whatever rumors are needed to support their feelings today. Thus the elder must be a man whom all can trust.

Anyone in here sound familiar to you? Perhaps things haven’t changed all that much.

What they do

Paul makes two specific points against them.

  • They ruin households. This probably alludes to breaking up marriages, which is why the elder must rule his marriage calmly and well.
  • They’re after dishonest gain. The quick buck artist is always with us. The man opposed to him must be known for his honesty in business.
What the elder is to do

The elder is to rebuke such people. If he is to do so, he must come from a position of moral leadership. If he rebukes about marriage, his own must be secure. If he rebukes regarding honesty in business, he must be known for it. In all these things, the man who rebukes must be standing on solid ground. He is God’s weapon for the cure of these things.

There is a final contrast, here. You may see it in this: when circumstances around such a man are questionable, what do you think? If he comes home late with a pretty girl in tow, do you assume an affair, or do you assume that he was assisting a damsel in distress? Your assumptions usually are a much better indicator of your mind than his.

So the elder must be a man of pure mind, holding to the faith. To him, all things will be pure, and therefore he can handle all things. Those who are corrupt show two things:

  • They are corrupt in mind – their actions don’t match their words.
  • They are corrupt in conscience – their sin does not bother them.

Such a person must be confronted – but only in God’s way. You do not confront a corrupt conscience with another one; no rebuke comes from that. If no rebuke, then no repentance. If no repentance, then no salvation. So the matter is more serious than it might first appear!

The matter may seem a bit of a specialty item; after all, we are in a church of over two thousand souls, with only twelve elders or so. But this is still a target for us to aim at. You may not have the calling; you can have the character – if you will it.

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