Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Elders, the Church, and Keeping Things on Track in Titus

"Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply..." (Titus 1:12–13)

Unlike Timothy, who was half Jewish, Titus was a Gentile. Paul appointed him to “straighten out” the church on the island of Crete. Unlike the Ephesian church that Timothy pastored, which was relatively healthy, the Cretan church was made up of converts from the degenerate Cretan life-style. Thus, Paul tells Titus to stress the importance of “doing good” (Titus 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).

Paul begins by telling Titus to appoint elders as overseers of the church (1:5–9). These men had to be of good moral character, ready and willing to chastise the morally wayward members of the flock (1:10–16). Paul’s admonitions reveal that the Cretans were attracted by the heresies of the Judaizers. Unstable people, unaccustomed to a disciplined life, are too often drawn to teachers of heresy.

In chapter 2, Paul explains to Titus how to frame his teaching according to the various groups within the church. The older men, Paul says, must set an example of temperance and self-control. The older women must do the same, avoiding gossip and overindulgence in wine. Young men must also learn to practice self-control. Servants must focus on serving their masters well and not stealing from them. And in general, everyone must avoid living by “worldly passions.”

In chapter 3, Paul tells Titus to exhort everyone in the church to submit to God’s constituted authorities in the civil realm. Unstable and immoral people are generally very resentful and rebellious against authority, and this had to be reversed if the church was to become healthy. Paul goes on to tell Titus to stress to these people that having trusted God, they have become new in Christ and must “devote themselves to doing what is good” (3:8). Those who are unstable and seek to be argumentative and divisive should be soundly rebuked, and if they persist, should be cut off from the church (3:9–11).

Finally, Paul says again that these people must learn to provide for themselves and not live unproductive lives (3:14). A large part of the church’s mission in this world is to get people out of a “welfare mentality” and train them for productivity.

You can see sections of modern society that fit the description of the Cretans. How should the church function in such societies? How is this kind of “tough love” regarded by the “politically correct” in society today? Should the church compromise in order to look good to the world, or should she do what Paul told Titus?