Summary: The Bible is very clear about the test for Elders and Deacons and this morning we’re going to check our answers with Scripture.
Mrs. Baker, a fifth grade teacher, observed a student in her class flipping a coin as he answered each true/false question on a test. This answer selection method continued all the way through the exam. Mrs. Baker then watched as he went through each question again, pausing to flip the coin each time. She finally got up out of her chair, went over to his desk, and asked, “Norman, what are you doing now?” To which Norman replied, “I’m doing what you always tell us to do! I’m checking my answers!”
I’m thankful that we don’t have to flip a coin when it comes to selecting servant leaders in the church. The Bible is very clear about the test for Elders and Deacons and this morning we’re going to check our answers with Scripture. While our series is centered on the Book of Titus, for a comprehensive understanding of this topic, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 1 Timothy 5:17-20, James 5:14-15, 1 Peter 5:1-4 should also be studied.
Last week we established that since our world is a lot like the Cretan culture, we must stand for the truth if we hope to make an impact. By the way, I felt like a Cretan Sunday afternoon when a certain football team lost after I had virtually guaranteed that they were going to win. Many people contacted me to confirm my Cretinism and to rub it in. I guess I deserved that one. My parents went through a similar experience. Last Sunday they donned their green and gold and came down to Illinois to watch the game with my sister and brother-in-law who live in the suburbs. When they arrived they were greeted by a house full of raucous Bear fans. When they left, my brother-in-law said, “Why don’t you come down every week and watch the Bears game with us?”
Today we’re going to look at the next three verses of chapter one by focusing on the expected character qualities for Elders. Next week we’ll pick up the second half of the list and also spend some time describing the role of Deacons.
The Task of Titus
Please turn in your Bibles to Titus 1:5: “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.” Here in this verse, Paul describes his purpose for leaving Titus on the island of Crete. While the Book of Acts does not record a visit from Paul to this island, his trip with Titus most likely took place after his release from his first Roman imprisonment. After spending some time on the island, Paul moved on to preach in other cities, but because there was much work still to be done, he left “Titus the Troubleshooter” behind. Some have wondered how Crete could be evangelized so thoroughly if Paul never preached there during his earlier missionary journeys. The key is found in Acts 2:11, where we read that some Cretans were present on the Day of Pentecost, and after hearing the gospel in their own language, were converted and went back to the island where they spread the good news.
The Greek word indicates that Titus was left behind temporarily. His task was to “set in order” or “straighten out what was left unfinished.” This is the word epidiorthoo, from which we get the words orthodontist or orthopedist. It literally means “to set right, to set in order, to complete unfinished reforms.” It was used by medical writers to describe the setting of broken limbs or straightening crooked ones. Like a doctor, the task of Titus was to set straight the things that were still unfinished. The word “unfinished” shows us that Paul was concerned about the lack of leadership structure in the local churches.
As I read this verse, I think of all the things that are still unfinished around me, and in me. I’m thankful that God will complete what He has begun (Philippians 1:6). And, as is the case in all churches, there is unfinished work right here at PBC. No church has completed its chore and no ministry is without messes. We have work to do in a lot of areas.
Specifically for Titus, his task was to “appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Most New Testament uses of this word refer to “setting someone in office” or appointing a person to a position of authority. Jesus had this meaning in mind in Matthew 25:21: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Titus was given the tall task of appointing those whom the Holy Spirit had already raised up to serve as Elders. Notice that he is to do this in every town. Crete back then had 100 different cities, which shows how the gospel had spread, and also tells us that the expected norm for church leadership is eldership.