Summary: God gives every guidance and every grace for building a healthy church.
Paul and Titus traveled the island of Crete, preaching Jesus. God blessed their evangelist zeal, converting many and creating churches in towns scattered across the land. But caring for these new Christians proved difficult, in part due to the character of the people. Cretans were known for their immorality and debauchery. The philosopher Epimenides, himself a citizen of Crete, described the citizens as “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Even those truly born again struggled with godly living because of their rough background, and Titus, asked to bring order in the church, had his hands full.
The Apostle Paul continued his mission trip, but he heard of Titus’ struggles. So he writes this letter, counseling the young pastor on faithful ministry in a fallen culture.
First, Paul says, look for other mature, godly men to help in the ministry. Since these elders are to shepherd and disciple, make sure they are worthy of imitation, men of godly character. Additionally, they will be called on to counsel the truth and confront those who contradict it, so they must hold firmly to sound doctrine – the word which is “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16.24).
Second, Titus must teach not only the content of the gospel, but also its proper and practical application: what accords with sound doctrine. Jesus brought both salvation and sanctification – grace trains true believers in godliness. God’s people are to adorn their profession of faith with good works. Rather than be influenced by the culture, believers are to witness to it with their lives as well as their words.
Today we finish the book with a warning – do not be distracted by controversies! Problems do not come only from the outside, do they? Quarrels and division threaten to distract – even destroy. These must be both avoided and replaced with healthy behaviors. Let’s read Titus 3.9-15, then we will see five marks of a healthy church.
[Read Titus 3.9-15. Pray.]
If we could give homework assignments, I would ask each of you to write a letter to the church. Imagine you, like Paul, have traveled abroad for months, but have now heard of our congregation’s struggles. Your heart hurts for our troubles, and you must give counsel. What would you say? You do not have phone or internet, because you are in the remotest parts of the world on a mission trip, but you know someone to hand carry your letter back to us. You get one piece of paper – what would you say?
One more thing – because you are a dearly loved member of the church, known to be full of wisdom and grace, your letter will be read to the congregation. How would you mix correction and encouragement and teaching?
In January the men running for office will do something like this. Each one will stand before us during a Sunday school class to explain his hopes and dreams for the church as well as the challenges and opportunities for leadership he sees in this congregation. But we should probably make this a regular feature of church life, not just an exercise for potential officers. What would you say to us?