Summary: What is the first thing one must do to insure his or her spiritual growth? Paul told Titus something that may surprise you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48). That’s a rather tall order, wouldn’t you say? We are to be perfect like God is perfect? How can anybody be perfect?
First, we must realize the word “perfect” means mature, full grown. Jesus is saying we are to be spiritually mature. We are to grow into spiritual maturity. We are to be Christ-like in our lives.
Since this is true, what is the first thing you must do to insure your growth into spiritual maturity? Pray? That’s important, but it’s not the first thing? Study the Bible? That’s also important, but that is not the first thing either. What about obeying God? Again obedience is certainly important, but it is not the first thing you must do to insure your growth into spiritual maturity.
The answer is found in our passage to Titus 1:5-9. It may surprise you what Paul says. Paul and Titus had traveled over the island of Crete sharing the gospel. God had saved people in “every city.” There were groups of Christians in each city, but they were not organized into churches. Paul needed to go minister elsewhere so he left Titus in Crete to continue the ministry. Paul receives word that Titus is having trouble with these new Christians in Crete. He writes Titus to give him instructions on how to get the churches set up and promote spiritual growth among the Cretans. Paul tells him he needs to set in order what was lacking. There term “set in order” is a medical term used of setting broken bones or make straight bones that are crooked. Paul is saying Titus is to get these Christians straightened out or set in order.
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1:5-9
The first thing Titus needs to do to insure the spiritual growth of the Cretans is to appoint qualified leadership. This shows the priority of qualified leadership. The rule is: People advance no further than their leadership. Look at Israel. When they had evil kings the nation was evil and apostate. When she had a righteous king, usually the nation would improve somewhat. But you never find a wicked king and the nation rising above him in righteousness. Look at Israel in Jesus’ day. The religious leaders were spiritually corrupt and the nation was in spiritual shambles. Jesus knew this principle. That is why He spent two years intensively training those who were to the lead the early church.
The main truth of the passage today is: Since you will advance no further spiritually than your leadership, you must place yourself under qualified leadership. This is the first and foremost thing you must do to insure your spiritual growth. Paul tells Titus to make sure each church has qualified leaders.
In our passage today we will first look at the responsibilities of the spiritual leadership, then the qualifications for spiritual leadership, and finally our responsibilities to spiritual leadership.
We see three main responsibilities of the leadership in this passage. The first is to lead the congregation. The elder is called an overseer in (7). This word carries the idea of supervising or looking over something. In the Old Testament days Israel had a group of men that looked over the nation. We see Moses calling on the elders to help him govern the nation, (Numbers 11:16). In the New Testament days the synagogues had a group of men, elders, which watched over the proceeding of the synagogue. Paul has this function of leading in mind when he tells Timothy, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching,” (1 Tim 5:17-18). The word “rule” literally means to “stand before.” It carries the idea of presiding over or supervising. The elders are to give direction and guidance to the church. They are to oversee what is going on in the church.
The second responsibility of the elder is equipping the saints. Paul calls the elders “God’s stewards,” (7). A steward is responsible for the wise administration and distribution of the treasures of the household. For the elder this means he has the job of distributing the treasures of God’s Word unto the edification of the church. He is to be like the steward Jesus told about in the parable who takes both new and old things from his storehouse to equip his people. The elders are to reach into both the Old Testament and New Testament of God’s storehouse and bring out what is needed to equip the saints for ministry.