Summary: God so loves the church that he brings order from chaos.
Most of you have seen, either in a movie, or TV show, or maybe in person, a judge slam down his gavel and gruffly demand, “Order in the Court! Order in the Court!” Judges know that the success of the legal process depends, in part, on maintaining control in their courtrooms.
The Bible tells us something similar about the church. On the island of Crete, the Apostle Paul led many people to faith in Jesus as he started new churches there. But the Cretans were notorious for disorderly and immoral behavior. In fact, a Cretan philosopher by the name of Epimenides said of his fellow citizens, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
So how does a young pastor, with a congregation of recent converts, disciple them in the faith? How does one teach “crazy Cretans” to adorn the doctrine of God with a life lived to the glory of God? If the gospel is true, then it is transformative – so what does a pastor do to cultivate godliness in new believers? These concerns must have weighed heavily on Titus’ heart, because Paul coaches him in bringing order in the church. This will be our theme for the next several weeks as we study Paul’s letter to young pastor Titus. Today we consider the first nine verses of chapter 1.
[Read Titus 1.1-9. Pray.]
John Koessler pastored for years before becoming a professor in the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. In 2007 he wrote, A Stranger In The House of God, chronicling his experience in various churches. “Most of the Christians I know are disappointed with their church, finding it either too traditional or too modern. The sermon is either too theological or not theological enough. The people, too cold to one another or too cliquish. In the end, the root problem is always the same. It is the people.”
In the Winter 2009 issue of Leadership, Mike Lueken wrote: “We are a culture of Christ-followers who pay far too much attention to whether or not our needs are being satisfied. And we have become a culture of leaders who spend far too much time orienting our ministries around the ever-changing preferences of our people. As we mature in Christ, might the goal be to develop a gut-level instinct to give less attention to what we are not getting from our church? Perhaps a step on the way to growing more Christ-centered is to accept our dissatisfactions instead of assuming they have to be resolved. Churches that spend too much time alleviating their people’s dissatisfactions may be nurturing a self-absorbed attitude of the heart that needs to be nailed to the cross…. To authentically lead people into deeper apprenticeship with Jesus, we must graciously and rigorously confront the raging selfishness that is alive and well in all of us.”
Today is the same as 2000 years ago. The problem in Crete was the people, and the sin was selfishness. They needed radically reordered lives, and Paul shows us three things to bring a new order, a Christ-centered ordering to the church.
1. Order in the Church Comes from the Power of the Gospel
Romans 5.20 reminds us that “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” The first half we get: sin abounded in Crete! These were not moral men, fine, upstanding citizens in need of a spiritual nudge. They were strangers to the covenants of promise, without God in the world.
But the gospel came, and the dead rose to life. Crete was like the valley God showed Ezekiel. The land was covered with “very dry bones.” But God told him to preach: “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” And behold, there was a rattling, and the bones came together. And there were sinews on them, and flesh, and skin covered them. And then Ezekiel preached, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” And the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Paul and Titus did the same: traveling from city to city on this island, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel, and the morally dead rose into a army of God. Salvation came to Crete!
We know this is the foundation for the church because Paul’s primary description of God is “Savior.” Three times in 46 short verses, Paul couples both God and Jesus to the title, “Savior.”
Titus 1.3-4: “…through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior…; Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Titus 2.10-13: “…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”