Summary: Titus ministered in an area where the culture influenced the Christian community with immorality, independence, and idleness. These same character traits exist in our culture as well - placing Christians on opposite sides when they don’t need to be.
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in the church was like you? I’ve heard it said before that “church is great – except for all the people.” The fact is, the church is the people – imperfect members of the human race who came to Christ from various backgrounds and dysfunctions.
Sometimes I wish that when we knelt down to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior – when He cleansed our sin he also put us through some sort of bio-filter that would cleanse our personalities as well.
Alas, God, in His wisdom, decided that he would remodel instead of rebuild us – after giving us a heart of flesh – new eternal life – He sets about fixing up our personalities by tearing us down and rebuilding us up more and more in His image.
Such is the case on the island of Crete where Paul sends Titus to clean up some messes that occurred thanks to the Old Man creeping into the church. Crete is located southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean. It’s a large island – 160 x 35 miles. In Paul’s day it had hundreds of cities – all fiercely independent. The Cretans were called “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” and “always brigands, piratical, unjust.” (Epimenedes and Leonides). We’ll see one of these quotes in verse 12.
On the day of Pentecost, Cretan Jews were in Jerusalem and heard the gospel – got saved, then went back home and shared it with their fellow countrymen. But this was a saved bunch of Cretans – and their personality traits came right along with them into the church – causing all sorts of problems – problems Titus must address.
So this book gives us some ways to help us deal with the flesh and help our churches reflect more the character of Jesus Christ. The book was probably written just after 1 Timothy. Paul and Titus had traveled together and had gone to Crete. Paul left – and left Titus behind to clean things up (“thanks a lot, Paul”). And, yes, Titus was much like Timothy in that he was a protégé Paul was training for ministry work.
Titus was not a pastor of a specific church or a “bishop” over all the churches on the island. He was Paul’s apostolic representative – and so carried a lot more weight – if perhaps not in the eyes of the Cretans. Paul wrote the letter to give Titus more authority and instructions on what to do.
There are three characteristics of the Cretans that we too can fall prey to, and they are a deadly combination: immorality, independence, and idleness.
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,
4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
There were three influences on Crete that caused problems for the church and for young Christians. It was both a training center for Roman soldiers and a stopping off point for ships crossing the Mediterranean. Thirdly, there was a large population of Jews on the island – Jews who did not want to give up much of their religion – and brought it into Christianity. Judaizers – they were called – wanted Christians to follow Jewish law and custom before they came to Christ.
So you have – a brutal violence being lauded (Roman soldiers), a careless lifestyle applauded (seafaring people) and the culture of legalism demanded – so you get trouble and confusion. Apparently the Cretans were really open to any doctrine that floated around so Paul from stem to stern makes this a doctrine heavy epistle.
(1) Right off in verse 1 notice that he says the “faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” It is the combination of our faith or response to God’s choosing of us that leads to salvation – not works we’ve done according to some law or code – nor are we simply passive – we must respond. And contrary to the false teaching that was going on there – this faith leads somewhere - and that is recognition of the truth that leads to a change in character and a change in behavior. Think dynamic, not static.
(2-3) It was part of God’s design from the beginning but was hidden until Jesus but now God Himself commanded Paul to preach it. This seems really aimed at the notion of having to become a Jew before becoming a Christian. “God our Savior” is a common term found in the Old Testament – (Chronicles and Psalms, mostly) but here it is definitely connected to Jesus Christ. Jesus is God! Paul will repeat this phrase two more times in this book alone.