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 (Thessalonians, Timothy, and Titus)
24: Setting the Church in Order (Introduction to Titus)
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24: Setting the Church in Order (Introduction to Titus)

I.       Author

It is generally accepted that the apostle Paul is the author of this epistle. This view is strongly supported by the early church fathers. Paul also identifies himself as the writer in the opening statement (1:1). On top of that, there are far too many personal details in the letter itself to be written by someone else.

II.    Recipient

The apostle Paul addressed this letter to Titus (1:4), a young pastor whom he left in Crete to set the church in order (1:5). Titus is a Greek convert of Paul’s (“a true son in our common faith”; see 1:4), whom he brought with him to the council in Jerusalem when there was a dispute concerning whether gentile converts needed to be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law. Titus must have accompanied Paul on his third missionary trip because he was sent to the church in Corinth by the apostle on several occasions during that time (2Cor 2:12-13; 7:5-7, 13-15; 8:6; 16-24). He was also with Paul during his second and final Roman imprisonment but left to go to Dalmatia (2Tim 4:10). In this letter, Paul urges Titus to join him upon his replacement in Crete by either Artemas or Tychicus (3:12). Paul attested to the character of this close and trusted co-worker of his in 2Cor 7:13-15, 8:16-17.

III. Date

Paul wrote this epistle in about A.D. 63, during the same time interval as when he wrote 1 Timothy.

IV.  Place

Paul probably wrote this epistle in Corinth and asked Zenas and Apollos to deliver it to Crete on their journey (3:13).

V.     Purpose/Occasion

The author had left Titus in Crete to set the church in order and he wrote this letter giving him detailed instructions on how to do it:

1. Ordain qualified elders who are sound in doctrine and able to teach effectively to take care of the church.

2. Silence the false teachers who are upsetting the members’ faith and leading them away from the truth.

3. Teach each group of believers how they should behave in accordance to sound doctrine and be an example to them in speech and conduct.

4. Remind the church in general to engage in good works and also why they should do so.

VI.  Central Verse

“In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (2:7-8)

VII.   Survey

Titus, one of the Pastoral Epistles, was written by Paul to advise his coworker on how to manage and organize the church in Crete. The author after his usual introduction (1:1-4) went to state the things that Titus had to focus on which are lacking in the church. There are two main tasks mentioned (1:5): appoint elders and set in order things that are lacking. To set a church in order, Paul started with the leaders. The leaders must first be sound in order to guard the church against false teachings and evil practices. But that alone is not enough. All the members must also have good conduct so that the truth of the gospel may be manifest in their lives.

A.     Appointment of elders (1:5-16)

Paul listed the criteria for ordaining elders in the church; besides being exemplary in conduct they must also be faithful to the word and be able to exhort and refute those who contradict sound doctrine (1:5-9). This is especially important in light of the task they had to undertake to silence the false teachers who subvert the faith of believers with their Jewish myths and commandments of men (1:10-16).

B.     Set things in order (2-3)

Paul instructed Titus to teach things that are fitting for sound doctrine, focusing on the qualities various groups had to possess so that they can glorify God (2:1-10). He then provided the basis for making such appeals (2:11-15). In the next passage, Paul went from conduct for various groups to conduct in general (3:1-3). He once again explained his rationale for asking believers to maintain good works (3:4-8). Paul encouraged Titus to prevent dissension in the church by not getting into useless arguments and rejecting factious individuals (3:9-11). He brought his letter to a close with instructions for Titus to join him, a greeting, and a benediction (3:12-15).

VIII.                Themes

A.     Sound in faith

One of the main aims of a pastor is to ensure that the flock under his care is sound in faith. In order to do so, he must first ground them in sound doctrine so that they are not swayed by heresies and false teachings. The next thing to follow is to demonstrate to them in practical terms what sound speech and conduct meant so that they can imitate him. By doing so the believers will hold fast to the right beliefs and exhibit the right actions; this equates to sound faith as faith is made perfect by works (Jas 2:22).

B.     Good works

This theme is an extension of the first theme. It follows logic that sound faith would produce good works. The need for good works cannot be overemphasized as Paul repeated himself six times on this issue in this short epistle of three chapters (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). This theme is the key to the whole epistle. First of all, those who are not sound in faith are not qualified for good works (1:6-15). Hence they need to renounce their former evil ways to begin with before they can proceed to doing good works. The purpose of Christ’s sacrifice and deliverance is to produce people who are zealous for good works (2:14). This is exactly why Christians have to maintain good works (3:8, 14). Titus had to show himself as a pattern of good works in all things so that the believers know what to do (2:7). The correct attitude on this issue is to be ever ready for every good work, not just some good works (3:1).

IX.  Key Words/Phrases

Blameless, sound doctrine, sound speech, sound in faith, sober, good works, rebuke, exhort, teach, avoid, reject, maintain.

X.     Modern Relevance

The epistle to Titus can serve as a model for us on how to pastor the church effectively. Firstly, we can use the criteria set down by Paul to gauge whether an individual proposed by the church for the office of an elder is a suitable candidate. Secondly and more importantly, we have to examine ourselves to see whether we possess these important qualities ourselves. It also teaches each group of believers what they should pursue. For ministers of the church, the qualities of a sound church listed by Paul in chapter two emphasizes the topics that need to be taught to the congregation. Today when we are faced with people who corrupt the church we have all the answers we need from Paul’s instructions to Titus.

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