Titus 1. Ministering to the Church in Tough Territory.

Key Notes: The trouble-shooter. Critiera for elders. Cretans were a bad lot according to Greek writers. Affirmation as salvation. Different criteria for entry into churches.

Paul wote a letter to Titus with instructions for establishing the Church in Crete. Titus was Paul's "true son in the Faith." (Tit.1:4). We have seen him in action on four other occasions in the New Testament.

•He first appeared accompanying Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem's Second Council where they went to dispute the requirement to circumcise the Gentile believers. (Gal.2:1–5). [Curiously, he is not named in Acts.] Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, though a Greek. So a Jew (Barnabas) and a Gentile (Titus) stood on either side of Paul in the Jerusalem Council, and they won the day. Acts 15:1–21

•Titus apparently carried the first letter to Corinth and stayed to deal with the problems there. IICor.7:13–16

•Titus was also the collector of the Fund for the Poor of Jerusalem (IICor.8:6) and appears to have made two trips to Corinth for that work. IICor.8:16–24

•Titus later was supposed to be at Troas to meet Paul. (IICor.2:12–13). Although Paul had an open door there, he decided to go on to Macedonia, where he found Titus (IICor.7:6) and Paul was able to relax and go on with the work.

•In Titus 1, it appears that Titus and Paul worked together in Crete ("I left you in Crete" 1:5) and later Titus worked in Dalmatia, now Yugoslavia. IITim.4:19

We think of Titus as an energetic, dependable trouble-shooter for Paul. He has his work cut out for him in Crete as we shall see.

Crete is a large mountainous island in the Mediterranean, 156 miles across, with two peaks higher than 8000ft. Its Minoan civilization was at its peak around 1500BC and fell into ruins shortly after. Crete is first heard of in Acts 2:11 because Jews from the Island were in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and we suppose that they went back to Crete to start little churches. "Crete of the Hundred Cities" was Homer's description. (?850BC).
(The Letter to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. W. Barclay; Westminster,’75; p. 237.)

1:1–4 This is an extended sentence in which Paul describes himself in the ministry:
Paul, servant (Gr. "doulos", a slave) and apostle of Jesus Christ
     A. to further the faith of God's elect
     B. (and further) their knowledge of the truth that accords with godliness
     C. in hope of eternal life
                (eternal life) which God who never lies
                    a. promised ages ago
                    b. at the proper time manifested in His Word
                         through the preaching to which I have been entrusted
                                   by command of God.
The sentence begins with Paul as "slave" and ends with "command of God". Paul is under obligation to further the faith and knowledge of God’s chosen ones. This elaborate introduction is not for Titus, but to give Titus credentials from Paul to support his authority working in Crete.

1:5 Titus was left on Crete to finish the work and appoint elders in every town as directed.

1:6–9 Paul's criteria for elders in Crete is similar to Ephesus (ITim.3) except that they are more stringent:
"Married only once" (1:6) is more exacting than a "one-woman man". (ITim.3:2)
"his children are believers" (1:6) asks more than children who submissive and respectful. ITim.3:4
"master of himself". (1:8)
"holy". (1:8)

1:10–16 There were three categories of people for the elders to deal with:
•deceivers, especially of the circumcision party (1:10). These are false teachers who came out of Judaism and taught that all who came to Christ had to go through the rites of the Jews.
•those who give heed to Jewish myths or commands of those who reject the truth (1:14). These are members who are being misled.
•the unsaved Cretans: "liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (1:12), "detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed". 1:16

These words are hard to take, but before we deal with them, there is another word that many people find troublesome: the word "elect" (1:1). The idea that some people are chosen must mean that some are un-chosen--a painful prospect for many of us with unsaved relatives.

Back to the hard words about the Cretans. We call it stereotyping--and it is politcally incorrect. Why would Paul be so insensitive? Cretans are going to be reading this letter! William Hendriksen  found five references to the Cretan culture which were recorded over a span of six centuries, quoting Greco-Roman writers.

*Epimenedes (500BC), "a prophet of their own". (1:12)
"That divinely inspired man Epimenedes...was born in Crete...."—Plato. He was regarded as one of the "seven wise men" of the ancient world. He is credited with saying "Cretans are always deceivers, evil brutes, bellies inactive."

*Polybius, a Greek historian (150BC): "So much in fact do love of shameful profit and greed prevail among them, that among all men Cretans are the only ones in whose estimation no profit is ever disgraceful."

*Cicero, a Roman statesman (50BC): "Indeed, moral principles are so divergent that the Cretans...consider highway-robbery to be honorable."

*Livy, a Roman historian (10AD): "The Cretans followed {Perseus} in hope of cash".

* Plutarch, a Greek biographer (100AD): " Of his soldiers, (only) the Cretans followed him, not through being favorably disposed, but because they were as devoted to his riches as are bees to their honeycombs. For he was carrying along vast treasures,  and he had handed out for distribution among the Cretans drinking-cups and mixing bowls and other utensils of gold and silver...."
("Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus". Wm.Hendriksen; Baker,1955; p.352–354)

We know that cities and regions have a reputation. Consider the difference between Seattle and Detroit; Britain vs. Sudan; Hong-Kong vs. N. Korea. Crete was notorious to the point that "cretize" was to deceive as "corinthianize" was to bebauch.

But modern psychology would argue that negative criticism, put-downs, and racial stereotyping are to be deplored. We must affirm people. Churches in particular must change their style.

"Williams' acceptance of everybody...rejuvenated an otherwise dying Glide Memorial Methodist Church, which now has thousands of members."
 "Williams went into the poor {i.e.gay} community and created widespread acceptance…..'and that's what transforms people.'"
 "...a church should be part of the community."
"...troubled people gaining a 'sense of self'' within the church."
("Changing church style" discussed at a forum." Wisconsin State Journal; 6/23/03.)

A program of modern liberalism outlined in the article is
1. Acceptance. Everyone is welcomed.
2. Affirmation. Good qualities are celebrated.
3. Transformation. People who feel good about themselves become emotionally well and therefore do well.

Paul's approach was the opposite.
•The elders must first model excellence and goodness. 1:6–9
•The elders must also hold firm to the Sure Word as taught, to be able to instruct in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it. 1:9
•The false teachers must be muzzled, silenced, since they are upsetting whole families. 1:11

How is this done? First by refuting false teaching, but ultimately by dismissing rebellious teachers from the assembly.
•The church members who listen to them must be sternly rebuked. 1:13
•And what of the pagans? Paul could not dismiss them, however evil their ways were. The whole purpose of the ministry is to extend to them "the hope of eternal life...which God...promised ages ago." (1:2)

What are the flaws in the process of acceptance, affirmation and transformation? What is called transformation is development of a high level of self-esteem. A high level of self-esteem deceives the person. Telling people they are good defies the evidence.

God says that our goodness is worthless in His sight. Isa.64:6

Romans 3:10–18 tells the awful truth about human beings in general: "no one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside...."

Romans adds the good news that ..."since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus...." (Rom.3:23)

"Liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons (1:12), detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed" (1:16) are not transformed by affirmation. True transformation is regeneration by the Spirit of God, leading to victory over sin and self.

If there is a decision required between acceptance and rejection of sinful people, what should the church do? There are three kinds of churches:
•no barrier; a social club; accepting all; e.g. Unitarians.
•a series of barriers; evangelistic; greeting all who come; giving the seeker a series of levels to climb to acceptance; e.g. some evangelical churches.
•high barrier; closed communion; close-knit; accepting few on careful examination; e.g. Plymouth Brethren.

There are definable steps to becoming a trusted member of a good evangelical church:
     An introductory course explains Christ and Christianity.
     Discovery Class looks at the Christian life and the church.
     Membership Class considers this church, its statement of faith and constitution.
     Baptism; the rite of passage on profession of faith for believers who have reached the age of accountability.
     Assimilation: a process of finding one's calling and putting it to work in the church.
     Leadership: being affirmed in the practice of supervision or teaching.
     Election to leadership (deacons and deaconesses): vote of affirmation by the congregation.
     Full-time service at home or abroad by commissioning or ordination.

What strategy should one use in tough territory? Is it any different from easy territory? Should the preacher of the Gospel talk tough in a corrupt area and talk gently and affirming in a less evil setting?

How can we have both the candor, the toughness, and the gentleness of Jesus in our contact with the unbelieving world?