“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest
set in order the things that are wanting”

Titus 1:5


Titus was a man whom I call Paul’s trouble shooter. He seemed to have a talent for sorting out problems that exists in God’s work.

A close reading of 2nd Corinthians will show you that Titus succeeded in solving the Corinthian problem. 2nd Corinthians is important because it supplies us with a little of Titus’ history; the credentials which caused all to trust him with the future of Christianity in the island of Crete.

Paul wrote his 1st Epistle to the Corinthians in great sorrow of heart, because he had to rebuke this congregations for the immorality they tolerated within their ranks, for the divisions that had been allowed to fester and for other unscriptural and unchristian practices.

In 1st Corinthians 16:10-11, he announced that Timothy was being sent to deal with the issues that Paul had outlined in his letter:

“Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren.”

When he writes what we know to be the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians, however, Timothy is out of Corinth and back with Paul:

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia.”

2nd Corinthians 2:1-4, however, intimate that between the two inspired letters, Paul made a visit to Corinth, which was very difficult, after which he wrote a letter filled with sorrow and tears:

“But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness. For if I make you sorry, who is he then that maketh me glad, but the same which is made sorry by me? And I wrote this same unto you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from them of whom I ought to rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.”

It is apparent, therefore, that Timothy and Paul both failed to bring peace to the troubled congregation at Corinth. Paul, as a consequence sent Titus. He began writing 2nd Corinthians when he was in Ephesus. During the course of writing he was travelling, moving closer to Corinth and waiting for news as to how Titus was faring, in his most difficult ministry:

“Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother: but taking my leave of them, I went from thence into Macedonia.”

2nd Corinthians 2:12-13

When reaching Macedonia, however, he met with Titus; the news was good – there was reconciliation between Paul and the Corinthians, there was a new spirit among the flock of God:

“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more…Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.”

2nd Corinthians 7:5-6,13

Yet Titus is a little known individual. He doesn’t even get a mention in the Acts of the Apostles, even though he must have travelled with Paul. We don’t do God’s work to be honoured , to be recognised, to be even thanked. Most people who have worked for the Lord are forgotten within a generation. We serve the Lord, not people, not organisations; not even denominations. What we do – we do for Him. Titus was given this gift for the glory of God and he used it well.

Paul recognised Titus’s rather unique gift for solving difficult situations, of pouring cold water as opposed to oil on the fire. There was no better man to send to Crete.

This was to be Titus’ biggest challenge to date.

Across the Roman Empire the people of Crete were stereotyped as being an untrustworthy and lazy set of people. This wasn’t true in every case but the Cretians had a reputation.

When a man or woman is converted to Christ they are changed but they still have the old man, and a flavour of the old life. While we may repent of certain sins and turn from them characters change more slowly. Therefore within the churches in Crete there were many of the characteristics of the Cretian ways, which were in no way compatible with Christianity.

Therefore in Titus 1:10 Paul talked about the unruly, the empty talkers and the gossips who went from house to house for money and not for the good of the people. And then Paul quoting from a writer from the island called the people liars, evil beasts and slow bellies; he was not one to mince his words!

Now we begin to understand our text, many things were out of place among the people of Crete, Titus had to set in order that which was wanting. Restore order within the Church was the order of the day.

The method was clear – ordain elders in every city. The church was to be improved by a godly leadership, therefore Titus’s role was to develop this leadership.

I know that this is related primarily to the Church, I am also aware that Child Evangelism Fellowship is not a Church, it does not claim to be nor does it want to be. I know that you are a para-church organisation – you work alongside, you support churches, in children’s and youth ministry. The evangelical church has benefited from your workers and resources as we reach out to the children and youth in our communities.

I also know that the work of the church underpins everything that you do. Without churches there cannot be organisations like yours, your workers must be members of churches possessing a credible testimony within the local assembly.

That being the case – Paul’s remarks to Titus concerning Crete is applicable to your ministry within CEF. Because here we have a pattern for Christian leadership.

Indeed I go further – whatever our role is in God’s work we cannot serve if we do not take this pattern for leadership to heart. Those who serve publicly are an example to others – therefore this has relevance for us all.

Let us not miss the special and personal application though, where this particular of gathering of leaders from across western Europe is concerned.

This is an international ministry. Paul’s ministry was international and trans-continental. Titus was sent to another land , a different culture to cultivate leadership. Such a task required wise Holy Spirit filled Gospel diplomat; one with the cunning of a serpent and the harmlessness of the dove. Titus had these qualities in abundance.

The final aspect to this back story relates to the Gospel. Titus was not establishing a welfare organisation or a political movement – he was establishing the Christian Church. He was enabling the Christians at Crete to minister the Gospel to their island home. Christian leaders are not in position to give orders, to drive forward their own ideas or their own agenda. Their purpose is to drive the Gospel forward. Nothing, therefore, should ever be done to hinder the Gospel. Therefore, with all of Paul’s epistles there are precious nuggets of Gospel truth, reminders of the great end goal of Titus’ organisation of the Church in Crete. We all do well to remember constantly that the Gospel is our purpose. Every meeting, every decision, every appointment must have the Gospel to the fore. And if the Gospel is ever compromised our reason to exist has gone…we become just anther movement, and then we die.

“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”

Titus 1:1-2

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Titus 2:13-14

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:5-7

We shall proceed to examine the principles and methods Titus had to employ in developing godly leadership in Crete

1:The Character of the Godly Leader

“If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate”

Titus 1:6-8

We must strike a balance between being too demanding in what we expect of our leadership and being too tolerant of flaws in that same leadership. This is not an easy balance to strike.

No leader is perfect. We all have flaws in personality and character. There is no leader who is sinless. Some Christian leaders have driven themselves to the brink of insanity by having an expectation of themselves that they will never be able to fulfil. On the other hand leaders have suffered because the people whom they led or their peers in Christian service pour over every crack and inconsistency making the individual’s ministry well nigh impossible.

On the other hand people who are called to lead others in Christian work are examples and there must needs be a certain expectation as to the character types which are suitable for such a position. There must be qualifications which are biblically based.

The qualifications, which Paul presents Titus with are in relation to character. He does not require that people are selected on the grounds of their natural ability as speakers or on the basis of their academic qualifications. Ability in these areas can be trained but character is much more difficult to change. In many cases characters are formed when we are young, and often, although not always, poor character once developed will persist throughout a lifetime. Therefore Christian leaders, while they will have flaws, quirks and annoying habits must be people of sound character, because unsound character will affect the Gospel testimony adversely.

These qualifications relate to the “Bishop”, the word simply means “Overseer” and is used interchangeably with elder in this passage. Titus is instructed to ordain elders and then Paul talks about the qualities required in the overseer or bishop. The noun bishop is descriptive of the work of the elder and does not necessarily presuppose a different office.

The primary character trait is described as being “blameless”. This refers to the list which Paul is about to articulate. The words mean to be held to account, to be charged or to be blamed. It is does not infer perfection but it does teach that the Christian leader has no outstanding proven charges against his reputation which bring a slur upon the reputation of Christ.

To be the husband of one wife does not teach, as some have supposed, that the elder to be a married man but it does teach that when he is married he must be faithful to those vows.

The Christian leader ought to be first all a leader within the home, influencing the conduct of his children. While we have no control over our children when they reach adult years, and while we cannot convert their souls, we can and ought to influence and lead them in the early years and continue to be an example in the later years. The Christian leader maintains a Christian order within his family.

As the overseer, the Christian leaders must behave as the “steward of God”. A steward is one who fulfils an important role in the household of his employer. He is trusted with important details, including household finances. Yet he never seizes the wealth or the home as his own. He acts for another with high integrity. Financial probity is of the highest essence in Christian work. Leaving ourselves open to accusations of a financial or moral nature will make it very difficult to continue in the Lord’s work. Leaders are trusted absolutely on account their position, a trust that must never be betrayed.

To be “self-willed” is to be arrogant, filled only with one’s own ideas without the flexibility to consider the thoughts of another.

To be “soon angry” is to lose control of our spirits in the moment of high tension. One of the aspects of the fruit of the spirit is “temperance” or self control; the Christian leader must endeavour to be under the control of the Holy Spirit at all times.

The Christian leader is not “to be given to wine”. He certainly can’t be a drunkard. The context to these remarks, however, relate to a time when the high prevalence of alcoholic beverages, that we have today, were not available. Even then drunkenness was a problem with the many vices that accompany that addiction. For me the only way to combat the dangers of alcohol in this modern age is to abstain from such liquor entirely.

The “striker” is a person who uses their fists in fits of violent rage; this is a development of the person who cannot contain their anger and who may also consume alcohol. One sin frequently leads to another.

Being “given to filthy lucre” is to be driven by a desire for money regardless of principle. The Christian leader must detach himself from the materialistic urges of this world, keeping eternity always in view.

In the 8th verse Paul changes tact and focuses upon the positive aspects of the leader’s character. Having dealt with what is to be avoided he turns to what is to be expected and developed.

“Hospitality” was such an important aspect of eastern culture. Paul talked about entertaining strangers because one may just be an angel of God and our Lord said that if we treat one of his people with dignity we do it as unto Him. The Christian leader has an example to set in exercising kindness to those that are in need through acts of generosity and hospitality. This is grace in action.

In the Greek the next qualification simply means “a lover of good”. The Christian leader promotes that which is virtuous, that which is excellent in society. The translators of the Authorised Version may well be correct when they used the word “men” because frequently this was how the word “good” was employed. Certainly the Christian leader should surround himself with the best of Christian companionship for fellowship and counsel, enabling us to feed off one another.

The word “sober” means to have a sound mind. This is the opposite of the striker, who is soon angry and who fails to keep his passions in check. The Holy Ghost controlled mind is sober and calm. Paul emphasised this to Timothy in his pastoral exhortation, reminding him of his great calling:

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

2nd Timothy 1:6

To be “just” is to be fair minded. It is to be impartial when confronted with gossip. The just person does not entertain tittle-tattle nor does he prejudge situations. He is interested only in truth and is not filled with prejudice. He takes an interest in justice in society and is there to help and advocate for the poor, the needy, the victims, the oppressed, as our Lord Himself did.

To be “holy” is not to be sinless, because this is an impossibility for sinners saved by grace on the mortal side of eternity. It is be godly, to be interested in advocating for God and HIs truth in a world of sin. It is to live for Him and detach ourselves from worldly and vain ambition.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

1st John 2:15-17

William Hendricksen, one of the finest modern Greek exegetes of the New Testament described being “temperate” as “possessing the moral strength to curb or master one’s sinful drives and impulses”. Joseph and Daniel are classic examples of this noble godly character. In Joseph’s case he refused the sin of adultery despite the fiercest temptation possible for a young man and Daniel resisted the urge to enjoy the foods from Nebuchadnezzar’s table, foods that God’s law disallowed, risking his own life in the process.

The greatest example, however, was Christ. Fasting for forty days his body was famished to he point of exhaustion, even then he resisted the temptation to perform a selfish miracle after being promoted by Satan.

This is where we gain our strength for this battle against the flesh…Christ, the captain of our salvation. We observe these qualifications and our hearts faint, we feel our own inadequacy, our tendency to fail, we sense the plague of our own spirits. But then we see Christ and recover strength knowing that through Him we are more conquerors. These qualifications have the effect of prompting self-examination, to make us stronger and to enable us to stand into the victorious Saviour by faith alone.

2: The Consistency of the Godly Leader

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught”

Titus 1:9

Paul in moving Titus away from the character necessary in the Christian leader comes now to the relationship that the overseer must have to the Word of God.

This Word is described as being “faithful”, which means truthful and reliable. We cannot do Christian work of any description without total confidence in the Scriptures as being the inspired, God-breathed, divine truth. While there are many pen-men, there is but one author, the Holy Spirit. Every fact, every detail is truth. There are no errors, there are no contradictions, all is pure unadulterated truth. The Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation do not merely contain the Word of God, they are the Word of God.

The overseer is an individual who has been taught this truth. God’s Word must be taught. The value of what what you do immense – teaching the new generation the Word of God. We live in a world of confusion; moral confusion, sexual confusion, financial confusion, scientific confusion, philosophical confusion. Young people today grow up in an uncertain world and in this this secular atheistic society they grope in the dark. Give them truth, teach them truth, feed them with certainties of the Book of Books. Likewise the one who leads must learn to be led, the one who teaches must first of all be taught. One in leadership must undergo the rigours of discipline involved in learning and being Biblically educated before he or she can do God’s work in a wider sphere.

This faithful Word which has been taught must be held onto. The words “Holding fast” literally means to cling onto. This advocates consistency. There is a temptation in this modern age to reinvent the Church. The old message of repentance from sin is unpalatable for a modern audience. We can’t use those kinds of terminologies we are told. We need a new approach, some would advocate. Various arguments are used to modernise the Church of Christ.

If the Scriptures, however, are the Word of God, then truth is inflexible. Never forsake your founding principles. Never be deflected from your Gospel Mission – Cling to the truth!

3: The Commitment of the Godly Leader

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine”

Titus 2:1

Paul now moves away from talking to Titus about the credentials of the potential future leaders in Crete to the manner in which he must present himself in setting things right. First and foremost as he teaches the people, as he develops character, as he challenges their sin and sets forth God’s will he must remain true to sound doctrine. His task was not to present his own ideas or his own opinions but to remain true to the doctrine, to the living Word of God.

At the basis of all exhortation within the Church is truth. Every application is based upon doctrine. This was Paul’s consistent methodology. All of his writing were firstly doctrinal after which he applied the practical teaching which flowed therefrom.

4: The Courage of the Godly Leader

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee

Titus 2:15

The Christian leader must be faithful before he is popular, and while every Christian leader will have a following, supporters raised up by God, he must be willing to risk that support in order to be faithful to the truth. Ultimately he labours only for the well done of God, a man is called by God, he can speak with authority.

This flows from his conviction that God’s Word is truth. Believe this and teaching will carry the approval of heaven. Throughout this book there is an emphasis upon the spoken Word which is based on the written Word. While we write for future generations as well as the present, we are aware that writing touches those who want to read. Speaking, however, has an immediate affect upon our hearers. Many have attended a Gospel meeting, a children’s or youth meeting not really wanting to hear but the Spirit of God has so moved the heart with power under the spoken ministry and conversion has been the result. Therefore at the very commencement of this Epistle Paul he emphasis the role of preaching in the economy of God:

But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour.

Titus 1:3

This reminds us of Paul’s description of preaching as the method despised by the world, even objected to as foolishness, yet this is the God ordained means of converting sinners and feeding saints. Writing, singing, discussion groups, seminars and lectures have a role to play but they cannot replace the spoken bold authoritative preaching in Church ministry.

5: The Citizenship of the Godly Leader

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

Titus 3:1

What Titus was requiring the Christian leaders in Crete to do here was a hard pill to swallow. They longed for Cretian independence but were forced to accept Roman rule. Paul, however, didn’t want the Church waste its time and moral capital on political matters. They were to submit to the Roman magistrate, because they were the Government of the land. In so doing they would be free to advocate for Christ and His kingdom. To struggle against Roman rule would have caused the testimony of the Church to be tainted by a political movement. The Gospel would have been politicised.

The Apostle Paul accepted difficult things in the Roman Empire, because he did not have the power to change them. He never attempted to establish a political movement aimed at reforming society. Rather he established the Church which under God became greater than the Empire, changed lives within the Empire and outlived the Empire. He wanted the Cretian people to appreciate that their citizenship was in heaven.

King Hezekiah committed the future of his nation to God when the Assyrians came and miraculously the armies of the enemy were vanquished without the use of one Hebrew weapon. A few generations later Jeremiah took a different position at great risk to himself, by calling upon the people to accept that the Babylonians would overrun the Kingdom. Judgement was coming. Those who accepted the purposes of God would fare better.

At times we must accept that which politically we cannot change, we commit the wrongs and grievances of the age to God and we get with preaching the Gospel and being good citizens.

As good citizens though, we have opportunities to be the salt of earth, to represent Christ and to show the world that we are the Lord’s people.

6: The Considerateness of the Godly Leader

“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…”

Titus 3:2-4

By being considerate to his neighbour the godly leader lives out the Gospel. The kindness and love of God, the unconditional love of God, has appeared to him, therefore he is not what he once was. He is a person who won’t gossip about the faults in others, he won’t be awkward and difficult but gentle and meek. This is the character of Christ Himself being formed in God’s people.

Paul begins this Epistle by talking about godly character, now he shows that godly character is a product of the Holy Spirit, inculcated in the heart and soul by the power of the Gospel.

This will be manifested in our domestic lives, in our business relationships as well as in all matters relating to Christian work.

7: The Clear-sightedness of the Godly Leader

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

Titus 3:9-11

This final exhortation relates to the discernment required of the Christian leader. We live in an age of confusion; it is inevitable that we will be and have been presented with situations and people that we must respond to. These decisions may well have long term consequences for the future of the Church or the organisation if we get it wrong, Apostasy slips in by degrees until there is an unstoppable momentum moving in a godless direction. We must pray for discernment in everything that we do.

The leader must be discerning in what he must avoid. Believers from a Jewish background would have been consumed with family history, ancestry, their pedigree in the family of Abraham. They would have caused trouble over introducing their own opinions as regards the law of God. The traditions of the Pharisee lived long and died hard. These discussions were all outside the parameters of Scripture and were most divisive.

In God’s Work we must stay away from foolish debates about that which has little profit. During the pandemic we have seen Christians divided over observing the laws of our various countries, over pausing public worship, over accepting vaccinations and over the wearing of face coverings. All of these discussions were in my experience most unprofitable and did not help the testimony of the Church. In some cases we have to accept the role of the State with regard to healthcare whereas in other instances we as, in vaccinations, should simply accept freedom of conscience.

At all times, however, there are views and opinions which we could easily divide over but with a little respect for each other, the problem will not seem to be as great. The Gospel is hindered by divisions over issues which in the light of eternity are of little consequence.

There are also certain people we must stay away from and avoid. The “heretick” here is the person who causes division with he Church. This is an individual who has been warned more than once and yet continues to cause difficulties. In such cases we must cease to have fellowship for the sake of the gospel. In God’s Work we must at times accept decline in order to grow. There are seasons of winnowing and pruning, which are necessary for the wheat to appear or for new growth to shoot forth.

In Conclusion

These words, for me represent everything that the pastoral letter to Titus is about – the power of the Gospel moulding the lifestyle enabling godly character in a corrupt world. May we blessed with such character!

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Titus 2:11-14

This message was prepared for a devotional presented to CEF North West and South West Europe Leadership Team

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