Hello, my name is Titus
Although we don’t know exactly when Paul began working with Titus, the two had a significant partnership in spreading the gospel. They were the first century’s polar opposites – Paul was a circumcised Jew, while Titus was an uncircumcised Greek. In Galatians, we read that Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to discuss the inclusion of non-Jews in the Christian church. In 2 Corinthians, we find out that Titus was Paul’s letter-bearer for both letters to the Corinthian church. He was also in charge of collecting the money that the church in Corinth had raised for the church in Jerusalem. Paul refers to Titus as my partner and fellow worker among you (2 Corinthians 8:23) and as my true son in our common faith (Titus 1:4).
Late in his life, Paul gave Titus a difficult solo mission – to the island of Crete. The locals had a deserving reputation for being “liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons”…hence the derogatory name of “Cretan” that is still around today. They had a horrible reputation for cheating in business deals. They were looked down on by nearly all Mediterranean people. They were “those people” that you didn’t want to be around or be associated with. And yet these are the people that Paul and Titus brought the gospel to.
However, Paul didn’t stick around long. Instead, he left Titus behind to work with all the new Christians on the island of Crete. This was a huge job, so Paul sent a letter of encouragement and instruction. The new Cretan believers would be surrounded by a culture that would drag them back to their old way of life, so Paul instructed Titus to “Encourage and rebuke with all authority.” (Titus 2:15)
Paul’s instructions throughout the letter give us a great inside-out look at what God expects of his church while we wait for Christ’s promised return. Chapter 1 covers what characteristics a church leader is expected to have; Chapter 2 discuss what life topics are most applicable for different groups within the church; and Chapter 3 talks about the church’s relationship with outsiders.
Paul’s concern is for the choices that these new believers are making in light of their new relationship with Jesus. Several times he mentions that they should be doing what is good as a result of their new identity in Christ, as seen at the end of the letter:
Titus 3:14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.
The Greek word for unproductive refers to being unfruitful or generally useless. Now that the Cretans have been saved from an utterly ruining eternity, where they are separated from God – the last thing these Christians need to be doing is idly wasting their new life!
There will be a lot in this short letter that challenges us, and we will be faced with the constant question of Will I choose to act like the Cretan I was before I met Jesus, or will I devote myself to living the life that he rescued me for?