The first test of a leader
One of Titus’ biggest jobs in Crete was to identify church leaders from within the local believers.
Titus 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
Given the corruptness and general self-centeredness of the Cretan culture, Titus needed to be very careful about who would both publicly represent the church to outsiders and be able to minister to those within the church family. The selection was so important that Paul spent the first half of Chapter 1 describing a church leader, listing both characteristics that he should not possess and characteristics that he should possess.
Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.
To be blameless is to be free from any accusation of wrong-doing. Paul considers this characteristic to be so important that he fleshes it out in great detail in the next few verses. As such, we’ll wait until next time to look at it.
However, some interpretations of the next two elder requirements – to be the husband of but one wife and a man whose children believe – have produced a lot of stress within the church. Several questions could be raised:
Can an elder be single? Divorced? Widowed? Remarried?
What if he has no children? Or children to young to understand the gospel? Or children that have rejected God?
While the predominate culture of the time did not include polygamy, both divorce and having concubines were commonplace. Also, nowhere in his letter to Titus does Paul specify a previous sin or situation that prevents a person from becoming an elder now…as such, to imply that a divorce or becoming a widow automatically disqualifies someone from becoming a church leader would be inconsistent with the rest of the text. Most likely, the statement the husband of but one wife was to ensure that elders are completely faithful to their present wife, and their present wife only – in order to be a representation of how Christ is faithful to the church.
Likewise, we have to be careful to not read too much into the phrase a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. We have a tendency to immediately equate the word “believe” with “faith in Christ for salvation from the penalty of sin”. The Greek word for believe is also translated as “faithful”, “reliable”, or “trustworthy”. However, the author’s intended meaning of a given word is derived from its immediate context. In this passage, we have “believing” children contrasted with children that are open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Who are the children to trusting in, relying on, or being faithful to? Their own father! And it is their overall behavior that reflects their relationship to him! In fact, some other translations render the phrase as a man whose children are faithful or a man whose children are trustworthy.
Now that we’ve cleared out the clutter of what we might (even unintentionally) read into the text, it is clear that the potential elder needs to be evaluated on his ability to faithfully lead his family and guide the passions of those directly in his care. This is to be our first evaluation point of someone who wants to lead in the local church.
Paul said something similar in a letter to his other protégé, a young man named Timothy:
1 Timothy 3:4-5 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)
That’s a great question. We should expect this of both our current leaders and from those who desire to lead.