Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Category: Titus

Healthy teaching

Titus 1:9 [An overseer or elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

The trustworthy message was that only Christ’s death on the cross could rescue us from the eternal penalty of our sins.  Paul refers to this as sound doctrine.  While the term “doctrine” might feel stuffy or foreign to us, a direct translation of the words would be healthy teaching.  If Titus chooses leaders with unhealthy teachings, the message would become muddied up with other ideas, philosophies, and sinful human influences.  When the message is muddied and is no longer sound, it is open to corruption.

Paul then explores the contrast between those who hold to sound doctrine and those who have muddied the gospel message:

Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.  In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.  They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.  They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

Although these other teachers claim authority and claim to represent God, their actions betray them:

How do they treat their family, conduct themselves, and interact with others?
Is their teaching healthy, do they speak of faith alone in Jesus…or do they add in other conditions?

Paul calls those that proclaim to be teachers but are actually corrupted and do not believe to be detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  While those terms might seem harsh to us, it is their muddied message, the unhealthy teaching which does not rely on Christ that makes them this way.

If their teaching disqualifies them from doing anything good, obviously those that listen to them won’t fare any better.  Which is why Paul says to Titus in the next verse:

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

It matters who we listen to.  Don’t believe what they say, just because they claim to know God.  Check them out, make sure their teaching is sound and healthy.

Keep Pressing,

A leader's rebuke

When we study the Bible, one way that we know the importance of a subject is how many verses the author uses to talk about it.  If he talks about it more, then the subject matter is being emphasized in relation to the other topics within the book.

Paul’s letter to Titus is no different.  While spending the entire first chapter describing the expectations for those who lead in a church, Paul spends about 5 verses discussing how a leader should treat his family, conduct himself, and interact with others…and then spends the next eight verses discussing one topic: How a leader handles God’s message and the reasons why it is such an important topic.

We saw that Paul warned for Titus and the church leaders to be on the lookout for those who would come and distort the good news that Jesus came and paid the penalty for our sins, thus restoring our relationship with God.  However, Paul wasn’t only concerned with direct opposition to the leaders, he also showed concern for the Cretan believers. 

Titus 1:12-13 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”  This testimony is true. 

This quote is attributed to Epimenides, from about the 6th century BC.  And Paul agrees with the philosopher’s assessment!  In the ancient world, to “Cretonize” someone meant to both “double-deal” and “to lie”, all rolled into one.  Paul recognizes that the Cretan reputation had not improved for hundreds of years, and that Titus would have to watch out for this kind of behavior as he appointed leaders for the churches.  If Cretans acted like that on their own, imagine what would happen to the church if its leaders adopted the teachings of those who were

Titus 1:11 …ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

This kind of situation would damage both the local believers’ relationship with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.  Paul’s solution to the Cretans’ default behavior was clear and direct:

Titus 1:13 Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

In this “sharp rebuke”, Paul was not giving Titus the license to simply blast another believer and then walk away.  The word used for rebuke also carries the idea of exposing, showing fault, and convincing.  Paul is directing Titus to deal with false teaching directly and swiftly, however, he is not giving permission to “hit-and-run” someone who is incorrectly presenting the gospel.  Exposing, showing fault, rebuking, and convincing someone will likely take some time and patience.  It will be hard, but the health of the church depends on it.

The Cretan church leaders must be rooted in their relationship with God through the Scriptures.  Only then would they be able to handle these upcoming situations with those who reject the truth or with those who were more interested in Jewish myths than teaching the gospel.  Clearly this is why Paul spends so much time on this subject; the emphasis he gives it is absolutely necessary.

Are our leaders rooted in Scripture?  How do they handle false teachings and cultural pressures?  These are important topics to consider, as they affect both our individual relationships with God, but also God’s reputation to those outside of the church.

Keep Pressing,

The trustworthy message

After giving Titus clear expectations for how a church leader is to treat his family, conduct himself, and interact with others, Paul then moves to the most important requirement…how the leader handles God’s message of salvation.

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

If our church leaders are going to be God’s representatives, then they must know God well.   Knowing God begins with hold[ing] firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, for the Scriptures are how God has revealed himself to humanity.  If he doesn’t know God, he will be unable to give those under his care the encouragement they will need, nor will he be able to correct those who oppose God’s message.

Opposition will come.  Although rescue from the penalty of sin is good news, not everyone wants to hear it.  Among those that actually do hear the message that Christ paid the full penalty for our sins are plenty of people that think they must still also earn God’s favor, as Paul points out:

Titus 1:10-11 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.  They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

The “circumcision group” were those who taught others that in addition to believing in Jesus, a person must also be circumcised and follow the Jewish law.  This wasn’t just a local problem on Crete either, as all throughout his ministry, Paul dealt with those who preached

Belief in Jesus plus following the Jewish law equals Salvation from sins

Whenever anything is added to Jesus’ death on the cross for our salvation, the message is no longer “good news”.  In fact adding anything to the gospel message negates the work of Christ.  Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians deals with very subject.

Galatians 2:16 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 2:21 …for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Galatians 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.

Do Christians today deal with these kinds of pressures?  While no one is proclaiming circumcision as a salvation requirement, there are many who insist that in addition to faith in Christ it is necessary to “do good works” or “persevere to the end of their life” or “make Christ lord of their life” in order to be truly saved.

Don’t get me wrong, those are good things to do.  And we should endeavor to reach for those goals.  However, adding any contributions on my part to Christ’s death on the cross is doing the same as what the “circumcision group” was trying to teach.  Do you believe that Christ was telling the truth with his last words on the cross? It is finished – the single Greek word means “Paid in Full”.  Either Christ paid it all, or he lied to us just before he died.

This is the trustworthy message – that Christ paid our entire sin debt, we add nothing to his payment – and Paul wanted Titus to only select leaders who hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

If we want to avoid being led astray, we must have leaders that get this right.

Keep Pressing,

Church leadership and God's reputation

What characteristics do you expect in your church leaders?

Google “characteristics of a church leader” and it seems that everyone has an opinion about what are the top 5, 8, 10, or 12 specific character traits that a church leader must inherently possess or attempt to develop.  Rather than dream up the requirements for a perfect leader, we’re probably better off asking ourselves this question:

What are God’s expectations of leaders in his church?

Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless…

Remember that to be blameless is to be free from any accusation of wrong-doing.  Other translations render the word as above reproach or without fault.  Paul’s point is that from the outside looking in, there should not even be a hint of the following five characteristics or activities:

Titus 1:7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Any one of these traits would destroy a church family.  As such, they have no business being part of a church leader’s life.  On the flip-side, these are the characteristics to expect:

Titus 1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 

But let’s not make this a check list and completely de-humanize the person.  This isn’t just a list of do’s and don’ts.  The key to understanding what God looks for and why he requires these specific traits is found at the beginning of verse seven…

Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work

He is acting as God’s manager, as God’s administrator, and as God’s trustee.  As the representative of God to both those inside and outside of the church, it is crucial that the man chosen to lead represents the same actions and motives that God does towards humanity. 

Do our church leaders exhibit all of the qualities that God desires?

Do we see a reflection of how God treats us in the way our leaders conduct themselves and interact with others?

If the answer is “No” for either of these questions, then they should not be an overseer entrusted with God’s work.  After all, God’s reputation is on the line.

Keep Pressing,

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.

Keep Pressing,

Unlikely partners

After identifying himself as the letter’s author, Paul then turns his attention to his letter’s recipient:

Titus 1:4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

I absolutely love the way Paul addresses Titus – my true son, and he emphasizes their shared, common faith.  In just a few words we get a strong sense of the depth of relationship between these two men.  This bond was founded upon their shared belief that Jesus is who he claimed to be – the Savior of all mankind, the promised Christ.

Outside of this connection, their friendship likely wouldn’t have happened.  There is a very good chance that they would not have even known each other.  Paul was a circumcised Jew, and before meeting Jesus he was well on his way to becoming the top Jewish rabbi in known world.  Titus, on the other hand, was an uncircumcised Greek.  These two didn’t just become the first century’s version of “the odd couple”, they were polar opposites!  Outside of Jesus, they had no known commonalities or expected connections.  Their social circles would not have intersected.

However, because of Jesus, these two men formed an incredible partnership.  Paul mentored Titus.  Titus became Paul’s protégé.  Titus responded and matured so well that Paul trusted him with many important responsibilities.  The main one we’re going to be focusing on is outlined in verse 5:

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.

This was not a small task.  The island of Crete is about 3,200 square miles, and although mountainous, it was heavily populated.  When Paul left to continue his travels, Titus was to carry on in Paul’s authority, as an apostolic representative…and Titus was up for the challenge.  He loved the people of Crete and worked with them for many, many years.  In fact, one source I found stated that “Tradition has it that Titus, having become first bishop of Crete, died there in advanced years.  His successor, Andreas Cretensis, eulogized him in the following terms: ‘The first foundation-stone of the Cretan church; the pillar of the truth; the stay of the faith; the never silent trumpet of the evangelical message; the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice’.”

This kind of impact was achieved because Paul took the time to mentor someone that he had no previous connection with.  Their friendship, partnership, and resulting impact would not have occurred if either of them had held to their societies’ norms and prejudices.

Our relationship with Jesus radically changes the nature of our relationships with people we would have never known otherwise.  God puts the unlikely together and then accomplishes great things.  Are you being mentored right now?  Are you mentoring someone?  If the answer is “no” to either one of those questions, I urge you to ask God to fill that void.  When you ask, he will answer…but your mentor or mentee may be someone you would have never expected.  Will you trust his selection?  Your partnership will have a future impact greater than you can know right now.

Keep Pressing,


Titus 1:1-3 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

Timing.  We all struggle with it.  When we’re young, we want to be older.  When we’re older, we pine away for our younger days.  We get impatient that we aren’t married yet, or don’t have our dream job yet, or sourly reminisce about the opportunity we foolishly missed out on.

The most common deathbed regret is the lack of risk-taking during one’s life…that they wish they would have taken the chance to ask out that girl, or to start a certain business, or to actually tell their kids how much they really loved them.  Given the opportunity, we would rewrite our life’s history in a heartbeat.  The chances not taken, the words unspoken…or maybe we would take back the times we really messed up.  We all have moments like that, and they act like thorns in our memories and in our hearts.

But since time is linear, and we have to live in it…we can’t change the past, nor do we really know what the future holds.  While that may scare us when we honestly think about it, we have no choice but to live in the present and make the best of where we’re at in this moment in time.

But what makes me smile, what gives me hope, is found in verses 2-3, that

…God, who does not lie, promised [eternal life] before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light…

When we look at the “timing words” in these verses, we find that God doesn’t work within time like we are forced to.  We see that God made a promise before the beginning of time, and that he has appointed seasons already planned ahead.

No mistakes.  No missed opportunities.  All according to his plan.

There is a ton of comfort when we meditate on this one simple truth – that God knows the beginning from the end, he’s planned it out…and therefore

He’s not surprised by life – even when we are

He’s not missing opportunities – like we have

He sees human history in seasons – and he works within those seasons

at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

God chose the specific time in human history that Christ would sacrifice himself.  He met Paul at just the right moment, the exact right season, in order to reach him with the truth.  Since Paul accepted Christ as who he is – the Son of God and the Savior of our sins – Paul was then able to fulfill the mission God had chosen him for at that point in history. 

God also meets each of us at the exact right time in our lives.  After we accept Christ for who he is, we also have a mission for this season of history – to introduce those around us to him.  We can even use verse 3 as a template:

At [God’s] appointed season he brought his word to light through the __________ entrusted to me

How will you fill in the blank?

Keep Pressing,


Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness –

We saw last time that Paul identifies himself as both a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ; however, he doesn’t end his letter’s introduction with just this statement.  After identifying himself with God the Father and Jesus Christ, he also explains the out-flowing purpose of his association with them.

Paul is a servant…for the faith of God’s elect and an apostle…for…the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.  These two dynamics – strengthening the faith of believers and making unbelievers aware of the truth of Christ – are Paul’s driving mission in life.

If any of us gave that kind of Mission Statement for our lives, we would likely be applauded by those in the church and the statement wouldn’t be questioned further.  However, Paul does not stop there.  Instead, he explains where the faith and knowledge find their source:

Titus 1:2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time

“Hope” is a term that is thrown around a lot; however, in this context it’s not flippant as in “Gee, I hope it doesn’t rain.”  Rather this hope is a confident expectation of future events.  When I placed my hope in my wife’s pledge “until death do us part”, I confidently expect that she will fulfill her promise.  This kind of hope can be either strong or weak…because it doesn’t depend on the person who is hoping; instead it depends on the person that is being hoped in.  We’ve all seen marriages where vows are broken and the hope for a life-long relationship was unfulfilled.  Paul’s hope of eternal life is sourced in God’s ancient promise of a Messiah, that a Redeemer would one day come to the earth.

Curiously though, Paul adds a qualifier to his explanation of hope, namely that God is someone who does not lie.  While it might seem a little odd to us for him to say that, a quick look at the Cretan culture reveals Paul’s purpose in emphasizing this character trait of God.

This description of God is in direct contrast to both the deserved reputation of Cretans and the Greek/Cretan gods.  If you remember any of your Greek mythology, the most powerful gods were better tricksters and liars than the lesser gods.  The Greek gods routinely deceived the Greek people and each other – often on a whim or out of some corrupt desire.  Paul is stating from the outset that the one true God can be trusted, for he always speaks and acts in perfect truth.

We’ve made it to the foundational basis for Paul’s identity, his motivation, and his actions – he takes God at his word, that in contrast to the world, God is trustworthy.  And because of this trust, Paul was able to partner with God in incredible ways. 

How is our partnership with God?  Do we find the basis for our identity, motivation, and actions in him?  If not, is it because we are not fully taking God at his word?

Keep Pressing,


Letters in the ancient world didn’t have return addresses or postmarks to indicate who the letter was from or from where the letter had been sent.  Instead, ancient letters begin with the sender indentifying himself before getting to the actual reason for writing.  This style is also found in all of the New Testament letters.

Titus 1:1  Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Admittedly, we usually skim over these sections of the New Testament letters.  However, it is within these first few verses that we get close up look at Paul, how he views himself, and how he views his God-given mission.

The two descriptions he uses to identify himself – a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ are the basis for his work in strengthening the faith of God’s people and to impart the knowledge of the truth about God that affects the way we live.  So what did Paul mean by being both a servant and an apostle?

An apostle was a representative, a messenger, or an envoy.  This term was often used for the divinely appointed founders of the church.  While “Apostle” was an easy title to apply to Peter, James, John, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples, Paul’s claim harkens back to his Damascus Road experience.  After meeting the glorified Christ, Paul’s life and mission were radically altered.  He became the envoy for Jesus to the known world.

The word servant is often rendered as “slave” in other translations; however, given America’s history with race-based slavery, our understanding of slavery in the ancient world can be a little skewed.  A servant, or a doulos, was a person who was owned, often to repay a debt, and the servitude was for a limited time.  While some slaves did have a life of hard labor, slaves also performed many domestic services, and often highly skilled ones.  Some examples include teachers, accountants, and personal physicians. 

Perhaps a better translation would be bondservant, as that term more accurately indicates one who would sell himself into slavery for another.  An additional interesting aspect of slavery in the Old Testament was that after a slave earned his or her freedom, the former slave could choose to voluntarily bond himself to his master for the rest of his life (Deuteronomy 15).  This decision was based upon the slave realizing the benefits to being permanently associated with his master, that he loved his master so much that he viewed his freedom a worthwhile price to maintain their relationship.

While an apostle was chosen by Christ, to be a servant was a choice made by the individual.

Have we chosen to be servants of God?  Don’t answer too fast.  The Old Testament slave would have his ear pierced to signify to everyone that he had made his choice to become a servant for life.

What marks our lives that we are choosing to serve God?

Keep Pressing,

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?

Keep Pressing,