Settings the Church In Order

Titus 1:1-5

1 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;

2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

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

4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Nicopolis [city of victory] was a well-known city of the ancient world. It had been founded by the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, to celebrate his military and political victory over Mark Anthony at the famous battle of Actium (31 BC). While on his way to Nicopolis, the Apostle Paul took time to write a short letter to a Greek convert named Titus. The year was around AD 65. The letter reached Titus while he was in Crete facing some very difficult circumstances that involved the Church.

No Church is without areas of concern. Whenever a group of people gather, there is bound to be some issues that need to be resolved from time to time. There is no perfect place here on earth. Adam and Eve were the only two people who have lived in a Paradise, and even there we read of tension and conflict. If those in the Garden of Eden disagree, what hope is there for the rest of humanity?

The good news is that it is not wrong to have tensions in life. The Bible says that iron sharpeneth iron. In spiritual matters, ideas in conflict, wills in opposition, can be a healthy thing. Sometimes, a discussion helps to crystallize what is the best thing to do for everyone. It is the lack of exchange of ideas that creates so much anxiety. It is the sound of silence which hangs heavy upon the heart.

One of the great challenges that Christians face is to learn to speak the truth, in love. Beyond that, Christians have to control their behavior and their emotions so that reason does not give way to irrational words and practices, whereby open hostility is manifested.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says, “He who strikes the first blow has run out of ideas.” In some societies, politicians who run out of inspirational ideas, move to acts of physical violence.

An attempt is made to beat all the opponents senseless, and then go on to do what one wants. Adolph Hitler had many of his political antagonists put in concentration camps. Others were strangled with piano wire and hung on meat hooks in a warehouse.

Joseph Stalin had his opponents exiled to Siberia, shot, or butchered with a hatchet in the head, as Leon Trotsky was murdered in Mexico. Sadam Hussein has used nerve gas on his own people. In the presidential campaign of 2020, two candidates have indicated a desire to physically assault the occupant of the Oval Office.King Saul threw a spear at David three times, when he started to believe that David was a threat to his throne. There was no evidence of disloyalty by David. But Saul did not care. He wanted things his way. He wanted David dead. Whenever emotion takes control of the mind, truth is no longer considered.

In more civilized societies, and in smaller social settings, such as a Church, physical force is set aside in favor of verbal violence, which is the main weapon of choice. Words that wound are effectively used. It does not have to be this way. When an idea is not well received, there are some options to consider besides bringing emotional injury to others.

For example, more thought can be given to the situation. Better reasons can be presented so that a proposal moves foreword on merit. In the absence of logical arguments, illogical force is manifested, to instill fear and silence the opposition. Fear had come to the Church in Crete. Men and women were afraid of each other. The fear was followed by confusion. A cloud of foreboding was felt in the air. Something was wrong, but no one knew for sure what was wrong.

Later, it would be discerned that the boundaries of biblical behavior had been broken through. The old landmarks that had guided the saints had been removed. For the Church in Crete, the trouble began when pressure was applied by some, upon others in the assembly, to do that which was wrong: return to Judaism (Titus 1:14).

Though it was not right to go back to a system of bloody sacrifices, unwise counsel was being yielded to because there was no mercy, or understanding, being shown to those who had areas of concern.

The concerns were legitimate, for the Church as a whole had been taught that Christ put an end to the Jewish sacrifices and rituals of the Mosaic Law.

Yet, here were Judaizers trying to bring people back under the Law.

Shadow and substance were being mixed. Ritual and reality lost all distinction. Jewish legalist believed that they knew best what everyone should be doing. Anyone who opposed the idea of returning to the old forms of the Mosaic Law was labeled, insulted, declared to be disloyal, decreed to be dangerous, and worthy of destruction. Such a person should just go away.

When Paul heard what was happening, he instructed Titus to stay in Crete, evaluate the situation, and set in order the things that were wanting (Titus 1:5). What was wanting in the Church in Crete was love. Common courtesies were no longer practiced. Kind and friendly conversations could seldom be found. Open sharing of hearts disappeared. People no longer dreamed their dreams together. 

Men were not patient with one another (Titus 2:2).  The older women in the assembly were drinking too much (Titus 2:3), talking too much, and making too many false accusations (Titus 2:3). The young mothers were murdering their babies, and abusing their children (Titus 2:4). The young men had no self control, but burned with illicit passions (Titus 2:5). Love came knocking at the door of the Church in Crete, and was sent away.  “I will not talk to you,” was the last unspoken message Love was allowed to hear.

Second, sound doctrine was lacking in the Church in Crete. Selected passages of the Bible were being ripped out of context, and commented upon with no proper study, and little consideration of what God had actually said in His Word. Concepts were being taught that had no structural support in Scripture (Titus 1:10). Some had sentimental ideas about God that were not supported by Scripture. Many were moving from an objective, rational basis of worship, to a subjective, emotionalism, based upon memories of days gone by when people went to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship in the middle of pomp and pageantry.

Third, a biblical form of government was lacking at the Church in Crete. In the absence of good government, everyone will always go and do that which is right in their own sight, and not want to tell others what is happening, especially those who should be informed. The false teachers in Crete never sought apostolic counsel.

What Paul desired for the Church in Crete was to see things set it order. That is a natural desire for any caring pastor. It is hard on the Shepherd’s heart to watch the sheep in a pasture self-destruct because of diminishing love, the abandonment of sound doctrine, and the disintegration of good government.

The Apostle Paul had a pastor’s heart. What could he do? What should he do? Paul decided to send Titus to Crete to set things in order. But Titus was not to go without a proper perception of what the Church should be like. God has not left His people to their own vain imaginations as to what constitutes a proper Church. Titus was to take specific actions to set the Church in order.

First, Titus was to establish a plurality of godly leadership. God Himself has ordained that His Church be governed by a plurality of equally informed leaders. 

Ignorance of God’s ministry is no virtue in a pastor, and accepting the oversight of the assembly is no vice. “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1).

Titus was told that those who lead the Church must be blameless in three areas: as a family man (Titus 1:6), in personal character (Titus 1:7-8), and in relation to the truth (Titus 1:9). Titus was to establish a plurality of godly leadership.

It is a fortunate Church that finds itself with a biblical form of government. It is a wise Church that will rise up and insist that God’s work be done in God’s way. A Church congregation is not helpless. It has a voice. It has a responsibility to request that its leaders work in open harmony to advance the kingdom of God. Peter and Paul must agree on the gospel,  but they must also agree on how ministry to the Gentiles is to be conducted.

Second, Titus was to train champions for Christ, for the coming hour of spiritual conflict (Titus 1:13). Titus was not to try and stand alone. Titus was instructed to find others who were in love with Christ, in love with the Bible, and had the best interest of the congregation as a whole in their hearts. Paul discerned that a spiritual battle was bubbling in the Church in Crete. “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10). The Apostle knew that such sin in the sanctuary could not be left unopposed.

Many things can be ignored in the Church. Every pastor should have at least one blind eye, and one deaf ear, said Charles Spurgeon to the young ministers of his day. It is the nature of sinners to sin. However, some situations cannot be left unchallenged which is why we read of those,  “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not….” (Titus 1:11). 

Titus was to put a stop to inappropriate teachings. However, he was not to do it alone. One person cannot oppose harmful behavior alone. There is a word for those who try: martyr. Let the army of God rise up and march, and the Church will be changed. The community will be changed. The world will be captured, and brought as a trophy to the conquering Christ. So…

“Rise up, O Men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O sons of God!
The Church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to the task,
Rise up and make her great.”

As Titus was to establish a biblical form of government, and call forth spiritual champions to serve the cause of Christ, he was to do something else. Titus was to teach the Christian community to behave in a dignified way as children of Divine royalty.

There were specific instructions to be given to the men (Titus 2:2).

There were definite directions to be given to the older women (Titus 2:3).

There was concrete conduct to be shared with the younger women (Titus 2:4-5).

There were some things to be said to the younger men (Titus 2:6).

 There were instructions for the servants as well (Titus 2:9).

All of this godly instruction in righteousness was to be provided, because the Lord wants His people to be holy and zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).

The Lord knows that when Christians, as a community, have inner dignity, they will not want to act like common street brawlers, insulting one another, and calling each other ugly names. Rather, they will live as ambassadors for the King of glory, and be gracious in words and behavior. The Church that has been set in order, according to Divine design, will be distinct.

There will be humility (Titus 3:1). Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases, and is attracted to those who agree with him. However, when God is among His people by His Spirit, they will give up personal preferences for the blessings of peace.“Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others” (Thomas `A Kempis).

When God is among His people, there will be good works (Titus 3:2), kind words (Titus 3:2), and a spirit of gentleness (Titus 3:2). A spirit of gentleness is needed in the Church.

Such a spirit is more likely to be shown when the soul remembers its own struggles and inward corruptions (Titus 3:3). “If you cannot make yourself what you would wish to be, how can you bend others to your will?” (Thomas `A Kempis).

When God dwells among His people, there will be a spirit of longsuffering, and there will be the avoidance of foolish questions and goals that produce strife (Titus 3:9). I do not know if the Church in Crete ever set its spiritual house in order. I do know that any local assembly will have its own house set in order, when there is a biblical form of government recognized, and honored by all; when there are champions for Christ, and when there is gospel dignity displayed.

Finally, a Church will have its house set in order when the congregation, as a whole, is committed to being informed citizens of the kingdom, and then involved in the various ministries that God has entrusted to His people.

One ministry that God has given to the whole Church is the ministry of reconciliation. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:18 that God has given the Church the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus said,”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9). Christians will either be known as peacemakers, or as peace breakers. We can be peacemakers, in part, by recognizing and honoring biblical boundaries and beliefs.

We can bring peace to the Church by openly sharing what God has put upon our hearts. We can bring peace to the community by dreaming dreams together, and seeing what the future might be in Christ.

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