The churches on the island of Crete need leadership, correction, and order. Establishing churches is Paul’s forte, but Paul doesn’t sail to Crete to organize things. He already has someone on the island he can trust.
That man is Titus.
Titus is Paul’s partner in ministry (2 Co 8:23), a Gentile (Gal 2:3). Like Timothy, Titus is Paul’s child in the faith—he was introduced to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Ti 1:4).
Paul had left Titus in Crete with a purpose: to set up order in local churches (Ti 1:5). This short epistle unpacks that concept in Paul’s list of things Titus should do:
- Appoint elders (Ti 1:5–16). Paul lists the qualifications of overseers: they’re to be upright, responsible, not divisive . . . there’s a whole list of things Paul expects of church leaders.
- Instruct people to be sensible (Ti 2). Men and women of all ages have their parts to play in the church. Whereas the Cretans are known for being “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti 1:12), the Christians are to live sensibly, which in turn glorifies God (Ti 2:4, 8, 10).
- Encourage good deeds (Ti 3). The Christians are saved, and they should behave like it—but why? Paul concisely argues for godly living: we do what is right in response to God’s kindness to us in salvation (Ti 3:3–7).
The book of Titus is a short guide to setting up order in the local churches of first-century Crete, but today it still gives us a theology of counter-cultural Christian living.
Theme verse in Titus
“For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you [. . .].” (Ti 1:5)
Titus’ role in the Bible
Titus is the last of Paul’s pastoral epistles—letters written to church leaders he knew. In contrast, most of Paul’s epistles were written to entire congregations. Paul also wrote to Timothy—twice.
Titus is clearly a man that Paul has come to trust. Paul seems to have begun planting churches on the island of Crete, but Titus is specifically responsible for maintaining Paul’s standard of teaching in that area. Titus’s role is similar to Timothy’s (which you can learn about in Paul’s first and second letters to him), but he seems to be facing different cultural challenges—namely the Cretans’ undisciplined lifestyles.
Titus gives us a concise argument for good deeds: the people of the Church should behave differently from the people of the world because God has changed them. Though we don’t all attend church in Crete, we have undergone the same transformation:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. (Ti 3:3–8)
The church behaves differently because God has made her different.
Quick outline of Titus
- Appointing counter-cultural elders (Ti 1)
- How the counter-cultural church should behave (Ti 2:1–10)
- Men and women (Ti 2:1–8)
- Slaves (Ti 2:9–10)
- Why the counter-cultural church should behave (Ti 2:11–3:15)