Today we’re going to be introduced to Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the pastors he trained. Titus was a gentile from the island of Crete and had been led to Christ by Paul. Paul encourages Titus to stay true to the gospel and help the churches on the island of Crete appoint leaders, live above reproach and rebuke false teachers. Titus was obviously a person who could be trusted with the job.
This epistle was written in between the two letters Paul wrote to Timothy. The island of Crete was about 160 miles long and 35 miles wide; southeast of Greece and southwest of modern day Turkey—where Ephesus was located.
Christians are accountable for rejecting false teachers and teachings. We are openly accused of being bigoted and intolerant of anyone who professes any other way to God than through Jesus Christ.
Whether we like it or not, truth contains a measure of intolerance. The gospel truth is graciously liberating, inclusive – offered to whoever will accept it. But it also has a measure of intolerance because no one can be right with God except by trusting His Son as Savior.
As Christians we are blasted and sharply criticized for being “intolerant” based on the truths above. So, in what ways can we uphold the gospel message while respecting the rights of others who hold a different belief? (First, we must live what we preach. We must be Christ-like in all we do. Second, we must present the truth of the Gospel in love and humility. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do His part in convicting and calling the individual to repentance. While we should be consistent in our witness we are not to “badger” people with the Gospel—allow God to do His work. Hopefully people will look forward to seeing you and not dread an encounter.)
Our divine commission involves helping people come to know God through Christ (evangelism), then helping them to know God’s truth, resulting in right living (discipleship).
Servant’s Heart! Read Titus 1:1-3
Paul saw his appointment as an apostle not something to glory in but as an assignment to be obeyed! He viewed the gospel as something entrusted to him. Paul’s sense of servanthood was so deep he dubbed himself a bond slave; he no longer controlled his own life but spent it in service to his Master.
1. What were two parts of Paul’s mission that he pointed out here? (1-“to build up the faith of God’s elect.” And 2-to build up “their knowledge of the truth.”)
“God’s elect” are those who have accepted Jesus as Savior!
2. What was the “knowledge of the truth” designed to lead to? (Godliness.)
Paul wasn’t only concerned with his own spiritual security; he built the faith of others through knowledge of God and His precepts. Paul unfailingly pointed people to Jesus as the hope of eternal life.
3. How does knowing that God is always truthful give believers confidence to share the gospel? (We have an active faith that God will never let us down and can be trusted from before time began. He is ever faithful and true—that is Who God is!)
4. Paul emphasized that the gospel had been entrusted to believers. How should viewing the gospel as a sacred trust impact a believer’s life? (As believers in Christ sharing that “sacred trust” is our life’s mission. What we do for a living is irrelevant, our life’s purpose is to share the gospel with those around us.)
Not only should we know that we have been entrusted with the gospel, but the gospel calls us to action to display its power in our lives.
Purposeful Action! Read Titus 1:4-5
Verse 4 makes it obvious that Paul felt the same way about Titus as he did about Timothy. There is indication that Paul led Titus to accept Jesus as Savior.
1. Why was it necessary for Titus to complete the work Paul had begun? (Evidently God had moved Paul on to another assignment but there was still work to be done. Titus had been with Paul as some of the work had been done so he was a logical choice to continue the task, especially since Titus was a native of the island.)
2. How do we today build on the work of previous generations? (They have set the example for us to emulate. Much like a relay race, the baton is passed and the gospel must be carried and leadership must be appointed and trained.)
Paul’s instruction to Titus doesn’t negate the participation of the local church in having a part in ordaining these local leaders! As I thought about these instructions I thought of Titus as I would a modern day Director of Missions—helping churches get organized.
By virtue of being called Paul’s true son, we know that Titus and Paul shared a faith that looked strikingly similar, not just to others outside of the family but to each other. Titus used the example Paul set for him to reach others for Christ and train leaders.
The list of qualifications for the elders to be appointed is very similar to the list Paul had given to Timothy. But verse 9 is a little different and I think is important, especially in Crete.
Read Titus 1:9
Opposition Addressed! Read Titus 1:10-16
1. What trouble makers was Titus to watch for in the church? (Especially the Judaizers—those who proclaimed that a person had to obey the Jewish laws as well as trust in Jesus to be saved. They especially wanted the gentiles to obey the Jewish food laws as far as what was clean and unclean—pure and defiled.)
2. What are the characteristics of those Titus was to be aware of in the church? (Rebellious, idle talkers, and deceivers.)
Paul stressed that false teachers were adding unnecessary stipulations to salvation and disrupting groups of believers with precepts that weren’t necessary. His solution was to silence them.
3. Why would Christians, whom God generally calls to come down on the side of mercy and grace, need to employ such strong tactics to stand up for truth? (Good-hearted people must not be naïve but recognize that those who willfully rebel against God have seared consciences. Just as Christians’ good works testify to their godliness, those who reject the truth give evidence of their rebellion through their own works.)
A forceful response to the false teachers was vital to the health of the churches based upon their description by Paul in verse 12. Paul’s goal was first and foremost redemptive and restorative, but he would not overlook the severity of the problem.
4. What did Paul say to anticipate how the Cretans would respond in verse 14? ((They are not to pay any attention to them.)
The sad but clear indictment of the heretics was that they rejected the truth. They had heard the truth of the gospel but turned away from it to chase after their own creation of truth.
5. What litmus test did Paul suggest to help us distinguish the enemy’s lies from truth? (People may claim to speak truth, but their actions will give them away. They don’t practice holiness!) See 2 Tim. 3:5.
6. What might motivate a person to distort the gospel? (Selfishness, money, jealousy, etc.)
7. What are ways people distort the gospel today? (“It’s easy and once you are saved life will be perfect.” You can work your way into Heaven. You can lose your salvation. Everybody is saved; you don’t have to do anything—Universalism. God wants everyone to be happy.)
Any false teaching requires correction, but those who intentionally contradict Scripture should be confronted with the truth for everyone’s sake!
Paul’s strong critique was necessary because of the damage being done by the troublemakers. Since they preferred to resist God’s truth and rebel against His saving purposes, they proved themselves to be useless in His kingdom.
The dangers of failing to address false teaching head on is obvious—Some may not be saved and others may fall away from the church due to confusion and fighting within the church!
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How can we uphold truth when we encounter opposition?
· Identity in Christ results not only in devotion to Him and His church but requires that we take strong stands as needed to defend the truth against opposition.
· Having the heart of a servant fully devoted to Christ will result in encouraging the spiritual growth of other believers.
· Looking out for others’ spiritual growth by working in and strengthening the church will encourage that spiritual growth.
· Standing up for truth against those who oppose it will protect others’ faith.
2. Is there some opposition somewhere that you need to take a stand against?
As you grow in knowledge and faith, you will be better equipped to stand up for the truth. This is why it is so important to be involved in an ongoing Bible study. Unkindness is not required, just firm honesty.
The next time you encounter direct opposition to God, ask Him to help you confront it. It could be a simple but well-worded line on social media or a sentence or two in a private conversation with a friend. Sometimes false teachings come from someone who is just ignorant of what the Scripture says.
Remember that an unconfronted rebel and false teaching may lead others astray while a timely word may cut off that opportunity.