Our pastoral epistles study covered Titus chapter 1 and chapter 2:1-10 last Sunday. Paul includes much of the same instruction in this letter as he did to Timothy, and as a result, we can use our study of Titus to review our studies of Timothy so far. Paul begins by asserting his authority as an apostle of Christ Jesus and giving Titus much of that authority by addressing him as “my true son in our common faith”.
He then reminds Titus of his task – to organize the new churches on Crete and appoint pastors for them in each town. His list of qualifications for the pastoral office repeats much of what he told Timothy in 1 Timothy 1.
An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 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. Titus 1:6-9
It is an intimidating list, but we can easily see how someone who did not fulfill these requirements would have trouble shepherding God’s flock – people look to leaders to be examples, and if a pastor falls into error, many people are going to follow him there. Paul then warns Titus against the same types of heresy that Timothy was facing – an early form of Gnosticism, which held that the material world was evil and claimed that the Bible and other Jewish stories contained mystical secret knowledge. They claimed that believers must follow the Law to be saved. Although the Law, like all God’s gifts, is good, false teachers misunderstand and misuse it – turning a good thing to evil purposes.
He then gives instructions on proper conduct of Christians, young and old, male and female, slave and free.
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. Titus 2:1-10
We might ask how this accords with Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he states
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28
First, we can see that although each group listed in Titus has slightly different instructions, they are really quite similar – the essence is to be self-controlled and love God and your neighbor. Second, it is important to distinguish that although we are all equally valuable in the eyes of God, He has not blessed us all in exactly the same ways. We are precious individuals with unique gifts, and we will respond to God’s call to love and serve Him in our own ways. Paul’s instructions to different groups are tailored to their social positions and capabilities. God does not call us to serve Him in ways He has not equipped us to serve.
It is also useful to notice how Paul instructs Titus to set an example for the young men, and the older women to instruct the younger women. As parents teach and set an example for their children, we look to more mature Christians to set an example for us. Think of a time when a mature Christian was influential in your life – and how you might influence those younger than you in the same way. As we grow and mature under the influence of the Holy Spirit, our responsibility toward others grows as well – note the long list Paul gives Titus to teach to the older men, who had the greatest degree of respect and responsibility in their society.
Finally, it is never good to finish with the Law – for if we carefully examine ourselves, we will soon see that we don’t match up to the requirements Paul sets out. As we struggle to be the people we’d like to be, that God says we should be, we find rest for our consciences in the knowledge that God forgives us by Christ’s redeeming work.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21
Our pastoral epistles study will take a short break for the Palm Sunday easter egg hunt on April 14 and the annual Easter brunch on April 21. We will conclude our study with a discussion of Titus chapter 2:11-15 and Titus chapter 3 on Sunday, April 28. To review our recent Pastoral Epistles studies, please use the links below.