By: Daniel Goepfrich
Titus is one of three letters Paul wrote specifically to individual co-workers in his ministry. (The others were both to Timothy. Philemon was not a co-worker.) Although he is never mentioned in the book of Acts, we can piece together some information about Titus from 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Timothy. Before Paul left him on the island of Crete, Titus served as an itinerant apostle under the authority of Paul in Corinth and Dalmatia (northeast of Macedonia, in modern Croatia).
Luke does not tell anything of Paul’s ministry in Crete in the book of Acts, so it is best to assume that this took place after Paul’s release from Rome around A.D. 62. He had about two years to do more travel and ministry before his final arrest and death. It was during this time that he began the churches in Crete and wrote his letters to Timothy and Titus. It seems that Paul’s ministry in Crete was either cut short by an outside force or he intentionally left so he could move on to other things. In either case, he left Titus there to continue the ministry, building on the foundation they had started.
The theme of Titus has to do with Christian ministry, namely the good works we are to do in light of Christian faith and doctrine.
The Mission of Titus
Titus 1 introduces Titus’ mission and the purpose of the letter. Paul began with an introduction that does not match any of his other letters (Titus 1:1-4). Rather than focusing on his role as an apostle of the gospel, Paul emphasized his work in furthering believers’ faith and gave a unique description of his message. Probably knowing his time was short, Paul focused on the eternal faithfulness of God, “who does not lie,” and the truth that he made “evident” through the message Paul preached. This may indicate that Paul spent much of his last few years building on his previous work, strengthening the saints, rather than starting churches in new areas. Even his work in Ephesus (Acts 18-19) was primarily toward teaching the believers who could then start and grow churches without him.
Titus’ mission on Crete was to finish establishing the local churches, presumably that he and Paul started. The most pressing task was to appoint the elders to lead each church (Titus 1:5). Paul gave Titus a specific set of qualifications for these elders (Titus 1:6-9). Some are similar to the list in 1 Timothy 3, focusing on the personal character traits of the men, but the emphasis in Titus is more on the men’s doctrinal integrity and teaching capability. The reason for this emphasis was two-fold. First, there seems to have been widespread false doctrine being taught on Crete, and the local elders needed to be able to refute it and teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:10-14). Second, for Paul, false doctrine was directly related to lack of good works (Titus 1:15-16). This was evident in the lives of the false teachers and the lives of those following their false doctrine.
 Notice that even in Paul’s absence, the congregations did not choose their own elders. The initial elders were always appointed by the apostles and were always a plurality in each congregation. After the initial appointment, the elders were to train new elders to replace themselves (like the apostles trained elders to replace themselves, 2 Timothy 2:2). The Scripture never shows a congregational vote to determine the leadership of any local church.
Each Thursday DPH runs a Chapter-by-Chapter blog by Daniel Goepfrich, progressing readers chapter-by-chapter through the New Testament. This series is taken from New Testament Chapter-by-Chapter, published by Trust House Publishers, a division of DPH. Daniel serves as Pastor of Oak Tree Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, and blogs at www.TheologyIsForEveryone.com
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