When we started with 2 Timothy you must have heard from us that 2 Timothy was the last letter of Paul, and here you see another letter from him again. The fact is, though Titus appears after 2 Timothy in the Bible, it was written much earlier than that.
As per the narrative in the book of Acts, Titus would have been written in the mid-60’s A.D, which is around the same time as 1 Timothy. So, if we have to place these three letters in chronological order, then it would be 1 Timothy, Titus and then 2 Timothy.
In today’s sermon, I want to give an introduction to the Epistle of Titus.
And in my introduction, I want to talk about two things mainly.
1. Paul relationship with Titus – What can we learn from that?
2. Paul’s purpose of writing this letter – What should we expect from this book?
Starting with Paul’s relationship with Titus:
As per Galatians 2:1-4, during one of Paul’s missionary journey he meets Titus who is a young Greek man, a worshipper of other gods, hears Paul preach about Jesus. And as he heard the message of Jesus, his heart responded to the gospel, and he believed in Jesus.
Titus was a total stranger to the gospel and worshipped other gods.
It is almost like the stories of most of our brothers who’ve come from a different religious background.
Titus then traveled with Paul in his missionary journeys, helped in the work of sharing the gospel. We see how he served Paul faithfully in 2 Corinthians 7 when Paul sent him to Corinth to reduce the tension in the church and in 2 Corinthians 8 where he was sent to collect money for the poor.
We see how he served Paul faithfully in 2 Corinthians 7 when Paul sent him to Corinth to reduce the tension in the church and in 2 Corinthians 8 where he was sent to collect money for the poor.
Titus served Paul diligently.
In our passage from Titus 1:4 Paul addresses Titus as his true son in a common faith, mainly also because he was like a spiritual son to him since Paul had led him to Christ.
It was kind of interesting to read some of the things mentioned about Titus.
Like, in 2 Corinthians 2:13 Paul talks about Titus and says how his presence brought rest to Pauls’ heart.
In 2 Corinthians 7:6 – Paul’s writes about Titus saying “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus” – Titus brought comfort to Paul and other believers
In 2 Corinthians 8:23 Paul writes “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.
After Paul was released from the Roman prison where he had been for two years, he and Titus traveled to the island of Crete. They preached the gospel there and taught the people about God and the good news of Jesus (Titus 1:4-5). And soon there were enough believers to start churches in several towns.
And soon there were enough believers to start churches in several towns.
Soon after that, we see Paul leaves Create and Titus continues to teach the new Christians.
It was at this time, probably after several months, Paul writes a letter of encouragement to Titus. That’s the letter we are reading.
As I read about Pauls & Titus’s relationship, I learnt a crucial lesson.
I realized that Godly relationships are much deeper than any other relationship in the world.
And I say that because this kind of relationship is not just limited to staying together, eating together, having a good laugh, playing and having fun. But it is also where you and I hold each other’s hands and participate in building God’s kingdom – by spreading the gospel, planting churches and bringing Glory to the name of the Lord, which is the ultimate goal of every individual – To bring glory to Gods name.
Once when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to meet him while he was ministering to a crowd, they sent word and called him out. To which Jesus replied
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” – Mark 3:34-35
In these verses, we see Jesus valuing the company of those who do the will of God above every other relationship, even his immediate family members.
Paul & Titus’s relation was much beyond the natural family relationships. Paul was a spiritual father to Titus who led him to the Lord, took him alongside on missions, poured into his life what he received from the Lord, Paul set himself as an example for Titus to follow.
Titus on the other end was a true son to Paul, who served him, brought him comfort and rest just by his presence.
But above everything else they were together in laboring for the Kingdom of God, preaching the gospel and planting churches.
From the example of Paul and Titus, we see how important it is to invest in such a relationship, a spiritual relationship of a new found brother & sister & father & mother who’ve put their faith in Jesus and walk in obedience, doing the will of God.
And this kind of relationships doesn’t happen automatically, but it takes an active participation from each one of us.
Remember, In our last bible outreach we spoke about Community – This is what we meant by that.
A family together in the Lord, doing the will of the Father of bringing glory to His name.
And I realize this is where we want to head as Gathering Community Church – A Family together on a Mission.
Now, when we talk about family – we also know that managing a family is not an easy task.
Imagine looking after and managing our own families – providing for them, protecting them, loving them, caring for them, and above everything else protecting their heart and discipline them in the Lord, leading them to Christ.
Just as we need help and guidance from the Lord to look after our earthly families, we also need help & guidance to manage and look after the church family.
And that is what I believe is the purpose of this letter is.
In this letter, Paul lays down some of some of the essential components of a healthy church family.
As a church, if we have to grow healthy and united then we have to hold on to the principals that that govern the Church. We need to have a structure in place that holds us together.
If you want our church family to grow healthy and make an impact in the world then you need to read the rest of the sermon very carefully because it is not just the responsibility of the leaders but also a responsibility of every single member of the church to contribute their bit.
In Titus 1:1-3 Paul opens up the letter by introducing himself as someone who is appointed by God our savior to lead and encourage the Church (us) to recognize and pursue the knowledge of the truth which leads to Godliness.
Paul is the perfect guy to help us understand what a healthy church should be and how it needs to function to remain a healthy church.
In the whole letter, Paul’s focus is on the church, and there are three areas which he talks about which I believe are the important pillars of the church.
1. Proper leadership (1:5-9)
2. Proper handling of error (1:10-16;3:9-11)
3. Proper Christian living – especially new believers (2:1-10; 3:1-2)
4. The importance of finding our hope in the Gospel (2:11-14;3:3-7)
We will look closer into all these aspects as we preach on them in the coming weeks. But what I want to do today is to whet your appetite to keep your hearts open to learn and apply these family principles in our church life.
1. Proper leadership
Just as important it is for a family to have a leader, in the same way, the church needs good leadership as well.
I don’t know what style of church leadership you’ve been exposed to before coming to the Gathering but
I want to share some scriptural references to what we believe church leadership should look like and why they are important.
i) Plurality of Elders
I want to talk about a plurality of elders, I don’t know if you have heard that term before. It basically means having more than one elder governing the church and not just one person leading the whole church. We see that model in the scripture wherein Titus 1:5 Paul instructs Titus to appoint ‘elders’ in every town, he doesn’t say ‘elder’ but ‘elders’.
When I say the word ‘elder’, ‘pastor’, ‘bishop’, ‘overseer’ … all are same.
Many churches today have a single pastor leading the church, but seems to me that this model misses the mark of the New Testament teaching on this topic.
As you see in Titus and several other portions of the New Testament, the early church had, I believe, multiple elders. We will talk about this in detail as we go through the passage on elders but I want to say that the reason the scriptures teach multiple elderships is that
(1) Biblical accountability – It is important to have mutual accountability if elders have to protect themselves from falling into sin. In addition, sharing authority among a number of men can keep one man from wrongly lording it over the congregation
(2) Balance – No one man has all the gifts that are necessary to build up the church. Having a plurality of elders serves the church by bringing men with different gifts into the church’s leadership.
(3) Wisdom – There is more wisdom to be found in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 11:14; 24:6).
(4) Burden sharing – Caring for the whole church is a burden God does not intend one man to bear alone. Even the most faithful, gifted leader needs help from other godly men in order to pay careful attention to himself and to all the flock
What is the application for us:
At the Gathering, as of now there are two elders, Jinson and me, and soon once Jeff comes down with his family we would like to install him as the third Elder.
As a church, it is important that we recognize this biblical model and refrain from elevating one elder above the other. We are equal and we serve in equal measures, being accountable to each other with our life and message.
In India, and also in our churches today, the usual tendency is to hero worship our leaders based on their style of talking, their ministry qualifications, their personality.
That is not how the church should like.
ii) Elders are role models & not just people in authority
In Titus 1:6-8 Paul lists down the qualifications of the person who should be appointed as an Elder. It says “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers[e] and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”
Looking at that list, we should realize that the main the task of the Elder is more to do with being a role model to the rest of the church.
We need to remember that leaders are not above the church, the church is above the leaders.
Which means tomorrow if I fail to be a role model to you guys, If I fail to live a gospel-centered life and harbor an unrepentant heart, then I don’t deserve to be an Elder. Eldership is not positional, it is a Responsibility.
Someone from the Gathering asked me the other day “Saju, when Jane was sick and was admitted in the hospital we saw another side of you for a couple of days. We saw you weak and disturbed.” He said “don’t you think as a leader you should show your stronger side even in hard times so people don’t look down on you”
My answer was “No, I don’t think I should pretend as everything is fine when everything is not fine”.
As church, we should know that the elders are no different from others, we go through the same problems as you do, we are equally vulnerable to fall into sin as you are, we need savior Jesus just as you need him.
But, here’s the difference. As Elders we ought to set an example to you by continuing to trust in the Gospel, in the saving grace of Jesus, in continuing to serve Christ, his church even in our darkest moments.
Elders are your role models – don’t make them your idols or place them above Christ in your Life. Pray for them, encourage them and give them a helping hand to lead the church well.
A healthy church needs healthy leaders.
2.Proper handling of error
The second pillar of a healthy church which Paul elaborates in this letter is the proper handling of error.
In Titus, at several occasions, you will notice Paul is instructing Titus to rebuke, correct & discipline the people in the church time and again, which implies that Paul is not just satisfied with the fact that church happens every church Sunday. He is most concerned with whether people have the right understanding of the gospel.
I read a quote from Timothy Keller’s book called “Center church” where is talks about being a gospel centered church and this is what he writes
“A Gospel centered church is theologically driven and not program driven”
Many churches today are more interested in the program model, the number of people that attend the church and are less concerned about their theology. This is where false teachers come in and corrupt the sheep.
Every time Paul would visit the churches he planted, he would drive away people who either propagate or teach false doctrines.
A healthy church needs to keep a watch on their theology and lead the people into the right understanding of the truth.
3. Proper Christian living
The third pillar of a healthy church is proper Christian living (in Titus, Paul specifically talks about the new believers).
The Createn believers had a bad reputation among others.
Titus 1:12 Paul writes “One of the Cretans,[i] a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” And Paul tells Titus to rebuke them and correct them.
Paul emphasizes in this letter how important it is for us to live a Godly life and how important it is for our words and actions to complement our faith in Christ.
It is the responsibility of Elders to rebuke you, correct you and help the church live a Godly life.
And therefore as a church, we should be willing to accept corrections, whether with regards to theology or behavioral issues. And the elder ought to do it with love and patience.
This is a mark of a healthy and growing church where the people of God willing submit themselves to the leaders which God has appointed over them.
4. Find our hope in the Gospel
The fourth and the final pillar of a healthy church, which Paul mentions in this letter is to find our hope in the Gospel.
In Titus 2:11-14 Paul writes
For the grace of God has appeared (through Christ), bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The mark of a healthy & growing church is where people have put their hope in Christ and in his saving grave and not in some experiential make belief. We don’t come to church to enjoy good music and listen to godly talks to make us feel good and get some motivation for the rest of the week.
We come to church to cherish the Gospel – to find our hope in the Gospel – By Gospel I mean to remind ourselves that it is because of the grace & mercy of God that sinners like you and me can have confidence that a holy God will accept us in his presence. Two important words for us to remember is grace and gospel.
Paul says that “God our Father loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace” (2 Thessalonians 2:16). And he urges us not to shift from the hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23). So the grace of God and the good news of Christ crucified for sins and raised from the dead are the reasons that sinners like you and me can hope in God and have a confident expectation that the future will be good for us.
I like a statement Jeff made yesterday when we were having our lunch together. I hope I’m saying it rightly.
He said “What we truly deserve is death and anything outside that is purely Gods grace and mercy”
It is because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for a penalty of our sins that we can now have eternal life in a bountiful measure.
A healthy church family is where this truth of the gospel is experienced, as well as lived out in full measure.
And with these initial thoughts, I want to invite you to come with an open mind and open heart to learn and study from the Epistle of Titus.