Continuing the series on Paul’s letters to Titus and the relevance of Titus to missional church and church planting.
The presenting issue that Paul is addressing in Titus is the fact that the culture of the world is infecting the church. Look at verse 10: ‘For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.’ The problem is people who reject authority and love controversy.
Look at verses 13-14: ‘Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.’ Paul refers here to two groups of people. There are those in the church that Titus is to rebuke with the expectation that they will repent. And then there are those who have ‘rejected the truth’ to whom the first group are to stop paying attention. That’s often how it is in church life, there are still people who have rejected sound doctrine. They’re a long way off. But they influence people in the church, these days through DVDs, conferences, books and the internet.
We don’t know in detail what these false teachers were teaching. I think that’s how God intended it otherwise we could readily dismiss the issues as irrelevant to us, whereas we need to be on guard against people who reject authority and love controversy in whatever form it takes. But one or two things are clear.
We have seen already in verse 10 that they are ‘rebellious people’, which literally means ‘insubordinate people’. Or look verse 16: ‘They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.’ They are rebellious and disobedient, they think they know best, they reject authority in the church.
Look at Paul’s description of Titus in verse 4: ‘My true son in our common faith.’ I find it very striking. I hear a lot of people today say, ‘He’s a true brother.’ Nothing wrong with that. But I never hear people say, ‘He’s a true son’. ‘My true son.’ Or ‘He’s a true father to me.’
Titus and Paul are in a relationship like a father-son relationship. Paul doesn’t say ‘Titus my true brother’. This is not a relationship of parity. It’s a relationship in which Paul can command Titus. This is not a letter with suggestions! Paul doesn’t say, ‘I thought you might like to consider saying something in Crete’ (1:5) or ‘Here are my thoughts for what they’re worth’. Paul directs Titus. The source of his authority is there in verse 3: the command of God expressed in the preaching of the church.
We live in a culture that wants to flatten all authority. We have a culture in which youth is everything. In the process we’ve lost respect for older people and a willingness to be fathered or mothered. We’ve a desire to be guided and shaped by an older person.
Think about the name the Bible gives to church leaders. They are called ‘elders’. For some of us it’s become just a jargon word for a church leader. But it means ‘an older man’. Now, I don’t think this means we appoint the oldest men the church. Paul lists the qualities we should look for in leaders. Not every older man should be an elder. Plus younger men can be elders. He tells Timothy not to let anyway despise him for his youth (1 Timothy 4:12) – although Timothy was probably in his thirties at that point. But the fact remains, elders are elders, they are older men. There is a proper authority that goes with age. More of that in later posts, but in the meantime, let me encourage you to look for father figures, to look for mothers in the faith.
The message: don’t be self-willed, don’t assume you know best, don’t be wise in your own eyes.
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