Titus stresses the importance of the appointment of Elders. In my last post we looked at what, as church members we expect our leaders to be like. This post will look at the question, what should you expect leaders to do?
So, what do elders do? Verse 7 says ‘Since an overseer manages God’s household …’ In other words elders manage the church. They ‘oversee’ the life of the church. That involves a certain amount of organisation.
But their central role is described in verse 9: ‘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.’ An elder has two tasks: (1) he is to encourage people by sound doctrine and (2) refute those who oppose it. John Calvin says: ‘A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.’
My family joke about the telephone voice that I use when making complaints or handling cold callers. I have this stern tone. Elders might not change their tone. But they need two voices: a voice that encourages and a voice that refutes.
This reflects Paul’s exhortation to Titus. Titus is both to appoint leaders and model leadership. What is Titus to do? Silence (1:11), rebuke sharply (1:13), teach (2:1, 2, 3, 9, 15), encourage (2:6), encourage and rebuke (2:15), remind (3:1), warn (3:10).
Silencing, rebuking, teaching, encouraging, warning. Don’t be surprised if elders rebuke and warn and silence! It’s our God-given job.
Encouragement we’re good with – we all like a bit of encouragement. But we don’t like the idea of silencing and rebuking. Our culture doesn’t like authority. ‘Personal freedom.’ ‘You’re not the boss of me.’ These are the great mottos of our age. We do not like authority. But then neither did the culture of Crete. They were rebellious, insubordinate (1:10). But leaders are to rebuke wrong behaviour and counter false teaching.
Why? Is Paul some kind of tyrant who just wants everything done he way? Look at verse 1. Paul’s concern is ‘the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness’. His aim is godliness, people who are like God, who commend God. But now look at verse 16: the rebellious people ‘claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him’. Instead of godly people, they are godless people, they deny God. Paul’s aim is people who ‘do what is good’ (2:14; 3:8, 15). But the rebellious people ‘are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.’
We’re not talking about differences of opinion. We’re talking about ‘the truth that leads to godliness’ (1:1) or a denial of God that leaves people ‘unfit for doing anything good’ (1:16).
Why does this matter? Look at verse 11: ‘They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach.’ Remember first century churches all met in homes. In verse 7 Paul refers to the church as ‘God’s household’. So ‘disrupting whole households’ was Paul’s way of referring to the groups who met in ‘every town’ in verse 5. Really and truly Paul is talking about what we call ‘gospel communities’. So he’s not talking about some crazy heretics away in Athens or London. He’s talking about people disrupting gospel communities here in Crete and in Sheffield.
Trust me. When I have to rebuke someone I don’t think, ‘Great, I love confrontation.’ It’s the job we all hate doing. But what I think about is the other people in the church whose walk with God is being disrupted. It’s my love for them than makes me go through with it.
I want us to appreciate and enjoy the structures God has given us in the church. Trust those structures. Rest in them. They provide a safe place to grow as a Christian.
Hebrews 13:17 says: ‘Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.’ [Which, by the way, is the sobering word to leaders!] ‘Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.’
‘Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.’ We’ll look more at what that means – and doesn’t mean – when we look at chapter three. But for know, let me change the question. ‘Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden,’ says Hebrews. Instead of asking, ‘What does it mean to obey?’ or ‘What are the limits of our submission?’ let’s ask, ‘How can I make my leaders’ work a joy?’ Ask your leader: ‘How can I make your work a joy?’
 Cited in John Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus, BST, IVP, 1996, 179.
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