Church 101

Living As Christians or Cretans?

Companion Resources:

This week we begin a four-week study of Paul’s Epistle to Titus. This short epistle is a part of the Apostle Paul’s trilogy known as The Pastoral Epistles, which includes 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. In these letters, Paul addressed his two trusted assistants, Timothy and Titus, men in whom he placed a lot of responsibility and authority as his point men for churches Paul had started as part of his missionary efforts.

Titus was left by Paul on the Island of Crete, an island in the Mediterranean Sea located south of Greece. Historically, Cretans are typically viewed in a negative light. Paul even references this in his letter to Titus when he states, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). As if to underscore the description, Paul states in simple terms, “this description is true” (1:13).

(I find the King James translation of this verse even more illustrative. The KJV states, “The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” The picture of “slow bellies” is of an extremely overweight person who drags his belly around, and could not be more descriptively offensive.)

Paul admonishes young Titus to “rebuke them sharply!” He concludes his opening charge to Titus with this stinging summary: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (1:16). This, really, gets to the heart of Paul’s letter to Titus. He wants Titus to set things in order on the Island of Crete and help these Cretan Christians to begin acting like Christians. Sound thinking begins with sound doctrine, and sound doctrine must be communicated by godly teachers. Paul identifies three groups that need to step up to the plate–elders, men appointed by Titus to lead the house churches in Crete, older men and older women. Together, they are to set the example and teach the younger people how to be godly husbands and wives, sons and daughters.

There almost seems to be a level of exasperation in Paul’s tone. It’s as if he’s telling Titus, “Enough! You tell these people that if they are going to call themselves Christians, they need to start acting like Christians, not like a bunch of foolish Cretans!”

As we will see during out study of Titus, Paul is addressing Titus, but he is instructing him how to lead the church. There is a lot of application for us today as we study the Epistle to Titus. We are calling this study “Church 101” because many of the things Paul teaches are elementary principles for the Christian. First and foremost, doctrine is important. As Christians, do we acknowledge this truth. Do we get our priorities and our list of do’s and don’ts from Scripture?

Secondly, we will see the importance of leadership within a church. Leaders are to model godly character before the people and lead with both integrity and doctrinal proficiency. Combined, these contribute to one of the most essential qualities of a biblical leader–credibility in the eyes of the church.

Finally, Paul underscores the importance of a multi-generational church family, in which the older believers are teaching and showing the younger believers how to walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling. Understand that this is not just adults showing children, but older men and older women who teach and show younger men and younger women how to be a good husband and father or a good wife and mother. Paul draws another word picture for us when he describes our good, godly behavior “adorns the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:10). In other words, our good behavior is the icing on the cake, it is the finishing touch to the doctrine of God that makes biblical Christianity both distinct and attractive to a lost and dying world.

It is my prayer that as we look at the Epistle to Titus, we will let the Word of God have its perfect way with us as a church family. The temptation is going to be there to scoff at some of Paul’s instructions in this letter. “Oh, that doesn’t apply to today, that’s First Century.” Resist that temptation. Your home, your family, and our church are called to be different from the culture. Paul describes us as “a peculiar people” (Titus 2:14 KJV). Are you ready to become a peculiar man, a peculiar woman, a peculiar family? May it be so as we embark on this journey together to become a peculiar kind of church.–Chris Eller