Paul’s greeting in Titus 1:1-4 reminds Titus of God’s work and the call for all who would be His ministers. God chooses and the minister is to help cultivate faith in the chosen with special attention to teaching what will lead others into godliness. God gave an unbreakable promise of eternal life ages ago. Now manifested, this eternal life is something for the minister to hope in and proclaim. Paul addresses Titus as “my true child in a common faith” (1:4). Paul, through his own ministry, saw Titus come to faith. Now Titus is called to do the same for others.
In the rest of chapter 1, Paul gets down to practical business. Paul reminds Titus to set up elder-overseers in every city, and he gives a description of qualified men. Described as stewards with godly character, they need to be able “to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (1:9). Specifically, Paul warns Titus about “rebellious men” in the church who are upsetting the sound doctrine of faith in Christ alone. Much like Paul’s writing in Galatians and Romans, some Jewish Christians were compelling Gentile Christians to be circumcised as if they were incomplete Christians without circumcision. These rebellious men “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (1:16).
Chapter 2 turns to sound doctrine—that which leads God’s people into pure living. Looking at the structure of these 15 verses, the hinge is the first word of verse 11, “For.” Meaning “because,” Paul is justifying his instructions in verses 1-10 with doctrinal truths in verses 11-15. God has made His grace apparent to all, enabling any who believe to receive salvation. God’s grace “instructs” us to live changed lives—those purified by the Lord Himself—as we wait for His return.
Those who participate in the Lord’s sanctifying work should be marked by the behaviors addressed by very specific roles. The older are supposed to teach and set an example for the younger, all with an aim to prove themselves children of God. Paul takes this line of thought further in chapter 3 addressing specifically how the Church should treat outsiders. The Church should “be ready for every good deed…showing every consideration for all men” (3:1, 2). In fact, they should “be careful to engage in good deeds” (3:8), with the understanding that meeting each others’ needs is the only way to be “fruitful” (3:14).
Essentially, everything should be done with the aim of bringing people to faith in the one who “saved us, not on the basis of deeds done which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:5-7).
Implications For the Church and Leadership
Clearly, doing good deeds is important as Paul punctuates his letter with the idea multiple times in the last chapter. The good deeds (or service, we might say) are for all people, not just leaders. “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds…” (3:14). They are also to be ready and look for opportunities to serve those inside and outside the Church. This is “seeking to serve.” To facilitate this building up of His Body, Christ has called certain men to live as examples, stewards, and leaders. In order to understand good deeds, people need “good” defined for them. According to the letter to Titus, “good” is that sound doctrine which secures godliness and cultivates lives purely devoted to the Lord. Thus, teaching is required.
Just as in the first century, we still have false teachers who claim to know God but are living in rebellion to Him. Knowing sound doctrine is important not only for leaders but also for every member of the Body of Christ. If we are doctrinally weak, we are more susceptible to the enemy who would steal our fruit. Leaders will be held especially accountable because they are charged with protecting God’s people in every way, even anticipating every need and potential attack on each individual’s faith.
Even though we may be attacked, we are called to love people inside and outside the Church. Our love and care for one another is the fruit of our connection with the eternal life of Jesus Christ. Our hope in Christ’s coming kingdom according to sound doctrine is the lens through which we should see every person: they are either children of God or potential children of God. As we have this glorious hope of the present and everlasting experience of eternal life in Christ, we will indeed be “zealous for good deeds” (2:14).
If we find ourselves lacking love for others, being shaken by people mistreating us, compromising in sound doctrine, or putting off serving, then we have to ask ourselves some hard questions. “Am I truly putting my hope in Christ alone?” “Am I myself submitting to His Lordship over my life, as I am encouraging others to do?” Jesus is not looking for what we can do for Him. He accomplished it all for us! We are redeemed! How can we not throw ourselves completely on the mercy and grace of our awesome Lord and Savior? That is the only way to serve as a leader—a servant, a steward, a teacher, a shepherd—in the Body of Christ.
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Senior Pastor for Shoaff Park Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, IN.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!