Today we are starting the book of Titus. It is a personal letter from Paul to Titus, most likely written around AD 62, after Paul’s first house arrest and acquittal in Rome. Paul has left Titus in Crete, and is now writing to him with some instruction on how to instruct and deal with the church in Crete. I had a quick read through all three chapters and was left with the impression that the central theme of this letter is “grace powered conduct”.
Paul starts this letter the usual way: containing enough truth to base a whole sermon on. Essentially he links godliness (or holiness) with the (experiential) knowledge of the truth, and the hope of eternal life. Too often in this day and age I come across Christians whose knowledge of the truth is purely theoretical, and they have no idea what eternity will look like. Usually both are due to the omission of teaching on the subjects in the church. Experiential knowledge of the truth comes through an encounter with God, and the Bible reveals a lot to us about heaven/eternal life. If you feel you are lacking either of those, please put your mind to pursuing them. To come back to the central theme of Titus, they encourage and enable grace powered conduct.
However let’s get back to the rest of Titus chapter 1. Paul instructs Titus to appoint overseers (elders). Most of what he writes here is a rehash of what he wrote to Timothy and I don’t really want to go into the details of this again. What did stand out to me though was the fact that he twice uses the phrase ‘above reproach’, which probably pretty accurately summarises what he is trying to say. According to Google, reproach is “the expression of disapproval or disappointment”. In other words an elder needs to live a life that does not cause disapproval of disappointment from either the church or the world. It has to be someone with close and solid personal relationships, and who has a good character in order to be able to teach, and correct where necessary, according to sound doctrine. If we change v.10-16 from a negative (what not to do) to a positive, we see that sound doctrine is not law, but grace based, and that it is not just words, but shows in your works and life style.
Sometimes I wonder why Paul is so hot on the conduct of elders. And of course the answer is simple: because they are an example to both the church and the world of what being a mature Christian is like. That means that the ‘above reproach’ life-style is not just for elders, but for everyone. Holy living is for all of us and, as Paul points out in the first three verses of this chapter, it is greatly helped by encountering God and understanding eternity. So I want to encourage you to set your mind on regularly meeting with God, make your relationship with Him a priority, and find out what the Bible has to say about eternity. There is much more there than you think, and once you get your head around that it is literally life changing.