Paul doesn’t ASSUME believers will automatically live a life in line with the doctrine they have believed. This is a temptation preachers can give in to. There is, and always will be, a specific place – a vital need – for exhortation. Don’t just teach the sound doctrine – teach what ACCORDS with it. Lifestyle, choices, etc.
This is why Titus needs to be tough (good thing he was. He has a tough name too. Paul might have been more worried if he was writing to someone called Rupert). People like debating doctrine all day – but when you suggest their life changes it gets awkward.
But here’s the thing – it must accord with sound doctrine: the grace, which teaches us to say no to ungodliness. How does it do that? It replaces ungodly passions with godly zeal…
With this in place we can be exhorted/instructed as to how we should live… if this is not in place – the exhortation is either water off a duck’s back, a provocation, a miserable burden or a reason for smug moralistic pride…
So the work of Christ comes first. He purifies us and makes this life possible. So how does sound doctrine express itself thru men? N.B. All of Paul’s exhortations have a missional focus. The gospel must have a good rep in the city. Titus needs to ensure this. Guys being stupid are harming the progress of the gospel by distorting it.
The older guys are called to sobriety, dignity, self-control and soundness in faith, love and steadfastness… Paul is using his faith, hope and love trio – but the hope is being expressed in terms of steadfastness. For older guys this would appear the way it shows. Maybe hope is an easier thing for young guys – so older men are called to be sound in steadfastness.
Young men need to be self controlled – and Titus needs to exemplify this. So that men will never shame the gospel.
In part two of the Titus series Joel tells us about how Paul turned his attention to the kind of people Titus must close down, and why he should do so…
Perhaps to our surprise it is not people who are hardened secularists or idolaters and ‘sinners’ who Paul has in mind, but rather the religious.
There is a difference between the gospel and religion. Titus himself had been through a battle with Gospel deniers. Some of the Jerusalem believers had wanted Titus circumcised. In the end Paul took him there as a test case. (Titus must have been nervous).
The proof is in the fruit of this kind of religion… it is divisive, unsubmissive, argumentative and utterly without evidence of love, ultimately dishonouring to Jesus. People are looking for an argument more than they are looking for Jesus.
Paul talks about why it is necessary to silence them for the health of the church (not very comfortable, and not very English! People don’t like a fight. Except online… or in a letters page…). But it is necessary – whole households are being harmed… Paul is a shepherd, helping us see the difference between the gospel and religion.
Paul had left Titus in Crete after some work they had shared there near the end of Paul’s life. Several churches had successfully been birthed across the island, an island that seemed an unlikely place for the gospel to take effect. He wrote the letter we are studying as an encouragement to the key task of putting things in order (Titus 1:5) in Paul’s absence.
As we proceed in our calling to build church and advance the gospel across our city and beyond we’ll find the book full of pointers for biblical mission.
At the outset, Paul draws attention to the nature of the mission itself – God’s rescue plan for the world, which was held back throughout all ages, but was now revealed in the coming of His Son Jesus – and through the preaching of men like Paul.
You can’t escape the profound sense of wonder in Paul’s words. In fact the claims he makes would come across as the ravings of a deluded maniac – if they were not true. But people find this a struggle in our culture. We are happy to see Paul as a wise teacher of religion and his message as a very worthwhile idea – but nothing more. Paul himself won’t leave that option open. He, like Jesus, was either a dangerous madman to be avoided to this day – or his message was completely true – and the most important thing ever proclaimed.
Paul knew the expansion and impact of his message depended on the establishing of healthy growing churches – and this, in turn, depended on the right elders being appointed. So he sets to this theme immediately.
We need new elders as a church as a matter of some urgency. This is for two main reasons: firstly, we are growing and reaching new people all the time and the more sheep there are, the more shepherds are needed. Secondly, we are in a process of saying goodbye to a whole tier of senior elders who are gradually stepping down (plus Pete Lyndon who is moving north).
The next two elders we are appointing (this October) are Steve Boon and Matt Davis. Over the next few years there will be several others.
[And quite apart from the specific issue of eldership we are in need of leaders of all kinds. This is relevant to us all – called to eldership or not… In some way each of us has leadership potential to fulfill. The fact is we cannot succeed in our mission if each of you doesn’t intentionally seek to progress in your walk with God and look to take a role somehow leading others forward.
This year alone we have seen well over 140 respond to the gospel amongst us. This is phenomenal – but very, very challenging indeed! There is a terrible danger that we will have two churches under one roof. One which is made up of new people who drift in (and sadly very often out); and the other is made up of those who are mature believers who have been faithful for many years but barely rub shoulders with new people – failing to see the massive difference they will make by simply befriending new Christians – taking a lead in their lives.]
With this in mind it makes sense for us to have a good look at what the right elders will look like. Paul lists some characteristics:
Things which must be present: integrity – men without reproach; marital purity; good spiritual leadership in the home (or how can the guy be trusted with God’s household – the church?
Things which must be absent: arrogance; shortness of temper; drunkenness; violence and greed.
Further things which must be present: love of goodness; self control and discipline; hospitality and uprightness.
Something which must be firmly held to and fought for: the word of God. This must never be taken for granted – especially at a time of generational transition. We need men who love and stand up for the gospel in all its comprehensive truth.
What are your expectations when meeting with the church – at a zone meeting, in small group, on a Sunday? How do you prepare yourself? Our expectations will inevitably affect the outcome of these events.
Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth is instructive when it comes to key principles and goals for when we meet as the people of God. He puts them right on a few things and in chapter 14 he looks specifically at the public use of the gifts of tongues and prophecy.
A central idea of Paul’s is that each member of the gathered church shares the privilege of carrying and conducting the presence of God and his many gifts. This adds enormous potential to what happens when we gather. It also goes directly against a religious consumer culture (persisting in the west) whereby we come to church to be entertained – and evaluate each meeting by whether kept us sufficiently amused.
In all of this we need to apply the biblical principles fittingly for different kinds of meetings. A meeting of several hundred will be different in many ways from meeting of around one hundred (e.g. a Zone meeting). This is not to say that we don’t look for the gifts of the Spirit from the congregation on a Sunday – but that we will be slightly more front-led by in a larger meeting. The meeting needs to be just as spirit-led (and with anointed people leading, this is more than likely).
There are two major concerns for Paul in dealing with the Corinthians and their use of the gifts:
1. Build up the Body. This theme is repeated almost obsessively in our chapter. Paul is determined that the Corinthian believers contribute spiritual gifts to their gatherings with the appropriate motives. And in Paul’s case the over-riding goal for all contributors must be the glorifying of Jesus and the building up of the body (and the best way to do the latter is to do the former!)
The Corinthians had fallen into the error of speaking in tongues publically – more as a ‘spiritual stunt’ than out of any desire to build other up. The only things being built up were the spiritual egos of the people dominating the meetings. Paul is telling them to serve the body and keep Jesus the focus – this cannot be done if we are busy setting ourselves up as something special in a church meeting.
2. Connect the Newcomer. The terrible spin-off from the ‘Corinth’s Got Talent’ approach to spiritual gifts was that non-Christians in the meetings were completely confused and switched off. They would leave, deciding the church was off its head – and thereby bring judgement upon itself (this is the meaning of the Isaiah quote and the strange idea of tongues as a ‘sign for unbelievers’ – it means a sign of judgement.) For Paul, the intelligibility of the gifts of the Spirit was as important as their use. It was no good, as far as he was concerned, for Christians to have meetings where wackiness goes on unchecked, jargon is never explained and non-Christians are made to feel like unwelcome aliens. For Paul, being good at welcoming newcomers and helping them understand the word and the Spirit – so that they could come to see that God is real (v.25) was simply being like Jesus. (1 Corinthians 10.32-11.1).
These are essential things to take on board as we continue to grow and excel in the presence and gifts of the Holy Spirit.