Saturday, May 15, 2010

Church Order: Appointing Godly Leaders: Titus 1:1-16

Titus: 1:1-16

Theme: Promote Church Order

1) By appointing godly leaders (1-8)

"For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you..." (5 NAS).

Verse 1 indicates the knowledge of the truth is "according to godliness". When a person understands and believes the truth, he will conduct himself in a godly manner. This standard especially applies to those who would be leaders.

The main church leader was called a bishop, pastor, or elder, interchangeably (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Tim. 3:1-2; Tit. 1:5,7; 1 Peter 5:1-2). Here in Titus 1, the word is "presbuteros", which often means someone who is older by comparison, or who holds a rank or office of dignity.  Since it is masculine, this office is for a "man", and involves teaching and overseeing the functions of the local church.

An elder must be "above reproach". This is slightly different from the word used in 1 Tim. 3, and means "not accused" or called in question. It seems difficult to understand this as teaching that merely raising an accusation keeps a man from service. If this were the case, how would Paul, or Christ Himself qualify (Matt. 26:57-68; 2 Tim. 4:16)? Further, what would prevent any opponent of God from disqualifying every potential leader, simply by hurling an accusation at him? 

1 Tim. 3 uses the same phrase for deacons: "And let these first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are _beyond reproach_." (10 NAS; emphasis mine) This seems to indicate that a time of _testing_ should precede any determination of whether a person is "above reproach".

The specific areas of testing follow. First, the overseer must be "the husband of one wife". There are several ideas as to what this might mean, but the most likely seems to be that the man may never have been divorced. The same expression is used of widows in 1 Tim. 5, and almost certainly means "never divorced", rather than "one husband at a time" there. This understanding seems supported by the prohibition of divorce and remarriage of those who have been divorced, but the permission of widows to remarry (1 Cor. 7). 

Next, a would-be overseer should "have children who believe".  If a man cannot manage his own house, how will he take care of the church of God (1 Tim. 3:5)? A man's children must not accurately be accused of wild, riotous, rebellious, or unruly behavior.

Negatively, the "overseer" must _not_ be self willed (lit. "self pleasing"), "quick tempered" ("soon angry"), "addicted to wine" (one who lingers beside wine), "pugnacious" ("contentious", one who strikes out with the fists), or "greedy". 

Positively, the overseer should be "hospitable" ("friendly to strangers"), "loving what is good" (lit. "friend" of or "friendly" toward good people and things), "sensible" (from "sozo" ["safe, "reigned in", or "salvation"], and ""phren" ["the middle" or "mind"], meaning "to reign in the middle or mind", or "salvation minded"), "just" (can mean to be or show oneself to be right), "devout" (consecrated to God, separated from sin), and "self-controlled" (lit. "in" "power", or control of one's self). 

It is also important that the overseer hold fast to sound doctrine (9). The reason is because Scripture is the agent both for exhorting believers in the way they should walk, and for refuting (convincing of sin or error) those who contradict. This is important, because there is a temptation, today, when guarding the faith, to study error.  Reasonable and popular as this idea is becoming, it goes contrary to numerous specific instructions in the pastoral epistles. It is the study and preaching of the truth, and not of error, which enables one to refute false doctrine.

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