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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Paul's Letter to Titus (Or, Are you qualified to Handle the Word of God?)

Who was Titus and why did Paul trust him enough to pass on to him probably one of the most important instructions concerning the criteria to be an “elder with the responsibility of training disciples” in order to build a strong foundation in that local church?

Although not mentioned in the Acts of the ApostlesTitus was noted in Galatians (cf. Gal. 2:1, 3) where Paul wrote of journeying to Jerusalem with Barnabas, accompanied by Titus. He was then dispatched to Corinth, Greece, where he successfully reconciled the Christian community there with Paul, its founder. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church, although he soon went to Dalmatia (now Croatia).

According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History, he served as the first bishop of Crete. He was buried in Cortyna (Gortyna), Crete; his head was later removed to Venice during the invasion of Crete by the Saracens in 832 and was enshrined in St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy. It is obvious by Titus’ ability to “reconcile” a group of believers, and then later to organize the first church in Crete that he was highly qualified not only to be an elder, but to recruit and train disciples to be elders as well. Titus is a great example of what we read in 1Timothy 5:17-18: About Honoring Elders:

17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. 18For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."…(1 Timothy 5:17-18)”

Unfortunately we see very little of this honor being displayed on the Internet Church, as opposed to the myriad of loose cannons and self-anointed charlatans that surface on Facebook daily. Sadly, there is no accountability whatsoever (if we are to judge by Bible standards) with the credibility required by scripture of the many who have formed their own church, radio show or blogs on the Internet, shy of their proclamation that “the Lord told me,” or the “Holy Spirit” confirmed my ministry. If these individuals were to pass through the scriptural gauntlet of the original Apostles, they would end up with more rolled-up parchment welts on their hearts and souls than any true blessings from God.

Following is the letter that Paul sent Titus. We won’t examine each of the criteria (failing one alone is sufficiently burdensome to eliminate them from consideration) but these ersatz "men of God" are loose and troublesome and alive and well on the world, wide web:
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- 
2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 
3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, 
4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 
6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 
7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 
8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 
9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 
10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 
11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 
12 Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." 
13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 
14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 
15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 
16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good, (Titus 1:1-16).”

Phew!
Do you know of any individuals on the Internet who would qualify to be an “elder” among the brethren, much less in your local church? If we were to judge any self-anointed preachers and teachers on the Internet, would he or she pass the criteria that Paul required from Titus to teach and train others for the glory of God and the church of Jesus Christ?

I know I don’t qualify, therefore I can only claim to be a disciple who is willing to share the word of God with others, and also to learn from you!

For more information about the author and his books, web sites and blogs, please click on Joe Ortiz
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