I. RECAP AND INTRODUCTION
The Bible’s idea of “The Good Life” is a life which is truly fulfilling for ourselves, productive for others, and glorifying to God. Titus is all about how we live the good life, powered by God’s grace, in three key areas:
HOME, CHURCH, WORLD.
In our first study, Sharon led us in Titus 1:1-4 where we see that Paul’s identity, writing, and teaching centres around God. His key concern for Titus and the church is the knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness. Do you remember her analogy? Sharon said, “Ask yourself, Am I a grace-tadpole? Am I immature, knowing some truth and getting a fat head, but not applying it so that it can empower me to live the Good Life and leap into the air like a frog? It is ‘knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness.’ We’re not doing all these things and getting to know the truth simply to have fat Bibles with loads of sticky notes in it.”
In tonight’s study, we are focusing on what knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness looks like for church communities. Let’s read the passage, Titus 1:5-16.
Paul outlines for Titus the task of stabilizing the churches by appointing godly elders (vv5-9) and silencing false teachers.(vv10-16) The apostle paints a graphic picture of both kinds
of leaders. His concern, in line with his calling, (v 1) is to establish godly leadership that will equip the whole church to grow to maturity. If we let the wrong people lead the church, it will be a disaster for everyone.
FLIP CHART QUESTION: What do you look for in a leader at Corsham Baptist Churches?
II. APPOINTING GODLY ELDERS- TITUS 1:5-9
V5 “Straighten out what was left unfinished.” In other words, Titus’ task was to stabilize and regulate the life of the church. How? To appoint elders in every town. Paul’s central concern was for Titus to identify good disciples who will in turn make more good disciples. That’s why the focus is on godly character rather than a programme or structure. Elders will be those whose character and love for God is evident. Elders are shepherds under our Shepherd King, Christ: to silence(v11), rebuke sharply(v13), teach (2:v1,2,3,9,15), encourage (v6,15), and rebuke(v15), remind(3:1), and warn(v10). “A loving leader will put your eternal destiny before your present comfort” (Tim Chester). Which certainly makes the life of the church counter-cultural! Yet really the idea is a simple one: elders are to be the loving parents of the church family, and like all good parents, they have to think of the long-term benefit of those for whom they are responsible.
So as leaders in God’s family, elders should have demonstrated an ability to lead a family well. V6 Elders must be blameless in their marriage and family life. Blameless doesn’t mean faultless, flawless, or perfect. Rather, it is someone whom is above reproach, a man of integrity and consistency, both at home and at church. A potential elder should be in a strong marriage, committed and caring for his wife and whose children reflect a home life of Christian faith. The point here in verse 6 is that a potential elder must already be leading well in the home. For as verse 7 goes on to say ‘An overseer (elder) manages God’s household.’ Tim Chester: “The way a man leads his own family will tell you a lot how he will lead God’s family, the church.” .
V7-8 Elders must be blameless in their overall character. Once again, this does not mean without fault! Paul lists five characteristics to avoid (read … clearly a family led by someone who is any or all of those things will be neither happy nor healthy – we’ve all seen plenty of examples of that!). And then Paul goes on to list six positive characteristics in verse 8 (read … a household led in those ways is blessed indeed). Paul is not talking about gifts or skills here….but godly character.
V9 Elders must hold firmly to the trustworthy message (the truth of the gospel) as it has been taught (the word of God), so that they can encourage others by sound doctrine (truth) and refute those who oppose it. This is the heart of our study tonight.
And this not only holds for elders but for us all. There’s only one road for following Jesus, and we’re all on it! Elders are not called to be a different kind of Christian, simply to have travelled further along the Christian road and to have gained a greater degree of experience and maturity. But none of us are fully like Jesus yet, and all of us are prone to wander. Our selfish desires if left unchecked, will lead us to wrong beliefs and wrong actions (1Timothy 6:3-10).
That’s why Paul insists first that elders are to be disciples shaped by the gospel (v.6-8), and then goes on to say that they are to make disciples by that same gospel (v.9).
It is important to note that Paul is not just writing to leaders as we will see in later studies this year. He is writing to the whole of the church. Most Christians will never serve as elders, but the character required of an elder reflects the spiritual maturity to which every Christian is called.
PAIRS QUESTION: IN LIGHT OF TITUS 1:5-9, HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR OUR CHURCH LEADERS? HOW SHOULD WE PRAY FOR OURSELVES?
III. SILENCE FALSE TEACHERS- TITUS 1:10-16
Titus’ first task was to appoint the right kind of leaders: godly elders who know “the knowledge of the truth which leads to godliness.” We’ve considered the principles for elders to manage God’s household for the good of the church; to give stability that is the fruit of the church being led in godly ways. In this next passage we consider Titus’ second task: to guard the church against the wrong kind of leaders who will lead God’s household astray. Already these young congregations were falling prey to false teachers who were causing disruption and damage.
QUESTION IN PAIRS-Let’s read Titus 1:10-14 and 1 Timothy 1:3-10 and determine the following in pairs:
How does Paul identify false teachers? (Rebellious, mere talkers, deceivers, ruining whole house holds, teaching untruth, wrong motives-dishonest gain, liars, evil brutes, lazy obsessed with Jewish myths and genealogies, reject the truth.)
What does Paul exhort Titus to do in v11?
(Paul exhorts Titus to silence them because they are ruining whole households due to their growing influence. Even worse, their heart’s motive is to benefit or profit themselves through financial gain, self worth, ego…)
Paul goes on to draw attention to their reputation where he says in v12-13“Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’” (quoting the Cretan philosopher Epimenides – that’s how he summed up his own culture). Paul says this is true. But at the same time, we need to remind ourselves that Paul preached the gospel which changes lives. As Sharon taught us last month, some Cretans came to believe the gospel and were filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The elders whom Titus should appoint are converted people, Spirit-filled Cretans and teachers of the gospel truth. In short, what Paul is saying is: the leaders needed by these churches are Cretans who are becoming like Jesus, NOT Cretans whose lives are not being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Do NOT place unconverted people or grossly immature Christians in positions of leadership in the church. If you do, there’ll be chaos and disorder, and little gospel light shining into the world. And that’s a lesson needed by churches in Britain as much as in Crete. The church in the UK (and USA)has been greatly weakened throughout the centuries whenever its leaders have sounded more like British/American culture than like Christ. So this is Paul’s warning: don’t let the wrong people into positions of leadership and influence in the church, or there’ll be all manner of bad fruit!
Paul exposes the fundamental errors of these false teachers in these last few verses.
V 14 Follow human commands who reject the truth of God. In John Stott’s words, “forsake divine revelation for human opinions.”
V15 False understanding of purity. These false teachers prize external and ritual purity instead of true purity which is internal and moral. What they believe and what they feel able to do are corrupted.
V16 They claim they know God, but their actions deny God. John Stott: “Ritual without reality, form without power, claims without character, and faith without works.”
This is the epitome of the Pharisaical religion of “outside in.” The gospel turns it the other way around! The true Christian is counter-cultural in terms of values and priorities. But abstaining from God’s provision is just as sinful as abusing God’s provision.
To conclude then, good leadership is godly leadership – and godly leadership means leaders whose lives reflect Jesus more and more. Only leaders who are clearly following Jesus can help others do the same.
But let’s watch out – because there will always be plenty of people who desire positions of leadership and influence for selfish reasons rather than gospel reasons. People who want to promote themselves rather than Christ; people who want their own followers, rather than to point people to Jesus.
And Paul’s message is: IF YOU WANT A HEALTHY CHURCH, YOU NEED GOSPEL-CENTRED LEADERS!
QUESTION: What is your responsibility for ensuring that CBC has godly leaders?