We've now been introduced to Paul, the writer of this letter, as well as to Titus, its recipient. The instruction which Paul has for Titus begins right away, as we see immediately beginning in verse five...
Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern tip of Greece. In Paul's day, Crete had a real reputation. The people of the area had morally regressed so far that its reputation was really bad. Epimenides, a Cretan poet from the 6th century BC, wrote,
Titus 1:12 ..."Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
Certainly, the people of Crete were not known for honesty, integrity, hard work, or self-motivation!
You might think that being left in Crete would be a curse. But Paul had left Titus there not as punishment, but with an assignment. They'd come to Crete to preach the gospel. And when they did, many of the Cretans heard with faith. They believed in Jesus Christ for salvation, and were born again. But now a problem: Brand new baby Christians with no established churches to send them to. What to do? Leave a man to finish what'd been started. And as we saw last week, Titus was a finisher (2Cor. 8:6). That's the reason Titus remained.
The phrase "you would set in order" is one Greek word, "ep-ee-dee-or-THO-o," which literally means, "to put upon that which has arisen." Right now, our future church building has footers and a foundation. When the construction workers begin to assemble the building on top of it, they will be putting it on what has arisen, or "ep-ee-dee-or-THO-o." They will be building on the foundation that has been laid.
The job with which Titus was entrusted was a crucial one. The foundation of Christ had been laid, and now it needed to be built upon.
Paul told the Corinthians that this is a critical time in the church. He said,
1Cor. 3:9-10 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it...
The foundation was laid in Crete, as it was in Corinth. The gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached. But there was still a large construction project to complete. Not a church building in the physical sense, but building the church in a spiritual sense.
"Titus, you've got to carefully set things in order, and build quickly, because already the circumcision, the Judaizers, the false brethren are moving in and deceiving these new believers." How could Titus offer protection for these new believers, Jesus' little newborn lambs? By providing them with shepherds to feed protect them.
This was Titus' commission: appoint elders. Some might say, "How hard could that be? Put the names of everyone in a hat, pull out ten of them, and voila! you've got your elders!"
Others would say, "No, you can't just randomly pick them. The church needs to elect the elders democratically." But the process of appointing elders is neither random nor democratic. When people pick their leadership,
2Tim. 4:3-4 ...wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
As Americans, it is hard for us to accept a process that's not democratic. But no parent in their right mind would let their young child choose their own babysitter. You know better who will better care for your child, and you select the sitter. In the same way Titus was to appoint elders, not announce elections.
This is the same process Moses was told to follow. When the magnitude of Moses' ministry became too much, Moses told the Lord,
Num. 11:14 "I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me."
Num. 11:16-17 The LORD therefore said to Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it all alone."
When the ministry was too big, he was to choose men to multiply his ministry. Having the same spirit as their leader, they would essentially duplicate him to enable the ministry to enlarge.
Titus was to appoint these elders in the manner that Paul had directed him. It was not to be a popularity contest, or a few of Titus' favorite friends. These men had to be appointed as a result of prayer and fasting, to see who God was raising up. When Jesus appointed His apostles,
Luke 6:12-13 ...He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them...
When Paul appointed elders, he did so with prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).
This has to be done with all seriousness and reverence, because wrong choices are devastating to the church corporately, and the pastor personally.
Here at Calvary Chapel, we try to maintain a casual and comfortable atmosphere. But don't mistake that casual feeling for a casual approach to any part of the ministry. We make decisions, prepare messages, administer finances, formulate vision, and appoint leadership with all seriousness, reverence, and the fear of God.
You see, when Paul was telling Pastor Timothy about elders, he reminded him that there wouldn't just be elders who rule well and work hard, but there would also be those that would be accused and guilty of sin. He said to Timothy very seriously,
1Tim. 5:21-22 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others...
These appointments would have to be made as the result of prayer, fasting, and the men chosen must meet some very stringent guidelines, which will be outlined in the next few verses.