part 3

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Take a look at a nation that is at its worst:

Crete satellite photo The People on Crete are Cretans
You may assume that this is our USA, but I assure you that this is civilization on the island of Crete about 2,000 years ago. Despite the fact that there are disturbing parallels, the reputation of Crete in the first century was worse than our greatest concerns for our own nation.

  1. Crete had a reputation of immorality, dishonesty and greed. Ancient writers often spoke of the decline of a once great civilization. By the first century, the island nation of Crete had become known as a degenerate, backwater cesspool of warped virtues. What was once the inspiration for Utopia and Atlantis, had become the scorn of the rest of the world.

  2. Imagine having the task to bring the gospel to such a land. Imagine how you would begin to teach and encourage the believers who had to live in such an anti-culture. As if all of that weren’t enough of a problem, there were also troublemakers in the church that were causing divisions.

  3. So Paul is writing to suggest that Titus spend his time doing something different. Paul left Titus on Crete to straighten out what was unfinished. That included empowering positive leadership. And we get the sense from all of Paul’s letter that he thinks it would be better for Titus to build up the positive leadership rather than try to hopelessly bring down the negative leaders (because they just keep coming back like termites).

Titus’ Unfinished Business
Paul may have worked with the church in Crete, may have even helped establish it there, when he was there before his shipwreck in Malta. Acts 27 mentions how Paul was a prisoner being taken to Rome for trial. It makes sense that Paul, as a prisoner, would have limited time to help nurture the faithful on Crete. But he might have taken an interest in their growth and thus sent his associates, like Titus, to work with the believers in a culture that was very hostile to the virtues of faith. Paul’s strategy for Titus, his unfinished business, was to ...

  1. Appoint elders in every town. (1:5) There needed to be someone in that culture who could demonstrate what godly living was all about.
  2. Someone who is blameless. (1:6) Here’s the generic virtue. A blameless man isn’t a perfect man, but a man who lives in such a way that no sustainable charge can be lodged against him. [In our political atmosphere, we often want to think about background checks and sins of the past. The quality of blamelessness is a present quality. Consider Peter: He denied Christ but he was considered an elder (1 Peter 5).] Paul is reminding Titus of the type of character an elder should have. So when he says that he must be a one-woman man, he means that the man has to demonstrate fidelity to his wife. Remember how loose morals are on Crete. When he notes that the man must have faithful children who aren’t open to charges of being wild and disobedient, he proposes this as a check of the man’s ability to form character in others. It’s basic to shepherding because ...
  3. An overseer must be blameless as the steward of “God’s house.” (1:7) Titus won’t be on Crete forever. If he spends all his time combating the troublemakers then there may be balance as long as he’s there. But what happens once Titus leaves? There’s an old saying that the best way to keep weeds out of your yard is to grow healthy grass. The elder is the steward and caretaker of the household of God. If he is blameless, then he models the virtues of Christ that need to be nurtured in all the faithful. When you look at this comparison of what an elder must be and must not be, consider that there’s not really anything in this that any of us can ignore in our own development of character: Not arrogant, not inclined to anger (short-tempered), not a drunkard, not belligerent, not greedy for money; rather hospitable, loving the good, self-controlled, righteous, devout, disciplined.

A Good Grasp on the Gospel (1:9)
The qualities mentioned are very basic. They also respond to the situation on Crete, as the people of that culture were reputed for being contentious, abusive, drunkards, excessive and greedy. Paul describes one more quality that is important for the on-going task of being an overseer. The man needs to have a good grasp on the gospel. He needs to have an integrity and depth in his understanding and use of the teaching that was passed on to him. Why? For two important, yet related, reasons ...

  1. So he will be able to encourage others with healthy teaching. We often translate the phrase as sound doctrine. The word we translate sound is the same word that gives us hygiene. Paul suggests that the teaching of the gospel is not just right, but it is good for us. He wants Titus and these overseers to stress the “things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (3:8) That’s healthy teaching.
  2. So he will be able to correct antagonists. (See Titus 1:16; 3:10-11.) Likewise, the faithful model of these elders will stand in opposition to the troublemakers and their unhealthy teaching. The only result of their defiant and deceptive approach is to ruin households and line their own pockets. Yet, the example and the teaching of these godly men may actually serve to correct some of these troublemakers. Here’s the goodness of the gospel: It forms in us the character and concern even for those who would become our opponents. The gospel isn’t a weapon for their destruction rather it is an invitation to healthy living.

Teach Us How To Live

  1. Avoid controversies, arguments and quarrels (3:9).

  2. Sound doctrine is healthy teaching (2:11-15)

  3. Elders live out healthy teaching and thus teach us how to live. (2:1-6)

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 January 2007

Like a Shepherd Lead Us
“Teach Us How To Live”
January 21, 2007

The People on Crete are Cretans

  1. Crete had a reputation of i___________, d___________, and g_________.

  2. T_________________ in the church are causing d_______________.

  3. Paul left Titus on Crete to s_________   ______ what was unfinished.
Titus’ Unfinished Business
  1. Appoint e_____________ in every town. (1:5)

  2. Someone who is b_________________. (1:6)

  3. An overseer must be b________________ as the s_____________ of “God’s house.” (1:7)
A Good Grasp on the Gospel (1:9)
  1. So he will be able to e__________________ others with h_________   ______________.

  2. So he will be able to c_____________ antagonists. (See Titus 1:16; 3:10-11)
Teach Us How To Live
  1. Avoid c_______________, a______________, and q______________. (3:9)

  2. Sound doctrine is h________________ t______________. (2:11-15)

  3. Elders l_____   _______ h___________ t____________ and thus teach us how to live. (2:1-6)

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 January 2007

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin