Online Bible Commentary
Hold Firmly to the Trustworthy Message
Titus 1:5 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. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to Titus, who was helping to organize the new churches on the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean. After Paul’s two year house arrest in Rome, he and Titus traveled to Crete and evangelized several towns. Paul then left Titus there to complete the organization of churches. This letter was written about 64 A.D. from the city of Nicopolis, Greece. The letter was written at about the same time as Paul wrote 1Timothy. This book is one of the three pastoral epistles of Paul. 1 and 2 Timothy are the other two.
Titus was a Gentile from Macedonia. He was led to Christ by Paul. He was a travelling companion of Paul’s at times, as they went about their missionary work. Paul wrote this letter to Titus to help him with the organization of churches in Crete. Titus was being confronted by some of the Jewish Christians who wanted to enforce some of the Jewish religious traditions, such as circumcision.
Paul begins the letter by stating the purpose of Titus’ mission. He is to “straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town” (v. 5). He then states the qualifications for an elder. An elder was an overseer of the church. Elders were the leaders in the church, doing the work of pastors. Paul also gave similar instructions to Timothy in his first letter to him. In this letter to Titus, Paul seems more organized in his presentation of these qualifications, as if the letter to Timothy preceded the one to Titus. Paul gave the same basic fifteen qualifications to each. The fifteen qualifications include four household qualifications, five vices to avoid, and six virtues to exhibit.
The four household qualifications are to be blameless, to have only one wife, to be a man, and to manage his household (v. 6). The word “blameless” means to be free from accusation. These are men who are well respected, with good reputations. They are to be “the husband of but one wife”. Since Paul uses the term “husband”, and then specifies “a man”, it is required that the role of an elder, or pastor, is to be filled only by men. These men, if they are married, are not to have more than “one wife”. Polygamy still existed in the culture at the time. The elder also was to maintain control over the children that still lived under his roof. They were not to be “wild and disobedient”.
Paul then expands on what he meant by blameless by citing five specific vices to avoid. (v.7a). Since elders are “entrusted with God’s work”, they are not to be “overbearing”, “quick-tempered”, “given over to drunkenness”, “violent”, or “pursuing dishonest gain” (v. 7b). They are to be men of good repute.
The six virtues elders must exhibit are to be “hospitable”, to love “what is good”, to be “self-controlled”, to be “upright”, to be “holy” and to be “disciplined” (v. 8). To be “upright” is a duty toward men, while to be “holy” is a duty toward God.
Paul concludes this passage with a charge to the elders. Above all, they must “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught” (v. 9a). The purpose for this is two-fold: to “encourage”, or exhort, the church members according to “sound doctrine”; and to “refute those who oppose it” (v. 9b). Titus, like Timothy in Ephesus, is being opposed by false teachers already. Paul wants to make sure that the new elders do not spread false teaching, as did the established elders in Ephesus. He wants to get it right this time. Not only does he want them not to spread false teaching, but he also wants them to be able to successfully refute such false teaching through the use of proper doctrine.
Christian churches and pastors today are held to the same charge Paul gave to the New Testament churches through this letter. They must “hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught”. The Bible has taught the same “trustworthy message” for 2000 years. But we have a new generation of churches and pastors that have chosen not to follow this message. They have decided that women can be pastors and that sin can be a fabric of the church, through the acceptance as church members, and leaders, of those who have not repented of the sin of a homosexual lifestyle. They flaunt their own message, over the trustworthy message, in these and in other ways. Paul, and God, calls for their message to be refuted. It is our charge. We must hold firmly to the trustworthy message.