25 February 2009

Why He Left You

by Frank Turk

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
I know these posts have been uncharacteristically-brief for me, but I don't want anyone accusing me of mericlessly beating any pastor over what they ought to be as they shepherd God's people. But I do want to make something absolutely clear: if you're a pastor, Paul here is telling Titus that he's not allowed to invent the position the way he thinks it ought to be executed.

Really: it's not up to you. I was listening to Matt Chandler preach one via podcast, and he made the wholly-sound point that, all told, I am stupid, and you are stupid -- that if we look back a decade or a year or even a couple of months, we can see how incomplete (to say the least) our wisdom and cleverness really is. And that doesn't get remedied by having a group of us get together: it gets worse.

So what we have to do is find some source of wisdom which, frankly, has already stood the test of time and, at its root, has a truly-wise source. So we turn to scripture for wisdom as Christians because it is all that.

But if this is true, the definition of being whatever it is we say we are in Christ had better come from Scripture. So as a pastor, one ought to have the obligation of doing that personally before he starts up with the rest.

Hence: Paul says to Titus, "This is why I left you in Crete."

You want to know why Paul sent Titus or Timothy to some place? Well, here it is. And if you're like them -- and we shall see in short order that you ought to be, brother pastor -- you should consider that this is why you are left in your local church.

We have covered the obligations of your congregation well enough that it can be said somewhat humbly that nobody is saying the whole burden of the local church is on you, dear pastor. But let's be clear: there is a burden on you, a task laid out. It would be well-considered of you to make sure you're doing that.


Benjamin Nitu said...

Left behind! This time is a good thing :)

Frank Turk said...

Indeed. That's what I should have called this post.

olan strickland said...

Paul here is telling Titus that he's not allowed to invent the position the way he thinks it ought to be executed.

Really: it's not up to you.

Amen Frank! "Trust in the Lord with all your heart [that's faith] and do not lean on your own understanding [if you do it is flesh]" (Proverbs 3:5).

Johnny Dialectic said...

It always comes back, and down, to "sound doctrine," doesn't it?

Strong Tower said...

Well, I think it is horrible to advocate child abandonment. Leaving a child alone to set things in order by himself, well that just.... abuse. And worse yet, the onliest thing he knows is what he has been told by the person who is now gonna just dump the whole household business on him. Should we expect him to not stray from the manual. Now wonder children reach out to strangers. The world cares more for its own than the church.

Christiant2.0 said...

I really enjoyed that sermon as well.


EGC said...

Great post, Cent! Put your finger right on the problem that is present in so many churches today.

How hard is it to just do what it says in the Book?

(my verification word is "iringlet", is that Apple's new mp3 playing ring? Pec, could you check the Applestore for me?)

Strong Tower said...

Sure Frank, you just sucked us into Chandlerism. Nice work! And all the dead people said Amen.


Book, what book?

Sir Brass said...

Good post, Frank.

Strong Tower, I can't tell if you're being sarcastic (in mockery of those who would object to this post) or actually offended. I'm leaning toward the former rather than the latter, though; and in that sense: I like it.

Strong Tower said...

Other than the problem that Centuri0n has by associating himself with the truth, no problem.

Frank knows that when I am off my medications I tend to wobble. This post was like a shot in the arm.

Wow, waz that...

We've got the Book and along with DJP's recent posts, there are somethings that we just don't (shouldn't) need to argue about. Some doze tings are stated clearly enough, and if we trust that the writers were at least as lucid as we (the rest of you) are, then we've begun to get on with setting things in order. If not, then perhaps we need that someone teach us again the elementary things concerning Christ, hmmm?

All that I was saying is yay!

You see we have this problem:

Pastor: "May I help you?"

Baab: "I don't know what to do."

Pastor: "Read your Bible and pray."

Baab: "But, I don't know what to do."

Pastor: "Read your Bible and pray."

Baab: "But, I don't know what to do."

Now, there is more to it than that, but, we have around us a culture that is expecting that we have more answers than are contained in the Word of God. Really we don't. We might say it differently, we might even give timely advice about life questions, but when it really comes down to it, our guide is the Word of God, and really all that we are telling the flock is "Read and pray." It is the Word, Jesus said, that is the sanctifier as empowered by the Spirit. "You are clean because of the words I speak to you." It is the Word that equips us to discern between good and evil.

Now as a church, whether leaders or followers, our only rule of practice and doctrine is the Word. This which I recieved from Christ, is what I have given to you. Stand in it. And Paul to both Tim and Tite commended to them the ministry of reconciliation by instructing them to appoint men who: "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

Simply, but yes, not so simply, "Read the Bible and pray." What more do we have to give but the words of life contained in it and to pray to the one who alone has the words of life?

See, what those who ask the question want to know is how we are who we are. They are asking how they might be like us. We do not promote ourselves. All of our answers are freely given and all have access to that one Spirit of grace found in Christ Jesus, the living Word of God and he is the image that we are to direct them to because it is the pattern that we are being crafted after.

So I hear Cent echoing the call to follow the pattern that was set. Why? Because Paul said so. Nuff said.

A recent post at Two Worlds Collide (warning it is an SBC Calvinist site) speaks of the necessity to prepare for death. Well, when we do that we are not just preparing ourselves, but those around us. "Set your house in order for you will surely die" is almost the same as "Put on the whole armor of God so that in the Day...".

It is not about us. A tired refrain, but one which never wears out. So is: A wise man leaves an inheritance to his children's children.

Before Cent chastises me for verbosity, tata...

David Rudd said...

Frank, I hesitate to ask this because:

A) I'm enjoying this series
B) I agree with the big idea of this post (the pastor doesn't write his own job description
C) My tolerant views toward an unnamed group of people leave me a bit scarlet-lettered in these parts.

But... you write:

Paul here is telling Titus that he's not allowed to invent the position the way he thinks it ought to be executed.

is he?

it looks more to me like he's giving a check-list, and that's the reason he left him in Crete. It seems that the character of an overseer would be the same no matter where He was left...

I know I'm quibbling at a small thing, I'm just not sure it's a great hermeneutic practice to draw the principle you're drawing from the particular phrase you're drawing it from?

Maybe a longer post would've been more useful in clearing this up?

I welcome clarification...

Frank Turk said...

The clarification:

If all Paul was saying to Titus in this letter was, "Dude: I left you in Crete to appoint some elders because they need some leadership," yeah maybe -- maybe Paul was only giving Titus a temp assignment.

The problem is that Paul is telling Titus to set things in order -- and as we read the rest of this letter, we're going to find he was setting things up for the long term.

Titus was not going to be interim pastor: he was going to take the church @ Crete and reform it top to bottom -- which is why this letter, and the letters to Timothy, are so hugely valuable to us.

The reform that Paul sent Titus to make is the job of the pastor -- the lead elder if you prefer different words; the teaching pastor. It is somewhat, um, underdeveloped to think that somehow the church at Crete was good, got infected with something bad, and then got reformed by Titus and Titus went home.

The church @ Crete is just like your church. It is just like it. If that's OK with the pastor there, well, who can change his mind really? I mean: if Scripture couldn't inform him the first time, why do we think it can reform him later?

The church @ Crete is just like your church. I suggest that it then needs someone like Titus -- and there is no office above pastor/elder/overseer to deal with the problem.

Strong Tower said...

"and as we read the rest of this letter, we're going to find he was setting things up for the long term"

Yep. But, that means long term committments, heart aches, living, dying, adolescence, diaper changes, Al Gore, and economic boondogle, and stuff that long term family life is all about...


David Rudd said...


i can buy that mostly...

maybe you could continue lengthening your post by commenting on two more thoughts:

1. I don't think you're saying "the things that needed setting order in Crete are the precise things that needed setting order in every church now". Right? You're saying it's the role of "order-setter" that is the same today, and the "things that are wanting" may be specifically different, but will have some degree of transfer in the rest of the epistle? Or am I missing you?

2. How do you rectify the "elders in every town" issue? It seems that Titus was appointed to something bigger than a local pastor. Like maybe he was an Island Bishop or something? How does that inform the degree to which you transfer pastoral principles, if at all? (I've been waiting for the right time to ask this question, and it seems since we're on "job description" now is good.)

Frank Turk said...


on [1], have you read this whole letter? My suggestion is that if you have, it seems you need to read it again. Paul names specific duties for Titus which are not "to do" items, but more like "goal setting" items.

on [2], I think your view of the local church could use a third read of this letter. Let's assume for a moment that Paul is making Titus a "bishop" -- a guy in hierarchical structure over little local corporations. What is the purpose of an "elder"? How does Paul describe that both here and in the letters to Timothy?

See: it seems to me that these letters get at the point that the job of the elder/pastor is not merely being the spiritual janitor for Christians, and also not someone who is above the fray of the Christian life. It seems his point is that a pastor is ultimately (and we haven't covered this part yet, so let's admit we haven't covered it in the 9 verse of Titus we have poked at so far) is trying to make more pastors. It can't be everyone (not all are gifted), but the process which renders more pastors renders the church itself full of mature believers. In the way Paul "made" Titus, Titus must make others like himself -- who can do the things Paul lists for Titus to do in Crete.

EGC said...

David -- On your point #2: It seems that neither Titus nor Timothy were acting as elders, but were instead acting as Paul's representatives, and, as such, were exercising Paul's Apostolic authority. The Apostles did have authority over the elders. Since I believe that the office of Apostle ceased with the death of John, that leaves the elder as the highest office in the church today.

As to "elders in every town" -- Paul warned (Acts 20:30) that false teachers would come. If the elders did their jobs, the false teachers would be put out of the church, but nothing was stopping them from opening the First Heretical Church across town.

Then divisions occurred over non-essentials, and so on, and so forth...

Frank Turk said...

EGC --

I have a suspicion that if you read Titus & Timothy more closely, you will find that authority comes not from "apostle" but from "scripture" -- that is, from what God has given to the man of God to equip for every good work.

EGC said...

Cent --

Yes, good point. Elders appoint men who meet the scriptural standards to the office of elder. Agree. Strongly.

But, were Timothy and Titus elders, or were they Paul's agents? I see them as acting on Paul's behalf in instructing and training the elders. Of course, they were using Paul's inspired words of scripture as the basis for that instruction and training...

Yup, you're right :-)

David Rudd said...


I concur. I see a distinction in roles between what Titus was "left to do" and what the modern day local pastor/elder is "left to do".

it's a very minor distinction, but i think it's there...

i've even read Titus a couple times!

Frank Turk said...

EGC --

I think we can discount the interpretation that Timothy & Titus had to receive these letters as Scripture and still wind up with a very powerful case that Paul intended them to have authority based on their alignment and agreement with Scripture.

Consider these passages:

Titus 1:9
Titus 2:11-14
2 Tim 1:8
2 Tim 2:8-9
2 Tim 2:15
2 Tim 2:19
2 Tim 3:14-16

donsands said...

"..one will be taken and the other left."

I know this verse doesn't fit, but it just came to mind.

"..his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery.."
This is a difficult requirement I thought. Could we expound on this a bit?

EGC said...

Cent --

I’m hearing you are say that Paul mentored, worked with, and utilized Timothy and Titus because God had called, elected, & equipped them for the work of the ministry -- And that what Paul recognized in them were the same criteria that he told them to look for in other men to appoint them as elders (the same criteria that we are to use in choosing elders today) -- And that all of the things that Paul instructed them to do are the same things that all elders are instructed to do. Am I right?

Yes, I can see that. I had always seen them as having a trump card to play in elder board meetings… Hm… Thanks, I love it when something becomes clear :-)

Stefan said...

This is not to muddy the waters and in no way meant to disagree with anyone else's comments here, but just a sidebar on the question of the sometimes-overlapping offices of apostle, preacher, and elder.

Looking at Peter, in addition to being an apostle, he was also an elder in his local congregation:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed, shepherd [pastor, in a teaching or non-teaching capacity] the flock of God that is among you... (1 Peter 5:1-2a).

In this passage, Peter was not invoking his authority as an apostle (at least not explicitly)—although I suppose he could have had every right to do so—but rather "as a fellow elder," and from his being "a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (which is poignant, when you consider what he was doing that night...).

Just a sidebar....

EGC said...

Stephen --

{Joke mode} Maybe by that point, Peter had retired from being an apostle, and had taken the job of elder just to keep his hand in it. You know, like a retired cop taking a job as a security guard... :-){/joke mode}

Pastor = Elder = Overseer, the terms are used interchangably. It does seem that the apostles also functioned as elders. Something like "all apostles are elders, but all elders are not apostles."

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I think I just found the text for my next chapel message.

Frank Turk said...

It's a brilliant text from which to preach to seminary students.

Tim Bushong said...

Another aspect of "setting things in order" is found in chapter 2. I remember hearing John MacArthur quip that merely reading (in contrast to a full-blown exposition) Titus 2, especially vs's 3-5, would get you kicked out of most modern evangelical churches.

"...that the word of God may not be blasphemed."

Jugulum said...

I read the title, and assumed that the answer would be, "He's just not that into you."

DJP said...


It is a provocative title.