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.
Yes: welcome back to Titus.
I think what I enjoy about this letter from Paul so much is that from Paul's perspective, this is simply a brief letter (~900 words in English -- about 2 pages single-spaced in WORD), and he writes it to Titus as if it's just the way things are or ought to be.
But when we read it here at the blog -- and think about this now: we're allegedly the conservative watch-bloggers, the ones that are all literalist, inerrantist, high-on-holiness, serious Christian men and women (especially pastors) -- it's full of controversy for us.
What? "Establish Elders"?
"Blameless"? You can't mean that Paul means "blameless" -- who but Christ is truly "blameless"?
"Husband"? But Timothy and Paul weren't themselves married -- you can't mean "husband".
I think reading this letter really dispels from us the idea that we're really all that biblically literate or full of the expectations Paul was full of -- because as we walk through what he wanted from Titus and for the Cretans, we find out that maybe we forgot to want these things for ourselves.
So we get to this clause here -- and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination -- and I think it's going to be a deal-breaker for many of you, for a variety of reasons. Because in the first place, Timothy and Paul didn't have any children, right? Because they didn't have children, and Paul tells Timothy not to let anyone despise him for his youth, what Paul says to Titus here must be mitigated in some way -- we think.
But here's the problem: there's a big difference between Paul, the messenger from Jesus to the Gentiles, who personally learned the Gospel from Jesus and who wrote inerrant Scripture, and us -- who are, well, just look at us. We're more like the church at Galatia and Corinth than we are like even Jonah or Peter.
So we have to admit something: Paul's ability to choose disciples and leaders in the church is probably different in a better way than our ability to do so. While he might be able to choose a Titus or a Timothy, our ability to do so is probably lacking in some way. If that’s the case, we should follow his instructions for us first before we start fishing for loopholes.
And in this particular instance, Mark Driscoll does say something useful for us to consider which is a practical example of what Paul is talking about here: his schtick is that a young guy who wants to argue about paedocommunion ought to be more concerned with getting a job, loving a wife, and having kids than he should be about whether a baby gets a sip of wine during worship.
That is: you need to be a little more informed about the world God made than a bookish knowledge of how the family works if you want to be an elder/pastor in God's church. You need to have lived the faith before you start theorizing about the faith.
Voddie Baucham makes a far more bold statement about this qualification for the elder: if your family is not in order, you should get out of the ministry. You are not qualified.
But Paul actually goes farther than that: he says that if one's children are "open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination", one is not qualified. That's the rub, isn't it? That Paul actually goes farther than we are comfortable with in his qualification of a man for leading the church than we do.
And again, some will say, "well, Paul didn't have any children." Yes: Paul was chosen by Christ. Unless you have had the Damascus road experience, abiding by the normal standards presented by Scripture seems like a more prudent course than being a closet continualist by suggesting that anyone today was "called" in the way Paul was "called". God uses all manner of men in His plan to redeem the world -- but for the leadership of the church, He (through Paul) has listed specifically that having children who are themselves believers is a criterion to be qualified.
But why? See: I know these posts have been brief in the beginning, but it's critical to see why Paul is handing Titus qualifications for elders here. In a culture like the Cretan culture (that is, like our culture), the church needs more than a good feeling about somebody.
Paul wants someone who understands this:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.and this:
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.In short, Paul sees the role of elders to be fathers in the faith in the same way husbands and fathers ought to behave in the family. Men who have already demonstrated the key attributed of pastoral ministry ought to be the ones teaching others.
And if you don’t get the implication here, let me say it plainly: the pastorate/eldership is not for guys who are still working out their issues. And by that I mean this: it’s one thing to put someone in charge of a little to see if he can be trusted with more, and another to entrust the spiritual well-being of a flock of believers to someone who, himself, cannot be trusted with his own charge in his family. It’s ironic that ultimately the Bible says that the family is where we test men to see if they are suitable pastors and elders – because in our way of thinking, the family is more precious than the assembled believers. But in God’s economy, the church is where you put experienced men, and the family is where they gain that experience. The family is the lesser thing where men are tested, and the church is the greater thing where those who are qualified should go.
Now, the last objection to this is a sensitive one: "cent: as a Dad, I did all that -- and my son (or daughter) decided to do what was right in his own eyes. I thought he was a Timothy, and he's a Demas -- or worse. It kills me -- I can't express what it is to be a father with a child who has fallen out of the faith. But as I read what you say Paul is saying here, should I step down as an elder? Are you saying my child has disqualified me?"
That's a great question, and I will take it up next week.