24 June 2009

Planted by

by Frank Turk

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.
If you recall, back when I started this series, I said this:
    So you're saying to yourself, "cent -- don't be like this. Pastors have it hard enough, and the people who go after them are worse than wicked." Oh wait -- no: most of you are saying something like, "I sure wish my pastor was reading this," or, "I sure hope my ex-pastor is reading this -- maybe it'll drive some sense into his fool head."
And for those of you who thought that, you were waiting for us to get to this part of Paul's letter so that we could get very serious and systematic about the sufficiency of Scripture and the need for expositional preaching.

Yeah, well, hold on a second: that's quite a mouthful there -- none of which I would deny in principle, but none of which I would actually endorse from this passage.

What this passage says is not that he will open a Bible (which they didn't actually have at that time -- no bound books, no printing press) and read out loud and then expound from it. It says first that he will "hold firm" to the trustworthy word as it was taught to him. That word there "ἀντεχόμενον" means to hold one's self up with, or to cleave to, or to pay special attention to another -- in this case, to the word which is itself trustworthy.

If you mull this over for a few hours, you'll find yourself seeing something here which you probably didn't expect: that what Paul is exhorting Titus to find is men who are informed by the word, not men who are particularly informative about the word. That is: when Paul gets to the "instruct and rebuke" part, it's not because Titus has found seminary graduates where there were no seminaries. It is because there are men there who have, in the end, listened to what the word teaches them, and they are made into something better for it.

So all this fruit of the spirit stuff -- the "blameless" stuff -- is one aspect of this kind of man, and the other is that he's not just a kind and generous soul but he is in fact made into a disciple by the word, therefore he is able to disciple and discipline others.

Yes: he prolly can open the word and teach from it. He prolly talks good. But that's not what Paul is getting at here. The man who is qualified to be an elder in the church is one who is cleaved to the word and listening to the word and standing up against the word -- and from that place, he can therefore tell others something they don't know, and turn away those who are doing themselves and others harm by their false teaching.

And this goes back to his character, dear pastor reader. You might say it this way: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the mockers -- because his delight is in YHVH's testimony, and on His word he meditates day and night. That man is like a tree planted by streams of water that bears fruit in season, and its leaves do not wither. All that he does will then prosper.

You might find another way to say it; I'm not sure it'd be better. But that's what the comments are for.


olan strickland said...

"How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 119:1).

Chad V. said...

"Paul is exhorting Titus to find is men who are informed by the word, not men who are particularly informative about the word."

That's a great distinction Frank, one a lot of people miss I think.

Paula said...

Our pastor shared recently that after 30-some years in ministry, his prep-time for sermons has changed. Whereas he used to spend 40 hours a week in Bible study, he now finds that he spends more and more of that time in prayer every week. He said he does that so "God can work on the man," which he considers vital to his pastoral and preaching duties.

It shows.

Gary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim W said...

Hi pyros, love the site. A couple of things come to mind:

1) The requirement that the worker is 'able to teach' (2 Tim 2:2,24) in its immediate context seems to back up your point. It is about Timothy appointing, and being, a faithful worker correcting and rebuking others in truth.

2) That said, I wonder whether the reason why the Pastorals are not specific about pastor/elders 'being informative about the word' is because ALL who are mature should be skilled in the word. After all, the immature are 'dull' and 'unskilled in the word of righteousness' (Heb 5:13). I take that the writer of Hebrews is referring specifically to the Old Testament scriptures(?).

in him

Joelle said...

Thanks for that. I'm a recent seminary grad who's been exposed to enough good preaching to be deeply affronted by poor preaching. Your essay was a great reminder to appreciate my pastor's godly character!

Frank Turk said...

Tim --

Let me first reiterate what I said in the post, which is, I would never deny that scripture is itself sufficient and that exposition is the best mode of preaching. Stephen's declaration before his stoning, and Peter on Pentecost, seem to me to be much more forceful and clear in exemplifying this matter than this passage of Titus.

HOWEVER, that's not what Paul is talking about here. It seems to me that Paul is here saying that when you're picking elders, Titus, what you want to do is to pick the men who are already good at this stuff so that they can therefore make others like themselves.

Think of it this way: because my son enjoys baseball, I love baseball -- I love to watch him play, and to watch him go from the scared-excited way kids start playing to some small level of confidence that the ball is not going to blast them in the face but by Ripkin he's going to hit it to the fence (or ground it easily and throw it to first base). And I could probably explain baseball to you or to some kid who wanted to play.

But you should not want me to coach your kids' team. I have head-knowledge of the sport, and maybe fan-knowledge of why I like the game, but I have never played. I'm not a player. Baseball has not actually informed me in any meaningful way except to kill a couple of hot hours twice a week each Spring.

Baseball has informed my friend Allen, who may be the best coach I know in regards to baseball for pre-teens. He can take any kid and teach him both the basics and how to actually love the game as a player. Allen should be a coach, and I should be his dug-out dad (as long as I stay out of the way).

I don't "hold fast" to baseball. It doesn't interest me that much, and frankly it has never changed me. And the longer I watch it, I only hope my son is enjoying himself. And that we can win some games.

So for me to give lectures about baseball is, at best, self-congratulatory. I may enjoy talking about baseball, but I am not a player or a coach. I could volunteer for those things, but I'd prove what a mistake that was straight out of the gate. So my lectures would not be informed by baseball: they would be informed by my appreciation of my son's involvement.

My friend Allen is totally qualified to lecture on baseball -- and when we talk about it, I can always tell when I have stepped over the line beyond my grade-school understanding of what's what.

For those of you reading who are tracking this analogy: everyone can tell when you do the same thing in striving to be an elder.

I'd say be informed by the word, and hold fast to it, and be changed by it, and then you're qualified to teach others about it. But if you're just a fan who likes to talk about this stuff, spare us.

Tim W said...


Being one who knows less than nothing about baseball, I don't think I even qualify to comment as a 'fan of baseball'(!)

Thanks for reiterating, I did get that message from your post and I agree. Yes, Titus should not be used as a proof text in support of expository teaching. Titus, as you pointed out, is a real challenge for teaching leaders to genuinely live doctrine. A book that really hammered the point for me was 'John Calvin: Devotion Doctrine Doxology'. And yes, pastor/elders need to be more than just knowledgeable.

Thanks for the post again, I've been encouraged. In him

olan strickland said...

"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel" (Ezra 7:10).

That's being more than just a fan who likes to talk about this stuff!

Frank Turk said...

Olan Strickland is now my #1 fan.

David said...


Your comment needs to be permanently attached to the post. It illustrates it completely.

We need pastors who have sat under their own teaching for awhile, and who are willing to continue to do so.

A book can explain a passage to me, but in the gospel, God's righteousness is revealed from faith to faith.

donsands said...

"..but by Ripkin he's going to hit it to the fence.."

You mean Ripken, as in Cal Ripken don't you?

Good teaching again Cent.
And good comments.

Titus is such a good book to study. Are you going to take us through the whole book? That'd be cool. Get a better context of all what paul is saying here.

Frank Turk said...

We are going to finish Titus eventually, and then go back to the two letters to Timothy to make sure we don't miss any of the good parts.

Andrew Faris said...


Another home run. Great stuff, brother- I'm really, really grateful for this post and this series in general.


Julius Mickel said...

May the Lord bless you for taking such a concern and I hope this will impact some people for good.

Here's a self-quote from a post i wrote just recently:

Unfortunately the 'path' to eldership in many churches seem to follow the pattern of worldly enterprises: rather then a fearful and diligent testing process regulated by the biblical qualifications, many get the 'job' because of:
Seniority (they were there in 'the beginning')
Friendship (they are buddies with the pastor or committee)
Special skill (despite their obvious disqualifications, they are incredibly skilled at something)
Family (they're family so they are 'in')
Popularity (lots of people love them and may be loyal to them)
Finances (they are big giver$)