Titus 1:4-9 Qualifications Of Elders/Bishops.

Like Timothy, Titus was a spiritual son to Paul. Together they engaged in missionary work on the island of Crete, where Paul left Titus to carry on the work, but Paul wanted Titus to bring this to a close and to move on. “Specifically, Paul wanted Titus to complete the organization of the churches (1:5-9), to deal with the false teachers who were present (1:10-14; 3:9-11), and to give instructions to the churches on proper conduct (2:1-3:8). When a replacement arrived, Titus was to meet Paul in Nicopolis (3:12)” (NGSB p.1925). Titus was a “true son” in their “common faith.” Titus had proven himself true in his time with Paul, and the faith they shared was a “common faith,” that is, it was a faith based on truth, therefore there were not many subjective definitions of this faith, but it was a faith they all held in common.

As was typical of Paul’s greetings, grace and mercy precede peace, all of which come “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior” (v. 4). As noted above, Titus was left in Crete so that he could “set in order the things that (were) lacking, and appoint elders in every city,” just as Paul had commanded him (v 5). It seems clear that Paul had in view all the assemblies which combined to be the entire church on the island of Crete. In effect, Paul wanted Titus to set up sessions of elders in all these assemblies which together would form a presbytery. This was one of the things he needed to “set in order.” He then tells Titus what is necessary for one to become an elder in Christ’s church. Firstly, they must be men who are blameless, that is, not open to accusations. Secondly, if married, they must be “the husband of one wife” (v. 6a).

A third thing, related as it is to the second point, if they have children, these children must not be “accused of dissipation or insubordination” (v. 6b). In other words, the condition of one’s immediate family has a direct bearing on the qualifications for being an elder. The fact that Paul again calls for blamelessness, does not mean sinless, but as not being open to the accusation of justifying godless behaviour. The fact that Paul also uses the word ‘bishop’ interchangeably with elder tells us that for him the words referred to the same persons, in this case the word ‘bishop’ referring more to their role as overseers. Elders or bishops must serve as “stewards of God.” As Paul mentioned in his initial greeting, they are bondservants or slaves of God, but also as stewards they are in charge of God’s possessions-in this case the church.

Paul first states what a bishop is not. “Not self-willed,” means not being selfish or self-centred, deciding for oneself what one will do. “Not quick tempered,” means holding one’s anger in check. “Not given to much wine,” means not being a drunkard, for it does not say not given to any wine. “Not violent,” means not giving physical expression to one’s anger. “Not greedy for money,” speaks for itself. A bishop must be content with having his needs met, if not his wants (v. 7). Instead, a bishop needs to be hospitable. Being “sober-minded” means being serious in one’s thought, not superficial or frivolous. Being ‘just’ means treating everyone the same. Being ‘holy’ means being set apart from the world in thought and deed. Being self-controlled sums up all the above-no one can do this for us, but God working in us (v. 8).

Bishops must hold fast, or hold securely and tightly, to “the faithful word as he has been taught” (v. 9a). Before a bishop or elder is qualified to teach, they must be those who have showed themselves willing to be taught from the word. Only those who have been thus taught are able to, “by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (v. 9b). The ministry of the word is always twofold. By sound doctrine the people of God are taught that which is right-this is exhortation. However, the faithful minister of the word must also convict those who have gone astray, such as the false insubordinate “teachers” that Paul will go on to expose (vv. 10ff.). These are people who openly contradict the truth, who must be rebuked lest they lead others astray.

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