In our study of Titus chapter one, we look at the desired qualities of a leader in the local body of believers (church). This letter was sent to the pastor of the church at Crete in order to give him instructions about leaders and the church.
"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness -" NIV translation
Paul introduces himself and it is interesting to note that he uses "servant" and "apostle" at the same time. The actual word for servant here means bondslave and that describes one who was given their freedom but chose to make themselves a slave to the master that they love. Apostle is a position of authority that was given directly from Jesus Christ. We see from this introduction that the truth (gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace of God) leads to godliness.
"a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior," NIV translation
Everything boils down to our hope of eternal life with God. He promised that from the beginning (even for the Gentiles) and commanded Paul to share the gospel. This speaks to the fact that Paul was truly called to be an apostle and it was not a career move on his part. The problem today is that many leaders decide to make ministry a career instead of being called (and commanded) by God.
"To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." NIV translation
We see that the letter was addressed to Titus and Paul called him his "true son" as he had led him to faith in Jesus Christ. He had also trained him as they traveled sharing the gospel. In his common way, Paul greets him with "Grace and peace". It is interesting to note that he puts grace before peace and it is a reminder that the peace of God (salvation) is a gift from God.
"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." NIV translation
A group without leaders will soon descend into chaos. That is why Paul is instructing Titus to appoint elders. The word "appoint" here is better translated as ordain as they have a slightly different meaning. When we hear the word "appoint" we think of a manmade decision but when we hear "ordain" we understand that the decision (calling) was from God. Paul is, in fact, instructing him to look for those that God has called to be leaders and to publicly acknowledge their calling. In the "church" today, this is usually not the process as it is often an election where everyone votes on who they think should be an elder or often the title is given to anyone that is older and willing to take the title.
"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." NIV translation
Now, Paul gives Titus a list of qualities that an elder must have and the first is that he must be "blameless". Some have taken this to mean that everyone will hold him in high regard but that is not what Paul is saying. Paul is saying that, even if others make accusations against him, they are untrue. This is important to note because, if a man or woman is active in service to God, the enemy (Satan) will attack them and often it is through gossip and lies. The next quality is that the man should only have one wife. Many have misinterpreted this "husband of but one wife" to mean that divorce disqualifies the man from service as a leader but that is not what it is saying. It is talking about the practice of polygamy (having more than one wife at the same time) and that is not of God (see Genesis 2). The next qualification has to do with his children and the principle is very easy to understand. The man must be able to train up his own children in the ways of God. If he cannot teach his own children, he probably does not have the ability to teach believers in the church. It is very important to remember that God has to call people to service and, if He has, He will equip them. This list of qualifications does not depend on the efforts of man but on the work of God in their lives and the fruit that they bear. Paul was helping Titus to be able to spot those that God has called and equipped. It is also a reminder that no man made training program can create a leader for the church. It is very popular, today, to attend some leadership courses or college and magically come out a leader but that is not how God works. If He has called them, He will have equipped them with the gifts and talents that are required and no amount of training can do that.
"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." NIV translation
Now, Paul uses the word "overseer" and traditionally that title was "bishop" but really it is just someone that is put in charge much like the elder described above. We see, here, that they are meant to watch over God's work and so we might ask ourselves what that work is. As God is the Father of all who believe and a father's main responsibility is to raise up his children, we can logically say that the elders are charged with raising God's children. Because of that responsibility, they should exhibit some traits that will be a sign of their calling from God. The first list of traits had to do with his family relationship while this list shifts the focus to outside the natural family and to the family of believers. Once again, we see that, even if there is gossip or rumors of this type of misconduct, they will be not true.
"Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." NIV translation
God's church leaders can be spotted by the display of their love for others. We see, here, that Paul talks of their hospitality and that is a type of sacrificial giving to others. We should note that this giving should be out of their own pocket and not out of the "church funds". It is easy to be generous with someone else's things but a true leader will give out of their own wealth. We see that these leaders can be spotted by their sound doctrine which also means they must be spending time in prayer and the Word. They should already be doing this before they become leaders and not because some board or committee has selected them for a position.
"For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach - and that for the sake of dishonest gain." NIV translation
Paul shows us the importance of leaders understanding the gospel and being honest. The Judaizers were trying to put people back under the law so that they would receive the tithes and offerings required by the law. We know that, in doing this, they were causing people to fall from grace and turn back to works. The same type of thing is happening even more today because people started choosing church leaders and thinking that they could "train up" the next generation of leaders. There are all kinds of leadership courses and training programs for church leaders but they cannot compare to the work of God in the lives of men. We must get back to trusting God to prepare His leaders and letting Him point them out just as Paul was instructing Titus to do.
"Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.'" NIV translation
These deceivers were well known by their actions. This is a reminder to us that our actions are very important in demonstrating our faith. There are many who show up to a place of worship for an hour or so and then do whatever they want until the next time they have to show up. That is not faith but a modern form of legalism which is the same thing that Paul was dealing with here.
"This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth." NIV translation
Here, we see that a necessary leadership quality is the ability to correct people. We see Paul instruct Titus to "rebuke them sharply" speaking about those that were falling from grace by bringing legalism into the church. Legalism is so dangerous to the faith that it must be dealt with in this manner.
"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." NIV translation
Paul reminds us that our purification from sin comes through the blood of Jesus Christ and not by following the law as the Judaizers were trying to get them to believe. In speaking about the corruption of their minds and consciences, Paul is speaking about the fact that, if we try to add works to our salvation by grace, then, we no longer have grace. Not only are their minds corrupted by that way of thinking but it brings condemnation onto them through their conscience. We must remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (see Romans 8:1) and that condemnation is not from God.
"They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." NIV translation
The words may seem harsh but it is because of the seriousness of the issue. To know God we must know Jesus and what he has done for us. To try to add even a hint of legalism to His grace is, in fact, a denial of who He is and God's plan. A true leader must be led by God's Word and His Spirit not simply a follower of traditions or a set of rules.