A Letter to a Trusted Friend
The book of Titus was originally written as a letter from the Apostle Paul to Titus, his trusted friend and son in the faith, whom he left on the island of Crete to continue the ministry they had probably started together after the events of Acts 28.
Many scholars assume Paul was released from the imprisonment in Rome in Acts 28, went on another missionary journey (during which he visited Crete and wrote 1 Timothy and Titus), and was imprisoned again in Rome, where he was ultimately martyred.
This letter to Titus was included in the canon (the collection of writings the early church accepted as inspired by God) and in what we know as the Bible. It is commonly referred to as one of three “pastoral epistles (letters).” Titus, along with First and Second Timothy, were written by Paul to these two men as encouragement and instructions in how to lead the churches he had left them to oversee.
Interestingly, neither Titus or Timothy were pastors of these churches in the sense we think of pastors today. They were actually more itinerant leaders left by Paul to set things right and establish more long-term local leadership. We actually see Paul tell Titus to leave the church and come to him in Titus 3.12.
The Church on Crete
The church on Crete was likely a network of house churches. In Titus 1.5 Paul references Titus appointing elders “in every town.” It appears that the church was being influenced by false teachers. These teachers claimed to be Christ-followers, but their message focused on things other than the simple gospel message of faith and devotion to Jesus. They were preoccupied with myths, rituals, and extra commands, and were motivated by “shameful gain (1.11).”
From the way Paul talks, it is also likely that the church was being influenced by the secular culture it was based in. Paul quoted a Cretan prophet (1.12), addressed certain kinds of behaviors to stay away from, and mentioned “good works” several times (1.16; 2.7, 14; 3.1, 8, 14). He expanded on these good works to describe the kind of living that results from believing the gospel and following Jesus, always rooting his instructions in the gospel message of hope in Jesus (Titus 2.11-14 & 3.3-7).
While the letter was addressed to Titus, it likely would have been read out loud in the gathered church meeting. So while Paul was instructing Titus, he was also giving the developing church instructions and encouragement in how to live as followers of Jesus, “adorning the doctrine of God (Titus 2.10),” giving practical credibility and creating intrigue around the gospel message of Jesus.
Some Things Never Change
These instructions apply to us in 21st century America as much as they did to the early New Testament church on Crete. As we walk through Titus together, what things do you believe God would say to us about how we prioritize the gospel and our love for Jesus, how we live together as the church, and how we live in the culture God has placed us in?