Behind every good teacher stands another good teacher. It is possible to have an innate skill or talent for teaching but someone has to develop it, nurture it and bring it to its best possible level so that students will benefit from that skill. This week we are turning our attention to Titus, who like Keller, has a powerhouse of a teacher standing behind him, the Apostle Paul. Titus joined Paul on his third missionary trip and apparently demonstrated an aptitude for dealing with difficult situations and bringing them to a positive resolution as he is quickly deployed to Corinth (2 Cor. 7:6-9; 8:1-6, 16-23) to troubleshoot the issues plaguing the struggling church. After that he is assigned to Crete, another church in disarray. The letter which Paul sent to Titus which we have in the New Testament is written to Titus as he ministers in this undisciplined congregation. Crete had a horrible reputation! Paul notes that even Cretans themselves recognize this (Titus 1:12) and agrees with the assessment (1:13)! Titus has his work cut out for him, but what a vote of confidence that Paul puts him in charge here (1:3-5).
The central theme of Paul’s letter is to inform Titus on what he must teach the Cretan church if they are going to grow and thrive as the body of Christ. In this way teaching becomes more than just reciting facts and expecting the believers to echo them back. What must be taught is “sound doctrine” (1:9; 2:1), but more than just knowing what it is, it must be adopted as a lifestyle (2:11-13). Operating on the principles of sound doctrine the church will 1) elect leaders who demonstrate a godly life (chp. 1); 2) they will live life in such a way that it is harmonious with sound doctrine (chp. 2); and 3) their good works will bear out the reality of their faith in Christ (chp. 3). What exactly is “sound doctrine”? The Greek word for doctrine literally means “teaching”. According to Scripture, sound doctrine is the authoritative teaching on Christ: that Jesus Christ was God’s Messiah, He died for our sins, was raised from the dead and became the means for our salvation when we place our trust in Him (Acts 2:22-24, 32-39). This belief will have an influence on the way we treat others (2:2-8), interact with others (3:1-2), and who we put in authority over us (1:7-9).
Sound doctrine stands in contrast to false teaching. The former is comprised of Truth and affirms Christ as our Savior and emphasizes His grace (1:1-3; 2:11-14; 3:4-7). The latter is made up of myths (1:14), heritage (3:9), regulations (3:9), controversy (1:10; 3:9), deception (1:10), done for financial gain (1:11) and promotes some sort of lofty “spiritual” and philosophical experience (1:15). The aesthetic experience receives a lot of attention from Paul. This is not to be the predominant feature of the Christian life. Rather Paul places emphasis on God’s grace and the ensuing good works which are evidence of the inward reality of that grace (3:8). So while you are reading the Book of Titus pay careful attention to the connection Paul makes between the two. These admonitions are just as relevant to us today as they were to the people that Paul entrusted to Titus’ care.
The pivotal moment of Anne Sullivan’s work with Helen Keller came when Helen got the connection between the signed word for water and the water itself. At that moment the whole world opened up for her and Helen became connected to her world. Paul exhorted Titus to help the Christians on Crete get the connection between their faith and the way they lived (2:15). He wanted them to be connected to their faith in every way possible. How connected is your life to “sound doctrine”? You will be able to answer that by examining the way you live out your faith as it is described in the Book of Titus.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 11/15/2015