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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

PAUL'S CHARGE TO TITUS

Titus 1:5-9 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Paul continues his letter to Titus by saying, for this cause left I thee in Crete. This text assures us that Paul, even though it is not mentioned in his missionary travels in the book of Acts, that he had visited the island of Crete. The "cause" Titus was left there, is mentioned in the previous verses, which was to preach God's truths found in His inspired word - His promise to the world of the hope of eternal life (Vs. 2). God made this promise to all that, like Paul, heard, believed, and obeyed God's will, and were baptized into the body of Christ for the remission their of sins, and by this act, were added to the church of Christ.

As a relatively young congregation of God's people, the church, located on the island of Crete, had not been fully, and completely, established by the time Paul left to go elsewhere. Not only did this body of Christ need instruction and practice in God's word, it also needed the organization authorized, and required, by God. Being fully aware of this requirement of God, Paul ordained elders in each congregation of God's church, that he was instrumental in establishing, as he traveled through the known world preaching God's gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Notice that in the churches of Christ he helped establish in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, that Paul, and his fellow laborers in Christ, ordained them elders in every church (See Acts 14:21-23).

So, too, the church of Christ in Crete needed elders, just as all bodies of Christ,in every city,need the teaching, leadership, and oversight of elders. This needed to be accomplished through the teaching and encouragement of Titus. Paul wrote that it was to be carried out by Titus as I had appointed thee. Regarding this, Paul gave Titus the personal qualifications required by God, which Christian men must possess, in order to be rightly appointed to this position of church leadership. In a similar manner, Paul's first letter to Timothy gave us a list of qualifications required of all that desire the office of a bishop (See 1 Tim. 3:1-11). Notice that the lesson text also uses the term "elder" and "bishop" interchangeably, which assures us that they are one and the same office of the body of Christ (See verses 5 & 7).

Here in the lesson text we find that bishops, or elders, must be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly. There must be nothing about his character, or his manner of life, that would be blamable, to the extent that it would diminish his credibility within the congregation of God's people, or within the community in which he resides. He must be married to one wife, and that union must meet all of the requirements found in the will of God. Within his household, his children must be in subjection to his rule - that is, they must be civilly and religiously obedient. This being so, his children must not be accused of riot, or unruly. His children must not engage in, or incite defiant, unrestrained, uproarious, or disorderly conduct at home or in the society in which they live.

To be qualified, appointed, and serve the body of Christ, an elder, or bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God. The church God belongs to His Son, Christ Jesus, whom He appointed as its head. Elders are merely stewards of His church. With God's holy word as their only source of authority, they are appointed to lead, supervise, and provide spiritual guidance to its membership. Stated in a negative manner, for one to be qualified as a true, faithful steward of God over His church, an elder must not be self-willed. He must not have an arrogant pride, but must give due consideration to the desires of others, and especially, he must always accept the will of God over his own.

He must not soon (become) angry - that is, he must have complete control over emotions, and not be given to agitations and outbursts of rage and wrath. He must not be given to wine. He must not indulge in alcoholic beverages that would ever affect his sound judgment. He is to be no striker, that is, he must at all times be peaceable and not quarrelsome. He must never be given to filthy lucre. An elder must never be driven by greed. Sound judgments can never be made by one that is given to the love of money, and what it can buy. One whose life is dominated by these unchristian characteristics, is not suited to be a child of God, and most certainly is not fit to be ordained, and serve, as an elder of the church of Christ.

Stated in a positive manner, an elder must be a lover of hospitality - be concerned, caring, and readily provide for the physical needs of others. He must be a lover of good men, and the good deeds that they do for others in need. He must always be sober, that is, have a prudent mind in all judgments. He must be just, do what is right, and exercise honesty in all his dealings with mankind. He must be holy. He must possess and demonstrate the deepest reverence and obedience for God, and His Son, Jesus Christ. He must be temperate and exercise moderation in all things at all times. He must hold fast the faithful word. Having been taught the Holy Word of God, he must have accepted, willingly obeyed its precepts, and diligently studied its truths, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers, that is, to teach God's will to others, as well as refute and disprove any false doctrine taught by others.

Such is God's design for those that serve as elders of the church of Christ - those that are fit to be righteous stewards and overseers of the church of Christ. Such men were to be searched for, found, and ordained, as elders over the body of Christ on the island of Crete. Likewise, such qualified men are to be sought out and ordained in every church of Christ that exists throughout the world. God's church is not to be governed by a preacher, teacher, or any other individual, nor is it to be governed by a board of regents, a convention, synod, or any other religious body or society.

Neither is one church, or its elders, to exercise authority over another church. God's word specifically tells us that elders are to be appointed and serve as the overseers of each independent, individual congregation of Christians. Why? Because it is the will of God! The teaching of God's pure doctrine of truth was Paul's charge to Titus, and it was his charge to all preachers, teachers, and Christians then, now, and forever more. Amen!