The book of Titus is actually a letter written by the Apostle Paul to one of his most trusted coworkers. Titus was a Greek (non-Jewish) believer who had been led to Christ, discipled, and trained for ministry by Paul. The apostle had a great deal of confidence in his young mentee, and he had sent him on important missions to places like Corinth, Troas, and Dalmatia. When Paul wrote this letter, Titus was beginning his ministry in a place called Crete. Paul had left him there with a very difficult assignment in a most undesirable place.
Crete, a 3,218-square mile island in the Mediterranean Sea, was a rough place to live. Its citizens had earned a bad reputation for lacking moral character. The Greek philosopher Leonides wrote, “Cretans are always robbers, pirates, and scoundrels.” In Greek culture, to lie and cheat was to “Cretize”. These were evil, anti-Christian people. Crete was no place you would want to raise a family or try to build a church.
Why would Paul assign his friend Titus to such a place? Because the Cretans needed Jesus! Paul and Titus knew that without Jesus, the creepy Cretans would die lost and spend eternity in hell…and they knew Jesus could change even the Cretans! Titus was there because Crete needed churches that would make a difference in the culture. And that is the reason for this letter: to show Titus how to raise up churches on Crete that could effectively evangelize the island. The churches that were there were poorly organized, lacking leadership, riddled with sin and false teaching, and full of hypocrites. They were not making a difference. (Note: some of the churches of Crete were more than 30 years old, established by Jewish believers who had been saved in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. See Acts 2:11.)
Everything rises and falls on leadership. It is true in businesses, schools, sports teams — and churches, too. So the first task for Titus was to appoint pastors (called “elders” in v.5 and “overseers” in v.7) who could effectively lead the churches of Crete. Pastors lead in two ways: by the testimony of their behavior and by the truth of their preaching.
Paul gave Titus a list of qualifications for pastors in verses 5-9. Because of the moral corruption of Cretan culture, pastors would have to live up to a high moral standard. In family life, business dealings, and social activities, pastors must be above reproach, giving people every reason to believe what they preach (and no reason not to). Notice that Paul’s list includes matters of character and integrity, not knowledge or skills. (Note: a major problem in the churches of Crete was hypocritical pastors whose preaching and lifestyle did not match; see v.16.) The most important sermon a preacher ever preaches is his example, his lifestyle. The transforming power of the gospel in his character will be remembered long after all his sermons are forgotten.
Out of a testimony of Christlike character, the pastor must faithfully, consistently preach “sound doctrine” (see 2:1). For Titus and the pastors he would appoint on Crete, that was the only way they would be able to silence the smarmy, insincere, opportunistic, lying preachers that plagued the Cretan churches. It is the truth of God’s Word that would bring about the change that was needed — not only in the churches of Titus’s island, but also in my life, and in yours.