Titus was another of the Apostle Paul’s core team and he often spoke warmly of him. Paul described Titus as his “true son in the faith” (Titus 1:4) and his “partner and co-worker” (2 Cor 8:23a). Titus himself was a Gentile (Galatians 2:3) and given his Roman name, it is likely that he was a Latin speaker who was also clearly fluent in Greek. Based on what Paul says in Titus 1:4, I think it is very likely that Titus became a Christian through Paul’s ministry (probably during AD37-47), while Paul was developing the network of churches in Syria-Cilicia (Acts 15:23,41). Strangely, Titus is never mentioned in the book of Acts, but there are a surprising number of references to him in Paul’s letters.
The theme of Developing leadership is very significant in and through the life of Titus. Paul had clearly been investing in his life for some time and like many others he spends time travelling with Paul. This was one of Paul’s main strategies for developing people. One of the reasons that Paul develops this team of people is that he is then able to minister to a wider group of people – he simply could not do it alone. He had to work through others.
In this blog I am going to work through Titus’ impact in Jerusalem, Ephesus/Corinth and on the Island of Crete: Firstly; the trip they took to Jerusalem would have been quite a big deal for Titus as he developed convictions about the gospel. Secondly, the time he spent in Ephesus, when he had a travelling ministry in Corinth, was a fantastic opportunity to use and develop his gifts. Thirdly, the work Paul gave Titus on the Island of Crete proved strategically important as he set in place people to lead others and continue the work. All in all Titus is a man who Paul made a priority to develop, and through whom Paul was able to influence and develop people in a variety of locations.
1. Leaders stand firm: Strong Beginnings
In Acts 11:27-30 we hear about a trip that Paul made with Barnabas & Paul to Jerusalem. It seems to have been motivated by Agabus’ prophecy of famine and the desire of the Christians in Antioch to send a gift to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. Galatians 2:1-5 also speaks to this and presents a duel aim of ensuring that the gospel not be watered down by those who Paul said had infiltrated their ranks:
2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.Galatians 2:1-5
Titus’s big role here appears to do with the decision for him not to be circumcised. Interestingly, Paul had chosen to circumcise Timothy (Acts 16:1-3) in order to ensure that there be no stumbling block for the Jewish Christians to believe (see also 1 Cor 9:19-23). At first glance it seems pretty inconsistent to not circumcise Titus also, however the situation here in Jerusalem is quite different. There was a principle at stake for those who sought to argue that the gentiles need to be circumcised. There must therefore have been immense pressure for Titus to be circumcised in order to keep the peace. Paul however writes that “he was not compelled to be circumcised” (v3). Both Paul and Titus stood firm, knowing that unlike in the case of Timothy, the truth of the gospel was at stake.
There may well be times when we need to put aside the freedom we have in Christ for the sake of others perhaps on issues of food, drink or where we hang out with others. At the same time, there may well be other times when we too need to stand firm for the sake of the truth of the gospel. The good news of the gospel says that we are saved in Christ alone. Good works should flow from that Salvation, but they do not contribute to it.
2. Leaders keep the peace: Ambassador to Corinth
Paul founded the church in Corinth and spent 18months developing the work there before moving on to Ephesus. During that time the door opened for Paul to visit Rome and so he set about making farewells to the churches and also to organise a gift for the church in Jerusalem. Titus played the role of Titus’ ambassador to Corinth and he dispatched him to set in motion this collection. The Corinthians, however, do not seem completely convinced and seek clarification from Paul. He therefore addresses this in the letter we know as 1 Corinthians and he informs them that he is sending Timothy to check on how they were getting on (1 Cor 16:1-4). There were also worrying reports of a sex scandal in the church (1 Cor 5) and he asks them to remove the offender from the church. Timothy’s visit does not appear to have been particular successful because soon after Paul was forced to visit himself. This trip is described as a painful visit (2 Cor 2:1) and Paul himself appears to have been accused of seeking to fill his own pockets. Titus was tasked with delivering what was certainly a very difficult letter and undoubtedly he would have found himself having to explain and defend it. Many tears had accompanied this letter but surprisingly the church responded favourably.
While Paul waited to hear from Titus, he was clearly struggling and had “no peace of mind” (2 Cor 2:12-13). However once he had caught up with Titus there was much rejoicing:
6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever…13 By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well.2 Corinthians 7:6-7, 13-14
During this period of difficult tensions between Paul and the church in Corinth the collection he had asked them to make had been on hold. Using his gifts of tact and diplomacy, Titus was able to restore good relations and now once again he is able to exhort them to excel in their generosity:
6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.2 Corinthians 8:6-7
I think this valuable role played by Titus is often something we miss but it is clearly implied in 2 Corinthians 7-8. He was the peacemaker who was able to succeed in winning over the Corinthians where both Timothy and Paul had struggled. We all need such people in our lives because such tensions are unavoidable. Differing personalities, opinions, visions and values can sometimes lead to conflict. In those times we need a Titus to help us navigate our way through!
3. Leaders develop others: Growing the work on Crete
Fast forward another 6 years (approx. AD63) and Titus is now on the island of Crete. Paul had founded the church in Crete and left Titus to finish the job by appointing elders in every town. Paul later sent a letter reminding him of the task at hand (Titus 1:5) and urging him to join him in Nicopolis (3:12-14). Paul said that he was sending either Artemas or Tychicus to take the reigns so that Titus could be released. The letter is therefore very much about working in such a way that empowered others to lead.
In chapter 1 Paul details the qualities required for those serving as elders. Then in chapter 2 Paul instructed Titus to teach sound doctrine and he detailed a plan for what to teach different generations of people within the churches:
1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.Titus 2:1-8
This is one of the clearest blueprints in the New Testament for intergenerational disciple-making. Paul is very deliberate in spelling out what Titus was to teach older men and women. Paul is very clear that the older women were in turn to teach the younger women and play a vital role in their discipleship. Paul also tells Titus what to teach the younger men but says nothing beyond teaching them self control. The presence of the word ‘similarly’ ties them into what Paul has said to the younger women and implies that he also sees the older men playing their part with the younger men.
In the final section of the letter (2:11-3:11) Paul spells out to Titus how Titus was teach and model godly behaviour with those involved with the churches. The emphasis is twofold: Paul is very clear on what Titus should teach but he is also careful to ensure that he continues investing in Titus also. All in all the example of the work in Crete was about developing others and specifically others who could lead and exert influence over the rest of the church. Organisational roles have their place but it’s clear that Paul saw the need to foster a culture of disciple-making through the very fabric of the churches. It is in that sense that all of us are leaders and have the privilege to impact others.
In conclusion I am really encouraged by the example of Paul and Titus. Firstly, I think it really demonstrates the power of investing in others who can, in good time, do likewise for others. Paul puts this well in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he says: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Throughout history, this has been God’s means to grow His people – often through ordinary people like us. Paul’s interaction with Titus helps us see something of Paul’s strategy in developing others – he shows us what is possible.
Secondly, we see the potential arising from ordinary people simply using the gifts God has given them. Titus proved very effective in his ministry both in Corinth (using his gifts of diplomacy and administration) and in Crete (using his gift as leader / pastor). He was a huge blessing in these places and likely further afield also. The final reference we have for Titus tells us that he had moved onto Dalmatia (2 Tim 4:10). It was the next step up the coast and perhaps it is no surprise that this area became one of the most concentrated/populous Christian regions.
Everywhere Titus went, he worked to lay foundations for faith and he invested deeply in the people he was with. If we too give our lives to such investment in others, the potential is huge – how are you going to invest your life?