As we have just completed the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, we now come to one written to his lesser-known companion, Titus. Collectively, these letters are known as the Pastoral Epistles because they give instruction to church leaders on how to lead properly. Paul has been traveling throughout the Gentile world establishing churches and he at times leaves behind his protégés whom he calls sons to further the work that he began. Such is the case in Crete where Titus is serving at the time of the writing of this letter.
Now Crete did not have a good reputation. In fact, Paul quoted one of their own philosophers in vs. 12 when he says, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons”. He then goes on to emphasize that this is absolutely true. He told Titus to rebuke them harshly so that they would be sound in the faith. That sounds harsh and condescending but knowing Paul’s heart for people, we know that he had a redemptive purpose in mind. He understood what Jesus understood and preached…religion is no substitute for a real relationship with the living God. I know that we can’t relate (note ironic tone) but these people professed to know God but denied him by their works. They thought they were ok, but according to God’s evaluation they were anything but.
What was the prescription for this counterfeit belief? How was Titus to combat it? Paul instructed him to raise up leaders who would live their lives as an example of what it means to be a true believer by the grace of God. They would love their wives the way Christ loves the church and raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They would maintain a good reputation in the community and be humble and slow to anger. They would not be a drunkard or violent or greedy. Instead, they would be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. They must hold tightly to the sound doctrine that they had been taught so that they could pass it on to others and bring correction where necessary. In short, they were to be real Christians!
You see, that which is true isn’t made apparent to others by showing only that which is false. Instead, the truth is best protected by consistently being reminded of what it is. How best to do that than to live out the truths of Scripture by the grace of God so that the world around us will see our lives and realize that there is a far different path than the one the world offers. It is a narrow path but it is the only path that leads to real freedom. Jesus himself said that the truth alone will make us free.