Skip to main content

Titus 1:1-16 Sermon Notes

By May 27, 2022March 25th, 2023Sermon Notes

Couple of Memorial Day points of interest:

-First point: Apparently it is bad form to say “Happy Memorial Day” at least that is what some think.

-This is tied to point number two: Memorial Day is to honor military members who died in service to our country…Veterans Day is for those who are still alive who have served.

-So, some Memorial Day purists think it is inappropriate to say “Happy Memorial Day” because it is a somber remembrance. A remembrance they feel has been lost in BBQ’s and appliance sales…so I guess, it’s not supposed to be “happy”

But “happy” is a word that doesn’t just signify light hearted joy it also is used to describe contentment, and gratitude.

In addition, I can imagine many who died for the cause of freedom did so because they understad…the happiness freedom brings.

So, I would say a middle ground is something like this… “Happy Memorial Day, be grateful, stay faithful…remember the sacrifices of others.”

That’s pretty long so I’ll just stick with “Happy Memorial Day”

On this eve of Memorial Day we are going to do things a bit different.

We will get to our passage, Titus 1 but first we are going to spend some time contemplating gratitude and practical faithfulness.

This is not going to be a time of remembering those who have died for our nation’s freedoms, I would encourage you to take time to do that tomorrow.

Regardless of your views on the military and warfare we can be grateful for those who were faithful unto death.

Today we are going to contemplate our own deaths…and what the implications of that future reality is for today’s gratitude and faithfulness.

On Tuesday I had a small part in the funeral of a long-time friend.

During the service, I spoke for about 3 minutes and then for more than an hour I looked at a large image of my friend on the screen at the front of the church.

I seemed like he was staring at me…but he wasn’t, but it seemed like he was…I was staring at his image.

And I thought about his life and my own…funerals are good for that kind of thing.

I’ve been to a bunch of funerals in the past 35 years…I have always come away with a heart to be more grateful and more faithful…not in generalized ways but in concrete specific ways.

Often with people’s names on my mind and heart… “I want to love my Christy, Corrie, Casey, Crystal, Jim…better”

You likely have not been to as many funerals as I have so I want to give you the opportunity to imagine being at your own…something I do when I attend someone else’s.

I don’t want to over burden or trigger anyone so we are not going to be morbid…but we want to have real hope that impacts our lives today.

So, let’s begin at Ps. 90:12, our Scriptural warrant for doing what we are doing right now.

“Teach us to number our days aright, so that we will gain a heart of wisdom.”

What does “number our days” mean other than contemplate the fact that our days are limited?

It means to remember you will die someday and the consequence of rightly remembering should be wisdom not fear or folly.

At funerals my points usually follow this outline:

We are here to:

-Celebrate a life worth celebrating

-Comfort one another

-Be Challenged to live grateful, faithful lives

Celebration, Comfort, Challenge

The celebrate part can be difficult when a person didn’t live a life worthy of celebrating…I’ve had a few of those.

However, every human is made in God’s image…I’ve not done a funeral yet for a person in which something could not be celebrated.

Comfort one another is largely through the ministry of presence…being together in the service and in the days that follow.

To the challenge, that is where I want to land for a couple of minutes.

My challenge usually is built along these lines…and this will be very familiar to most of you…

“What matters most at the end, matters most now.”

“What will matter most at the end will be…love God, love people…that is what matters most now.”

I often tell some stories of the privilege I have had of sitting at people’s bedsides as they enter eternity and noticing that they are not interested in their boats and bank accounts…they want to be right with God and surrounded by people they love.

I encourage them to live faithful, grateful lives…first to God, by receiving the gospel and then towards others…by living in right relationships with them.

I say that the things that anger and separate us from one another now…will look small, stupid and petty then…they are often small, stupid, and petty now.

As I sat in my friend’s memorial service I thought some about the men, mostly pastors, as revealed in a report last Sunday…who have done great damage to the lives of others.

I thought of their unbridled lust and selfishness that led to those choice…how small, and weak it is in the light of eternity.

I thought of their desire for reknown and power…how petty it is in the light of the Lord Jesus, king of heaven and earth.

But mostly I thought of my life…my own selfish desires and pride…how stupid and empty it is.

But, at any funeral…I don’t end in our own folly and need…but in Christ’s victory and sufficiency…and our opportunity to live in him.

1 Cor. 15, the key companion to Ps 90…

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Do you see that…Christ has defeated death and the power of sin…we have cause for continual gratitude.

Now, we can and we must…stand firm on the faith…not moved from that solid place.

And give our lives to faithfulfulness (fruitfulness is God’s business)…so our labor in the Lord is never in vain…whatever the outcomes they we see or don’t see now.

Grateful, Faithful…has practical implications.

Grateful Faithful words: Not complaining, demanding, angry words…words that communicate a heart changed by the gospel.

Grateful faithful actions: Not self-serving, not full of pride, not reactive and petty…but deeds that show the love of Christ to others.

Grateful faithful heart: Train there for godliness…let God do deep work there so that words and actions flow from a heart that is being shaped in the image of Christ.

“Teach us to number our days aright so we will gain a heart of wisdom.”

A heart of wisdom is a heart full of Christ…and is a life that is increasingly focused on being grateful and faithful.


Today we leave Pastor Timothy in Ephesus and go to Pastor Titus on the Island of Crete.

Crete is a large Greek Island, over 3,000 square miles…somewhere between Connecticut and Delaware in size.

At Paul’s time it was a part of the Roman empire, having been conquered by the Romans about 130 years earlier.

Paul had visited the Island on his way to Rome the first time. He would visit a second time and leave Titus there to continue the work.

Unlike Timothy, Titus was a very seasoned leader.

He had worked with Paul for many years, he was a man of courage and conviction who had stood up, with Paul, against some Church leaders in Jerusalem who were veering off center from the gospel (Gal. 2).

He was, like Paul, a reformer…and reformers have to have the ability to withstand attack for the cause of truth…attack from within and without.

So, as we read through Titus keep in mind, Paul doesn’t have to elaborate a great deal on key principles…he can communicate in a sort of shorthand with this veteran of nearly 20 years of co-ministry.

Sometimes we want more or different information than what we have in Paul’s letters…but we are, after all, reading someone else’s mail.

Of course, God has seen fit to give this letter to us, it is his word to us…but it remains first of all a letter from a real person to another real person.

We need to keep that in mind as we proceed.

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, 4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Paul’s introductory greeting is clearly not “Dear Titus”…it is very long and involved because he is setting the stage here for the rest of the letter.

Verse 1: True Truth leads to godliness.

We saw in Paul’s letters to Timothy that he ultimately wanted him to be a man of truth.

Truth cannot lead to meanness, selfishness, or pride…this is, of course, totally out of line with the truth.

True truth leads to true godliness.

I was in a seminary PhD program years ago…I had fellow students who loved to talk about God as an intellectual exercise…others seemed to understand the sacred and personally practical nature of truth about God.

He has made himself know so we can know him…and become like him.

Paul is the smartest theologian ever, but for him information about God must lead to transformation by God…godliness.

Verse 2

Hope here is tied to the truth of the gospel, the promises of God…hope it about objective fact not subjective feeling.

Our eternal hope is not something we try to “feel” but rather a fact that we must keep front and center in our hearts and minds.

We train for hope by a focus on the truth of God, not by trying to feel hopeful.

Verse 3

Titus, jump on this…because this is God’s Kairos…his appointed season, perfect time.

Chronos is “ticks on a clock”

Kairos is God’s timing…get up, get busy…now is God’s time.

  1. Titus is his “true son”

Meaning he likely had a hand in him coming to faith.

*If Paul didn’t raise up laborers for the harvest and leaders for the church, who would?

Likewise, we must be committed to being faithful to do the same here…we are to be exporters of godly leaders…more on that later.

To make sense of the next 5 verses we need to look ahead to verses 10-16.

There Paul will give Titus intel on the primary challenge he is facing.

This challenge is centered around “rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception.”

Okay, if that is the key threat…then what is appropriate course of action then?

Three things, with one common theme…it won’t be hard to locate that theme.

  1. Teach sound doctrine (Truth)
  2. Be a man of integrity (live the truth)
  3. Raise up leaders who (live and speak the truth)

Since the primary problem is people leading in untruth.

The solution is to develop leaders who know and live the truth.

So these”orders” are not just ideas hung in mid-air.

We can’t hear these “rules” for leaders as coffee shop talk…they are battlefied directives.

They are real world neccesities for the surviving and the thriving of the church on Crete (and every other place and time).

I will say this, if the church as a whole took this more seriously there would not be key leaders abusing people in the church.

So…we let’s move into this next section…

5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Right up front…the reason here’s I left you there:

Straighten out what was left unfinished


Appoint elders in every town

This could be two different things but the context leads to the conclusion that this is two parts of single thing.

Straighten out what was left unfinished BY appointing elders in every town.

Without good leaders…good leadership…things would never be put in order.

A 3,000 square mile island with lots of cities…it required strategic leadership cultivation for the church to grow in numbers and be healthy.

Numerical growth without leadership health can more like the growth of cancer than a healthy organism.

You can have more people learning bad beliefs, values, and behaviors…and then passing these on.

The reason Paul left Titus there was to multiply godly leaders.

He gives him a summary review, the high points of what kind of character qualities to look for and to develop in emerging leaders.

He could say much more…but Titus is no novice, this is a reminder, a review…not brand new information for him.

In the NT elder, overseer, pastor are used interchangeably…they are spiritual leaders in the church.

There are different ways churches organize for leadership today because the NT gives some leeway as to how this should happen.

Our organizational structure is:

A senior pastor (me)…overseeing the church staff and the ministry of church.

Church staff (whose jobs involve training, organizing and equipping members for mission)

Lay elders (whose primary role is accountability for me. They represent the church and I am accountable to them as I lead the church)

Our current Lay elders are:

-Doug Ledbetter, Neil Satrom, Kevin Scwhemmer, Brad Boulware, Matt Statler, Eric Eakins, Donovan Karber, Scott Ochs

They are available…to talk, or to pray for you.

There are more men who could qualify as elders so this is a representative group…of the church membership as a whole.

What follows in these next verses is the template for the kind of men who are qualified to lead churches.

6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

Blameless: This is the primary, catch all qualification. He repeats this twice in two verses.

-This doesn’t mean perfect since Paul himself wrote that all are sinners (Romans 3)

-And clearly there would be no leaders were this truly what he meant.

-What does it mean?

The two other places this word (blameless) is used might help us understand.

“(Jesus) will keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day our Lord.” 1 Cor. 1:18

Blameless there refers to them being “believers in Christ” not sinlessly perfect…but “in Christ”

In Col. 1:22 He uses the word like this “(God) has reconcilled you by Christ’s physicall body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and “blameless”

Blameless, means they have received the gospel and there is evidence that it is transforming them.

To be blameless as a candidate for pastoral ministry then has to do with living in line with what the gospel is, and the evidence of what the gospel does to people who receive it is clear.

They must exhibit signs of the presence of divine grace that transforms lives in godly ways.

Godly direction not sinless perfection.

There are tons of ethical signs of this godly direction in Paul’s letters…Titus would have understood what he was saying.

These leaders must demonstrate authentic, growing, Christlikeness.

Then this Christ-like direction is unpacked in some specific ways:

Ground zero is the home…the integrity of their marriage and leadership in the lives of their children.

“One wife” would rule out polygamy, but it was unlikely Paul was referring to that…that would have been a given there.

It doesn’t mean they have to be married…Paul himself was not married.

It’s also not indicating that a leader could not remarry after death or divorce (some believe otherwise, I think Corinthians gives allowance for these cases)

Paul is assuming that most mature adult males there on Crete who are eligible for the role of pastor will be married.

If they are not married, the rest of the requirements apply to them.

If they are married…this is the truest test of Christian character…their relationship with their wives.

This is about being faithful to their wives…in both heart and action.

-Jesus set the bar very high here.

It more than “don’t sleep around”…it is be in a relationship that truly reflects God’s ideal for marriage…true oneness.

A candidate for leadership should have a relationship with his wife that reflects the relationship of Christ and the church.

*I helped with a weekend church planter evalution and training in New Mexico years ago.

-A key part of the training, that the potential church planters didn’t know was happening was that the leadership team was watching how they treated their wives during games like volleyball, and at meal.

-We were watching when they didn’t know we were watching.

-We learned a lot more watching them in those settings that listening to them answer questions about theology.

*We DQd one guy because of his gruff treatment of his wife…at play and at dinner.

He took it well, worked on his life and marriage…and later planted a church.

In addition, these leader’s children (presumably dependent children, still in the home) ought to believe and not be open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

-This could mean legal charges.

-The bottom line here I think Paul was telling Titus… see if these men are active and engaged at home…or if their kids are living without parental oversight…living without restraint.

This is a tough passage since Jesus taught that his message would divide households…including parents and children (Luke 12:53)

So, we need to factor in all of what the Bible teaches on this topic, like “The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child” Eze. 18:20

I think the principle in play here is brought to light in 1 Tim. 3:5 “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”

This doesn’t mean your young child can’t be a rascal…I was.

It doesn’t mean your child has to be perfect…none are.

It doesn’t mean you are reponsible for the conduct of grown children.

In context I believe it has to do what the character of the candidate for elder…are they passive in their families?

You can’t be a passive pastor…are they are passive parent?

Or are they fully engaged, full on parenting…not controlling, not doing image management, not exasperating their child.

But are they lovingly, proactively leading their homes: in what they believe, value and do?

Because this is going to be neccesary to deal with the challenges they will face on Crete.

He goes on to a list of disqualifing and qualifying traits of the pastor/elder.

But first why this is so important:

“Since an oveseer (used interchangeable with elder) is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless”

This is super important…there simply must be consistent Christlike direction in his life…because he is entrusted with God’s work.

All good work is God honoring…but good leadership in the church is essential for the church to thrive.

First the disqualifers…this is not a complete list but a composite, a profile of the kinds of things to watch for:

Not overbearing: The word indicates reckless, self-centered, arrogant people who divide rather than unite.

Not quick-tempered: A hot head is not going to do well as a shepherd, one who cares for the souls of others.

Not given to drukenness: This is a no brainer for many reasons.

-I’ve spoken with many military commanders over the years at all levels of command…when I ask them

-“How many times have you had to discipline or discharge someone for a crime or for just doing something stupid that didn’t involve alcohol.”

They have all had trouble remembering a single time.

Not violent: You might think, “Really, he actually needs to list this?”…yes and there are some leaders in churches who are bullies, angry, violent men…they are disqualified.

Not pursuing dishonest gain: There are enough stories out there about this for it to be self-evident.

Okay, those things DQ you, now to the things that qualify potential leaders in the church.

Hospitable: This is something that should be a mark of all Christians…but it is especially true for pastoral leaders.

Opening homes and hearts to others…is essential for gospel leadership.

Loving what is good: This is not having a “practice random acts of kindness” bumper sticker…it is a zeal to see what is truly good thrive inside and outside the church.

-It is tied to what is true. “Whatever is true, good, lovely, excellent…” Paul wrote elsewhere…fill your mind with these.

-To love what is good is to want to see people flourish by living in the good and beautiful truth of God’s design.

-We love the truth…because to live in the truth brings good into our lives.

Self-controlled: Not a stoic…not pastor Spock…not a person without weakness.

You can eat too many donuts and still be a pastor.

This is one who is overall, not controlled by their passions and emotions.

Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city without walls is a man who lacks self-control.”

A city without walls at that time meant that the enemy could easily overun and destory the city.

A pastor has to have appropriate walls up.

*Dr. Gottman, Jewish Psychologist says that married couples must have walls around their relationship and windows open to each other.

*These appropriate walls, are a kind of self-control that doesn’t let others into the kind of intimacy that is to be reserved only for married couples…

This is one example…but the point is this is self-control has a purpose…the purpose is the good of others and the glory of God…

Not just self-control for the sake of looking strong or disciplined.

Again, this is not self-control as perfection…but a life direction.

Upright & Holy: Sometimes these ideas together and work in tandem in the NT

-Upright can refer to “right standing with God” but here Paul is highlighting the human ethical quality.

-Holy is something only God is, and only something God can make us.

So together these say, “Titus, only appoint leaders whose lives give clear moral evidence of the holiness of God.”

One more time…direction, not perfection.

Then finally, Disciplined: How is this different from “self-controlled”?

It may be that discipline summarizes the entire list…without “discipline” or “training” there can be no self-control…or any of the other qualities.

The pastors and leaders who have abused men and women in churches did not suddenly wake up one day and find themselves far from God and godliness…they failed to discipline themselves, to train to be godly over time.

This lack of discipline is devastating.

We must see discipline as a gift, and opportunity…not a burden, or dull drugery.

The discipline of prayer, of scripture reading, of watching what we allow into our minds through our eyes, of fasting, of open and honest fellowship…on and on.

These are God’s good gifts to us to allow us to be “fit to follow him”…we get to join God in what he is doing when we discipline ourselves, train ourselves to be godly.

Discipline is freedom.

There is one man in particular who was a nationally known pastor, who was named in the report that was released last Sunday.

This man spent half a century building a reputation…and destroyed it in a single day.

But again, there were without doubt many days of wrong choices made and right choices not made(maybe in the heart)…that lead up to that single destructive day.

I am not piling on the fallen, or putting myself above them…this is all quite terrifying to me.

I cling to Jesus, my wife, and circle my friends around me…God help us all be faithful

To those six qualities of pastoral leadership Paul summarizes what Titus must lead them in doing.

9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Hold firmly…this is a fierce grip on the truth of the gospel.

-Whatever is happening around them…they must not let go of the truth.

-They don’t get to make it up as they go, they don’t get to try to fit in, or impress…they must hold to the truth as they have received it.

This is essential for their task of:

-Encouraging others in the truth of God

-Refuting those who are opposed to the truth of God

Clearly you cannot encourage others in the truth and recognize and oppose attacks on the truth…unless you yourself have a firm grip on and confidence in the truth.

So, who are these folks who oppose the truth?

In the next section Paul will give an overview sketch of the kind of people Titus is unfortunately well aware of.

Why is Paul stating the obvious if Titus is already aware.

Titus is in the foxhole…trying to lead forward and taking enemy fire.

Paul is in the command post…giving clear-direction.

This is a very important construct for us all.

When our heads are down and we are taking enemy fire…we need to listen well and carefully to others we trust who have a better view than we do.

Now, I warn you this next section is going to sound very derogatory but what it is in fact is concise and precise description of clues for Titus to look for and how he is to decisvely respond.

Truth is no game…this is serious business.

10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

The entire letter is formed around this section…this is the potentially mortal danger that the church there is facing.

Let me make a couple of points about this section, then we will go to our application.

  1. Paul gives clarity not diplomacy…there is a time for diplomacy, but Titus needed real clarity.

*In the heat of the battle you don’t give a history of warfare, you say things like “Charge”


“Muster here”

  1. This is not about “truth” as word games…who can win the debate. This about people who are ruining homes and lives. Ideas have consequences.

*I thought about the chain of choices going back, probably generations, that lead to a young man killing children in their classroom.

*He was culpuble…he owns this sin and crime.

-But there was a man or woman who made a choice on a day…that lead to another, and another…the choice was to believe something that was not true and act on it.

-God alone sees the path of these beliefs, shaping hearts, leading to choices…that ended in an unspeakable tragedy.

Ideas, beliefs have consequences…the truth is no game.

  1. He uses what was then a well-known quote about Cretans. He is not despising the inhabitants of the Island…he was after all sacrificing to reach them.

Again, this is Paul giving clarity to Titus about what he is seeing around him and how he is to respond.

  1. Verse 15 can be a bit confusing. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.”

The background for this statement is the nature of what Paul called “Jewish Myths” that were being taught.

It is likely some false teachers were pushing old laws and rules…and some of their own made-up ones on these young Christians.

Maybe they were saying… “You can’t eat that…you can’t do that or you must do this…or God will not accept you.”

It was an anti-gospel…not training for godliness but trying to earn God’s favor.

So, when he says to the “pure all things are pure” doesn’t mean…do whatever you want.

It means to those God has justified in Christ (the pure, the righteous)…they are not going to become “unrighteous” by what they do or don’t do…eat or don’t eat.

Likewise, those who have not believed the gospel…they are not going to become pure (righteous) regardless of what they do or don’t do…eat or don’t eat.

They claim to know God…they talk the talk…but their actions deny God…they do not walk the walk.

To Paul this is detestable…strong words but he is talking honestly with his co-worker.

And these people know what they are doing and they can see the impact…it is just terrible.


The church must develop and deploy leaders who know, love, and live the truth.

This has been a consistent and compelling focus of our attention for 32 years…but it has been a consistent and compelling focus of the church (Capital C) for 2000 years…or it should have been.

Remember 2 Tim. 2:2…the multiplication of leaders is the Lord’s plan to bring light and hope to the world.

Leaders who teach and live lies…do enormous harm.

Their position of influence in the lives of others gives them greater leverage to do more damage.

This is why teachers, James wrote, will experience a harsher judgment…if they teach what is not true; they don’t just harm themselves but others as well.

Because leaders have done such harm in the church and outside of it…there has been a movement to denigrate and do away with leaders…have you seen this movement(s)?

It is led by leaders who want to do away with leaders…ironic yes?

Anywhere anything good or bad is happening…leadership is happening…good or bad.

If good leaders are not intentionally raised up…bad ones will unintentionally take over.

Paul is focused on Titus raising up godly leaders.

We are tasked first with knowing the truth, and living the truth of the gospel ourselves.

Then we are to raise up others who know, live and tell the truth…leaders.

Paul is addressing Pastor Titus specifically about churches on Crete…but the implications are broader than that.

Our process for raising up leaders is organized organic.

We have a structure: we are organized for this:

-Small groups

-Leader training

-A clear philosophy of ministry

But in the end, it come down to the person on person, life on life: It must be organic

Jesus strategy to change the world was to invest in a few who would invest in others.

We don’t think we can improve on that strategy.

Be a man or woman of truth…believe it, wrap your heart around, train for godliness.

Connect your life to others…build relationship, build trust over time, be intentional

Leave a Reply