“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you–” (Titus 1:5 (ESV)
Following his doctrinal introduction, the Apostle Paul began to explain the reasons for the epistle to Titus. The primary reason was for Titus to put in place proper church structure and encourage biblical behavior.
Paul began with the importance of church order. The word order (ἐπιδιορθόω; epidiorthoo) means to set right and to correct. In other words, it means to straighten out. The churches in Crete needed biblical order and appointing godly leaders was of first importance.
Titus was to appoint elders. The word appoint (καθίστημι; kathistemi) means to actively put in charge and to designate for a particular task. Titus had the responsibility to appoint elders in the churches. It was not to be a popularity contest but rather a divine mandate.
Elders (πρεσβύτερος; presbyteros) literally meant an elderly man. An individual’s age often harmonized with his leadership ability and maturity.
“Titus was to correct wrong doctrine and practices in the Cretan churches, a task that Paul had been unable to complete. This ministry is mentioned nowhere else. Elders (1 Tim. 3:1–7), mature spiritual leaders of the church, also known as bishops or overseers (Titus 1:7; cf. 1 Tim. 3:2) and pastors (lit., shepherds; see Eph. 4:11), were to care for each city’s congregation,” explains Dr. John MacArthur. See also Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1–2.
Apparently, Titus had not completed this task that Paul had given him. There was no time to delay. The responsibility was important. The need for elders in the churches was great.
“As with Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), Paul had left Titus behind to provide leadership to the fledgling church in Crete. Now the apostle reiterated his previous instructions, both for Titus’ sake and for the congregation’s. The organization of the Cretan church was unfinished due to the brevity of Paul’s visit. Thus Titus was to straighten out (lit., “set in order”) the situation by appointing elders in every town. Titus was now acting as an apostolic agent (cf. Acts 14:23) in Paul’s absence. His authority in the Cretan church was an extension of Paul’s own. Such authority ended with the close of the Apostolic Age,” explains Dr. Duane Liftin.
A seminary student of mine serves as an associate pastor of a fledging church plant. The initial congregation of twenty has grown numerically. He asked what would be the next step in the church’s development. We agreed that the first task was to appoint elders in the church. These would be individuals who, on the basis of biblical qualifications, would assume the responsibility of spiritually leading the church alongside the pastor. What was necessary in Paul and Titus’ day remains so in ours.
Does your church have qualified lay elders who lead the congregation alongside the pastor? Take time today to study the biblical qualifications for elders found in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Pray for those in your church who serve in this leadership position.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!