Titus: Conservators of Lies.

9He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.” (Titus 1:9–10 (ESV)

Why is it important for pastors and elders to unwaveringly preach the Word of God (2 Tim. 4:1-5 ESV)? It is because there are individuals who do not preach expositional sermons from the Word of God. They are opposed to the Word of God. The Apostle Paul identified them as those who contradict the Scriptures. They are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers.

To contradict (ἀντιλέγω; antilego) means to speak against and to oppose. In the context, Paul was referring to individuals who were against the Bible. Consequently, they were also against those who were for, and who preached,   God’s Word. What is the character of these individuals who were against the Scriptures in Paul’s day and against it today?

First, they are insubordinate (ἀνυπότακτος; anypotaktos). This means they refuse to submit to God’s Word. They are rebellious and un-submissive (I Tim. 1:9; Heb. 2:8).

Second, they are empty talkers (ματαιολόγος; mataiologos). This refers to those who are foolish babblers. They engage in foolish and indecent conversation.

Third, they are deceivers (φρεναπάτης; phrenapates). They are people who mislead while they themselves are being misled. They mislead people concerning the truth. They are individuals who say wrong is right and what is right is wrong.

It is tragic enough when the worldly culture behaves in such a way. However, there are those in evangelical leadership who also live and speak in this manner. They are pastors who refuse to submit to God’s Word. They engage in indecent speech from the pulpit. They deceive their congregations. They are filled with charisma and charm but lack godly character (I Tim. 3:1-8; Titus 1:5-9). Ironically, many are pastoring mega-churches. Their brand is themselves and not the glorification of the LORD who is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:1-4; I Peter 4:10-11). The Apostle Paul warned of such false teachers (Acts 20:17-38).

The Lowell Sun is a daily newspaper based in Lowell, MA. The following is an excerpt from an article written by Rev. Brian Loiselle. Originally published in 2005, the newspaper republished the editorial in 2019.  

“These times in which we live are filled with uncertainty. Anxiety is high. People seem to be in perpetual confusion. Understandably so, since so many events continue to happen that are out of our control. War and the toll it extracts in human suffering; natural disasters that strike with unimaginable fury, not to mention the ever-volatile economic situation that exists today, leave us feeling uncertain. Gasoline prices and the inevitable rising costs make it a challenge to keep one’s family warm in the coming winter.”

“However sobering these things are, this is not what concerns me most. That rather, is the continual downward spiral of our society and its morality. We must discern these as signs of the times. The writing is on the wall. We live at a time when men call right, wrong and wrong, right. At a time when evil is called good and good is called evil.”

“Politicians and government programs are not the answer. No one, regardless of party affiliation, has the means to stop our societal decay or fix the insurmountable number of problems that exist. Especially when institutional graft and corruption permeates every level of government.”

“I believe that we have reached a point where it is obvious that mankind no longer has the means to solve the problems of our own making. If these truly are the biblical “last days,” the events that are to follow are unstoppable.”

So what can we do?

“The answer for every individual, and for us as a people, is to return to God! I believe that He is calling out to us in His mercy, pleading with us to take heed of the times in which we are living, to take our eyes off of the temporary and focus on the eternal. We all have seen what man tries do to solve our problems and correct the wrongs — and where has that gotten us?”

“The exact center of the Bible is Psalm 118:8. It is also its’ central point: ‘It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man’.”

What was true in 2005 and 2019 remains so today in 2022. Let us we no longer listen to those who are conservators of lies. Pray for your pastor to not only preach the truth but also to live the truth he preaches. Pray for one another to do the same.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: Expository Preaching.  

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1:1–4 (ESV)

“He (a pastor or elder) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9 (ESV)

In his letter to Titus, the Apostle Paul immediately emphasized the priority of preaching and teaching in the church. From today’s texts, Paul gave several reasons for this God directed methodology (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

First, preaching the Word of God is for the sake of the faith of God’s elect. Second, preaching is the means by which God’s Gospel is proclaimed. Third, preaching is a sacred trust. Fourth, God commands preaching. Fifth, preaching provides instruction in sound doctrine. Sixth, preaching rebukes false teachers and heresy.  

Many Christians might say that preaching is preaching. Styles and methodologies may vary but preaching is essentially the same from church to church. It involves an individual giving a talk; usually a long talk.

One of the most familiar styles of preaching is topical. “Topical messages usually combine a series of Bible verses that loosely connect with a theme,” explains Richard L. Mayhue of The Master’s Seminary.

Another form is textual preaching. This occurs when a text is read but never referred to again in the message. “Textual preaching uses a short text or passage that generally serves as a gateway into whatever subject the preacher chooses to address. Neither the topical or textual method represents a serious effort to interpret, understand, explain, or apply God’s truth in the context of the Scripture(s) used,” Mayhue states.

However, the Bible sets forth a particular kind of preaching. It is a discipline focusing on what the biblical text says, what it means, and how it may be applied. It is called expository preaching. Expository means to expose. The word group includes exposition and expositor.

“At its best expository preaching is the presentation of the truth, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, Spirit guided study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit applies first to the life of the preacher and then through him to his congregation,” states Haddon W. Robinson, in his book What is Expository Preaching?

Expository preaching is doctrinal preaching. It addresses particular truths from particular biblical passages. The expositor does not share his truths, but God’s truth from God’s Word. Expository preaching is not about the preacher communicating what he thinks. Rather, he is a herald authoritatively presenting the Word of God to people; the converted and the unconverted.

“Given such a conception, a faithful discharge of the teaching office necessitates the preacher being able to say with Paul, ‘We are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ’ (2 Cor. 2:17),” concludes Mayhue.

May the LORD continue to raise up expository preachers.

Soli deo Gloria!   

Titus: The Priority of Preaching.  

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.” (Titus 1:1–4 (ESV)

“He (a pastor or elder) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9 (ESV)

In his letter to Titus, the Apostle Paul immediately emphasized the priority of preaching and teaching in the church. Paul gave several reasons for this God directed methodology (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

First, preaching the Word of God is for the sake of the faith of God’s elect. Second, preaching is the means by which God’s Gospel is proclaimed. Third, preaching is a sacred trust. Fourth, God commands preaching.

“Preaching is the proclamation of the word of God to men by men under assignment from God. It is the ordained means for the transmission of the word of God to a lost world; it serves also as an official means of grace for the building up and strengthening of the church of Christ….Preaching is essential, a sine qua non for the church; without it the people of God will languish. Where true biblical, systematic and expository preaching is present the church will thrive,” explains Pastor Paul Mizzi.

“Some preachers, it is true, seek a mode of preaching that avoids any exercise of power, or any exalted theological claims for the content of the sermon. In sermons like these, the preacher comes not proclaiming, declaring, exhorting and rebuking, but sharing, musing, reflecting and imagining. The main problem with preaching in this ‘weak’ style is that it is not weak for any of the same reasons that the apostle Paul judged his own preaching to be weak,” states Pastor Timothy Ward.

“The work of the Spirit, then, is joined to the word of God. But a distinction is made, that we may know that the external word is of no avail by itself, unless animated by the power of the Spirit. All power of action, then, resides in the Spirit himself,” explains John Calvin.

God has not only decreed the message of the Gospel, but also the method by which the Gospel message is to be communicated; preaching (Rom 10:14-17). Preaching is a God called man, equipped by the Holy Spirit, to herald a Christ-centered message from the Word of God; the Bible.

Pray for your pastor that he would continue, or begin, to preach the Word. Remember, the church is not to be audience driven but message driven by the preaching of God’s Word.

Soli deo Gloria!  

Titus: Conservator of the Truth.  

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9 (ESV)

Consider the title of today’s devotional; Conservator of the Truth. A conservator is a person responsible for the repair and preservation of works of art, buildings, or other things of cultural or environmental interest. A conservator is also a guardian or protector of something or someone.

“Under U.S. law, conservatorship is the appointment of a guardian or a protector by a judge to manage the financial affairs and/or daily life of another person due to old age or physical or mental limitations,” explains one commentator.

Similarly, a church elder or pastor is a conservator. He is a guardian or protector of the truth. The truth is another title for the Scriptures or the Word of God. In praying to God the Father on behalf of all His disciples, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Therefore, an elder not only must evidence certain personal qualities but also faithful discipline. He must always be a faithful man of the Word and of God.

The phrase “He must hold firm” (ἀντέχω; antecho) grammatically refers to an elder’s personal and continual devotion to the Lord ((Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13; Titus 1:9). Such devotion is displayed “to the trustworthy word.” A pastor must always be devoted to the dependable, written revelation from God.

What an elder learns from God’s Word he must be dedicated to teach. 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” What Paul instructed Timothy and Titus is applicable for today’s church elders.

Such dedication and devotion has a purpose. The pastor/elder “may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

This is never an easy task. There are those in the church who want to hear what they want to hear from the pastor and not what they need to hear. 3 “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV).  

The faithful man of God must actively give exhortation (παρακαλέω; parakaleo) to the church through sound doctrine (ὑγιαίνω διδασκαλία; hygiaino didaskalia). This refers to correct and healthy instruction from God’s Word.

The pastor must also rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine. To rebuke (ἐλέγχω; elencho) grammatically means to presently, actively and infinitely reprove and expose false teachers. The instruction is not only to oppose false teaching but also false teachers. “This means to show one’s fault, implying that there is a convincing of that fault (Matt. 18:15; John 3:20; 16:8; Eph. 5:11; 1Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9; Heb. 12:5; James 2:9; Jude 15, 22-23; Rev. 3:19),” explains one commentator.

False teachers are those who speak against God’s Word (ἀντιλέγω; antilego). They are not just in error but are in opposition to the Scriptures ((Lk 2:34; 20:27; 21:15; John 19:12; Acts 4:14; Rom. 10:21; Titus 1:9; 2:9). I have discovered these to be angry individuals who do not listen to anyone but themselves.

2 Corinthians 10:1–6 (ESV) says, “I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away! — I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

To teach sound doctrine and to oppose false teaching is the elder’s task. If an individual is not up to this task, then they are not fit to be a church elder.

Pray today for the elders in your local church. Pray that they will be uncompromising in their biblical responsibilities. Have a God-honoring day.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: The Qualifications of Elders. Part Three.

but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 (ESV)

Today’s text contains six more qualifications for church elders or bishops. Let’s examine each characteristic. Where Titus 1:7 listed negatives to avoid, today’s text lists character traits to pursue and possess.

An elder is to be hospitable. Hospitality (φιλόξενος; philoxenos) means to care for strangers (1Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1Peter 4:9).

“Hospitality meant housing, feeding and treating graciously travelers needing a place to stay. Christian travelers, like Jewish ones, normally carried letters of recommendation attesting that they could be trusted,” explains one commentator.

“All Christians are to practice hospitality (Heb. 13:2). But elders are to be so engaged in this practice that it characterizes them (1 Tim. 3:2Titus 1:8). In so many words, Paul told Timothy and Titus that elders not only need to go and seek God’s sheep; they also need to bring them into the fold of the shepherd’s home,” states Dr. R. C. Sproul.

An elder is also to be a lover of good. This phrase is one word in the Greek (φιλάγαθος; philagathos). It means to be a right minded lover of moral goodness.

Additionally, a church leader is to be self-controlled (σώφρων; sophron). This refers to moderate, prudent and sensible behavior. It is synonymous with being sober-minded and discreet (Titus 2:2, 5).

To be upright (δίκαιος; dikaios) means to be righteous and just. It refers to being in obedience with God’s compelling standards (Matt.1:19).

To be holy (ὅσιος; hosios) means to be a dedicated servant ((1Tim. 2:8; Tit 1:8; Heb. 7:26; Rev 15:4). Holiness refers to moral blamelessness (I Thess. 2:10).

Finally, an elder is to be disciplined (ἐγκρατής; enkrates). This is another word for self-control. This is in contrast to the vices mentioned in Titus 1:7 and 1 Tim. 4:7–8).

“I know, many people’s eyes glaze over with disinterest when the subject of church government comes up. But how churches are to organize and govern themselves is a major theme throughout the New Testament. Church government is an important topic in virtually all the Protestant confessions, and in most of our major systems of theology. Whether the subject piques our interest or not, the biblical writers thought it very important and devoted much time and attention to direct those who would come after them as to how to organize and govern their congregations. Remember, all those who trust in Jesus Christ by faith are part of his spiritual body, and are to be members of a local church. For its part, Christ’s church must ensure that the souls of God’s people are fed and cared for, are protected from heresy, as well as from those who confess faith in Christ but who still behave like pagans. When churches ignore these weighty and numerous biblical texts, God’s people may remain Christ’s, but it is they who are treated by their own shepherds as though they were pagans—duped non-persons who do the leader’s bidding, and open their wallets, and give countless hours at great sacrifice to accomplish the leader’s personal vision,” explains Pastor Kim Riddlebarger.  

It is obvious that not everyone can serve the Lord as a church elder or bishop. It requires unique individuals who God has gifted. It is a hard task to be an elder, but a noble one.

Pray for the elders of your local church. Pray for their families and their ministries. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: The Qualifications of Elders. Part Two.

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,” (Titus 1:7 (ESV)

The apostle Paul switched from the term “elder” (presbyteros) to overseer (episkopos), or bishop”) in vs. 7. We derive our English word Episcopalian from this Greek word. Yet the two words have the same meaning.

“The two words are plainly interchangeable in the apostle’s thinking, referring to the same church office. The term “overseer” is singular here, but this certainly does not mean that there must be only one episkopos per congregation. Rather the word is used here in a generic sense. Paul was simply affirming that these qualifications are required of all overseers,” explains Dr. Duane Liftin.  

Paul stressed the stewardship nature of an elder. A steward (οἰκονόμος; oikonomos) was the manager of a household. The position refers to one who has authority and responsibility (1Cor. 4:1, 2; Gal. 4:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10). Paul adds that a bishop or elder is to be above reproach as a steward.

Additionally, a bishop must not be arrogant. Arrogance (αὐθάδης; authades) refers to being self-willed and stubborn (2 Peter 2:10). It means always wanting your own way.

Being quick tempered (ὀργίλος; orgilos) means to be inclined to anger. In other words, an elder is not to be hot-tempered, short tempered and irritable; either at God or other people.  

Neither is a church leader to a drunkard (πάροινος; paroinos) or addicted to wine (I Tim. 3:3). While the Scriptures do not teach total abstinence from alcohol (I Tim. 5:23), it does declare a person who habitually drinks too much, and thus becomes a drunkard, violates God command against such behavior; therefore forfeiting the opportunity to serve as an elder (Eph. 5:18).

Violence is never to be seen in a church elder or bishop. To be violent (πλήκτης; plektes) means to be a bully (I Tim. 3:3). Unfortunately, many individuals in ministry embody this behavior. It is to their shame.

Finally, an elder is not to be greedy. The phrase greedy for gain (αἰσχροκερδής; aischrokerdes) literally means greedy for dishonest gain (I Tim. 3:3, 8; I Peter 5:2). Shameful greed for money may result in leaders stealing from the church and bringing reproach upon the Gospel. This should never happen.

A survey of godly church leadership from today’s text informs believers in Christ as to the caliber of men called to serve as elders. Not everyone can serve as an elder. Not everyone should. Only those to whom God has called and who evidence holiness of behavior consistent with the call.

Pray that your church’s elders are such a few, good men. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: The Qualifications of Elders.

“If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.” (Titus 1:6)

I recently received a phone call from a pastor in the eastern United States. He is a leader of a church plant. His congregation is growing in their faith in Christ and in number. He said he needed guidance regarding the need for, and the selection of, elders for this local church. I gave him several suggestions, including the study by that local church of I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9.

What did the Apostle Paul say to Titus regarding the selection of elders in the church? What qualifications are there for individuals to serve as church elders?

First, elders are to be anyone above reproach? Paul’s use of the pronoun anyone (τὶς; tis)is in the masculine gender. This infers that elders are men. The phrase above reproach (ἀνέγκλητος; anenkletos) means to be morally blameless and beyond any immoral accusation ((1 Cor. 1:8; Col. 1:22; 1 Tim. 3:10; Titus 1:6, 7). This remains a vital requirement for leaders in the church.

Second, an elder is to be the husband of one wife. This literally means a one wife husband. In other words, a one woman man. An elder is to remain faithful to his wife and to his marriage vows and responsibilities (Prov. 5; 6:20-35; Eph. 5:22-33). An elder is to avoid sexual immorality at all costs. This is an explicit reference to only men being elders.

Third, an elder’s children are to be believers. There is no age limit inferred in the text. An elder’s children must confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord whatever their age. They must also live lives which are not open to any accusation of debauchery or insubordination.

Debauchery (ἀσωτία; asotia) refers to recklessness, senseless living and wildness. Insubordination (ἀνυπότακτος; anypotaktos) means to be rebellious and disobedient. Both words describe a child who is self-willed and independent to the point of being uncontrollable.

“The elder must have his own household under control. This involves not only the matter of discipline (1 Tim. 3:4–5), but also positive spiritual influence as well. His children must be believers who are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient,” explains Dr. Duane Liftin.

Years ago, an elder at a church I pastored approached me and informed me that he was resigning from his position. One of his children had broken the law and been arrested. While the incident was a mischievous misdemeanor punishable by community service, my friend believed it disqualified him from being an elder. While other elders of the church dismissed his decision as taking his teenager’s actions too seriously, I accepted his resignation and respected his decision. I encouraged the other church elders to do the same.

Eldership is not to be filled by someone on the basis of their popularity in the congregation and position in the community. Rather, God has given the requirements and they are to be taken seriously. My friend understood this even though other church elders did not.

Take time today to pray for your church elders. You may consider sending them an email informing them of your prayerful support of their position and ministry. I am sure they would be most appreciative.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

Titus: The Need for Elders.  

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, 281 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!