Cleaning up a Messy Church, Titus 1


Titus was a Gentile convert (Gal 2:3) and co-laborer (2 Cor 2:13; 8:23) of the apostle Paul’s.

Like Timothy, Titus was not the pastor of the church on the island of Crete, but was Paul’s representative there. Paul had other plans for Titus (3:12—Titus was to join Paul at Nicopolis once other co-workers arrived there in Crete).

Cretans had a notoriously and proverbially low moral character (1:12). There’s a Greek word that means “to act as a Cretan” which meant the same thing as “to play the liar.” Greek scholar Daniel Wallace put verse 12 this way: “Liars ever, men of Crete; nasty brutes who love to eat.” This was the heritage of the Christians Titus ministered to.

The church of Crete needed qualified spiritual leadership (1:5-9); they had false teachers among them (1:10-16; 3:9-11), and they struggled with unchristian behavior (2:1-3:8, 14).

These issues caused the church to be disorderly—or, out of order, unregulated, confused, a mess—so Paul wrote this letter to help Titus put the church in good order by appointing godly pastors (1:5-9), rebuking false teaching (1:10-16), and encouraging godly living (chaps. 2-3).

Truths to Nail Down and Meditate On

  1. Jesus cares about the “orderliness” of his churches. Orderly involves properly arranged and regulated. Jesus tells what his churches must “look” like, what characterizes true orderliness, what makes a church a good church, and Jesus details such needed orderliness in the book of Titus. Over the last several years churches have almost bragged about being a “messy” church, some even naming themselves that! There is nothing virtuous or right in remaining in a messy, disorderly, unregulated, confused, and incorrect state or condition. Jesus says through Paul in 1 Cor 14:33, 40, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints…let all things be done decently and in order.” We must heed what Jesus, the Head of the church, says about his church!
  2. Pastors must have godly, Christ-like character to faithfully teach truth and rebuke error (vv. 5-9). Sadly, pastors frequently evaluate themselves and are evaluated by external standards such as being culturally “with it.” While there is no virtue in being “culturally backward,” Jesus Christ demands pastors to be thoroughly Christian, not worldly, so that truth is faithfully ministered.
  3. Jesus’ command for straying believers and teachers in a local church is sharp rebuke (v. 13). Such must be given with great love (Gal 6:1), trusting the Lord to bring them to repentance (2 Tim 2:24-26). The end or goal is not to win an argument but so “that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).
  4. False teaching hardens minds and consciences in sin (vv. 15-16). There is no such thing as “neutral” thinking. Everything must be seen from the Triune God’s perspective.