“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.”
“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.”
Titus 1:5, 9
When we wrestle with the message of the Pastoral Epistles we are led to the conclusion that these three books are something much more than just manuals for church order. So often what we do is to look to these New Testament books for answers to questions about how we are to organize our churches. There is something much deeper and more powerful written here however. Steve Timmis in a Blog Post entitled “The Pillar of Truth” explores this in the following two paragraphs. Timmis is writing specifically about 1 & 2 Timothy, but what he writes applies equally well to the book of Titus.
“He wants Timothy to get the church at Ephesus back on gospel tracks because she has departed from the gospel. The Pastoral Epistles are not simply manuals for church order. They are an urgent call to arms. Timothy needs to go to war because the gospel is at stake in this city and region.
But critical to this strategy is the church herself. The church, formed by the gospel, is for the gospel, and by her life and witness, she commends the gospel and is the primary apologetic for the gospel before the world. John Stott, in his commentary on 1 Timothy and Titus, put it well when he wrote, “The church depends upon the truth for its existence; the truth depends upon the church for its defence and proclamation.”” (Timmis, Steve, “The Pillar of Truth” http://ligonier.org/learn/articles/pillar-truth/ )
What Timmis is pointing to here is the fact that Timothy and Titus have been given the task to put their churches and the lives of the disciples in each city on a footing that will cause them to enter successfully into the great spiritual conflict that is taking place in each of their cities. It is simple for us to drift away from the gospel footing as an individual or for that matter as a church. We begin to enjoy the fruit of a saved life forgetting the sin that we have been saved out of. We become uncomfortable engaging in the conflict which is before us in this world. Titus and Timothy are to call their churches back to the conflict through which they are living as believers. That conflict existed in their world, and it exists in ours as well. We and our churches need to heed the calling back to sound doctrine that Paul issues here. This sound doctrine is doctrine that radically transforms our lives so that we engage the world around us with the grace that the Lord Jesus Christ is building into our lives.
Perhaps this is what Paul means when he writes at the conclusion of his letter to the Ephesians these words. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)