How should a church operate in a very sinful culture? What most needs to be said to a group of Christians living in a place where the natives even say of themselves, “Cretans are always liars, evil animals, idle guzzlers” (1:12)? As we read through the three short chapters of Titus this week, let’s concentrate on this question. You can go back to this post to read a little bit about Titus, Paul’s letter to him, and the island of Crete where Titus was stationed.
Paul’s first point in this chapter is that a church in such a decadent place must have strong leadership. This was Titus’ main charge:
This is why I left you in Crete: you are to set straight all the remaining matters, and appoint elders for every town, as I charged you to do. (1:5)
If a church is ever going to be true to Jesus in a world that woes away the Beloved with desire and wantonness, they must have strong leaders leading the way. These leaders must be trying to seeking after godliness not selfish gain or they will never stand against the easy slide towards cultural accommodation. They must be able to oversee a group and their ability for this is best seen in how they have led their own children. Above all they must be people of character.
Secondly, a church surrounded by sin will only stand if they have a strong aversion to that sin. By nature, sin is alluring. Weak Christians will quickly cave into the temptation of sin and the work of the gospel will be frustrated if a distaste for sin is not fostered. There is sin that tempts from within a church and without. Paul wants these churches to be guard against both cultural decadence in a drunken, sexual immoral, unchaste society; but they must also be alert to the threat of doctrinal unorthodoxy. For the Cretan churches Titus was ministering to, this meant be they had to be wary of the legalism of the “circumcision party” (1:10), likely a Judaizing version of Christianity. For us today it could mean any number of teachings that pull us away from a core belief in grace (we don’t please God by our own merit) and good works (we can’t get lazy and believe there is nothing to do in a fallen world).
Only strong churches stand in the face of sin. Strong leadership and a strong distaste for sin.