Jeremiah 50:21-46; Titus 1:4-16; Psalms 97:1-12; Proverbs 21:25-26
NT: “To Titus, my true son in our common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town. An elder must be blameless, the husband of one wife, with faithful children who are not accused of wildness or rebellion… holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. For there are many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from the circumcision party. It is necessary to silence them; they are ruining entire households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly… To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. They claim to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:4-6, 9-11, 15-16 CSB)
Titus was an uncircumcised Greek who had been won to the Lord through Paul’s ministry. Therefore, Titus was one of Paul’s true sons in the faith. Apparently, after Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment, he and Titus ministered on the Greek Mediterranean isle of Crete. Paul left Crete to continue his ministry elsewhere, and left Titus behind to lead and bring formal structure to the newly-birthed Christian communities. Sometime later, Paul wrote this letter to Titus to give more detailed instructions on establishing church leadership, his role as a pastor of the flock, and the importance of godly conduct.
Cretans, by nature, did not have a very good reputation. Epimenides, a well-known Cretan poet at the time wrote, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Adding to the challenge of the Cretans’ character, false teachers had also begun to teach errant doctrine that was leading believers astray. It was imperative that Titus select leaders for the church that had both impeccable character and a commitment to sound doctrine.
Some of the false teachers in Crete were Judaizers who were trying to force the legalistic restrictions of Jewish law onto the new gentile believers. Jesus taught that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth from the heart (Matthew 15:11,18). If a person has not been given a new and undefiled heart by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, then nothing they say or do can be pure of substance and pure of motive. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, people can present themselves as pure and religious and appear like good leadership material on the outside, but the fruit of their lives says otherwise. In order to lead God’s people well without ulterior selfish motives, leaders in the church need to both love the Lord and hate evil, and the proof of that needs to be evident in their lives and in their children.
Psalms: “The Lord reigns! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coasts and islands be glad. Clouds and total darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his foes on every side. His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord — at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness; all the peoples see his glory… You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his faithful ones; he rescues them from the power of the wicked. Light dawns for the righteous, gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give thanks to his holy name.” (Psalms 97:1-6, 10-12 CSB)
The Lord reigns! He is the King, Judge and Great Potentate of the whole earth, ruling over everyone and everything in omnipotence and ultimate authority. The scene described here is similar to the scene in Exodus when the people stood around the base of Mount Sinai as the Lord God descended on the mountain in awesome glory. It is right and appropriate to fear the Lord God in all of His greatness and inapproachable glory. Evil and unrighteousness cannot exist in His holiness. Anything that stands against Him melts like wax in His presence. Yet, at His core, God is righteous and just, merciful and good, loving and gracious. To those who love God and evidence that love through faith and obedience, He allows them to approach them and abide with Him in peace. Truly loving God means hating the things that He hates. You cannot both love God and have an affinity for evil. When we come to faith in Christ and submit our lives to Him as Lord, we are made righteous in Him. As we abide in Christ and allow the word of God to abide in us, we are sanctified ongoingly by the convicting and purifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So much better it is to be in the Lord than outside. Be glad in the Lord, you who have been made righteous, and give thanks to His holy name.
Prayer: Lord, You truly are wonderful and awesome, worthy of fear and honor. Lord, I thank You that through faith in You, You not only allow me to approach You, but You allow me to abide in the safety and peace of your powerful and encapsulating presence. I love You, and I desire to always love You. Work in me through Your Holy Spirit to truly hate all forms of evil and be transformed more and more into Your image. And may the fruit of my life testify to Your goodness and glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.