A Commentary by John Stott
Titus: 1: 5-16. Doctrine and duty in the church.
Paul gives two reasons why he had *left* Titus in Crete. The first was that he *might straighten out what was left unfinished*. Paul has mixed his metaphors, since one straightens out what was crooked, whereas what is unfinished needs rather to be completed. The English versions reflect this uncertainty. According to the RSV Titus was ‘to amend what was defective’, and according to the REB ‘to deal with outstanding matters’. In particular, and secondly, because this was evidently the chief unfinished business, Paul had left Titus in Crete to *appoint elders in every town, as I*, writes Paul using the *Ego* of apostolic authority, *directed you* (5b). For the main way to regulate and consolidate the life of the church is to secure for it a gifted and conscientious pastoral oversight.
Verses 6-16 set in dramatic contrast the true elders Titus is to appoint (6-9) and the false teachers whom the elders are to silence (10-16). The apostle paints a graphic picture of each group.
1). The true elders (1:5-9).
Before we consider the qualifications for the presbyterate, on which the apostle concentrates, this paragraph allows us to make four statements relating to the pastoral oversight of the church. Both the qualifications and the statements overlap with 1 Timothy 3:1-13, and the reader is referred to the exposition of that passage (1).
First, the elder (*presbyteros*, 6) and the bishop (*episkopos*, 7) were the same person. They are not two distinct church officers, but the same people with distinct titles. The evidence for this is summarized above (p.90) (2). It is quite correct therefore (although it sounds odd) to call them ‘presbyter-bishops’. ‘Presbyter’ or ‘elder’ draws attention to their seniority, and ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’ to their task of pastoral oversight. They had deacons to assist them (1 Tim.3:8ff.; cf. Phil.1:1), but the emergence of three orders of ordained ministry (bishops, presbyters and deacons) belongs to the beginning of the second century. It is not found in the New Testament, although Titus himself may be seen as an embryonic bishop in that he had jurisdiction over a number of churches on Crete, and chief responsibility for the selection and appointment of pastors.
Secondly, God intended each church to have a team of overseers. For Titus was told to appoint ‘elders’ in every town. This might mean a single elder in each house-church, assuming that there were several such churches in every town. But it could mean that there were several presbyters in each church. Within fifteen years of the resurrection there was already a plurality of elders in the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:30). So the one-person pastorate (like the one-person band in which one musician plays all the instruments) is not a New Testament model of the local church. It is rather in a team ministry that room can be found for different people with different gifts and so with different specialities – ordained and lay, full-time and part-time, salaried and voluntary, elders and deacons, men and women.
Thirdly, the main function of presbyter-bishops was to care for God’s people by teaching them. In verse 7 the overseer is called ‘God’s steward’ (REB), dispensing food to the household (Cf. 1 Cor.4:1-2), and elsewhere a ‘pastor’ or ‘shepherd’, who leads the flock into good pasture. These are graphic metaphors of the ministry of the word of God, which will include both teaching truth and refuting error (9).
Fourthly, the selection of presbyter-bishops was a corporate responsibility. True, Paul told Titus to appoint the elders and laid down the conditions of their eligibility. But his emphasis on their need to have a blameless reputation indicates that the congregation will have a say in the selection process. We note that nothing is said here either about gifts and calling (we look to other parts of the New Testament for this) or about ordination (although we assume that, as in Timothy’s case, this involved the laying on of hands by other presbyters, (1 Tim.4:14).
As we approach the question of eligibility for the pastorate, we are struck at once by the requirement of blamelessness, which is repeated. *An elder must be blameless (6a); an overseer…must be blameless* (7a). This does not of course mean that candidates must be flawless or faultless, or we would all be disqualified. The Greek word used is *anenkletos*, not *amomos. *Amomos* means ‘unblemished’. It occurs in the New Testament only in eschatological contexts; that is, it looks forward to our final perfection (E.g. Eph.1:4; 5:27; Phil.2:15-16; Col.1:22; 2 Pet.3:14; Jude 14; Rev.14:5). *Anenkletos*, however, means not ‘without blemish’ but ‘without blame’, ‘unaccused’. So candidates for the pastorate must be people of ‘unquestioned integrity’ (JBP), of ‘unimpeachable’ (REB) or ‘irreproachable’ (JB) character. Paraphrasing the word, they should be ‘marred by no disgrace’, they should offer no loophole for criticism’. All this recognizes that the pastorate is a public office, and that therefore the candidate’s public reputation is important. Hence the requirement in many churches today both of individual references and testimonials and of a *si quis*, that is, a public statement by the candidate, followed by a public opportunity for the congregation to challenge it.
In seeking to establish the blameless reputation of a candidate for the pastorate, Paul specifies three spheres to be investigated. This passage and its exposition should be read alongside 1 Timothy 3:1-13.
Note: The question of both Presbyters and Bishops, and seeking to establish the blameless reputation for the pastorate were covered in studies while studying 1 Timothy.
|Tomorrow: Titus 1:6). a). Elders must be blameless in their marriage and family life.|
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.