Lesson 15: "That He May Be Able By Sound Doctrine. . .To" (Titus 1:9)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. This is lesson #15, welcome again to our study. In our last lesson, we read v.5-9, in Titus ch. 1, somewhere near the end of that lesson. We said that one of the reasons Paul left Titus in Crete was to ordain elders, i.e. congregational overseers in every city. It is not likely they had more than one congregation in each city; thus, we said the idea is congregational overseers and not city overseers. In the last of v.5, Paul said: "as I had appointed thee," i.e. as Paul had appointed Titus. So, Paul appointed Titus to appoint overseers. The word ordain means very simply a formal appointment to an office. How did Titus do this appointing? The idea is that Titus was to oversee the process of getting these men appointed. Titus did not pick these men, neither did Titus draft these men, nor did he assign them this duty against their will. And, it's not altogether a democratic process either. Elders, or congregational overseers, which is another name for (and thus synonymous with) pastors, shepherds, bishops and presbyters (all the same thing), these men are made overseers by the Holy Spirit. We learned this back in Acts 20:28, if you remember. Paul said to the Ephesian elders: "The Holy Ghost has made you overseers." To do what Paul? "Feed the church of God..." Alright, now, if Titus didn't pick these men, who did pick these men? Well, I believe we find the answer to that question back in Acts (6:3). Elders are selected the same way deacons are selected. The congregation must select these men. Paul, being an apostle, gave the qualifications, or the criteria to be used in their selection. That's the way they did it in the Jerusalem church back there in Acts ch. six. The apostles, then acting as elders of the Jerusalem congregation, said: "brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business," i.e. the business of serving tables or caring for the widows in that case. Down in v.5 (there), it says this "pleased the whole multitude," i.e. the whole congregation. Further down in that verse (Acts 6:5), it says: "they chose," i.e. the congregation chose seven men. Thus, I conclude: apostles gave the qualifications, a congregation did the choosing. Now, the exact details of how they went about this choosing process, we are not told. Did someone nominate these men from the floor, so-to-speak? OR, did each member pick seven men, following this criteria and thumb-tack their list of names on to the bulletin board and the elders tabulated the results and determined the seven men who were named most often? Or did they follow some other procedure? Just how was this selection done? Well, as I said, we are not told; thus, I conclude (since there is no scriptural precedent) the selection process is within the realm of human judgment. Each congregation is left to their best judgment as to how to accomplish this. Since the first qualification for an elder (I-Tim. 3:1) is that they must "desire the office," it is usually done (to my limited experience) something like this: someone, possibly the present elders if there is already an eldership (but, not limited to the elders, any member can do it); they simply ask the men of the congregation who would appear to qualify (usually in private), if they would like to be an elder. If they respond positively, then they have demonstrated the first qualification: they desire the office. If everything else appears to be in order, their name is added to a list on the bulletin board and the list is left on that bulletin board for a designated time, i.e. the list is posted as public as it can be made. When that designated time arrives, the list is taken down, usually by the existing elders if there are any. Otherwise, a committee or some preacher is usually appointed to go over the list and see if those nominated actually qualify according to the criteria given here in Titus ch. 1 and in I-Tim. ch.3. In the case of the Cretan churches, I would suspect that Titus did this. They checked everyone on the list to see: is this man the husband of one wife (I-Tim. 3:2). Now, if a good, godly, older lady in that congregation was nominated by someone who didn't know any better, her name had to be marked off, i.e. scratched out. It's mighty hard for a lady (the very best) to qualify as the husband of one wife. God made her a woman, so this doesn't discredit her in the least. If it's a Christian bachelor, an older man, maybe a fine person, very godly, very dedicated, very spiritual; but, having no family, his name will have to be marked out. Because, that is a qualification. Then on down the lists they go, name by name, qualification by qualification. After the list of names has been investigated and possibly narrowed down, those names that remain are usually posted on the bulletin board again for a given amount of time (a week or two). An announcement is made to the congregation something like this: these men appear to meet elder qualifications. In this announcement, every member of the congregation is invited to go over that list, double check it, against the qualifications that Paul gave. If any member has reason to believe anyone on that list does not meet some qualification, they are to report this to the elders, the committee, Titus or whoever was assigned to investigate this. This point is then reinvestigated by the committee. It may be necessary for the committee to confront that elder nominee and get more information. If it is a subjective point and there is no gross evidence to the contrary, the nominee is usually given the benefit of the doubt. How many can be ordained? I do not believe you can have too many elders. To my limited experience, that has never been a problem. You'll be lucky, out of a. congregation (of say 30 to 100 members) to find two or three men who will survive the selection process we have just described. If you find ten, that's GREAT! But, like I said, you won't find too many, that'll not be a problem, I'll guarantee it, i.e. if you stick to the qualifications that Paul gave. Usually, the problem is finding at least two. There must be two or more to form an eldership. Elders in the N.T. always occur in the plural when speaking of an eldership.
Alright, back up just a minute! We have been discussing the selection process. The congregation is to do the selecting, i.e. using Acts ch. 6 as the precedent. However, those men who survive the congregational selection process are still not ordained, they are still not appointed. They are still not elders, bishop, or whatever you prefer to call them. They are not as yet congregational overseers. There is still the process of appointing or ordaining these men. This, in effect, is nothing more than a formal announcement to the congregation that these men are now considered ordained or formally and duly appointed. This announcement is usually made by and evangelist, a visiting preacher or some very biblically knowledgeable person. Paul appointed Titus to do it in Crete. This should be done with prayer and great solemnity. It is a very serious step. These men are being commended to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Now, for the purpose of understanding this, let me assume for just a moment that someone asked this question: What happens if someone tries to fake it? If someone knows they are not qualified and they hypocritically go through such an ordination process, then men (i.e. their peers) may think they are an elder, men may respect them as elders, they may wear the title of an elder; however, you must remember they are made elders in the sight of God by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), read it again. So, you can't fake it. It's just like becoming a Christian, the Lord changes your name on those books in heaven so-to-speak. You may even be fooled into thinking you are a Christian for a hundred years, your neighbors may seriously believe you to be a Christian, you may be accepted in the congregation, even serve as treasurer or something else and still not be a Christian. Your neighbors can be fooled. Your family can be fooled. Even you can be fooled. To become a Christian, you must hear the gospel, believe the gospel, repent, i.e. change your mind and decide to live in accordance with that faith, confess Jesus as the Son of God, as your King and your Saviour, be baptized into a watery grave according to his command and be raised to walk in newness of life. When you have obeyed the gospel, the LORD will add you to his church (Acts 2:47), THEN you are Christian. You are mustered in, so-to-speak. You still must live a faithful Christian life to receive the crown we call heaven. So, as I said, there's no way one can fake it.
The next question that usually arises is: how long should these men serve? The answer is, very simply: as long as they are qualified and as long as they can and will serve. Hopefully, the rest of their life! However, when an elder cannot honestly qualify any longer he should resign. For example, I have a friend who served as an elder in one congregation for some time, possibly six or eight years. He had two children, a boy and a girl, both were well behaved, well respected children and very spiritual. Both were baptized believers, they became Christians at a rather early age. However, as time went on and the boy reached his mid twenties, still unmarried, he laxed off on his spiritual duties and began to be influenced by outsiders. He bought a motorcycle, let his hair grow and began to indulge in things unbecoming to a Christian. This boy's father, the elder, coaxed the boy, pleaded with the boy, done everything he knew to do. Things got worse! The boy was well on his way to being lost. He was in essence blackballing the church; however, he was still living at home with his parents. One Sunday morning, this elder, very politely and very calmly announced that he was resigning as an elder. He explained why to the members in rather general terms. Some already knew the finer details of course. It was a sad occasion. Someone said to me: now, that is wrong for a good elder to resign when his son is the one responsible. Well, it seems a little unfair, doesn't it! However, what's the guideline? Look at v.6 here in Titus, Paul said: "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." Did you get it? If this elder was following the book, what alternative did he have? Now, he could have made excuses. He could have made big speeches about how hard he was trying and try to go on sympathy. He could have played politics and said his son was no worse than some other Christians in that congregation. There's always that temptation to start comparing ourselves among ourselves. Isn't there? Paul said not to do that (II-Cor. 10:12). Did this elder do right? Well, I believe he did. The rest of the story goes something like this: after a couple years of wild conduct, the boy finally came back to church, rededicated himself, asked for the prayers of the congregation, began to dress better, started attending a brotherhood college where he met his wife and finally graduated. He is now living and working in another state. He has a family, his in-laws are Christians and the reports are good. Three or four years ago, he got around to taking these very courses you are taking, and he has since signed up others. I believe the boy saw how serious his father was and that had a lasting impression on this boy. To my knowledge, his father has not since served as an elder; but, he has done a good bit of preaching over the years and he HAS served as a deacon. He and his good wife took some of these courses you are taking a few years ago and he was the one who signed up his son. After retirement, this former elder is now doing personal work, i.e. conducting bible classes on an individual basis, cottage meetings (they are sometimes called) for the congregation where he attends. He's out trying to convert as many as he can. You don't have to be an elder, you don't have to be a congregational overseer, to work for the Lord. There is plenty of work to go around in the Lord's vineyard called the church. An elder or a deacon is not just a title. It's a work to be done. Elders are to oversee the congregation. They are to feed the flock, i.e. spiritually speaking. The food they feed the congregation in this case is the Bible and James said: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (Jam. 1:22). It's a vocation, not a social click.
Now, we have about three minutes left. We covered v.5 and v.6, but we haven't touched v.7-8-9. Would you focus both eyeballs on that? Let's give it quickie once over. "A bishop must be blameless." This is a repeat from v.6 (do you see it?). Vine says the Greek word here "signifies that which cannot be called into account." We would say, this person must be above reproach, i.e. not a person that one can honestly criticize in connection with dishonest and immoral things. It does not mean he is perfect. There are no perfect human beings. He may make mistakes, you'll have to cut him some slack in that department; but, you can trust him to the end of the earth. Paul used the same word back in I-Tim. 3:2 discussing elder qualifications. Here, Paul said, "a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God." A steward is one who oversees something for another. Something like a foreman or a manager, these are words we usually use in connection with business or industry; but, it's the same idea. And, to me, this describes and defines the work of an elder or bishop very clearly. He must follow the book. He is accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ to whom all judgment is committed (John 5:22). Then on the other side of the coin (v.7), he cannot be a man that is "self-willed," and you know what that means. "Not soon angry!" He doesn't always have to have his way and he doesn't get mad if he doesn't get his way. He must not be dependent upon alcoholic beverages, not even a little bit. He must not be one who would strike another or literally fight to get his way or to accomplish something. He must not covet money and be controlled by dollar signs (I trust you remember I-Tim. ch. 6). He abhors dishonest and gambling gain. These are negative traits, that he must NOT possess. Back on the positive side (v.8), he must be "a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, [and] temperate..." Hospitable is that word that hospital comes from, i.e. to love strangers and care for them, be ready to treat them as guests. "A lover of good men," is closely related to hospitality, i.e. one who appreciates good and dedicated people along with the quality of gentleness. The word: "sober" describes how he handles himself; but, the word "just" describes how he deals with others. Does he treat people correctly? "Temperate" means he is the master of his own life. He doesn't give in to temptation. The word "holy" tucked in between these other words implies he does these things with God in mind. He is a godly person. He appreciates the Bible (v.9). He knows the book and he can rightly divide it. An elder must be able to teach with exhortation and yet encourage those who are weak. He must exhibit these things in his own life. He must be convincing (v.9), especially to those who are argumentive. He must brighten, cheer and comfort others. We'll pick up here in our next lesson. Until then, this is saying: have a good day!