October 11 – Titus: spiritual paratrooper!

October 11, 2022 Randy Bushey

` by Randy Bushey

To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour (Titus 1:4).

A friend recently reminded me of something I’d forgotten.

Years ago when my (favourite) daughter-in-law asked who in Bible history – besides the Lord Jesus – I’d most want to meet, I promptly answered with one name: Titus.

I’ve long been fascinated by this character – a relatively obscure New Testament player, but a chosen travelling companion and emissary of the great Apostle Paul.

I’m intrigued by Titus for 3 reasons:

1) Paul clearly had deep fondness and fatherly affection for this young man as the above introductory verse to the book bearing his name attests. The great apostle is so related to 2 young men: Titus and Timothy, about whom much more is known.

Titus was probably lead to Christ by Paul in his evangelistic ministry, and Timothy was discipled by Paul. But of the thousands who would trace their spiritual birth to the missionary zeal of the Apostle, these 2 young men (plus Onesimus in Philemon 10) are elevated in Scripture as spiritual “sons” to the otherwise childless Paul.

2) Paul had great trust for Titus and his discernment and wisdom. Timothy was a competent and trusted apostolic representative commissioned by Paul to Ephesus. Paul appeared to be concerned that Timothy’s gentle nature would be hard-pressed to withstand the rigors of pastoral work.

However, Titus was dispatched to known trouble spots: politically independent-minded Dalmatia, the troubled church at Corinth, and then to a known, long-time haven for pirates: Crete. Titus must have been in possession of a character constitution that could withstand the rigours of pioneer pastoral ministry.

Eugene Peterson (author of The Message Bible paraphrase) provides this colourful description of the Mediterranean island: “It is tempting to caricature Crete as a kind of first-century Wild West, a semi-anarchist society without much social savvy — independent spirits, do-it-yourself lone rangers. I imagine them as a rough-edged mixture of Yukon gold rusher, Texas cowboy, Saskatchewan sodbuster, and Montana militia man.”*

Into this milieu was intentionally thrust Paul’s young confidante.

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 (Titus 1:5).

People were coming to Christ likely as a result of Paul’s initial missionary campaign on the island, and Titus was commissioned to establish order in these infant churches, selecting elders for each – a challenging and arduous task for anyone, let alone a relatively inexperienced young man.

But the Apostle, currently stationed in Corinth, had loads of trust that Titus would carry out Paul’s purposes in ways that honoured Christ.

With that contextual background, Anglican Bible teacher Edward Hird has whimsically referred to Titus as Paul’s “spiritual paratrooper”. He was quite literally, a pastor to pirates!

3) And, Paul had confidence in Titus’ character as a man of unyielding principles and persona. In the unfolding of historical events, Titus played a key role as a most prominent Gentile believer in the apostolic church.

A nuanced observation: “As a Gentile, Titus becomes a prototype for the Galatians and a test case for the entire Gentile mission of Paul…Titus left Jerusalem as an uncircumcised Gentile, and as such, served as a powerful witness that a Gentile could participate in God’s salvation without accepting this prescription of the Torah” [law of Moses]**.

It is impossible for us today to fully understand the tension – racial, sociological and spiritual – around these issues in the early Church. The first Christians were almost exclusively Jews and their Old Covenant heritage derived from the Law of Moses given by God at Mount Sinai 15 centuries earlier, was deeply engrained in their religious DNA.

And so Paul, originally a proud and elite Jew, entrusted this high-profile role as a Gentile believer to Titus – a test-case (Galatians 2:3) when Titus came to Jerusalem as part of the Apostle’s entourage. This is undoubtedly a testament to Titus’ unusually high discipline, character and consistency.

The great risk of future embarrassment and undermining of the Gospel of Christ was foremost in the Apostle’s mind; he needed to manage that risk by selecting a man in whom he could trust.

Titus was that man.

Takeaway: the study of this short epistle of only 46 verses gives us a exceptional window into the 1st century local church – a counter-cultural community of faith – and a peek into the soul of both the Apostle and his beloved true son in our common faith.

*Marva Dawn & Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000.

**John Gillman in entry on Titus, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, volume 6; David Noel Freedman, editor-in-chief; Doubleday, New York, 1992.