The two best known disciples of the apostle Paul are Titus and Timothy. Each is addressed by him as “my true son in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2 NIV; Ti. 1:4). Both were young men with Greek backgrounds (Gal. 2:3; Acts 16:3) and each was considered by Paul as “my fellow worker” (2 Cor. 8:23; Rom. 16:21). I have wondered what it would be like to be in their shoes, to travel with the mission-minded apostle, to see him explain and debate with hostile crowds, to discuss church problems with him, to hear him pray, to hear him discuss his evangelistic plans and his edification strategy. Don’t you also feel a bit envious of these two young men? We know more about Timothy, since he’s mentioned twice as many times as Titus in Scripture. Yet when we put together the dozen times Titus is mentioned, we find a stimulating example of a godly and practical disciple. These references cluster around five distinct situations or events over a period of about 13 years.
1. Titus In Jerusalem – Faithful To His Convictions
The first time we read of Titus, he is travelling to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Paul (Gal. 2:1-5). It was probably not a very happy trip, since a serious problem was on their mind. These men were being accused of promoting a very “free” Christianity, without circumcision, without due respect to the Law and Jewish traditions. Some scholars associate this trip with the Council in Jerusalem around 49-50 AD (Acts 15).
Most young men would prefer going skiing or playing football rather than sitting in intense doctrinal meetings. The temptation is to leave Bible studies and conferences to the retired, the intellectual or the eccentric. Perhaps Titus wondered if the issues at hand were worth such a long trip and such an expenditure of energy. Why not simply show a submissive spirit and conform to the legalist pressure? Why not give up some of the “freedom we have in Christ” for the sake of peace and unity?
The experienced apostle to the Gentiles was aware of the long- term danger of such a compromise. We can almost hear Paul’s stern voice as he says, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (Gal. 2:5). Young Titus took his stand with Paul and Barnabas. Six centuries ago, Christians in Europe would be burned alive rather than deny their God-given convictions. Do we still have Biblical convictions worth suffering for? In this modern world of comfort and religious tolerance, it is easier to go skiing or play football.
2. Titus In Corinth– Faithful In Showing Love
Five years later, we find Titus associated with the Christian assembly in Corinth. In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul recalled a meeting with Titus: “We were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you” (2 Cor. 7:13). Titus was not mechanically doing his Christian duty in Corinth; he felt great “affection” (2 Cor. 7:15) for these brethren. Let’s not forget that the church in Corinth was far from perfect. There were tensions between the legalists (“I follow Peter”), the progressives (“I follow Paul”), the intellectuals (“I follow Apollos”) and those who thought they were above it all (“I follow Christ”). There was immorality among some, and sad indifference in most of them. There was carnality and competition among the gifted. Yet Titus loved them all. They were his brethren.
What do we bring to church life? Do we contribute to a heavy and critical atmosphere? Are we hard-to-please saints? No Christian gathering will ever be perfect. Churches must constantly seek to change for the better. I am sure Titus was instrumental in the positive changes in Corinth – in a happy way. As we travel through life, do we leave behind a pleasant or a nasty smell? Do we love our brethren enough to radiate warmth and acceptance – even towards those we disagree with? Real fellowship among God’s people requires a close walk with God. Titus became a source of “comfort” to a tired and “harassed” apostle (2 Cor. 7:5-6). If we really love our brethren, the Lord may use us to encourage and comfort them.
3. Titus On The Move – A Faithful Administrator
In 2 Corinthians 8, we find Titus involved in money matters. The project was to collect gifts from different assemblies and take them to the needy saints in Judea. We must sadly admit that the human heart is inclined towards deceit – either misappropriating, wasting or using funds to control others. The experienced apostle Paul had probably seen much of this, and was therefore “taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:21). He needed some faithful workers on this project. Administratively honest and faithful workers are still much needed today. There is a big lack of them on most mission fields. Are you trustworthy? Does your past behavior inspire confidence?
No team functions well with the presence of unreliable members. Titus and the others chosen for this delicate job were disciplined, transparent men. Their honesty and reliability had been proven by consistent behavior (2 Cor. 8:22). If we lived in those days, would those who know us recommend us for such a delicate job? Can others depend on us? Do we finish what we start? Has our life shown commitment to the cause of Christ? To each of us He has entrusted time, energies and some material possessions. To some He has also entrusted children, a job and a ministry. Are we proving faithful? The words of our Lord still hold true today: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Lk. 16:10).
4. Titus in Crete – Faithful Leading
Titus was working with Paul on the island of Crete. Believers were now assembling in a number of towns on that island. We can imagine much enthusiasm, but there were also many deficiencies. Around 62 ad, Paul left the island, but Titus remained. Soon after, he wrote, “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town” (Ti. 1:5). This was no easy task. The general moral climate on the island was decadent: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons” (Ti. 1:12). Some opposed the message (Ti. 1:9). Among the many new believers, there were probably some more experienced believers. Cretans were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:11). By this time, these saints could boast nearly 30 years of tradition and could resist Titus, saying “We have always done it this way.” Among the saints in Crete we find “mere talkers,” “deceivers” and legalists from the “circumcision group” (Ti. 1:10). There were those who loved “controversy” and “quarrels” (Ti. 3:9), and even “divisive” saints (Ti. 3:10). I am sure that the loving and faithful service of Titus in Corinth was used by God to prepare this young man for the challenge in Crete.
Maybe you are in a difficult situation right now. Difficult situations do not last forever. They are used by the Lord to develop and deepen His servants. How else do we learn perseverance? In His hands, frustrations and tears can be used to reduce the gap between what we profess and what we live (Ti. 1:16). Titus had received delegated apostolic authority for this task. Today our base is Scriptural authority. But the consistent and faithful life of Titus was an inspiration to others in Crete. Moral authority is not delegated, and it cannot be forced or demanded. It is earned: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech” (Ti. 2:7-8). Our lifestyle should “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Ti. 2:10). How do we measure up? Does the joy of our Christian lifestyle inspire others? This is the best kind of leadership.
5. Titus In Dalmatia – Faithful When Alone
The last reference to Titus is in 2 Timothy 4:10. This is Paul’s last letter. As is common among aging servants, we find expressions of loneliness: “Everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me” (2 Tim. 1:15), and “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (4:16). As age and infirmity limit the joy of active service, the godly Christian learns more and more to enjoy the Lord Himself: “But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength” (2 Tim. 4:17).
The apostle reflected on his years of sacrificial ministry. He concluded: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And he now looked forward to that “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Yet he also had some final advice for his younger co-workers: “Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship … discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). In other words, “Be a faithful finisher, and finish well.” The apostle’s mind then turned to some specific co-workers: “Demas, because he has loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10). What attracted Demas to Thessalonica? Was it a life of alcohol and drugs? An immoral life style? Or was he simply absorbed in a good secular job with a challenge and financial stability? We are not told. What about Titus? Second Timothy 4:10 says, “Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.” Titus was now entering a new stage in life. If Titus had started his travels with Paul in his early 20s, he was now in his late 30s. A decade and a half of working in the shadow of the great apostle was coming to an end. Thank the Lord for Christian parents, but the day will come when we are to live our faith without them. Thank the Lord for godly men and women, who counsel us and encourage us and say, “Well done.” But they shall also pass. Are we ready to stand alone? Are we prepared to press on without their support and supervision? From what we know, Titus proved faithful to the end.
Brief encounters with enthusiastic believers like Titus challenge our lifestyle and priorities. Titus shared Paul’s apostolic preoccupation: “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good … and not live unproductive lives” (Ti. 3:13). Titus left some good footprints for others to follow. May we do the same.
By Philip Nunn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org