As I write this, I just finished watching my beloved Baltimore Orioles end their season by losing a one-game playoff. They were on the edge of getting beaten multiple times during the game, but it seemed like the right player was used at the right time in the right place. That is, until the bottom of the 11th inning. It’s too painful for me to write about, but I find it incredulous that though the Orioles have arguably the best pitcher in the sport right now, he never appeared in this critical game.
God never makes this sort of mistake. He always has the right person in the right place at the right time. As we turn in our Nuts and Bolts series on the Pastoral Epistles to the third of three books – Paul’s Letter to Titus – we see in these opening paragraphs how God is a good manager of his personnel.
- Paul was the right person to preach the gospel.
1:1 – Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,
Paul lived during an incredible era of human history, and he knew it. He was also always totally amazed that he, a former persecutor of the faith, was given by God a most critical role of preaching and laying out the central truths of the gospel.
All of history, even from eternity past, had come to a focal point in the decades just before Paul wrote these words and travelled about the Mediterranean world establishing churches. Paul personally knew some of the disciples of Christ. Yet he was the one appointed to present to the world the hope of eternal life – the fulfillment of God’s plan from even before the creation of the world. And again, this “hope” is not of the sort we optimistically expect might happen, but rather it is the certainty of what will come to be.
- Titus was the right person to serve in Crete.
1:4 – To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
All of the exact challenges about local church ministry in Crete are not given, but (as we’ll see in subsequent passages) reading between the lines would seem to indicate that it was not an easy task. It would appear that Titus was given this task because he had the requisite skills of wisdom, administration, firmness, kindness and tact.
We might think of these churches on this island as a group of adolescents – more than mere infants and children, but not quite ready yet to launch into the adult world of independence without some guidance and oversight. Paul’s time on the island of Crete was apparently not as extensive as at some other locations, and hence they would not have benefited nearly so much from his presence and preaching. Paul needed someone to represent him and the truth, and Titus was his guy – the right person at the right place at the right time.
- Godly elders are the right people to lead the local church family.
1:6 – An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
Without doing an extensive laundry list of these qualifications for church leaders, let us take from it the very clear teaching that character evidenced by a record of life disciplines and wisdom was entirely necessary for leadership. This is especially true in the church, though character qualification is a part of all good leadership, as we are hearing much talked about in our current political climate. Nothing can make an institution, particularly a church, come crashing down faster than morally impure or inept leadership.
Notice that leadership involves the multiple components of what one knows, how one lives, and what sort of personality and character traits are present in how one carries himself publically. It is not enough to just be well-informed and educated about truth. It is not enough to just be a nice and likeable fellow. It is not enough to just quietly live in an honorable way. There is the need for a combination of these varied elements for those in church leadership.
In reading today, one might say “I’m not an apostle or the appointee of an apostle, and I’m not an elder in the church, so what does this passage say to me?” Certainly the character qualities of church leadership are worthy goals and aspirations for all of us at any stage of life. We never fully arrive, but we can fully strive. And beyond that, we know from all of Scripture that the Lord has a perfect place for everyone – the gifts of the Spirit and the necessity of the whole body with all of its members to function well, etc. Whoever you are, whatever stage of life, when you walk with the Lord he has a way of making you the right person at the right place at the right time, over and over in life.