Titus Tackles a Tough Assignment
“TO TITUS, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common.” These words must have warmed the heart of Titus as he began to read an assignment letter sent from the apostle Paul. He had been left in Crete to serve as a traveling overseer, visiting the different congregations. Titus had proved his ‘genuineness’ and so was qualified for the responsibilities with which he had been entrusted.—Titus 1:4.
Some 12 years or more earlier, Paul had taken Titus to Jerusalem. No doubt this “genuine” uncircumcised Greek Christian was present when the apostles and older men arrived at the correct conclusion on the circumcision issue. After considering much evidence, they decided that it was not necessary for Gentile Christians, like Titus, to get circumcised and keep all the requirements in the Law of Moses. What a faith-strengthening experience to have been at that historic meeting!—Acts 15:1-29; Galatians 2:1-3.
Yet in Crete there were men associated with the congregations who continued to “adhere to the circumcision.” They disagreed with the governing body in Jerusalem. Instead of keeping such opinions private, these “unruly men” were teaching that circumcision was necessary for salvation. Even worse, these “profitless talkers” advocated “Jewish fables” and commandments not found in the Law of Moses. These “deceivers” were wrecking the faith of “entire households.” The congregations in Crete were threatened with division.—Titus 1:10, 11, 14.
Another threat was the notoriously bad environment out of which Cretan Christians had emerged. A Cretan prophet acknowledged: “Cretans are always liars, injurious wild beasts, unemployed gluttons.” As this saying showed, Cretans were like wild beasts who maim and kill; they delighted in tearing to pieces the reputations of others by lying gossip. Such bad traits had infiltrated Christian congregations of Crete.—Titus 1:12; 3:2.
In his letter, Paul clearly outlines how these problems were to be handled. Titus was to fill two important needs: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you  might correct the things that were defective and  might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders.”—Titus 1:5.
Correcting the Things Defective
This was a difficult assignment. In the face of troublemakers, Titus had to take a stand for the truth, “holding firmly to the faithful word.” Some would despise him, challenging his authority. But Titus had theocratic backing. He could point to an assignment letter, stating: “Keep on speaking these things and exhorting and reproving with full authority to command. Let no man ever despise you.”—Titus 1:9; 2:15.
What if someone rejected the reproof, seeking sympathy from others in the congregation? Mercifully, such persons would receive “a first and a second admonition.” If that failed, Titus was instructed: “Reject him.” This means he was to be excommunicated, or disfellowshipped.—Titus 3:10, 11.
Because of an easygoing atmosphere, some Cretan Christians treated counsel lightly. Titus was to “keep on reproving them with severity.” Even aged brothers needed the reminder to “be moderate in habits, serious.”—Titus 1:13; 2:2.
Appointments of Overseers
The congregations in Crete were in need of good oversight. Was Titus to select the most influential member and ordain him as a “priest” over the congregation? No, his instructions were to appoint “older men in city after city.” This means that he was to see that a body of elders was appointed to oversee the congregation’s activities.—Titus 1:5.
Paul lists a number of requirements to guide in the selection of these overseers. They center around conduct. The first qualification was that a man must be “free from accusation.” Although a high education was not required, these men were to know and firmly stick to God’s “word” when teaching and ‘reproving those who contradict.’ These requirements are equally important when considering men for positions of oversight today. As, for example, Paul wrote: “An overseer must be . . . loyal.” Such loyalty is demonstrated by “holding firmly to the faithful word” as expounded in the publications of Jehovah’s modern Christian organization.—Titus 1:6-9.
There were other important matters about which Titus needed “to make firm assertions constantly.” (Titus 3:8) These can be divided into four areas—desires, speech, works and attitude.
Focus on Proper Desires
Twice in his letter to Titus Paul refers to the ‘hope of everlasting life.’ We can safely set our hearts on this hope because “God, who cannot lie, promised” it. (Titus 1:2; 3:7) On the other hand, how inconsistent and dangerous to allow “worldly desires” to crowd out this “happy hope,” involving the “glorious manifestation of the great God and of the Savior of us, Christ Jesus.”—Titus 2:11-14.
This “glorious manifestation” of God’s glory through our Savior, Christ Jesus, is very near. Closely connected with that manifestation will be the destruction of the entire wicked system and all who have centered their lives around its material and sensual attractions. How vital, therefore, for us to root out of our hearts, yes, “repudiate . . . worldly desires and to live with . . . godly devotion amid this present system of things”!—Titus 2:11-14.
Watch Our Speech
“Profitless talkers,” “liars,” “talking back,” “speak[ing] injuriously” and “foolish questionings”—these expressions reveal that the use of the tongue was being abused on the island of Crete. It was even necessary for Titus to warn aged sisters not to be “slanderous.” The same advice is needed today.—Titus 1:10, 12; 2:3, 9; 3:2, 9.
For example, in one congregation an elderly sister, though zealous in field service, was inclined to speak badly of her grown-up, dedicated children and her unbelieving husband. Without mentioning her name, it became necessary for one of the elders to give a talk to the congregation about this matter. Really, do we have the right to speak abusively of any living human? Paul’s inspired letter to Titus replies: “Speak injuriously of no one.” Rather, Christians must concentrate on using “wholesome speech which cannot be condemned.”—Titus 3:2; 2:8.
Works That Please God
“They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works.” (Titus 1:16) Troublemakers in the Cretan congregations matched this description. By contrast, four times Paul emphasizes the need for “fine works.” (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14) Setting an example in the finest of work, Paul referred to “the preaching with which I was entrusted.” (Titus 1:3) Jesus entrusted all his followers with this important work; so it should be high on our list of regular “fine works.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
Also included among “fine works” would be the endeavors of fathers to rear “believing children.” For wives, it would include being “workers at home, . . . subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” Those who engage in secular work, though not under slavery, would apply the principle in Titus 2:9, 10 by respectfully obeying their employers. Christians are required, also, to be “in subjection . . . to governments and authorities as rulers,” and “to be ready for every good work.”—Titus 1:6; 2:5; 3:1.
Maintaining a Correct Attitude
Cretan Christians needed to maintain the correct attitude toward worldly sinners, not speaking abusively of them but “exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” We need to do the same today. Otherwise, our efforts in helping them to accept the Kingdom message will fail. Also, just as in ancient Crete, we need to guard our associations. How else can we obey the command “to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with . . . godly devotion amid this present system of things”? —Titus 3:2; 2:12.
“Even we were once senseless, disobedient, being misled,” stated the apostle Paul. Was Jehovah obligated to rescue us from this sinful state? No, it was ‘owing to no works in righteousness that we had performed, but according to his mercy that he saved us.’ By exercising faith in Christ’s shed blood, Christians gain forgiveness of past sins and receive the wonderful “hope of everlasting life.” That is “undeserved kindness” of a superlative kind and a powerful reason to avoid wrong desires and to maintain wholesome speech, fine works and a merciful attitude toward our neighbors.—Titus 3:3-7.
How thankful Titus must have been for this loving aid in his tough assignment! No doubt he reread Paul’s letter many times, often quoting from it when teaching and giving counsel. Millions today make similar use of this inspired letter with great benefit to themselves and others. Its contents are indeed fine and beneficial.