Titus—“A Fellow Worker for Your Interests”
PROBLEMS sometimes arose in the first-century Christian congregation. These had to be resolved, and this required courage and obedience. A man who successfully faced more than one such challenge was Titus. As one who shared in the work with the apostle Paul, he made earnest efforts to help others do things Jehovah’s way. Paul therefore told Christians in Corinth that Titus was ‘a fellow worker for their interests.’—2 Corinthians 8:23.
Who was Titus? What part did he play in resolving problems? And how can we benefit from considering his conduct?
The Circumcision Issue
Titus was an uncircumcised Greek. (Galatians 2:3)a Since Paul calls him “a genuine child according to a faith shared in common,” Titus may have been one of the apostle’s spiritual children. (Titus 1:4; compare 1 Timothy 1:2.) Titus was with Paul, Barnabas, and others from Antioch, Syria, when they went to Jerusalem in about 49 C.E. to discuss the question of circumcision.—Acts 15:1, 2; Galatians 2:1.
It has been suggested that since the conversion of uncircumcised Gentiles was under discussion in Jerusalem, Titus was taken along to demonstrate that Jews and non-Jews could gain God’s favor whether they were circumcised or not. Some members of the Jerusalem congregation who had been Pharisees before accepting Christianity argued that Gentile converts were obliged to get circumcised and to observe the Law, but this argument was resisted. Compelling Titus and other Gentiles to get circumcised would have been denying that salvation depends on Jehovah’s undeserved kindness and on faith in Jesus Christ rather than on works of the Law. It would also have been a rejection of evidence that Gentiles, or people of the nations, had received God’s holy spirit.—Acts 15:5-12.
Dispatched to Corinth
When the circumcision issue was settled, Paul and Barnabas were given full authority to preach to the nations. At the same time, they also endeavored to keep the poor in mind. (Galatians 2:9, 10) Indeed, when Titus reappears in the inspired record about six years later, he is in Corinth as Paul’s envoy in organizing a collection for the holy ones. As Titus went about doing this work, though, he found himself in another situation charged with tension.
Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians reveals that he first wrote them to “quit mixing in company with fornicators.” He had to tell them to remove an unrepentant fornicator from their midst. Yes, Paul wrote them a strong letter, doing so “with many tears.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 2:4) Meanwhile, Titus was dispatched to Corinth to assist in the collection taking place there for needy Judean Christians. Possibly, he was also sent to observe the response of the Corinthians to Paul’s letter.—2 Corinthians 8:1-6.
How would the Corinthians react to Paul’s counsel? Anxious to find out, Paul may have sent Titus from Ephesus across the Aegean Sea to Corinth, with instructions to report back as soon as possible. If such a mission was completed before navigation ceased for the winter (in about mid-November), Titus could go to Troas by ship or take the longer overland route via the Hellespont. Paul probably arrived at the agreed meeting place in Troas early, since the riot sparked by the silversmiths caused him to leave Ephesus sooner than anticipated. After an anxious wait in Troas, Paul realized that Titus would not be coming by sea. Hence, Paul struck out overland in the hope of meeting him along the way. Once on European soil, Paul would take the Via Egnatia, and he finally met up with Titus in Macedonia. To Paul’s great relief and joy, the news from Corinth was good. The congregation had reacted favorably to the apostle’s counsel.—2 Corinthians 2:12, 13; 7:5-7.
Though Paul had worried about the kind of welcome his envoy was going to experience, God helped Titus to fulfill his commission. Titus had been received with “fear and trembling.” (2 Corinthians 7:8-15) To use the words of expositor W. D. Thomas: “We can assume that without diluting the strength of Paul’s censure, [Titus] pleaded skilfully and tactfully with the Corinthians; assuring them that Paul, in speaking as he did, had only their spiritual wellbeing in mind.” In the process, Titus had come to love the Corinthian Christians because of their obedient spirit and positive changes. Their commendable attitude had proved to be a source of encouragement to him.
What about the other aspect of Titus’ mission to Corinth—organizing the collection for the holy ones in Judea? Titus had been working on that as well, as can be deduced from information found in 2 Corinthians. That letter was probably written in Macedonia during the fall of 55 C.E., soon after Titus and Paul met. Paul wrote that Titus, who had initiated the collection, was now being sent back with two unnamed helpers in order to complete it. Being earnestly interested in the Corinthians, Titus was very willing to return. As Titus made his way back to Corinth, likely he was carrying Paul’s second inspired letter to the Corinthians.—2 Corinthians 8:6, 17, 18, 22.
Not only was Titus a good organizer but he was also the kind of man that could be entrusted with delicate commissions in difficult situations. He was courageous, mature, and firm. Paul evidently considered Titus capable of dealing with the ongoing challenges presented by Corinth’s “superfine apostles.” (2 Corinthians 11:5) This impression of Titus is confirmed by his next appearance in the Scriptures, in another demanding assignment.
On the Island of Crete
It is probable that sometime between 61 and 64 C.E., Paul wrote to Titus, who was then serving on the Mediterranean island of Crete. Paul had left him there to “correct the things that were defective” and to “make appointments of older men in city after city.” In general, Cretans had the reputation of being “liars, injurious wild beasts, unemployed gluttons.” In Crete, therefore, Titus would again be called upon to act with courage and firmness. (Titus 1:5, 10-12) That was a very responsible task, for it was likely to shape the future of Christianity on the island. Under inspiration, Paul helped Titus by specifying what to look for in potential overseers. Those qualifications are still weighed in connection with the appointment of Christian elders.
The Scriptures do not indicate when Titus left Crete. He was there long enough for Paul to ask him to provide for the needs of Zenas and Apollos, who were stopping there on a journey at some unspecified time. But Titus would not be on the island very long. Paul was planning to send either Artemas or Tychicus there, and then Titus was to rendezvous with the apostle in Nicopolis, likely the prominent city of that name located in northwest Greece.—Titus 3:12, 13.
From the Bible’s last fleeting reference to Titus, we learn that probably in about 65 C.E., Paul sent him on yet another assignment. It took him to Dalmatia, a region east of the Adriatic Sea in present-day Croatia. (2 Timothy 4:10) We are not told what Titus was to do there, but it has been suggested that he was being sent to regulate congregational affairs and engage in missionary activity. If so, Titus would be acting in a capacity similar to the one in which he served in Crete.
How thankful we are for mature Christian overseers like Titus! Their clear understanding of Scriptural principles and their courageous application of them help to safeguard the spirituality of the congregation. Let us imitate their faith and prove to be like Titus by promoting the spiritual interests of our fellow believers.—Hebrews 13:7.
a Galatians 2:3 describes Titus as a Greek (Helʹlen). This may mean that he was of Greek descent. However, it is claimed that some Greek writers used the plural form (Helʹle·nes) in referring to non-Greeks who were Greek in language and culture. It is possible that Titus was Greek in that sense.
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Titus was a courageous fellow worker for the interests of Christians in Corinth and elsewhere