Crete was a mess in all sorts of ways. Clearly, they needed help. More precisely, they needed leadership. Think about this: it is likely that some Cretans had become believers many years prior to Titus’s arrival. Acts 2 says there were Cretans present when Peter preached his very first gospel message on Pentecost in Jerusalem. They undoubtedly took the good news back home with them and proclaimed Jesus Christ to their communities in Crete. More people repented and believed all over the island—just as they had in Jerusalem.
But hold on. That initial thrust was perhaps thirty years before Titus got to the island! Who knows how many Cretans had been converted in those years? Yet these believers seem to have remained disorganized, susceptible, struggling, and in need of leadership.
Additionally, Crete was not an easy place to live as a Christian. It was known for its busy ports, its prosperous urban centers (Homer called it “Crete of the hundred cities”), and its panoply of idolatrous temples from an impressive array of civilizations. There was something for everybody on Crete! Vineyards, amphitheaters, spectacular architecture, Roman baths, every evidence of “cities gone wild” could be found on Crete. Bottom line: Crete was notorious for its unbridled culture. Sound familiar?
The most talked-about vice of Cretan culture was deception. The whole Roman Empire snickered at how wickedly deceptive Cretans could be. Even their own prophets recognized how awful they were! Deception was palpable all over the island. And sadly, but not shockingly, deception had made its way into the community of Christ followers. That is evident as Paul instructs Titus about how to lead in that unique setting.
In this section, Paul reminds Titus that the truth of the gospel is, well, TRUTH! It is the divine light that shatters the darkness of sin and unbelief. Truth corrects twisted thinking. Truth turns defilement and ignorance into purity and wisdom. Truth turns the spotlight on worldly lust and exposes it for what it truly is. When Titus meets up with “rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception,” he needs to expose and shatter their unbridled lies with TRUTH.
This is a page right out of Jesus’s playbook. When Jesus stepped foot on planet Earth, he did so as light shining in darkness (John 1:5). Darkness ran for cover. But Jesus taught that those who recognized and received the truth would come running into the light. “Anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (John 3:21).
Followers of Christ are people of the light. We don’t walk in darkness any longer. And when we band together to form communities (local churches), walking in truth forms the strong bond of our unity! “If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Truth is a guiding beacon for the collective of Christ followers, the local church. Therefore, deception has no place in the church. Titus would have to confront the lies of the secular culture, but first he had to expose and correct the lies present among God’s people.
Though Titus was a young man, he was uniquely qualified for equipping the church in Crete to combat empty talk and deception—especially from the highbrow “circumcision party.” Why? Titus was one of the few notable Gentile leaders at this point in the history of the church. Early in his faith, Titus had to fend off those of the circumcision party who tried to compel him to first become a Jew in order to be a real Christian. Requiring circumcision was an affront to the gospel because the action indicated that Christ’s work on the cross wasn’t sufficient. It’s not just an “added burden” but the claim that Jesus didn’t accomplish our salvation and hence we complete it by adding our own works to it. Later, Titus was there for the important Jerusalem council that decisively freed Gentile Christians from circumcision and other Judaizing influences. Titus was wise and doctrinally strong. He was uniquely qualified to hit those issues head-on!
Finally, Paul reminded Titus that it was not going to be enough to expose and reject deception. The followers of Christ on Crete had to feed a hunger for truth. They need to be nurtured by and nourished with truth. Pure hearts long for pure truth. Conversely, those who reject pure truth will feed instead on deception and the result will be an increasingly defiled mind and conscience.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is “truth that leads to godliness.” As our minds and consciences are renewed and recalibrated away from deception and toward the pure milk of truth, life transformation inevitably follows. This gospel transformation invades every sphere and every person.
Hear Jeff Dodge talk about Paul’s message to Titus on LIFE Today Live. This is an excerpt from Titus: Life-Changing Truth In A World Of Lies by Jeff Dodge. Copyright ©2020 by Jeff Dodge. Published by New Growth Press. Used by permission.