Thursday, August 21, 2008

Titus 1:8 (1)

This is the first part of my script from a Wednesday night meeting a few weeks ago. Wednesday night church involves about fourty minutes of prayer and prayer requests for people and ministries, intermingled with sung worship. We spend the last twenty minutes going through Titus, more or less a verse at a time. I didn't stick that closely to my script, more in ideas than words.

Over the last few weeks on a Wednesday night we’ve been looking at the qualifications for an Elder. So far we’ve seen that Paul has detailed to Titus many things that an Elder is not to be. He must not be angry, or self willed, or given to wine or a striker. There are many things that a Christian is not to be, and so there are may things that those who leads Christians should not be. After this Paul moves to tell Titus what an elder should be. We move from the negative to the positive. It’s not that an elder shouldn’t be something, it’s not just a lack of bad that makes a man able to lead a church, as if he was a blank tablet, but the presence of what is good. We can see Paul’s change of direction right from the first word of verse 8.


The first positive attribute of an Elder is that he must love. We see this word love twice in verse 8. The elder must love hospitality, and he must love good men. The first one of these, hospitality was especially important in Titus’ day, when Christians were being persecuted. When a group of believers were run out of one town they would need to seek refuge with the Christians of another town. It seemed reasonable that they would look first for the elder of that town, to look after them. This would also provide a great example for the other people of the church, as well as a great encouragement to those who had been made homeless by the persecution. Today, there is little chance of any of us being made homeless because of our faith. Today’s elders are called to be hospitable in a different way, but with the same affect. Imagine not having a Pastor willing to open up his home, not willing to care for people. What sort of example would that set, or what sort of church would he be leading. Paul calls elders to love hospitality.


Also, says the text, he must love good men. The word translated as good men here means having a strong affection for that which is intrinsically good. That which is pure or lovely, as Philippians 4:8 has it. This also reflects onto the company that the Elder keeps. There’s an old English saying that goes ‘birds of a feather fly together’, which just means that those of the same passions and interests will normally always be found together. This is true in my life. My best unsaved friends all share my passion for football in general and Wycombe Wanderers in particular, and my best saved friends are the ones that make me want to love the Gospel more. It is so encouraging isn’t it to spend time with people of a similar passion as you. It’s a wonderful way to battle loneliness and discouragement, and this is as important for an Elder as for anyone. I remember a couple of weeks ago me and the Preacher went to Vanceboro’ to have lunch with some guys from Sherwood Forest in New Bern, and even just sitting and listening to the men around the table made me so encouraged and envision about the work there is to do. If we who are not Elders relish those times, how much more should those who are do so. The way a man deals with his time in relation to those inside the church, and the way he loves those inside the church are a key way of judging his character.


The Elder is to be sober. This word can mean simply ‘not drunk’ but since Paul has dealt with alcohol a verse earlier it seems that in this context sober means more serious and reasonable. Someone who can use time well, who isn’t given to coarse jokes, who feels the weight of the call that rests on his shoulders. Someone who is aware of the horrors of Hell and the joys of Heaven. Someone who doesn’t pursue sin or dedicate excess time to things of no importance. That’s not to say that Paul wants to Elder of the churches in Crete to merely work and sleep, he’s already dealt with the importance of family life, but it does mean that Paul thinks that time is short, and needs to be redeemed. One of my historical heroes, the Pastor/theologian Jonathan Edwards is a great example of this kind of life. Now he is an extreme example, but a good one none the less. He would, at times during his life study for thirteen hours a day, occasionally foregoing meals, and always regulating what he ate so that it would not slow his digestion and thus hamper his work. When he was riding his horse from town to town and an idea came to him he would stop riding, write the idea on a piece of paper and stick it to his coat. Sometimes he would come home covered in pieces of paper. This man is an extreme example, but one who inspires me. He was probably the greatest theologian America will ever produce, and even in the areas of science he was so far ahead of his time that we can barely say that we’ve caught up today, and certainly a great example of the sober minded, time redeeming life.


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