Friday, August 22, 2008

Titus 1:8 (2)

(part two of my script from a couple of weeks ago. You can read part one here)

Paul then goes on to tell Titus that an Elder of a church must be just. Just means fair or proper. A man who can be trusted and relied upon. We’re reminded of the story of Solomon who had to decide which woman had borne a certain child. The Elder of a church should be someone that people feel they can come to in their time of need for good advice and help. We can sense some of the importance of this quality because the word just is often translated righteous, which of course is a term used often to describe God Himself. The Elder who is just or righteous is a man who reflects the nature and character of God, the highest challenge Paul could have laid at Titus’ door. I guess in our society being just can include a whole range of things. From paying our taxes on time to not having favourites within the church. Just hear is a character trait, evidenced by actions.

The Elder of the church is to be holy. Now, I don’t think primarily holiness in the New Testament relates what we do, or say or wear. I think those things are the fruit of holiness, not the root of it. The root is deeper, the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18 ‘but those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart and they defile the heart’. Our hearts are the focus of our holiness, our hearts are the main concern. And so we can define holiness as an attitude or affection towards God.

A holy man is one who worships God and reveres Him. One who fears Him and seeks to please Him. One who will orientate his whole life around Him. Not caught up in the affairs of the world but constant in prayer for his people. Holy is another word often used of Christ in the Bible, but in a different way this time. A Christian can not achieve sinless perfection in this life but every sin is to be confessed. 1 John 1:9 says ‘if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. God’s grace, mercy and power are able to help all Christian’s live holy lives, and to help Elders live in such a way that honours God and does not bring scandal onto the church.

Holiness of life is a serious business for Elders. Charles Spurgeon, the 18th century English Baptist preacher has these words to say about it: ‘despite the sometimes popular idea that ours is a snug retreat from temptation, it is no less true that our dangers are more numerous and more insidious than others…The Elder’s ground may be a vantage point for height, but it is a perilous one.’ He later goes onto say that if Satan attacks and harries members of the army, how much more will he attack those who lead men?

The final character trait that Paul calls for is that of temperance. Moderation in eating and drinking, self control in action and speech. Someone who is temperate is not swayed by the world and is in control of his emotions and desires. This attribute is clearly linked to holiness in Paul’s mind. Perhaps he’s saving the most important until last, but it may be unfair to assume that. Paul has placed before Titus high standards for Eldership, indeed, high standards for the Christian life in general. On the comparison between the two Spurgoen again writes:

 ‘His pulse of vital Godliness must beat strongly and regularly, his eye of faith must be bright, his foot of resolution must be firm…it is said of the Egyptians that they chose their priest from the most learned of their philosophers, and their kings from their priests. We require to have for God ministers the pick of all the Christian host, such men indeed that if the nation wanted a king they could not do better then elevate them to the throne.’

What’s interesting to me as I look at this verse and those that come before it is how inward everything has to be for the Elder of God’s people to this point. Nowhere, until our next verse does Paul talk about skill or ability. Paul is demanding an inward holiness form leaders of the church. He calls for men who behave the same when they are on their own as they do when they are in public.  They are to have an inward devotion to the Lord that spills out naturally into outward action on behalf of His people. Only after these inward, moral requirements does Paul move on to talking about the outward responsibilities of an Elder. Clearly in his mind these outward abilities go hand in hand with the inward life of holiness. 

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