Set In Order

by Jeff Asher

The Church on the island of Crete most likely had its beginning with the return of certain Jews converted in Jerusalem at the first Pentecost after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:11). It is impossible to assign a visit by any apostle other than Paul to this island before 62 A.D.

Paul's Influence There

Paul is recorded as having been on the island in the port of Fair Havens and the city of Lasea while in route to Rome. It is conceivable that Paul may have found and visited brethren during his lay over. However, none are mentioned (Acts 27:1-14).

After two years in Rome, Paul was released from captivity. The epistles which he wrote just prior to his imprisonment and during it indicate that Paul was released (Phil. 1:19-25) and had definite plans about the continued evangelization of Mediterranean Europe (Rom. 15:18-28). Whether or not Paul realized all of his plans or not is difficult to say. However, that he was released and revisited many of the churches he established on the former three journeys is a reasonable conclusion.

Based on the evidence Paul very likely left Rome and traveled to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). Leaving Timothy behind he came into Macedonia, very likely to Philippi. From here Paul wrote 1 Timothy (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3). Journeying south he passed through Greece where Titus joined him at some point. Together they made their way to Crete where Paul left Titus for the purpose of maturing the Churches (Titus 1:5). From thence, Paul returned to Asia (1 Tim. 3:14,15) where he resided in Ephesus and visited the Asian Churches (Phil. 22; 2 Tim. 4:13).

At some point after this, Paul was arrested again and sent to Rome (2 Tim. 4:6-12). Paul was not without bitter enemies in Asia (Acts 19, 21:27-31; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; 4:14). He may have been charged and arrested there, or he may have journeyed again to Corinth and arrested (2 Tim. 4:20; cf. Titus 3:13). In either case, he was back in Rome and desired the companionship of his faithful friends and fellow laborers in the gospel (2 Tim. 4:9).

Set In Order The Things That Are Wanting

Paul left Titus in Crete for the purpose of setting in order the things that were wanting (Titus 1:5). Specifically, he was to ordain elders in every city.

There were obviously some among the Cretans that had been or were being influenced by the Judaizers (1:10). The false doctrine of circumcision had finally made its way to these saints (cf. Acts 15:1ff.). This was the principal error of the first century and the one which occupied most of Paul's attention (Phil. 3:1-3; Gal. 5:6-12; 6:11-15). Titus was no stranger to the conflict having been with Paul in it from the beginning (Gal. 2:3-5). Unlike Timothy whom Paul circumcised in order to use him in the work of converting Jews (Acts 16:3-4), Titus was from the other side of the conflict, one like Paul who recognized the liberty of the Gentiles and the danger of taking away that liberty (Gal. 2:21).

However, the Judaizers were not the only trouble on Crete. There was the problem of the Gentiles having lived in a society that was immoral and corrupt (Titus 1:12; cf. Rom. 1:18-31). Thus, Paul writes about basic morality and human relationships (Titus 2:11-12). Titus was to be a good example in order that they might see in him what should be in themselves (Titus 2:7-8).

There was also the need to remind them of their duty to be obedient to the civil government, to live quietly among their fellows and to devote themselves to doing good deeds. If they would perfect themselves in this, they would be proper representatives of Christ (Titus 2:10; 3:8).

In order to accomplish this goal of mature Churches in every city, it was necessary that there be elders or bishops in every city. The maturation of the churches is accomplished through the diligent oversight of qualified elders (Titus 1:13,14).

Elders provide a proper example of spiritual character, home life, morality and discipline to all believers (Titus 1:16). They have the knowledge and experience necessary to deal with those who would destroy the flock (Titus 1:11). Having demonstrated successfully that they do indeed "hold fast the faithful word," they have the respect of the saints and, thus, the influence to command others (Titus 1:13).

Modern Churches are no less in need of these spiritual guides today. Young families need good examples of parenting and spousal relationships. Preachers need the sound judgment that comes with experience to help them as they "speak, exhort and rebuke." There are still many "unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" whose mouths must be stopped. All Christians need encouragement and guidance concerning the daily trials that come on the job, at school or in the neighborhood.

What a blessing when things are in order.