St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor January 26, 2020
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; 4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
In the Name of Jesus.
Crete needs a pastor. So the Apostle Paul will not let them be without one.
In order that the Church would be cared for, in order that the Gospel would be preached in the Church, that families and children would be baptized, that the holy Body and Blood of Jesus would each week be served to the Lord’s people for the forgiveness of their sins, the Lord instituted the Office of Holy Ministry. We call them pastors.
Paul called them pastors, too. He used also other titles for this office, including “servant” or “minister,” including “elder” and “overseer,” so we don’t need to get too concerned about the title.
But the Church in Crete, these Christians, need a pastor, and Paul will not leave them without. So he calls Titus. Titus will be the Lord’s pastor in Crete.
So a note about Crete. This is going to be a rough church to be called to. Everyone knows about Crete. These are tough people. They have a proud history, but they are arrogant. Cretans are known for demanding their way, for imposing their will, for making dishonest deals, for doing things however they want. Titus should be under no illusion when he takes the pulpit in Crete. Paul refers to them as insubordinate. In his letter to Titus, Paul is right up front with Titus about these Cretans. Paul writes,
There are many [in Crete who are] insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.
And it isn’t just Paul’s view. Paul even goes and gives Titus a famous quote from Epimenides, a famous Greek philosopher who was himself from Crete. Paul writes:
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”
Oh, Titus, pastor Titus. Are you sure you want this call to Crete?
But Titus is honored. The Apostle sets him there with a charge. Paul loves these Cretans. How could he not?—Paul knows that Jesus has atoned for them with his own blood.
So he sets Titus there to be a pastor to the Cretans. “I left you in Crete,” says Paul, “so that you might put what remained into order, appointing elders in every town as I directed you.” [Titus 1:5]
“Elders” is one of Paul’s words for the Office of Holy Ministry. Paul wants Titus to appoint elders, pastors, in all the towns on the great island of Crete. Paul wants no one left apart from the Gospel.
But how will Titus do this? How will he bring this Gospel week after week to these Cretans? Not in the way they expect. Not in the way they are used to.
They’re used to having their own way, to insubordination, to imposing their will, to harshness. But Titus is preaching a different Lord. Titus 3:4:
When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus will preach a Lord opposite everything the Cretans grew up with.
These Cretans were idol worshipers, now they have been baptized into Christ. This Lord into which they are baptized is known by mercy, by loving kindness; known not by demanding submission, but by cleansing the sinner in Baptism—the washing of regeneration.
This Lord is known by justifying sinners by his grace, making them heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus will be a pastor of the grace and gentleness of Christ Jesus, a pastor of kindness among a harsh people.
So the pastor, Paul tells Titus, “will not be arrogant or quick tempered, but will be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright , holy, disciplined,” and, says Paul, “the pastor will hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” [Titus 1:9]
“The trustworthy word as taught”—that’s the word of Christ crucified and his sacraments which Titus has been taught by Paul and which the other Apostles have been teaching to the Church.
“Giving instruction in sound doctrine”—this is the doctrine of the Apostles. In the Greek in which Paul wrote this letter, the “sound doctrine” is more literally “the healthful doctrine”—it’s a word having to do with taking a sick person and giving him health, with taking one who is near death and giving healing. The doctrine from the Apostles is the doctrine which brings health, which heals those who are the dying.
“Rebuke those who contradict this doctrine,” says the Apostle.
Do we wonder why there are uncomfortable arguments in the history of the Church? Do we wonder why a pastor stands in front of the Catechism class and warns the students of the danger of a doctrine which says that Jesus is unable to cleanse and give faith to a baby, so you must wait until 17 or some other arbitrary age before you let Jesus do his work of Baptism? Or warn the students of a doctrine which says that the blood of Jesus is unable to purge all your sins, so you must go to purgatory to purge the sins Jesus didn’t catch.
Rebuke those who contradict the doctrine which brings health, says Paul, the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
So Titus is to keep the Cretans in the healthy doctrine.
This is the day, January 26, when the Church rejoices in the gift of St. Titus, Pastor and Confessor. In this, the Church is rejoicing in and extolling the gift of the office of holy ministry.
We are rejoicing that the Lord justifies the sinner, so that the sinner stands before God righteous not by any strengths, merits, or works of the sinner, but by faith in Christ Jesus.
We are rejoicing that, so that the sinner may obtain this faith, God has instituted the Office of Holy Ministry so that his Gospel of grace would be taught in the Church and his Sacraments of the forgiveness of sins would be freely distributed to his people.
We are rejoicing than when a pastor is doing this work of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, the gift does not depend on any sufficiency or worthiness of the pastor himself, but on the Word and Institution of the Lord, by which the Office has been instituted, and by which the forgiveness of sins is distributed to the sinner.
We are rejoicing that when the Holy Spirit gathers us to the preaching of the Word and the distribution of the Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all sin, we may repent of our sin, we may be done with trying to justify ourselves, for we are given, instead, to receive and hold onto only the righteousness of Christ Jesus in which we have been clothed in Baptism and by which we stand before the Father in righteousness and purity forever.
In the Name of Jesus.