Laypeople and Pastors
Titus 1:1-11, 2:1 (ESV) 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, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 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; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. 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— 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. 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, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 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. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach… But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.
As an apostle, Paul received the same mandate as the other apostles selected during Jesus’ ministry: to baptize and preach the Gospel (see Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15) and forgive and retain sins (John 20:21-23). Timothy and Titus were such pastors. We refer to 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus as “the pastoral epistles” because they were written to pastors (Timothy and Titus) and address the requirements for those who are placed into the Office of the Holy Ministry.
Titus does not appear in the Acts of the Apostles but is mentioned several times in Paul’s epistles. In 2 Corinthians 8:23, Paul calls Titus “my partner and fellow worker for your benefit,” that is, for service to the church at Corinth.
In the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles of Paul, we witness a “handing on” of the apostolic ministry from the apostles to the first generation of pastors. This occurred because the Lord Jesus desires always to give good gifts to His church (Ephesians 4:1-16) and distribute His Word of eternal life (Titus 1:1-3). When Paul calls Titus his “true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4) he indicates that, in one way, Paul has authority over Titus, but in their common Christian faith, they are equal. This same point is illustrated beautifully in 1 Peter 5:1-4 where Peter explains that the elders (pastors) are among the church (that is, they are members), but also are to “shepherd the flock of God.” In the congregation, we are equal in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28) but there are also must be leaders who watch over our souls, to whom we must submit (Hebrews 13:17).
“Elder” is another word for “pastor” in the New Testament. Paul instructs Titus to order the congregation in Crete and appoint elders (in the King James Version, this is translated “ordain elders”) in every town where there is a congregation (Titus 1:5). The Lord desires our congregations to be well-ordered because “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” and “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).
The Office of the Holy Ministry is reserved for men; the “husband of one wife” obviously cannot be a woman (Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2, 12). There also are clear moral requirements for pastors (Titus 1:6-8) and qualifications for knowledge of and faithfulness to the Word of God (Titus 1:9). Lutherans take seriously the importance of thorough training for pastors. Such training equips pastors to keep their congregations firmly grounded in the pure teaching of God’s Word (Titus 1:9; 2:1) and to defend the church against erroneous teaching (Titus 1:10-16).
Pastors and laypeople alike are members of God’s “royal priesthood” and are to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We cannot underestimate the importance of laypeople being “sound in the faith” as a result of imbibing “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:13; 2:10). When laypeople become disciplined and knowledgeable students of the Bible, then they are equipped to share their faith with others and also discern whether their pastors are meeting the qualifications set forth in the pastoral Epistles. Pastors and laypeople are gifts from God to one another, and also hold each other accountable to the Word of the Lord!
Prayer: Almighty God, You called Titus to the work of pastor and teacher. Make all shepherds of Your flock diligent in preaching Your holy Word so that the whole world may know the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.