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Paul’s Partners (8)

David Williamson, Newtownabbey

Our final character study in this series of articles is Titus, another well-known helper of the apostle to the Gentiles. That Titus was an able and trusted fellow-worker is evident from the confidence placed in him by Paul.

Titus is referred to in four epistles: 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Timothy, and the pastoral letter written directly to him by Paul. Surprisingly there is no record of his name in the Acts. We may well wonder why this is the case, but, for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit has not included him in that historical record.

In this article, rather than look in any detail at his life, we will consider one over-riding characteristic which marked the ministry of this servant of God. Titus was a trouble-shooter - he became the man Paul trusted in an emergency. Some years ago the motto for the insurance company for which I worked was: "We won’t make a drama out of a crisis". In other words, we presented ourselves as level-headed and trustworthy in a critical situation. Titus must have been just such a person. Paul could, and did, trust him implicitly. Let us consider the sort of person who could be entrusted with work for God.

His Attributes

Titus is described by Paul as "mine own son after the common faith" (Titus 1.4). Perhaps a more correct rendering is "my true child in a common faith" (ESV). Titus was Paul’s child in the sense that his salvation came as a result of the ministry of the apostle. He was his "true" child because the marks of conversion were evident in his life. There could be no doubt that he was a genuine Christian for he manifested the reality of his conversion by his life. Paul also describes him as "my brother" (2 Cor 2.13). While every believer is a brother or sister, Paul here intends his readers to understand that the life Titus possessed expressed itself in love for his brethren. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another" (Jn 13.35). Another description given is that he was Paul’s "partner and fellow-helper" (2 Cor 8.23). He was a fellow-labourer of Paul, a man who was not afraid of work. Sharing the demands of service with the apostle, he endeared himself as one who did not shirk responsibility. So Titus evidently possessed life, demonstrated love, and was willing to labour. Do we manifest these same attributes?

His Accompaniment

Chronologically, the first mention of Titus is in Galatians 2.1-5. In this section Paul refers to his journey to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and tells the Galatians that he took Titus also. This journey to Jerusalem was as a result of wrong teaching that had arisen in Antioch concerning circumcision. False brethren sought to bring Gentile believers into bondage to the law by insisting that without circumcision they were not truly saved. These false teachers must have been claiming the support of the assembly at Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas travelled to Jerusalem and took Titus with him as a test-case, for he was a Greek and uncircumcised. The test was very simple. If a Gentile must be circumcised to be saved, then Titus must be circumcised to be saved. Yet, Paul recounts, "neither was Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, compelled to be circumcised" (JND). Paul had his proof that the Jerusalem assembly fully accepted that Gentiles were saved alone by grace through faith.

There must have been many young men at Antioch who were Gentiles and uncircumcised. Why then did Paul select Titus? "Titus was...living proof that a Gentile who had not come under the Law of Moses could still demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit that were the sign of a regenerate man in Christ" (LaSor). He must have been an outstanding exhibit of the grace of God.

His Attitude

The predominant attitude that marked Titus is revealed in 2 Corinthians 8.16 by the apostle when he wrote "thanks be to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you". Titus is described by Paul as possessing the "same earnest care" as he himself.

A brief consideration of the second epistle to the Corinthians will reveal how Paul cared for the saints at Corinth. He wept over them as he wrote his first epistle "with many tears" (2 Cor 2.4). He anxiously awaited news of their recovery, having no rest in his spirit until he heard positive reports (2.13). He was comforted and rejoiced greatly when he heard of their restoration (7.6-7). Paul was no hard-hearted, distant, impassive and critical observer of the problems at Corinth. He cared enough to shed tears, to carry a weight of anxiety, and to delight in recovery. Titus was the same sort of man, with an identical attitude; the "same earnest care".

One of the sins which believers seem prone to fall into is the harbouring of a critical and censorious spirit. It is an easy failing to excuse in ourselves. The Lord, while in no way discounting the need for judging what is evidently wrong and anti-scriptural, clearly taught of the danger of a hyper-critical and also a hypocritical spirit in Matthew 7.1-5. If we have a heart like Titus, filled with genuine love for other believers, we will be slow to find fault.

His Actions

Another quality of Titus was his consistency. When the apostle sent him to do a work he had complete confidence in him. Titus acted in the same manner when he was away from Paul as he did in his company.

Corinth was a trouble-spot for Paul. Having dealt in the first epistle with problems that were moral, ecclesiastical, and doctrinal, he now faced personal attack from false apostles and false brethren who were attempting to seduce the assembly. An assembly once noted for licentious activity was under threat by legalistic teaching. In 2 Corinthians 12 the false teachers attacked Paul because he did not receive monetary support from Corinth - they used this fact to claim that he was not truly an apostle! Then, turning the whole matter on its head, they also accused him of trying to make monetary gain from the assembly by means of stealth, using guile. They were determined to undermine his authority and so they attacked his person. Paul’s answer to such ad hominem attacks was very simple. He reminded them that when he was at Corinth he "was not burdensome to" them (12.13) for he took nothing from them. Then he stated that when he would come back to Corinth he likewise "will not be burdensome" to them (12.14) for he had determined not to take anything from them. And, finally, he asked concerning the time that he was not with them: "Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?" (12.17-18). Paul could point to the absolute consistency between his walk and what he knew had also characterised Titus. They both shared the same attitude of heart, and they both "walked...in the same steps". Titus was not out for personal gain.

His Authority

These characteristics resulted in Titus being "left...in Crete" with tremendous responsibility and authority to "set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain [appoint] elders in every city" (Titus 1.5). While there appears to be no role which directly answers to the work of Titus today, the principle of Christian character increasing usefulness for God is very clear.

His Absence

The last chronological reference to Titus is in 2 Timothy 4.10-11. Paul’s words are charged with disappointment and suffering: "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia". At the end of Paul’s life the absence of Titus was a sore trial to him. Writing of Demas, Paul states that he "loved this present world". However, the apostle writes no such thing of Titus and we must not either. The only conclusion we are warranted to come to is that Paul missed Titus.

Why was Titus missed? If there was in your local assembly a brother or sister whose life was a witness to the reality of salvation, whose heart was exercised in love to fellow-Christians, and who constantly put their hand to the plough and laboured, would they not be missed when absent? Would you not be saddened by the absence of a person who had a true "earnest care" for the saints, and was a model of consistency of life? Of course you would! So Titus was missed when absent. The practical lesson for me is: Would I be missed if I was absent? Am I useful like Titus?



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