How does the culture we live in affect the church?
We live in a fallen, rebellious, corrupt world. People are untrustworthy, unethical, unprincipled, unfaithful, and undisciplined. We've become a society of tolerance at the expense of God's call to make disciples. We water down God's Word in an attempt to "keep the peace". We're afraid to confront sin and show the world Jesus. We fail to stand firm when tempted. We are unwilling to get involved, undisciplined in our spiritual lives, and as a result, unable to be effective witnesses for God. Subsequently false teachers have crept into our churches, planting seeds of doubt in immature hearts.
This was the case in many of the New Testament churches as well. The Christian faith was new, belief systems were just being established, and false teachers abounded. For new converts it was difficult to shake the culture they were accustom to for this new belief system. Many of Paul's writings address these issues. The book of Titus in no exception. Paul knew these new believers would need strong leadership in order for their faith to thrive. He left Titus on the Mediterranean island of Crete to appoint leaders in each of the towns where new churches had formed.
Crete was an important sea port, a docking point on a major trade route between continents. As such, it housed a plethora of cultures, each with its own belief system. It's unclear exactly how Christianity came to be one of those belief systems. Many scholars argue the church was birthed shortly after Pentecost. Acts 2:11 tells us Cretans were among those present when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. Others place the founding of the Cretan church later during Paul's first missionary journey. Regardless of when Christianity was born on Crete, there is much we can learn from Paul's instructions to Titus.
Much like our culture today, Crete was filled with unprincipled and rebellious people, all with their own ideas of deity. As was most of the world at that time, Crete was immersed in Greek mythology and the belief that there were many gods. One of the major beliefs in Crete was that Zeus was a human man who achieved "god" status because of his good deeds. This meant the new Christians were works oriented rather than faith saturated. Thus Paul wrote in Titus 3:4-5:
"But, when God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit."
Much of Paul's language in the book of Titus echos the language of the Cretan belief system. This echoing is not to give credence to those false beliefs, rather it is to point to God as the True Everlasting Deity and to Jesus as the only Savior.
Unlike many of his other letters, Paul's letter to Titus is all business. He jumps right into his charge for Titus to appoint godly leaders in each church, giving the requirements of God-honoring leadership. The overarching principle of the book of Titus is:
A godly leader accurately portrays Christ to the world and urges others to do the same.
We'll unpack some of the parallel language Paul uses and much more in the coming weeks as we delve deep into this little three chapter book. Spend some time this week reading through the book several times. (Subscribe to my email list to receive the May Scripture Reading and Writing Plan which will give you a list of each days reading to coincide with this study!) Read through the entire book in one sitting and in at least four different translations. This study technique helps me become familiar with the passage and gives me a better grasp on the meaning. If this isn't your practice try it this week, then come back next week as we begin giving our roots a little "Word water" to help them grow! Together we'll learn to be UNworldly, faith saturated people!
God bless and keep you,