Paul explains the reason behind leaving Titus in Crete. He had a job for him to do in the church. One that needed prolonged attention.
Titus was to “appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (verse 5). I’m going to assume that Paul gave him some of these directions before leaving him but he felt it important to write them in a letter too. Was this so Titus would have written instructions to offer up to anyone who questioned his choices? In our day of “sue happy” people I would think this prudent.
We went through Paul’s criteria for overseers in his first letter to Timothy. The requirements remained consistent. Titus was appointing the pastor, shepherd, preacher, overseer for several churches. These appointments would affect MANY people. I’m certain that the first thing Paul told Titus, before leaving him to this task, was to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit on EACH appointment.
The trip that brought Paul and Titus to Crete was not listed in the missionary journeys in Acts. It is believed to have happened between two imprisonments in Rome. Paul’s first imprisonment ended with his release after living in his own rented home for two years. He was then imprisoned again which ended in his death by beheading. Between the two times he took one last missionary journey. You will have to ask Luke, and the Holy Spirit, why it wasn’t included. We saw in 2 Timothy that Luke was present with Paul during his last days in Rome. I’m including a couple of resources, Biblehub and Blue Letter Bible, that talk about Paul’s imprisonments.
Back to Titus. This job is going to require Titus to spend a great deal of time with the people in these churches. He needs to observe them, listen to their views, listen to how others speak about them, and spend time with them personally. Gossip won’t do. He needs first-hand information to make this important decision.
Another thing he has to deal with, and be on the lookout for, is the false teaching that is going on. The “circumcision party” was a problem that kept cropping up with Gentile believer groups. They taught that all new believers HAD to be circumcised and follow the law to be acceptable in God’s sight. Paul pointed out on MANY occasions the fallacy of this belief and the snares that waited for those who adopted this attitude. We are saved by grace, NOT by works.
Listening to the tone of Paul’s reproof of this group, it sounds like he was fed up with them and counted them as too stubborn to see the truth. “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (verse 11). “They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work: (verse 16).
Paul had beaten his head against this wall of people for too long without making any headway. He wanted their influence stopped. None of them would get his, Titus’ or God’s stamp of approval for the position of overseer.
It is impossible to protect against EVERY event or thought that could disrupt but by having a set of standards, and personal knowledge of the people placed in position over the body, a LOT of pitfalls can be avoided. The MOST IMPORTANT vote was not mentioned in this letter from Paul. That of listening to the Spirit when making this choice. Maybe Paul thought that point was so obvious that he didn’t need to mention it in writing. I still believe he communicated it to Titus before leaving him. He certainly communicated it through his own behavior.
Father God, I have never been placed in the position to help choose a new shepherd for a whole congregation. I have been tasked with finding a new shepherd to sit under for my family, as we moved MANY times. Thank You for Your faithfulness in providing just the right shepherd for our lives EACH time I sought Your assistance. I LOVE listening to a man after Your own heart! You always seemed to provide just the right church home when we needed one.
Thank You also Holy Spirit that You speak to me through God’s word. I LOVE coming to You for bible study time and finding You have something for me there. Thank You for inspiring others, both in bible times and now, to share the truth. Thank You for the internet that helps me access some of them. I’m NOT an expert and am very glad to find others who are to help me when I’m in need of information. Keep me ALWAYS searching the word.