by Gordon Franz
As the Lord Jesus sat on a hillside over looking the Sea of Galilee, He instructed His disciples with some of the most profound words ever uttered by human beings (Matt. 5:1-7:29). He began His discourse by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs in the Kingdom of Heaven” (5:3). He went on to say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (5:9). At the end of what has been called, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus gave a parable of two builders. He said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise builder who built his house on the rock” (7:24). James, the son of Zebedee, an “ear-witness” to this discourse would comment on this parable with the words, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
One who took these spoken and written words to heart was Titus, a co-worker of the Apostle Paul. The Early Church Fathers indicate that Matthew’s gospel was the first gospel written and probably in circulation by AD 40 (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6.25.3-6; LCL 2:75). Perhaps Titus had seen a copy of this gospel and read the Sermon on the Mount and was touched by the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers” while he was in Antioch on the Orontes. Titus was a peacemaker in the church at Corinth and the churches on the island of Crete. He has been described as being “capable, energetic, tactful, resourceful, skillful in handling men and affairs, and effective in conciliating people” (Hiebert 1992: 105). All these character traits served him well as he worked along side of the Apostle Paul, or as an emissary from the Apostle Paul, to reconcile different factions in the church and to build up the Body of Christ. Truly Titus was a blessed man because he was a peacemaker.
In this study on the life of Titus, we will consider how God used a man with the spiritual gift of administration to be a peacemaker in the church at Corinth and the churches on the island of Crete, and to bring blessing to the saints in Jerusalem.
Titus – A True Son in the Faith
The Apostle Paul was Titus’s spiritual father because he led Titus to faith in the Lord Jesus. In his epistle to Titus he states: “Titus, a true son in our common faith” (1:4). Unfortunately Paul does not recount when, where, or how Titus came to faith. Timothy was another young man that Paul led to the Lord, probably on his visit to Timothy’s hometown of Lystra during Paul’s first missionary journey (cf. 1 Tim. 1:2).
There are several possibilities as to when and where Titus came to faith. The first opportunity would have been while Paul was in the region of his hometown of Tarsus (Gal. 1:21; Acts 9:30), or while working among the Gentiles in Antioch on the Orontes between AD 35-46 (Acts 11:25-26).
If the later is the case, Antioch on the Orontes was the third most important city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria, and was noted for its immorality. Juvenal, a Roman satirist of the 2nd century AD, in his Third Satire asks the question: “And yet what fraction of our dregs [sewerage] comes from Greece [the Greek world]? The Syrian Orontes [River] has long since poured into the Tiber, bringing with it its lingo and its manners, its flutes and its slanting harp-strings; bringing too the timbrels [tambourine] of the breed, and the trulls [prostitutes] who are bidden ply their trade at the Circus. Out upon you, all ye that delight in foreign strumpets [harlots] with painted head-dresses!” (Satire 3:61-67; LCL 37; brackets mine – GWF). Is it any wonder that Paul reminded his son in the faith what environment he had come out of? “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures …” (Tit. 3:3). But Paul goes on to say, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward men appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:4-7).
Another possibility when Paul could have shared the gospel with Titus, according to a Second Century AD tradition, was during Paul’s first missionary journey (AD 47-48). This tradition hints that Titus was from Iconium in South Galatia and that was where he first met Paul. Titus had seen Paul “in the spirit” and described him to Onesiphorus as being short, bald, and bow-legged (Acts of Paul and Thecla 3:2-3; Schneemelcher 1992: 2: 239). Onesiphorus (cf. 2 Tim. 1:16; 4:19) proceeded to meet Paul on the Via Sabaste and invited him to Iconium. It is possible that Titus came to faith at this point and Paul invited him to be his disciple / student and joined Paul’s team when they returned to Antioch on the Orontes. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a sermon at Iconium by Paul is recorded and there are a number of quotes from Matthew’s gospel. Perhaps this is where Titus heard: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
When Titus came to faith, we do not know, but he became a “son of God” by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior (John 1:12). Most likely Titus was included in the number of the “disciples” that Paul and Barnabas worked with after they returned from their first missionary journey (Acts 14:26-28).
Titus – A Relative of Dr. Luke?
Titus’s name appears eleven times in four of Paul’s epistles (Gal. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:6-7,13-14; 8:6,16-17, 23; 12:17-18; Tit. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:10), but interestingly, his name does not appear in the Book of Acts. Sir William Ramsay, a British classical scholar, suggested that Titus was a relative of Dr. Luke, the author of the book of Acts (1896: 390). This may account for why Titus is not mentioned in this book because it demonstrates the humility of Luke. He does not mention his own name in either his gospel, or the Book of Acts. Luke did not want to draw undue attention to his family. Others have gone so far as to suggest that Luke and Titus were brothers (Souter 1906-1907a: 285; 1906-1907b: 285-286; Boys-Smith 1906-1907: 380-381). Souter goes so far as to suggest that “Titus, in fact, becomes the authority from whom Luke acquires most of his information about Paul’s doings prior to the period at which he himself became acquainted with him” (1906-1907b: 335). He even sees a connection between the two because their names are mentioned together in 2 Tim. 4: 10-11 (1906-1907b: 336). He also suggested “the brother” mentioned in 2 Cor. 8:18 and 12:18 could be Luke. But this is conjecture because it could also be just another unnamed brother in the Lord.
Titus in Jerusalem – Exhibit A
The first time we encounter Titus with the Apostle Paul is when he takes Titus to Jerusalem as “Exhibit A” concerning whether Gentile’s needed to be circumcised in order to be saved as recorded in Galatians 2. We read: “Then after fourteen years I [Paul] went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preached among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, least by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (2:1-5).
Scholars have debated when this visit to Jerusalem took place. The two possibilities that have been suggested are the famine relief in AD 44 (Acts 11:27-30; Bruce 1995: 157-159). Or the Jerusalem Council in AD 49 (Acts 15:1-4). The chronological indicator in verse one, however, seems to point towards the second view. Assuming the Lord Jesus was crucified and resurrected in AD 30, Paul was saved on the road to Damascus in AD 32 or 33 and he is in the Arabia Desert and Damascus for three years before he goes up to Jerusalem for the first time after he is saved. Do the math: 32 + 3 + 14 = 49, the year of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
This Council was instigated by an issue in the church in Antioch on the Orontes: “Do Gentiles have to be circumcised in order to be saved?” There were certain people who were of the sect of Pharisees who believed (Acts 15:1, 5) who were in the church and said a Gentile person must be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas challenged this with an emphatic “No!” The decision was made to send a delegation to Jerusalem and ask the Apostles to settle the issue once and for all. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem with “certain others” (Acts 15:2) and this group included Titus (Gal. 2:1). The Apostle Paul was responsible for taking Titus: “I … took Titus with me.” Titus was “Exhibit A” because he was an uncircumcised Greek (Gal. 2:3) who had trusted the Lord Jesus as his Savior at least two, if not four or more years prior to this trip.
The decision of the Jerusalem Council, composed of the apostles and elders of the church, was that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15: 13-39).
On the other hand, Paul had Timothy, another son in the faith, circumcised at Lystra (Acts 16:3). According to Jewish Halakah, Timothy was Jewish because his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were Jewish, yet his father was a Gentile (Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). Timothy’s circumcision, however, had nothing to do with his salvation, nor his sanctification. In fact, Paul is delivering the decrees given by the Jerusalem Counsel in Acts 15 which explicitly states that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation (Acts 16:4). Paul had Timothy circumcised for a very practical reason. They could get free lodging in the synagogue!
Titus at Ephesus – Partner and Fellow Worker with Paul
Four years passed since the Jerusalem Council and the next time Titus appears in Scripture. His whereabouts during this time are not recorded. Did he labor in Antioch on the Orontes, or return to Iconium? The Apostle Paul could have taken him from Antioch, or picked him up in Iconium on his way to Ephesus during his third missionary journey (AD 53-55). Paul identifies Titus as a vital “partner and fellow worker” in the work in Ephesus (2 Cor. 8:23).
Paul and his team ministered in Ephesus for almost three years (Acts 19:10; 20:31). They began by doing evangelism among the Jewish people in the city (Acts 19:8-9; cf. Rom. 1:16), but then set up a teaching center in the School of Tyranus (Acts 19:9; cf. 2 Tim. 2:2). As a result of this discipleship program, all in Asia Minor heard the gospel (Acts 19:10). A riot ensued in Ephesus because the silversmiths were losing business because tourists were not buying the silver trinkets of Artemis in the temple to her honor, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world! We are not told where Titus was when the riots in the theater of Ephesus broke out. Perhaps he was on a peacemaker mission in Corinth at the time.
Titus at Corinth – The Peacemaker
The Apostle Paul, along with his co-workers, Silas and Timothy, established the church at Corinth about AD 50-52. A delegation, led by Stephanas, visited Paul in Ephesus about three years later and shared some of the problems that were occurring among the saints in Corinth. These carnal believers were creating divisions among themselves and saying, “I am of Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, [and the real pious ones], I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:10-17, especially verse 12; brackets by GWF). They were also allowing a moral scandal, one that included a man sleeping with his father’s wife, to continue in the church that was ruining the testimony of Christ in that city (1 Cor. 5:1-13). Some in the church were also abusing the Lord’s Supper by coming to the meeting with unconfessed sins and then getting drunk at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Paul addressed these issues head-on in his first epistle to the Corinthians.
Scholars have had a field day trying to figure out the chronology of when and how often Titus went to Corinth on Paul’s behalf. I will suggest a plausible chronology based on the work of D. Edmond Hiebert (1992: 109-11).
Titus apparently makes three trips to Corinth. I don’t know if they had “Frequent Sailing Miles” in the 1st century AD, but if they did, Titus would have racked up his “frequent sailing mileage” between Ephesus and Corinth! The purpose of the first trip was to collect money for the poor in the Jerusalem church (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8-9; Rom. 15:25-28). I believe that he was exercising his spiritual gift of administration as he saw to it that the collection was done decently and in order. This trip apparently took place a year before Second Corinthians was written (2 Cor. 9:2) and Titus was accompanied by “our brother” (2 Cor. 12:18). Some have suggested it was Dr. Luke (Souter 1906-1907a; 1906-1907b), but that is just conjecture. When Paul had written his first epistle to the church, the collection had already been started (1 Cor. 16:1-3).
A delegation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus reported to Paul in Ephesus about the problems in the church at Corinth. Paul wrote his first epistle to the church. More than likely this delegation took the letter back with them to the city. Apparently Titus was in Corinth working on the collection and was in the meeting when the letter was read to the congregation. Upon his return to Ephesus, he reported to Paul the reaction to the letter and opposition expressed by some in Corinth (2 Cor. 10:12-18; 11:22, 23; 13:1-3).
Paul sends Titus back to Corinth in order to be a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9), with the intention of meeting up in Troas when the conflict was settled. When Titus does not show up in Troas, Paul had “no rest in his spirit” and moved on to Macedonia (2 Cor. 2:12-13).
Perhaps Paul was a bit impatient and expected instantaneous results from his letter and the personal ministry by Titus. Once he was in Macedonia, he was still troubled by the situation in Corinth (2 Cor. 7:5). Eventually Titus did meet Paul in Macedonia with the good news of the repentance of the sinning saint and his reconciliation to the church and also the church in Corinth’s acceptance of Paul’s authority (7:6-11). In this, Titus was joyful (7:13, 14), and Paul greatly rejoiced (7:6-9).
Paul wrote a follow-up epistle (2 Corinthians) to the believers in Corinth and sent this letter back with Titus and two unnamed brothers. This Titus was eager to do this (8:6, 16-18). He also went back to finish gathering the money for the saints in Jerusalem (8:18-22).
Paul gives Titus a very strong recommendation (8:23). He writes, “If anyone enquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you.” Paul declared that Titus could be trusted with the money because he would not take advantage of them (12:18).
Sometime after Paul wrote the letter, he arrived in Corinth for a three months stay (Acts 20:3). If Titus was with him, this would have been his third visit to the city. Fortunately for the Apostle Paul, the problems in the church at Corinth were resolved because of Titus’ ministry as a peacemaker. This freed Paul to write the most important epistle of the New Testament, the epistle to the church in Rome spelling out the great doctrinal truths of justification, sanctification and living for the Lord in a wicked world. At the end of the epistle, Paul sends greetings to the saints in Rome from the saints in Corinth, yet he does not mention Titus among those believers (Rom. 16:21-23). Perhaps Titus was on his way to Jerusalem with a token of the collection for the saints in the Holy City, with the rest to follow (Acts 20:4). Paul could thank the Lord for Titus as a peacemaker. The words of the Lord Jesus rung in his ears: “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).
Titus on Crete – The Administrator
During Paul’s fourth missionary journey (AD 63-66) he left Titus on the island of Crete to take care of some problems that existed in the churches on that island. This was an island with an unsavory reputation of being made up of people who were always liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons (Tit. 1:12). The church itself had a divisive element that was leading people astray. After more than 20 years in the faith, Titus was Paul’s “go to guy” to take care of the problems at hand. Paul left him on the island to “set in order the things that are lacking” (1:5). The Greek word “set in order” (epidiorthoo) is only used here in the New Testament. Before the First Century AD, the word is used only once and ironically, it was on a Second Century BC inscription that was found at Hierapytna on the island of Crete! The word was used to refer “to the activity of a regional administrator. Evidently this rare term had some currency in Crete in the context of political organization” (Wieland 2009: 351).
The purpose of the ministry of Timothy and Titus was to establish stable leadership within the churches that they ministered, rather than to serve as pastors themselves among the flock on a long-term basis. Thus Titus was functioning as an administrator among the churches on the island of Crete.
What was lacking in the church was suitable leadership so Paul instructed him to ordain elders in every city. These elders should be grounded in the Word of God so they can overcome opposition and teach sound doctrine to the people in the churches. After he completed this task, Paul instructed Titus to meet him in Nikopolis (Tit. 3:15). Titus apparently goes to Nikopolis and Paul is arrested there and taken to Rome and imprisoned again. Titus followed the arresting party, probably at a distance, to Rome.
Titus in Dalmatia – Apostolic Mission
During the Apostle Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome (AD 67), Demas abandoned him and departed for Thessaloniki (2 Tim. 1:16, 17; 4:10). In the same passage, Paul mentions that Crescens went to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia. The text does not seem to indicate that the latter two abandoned him like Demas did.
The borders of Dalmatia in the First Century AD were not clearly defined. At times it was considered the southwestern part of Illyricum, in the area of present-day Albania / Croatia, along the coast of the Adriatic Sea (Pattengale 1992:2:4, 5).
More than likely, the Apostle Paul sent Titus on an apostolic mission of some sort, but what the nature of this mission was, we are not told. There are two possibilities to consider. First, it is plausible, but not probable, that Paul sent Titus to follow up on the church that Paul and Dr. Luke would have planted during the three months they were shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 28:1-10). I mention this possibility because in the First Century AD there were two Malta’s in the Roman world: Melite Africana, the traditional landing site of Paul in the book of Acts, and Melite Illyrica, the island of Mljet off the Dalmatian coast (Meinardus 1976:145-147). Personally, I do not share Meinardus’ view. I believe that Melite Africana was the island Paul was shipwrecked on, thus ruling out this possibility as to why Paul sent Titus to Dalmatia.
The second possibility, and this is more likely, is that he was sent to follow up on the churches Paul planted on his third missionary journey. Paul departed from Ephesus after the uproar had subsided and went through Macedonia and Greece (Acts 20:1-2). A plausible reconstruction of this part of the journey might be that he went through Macedonia encouraging the churches along the entire length of the Via Egnatia through Illyricum (Rom. 15:19) to the Adriatic Coast and then took a ship down to Corinth. Titus would have visited the churches that were planted during the Illyricum phase of this journey.
Titus in Church Tradition
The brochure from the church of Titus in Heraklion on the island of Crete summarizes the Greek Orthodox tradition of Titus on the island. It states: “Titus’ activity in Crete is not sufficiently known because there are no ancient official and verified records about the first period of the Cretan Church. In later times, there was founded in Crete a very rich biographical tradition about the first bishop and patron of the local Church. According to that tradition, Titus was Cretan of a noble family descending directly from Minos, the mythical King of Knossos. Titus was a relative of Rustillus (or Rustulus), the Roman proconsul in Crete. He was well-educated and spent some time in Jerusalem where he became an eye-witness of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Later, as a bishop in Crete, he founded nine bishoprics in Knossus, Ierapytna, Kydonia, Chersonissus, Eleftherna, Lambe, Kissamus, Kandanus, and Gortys. According to the same tradition, Titus died 94 years old in about 105 AD” (Detorakis 1990:2). There is no way to independently confirm any of these traditions so they should be taken with caution.
Tradition also states that Titus died and was buried at Gortyn on the island of Crete. There was a sixth century AD basilica built over the burial place of Titus. The bones were removed to Venice when the Ottoman Turks invaded the island (824 AD). His skull was later returned to a new church of Titus in Heraklion on May 15, 1966. One can still see his skull today!
Why did Paul value Titus and the Lord used him in the His work?
The Apostle Paul describes Titus as his “partner and fellow worker” in the Lord’s work. There are at least four reasons Paul valued Titus and he was useful in the work of the Lord. The first reason was that Titus was exercising his spiritual gift of administration (1 Cor. 12:28). This was manifested in his organizing the collection for the saints in Jerusalem and well as appointing elders on the island of Crete.
William McRae in his book, The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, defines the gift of administration as: “a God-given capacity to organize and administer with such efficiency and spirituality that not only is the project brought to a satisfactory conclusion but it is done harmoniously and with evident blessing” (1976: 52). He goes on to say that the person with this gift: “is able to give vision and direction, … is able to organize and direct toward a specific goal, … sees that everything is done decently and in order. Projects are done in a way that promotes the work of God and the growth of those involved” (1976: 52).
A number of years ago when I was working with the Youth Group at my home church, we had a number of young people that were heading to college the next year and they were not sure what to do, where to go, and how to discern God’s will for their life. At one leaders meeting, the adults were discussing this situation and what could be done to help the teen-agers make an informed, spiritual decision about this important junction in their life.
I suggested that we have a mini seminar about how to choose a college, what to look for in a college, and discerning God’s will for ones life. Everyone thought it was a great idea, but who would organize it? They looked at me as if I should organize this event. The expression on my face read, “Don’t look at me, I don’t know what I’m doing. I just had the idea.” One man at the meeting caught the “deer in the headlight” look right away and said that he would organize the event. It was obvious, this man had the gift of administration and did a wonderful job organizing and carrying out the event. This man relished the opportunity to exercise his spiritual gift. I believe that Titus had the gift of administration and he exercised that gift well to build up the Body of Christ in a practical, as well as a spiritual way.
The second reason I believe Paul used Titus was that Titus showed maturity when dealing with carnal Christians at Corinth. More than likely, Titus was in the meeting in Corinth when Paul’s first letter arrived admonishing them to deal with the sins in the church, even a gross sin (1 Cor. 5:1). These words upset some people in the church and some even questioned Paul’s authority to say what he said! Yet Titus, lovingly and patiently, worked with these people, using the Scriptures that Paul had written, so they responded positively to the message (2 Cor. 7:5-15). The main goal of church discipline should always be restoration, not ex-communication (Matt. 18:15-17; cf. Gal. 6:1).
The third reason Paul used Titus was that he was open and above board in his dealings with the Corinthians. He had pure motives (2 Cor. 12:17-18). While he was among the Corinthians, he worked for their edification, to build them up in their faith, and not for his own gain (12:19).
The final reason Paul used Titus was that he was a “people person.” He had a concern for the spiritual well being of the believers in Corinth (2 Cor. 8:16), so he volunteered to help them. He saw a job that needed to get done and he did it.
Life Lessons to be Learned
The reasons Paul valued Titus in the work of the Lord are the same lessons for us to learn so the Lord can use us in His work today.
- First, we should discern what our spiritual gift is and exercise it to build up the Body of Christ, both numerically, as well as spiritually.
- Second, spiritual believers in the Lord Jesus need to have patience and gentleness when dealing with carnal, or sinning, Christians in the church. Paul instructed the believers in Galatia: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (6:1).
- Third, in dealing with Christians, especially carnal Christians or new believers, we should have pure motives, not taking advantage of people, and be open and above board in our dealings with them.
- Finally, we need to be “people persons.” We need to be involved in people’s lives to help them in time of spiritual, and/or, physical need. If we see a need in the assembly, or the Body of Christ, we should seek to meet that need, quietly and seeking no rewards or glory for ourselves.
Paul admonished the believers in Corinth: You follow me, as I follow the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Titus heard the truth of the Word of God, believed it, applied it, and is in himself evidence of that truth. Titus was blessed for his work as a peacemaker and administrator and was a vital part of the historic spread of the early church. He heard the truth, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Applied it to his life, and he was blessed as a result. Might we do the same in our lives.
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