Titus: Evangelist of Difficult Places

Titus: Evangelist of Difficult Places

Though Titus is not mentioned by name in the book of Acts, we can safely assume he was involved in many of Paul’s journeys, very early on. In Galatians 2:1-2 Paul says, “I went up against to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. If this refers to the Jerusalem visit recorded in Acts 11:30, then Titus would have been Paul’s traveling companion six years before Timothy came on the scene.

What was the nature of their relationship? Paul calls Titus “a true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4). Now, Paul is not suggesting that Titus owes his salvation to him. Every Christian’s mediator is Jesus alone (1 Timothy 2:5). We are careful not to address other Christians as “Father” in the sense of a spiritual hierarchy (Matthew 23:8-10). If in some way Paul introduced Titus to the gospel, it is still as equal participants in a “common faith.” Paul calls Titus a “true child” because they shared an affectionate relationship like a father and son. Titus also heeded Paul’s directions in ministry.

I can’t imagine Titus bowing and kissing Paul’s ring; but Titus submitted to Paul’s command to spread the gospel to a particular town. Paul said, “I urged Titus to go” (2 Corinthians 12:18, cf. 2 Timothy 4:12). Even in this, though, I see cooperation and freedom. Fellow workers deferred to Paul’s plans; though some did not always (Acts 13:13, 2 Timothy 4:10). Paul didn’t boss Titus around. Paul remarked, “Thanks be to God … Titus not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest, he has gone to you of his own accord” (2 Corinthians 8:16-17). Paul calls Titus, “my partner and fellow worker among you” (8:23).

It’s quite impossible to recreate a full map or timeline of Titus’s travels. But it is clear that Paul entrusted Titus with the work of spreading the gospel in places Paul could not be. In fact, Titus seems to pop up with the most challenging assignments.

Corinth was a tough place. In 1 Corinthians, Paul admonishes them for everything from division to lawsuits to idolatry to fornication. Many of them had come out of a sinful lifestyle, and were lagging in their maturity in Christ. We have to fill in some gaps, but from reading 2 Corinthians it would seem that while Paul was in Ephesus, he learned of even more trouble, and wrote the Corinthians another harsh letter. He refused to come right away as he had intended; instead, he sent Titus. When Paul finally got a report from Titus, he was overjoyed to discover that most of the Corinthians had responded favorably to his letter (2 Corinthians 7:6-7). This must have been quite a nerve-wracking assignment for Titus, to be Paul’s rod of admonition, without the presence of the apostle himself.

Titus also was central to arranging and collecting the offering of Gentile churches for suffering brethren in Judea (2 Corinthians 8:6). Like all requests for money, this must have been a delicate yet bold work. He proved himself capable and trustworthy (8:21, 12:18).

When we see Titus again, about ten years later, Paul had given him another difficult assignment, to remain on the island of Crete, “that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Titus was up against rebels, “empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach” (1:10-11). Paul suggested that Cretans have a reputation as “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons” (12-13) and thus needed to be severely reproved. Evidently, Titus was the right man to do the reproving.

If 2 Corinthians is our main source for what is said about Titus, the letter that bears his name is our source for what is said to Titus. As Titus was a faithful assistant to Paul in his role as apostle to the Gentiles; just so, modern evangelists can be faithful to Jesus Christ by following these inspired directions. A faithful evangelist must “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). For Titus this included: presenting the message of the gospel to men and women, young and old alike (2:2-6), steering clear of myths and controversy (1:14-16, 3:9), proving to be an example to all (2:7-8), lifting people’s minds from the world into heavenly hope (2:9-14), instructing them to be submissive and obedient (2:9-10, 3:1-3), warning and even rejecting factious men (3:9-11), and spurring them to be involved in good deeds (3:1-8, 14).

An evangelist need not bother with speculation, and should not stick his nose where it doesn’t belong (Luke 12:14), but when it comes to the truth, he should “speak confidently” (3:8). “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (2:15).                                                  –John Guzzetta