MY BROTHER TITUS
February 18, 2007
Have you ever noticed the interviewing process that takes place after a big athletic contest of some kind? Some member of the winning team will be talking to a sports broadcaster or journalist of some sort, and his thoughts of how that win took place will be shared with the public. Very often that team member will speak of whoever really took the lead in the game, and he will say of that person that he “really stepped up.” That means the particular team member met the challenge, was up to the demands of the hour, and pulled his team through.
That is very much the kind of person that Titus appears to be in the scene the New Testament paints. Titus becomes a man who is the fellow who is there to do the hard job when it needs to be done. He is the kind of an individual who can be called upon when there is a tough task and will succeed in accomplishing that task.
Titus reminds us not only that God works through people (as we saw last week with Timothy,) but that God uses different kinds of people in his service. He uses people who hold to a common faith as Titus 1:4 shows, but he may use someone who appears to be a shy individual, as perhaps Timothy was, or someone who was more of a leader, more of a bold type of individual as Titus appears to be. The lesson for you and me today is that there is a place for us in the Lord’s kingdom and in his service, that the needs of our hour call for people to step up and to do what they can in honoring the Lord in his service.
A Humble Heart
What kind of a fellow is Titus? One of the things that is obvious about him in reading the New Testament is that he must have been a man of a humble heart. This is a much more important quality than perhaps we give it credit for because it is the one which says whether our service is going to be like the Lord Jesus Christ or not. If we are going to follow someone who would wrap himself with a towel and take a basin and begin to wash the feet of his own disciples when they should have been honoring him, then we are going to have to be a servant like that. If we are going to be somebody who ever measures up to greatness in the Lord’s kingdom in the way the Lord defined it, we will have to be people who make ourselves servants of all.
Here’s the thing about Titus. He is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament. He is mentioned in the little letter to the Galatians; he is mentioned 9 times in the book of 2 Corinthians. He is mentioned in the letter to Titus, and he is mentioned in the letter of 2 Timothy, the last letter that Paul wrote. The places where he is mentioned make it clear that he was an exceedingly important worker in the Lord’s service in partnership with the apostle Paul. Paul calls him in 2 Corinthians 2:13 “my brother Titus.” In 2 Corinthians 9:23, he refers to him as “my partner and fellow worker” for the Lord. It is clear that Titus was present at some crucial hours in the history of the Lord’s church. When Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders about what was demanded of someone from a Gentile background to be a Christian as he mentioned in Galatians 2, we know there that Titus was with him. If that occasion is the same as the meeting that took place as described in Acts 15 where some went up from Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, then Titus would have been there. We know that Titus was heavily involved in the effort to take a collection from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia and to take that money from these Gentile Christians to meet the needs of suffering saints in the land of Judea. We know that because there are two chapters of the second letter of the Corinthians which are all about that. and Titus is the key player. Then, in Acts 20:4-5 when there are the names of all of these representatives of the churches that accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, it is most likely that Titus was included in that group. Here’s what gets my attention. As important and as central a character as Titus was in all of that, he is not mentioned at all in the great book of Acts which described Paul’s journeys and Paul’s works in behalf of the gospel. Isn’t that amazing? How could it be that somebody could be that important and then the record of these travels and works doesn’t even call his name? That has been one of the questions that Bible students have delved into over the years. One old writer called Titus the most enigmatic of all the characters of early Christianity.
One explanation which has drawn a lot of attention is the possibility suggested by William Ramsey and then writers like F.F. Bruce that perhaps Titus’ name is not mentioned because he was the brother, or at least a close relative, of Luke, the writer of the book of Acts. We can’t prove that at all, but consider for a moment that Luke never mentions his own name in Acts, and he certainly was a key partner of Paul in the mission work that was done. The habit of people like Luke, out of humility, to not call any attention to themselves might have meant that he would not have named his own brother even though he filled a key role in accomplishing the work.
There is a lesson in this for you and for me. These great servants of the Lord like Titus and Luke and others cared whether the work got done, not whether they got any notoriety and attention or credit for doing it. It has been observed so many times that we could get so much done if we didn’t care who got the credit. There is some human nature in that that makes it very likely the case. Titus is an individual who by the way he is mentioned in the New Testament sets us an example of humility in the Lord’s church. Do we just want to honor him? Do we just care that his work gets done? Do we just care that people get help?
Strength of Character
The second thing about Titus which is clear in reading the New Testament is that he is a man of strength of character. This is a place where he is at the hinge of the history of Christianity. Paul mentions in Galatians 2 that when there was this trouble going on, some Judiziers insisted that you couldn’t be a Christian, you couldn’t go to heaven unless you not only were baptized in obedience to the gospel of Christ but you also submitted to the Jewish right of circumcision, that this had to be done before somebody could be fully a child of God. The problem was that Titus was Greek, Paul says in Galatians 2:1-3. He was a Gentile by background. He wasn’t like Timothy whose father was a Greek but whose mother and grandmother were from a Jewish background and taught Timothy the law, etc. Titus was a Gentile, no question about it.
Here’s what happened. When the pressure was really on, Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas up to Jerusalem in the very face of where the strongest criticism was going on and where the most adamant demands were being placed on the shoulders of people that they had to submit to this in order to be truly a Christian. Titus went up in the face of that and stood his ground. He would have been perhaps one Gentile facing a whole group of people from a Jewish background, and that would have been tough enough. There would have been people there who were making it look like he was an inferior citizen of the kingdom, if at all. That would have been tough. There would have been some very emotional pressure being put on in the insistence of what had to be done. That would have been tough to face.
Yet, Paul says that they did not give them a place even for a minute (Gal. 2:5). Titus was a man who had the strength of character to face demands like that. He was a man who had strength of character to go to places like Corinth when there were false apostles stirring up all kinds of trouble, and deal with that situation. He was the kind of man who could be left on an island like Crete, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, an island straight south of the Aegean Sea and just to the west of where the Greek peninsula was – an important place in that day – but a place where people were strugglers morally. People were self indulgent, Paul says. They were lazy; they were dishonest. Titus could face a situation like that and help to put the church in order even in such a place. It would take a strong person, a person of courage and conviction whose character could beat that type of a challenge. Titus was the man that Paul chose for purposes like that.
Today, there are some many things about being a Christian which call for strength of character on our part. You will face temptations of all kinds this very week. There are challenges to our selfishness and self-centeredness. There are challenges to our thinking that appear by every means from entertainment to information. There are challenges to our values that take the form of material things or that take the form of our pride. There are challenges to us doctrinally in what we believe and what we stand for, and there are challenges to us in terms of the needs of the world compared to our mission right now. It will take strength of character for us to be faithful Christians.
A Man of Capable Service
The third thing about Titus that we can’t help but notice in reading of him in the New Testament is that he is a person of capable service. A humble heart, a strong character, but he is a man of capability! He can get the job done. He has the tact and the leadership and the skill to be sent to do some of these things at Corinth or at Crete and to do it. At Corinth he is given the job not only of dealing with the opposition and bringing the Corinthians back into a good, strong relationship with the apostle Paul, but then overseeing or encouraging or making possible that collection that we talked about. When you put a guy in a situation where there is false teaching, people trying to get a following, where there are hard feelings and gaps that have been stirred up and where money is at stake - all of that together – you had better have somebody who is capable in order to deal with that situation. Titus succeeded.
What makes a man that capable in the Lord’s service? There are as many answers to this possibly as there are different kinds of servants in the kingdom, but there are some things about Titus that stand out. We can tell from what Paul says of him in 2 Corinthians. The first thing is that he was totally honest. He was a man of integrity. It is interesting to me that when Paul writes to Titus in the letter to Titus about how to do his work, he tells him in verse 7 of chapter 2, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teachings show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” The first thing that Paul called for was integrity. Titus showed that. In 2 Corinthians 12:17-18, Paul in dealing with some of his critics says, “Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother (the brother is where some of the suggestion that maybe he was Luke’s brother came from) with him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not act in the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?” Titus was a man whose integrity was above question or challenge. He was honest enough that Paul could say, “Did he take advantage of you?” and know that the answer would be that he did not. Titus was the kind of man in his honesty of whom Paul could say “he was the same spirit I am.” That is one of the reasons he calls him “my brother Titus.” They had the same sort of an attitude about them. So the first thing that made him so capable is his integrity.
The second thing that made Titus as capable as he was is his enthusiasm for the Lord’s service and the earnestness on his own part to see the job and to want for it to be done and to be willing to do it. Look at 2 Corinthians 8:16. In this letter of 2 Corinthians, it is clear that Paul had been perhaps at Ephesus and had heard of the problems at Corinth. He had sent Titus on to Corinth to deal with that problem. Paul had gone to Troas where a door for evangelism had been opened. He had tried to work there, expecting Titus to come and meet him and to bring news of how things were going at Corinth. Titus hadn’t come and Paul had gone on to Macedonia to meet him, to look for him. Maybe he had gone to Philippi. Finally, Titus had come with the report that Paul had been awaiting about how things were going at Corinth. But he said here, “But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” Notice again his kinship spiritually with Paul. That is why he is “my brother Titus.” He has the same honesty but he has the same care, the same earnestness for your sake that I have. Now verse 17: “For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.” Paul met Titus and heard from him, and then turns around and sends Titus back to follow through with this collection for the saints. If we are a place like Corinth, most of us have said, “Wait a minute. I have done my part. I have been there. I have dealt with the stubbornness and with the problems and with the discord and the deceit over there. Send somebody else.” Or, “I have just been there. They won’t like it if I come back. They are not going to listen to me. Now is not the time.” But Paul says, “Not only does Titus, because of his earnest care, heed my appeal for him to go and to follow through with this, but he was willing of his own accord, of his own initiative to go and do this. There is the Christian spirit showing through again. The enthusiasm comes from “I’m willing to do this because it needs to be done, but I want to do it because I care.” Titus could see what needed to be done even before Paul sent him. That made him different, made him capable in so many ways.
Then the third thing about Titus that makes him the capable servant he was, the capable servant he was when the hour was dark in this situation at Corinth, is that he is the kind of a fellow who could rejoice over things that went right. Look at 2 Corinthians 7:13, 15. Titus has come now and met Paul and brought him news of the success at Corinth. There has been a change of heart among some of these Corinthians. Paul says, “Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. … And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.” Look at Titus’ heart there. He is the kind of a fellow who remembered, even though there were still problems over there as the rest of this letter makes clear, he remembers their obedience. And he rejoices over that, and his spirit has been refreshed about it. There is a good spirit about him despite the tiredness that he must have felt.
I observed in my own life and perhaps with all of us in the church that it is easier to find people who can see the problems and feel bad about them than it is to find people who can see the obedience and rejoice over it. I wonder why that is? I think it is the way we are. You can put some of us in situations, and we will look around and find the fault, and you put others of us in situations and we will look around and see the obedience that is there and be grateful for it. That is what we rejoice over.
In this story of Titus, then, he becomes “my brother Titus” because he is a humble heart; he is a strong character and a capable servant. He is a capable servant because of his integrity, his enthusiasm, and because of his joy and that is where we are finding ourselves the need to be like him and to step up. There is a song in our book that has as one of the verses, “Rise up, O man of God, the church for you doth wait; her strength unequal to her task; rise up and make her great.” Look at that – her strength unequal to her task – rise up and make her great.
The last time we meet Titus he is being called upon at the end of the letter to come and meet Paul at Nicopolis. Apparently that is where Paul ended up being arrested, and Titus apparently went on the road with him. And then in 2 Timothy, Titus has gone on to Dalmatia, apparently on a mission trip. Dalmatia was a part of what in more modern days has been Albania or Yugoslavia. This was service. Maybe today you and I need to decide to be like that and follow Jesus. If you are here and you need to be obedient to the gospel, if there is a need we can help with, would you let it be known while we stand and sing?