Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the November 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“Blame the Leaders?” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Lesson Aim: Consider the importance of godly leadership in the church.
By Mark Scott
Traditionally, this past Tuesday has been the day Americans would go to the polls to vote for national and local leaders. By contrast, in churches where votes are cast for church leaders, Christians should understand their votes are simply their perception of the will of God. It is actually the Holy Spirit who confers leadership in the church (Acts 20:28). The task of believers in selecting their leaders is to choose (literally “look out,” Acts 6:3) from among themselves and find the leaders who match the descriptions that the Holy Spirit has given (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). In that sense, Christians appoint the leaders.
During the rest of November we will study two small books of the New Testament, Titus and Philemon. Both books are actually letters Paul sent that demand something of their recipients. Philemon was asked to receive back his former slave Onesimus, and Titus was asked to put the churches on the island of Crete in order (it could mean “to correct”) and appoint (to cause to stand and be recognized) godly leaders.
Crete was an island (about 160 miles long and up to 35 miles wide) in the Mediterranean Sea which contained 100 cities. But it was not “Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.” The Cretans had a bad reputation that Paul acknowledged as true (Titus 1:12-13). No wonder Paul directed (a strong military word) Titus to appoint godly leaders.
Godly Leaders Have an Exemplary Family Life
There is a line in a Little Rascals comedy, “You can fool some of the people some of the time . . . but you can’t fool Mom.” A leader’s public persona is one thing, but a leader’s family persona can be something else. When the two personas match, it can be called integrity. One of the best critiques of a leader’s life comes from his family. A church leader years ago was asked if a certain man was a Christian. The leader responded, “I don’t know. I would have to ask his wife.”
To be blameless (unimpeachable) at home is a great compliment. This would include being faithful to his wife (not flirtatious or lustful; devoted; cf. Job. 31:1) and having children who are under the lordship of Christ. The kids believe (or at least are faithful) and are not wild (prodigal-like) and disobedient (insubordinate or disorderly). The reason for this is made clear in 1 Timothy 3:5 (i.e., if he can’t lead his family, how can he lead the church?).
Godly Leaders Have a Devoted Personal Life
Earlier, Paul called these leaders elders (v. 5). Now he refers to them (in various Bible translations) as overseers and stewards (one who manages). Paul used these terms interchangeably. In effect, a leader should be blameless (a key word that occurs a second time in our text); Paul used the word to contrast negative and positive qualities in the leader’s personal life (see vv. 7, 8). The leader is not to be overbearing (surly; the opposite of courteous) and not quick-tempered (prone to anger; cf. James 1:19-20). He is to be disciplined (moderate) in his use of alcohol and not violent (not a striker or fighter). More than one person who is not moderate in the use of alcohol has become violent. Finally, the leader cannot be a materialist (not pursuing dishonest gain). In fact, being a materialist is a characteristic of the false teachers (v. 11).
On the positive side, the elder must love strangers (be hospitable), love goodness at every level, be self-controlled (discerning, sober, and temperate), be just (upright), unpolluted (holy), and disciplined (under control). In 1 Timothy, Paul mentioned 15 traits of godly leaders. Here he mentioned 17. The lists overlap some, but the ones mentioned here must be pertinent for Titus’s ministry context in Crete.
Godly Leaders Are Capable Teachers
Elders must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). This means knowledgeable of the gospel and capable of articulating it. Given Titus’s situation, this was fundamental for godly leaders. Elders must know the message (logos) that had been passed down through the apostolic tradition. The purpose of this knowledge is twofold: First, they should be able to encourage (come alongside of or uplift) the church by sound (healthy) doctrine. Elders should be some of the most “up” people in the church.
Second, elders must be able to refute (convict) those who oppose this doctrine. This opposition is identified in the text (vv. 10-11). Those who oppose this doctrine are insubordinate (rebellious), given to meaningless talk and deception. Part of their false doctrine is rooted in being Judaizers (Acts 15; Galatians 2; Philippians 3). They needed to be muzzled (silenced) because they were causing havoc in homes and giving evidence of being money hungry. Elders must “be” the right kind of people so that they can feed, lead, and guard God’s people.