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Titus was no stranger to conflict. He was a long-term companion of Paul who was a valuable aid in two of Paul's greatest crises.

Titus first appears in the New Testament in Galatians 2:1, where Paul says he took Titus along on his trip to Jerusalem with Barnabas. Titus was a Gentile, and the issue at hand was whether Gentiles should have to comply with Jewish ceremonial rites (legalism--circumcision, diet restrictions and so on) in order to be full members of the Christian community. With the young Paul at one side and Barnabas at the other, he was essentially "tried" (and acquitted) by the leaders in Jerusalem.

Titus appears again in the middle of Paul's struggle with the church at Corinth. In that deeply divided church, he represented Paul. He had the unwelcome job of delivering what we call the "severe letter" which Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 2:1-4 and 7:5-13 and then staying there for about a year. Then he delivered the letter we now call 2 Corinthians in which Paul takes on his critics and calls the church to honor an unfulfilled financial pledge.

Titus was in Crete at the time Paul wrote him. Crete (originally a Greek polis, a city/state which then was under Roman rule) was a seaport, a sleazy port of call for cargo ships traversing the Mediterranean. It had been socially backward for 1400 years when the Minoan civilization was destroyed by a devastating earthquake (it is widely believed that these refugees landed eventually in Palestine and were the forbearers of the Biblical Philistines). We do not know exactly when Titus went with Paul to Crete, but one possible scenario places it after Paul's release from his first imprisonment in Rome.

Paul had preached in Crete and was giving Titus the job of following through with developing a healthy church. This letter was sent while he was in the midst of his task and reviews his assignment. It shows Titus as a forceful personality and skilled administrator. It seems he was made of tougher stuff than Timothy, but his assignments were shorter. By the time Paul had written 2 Timothy, the job in Crete was done, and Titus had been sent on to Dalmatia (part of modern Yugoslavia).

This letter gives us two very valuable things: (1) A showcase of Paul's strategy for leadership in the midst of chaos—Timothy was given a long-term assignment in an established church; Titus was sent to follow up an evangelistic movement and give the Christian body some coherence; (2) a model of hope in the face of a very messy situation; Paul's confidence in the power of the gospel shines throughout the letter.

Titus 1-3: Great Expectations

Great Expectations is the well-known title of a novel by Charles Dickens. It is the story of a young man's early experiences out in the "real world" as he seeks to gain the fortune he has inherited. Similarly, the book of Titus tells of Paul's expectations for Titus during his first ministry experience on his own. Paul's promise to Titus is that he will become an heir of eternity.

Warming Up to God

Think of a person in your life who expects great things from you. How do you feel about that person's expectations? Are they realistic?

Discovering the Word

  • Note all you can from the book about the social situation (family, public and private morality).
  • What do you learn about the economic situation (work, wealth and poverty)?
  • What is revealed about the religious situation (spirituality, doctrine, church life)?
  • Paul expected enormous things of Titus. And he wanted Titus to meet him in Nicopolis (3:12) in about eight months. When it comes to what others expect of us, our first response is often to question whether they are fair. How fair do you think Paul's expectations of Titus were?
  • Paul's expectations were built not only on his knowledge of Titus, but on solid theological grounds as well. What were they (see 1:1-3; 2:11-14; 3:3-7)?
  • Do you think Paul's expectations helped Titus to accomplish his mission? Why or why not?

Applying the Word

  • Do your own Christian leaders expect too much or too little of you?
  • What effect does that have on your own walk with Jesus Christ?
  • At work, home, school or church, whether you are a follower or a leader, you have a responsibility to communicate your expectations. Name one step you could take to do this more effectively.

Responding in Prayer

What expectations are you wrestling with? Ask God for insight to know which come from him and which do not.

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