The reason I left you behind in Crete was so that you might set straight those things that were left undone, and appoint elders in every city according to the program I laid out for you.
These were Paul’s words to his young co-worker Titus. The three chapters that follow is a record of the instructions Titus was given to “set straight” the many things still left undone among the churches on the island. The first item on Titus’ agenda was the appointing of pastors in each of the churches.
Titus was to be careful. This was the most important thing on his list. All else depended on doing this correctly. He is not instructed to seek special revelation from God about whom to appoint. Paul, as an Apostle with apostolic authority, could have made it easy and simply told Titus whom to appoint. But he did not. Instead Paul gave Titus a list of qualifications. He was to carefully evaluate prospects and appoint those who met these standards:
if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
The first element mentioned is that the perspective elder must be “beyond suspicion.” The word means “unimpeachable,” and refers to a person against whom a charge could not be brought successfully. In other words, the pastor must be one who is respected in his church and community. He may not be one about whom charges of sexual, financial, or other wrongdoing could be rightly leveled. He is, as Paul told Timothy, to be one who is “trustworthy.” Nothing could be of greater importance for a pastor. If people are to unburden their hearts to him, they must be able to do so freely, recognizing that he is one to whom they may entrust such information. The man who divulges in sermons or conversations what he has learned in counseling sessions, for instance, will for good reasons soon find himself considered “untrustworthy.”
He is not to be polygamous, but the husband of one wife. This is not so much a problem in our society as it is elsewhere in the world. Polygamy was common among the Jews who were numerous in Crete. Today, the idea of marriage fidelity, however, is important for every pastor. Often this phrase has been wrongly interpreted so as to exclude anyone who has been divorced. Now it is true that how a man has been divorced and under what circumstances may indeed disqualify him, but that is not the point of this passage. Rather, he is a man whose heart is entirely devoted to one woman.
Check back next week when we will continue our study of this important passage.