When we think back to the first few decades after Pentecost, we are often tempted to think that the early church functioned as an ideal community in which everything was done properly and in order. By this point, however, our study of Paul’s career should have disabused us of this notion. From the first of his epistles, Galatians, to the final letters he wrote, the Pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus), we see that the church had problems from the start, problems the apostle addresses in nearly all of his writings.
Our study of Titus over the next few months will reveal how Paul dealt with issues in the church on Crete. Titus is one of the three Pastoral Epistles, the last letters we have from the apostle’s pen, and we are studying it before 2 Timothy because it was actually written about the same time as 1 Timothy, even though it appears in the canon after 2 Timothy. Paul may even have written Titus before 1 Timothy, but of this we cannot be certain. Either way, the same issues of authorship we addressed in our study of 1 Timothy also apply to Titus, and we refer you to our first few devotionals from that book for detailed information (May 1 and 4, 2009). At this point we only need to point out that Paul wrote to Titus sometime in the mid-60s, not long before his martyrdom.
Paul’s fellow-servant Titus first appears in Galatians 2:1–10, wherein the gospel of grace apart from the works of the Law was vindicated when the Jerusalem apostles did not require him to be circumcised. Thus, unlike Timothy, Titus was a Gentile convert to Christ Jesus. As one of Paul’s closest associates, Titus seems to have been gifted for navigating contentious situations. From 2 Corinthians 7–8 and 12 we learn that Titus both delivered Paul’s difficult letter to the Corinthian church and collected money in Corinth for the church in Jerusalem.
At the time he received his letter from Paul, Titus was leading the church on Crete, which was apparently in its infancy. We infer this from the fact that while Timothy had to reform a church already in place at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), Titus was going to be the first one to appoint elders on Crete (Titus 1:5). Like Timothy, Titus also had to deal with false teaching, as we will see in the days ahead.