god willed not self willed

God-Willed, Not Self-Willed

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed. (Titus 1:7)

Paul gave Titus a list describing the character to look for in men who would be leaders among God’s people. The first item of the list was that a man should be blameless (Titus 1:6), and we previously looked at that character quality – here repeated in Titus 1:7. Our focus in this verse is the phrase that an overseer, a bishop, a leader among God’s people, would be not self-willed.

god willed not self willed

Self-will is the opposite of the nature of Jesus. Our Savior was and is the ultimate other-centered person, and a self-willed man or woman is a self-centered person.

Jesus said that if anyone would come to follow Him, he must deny himself (Matthew 16:24). When Jesus said this, He added an important phrase:If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Jesus said it this way to make the point that for someone to deny himself was like going to their crucifixion (to take up his cross).

The cross wasn’t about self-promotion or self-affirmation. The person carrying a cross knew they couldn’t save themselves. Denying self means to live as an others-centered person. Jesus was the only person to do this perfectly, but we are to follow in His steps and to follow Him. This is following Jesus at its simplest: He denied self, He carried a cross; and so must those who follow Him.

Those who would be leaders among God’s people must lead in self-sacrifice. They must come to serve, and not to be served. They should not be selfish. They should not be arrogant, stubborn, or have a proud self-focus.

James 3:17 describes true wisdom: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield. Out of pure stubbornness, the self-willed man is not willing to yield. The self-willed man is determined to have his own way in everything. They think their judgment is always right and superior to everyone else. They expect everyone to pay honor to their wisdom and to always do things their way.

That isn’t godly leadership, and such self-willed men should not be appointed leaders among God’s people. Instead, leaders should be like Jesus who truly said of Himself I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me (John 5:30). We should be God-willed instead of self-willed.

There are times when a leader must make a stand and hold his ground. When that time comes, he must do it in a spirit of humility and with a humble searching that he makes his stand seeking after the will of the Father, not his own will.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1

godly family

First in the Home

If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. (Titus 1:6)

Paul left Titus on Crete to find, appoint, and train leaders for the churches in the many towns and villages across the island. Paul told Titus to look for men of character, and this verse describes the family life of a man of character.

godly family

First, the man of godly character is the husband of one wife. The idea behind this phrase is not that a man must be married to be qualified for leadership in the church. We know that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul were both unmarried men, and certainly they had the character to be leaders in God’s work.

More literally, the idea of husband of one wife is that the man of godly character is a “one-woman man.” He has his focus on one woman – his wife, or his future wife. Simply said, the Biblical leader is not a playboy, an adulterer, or a flirt. He does not show romantic or sexual interest in other women, including the images of women in pornography.

We live in a day when this standard for leaders seems more difficult than ever to fulfill, but God’s measure does not change. We should pray that God would give us leaders who are truly the husband of one wife, and pray that they would by God’s power remain one-woman men.

Paul gives another measure of a man’s character relevant to his home life – that he is a good and godly father. This is seen in that he has faithful children, that he has raised his children well. His ability to lead the family of God must be first demonstrated by his ability to lead his own children. Here the emphasis is on the idea that his children display godly living (they are faithful) and they do not live wild, disobedient lives (dissipation or insubordination).

Bible teachers and scholars debate if this refers only to the younger children of the Christian leader or if it also includes his adult children, out of the home. Because of the emphasis in Jewish culture on the age of responsibility of a child (expressed in the bar mitzvah ceremony), Paul probably had in mind only the younger children, those who were not yet accountable to God for their own lives and sins. It is true that a child may rebel in even a good home; but one must ask, is that rebellion because of the father or in spite of the father? How does the father respond to the rebellion?

The principle remains important: The godly leader demonstrates his leadership ability first in his own home. God recognizes that it is in the home where our Christianity is first demonstrated. Sometimes we find it easy to be a Christian everywhere but the home, but God’s standard still applies.

If you fall short in the measure of your home life (or even miserably fail), in Jesus there is for you grace, forgiveness, and strength for obedience. If these troubles mean that now is not the right time for you to have a place of Christian leadership, don’t despair. Live day by day in Jesus and in Him build maturity and the evidence of it in your life.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1

Defending Against Every Hit

A Blameless Reputation

If a man is blameless… For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God. (Titus 1:6-7)

The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, telling him the character of the men he should appoint to leadership among Christians. We find a similar list in 1 Timothy 3, and both of these lists begin by saying that the leader among God’s people should be blameless.

When we consider a person’s character, it’s a great place to start. The ancient word literally means, “nothing to take hold upon.” It simply means there must be nothing in the life of the leader that others can take hold of and attack his life or the church.

Blameless - Defending Against Every Hit

The Bible commentator Adam Clarke said that the word was a metaphor taken from the world of boxing. Just like a skillful boxer defends every part of his body and gives his opponent no place to hit, so a blameless person gives the outside world no true place to attack his character.

This is a broad term for a person who lives a righteous life that can be seen as righteous. No one could stand up and rightfully accuse the man of grievous sin.

More than ever, the world around us finds and exposes the sins and faults of leaders. Sometimes the sins and faults of leaders in the church are found out and exposed to the world. When this happens, sober consideration should be given to how this impacts the leader’s standing as a blameless person. When Paul wrote about deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10, he used the phrase being found blameless. This implies being blameless is demonstrated by a track record of behavior – it is found and demonstrated to other people. A leader can’t decide for himself if he is blameless; there should be trusted people who can honestly look at him and his reputation, and how they reflect on God and His people.

This doesn’t mean that a godly leader will never be accused. Jesus, Paul, and many other godly men have been accused of terrible sins – but they were false accusations. We understand that blameless here applies to the truth of a man’s reputation and does not take into account false accusations.

I don’t think this means that a person with sin in his past can never be a leader among God’s people. It means that their reputation for repentance and godliness must be more public than their prior reputation for sin and compromise. It means that when those who know the person think about him, they first think of his godliness, before they would of the sins of his past. Godliness and time can restore a reputation.

If your reputation is good, if you are blameless in the sense described here, remember how easy it is to wreck your reputation. It can happen surprisingly fast. Trust Jesus every day to actually live in such a way that will only improve your reputation.

If your reputation is not good – if you are not blameless in the sense described here – then don’t despair! Jesus came to forgive and restore us all. Just remember that the restoration of your reputation will take time and consistency. Ask Jesus for daily faithfulness so that day by day, year by year, you can build a reputation that can be once again regarded as blameless.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1

holding bible

Character Counts

If a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled (Titus 1:6-8)

When Paul told Titus to look for men to lead God’s work in the many cities and churches on the island of Crete, he told Titus to look for something very special: character.

holding bible

The list in Titus 1:6-8 (and in 1 Timothy 3:1-7) means that God has specific qualifications for leaders in the church. Leaders should not to be chosen at random, or just because they volunteer, or because they aspire to the position, or even because they are “natural leaders.” Leaders should be chosen because they match the qualifications listed here. It is fine if a man thinks he is called; yet he must also be qualified.

It is also significant to note that the qualifications for leadership in Titus 1:6-8 have nothing to do with giftedness. Paul didn’t say to Titus “Find the most gifted guys.” We might say that it is easy for the Lord to grant gifts by the Holy Spirit as He wills (as in 1 Corinthians 12:11), but developing character takes time and a real relationship with Jesus Christ.

– Going to seminary by itself doesn’t make one qualified for spiritual leadership.

– Being a good talker doesn’t make one qualified for spiritual leadership.

– Natural or spiritual gifts in themselves do not qualify one for spiritual leadership.

– What one gives in money or volunteer time does not qualify them for spiritual leadership.

– What qualifies a man for spiritual leadership is godly character – and godly character established according to the clear criteria Paul will list.

However, this is not a rigid list which demands perfection in all areas. It provides both goals to reach for and general measure for selection. We should take this list and ask “Does the man in question desire all these things with his whole heart? Does that desire show itself in his life?” Titus was to take the following list, find the men who best fit the description, and then use the list as a training guide to disciple these men.

What we should really remember is that these qualifications are valuable for every person – not only those who aspire to leadership. They are clear indicators of godly character and spiritual maturity; they can give a true measure of a man or woman of God.

It is good to look at this list piece by piece. But remember this: among God’s people we shouldn’t expect that people will measure us according to our intentions, our personality, or even our gifts. God set the principle here: we should be measured according to our character. This drives us all the more to look to Jesus, trusting Him for the continual growth that should mark God’s people.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1

In Order

Set Things In Order

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you. (Titus 1:5)

Any good evangelist knows that repentance and faith is just the start of the Christian life. That beginning must continue into true Christian discipleship. That’s why Paul left Titus on the island of Crete.

After their successful evangelism, there were a lot of young Christians to take care of. Paul left Titus behind to build stable churches with mature, qualified pastors for the people. This was especially needed in Crete, because the people of Crete were a wild bunch, well known as liars and lazy people. Titus had to find and train capable leaders for the Christians of the island of Crete.

In Order

When a job is hard, there are basically two kinds of people. With one you say, “The job is really hard, so we can’t send him.” With the other you say, “The job is really hard, so we must send him.” Titus seemed to be of the second kind.

This wasn’t a permanent job for Titus. When Paul wrote, “I left you in Crete,” he used the same phrase as in 2 Timothy 4:13 and 4:20 where he spoke of a cloak and an associate temporarily left behind. The idea is that Paul left Titus in Crete for a limited time to solve these problems, establish godly leadership, and then move on (probably to catch up again with Paul).

His job wasn’t easy, but it was simple to understand. Paul told Titus to set in order the things that are lacking. The churches needed order and leadership. Titus was commanded to set in order the churches, and to do it by appointing godly leaders. The phrase set in order was a medical term – they would use it for the setting of a broken or crooked limb. There were crooked things that had to be set straight among the congregations of Crete.

The order would come through appointed godly leaders, men of character that Titus was to carefully choose. Titus was to appoint elders in every city. This means Paul delegated a lot of authority to Titus. These elders were not chosen by popular vote, and they were not chosen through their own self-promotion. It was Titus’ job to look for men of the kind of character Paul would describe in the following passage and to appoint them as elders in congregations.

This reminds us of an important point. When God has work to do in His church, He usually does it through people. God didn’t send angels to appoint the elders, and angels were not to be appointed as leaders over the church. God looks for His people to rise to the occasion and the opportunity, and in obedience to His word to be about their Father’s business.

How does God want you to serve His people and a needy world? He has a place for you in the work of His kingdom. If the work is hard like it was for Titus, God will give you the wisdom and strength.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1


More than Grace and Peace

To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 1:4)

When we write a letter today – if anyone still writes letters – we start with the name of the person receiving the letter (“Dear So-and-So”). At the bottom of the letter we write or sign our name, so they know who wrote it.

In New Testament times, a proper letter started with the name of the author. That kind of makes sense, because the reader of the Grace, mercy, and peace letter might first want to know who wrote it. After the author gave his name, he or she would then say who the letter was to.


That’s the practice in this letter the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, his younger associate on the island of Crete. Titus 1:1-3 gives us Paul’s self-introduction, and Titus 1:4 tells us who the letter was written to. It was written to Titus.

It is interesting to find that we don’t know anything about Titus from the Book of Acts. He is strangely absent from that record, though he must have been an associate of Paul during the time covered by Acts.

Though we read nothing about Titus in Acts, we still know something of his character and personality from this letter and from 2 Corinthians 2:13, 8:23, and 12:18.

– Titus was a true son in our common faith (Titus 1:4).

– Titus was a genuine brother to the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 2:13).

– Titus was a partner and a fellow worker with Paul (2 Corinthians 8:23).

– Titus walked in the same spirit as Paul (2 Corinthians 12:18).

– Titus walked in the same steps as Paul, in the same manner of life (2 Corinthians 12:18).

– Therefore, Titus could be a pattern to other believers (Titus 2:7).

All this makes us think that Titus was a remarkable man. Wouldn’t you love it if Paul wrote those things about you? I know it would be wonderful if Pau wrote of me that I was a true son in our common faith, a genuine brother, that I had his same spirit and walked in his same steps. The Apostle Paul thought highly of Titus.

At the same time, there is a hint at what might be some imperfection or weakness in Titus. Paul greeted him with this phrase: grace, mercy, and peace. When Paul wrote to churches he often greeting them with the phrase grace and peace (such as in 1 Corinthians 1:3, Galatians 1:3, and Ephesians 1:2). But when Paul wrote to the pastors Timothy and Titus he added mercy to his greeting (1 and 2 Timothy 1:2).

Do you see the hint at imperfection or weakness? Pastors and leaders like Timothy and Titus need lots of mercy right along with grace and peace. Today, receive all three from God – His grace, mercy, and peace. And if you know a pastor or leader in God’s service – pray that God gives them His mercy.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1


In Due Time

In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior. (Titus 1:2-3)

Paul wrote a letter to his young associate named Titus, and here we see a few lines from his introduction. Paul here wrote of his work as a servant and apostle of God, how that work was in hope of eternal life. Paul was obviously concerned with the here and now, but his heart and mind were never far from heaven and the hope of eternal life.

This hope of eternal life is much more than a wish. It was promised before time began, and it was promised by the God who cannot lie.


It’s a bit of a fad among some Christians today to say that the Bible doesn’t speak much about personal salvation or the hope of heaven. Some think those ideas should be small and the bigger ideas should be community and the life of the here and now.

God cares about the present age, and He does a big work in community, among God’s people as a whole. But we don’t need to make small the hope of eternal life and how that eternal life is promised to individual people who put their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

It is helpful to consider that eternal life starts right now. Sometimes we think eternal life only applies to heaven and that is true in the sense that it never ends. Still, we don’t have to wait for eternal life. We have that hope right now. The same life and presence of God that will be with us unto all eternity is with the believer right now.

The wonderful message of eternal life waited for the right time in God’s plan. But when the time was right – in due time – God showed everyone His plan, the plan now proclaimed in His word through preaching.

Think about those words: in due time. Christianity came into the world at a time when it was uniquely possible for its message to spread rapidly.

– There was a common language across the entire Roman Empire, a language of trade, business, and literature.

– There were virtually no frontiers because of the vast nature of the Roman Empire.

– Travel was comparatively easy. It was slow, but relatively safe because of the security that the Roman Empire brought to roads and sea routes.

– The world was largely at peace under the “Peace of Rome” (Pax Romana).

– The world was uniquely conscious of its need for a messiah and savior. The historian and Bible commentator William Barclay said, “There was never a time when the hearts of men were more open to receive the message of salvation which the Christian missionaries brought.”

In due time, when the time was right, God sent His message of eternal life through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Thank Him for that, and rest in knowing that His timing is also perfect in your life.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1

Letter to Titus

Truth and Godliness, in One Accord

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness. (Titus 1:1)

The Apostle Paul had many associates and co-workers. One of them was a younger man named Titus. They worked together spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and establishing churches among the believers on the island of Crete.

Letter to Titus

The day came when Paul had to leave, and Titus was left behind to continue a difficult work. Paul wanted to instruct and encourage his young co-worker, so he wrote this letter to him. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, this letter was not only helpful for Titus, but also for God’s people through all ages.

Because this writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit and rightfully including among the writings of the New Testament, each word and phrase has depth and meaning. We can learn from both its broad themes and individual words and phrases. The first line of the letter – Titus 1:1 – is a good example of how, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so much can go into a few words.

First, we see how Paul referred to himself: both a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. It is hard to think of a lower title than bondservant. The original word speaks not only of a low slave (one Greek scholar called it “the most abject, servile term in use among the Greeks for a slave”), it was also the word for a slave by choice. Paul took glory in such a humble title – he was a willing servant, a slave, of God. Yet he was also an apostle, a uniquely designated ambassador of God, one of those commissioned by God to lay that one-time foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20).

Paul said that his calling as a bondservant and an apostle was according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth. His calling wasn’t because of the faith of God’s elect, but in harmony with the faith (the belief, the truth) shared among God’s elect. One way we can know who the elect are is that they make this acknowledgment of the truth – they believe and confess the truth about who Jesus is and what He came to do for us, especially His work on the cross.

There is at least one more important thought in this verse. Paul was careful to write that the truth acknowledged by God’s elect accords with godliness. It is consistent with godly, moral life. An ungodly life, marked by sin and moral compromise, doesn’t really acknowledge the truth of God.

This truth brings us to one of the big themes of Paul’s letter to Titus: the link between sound doctrine and godly living. Truth and godliness should always be in one accord. From time to time we need to do the self-assessment: Do I believe the truth, especially about Jesus and His work for me? Do I walk in godliness, consistent with the truth and nature of God? We must always remember that both are important, and there is a real connection between right belief and right living.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 1


Like a Bad Pancake

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Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned. Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it; yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it. And the pride of Israel testifies to his face, but they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all this. (Hosea 7:8-10)

God likes to talk in pictures. All through the Bible, God uses word-pictures to tell us how He sees things. Hosea chapter 7 is filled with word pictures describing the sinful character of ancient Israel in the days of the Prophet Hosea. In this chapter, God says Israel was like:

– A thief, a band of robbers
– An adulterous wife
– A hot oven
– A silly dove

But my favorite word-picture from Hosea 7 is found in verse 8 through 10, where God called Israel a cake unturned. The idea is of a “half-baked” cake. In that day, bread was often prepared as a cake that was cooked on both sides, something like a pancake. In thinking they could serve both the Lord and idols, Israel was like an unturned pancake – burned on one side and uncooked on the other.


This vividly describes the spiritual and moral condition of many people. They are overexposed to some things – perhaps the things of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Yet they are underexposed to other things – the things of God and His Spirit. Therefore, they are like a cake unturned. If you have ever made pancakes, you know what can be done with cakes that are burned on one side and uncooked on the other – nothing. You can’t fix it by flipping it over, because the one side is still burned. In the same way, when someone is overexposed to the world and underexposed to God, God can’t do much with that person.

To describe the self-deception of Israel, Hosea used another word-picture: “Yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it.” In Hosea’s day, Israel was as foolish as an old man who thought and acted like he was still young. If you have ever seen the type, you know what Hosea meant. We think it is a joke when an old, gray-headed man dresses in the most modern fashions and uses the slang of young people. We wonder, “Who does this old guy think he is fooling?” God thinks the same thing about us when we deceive ourselves about our spiritual condition.

Considering how easily we deceive our self, and how our sin can be apparent to everyone but us, Israel’s condition wasn’t unusual. It was said of Samson after Delilah cut his hair: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him” (Judges 16:20). This is where the people of Israel were and where some followers of God are today. They are far from God and already suffering the effects, but they can’t see it. Ask God to open your eyes today – not only to see Him, but also to see your true spiritual condition. Seeing both clearly make the path to true spiritual health.

Click here for David’s commentary on Hosea 7

Crowning Kings

A King Like Jesus – and His Helpers

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Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. (Isaiah 32:1)

It is a wonderful promise: Behold, a king will reign in righteousness. Yet it is important to remember that Isaiah the prophet made this promise in a certain context. In the previous chapter, God assured the rulers and people that the Assyrians would be judged and Judah would be delivered. But God didn’t want only to remove the threat; He also wanted to bless Judah with a righteous king. Therefore this promise was made.

Crowning Kings

The kingdom of Judah had endured bad kings, so it was a great promise: A king will reign in righteousness. In some sense, King Hezekiah fulfilled this prophecy. It was written of him: “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done… He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:3, 5-6). That certainly describes a king who reigns in righteousness.

Yet when we read the words, a king will reign in righteousness we also recognize that ultimately Hezekiah was a picture of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 23:5 announced this about our Messiah: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.”

So this promise may well have had its original reference to Hezekiah and the godliness and success of his reign. Nevertheless, Hezekiah and his reign was in some ways a picture of Jesus and His ultimate kingdom. We can say with the Puritan writer Matthew Poole, “So this prophecy looks through Hezekiah unto Christ.”

We also notice the second part of the promise: and princes will rule with justice. It wasn’t enough – and it is never enough – to have a righteous king. The king must have helpers (here called princes) beside him, who will also rule with justice. Hezekiah had such loyal princes, such as Eliakim, Shebna the scribe, the elders of the priests, and Isaiah himself (as described in 2 Kings 19:2).

These men were not princes in the literal sense of being sons of King Hezekiah. The Hebrew word for princes can mean any ruler under a king; simply, someone who helps the king and carries out His orders under His authority.

Think about it for a moment. If Hezekiah, the righteous king, points to Jesus, then who are Jesus’ princes? We can say that His people are His princes and princesses! Read carefully 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Or again at Revelation 5:10: “And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.

This is a high and glorious destiny that God has for His people in ages to come. Such a high and glorious destiny needs a special preparation. We should care about faithfulness and justice right now; not only for the moment, but also because the present moment has a wonderful purpose in the world beyond. We are in training to be “princes,” faithfully ruling with King Jesus. We can think about this destiny, and thank God for how He prepares us for it.

Click here for David’s commentary on Isaiah 32