The Gospel is invading the empire. No matter how hard the Jewish leaders or government officials in various places tried to stamp it out, the Word of God simply could not be imprisoned. It was spreading in an organic, supernatural way.
Paul and the other sent ones (apostles) were connected relationally. House to house. There were no buildings to meet in, so the communities of Christ-followers were everywhere, much as you can see them in China today. Simply supernatural.
Consequently there were people taking initiative and serving Jesus by serving the churches (house to house in cities and areas). Titus was, like Timothy, an overseer of one or more of these groupings.
Philemon bumps into this network and he and Paul interact over a young man named Onesimus. This shows how organically relational it all was. His letter from Paul was brief and to the point: you have counted on me, now I am counting on you. Forgive this man in this special circumstance: and put it on my account. No pressure. Check out the final relational verses of the book.
Humility was being brought about in the lives of these communities, because without humility there would be no true love. Paul and Timothy knew this. Titus did as well. And now Philemon is learning it too. Cool, right?
Titus is more structured and deals with how Titus, like Timothy, was to discharge his duties as a servant of Christ who was overseeing the spiritual welfare of others.
“I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart, whom I wished to keep with me, so that on your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.” – Philemon 10-14
Meanwhile Titus was on an island called Crete, surrounded by a culture of lazy gluttons. Lucky duck! But the standards for righteousness did not adapt from city to city – region to region. Love for God was still filled with reverential fear – love for people was the outcome of true faith. So it is in your city – in my city. God is pretty adaptable considering He never changes.
Paul’s message? Follow grown up leaders (of character) who teach others to grow up. This growing up involved: “Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” – Titus 3:14
Quite simple really 🙂