Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, by Witness Lee


A. The Apostle’s Charge

Titus 1:5 says, “For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in each city, as I charged you.” The words “each city,” compared with “in every church” in Acts 14:23, indicate not only that the jurisdiction of a local church is that of the city in which it is located, but also that in one city there should be only one church. The eldership of a local church should cover the entire city where that church is. Such a unique eldership in a city preserves the unique oneness of the Body of Christ from damage. One city should have only one church with one eldership. This practice is illustrated, beyond any question and doubt, by the clear pattern in the New Testament (Acts 8:1; 13:1; Rom. 16:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:11), and is an absolute prerequisite for the maintenance of proper order in a local church. Because of this, the first thing the apostle charged Titus to do in setting things in order was to appoint elders in each city.

B. The Qualifications of the Elders

In verses 6 through 9 Paul lists many of the qualifications of the elders: unreprovable, the husband of one wife, having believing children, not accused of dissipation, not unruly, being the overseer as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a striker, not seeking gain by base means, hospitable, a lover of good, one with a sober mind, righteous, holy, and self-controlled. We have considered many of these qualifications in detail in the message entitled “Overseers and Deacons for the Church’s Administration,” Message 5 in the Life-study of 1 Timothy.

In verse 9 Paul says, “Holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort by the healthy teaching and to convict those who contradict.” The elders are appointed to administrate God’s government in a local church that good order may be maintained in the church. To accomplish this, the elders need to hold to the faithful word, which is according to the apostles’ teaching, that they may be able to stop troublesome talkers and calm a tumultuous situation (vv. 9-14).

The “faithful word” is the trustworthy, reliable, and true word which was taught in the churches according to the apostles’ teaching. The elders in a local church should hold to this kind of healthy word that they may fulfill their duty in teaching (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17).

The teaching referred to here is the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42), which eventually became the New Testament. This indicates that the churches were established according to the apostles’ teaching and followed their teaching. It also indicates that the order of the churches was maintained by the faithful word, which was given according to the apostles’ teaching. The disorder of the church was mainly due to deviation from the apostles’ teaching. To counter this, we must hold to the faithful word taught in the churches according to the apostles’ teaching. In a darkened and confused situation, we must cleave to the enlightening and ordering word in the New Testament—the apostles’ teaching. To maintain the order of the church, the word according to God’s revelation is needed in addition to the eldership.

We have seen that “healthy teaching” implies life. Anything that is healthy refers to the health of life. The teaching of the apostles ministers healthy teaching as the supply of life to people, either nourishing them or healing them.

By holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, elders can “convict those who contradict.” To convict here is to disclose the true character of anything so as to convict and hence reprove by exposing one’s fault. The Greek word is translated expose in Ephesians 5:11 and 13.

Let us now go back to verses 1 through 3 and consider certain important points in more detail.

(Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Chapter 21, by Witness Lee)