Precisely because the Advent season is a little longer than normal, we find ourselves moving from Revelation to a pastoral epistle: Titus.
1. Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Messiah Jesus by faith, chosen of God by a knowledge of truth in godliness
2. upon the hope of eternal life which the God who is without deceit promised before eternal time.
3. In his own time he revealed his word, the preaching of which I was entrusted by the command of God our savior.
4. Titus, a legitimate child by shared faith, grace, and peace from Father God and Messiah Jesus our savior.
5. This is why I left you in Crete, to set everything straight and to appoint elders in the cities the way I commanded you.
6. If anyone is irreproachable, a man of one wife, having faithful children, not accusable, extravagant, rebellious,
7. –for it is necessary that a bishop, as God’s steward, be not arrogant, temperamental, a drunkard, violent, or greedily dishonest
8. but instead be hospitable, a lover of good things, temperate, right, devout, self-controlled,
9. holding onto the faithful teaching of the word, so that he might be able to encourage teaching that is healthy and to refute opponents.
10. For many are rebellious windbags who rot the brain. They are from the circumcision group.
11. It is necessary to silence these because they are upsetting whole houses with improper, shameful teaching.
12. One of them, a prophet of their own, said that Cretans always lie, are bad, beastly, and idle gluttons.
13. This is a true statement. For this reason, begin to scold them sharply so that they may be sound in the faith.
14. Pay no attention to Jewish myths and human commandments which turn their back on the truth.
15. Everything is clean to those who are clean, but for those people who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean because they have defiled their mind and conscience.
16. They confess to know God, but deny works. These people are horrible, disobedient, and worthless for any good purpose.
In my honest opinion, the language of Titus is clunky. I left it the way in my rendering on purpose. I feel like Paul, and I do believe he is the author with perhaps a different ‘secretary’, is trying to deal with a very specific issue, which is the problems Titus is having on Crete. Verses 6-9 are long rambling list that is loosely focused on what an elder should be like, but it is nothing as organized as it should be. It feels like a grumpy old Paul is just shouting things and his poor secretary is trying to organize it. Bless him.
The clearest thing here is when he says in verse 13, ‘begin to scold them sharply’.
Our old friends the circumcision party have shown up again (see Galatians) and Paul has strong words for them — words I adore! He calls them ‘rebellious windbags who rot the brain.’ Rot the brain is my very loose rendering on a term that probably means ‘dilute the mind’ or ‘causing to think poorly.’ I think that means brain rot, like what happens to humans today who watch too much cable television news.
I take comfort from Titus problems. They sound like ours, or at least mine, today. People voluntarily listen to those who rot the brain, and the result is people of faith are lacking fortitude, spiritual strength, and proper values. Paul’s solution was to appoint the right kind of elders and to scold.
I am not certain whether or not that is an effective strategy right now. Scolding doesn’t take well, because people will just find a church to tell them what they want, which is probably a Christmas Eve service with a laser-light show and drones. And camels. And drummers flying through the air.