Back in October a group of us committed together to memorize the book of Titus. In my younger days I had done plenty of scripture memorization, but it was mostly scattershot—a verse here, a verse there. This challenge of memorizing a book presented something I had never done before. With a few slowdowns over the holidays, I have made it as far as 3:2, and it’s been a great experience. Memorizing helps me to meditate which helps me to get God’s word firmly planted on my heart.
Yet I’ve discovered something else in the process. I have no idea how many times I have read through the book of Titus (it’s been quite a few). I’ve never preached through the book, but I have preached several of its passages. I knew Titus spoke about church leadership and generational discipleship. I knew it presented us a picture of transforming grace—when God saves you he neither grants you a free pass to do whatever you want nor does he leave you to wallow in your sin.
But until I started going through the verses over and over in my mind and truly getting a deeper feel for how the book flows, I didn’t realize just how much emphasis Paul placed on character.
Though he left Titus to “put what remained into order,” including appointing church leadership for these fledgling churches, Paul’s primary focus was not church structure. Instead, you could say that Titus is a book about character in all aspects of the church.
In chapter one, character is the primary requirement he has for leadership. Yes, they also have to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught so that they might be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it,” but its character that matters most—not personality, talents, education, achievements, but character. On the flip side, the false teachers are the ones who are “detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” in everything they do.
Then in chapter two, Paul urged Titus to teach sound doctrine—but that involved teaching older men and older women to be faithful men and women of good character who could then model character for the younger men and women and urge them to walk in the same way.
Even when speaking of the realities of grace coming through Jesus to save us, it’s about character. God’s grace trains us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” as Jesus redeemed “us from all lawlessness.”
Then chapter three begins with Paul urging Titus to remind the people of the churches “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” This because we are no longer the “foolish, disobedient, [and] led astray,” but the washed, the regenerated, the justified, and the renewed.
It is amazing how much space Paul devoted in such a short letter to the idea that all Christians are to be devoted to seeking and maintaining good character. It is that important that we present ourselves to each other and to the world not as Pharisees in the proud and false piety of hypocrisy; but as those who have been transformed by God’s grace and growing in character.