These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2:15-1)
This verse does not mean Paul is finished with his list of lessons for the churches of Crete. He has a few more thoughts to share. Perhaps the Spirit nudged Paul with this random instruction, and he wanted to record it before continuing.
If we really stop to think about the responsibility Titus carried on his shoulders, we realize how easy it would have been for him to be overwhelmed. He was working with infant churches, in a pagan culture, without ready access to an apostle.
One thing I have in my ministry is ready access. I can e-mail my relatives, my old professors, and my friends in the ministry. The elders I serve with are a click away, and on a daily basis I have other full-time ministry staff I can consult. And when all else fails, I can open respected commentaries and theological dictionaries to help confirm or refute my thought processes.
Titus had a letter from Paul, which he must have read a thousand times. He also had those he would choose as elders. But compared to more established church settings, Titus was relatively alone in his work.
He had to encourage and rebuke with authority, and conduct his life in such a way that others could find no reason to despise him.
Where does this kind of authority come from, and how do we get it?
We must realize Titus was a special case in that he was being tutored by the apostle Paul. His special relationship with Paul was deserving of respect, as well as any unique gifts the apostle might possibly have imparted to him.
But in general, Titus’ authority came from his moral integrity and his grounding in sound doctrine. You might say Titus “commanded” authority.
For years I have studied the subject of leadership for my own edification. Some aspects of leadership are innate, some learned, and some conferred. I have seen two-year olds demonstrate leadership abilities, but I have also watched grown adults transformed before my very eyes when they determined to grow as leaders, or were caught up in something God was doing.
The truth is I don’t know everything there is to know about leadership development. But I know something about leadership voids. And there is always a void when a leader doesn’t know anything about the place he is leading others, or denies foundational truths by the life he lives.
Maybe Paul imagined sweat breaking out on Titus’ brow when he read the words in the first two chapters of his letter. Perhaps the Spirit said, “Paul, you need to give him a good word here.”
Leading with authority is hard for anyone to do. And without God, it is nearly impossible.
Dear God, lead me as I lead others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.