How Pastors Promote Godly Congregations, Titus 2:15

Christians without good pastors are spiritually stunted. Every Christian needs good pastoral care.  No sheep should be without a shepherd.  That is the way it is designed for the Lord’s chosen ones.  In Titus 2:15 Paul gives 4 ways pastors promote godliness in their congregations.

#1: Teaching

First, every Christian needs a pastor who teaches them those things that lead to godliness. Notice what verse 15 says, “These, then, are the things you should teach…”  Paul is very concerned about what Titus communicates.  In verse 7 he said, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity and seriousness.”

The word “teach”, in verse 15, gives the impression that Paul is talking about Titus preaching in the pulpit or in SS classes. But the Greek word is much simpler and much more broad.  It means “to say”.  “These are the things you should say, Titus.”  It encompasses all forms of talking – not just formal teaching from the pulpit or in Sunday School.  But, it includes informal talking in conversation, like over coffee or over the phone, or through FB posts, blog posts, texts and tweets.  Paul intended that Titus communicate Biblical truth through every means of speaking.

Application #1: A Pastor needs to be concerned with what he communicates when he’s out of the pulpit as much as when he is in it.  There is a difference between preaching and talking, and, the content of a pastor’s words should be pointing people to Jesus Christ whether he is preaching or talking.  If for an hour on Sunday morning it is the only time a pastor concerns himself with Biblical truth then don’t be surprised if the congregation is only concerned for that one hour of the week also.

Application #2: Pastor’s need to be part of people’s lives.  His role in people’s lives extends beyond his Sunday morning preaching hour.  The congregation needs him in the pulpit and out of it.  All the lives in a local church weave together and the pastor’s thread should be visible throughout the whole garment.  He’s not a micro-manager dictating all the details of people’s lives.  That’s not the point.  Instead he is known personally by the people, seen by them, doing life with them.  Listen to this heart-felt reminder Paul gave the believers in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” That is a pastor whose heart moves him to open his life to his congregation and mingle his life with theirs.

Shepherds are a perfect picture of this – and remember that the word “pastor” literally means “shepherd”. Shepherds live with their flocks.  They travel with them, sleeping with them, watching over them.  The shepherd/sheep relationship is very intimate – the shepherd knows each of his sheep and each of his sheep know him.  Jesus picked up on this in John 10:14, “I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  What does all this mean?  It means that the pastor shouldn’t be a distant, impersonal, figure who is unaware and out of touch with the individuals in his flock.  He should be nearby, personal, connected, and in touch with the people whose lives he’s been entrusted with caring for.  Proverbs 27:22 says, “Be sure to know the condition of your flock…”

Well what is it that Titus should be saying? “These then are the things you should be saying.”  Now notice that important word right there:  “These”.  What are “these”?  What is Paul referring to when he says “these”?  He is referring to everything he just said from verse 1 up through verse 14.  These are the godly instructions for the believers at Crete so that they can live in a way that is pleasing to Jesus Christ and promotes the teachings of the faith.

To state it simply, a pastor should be saying anything and everything that would help Christians live godly lives. In Acts 20:20 Paul said, “You know that I did not hesitate to preach anything that would be helpful to you…”  No preacher should hold back anything that would help any of those precious ones entrusted to his care by the Chief Shepherd to grow strong, healthy and mature in the faith.  If he does he is a robber more than a shepherd, depriving them the spiritual nutrition of God’s word they need to be strong and healthy Christians.

#2: Encouragement.

Secondly, every Christian needs a pastor who is able to encourage them.  Notice verse 15 again, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority”.  This is the second time Paul mentions the twin tasks of encouraging and rebuking in this letter.  Speaking of elders that Titus was supposed to appoint Paul said in 1:9, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Most of the time when we say “encourage” we mean giving comforting words to someone who is hurting or brighten their day when things aren’t going so well.  However, that is not the meaning of the Greek word here. Encourage is the Greek word “parakaleo”, and listen to the different English words used to translate it: to call to; to urge; to beg; to plead; to appeal or to beseech.  the word here essentially means “to urge someone to pursue a certain course”.  Always this refers to a godly course, a direction that reflects God’s will.  For instance, Paul used this word in 2:6 when he said, “encourage the young men to be self-controlled.”  In Philipians 4:2 Paul pleads with two women who were at odds with each other when he says, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

You can see there is emotion involved here – it isn’t simply stating what God’s will is or what would be the right course for someone to take, it is doing all you can to positively motivate them to take that course. It’s not neutral in the sense that you say, “Well, here is one way you can consider among many options, but whatever you choose is okay.”  No, to encourage someone is to be zealous for them to take a certain path, to tell them this is one way among many yes, but, it is the right way and it is the way you should take – “go this way!”

Don’t mistake it with forcing someone against their will. Encouraging them involves showing them the reasoning behind why they ought to do what you’re saying.  It involves the mind.  It involves the emotion, because they should see that you feel strongly that they go that way.

Every Christian needs a pastor who is going to encourage them.

#3: Rebuke

Thirdly, every Christian needs a pastor willing to rebuke them when they turn away into sin.  Notice verse 15, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority.  Let no one despise you.”  Notice he says “rebuke with all authority”.  Pastors have authority, which we’ll get to in a minute.

The meaning of the Greek word for rebuke is “to show someone their fault so that they are convicted of their shame.” The prophet Nathan rebuked David, the King of Israel for his adultery and that rebuke is what led to David’s repentance.  In Galatians 2 Paul says he rebuked the Apostle Peter to his face in front of others because Peter was promoting racial cliques in the Church.

Rebuking is a job requirement for pastors. It’s his job.  Remember Titus 1:13?  Turn to 2 Timothy 4:2 with me. [Read]

What’s the purpose of a rebuke? It  is done for the same reason as teaching and encouraging:  to produce godliness.  Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”.  However, rebuking isn’t for the humble, soft-hearted believer looking for guidance.  It is reserved for the person who is stubbornly sinning, it is a much stronger response than encouraging.  It is confrontational.  We can visually contrast rebuking with encouraging.  Encouraging can be pictured as walking alongside someone and pointing them and urging them to go a certain direction.  They are not doing anything wrong, they are trying to figure out what is the right way, or the wisest decision or the responsible path.  Rebuking on the other hand, being confrontational can be pictured as not walking alongside of them but standing in front of them, face to face, because they have chosen a path of sin and won’t be reasoned out of it.

Sometimes tenderness, compassion and a soft hand are the wrong response.  Times will come that call for a firm rebuke.  If that time comes and a feather is given instead of a rebuke it is a display of a pastor’s foolishness and weakness far more than any pretense of “love”.  A pastor who replaces a needed rebuke with toleration and so-called “compassion” is now compromising.  He is aiding and abetting someone’s sin by his refusal to sharply rebuke them.

A rebuke will be born out of a certain kind of Biblical virtue that is being lost very quickly today.  It is the virtue of detesting sin.  God is a God who hates sin.  Who is competent to aptly describe God’s vengeful feelings towards sin?  He hates it.  He despises it.  He is utterly and totally intolerant of it.  Holiness in the Christian life is born out of the inner detestation of sin.  We must be abhorred by it.  It must be repulsive to us.  We must shudder and recoil at it.  We have tried so hard to break down the walls between the Church and the culture to vainly “reach the culture” and be “relevant”.  But what have we gotten for it?  We have a church that is comfortable and accommodating of sin.  A church that excuses sin as “brokenness” and “disease”.  A church that says people need to be coddled when they act unholy and evilly.  People need compassion instead of conviction.  It’s disgusting to see this weakness in the Church.

#4: Authority

Lastly, a pastor needs to realize and use his authority for his congregation to grow.  A pastor who does not, is frankly useless to the believers under his care.  Notice verse 15, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Pastors today are seen more like life coaches and personal cheerleaders who are only supposed to be positive, affirming, reassuring and otherwise make you feel good about yourself.

Men of God who spoke for God have been despised by their followers throughout history. Moses, Paul (Corinthians and Galatians), John (Diotrophes), Samuel (Israel rejected him – and therefore God), Ezekiel, and even the Lord Jesus Himself was despised by Israel.  Disregarding God’s man is disregarding God.

I believe all authority has two senses to it. First, when a pastor rebukes someone who is sinning he does it with all the authority of Scripture behind him. The binding power of what he says comes not from himself, but, from the Scriptures.  If someone engages in an adulterous relationship and the pastor rebukes them and commands them to stop he does it with the authority of God’s Word behind him.  It’s not the pastor’s personal codebook on what is and isn’t right.  Someone is out of line with God’s Word and the pastor is calling them to get back in line.  In that sense, anyone who ever calls someone to conform to God’s Word does so with the authority of God’s Word.  The sinning person, if they respond with repentance, has responded to God at that point, as much as he has responded to the pastor.

The second sense of authority in this verse is the pastor’s positional authority.  Pastors have authority in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.  Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”  They are put into their positions by the authority of God (Acts 20:28).  That authority pastors have received is to be used for building up the church.  Second Corinthians 13:10, Paul says “This is why I write these things to you while I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not tearing you down.”

At this point let us make very clear two mistakes a pastor must never make with his authority. First, he must never lord it over his people. (Turn to Matthew 20:25-28 and 1 Peter 5:2-3)

But there is a second mistake a pastor must not make with his authority.  It is the other end of the spectrum from lording it over people.  It is the mistake of treating lightly.  This is where the last sentence in verse 15 comes in, “Do not let anyone despise you.”  That word “despise” in the Greek actually means “to think around” or “to turn over in one’s mind.”  To think around someone is like going around them.  It means to dismiss them, to disregard them, to circumvent them.  Paul does not want the leaders of the churches to let people act towards them like they don’t have authority.  Notice that Paul puts the responsibility into Titus’ lap that its on him to ensure that he does not let the Cretan believers shove him and his authority aside and rush ahead into their worldly, carnal, and sinful ways.

This has nothing to do with what color car you drive or whether you like. This kind of authority comes into play when people start pushing forward into sinful paths.  The only time someone is to disregard or go around a pastor is if he requires something that is at odds with the word of God.  Here are two axioms in this matter:  When the pastor speaks out of line with God’s word no one is required to listen to him.  When the pastor speaks in line with God’s word, everyone is to listen to him.


All of this is for each person’s personal edification in the faith. The goal here is harmony between what we say we believe and what we live every day. I like those bumper stickers on the back of junky cars: “My other car is a Corvette”. I’ve never seen it the other way around. I’ve never seen an expensive car with a bumper sticker that said, “my other car is a lemon“.  The Christian life is a spiritual luxury ride. But, when Christians are living sinfully, or for the world, it’s a double life. A bumper sticker for that kind of Christian should read, “My other life is holy”.

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