A Biblical Theology of Conflict Resolution from the book of Titus











MARCH 2009

Conflict Resolution in Paul’s Letter to Titus

  1. Greeting (1:1-4)

  2. Titus was to set matters in order (1:5-3:11)

    1. The selection and need for elders (1:5-16)

    2. The shepherding ministry of elders (2:1-3:11)

GREETING (1:1-4)

Paul writes a letter to his young prodigy Titus to instruct him in regard to overseeing the believers in Crete. There are a lot of things that Titus must know and do to help these believers. The people in Crete are fairly new believers and they need to be organized into local churches. Titus’ responsibility is to appoint leadership in the churches and to ground the believers in sound doctrine. Spiritually qualified elders and doctrinally grounded believers will greatly promote spiritual unity in the local churches. The biblical teaching would provide the necessary components for biblical conflict resolution in the future.


The selection and need for elders (1:5-16)

The need for spiritually qualified leadership in the local church was immense. The elders would be the primary teachers of biblical doctrine in the church. They also help to set the tone for conflict resolution in the local church. The characteristics of a qualified elder help to promote biblical conflict resolution (Tit. 1:5-9).

The elders must be blameless. This provides the elder with the character necessary to lead and train the local church (1 Cor. 1:8; Eph. 1:4; Phil. 1:10; 2:15). He must be the husband of one wife. This quality provides a proper example of marriage to the church (Matt. 19:5-9). A qualified elder is to have faithful children. An elder having children who are obedient provides an example of proper parenting for other believers in the church. It removes opportunity for the church to be tempted to gossip about the unruly children of the elder. It also provides a good testimony to the community (1 Pet. 2:12; Col. 4:5). An elder is not to be arrogant (Prov. 11:2; 29:23). An elder who is characterized by godly humility is one who will engender respect (1 Pet. 3:8-9; Jas. 4:6-10). He will tend to calm a conflict instead of causing it to escalate (Prov. 15:1; 1 Th. 2:7). A third quality is not being quick-tempered (Prov. 16:32; 17:14). An elder who is slow to become angry will help to diffuse the anger of

others (Prov. 29:22). It is more likely that he will see a situation more clearly as a result of being able to stay calm (Prov. 14:29; 15:18; 19:11). Elders should not be addicted to wine (Prov. 20:1; 31:4). This will enable an elder to think more clearly (Prov. 23:20-21, 29-35; 31:4-5). This also has an impact on his testimony in the church and community. A fifth quality of a qualified elder is that he not be a bully (Prov. 3:31-32). An elder in providing proper leadership in a local church cannot be violent (Prov. 16:29; 21:7; 24:2). This will breed a significant lack of trust in the church. The elders should not be greedy for money (Prov. 11:6; Lk. 12:15; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5). The love of money will distract an elder from properly shepherding the church as he should (1 Tim. 6:17-19). His love for Christ must surpass all things so that he may properly care for the church (Col. 3:1-4). A seventh quality is hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:9). An elder showing hospitality will encourage trust and openness toward his leadership in the church (Rom. 12:13; 13:2). This will aid him in encouraging biblical conflict resolution. An elder must also love what is good (Ps. 1; Prov. 2). This attribute, which should characterize the life of an elder, will result from his love for Christ and his submission to the authority of God’s Word (1 Jn. 2:5-6; Rom. 12:2, 9, 21). An elder loving what is good will spur him toward encouraging biblical reconciliation (Rom. 12:17-21; 1 Jn. 3:14). An elder must also be sensible (1 Th. 2:10). This is essential in the midst of an unregenerate world (Prov. 14:8, 15, 18). The unregenerate world does not exude sensibility. The church is in the process of being sanctified. Therefore sensibility is a “work in progress” (Eph. 4:20-24). Conflict resolution necessitates sensibility on the part of the leadership. An elder being a righteous man will enable him to encourage with sound doctrine and to refute false doctrine (Prov. 10:7; 12:5). It will allow him to be beyond reproach. He must be progressing in Christ-likeness (Phil. 3:12-16). Living a holy life is a crucial quality for leadership in the local church (1 Tim. 4:12). The elder being continually conformed to the image of Christ portrays biblical Christianity for the church (Heb. 13:7). It also gives the elder the character from which he can lead the church. The elder being self-controlled enables him to be in control of his actions to be able to properly shepherd Christ’s church (Gal. 5:23). Self-control is the ability to control one’s desires and actions (2 Tim. 2:21-22). This helps an elder to respond wisely to situations that arise within the church. The final characteristic that needs to be a part of an elder’s life that he holds to the message. An elder will not provide people with an accurate view of God or the Christian life, if he is not teaching the biblical message that was handed down from the apostles (1 Tim. 4:15-16; Jude 3). Titus was instructed by Paul that the elder needs to hold to biblical truth as it was handed down. This biblical fidelity will enable the elder to encourage believers with sound doctrine (1 Pet. 4:10-11). It will also enable him to rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine (2 Tim. 2:14-19). One of the primary ways that an elder encourages biblical reconciliation is through the appropriate application of God’s Word to life situations. The rule of life for an elder and the church must be the authority of God’s Word (Acts 20:32).

Those men who are appointed as elders will have a crucial role in the church (Tit. 1:10-16). They will be the primary line of defense against spiritual error (Acts 20:26-32). Spiritual error that comes through false teaching and sinful living lead to great damage within the church. One of the most important roles that an elder has is to combat spiritual error (2 Tim. 2:24-26). As error is confronted with Scripture it is addressing spiritual poison that has entered the church. The error must be corrected for the good of the church and the glory of God (2 Tim. 4:1-2). The presence of wickedness prompted Paul to remind Titus of the importance of the elders having a strong biblical foundation (Jude 20-21; Col. 1:28). There were rebellious people, idle talkers, and deceivers present in the church (2 Tim. 2:16-18). Paul says the most common group that would disturb the church were unbelieving Jews (Tit. 1:10). He also says that it is necessary to silence these rebellious people because they are “upsetting whole households” (Tit.1:11). The means of silencing these rebellious people is the elder rebuking them with sound doctrine (see Tit. 1:9). If these rebellious people were not rebuked they would continue to harm the church (Tit.1:11).

Titus is told to rebuke the Cretans because they are living wickedly (2 Tim. 2:19). Paul quotes the 6th century Cretan philosopher Epimenedes in describing their state. The Cretans were liars, evil, and lazy gluttons. Titus was to rebuke them so they would “be sound in the faith” (Eph. 5:3-6; Col. 3:6). This rebuke would help believers to be Christlike and avoid the false teaching present in Crete (2 Th. 3:14-15). Only believers can truly be “sound in the faith” (Eph. 4:11-16). Yet in the context, it is possible that this is a rebuke to unbelievers so they may repent and turn to the truth. Titus was to publicly teach Scripture for spiritual encouragement and rebuke. The ministry of elders making application of biblical teaching to life situations helps to maintain the purity of the church and promote biblical reconciliation among believers.

Paul reminds Titus of the unbelievers who verbally professed to be believers and yet denied God through their actions (2 Tim. 3:5-8). They were to be rebuked by the biblical teaching of the elders. This is not necessarily referring solely to what we consider today as the “pulpit ministry”. Rather it would include face-to-face rebuke with the Word of God. The rebellious people will not change unless they are confronted with the truth and redeemed through faith in Christ (Tit. 1:15-16; 1 Cor. 1:18).

The shepherding ministry of elders (2:1-3:11)

Paul then begins to make application of doctrine to specific groups within the church (2:1-10). Titus was to speak and teach biblically (1 Tim. 6:13-14). This would provide a prime example for the elder and how they were to instruct those in the church (1 Tim. 4:11-16). This was a brand new responsibility for these newly appointed elders and Titus’ example would be crucial (Phil. 4:17; Heb. 13:7).

The first group that he addresses are the older men. They were to be taught to live godly lives through the personal application of Scripture to their lives (Tit. 2:2; Prov. 16:31; Phil. 3:15-16). The older men were to exhibit many of the same qualities as elders. Being self-controlled, respectable, sensible, sound in faith, love, and

endurance would greatly promote biblical unity in the church (1 Th. 5:6, 8; Col. 3:17). These men would greatly aid the elders in their leadership of the local church (1 Tim. 1:5).

The older women also were to be taught to live godly lives through the application of Scripture to their lives (Tit. 2:3; 1 Pet. 3:3-5). The older women were to have a role in teaching younger women how to live godly lives. The conduct of the older women was to be characterized by reverence and self-control, which would engender respect. The older women being righteous in their speech would provide a godly example, and also an opportunity for correcting those women who were slandering others (1 Tim. 3:8, 11; Prov. 16:28; 20:19). Edifying speech would promote biblical unity in the assembly (Eph. 4:29; Prov. 10:18; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1). The younger women were to live godly lives, love their families, and submit to their husbands (1 Tim. 5:14). This would keep families, and as a result the church, from being divided by ungodly living. The older women teaching the younger women was to be a natural discipleship relationship (Tit. 3:4-5).

The younger men in the church were to be encouraged by Titus to live godly lives (vv. 6-8). They were to be sensible in everything. Titus (and then ultimately the elders) was to provide a godly example. He was to have integrity and dignity in his teaching. Elders are to provide a model for other believers to emulate (Tit. 3:7; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3; Heb. 13:7). Titus was to teach accurate biblical doctrine (2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2; 1 Tim. 6:3-5). This would benefit the church spiritually and remove opportunity for opponents to criticize (Tit. 3:8; 2 Cor. 1:12; Phil. 1:10).

Another group Paul mentions to Titus (and then ultimately the elders) were slaves. They were to submit to their masters in everything. They were to be such good workers that they would properly display Christianity in everything that they did (Tit. 3:9-10; Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25). This was an area that could be explosive. A slave would have had a strong desire to be free. When he became a believer he was no longer to be disobedient or disrespectful in any way (1 Tim. 6:1-2). In fact, he was to be a witness and testimony to his master (1 Pet. 2:18-20). The submission of the slaves would be a visual example of biblical unity in the church.

Paul continues to expound what should happen in the lives of believers as a result of redemption. He mentioned that God’s grace teaches believers that they should live in submission to God and His Word (Phil. 2:14-16). This included “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Tit. 3:12; Rom. 6:4-6). Believers were also to live in a “sensible, righteous, and godly way” (Tit. 3:12; Rom. 13:12-13). Titus is told that Christ gave Himself to redeem people from sin and to make them a special people for Himself that do good works (Tit. 3:14; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Titus (and then ultimately the elders) was to teach biblical doctrine, encourage obedience among believers, and rebuke disobedience with all authority (2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:24). Titus (and then ultimately the elders) was to make sure that no one ignored the teaching of Scripture (1 Tim. 6:3-5). The teaching of biblical doctrine would help to ensure the spiritual well-being of the church (Tit. 3:15; Eph. 4:11-16). The biblical doctrine would present the right way to live and point out the wrong living of the hearers (Eph. 1:4; 4:22-25). Biblical teaching, which includes encouragement and rebuke, is essential to the spiritual health and unity of the church (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Paul further explains how salvation should work itself out in the lives of believers by stating the believers should be submissive to those in governmental authority (Tit. 3:1-11; Rom. 13:1-7). This would help the church to have a good testimony with those in political power (Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 3:13-17). Believers were also to be obedient to the laws of those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-7). This helps to keep the peace with the government and also maintains peace within the church (Tit. 3:1; 1 Tim. 2:2). Believers were to be ready to perform good works (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13; Heb. 13:21). Paul mentions this a few times in his letter to Titus (Tit. 2:7, 14; 3:9, 14). This was of obvious importance. Believers would encourage each other, portray Christ to unbelievers, and bear fruit by performing good works to meet needs (Tit. 3:1; Jn. 15:5, 8).

The believers were to “slander no one”. This would promote and help to maintain peace within

the church (see Tit. 2:3). Slander creates distrust and disunity within the church It is far from the kind of speech that God wants coming from a believer’s mouth (Tit. 3:2; Eph. 4:29-32). The believers were to avoid fighting (Prov. 26:21). This would include interactions with believers and unbelievers (Rom. 12:18). Paul is communicating that believers were not to be quick-tempered (Prov. 29:11). They were not to look for reasons to fight with others (Tit. 3:2; Prov. 16:7). They were to be kind and gentle toward all people (Prov. 15:1; Phil. 4:5). This would be counter-cultural for these believers to be caring and meek toward people around them (1 Pet. 5:5). In the church assembly, kindness and gentleness would foster biblical peace and unity (Tit. 3:2; Prov. 3:3; Col. 3:14).

In an unregenerate state they were characterized by attributes that are quite the opposite of what Paul encourages earlier in the letter (Tit. 2:1-3:2; Rom. 5:6-11). Apart from Christ they lived wickedly (Tit. 3:3; 1 Cor. 6:11). They were foolish (Rom. 1:21). Foolishness is one of the common factors that produces conflict (Prov. 10:14; 13:16; 14:16). Whether it be a foolish action which leads to conflict or foolish pride which refuses reconciliation, it is frequently present (Tit. 3:3; Prov. 12:15; 20:3; 29:11). They were disobedient (Rom. 6). Their lives were characterized by disobedience to God and others (Eph. 2:2; Heb. 4:11). This would include family relationships (Tit. 2:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:2), master-slave relationships (Tit. 2:9-10), and conduct toward governmental authority (Tit. 2:11-12; 3:1). They were deceived (2 Tim. 3:13). As unbelievers they were spiritually blind and did not accept biblical truth (2 Cor. 4:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:14). As believers they were to accept and submit to biblical truth (Tit. 3:3; 1 Jn. 3:10; 5:2-3). They were captives of various passions and pleasures (Rom. 3:9-20; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21). In their unregenerate state they did whatever the sin within them craved (Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 1:21-23). As believers they are to submit to Christ as Lord, submit to the authority of Scripture, and be filled with the Spirit (Tit. 3:3; Eph. 4:17-24; 5:17-21; 1 Jn. 3:23-24; Gal. 5:16-17). They were also living in malice and envy (Rom. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:8; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8). They were hateful and detested one another (1 Pet. 2:1; Prov. 26:28; 1 Jn. 2:9-11). Their relationships with one another were not characterized by positive attributes. As believers they were to love and serve one another (1 Jn. 5:1; 1 Pet. 1:22-23). This biblical model provides for an entirely different type of interpersonal relationship (Tit. 3:3; Phil. 2:3-4; Gal. 5:13-15).

Paul reflects on the amazing things that God has provided for the Cretans when He redeemed them through Christ (Tit. 3:4-7; 2 Pet. 1:2-4). Titus (and then ultimately the elders) is to teach the church these doctrinal truths so they may know what blessings God has given to them in Christ (Eph. 1:3-23). This is meant to encourage gratitude and also obedience (Rom. 12:1-2). God saved them through His mercy (Gal. 1:2-3; Rom. 5:8-11). God has not allowed them to receive the punishment they deserve for their sin (Tit. 3:5; Phil. 2:13-14; Rom. 8:1). He washed them through the regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. God gave them new spiritual life and made them new creations in Christ (Tit. 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 2:6-7). God gave them the Holy Spirit through Christ (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:19-22). These redeemed Cretans now have the indwelling Spirit to teach them and sanctify them (Tit. 3:6; Phil. 1:9-12; Rom. 8:26-30). He justified them by His grace and they became heirs with eternal life (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 8:12-17). They have a future place in heaven through Christ.

Paul teaches that believers should respond properly to God’s incredible gift of redemption through Christ (2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 Pet. 2:21-25). The proper response of believers to redemption is to live in a way that honors God (Tit. 3:8-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; Eph. 5:15-17). Titus was to insist on these biblical doctrines (1 Tim. 4:6-16). This teaching was to result in believers living godly lives and doing good works (Eph. 5:1-2; Col. 4:5-6). Paul says that these good works are profitable for everyone. Believers are to seek ways to serve others (Gal. 6:9-10; Heb. 12:3). Paul mentions that Christ gave Himself to cleanse a people who would do good works (Tit. 3:8; Eph. 2:17; Col. 3:12-17).

The believers were to avoid arguments about unnecessary things (1 Tim. 1:3-7; 4:7; 6:3-5). This would encompass many of the things that believers argue about (2 Tim. 2:23-26). The list of unnecessary things that believers should not argue about is immense (Rom. 14:1-15:7). Paul describes

these types of arguments as unprofitable and worthless. Titus (and then ultimately the elders) is told to reject a divisive person after warning him twice (Rom. 16:17-18). In the context the divisive person causes problems through arguing about unnecessary things. The divisive person through his actions harms the church (1 Cor. 1:10-11). This unnecessary arguing disrupts the Spirit-established unity in the church (Tit. 3:10-11; Gal. 5:15; Eph. 4:1-6). There was also the issue of false teachers bringing division which needed to be addressed (Tit. 1:10-16; Jude 4-16).

Titus was to provide for the journey of Zenas and Apollos. This would be a great opportunity for Titus to provide a good example for the elders and the church (see Tit. 2:7). It would give credibility to his teaching ministry. This helped the believers to see the life they were being called to live (Tit. 3:13). Paul tells Titus that the believers needed to learn to do good works that would meet pressing needs. This would help them to be fruitful in their Christian life. Believers seeking to meet the needs of one another helps to promote biblical unity in the church. When a person serves another person it shows love and humility. In the same way it encourages biblical reconciliation.

Paul’s letter to Titus provides biblical principles by which believers may resolve conflict biblically. The majority of Paul’s instruction is “preventative maintenance”. When believers listen to and apply biblical truth to their lives they are equipped to properly interact with others. Paul’s letter focuses on the role of the pastoral leadership setting the tone for proper relationships and reconciliation within the church.

One thought on “A Biblical Theology of Conflict Resolution from the book of Titus

  1. Though time has been taken to expound upon the thoughts of Paul’s letter to Titus, I believe it would be a stretch to suggest the article, or the passage, form a theology of conflict resolution. However, they do form a basis of leadership and instruction to less mature ministers. Thanks for posting.

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