“If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 8:23)
When Titus took his last breath in 107 A.D. at 95 years of age, he died as the Bishop of Crete. Although he may have died as a highly respected bishop, he certainly had a long road to where he ended up. The New Testament tells the story of a younger and less experienced Titus when he was a mail boy and an offering organizer. It tells about him working ever so delicately to defuse what could have been a great mess in the Corinthian church and resultantly, Paul's whole apostolic network of churches. Indeed the early work of the ministry presented great challenges for St. Titus, but struggle produces depth and depth is the difference between par and superb.
Titus's unsung story begins with him attached to the hip of the Great Apostle. Titus was a unique member of Paul's Apostolic Band, for Titus was a complete Greek (a loathed Gentile in the thinking of a Jew). Until conversions began to spread like wild-fire among Gentiles, church leadership had not given too much thought as to what righteousness in Christ meant in regard to the Law and its application to members of the church, particularly Gentiles. Judaizers criticized the Apostle Paul, who maintained that circumcision and recognition of the Law were not necessary for the Gentile converts. To settle the issue with the church leadership in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas went up from Antioch in Syria to Jerusalem with a living illustration to prove the point in Titus. Their testimony was so convincing that the church leadership agreed that circumcision and recognition of the Law was not necessary, which was a major advance in the church. It was during this meeting that the apostles: James, Peter and John exhorted Paul and his Apostolic Band, in all their doings with the Gentiles, to remember the poor saints of Jerusalem. The Apostolic Band would be insistent in this task and Titus would soon play a great part in the implementation, particularly with the church in Corinth.
Contrary to popular thought, the very first letter to the Corinthians is not what we know today as 1 Corinthians. Rather, the letter Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 5:9 was written first. This first letter, known today as "the lost letter," did not survive. The courier who of this lost letter was Titus. Upon delivering it, Titus also instigated the Corinthians to take up an offering for the poor saints of Jerusalem, per Paul's instructions. The Apostolic team was now working to honor the request of the apostles in Jerusalem. The Corinthians were elated about the offering, but they had questions that required further instructions concerning how to best go about doing it. Titus carried these questions back to the Apostle Paul, who was currently in Ephesus ministering.
There was a glitch, however. Paul had received word from the household of Chloe (members of the Corinthian church) that were factions in the Corinthian church, dividing it, which Titus confirmed. This news broke Paul's heart. The gloomy apostle had no other choice but to write another letter to the Corinthians to address this factionalism, as well as other serious issues of carnality that he had gotten wind of. At the end of the letter, Paul conveniently attached answers to the questions they had asked about the offering. This letter, what we now know as 1 Corinthians, was written with much affliction, anguish of heart and many tears and is also known as "the severe letter" because of its stern nature and tone.
But who would deliver such a sensitive letter? Titus, of course. However, Titus was uneasy about this task. Considering the factions going on and weighing into balance the harsh contents of the letter, Titus wasn't sure how he was going to be received. It was risky. Titus knew the future of the Corinthian church was at stake, and maybe even the credibility of Paul's ministry. It was a diplomatic mission and Titus would have to represent Paul exactly the way Paul would represent himself for it to even have a chance of being an effective effort. Could he handle it? Despite his insecurities, Titus was up for the task and set off.
While still ministering in Ephesus, Paul grew increasingly troubled about the Corinthian church. He got so concerned, he could no longer maintain his patience and set out to intercept Titus in Troas, who should have been on his way back to Ephesus by now with a full report for Paul. When Paul arrived in Troas, he did not find Titus.
After preaching a little while there, he set out for Macedonia with high hopes he would locate Titus there, and he did! Paul was relieved to finally see Titus. At last, he was reunited with his friend and companion. But this was an occasion for double-joy, for Titus had a superior report about the Corinthians. The letter was a hit! The church was sorry, mourned their own behavior, and regretted the wrong and dishonorable things that they had done or permitted others to do. They recognized their manner had caused much grief and they displayed genuine repentance so not to put forth further actions that would lead to even more grief. Besides this, Titus also reported that the Corinthians received him out of respect as a representative of their apostle, confirming them to be an obedient and earnest congregation.
All of this filled Paul's heart with exceeding jubilation and added to the mere joy of just seeing his fellow companion. Though the task was delicate, Titus meticulously waded through the situation and met the challenge with the greatest precision and efficiency possible, and despite the challenges, struck a win-win for Paul and the church. Titus was maturing. But what about the offering?
Another glitch. Titus happened to make another not-so-good discovery while he was in Corinth delivering the severe letter; the collection of the offering had been slowed down, the Corinthian church had lost their initial enthusiasm about it.
But how could that happen? Leave it to a group of rebellious hooligans to sidetrack the work of the Kingdom, a group of false apostles had found their way into the congregation and began to spread rumors about Paul and his pure intent to help the poor saints in Jerusalem.
"He writes one thing but does another!" "He is brave in writing letters, but is weak in authority and oratory!" "He won't let you contribute to his financial needs? Ha! He doesn't truly love you!" "His financial independence is a sign that he is lining his own pockets with the offerings he collects!"
This placed Paul, in yet again, another sticky situation.
Paul and Titus were in Macedonia at this point. A year prior, Paul had told the churches of Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea) about the Corinthian offering and spoke of their zealousness to receive it. Word of the Corinthians' holy enthusiasm provoked the Macedonians to take up their own offering for the Jerusalem saints. Paul had done so much boasting about the Corinthians, because he loved and believed in them, that the Macedonian churches got fired up and matched the Corinthians fervor in their efforts. But now having received this horrible news, Paul's concern was that the Corinthian offering would be disorganized when he came to collect it. This would be a disaster because appointed leaders of the Macedonian churches were going to accompany him to Corinth when he came to collect because he would be carrying the Macedonian offering, on the way to Jerusalem.
Surely, the apostle who had boasted so liberally about the Corinthians did not want it to be reported that his boasting was in vain, for the sake of the Corinthians. If the Macedonian leaders found out that the Corinthians had, in the end, failed to complete this task, the news would spread and it would place the Corinthians under the scrutiny of the whole Christian world. So Paul devised a plan to save the offering (and the reputation of the Corinthians). Can you guess on whom the responsibility fell?
Titus knew in advance that Paul was going to ask him to go in front of him and the Macedonians, re-kindle the Corinthians zeal about the offering, negate the false claims of the bogus apostles, re-organize the offering and have it in top shape before Paul got down to Corinth with the Macedonian representatives. But this time, Titus had no reservation or insecurity about it. As a matter of fact, he not only accepted Paul's request, he welcomed it. Titus had been thinking about the situation ahead of time and was hoping that Paul would elect him to the job. Deep down, Titus was too eager to need any exhortation to go. He was ready of his own accord. Along with Titus came two other men, appointed by the churches of Asia Minor, to assist Paul's apostolic delegate. While these men would be fixing the bugs in Corinth, Paul would stay behind in Macedonia. During this time, the Macedonian churches would make their final arrangements concerning their own collection and nominate men from their churches to accompany Paul to Corinth and eventually to Jerusalem, where the offering would be dropped off in the presence of witnesses to refute any false allegations aimed at Paul. This delay would give Titus and his assistants plenty of time to finish the work of the offering that the Corinthians had initially started.
Before they headed south, Paul packed with them one more letter, now known as 2 Corinthians. With a stroke of divine brilliance, Paul powerfully dealt a crushing blow to the rogue and false apostles, affirmed his love and confidence in the Corinthian church by sharing with them that he had confidence that all the issues would be solved by the time he arrived from Macedonia, and included words of recommendation for Titus and his assistants. (2 Corinthians 8:23)
A letter carrier? An offering organizer? A problem solver? A conflict resolution specialist? Are these jobs an honor to Christ? Absolutely.
Because the New Testament is filled with healings, miracles, marvelous acts of faith and uncanny happenings, it is easy for one to fall victim to the misleading idea that anything short of spectacular counts in the eyes of God. As a result, many of the small, mundane and ordinary day-to-day heroic tasks of faith are overlooked. But the real truth is that God doesn't measure the size of the task; God measures the size of the heart. Obedience is the gem, the high prize, in the eyes of God. When this kind of everyday obedience is met with humility, a divine concoction of virtue is created that God delights in and can never overlook. Too often people want to do something "big" for God and simply don't want to do what God asks them to do, and they miss God and lose out on their reward.
Naturally, as Titus flourished, he didn't remain a mail boy and an offering collector. After Paul's first imprisonment in Rome, he and Titus went into Crete, established a church, and Paul left him there to appoint elders and raise up Church leadership. Then, after receiving a letter from Paul with a request to winter with him in Nicopolis, Titus left Crete, met Paul in Nicopolis, and after winter, left for Dalmatia without Paul, to preach in modern day Croatia. While Titus was here in Dalmatia, Paul was imprisoned once again and, this time, executed. Titus eventually returned to Crete and finished the work that Paul and he had started together.
By this time, the mail boy was a bishop; the offering organizer, a major Church leader. Though his titles, changed his heart remained the same; once an obedient servant, always an obedient servant. There is no doubt that when the work became much for the frail bishop's body, a mere daydream took him back to his old mail boy days in which Paul would urge him to press on and keep going until the task was done. Thus, Titus did with the work they started together in Crete, until the Lord called the old and faithful servant home.
Today, you may be a "mail boy" or an "offering organizer." However, you aren't just a "mail boy" and just an "offering organizer." There are no "justs" in the ministry of the Lord. Every time we do something for God, it is a big deal. Take a lesson from the life of Titus and do everything for God with your whole heart and all of your strength. When you do, Christ will count you as an honor to Him, and there is nothing higher.