“Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ..."
This is the first in a series in which I’ll be opening up the apostle Paul’s letter to pastor Titus. I hope these posts will be helpful, especially to pastors, elders, and men preparing for gospel ministry.
Along with 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus is a pastoral epistle. The apostle Paul wrote these letters to particular pastors. We as pastors or pastors-in-training should bury ourselves in these letters. They tell us what to be and what to do. They clear the smog of modern notions of pastoral ministry and set us straight.
Of course, the pastoral epistles aren’t the only source of direction for pastors in the New Testament. The apostle Peter exhorts elders in 1 Peter 5:1-4 to shepherd the flock and exercise oversight as examples, promising “the unfading crown of glory” to those who are faithful. And how could we neglect the apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, where he opens himself bare, pleading with them to follow his example and “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”?
But the pastoral epistles are a goldmine of help for pastors: boiled down, concentrated, strong.
And the helpfulness of Paul’s letter to Titus hits us right out of the gate: “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…” Both slave and apostle; both servant and leader.
Notice three things: First, Paul calls himself a “bond-servant” of God. A better, more helpful translation is “slave.” That’s simply what the word means: slave. Not butler. Not valet. Not employee. But slave. A man whose will is not his own. Is that what you are? Is that what you want to be?
Second, he calls himself both a slave and an apostle. Apostle is an office of high authority. An apostle is a messenger of Christ, a spokesman for God, a revealer of the Word. Paul is constantly reminding his readers of his office, his apostleship, his authority. You as a pastor or elder must do the same. Your office is not about you; it is about our Lord Christ. You are not an apostle, but as a shepherd, you represent the Chief Shepherd. You are a father in the church, representing the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name. Bear that authority with dignity and humility and for the building up of the flock—but bear it!
Third, Paul is both a servant and a leader, but he is not a servant-leader. He is a servant of God and a leader of men. Doubtless, a pastor or elder must be like his Master, who “did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). Our Lord gives church officers authority “for building up and not for tearing down” (2 Cor. 13:10). Nevertheless, He gives authority. And pastors and elders do not serve their sheep when they ignore or lay down or even downplay their God-given authority. They serve their sheep when they use it. As the apostle Paul will instruct Titus in chapter 2, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15).
The modern servant-leader becomes in practice a SERVANT-leader—not a leader who serves by leading, but a servant who would never dream of leading, let alone “with all authority.”
Brothers, learn from the apostle Paul, both slave of God and leader of men.