Gospel-Driven Godliness and Church Leadership, Part 1

January 13, 2013 Pastor: John Fonville Series: Titus

Scripture: Titus 1:5–1:16

Gospel-Driven Godliness and Church Leadership

Part 1


Text: Titus 1:5-16




“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you,” (v. 5).




1.    The proper ordering of the church is a divinely directed task.


2.    The proper ordering of the church is a difficult and demanding task.


“Setting in order churches that have gone wrong is a delicate and large task—more difficult in many ways than evangelizing new fields. False teachings are hard to correct, and when sin gets into a church, it is difficult to dislodge it,” (D. Edmund Hiebert, Titus and Philemon, p. 30).


“The building of the Church is not a work so easy that it can be brought all at once to perfection. How long Paul was in Crete—is uncertain; but he had spent some time there, and had faithfully devoted his labours to erect the kingdom of Christ. He did not lack the most consummate skill that can be found in man; he was unwearied in toil; and yet he acknowledged that he left the work rough and incomplete. Hence we see the difficulty; and, indeed we find by experience, in the present day, that it is not the labour of one or two years to restore fallen churches to a tolerable condition. Accordingly, those who have made diligent progress for many years—must still be attentive to correct many things,” (John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 21, p. 288).


3.    The proper ordering of the church is a necessary and never-ending task.


“…for the churches will always stand in need of increase and progress, as long as the world shall endure,” (John Calvin, CC, vol. 21, p. 288).


“[the church] must always be a listening church. ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’ (Rom 10:17). Personally and corporately, the church comes into being and is kept alive by hearing the gospel. The church is always on the receiving end of God’s good gifts as well as His correction. The Spirit does not lead us apart from the Word but directs us back to Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. We always need to return to the voice of our Shepherd. The same gospel that creates the church sustains and renews it. Our personal conformity to the Word that Paul commands in Romans 12 is never completed in this life, and the same is true of the church in this present age,” (Michael Horton, Semper Reformanda).


“The most common mistake made by churches that are eager to implement eldership is to appoint biblically unqualified men. Because there is always a need for more shepherds, it is tempting to allow unqualified, unprepared men to assume leadership in the church. This is, however, a time-proven formula for failure. A biblical eldership requires biblically qualified elders,” (Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, p. 68).


“Give yourself to the Church. You that are members of the Church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us… All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world! As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers. The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family,” (“The Best Donation,” (No. 2234) an exposition of 2 Corinthians 8:5 delivered on April 5, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England).


4.    The proper ordering of the church is a shared leadership task.


“In the spiritual building this nearly comes next to doctrine, that pastors be ordained, to take charge of governing the Church; and therefore Paul mentions it here in preference to everything else,” (John Calvin, CC, vol. 21, p. 290).


“Here it is highly proper to observe the modesty of Paul who willingly permits another person to complete the work which he had begun. And, indeed, although Titus is greatly inferior to him, he does not refuse to have him for…a ‘corrector,’ to give the finishing hand to his work. Such ought to be the dispositions of godly teachers; not that every one should labour to make everything bend to his own ambitious views, but that they should strive to assist each other, and that, when any one has labored more successfully, he should be congratulated and not envied by all the rest,” (John Calvin, CC, vol. 21, p. 289).


5.    The proper ordering of the church is a gospel-driven task.


“Legalism easily creeps in even when we think we have avoided it,” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 59).


“We can preach our hearts out on texts about what we ought to be, what makes a mature church, or what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives, but if we do not constantly, in every sermon, show the link between the Spirit’s work in us to Christ’s work for us, we will distort the message and send people away with a natural theology of salvation by works,” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 237).


“In practical terms, if we as preachers lay down the marks of the spiritual Christian, or the mature church, or the godly parent, or the obedient child, or the caring pastor, or the responsible elder, or the wise church leader, and if we do this in a way that implies that conformity is simply a matter of understanding and being obedient, then we are being legalists and we risk undoing the very thing we want to build up. We may achieve the outward semblance of conformity to the biblical pattern, but we do it at the expense of the gospel of grace that alone can produce the reality of these desirable goals. To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as He wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self-help and self-improvement in a way that, to call a spade a spade, is godless,” (Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching The Whole Bible As Christian Scripture, p. 119).




1.    Elder qualification is nurtured in and flows from a gospel-saturated heart.


2.    The proper ordering of the church is nurtured in and flows from continually hearing the gospel.


© John Fonville

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