Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.
Paul took this quote from Epimenides (a Greek philosopher and poet) of Knossos, an ancient city on the island of Crete said to be Europe’s oldest city. His intention was to call out the Cretan church, the church Titus was serving, to show them that they weren’t living according to the way God willed for them:
That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith…
So although the believers in Crete had accepted Jesus, they were still immature in their faith:
There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced…
They were slanderers and addicted to wine:
… tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink…
They weren’t living self-controlled lives (i.e., they weren’t showing the fruit of the Holy Spirit):
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
And they had found themselves getting involved in pointless debates:
But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
So Paul urges Titus to appoint leaders over the church who would set a good example. The leader was to be godly in every way, because without this example, the believers would continue in their sin:
For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.
This list for what Paul deems a godly leader is convicting. The leader needed to have proven godly character and a proven godly life with a strong knowledge of the truth. Otherwise, the believers in Crete, who were struggling in the same area of their faith where they should have already matured, were without help from anyone in their midst.
Though it was their own personal responsibility to follow God’s will, their leaders’ job was to help them overcome their worldly passions. They needed someone to model the godly life for them, to stand out above the crowd, to show that it was both possible and in God’s will for them to walk in holiness.
This just shows me how important it is for all godly leaders today to let God examine their whole lives, leaving not one area untouched, so that they can lead the way into holiness. In doing this, the people they lead will be more likely to choose for themselves to submit wholly to Him.
But when godly leaders allow compromise in their lives, it might cause the less mature who follow them to stumble in their walks with God. Even though everyone will be personally accountable for their own decisions, leaders of a community have a partial responsibility for their followers’ decisions, too, and can better help the people they serve by undergoing complete transformation and renewal by the Holy Spirit first.
He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.