Good Health In Crete

By Martin Girard, adapted with permission from Skyway Messages

“A treasure trove of history, rugged beauty, gorgeous beaches and sizzling summer temperatures.”

These words were used in a holiday brochure to describe the island of Crete. Today if you visit any international airport in Western Europe specializing in holiday flights, you may well see “Chania” and “Heraklion,” the two largest cities on Crete, on the flight arrival and departure screens. It is hardly surprising that people would want to visit such resorts. If the averages are anything to go by, you can expect temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and seven hours of sunshine each day, even in the autumn! Crete is the most southerly island in the Mediterranean, with the result that tourists are guaranteed a deep tan in the strong sunshine.
A long, narrow island, Crete is about 160 miles from end to end. Although there are plenty of sandy beaches, the island scenery is spectacular with a wild landscape and mountains rising 8,000 feet above the sea. There are olive groves and vineyards, and oranges can be seen growing. The island also boasts of Europe’s longest gorge – the Samaria Gorge.

Crete is steeped in history and is said to be the birthplace of western civilization some 5,000 years ago. The population is a little more than half a million, and the island is easy to reach today by air. However, journeys 2,000 years ago were not as simple. Artemas or Tychicus, when sent to Crete by the apostle Paul (Ti. 3:12), would have had to make a sea crossing – probably from Greece. As we know from the account of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27, dangers could be encountered when weather conditions suddenly deteriorated.

A Letter Sent
Long before the days of established postal services or electronic communications, a man sent a letter to his young friend in Crete. It is preserved for us in the Word of God as Paul’s Epistle to Titus. Times may have changed, but the message of this inspired letter has not. Matters that are relevant to life today can be discovered within this brief epistle.

Titus was an uncircumcised Greek (Gal. 2:3) who was evidently led to the Lord by Paul – hence he is called “mine own son” by the apostle (Ti. 1:4 KJV). He had accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem and was also involved in service for the Lord in Corinth. There are a number of references to him in 2 Corinthians. Afterwards he had helped Paul to evangelize Crete and then stayed on for follow-up work (Ti. 1:5). When Artemis or Tychicus arrived in the island, Titus was to leave Crete and meet Paul on the Greek mainland.

In brochures today we are told that the local people in Crete are “warm and friendly,” but that was not always the case. The reference to them being “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [lazy gluttons]” in Paul’s day (v.12) is hardly flattering. However, a work needed to be done there, and Titus was an experienced individual who could be entrusted with the ministry Paul had in mind.

The Need For Elders
After Paul’s introduction, in which he confirmed the divine authority that he possessed, this servant of God turned to the task that was urgently needed. Certain things were not right. Disorder prevailed in some places, which was why Paul instructed Titus to “set in order” the things that were lacking (v.5). How easily things can lapse into an unthinking routine that has no sense of spiritual urgency! It was vital that true men of God, who could lead the church according to the divine pattern, be recognized. In every city where believers met together God intended that His flock should be shepherded by suitably qualified men. In order for Titus to identify them, Paul listed the features that should be evident in their lives (vv.5-9).

Men of the same calibre are needed to lead the flock of God today. All too often churches treat a passage like this casually and appoint as leaders men – or wrongly, women – because of their business abilities and social skills. Paul’s list mentions no such qualities. Instead, it describes a man “holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught” (v.9). God is most concerned with having leaders who know the truth as given and cling to it. He has no use for goals to modernize or make it more fashionable for the current day.

Good Health
An interesting expression occurs five times in this epistle. The Greek word hugiaino (v.9), translated as “sound doctrine,” gives us our English word “hygienic.” A strong rebuke was needed so any local believers who were living unruly lives would become “sound in the faith” – meaning spiritually healthy (v.13).

Titus himself was to teach truths that would promote “sound doctrine” (2:1). While it is important to be correct scripturally, Paul’s concern was not simply for an academic grasp of the truth. Spiritual health is a very practical matter, as can be seen in the second chapter of Titus. The older men in the churches were to be “sound in faith” (v.2) and reflect it by their godly lives. Older women also were to exemplify holy living and teach younger women how to conduct their lives in a God-glorifying way. Younger men were to be pure in their relationships (vv.1-6).

All of this is very practical and applicable to life today. Titus himself was to set an example to the young men and use “sound speech” in his conversation with them (2:7-8) in order to promote their spiritual health.

Good Works
In addition to good spiritual health, this epistle developed the theme of good works. Those who merely profess to know God are “reprobate,” or wicked, and unable to display good works in their lives (1:16). The life of Titus was to be “a pattern of good works” (2:7) which others could follow. Although “works of righteousness” (3:5) play no part whatever in our own salvation, believers should be “zealous” for good works (2:14). We need to be “ready” to do what is good (3:1) and seek to “maintain good works” (v.8) in our daily lives. Good works are part of fruitful Christian living (v.14).

The Christian life must be lived out in the context of an ungodly world. The carnal – worldly and fleshly – spirit that characterized the Cretans is with us still and needs to be rebuked. God, by His mercy, saves souls, and His grace is constantly available to equip His people for every task they face each day.