5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—
Paul dove immediately into the purpose of the epistle with this verse. He wanted Titus to organize the church in Crete. It was important that he appoint leaders with biblical qualifications (1:5-9). There are spiritual qualifications to Christian leadership.
5 For this reason
The reason Paul deployed Titus in Crete was to “set in order” the disorganization of the church there (v. 3).
I left you in Crete,
Crete is an island in the Mediterranean Sea south of what is Turkey today. Acts mentions Crete twice but designates no missionary activity on the island. There were Cretans at Pentecost who probably carried the gospel back to Crete (Ac 2:11). Paul’s ship, when he was a prisoner taken back to Rome, stopped at Crete (27:7-21). Paul left his trusted colleague Titus in Crete to consolidate the church there.
that you should set in order the things that are lacking,
The church in Crete was young and fledgling. The organization of this church was not complete on Paul’s previous visit. This statement indicates that Paul gave Titus authority to do what needed to be done.
The New Testament never gives detailed instruction on how a local church was to be organized. There were only incidental references in Acts and the epistles. No one can be dogmatic about how a church is to be structured.
and appoint elders in every city
Titus was to set in order things by appointing elders in every city in Crete. By this, he was an apostolic agent of Paul.
Some churches in Crete did not have qualified leaders. Titus was to appoint leaders in each city. The word “appoint” in “appoint elders” means to lay hands on.
The word “elders” simply means leaders. I believe this is a term that some overly interpret today. There is no basis for the idea of plurality of elders in the New Testament. “Elders” is a much more generic term than people interpret it today. “Elder” signifies age whereas “bishop” (v. 7) signifies management. The metaphorical idea of “elder” is simply a leader. There is no evidence for an elder board in the New Testament. An elder was any leader in the local church, whether he was on a board or not. Any leader in the local church must have high reputation and high standards for leading the church.
Where the New Testament indicates elders in the plural (Ph 1:1; Ac 20:17, 28; 14:23; 16:4), the term “church” is used in a collective way; in this case, a single elder for each church is possible. The imagery of the steward also implies one leader per group.
“In every city” means city-by-city where there was a congregation. Evidently, someone previously evangelized much of Crete.
as I [emphatic] commanded you—
Titus’s full authority for appointing leaders in Crete came from the apostle Paul.
Increased responsibility means increased accountability.
Leaders within the local church have higher accountability than those who do not have leadership positions. They are examples to the flock. Therefore, their personal conduct should represent the status they hold by representing God in who they are and what they do.
A congregation should select its leaders on certain qualifications. Leaders are not to achieve these nonnegotiable qualifications after receiving the leadership position.