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Jumping into troubled waters

We have only bits and pieces of information in regard to Paul’s “partner and co-worker” Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23). He’s nowhere to be found in Acts where Paul’s other cohorts (i.e., Timothy, Aquila and Priscilla, Erastus, Tychius, Trophimus, etc.) are introduced to us. The first time he appears is when he accompanies Paul and Barnabas on their momentous trip to Jerusalem (Acts 15/Gal. 2). In the Galatians letter Paul pointedly tells them his purpose for taking Titus (2:1-10). As a Gentile (uncircumcised) believer, he represented the gospel Paul had received and preached—that people were justified before God on the basis of faith in Christ independent of the trappings of Jewish culture (i.e., circumcision, the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.).

It’s difficult to overstate the enormity of this issue in the early church. For its first few years it was composed of entirely Jewish believers who understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of everything their two thousand year heritage had pointed toward. The idea that a non-Jewish person could embrace a Jewish Messiah without the Jewish ways made absolutely no sense to them and Paul seemed traitorous for suggesting such (Acts 15:5, 21:20ff). Going down with Barnabas to defend his teaching was one thing—taking along Titus was doubling down.

Titus evidently came to Christ during Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey (Acts 13-14). That means he was young in the faith when Paul had this conversation with him:

“How would you like to go with Barnabas and myself to Jerusalem?”

“You mean it? I’ve never been. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about the city. And the opportunity to meet everyone in the church would be awesome—I’m so excited, I can hardly wait!”

“That’s great, but let’s talk a little bit about meeting with the church in Jerusalem. I think it’s safe to say that you’re more excited about meeting them than they will be about meeting you?”

“What do you mean Paul?”

Paul would explain to him the situation and Titus would absorb it to the best of his ability. Then Paul would say something like this: “So I want you to understand that if you decide to go with us, you will be at the center of the storm. They are good people but they have strong convictions. I think we have an opportunity to help them see God’s eternal plan through Jesus but it won’t be easy. If you’re up to it, I think you could make a difference.”*

And Titus was up for it!

Don’t you love it when someone listens attentively as a difficult situation is laid out for them and it does nothing to change their mind? It’s David going out to face Goliath, Ester going before the Xerxes, and the three young Hebrew men refusing to bow down before the image of gold. This is our introduction to Titus—a disciple who was willing to jump into troubled waters for the sake of the kingdom of God.

We need more people like that today. 

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

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*Galatians 2:1-5 appears to be a private meeting while what is recorded in Acts is obviously a public meeting. We know Titus was present at the private meeting but he isn’t mentioned as being at the public meeting. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t there but even if he wasn’t, it seems clear from Acts 15:4 that he was part of an initial meeting with the church (even though again he isn’t mentioned). Note also that Luke doesn’t mention John (while Paul does – Gal. 2:9). It’s obvious to me that Luke includes those who had a prominent role in the discussions. If he omits John on this basis, we shouldn’t be surprised that Titus is not mentioned as well. Therefore, I don't see any reason to conclude that Titus wasn't at the meeting.