Tim Keller’s For You series now includes contributions from other authors. I reviewed Keller’s Romans 1-7 For You here. In this post I review Tim Chester’s Titus For You.
But allow me to allow Chester to introduce the book. Here he is:
The books in the For You series claim to not be commentaries. Instead, the Titus For You product page describes what kind of book it is:
Written for people of every age and stage, from new believers to pastors and teachers, this flexible resource is for you to:
• READ: As a guide to this wonderful letter, exciting and equipping you to live out the truth in your life.
• FEED: As a daily devotional to help you grow in Christ as you read and meditate on this portion of God’s word.
• LEAD: As notes to aid you in explaining, illustrating and applying Titus as you preach or lead a Bible study.
The book is short and its tone conversational. Chester begins with a short introduction to the book, then divides Titus into seven units (each of them split again into two parts) for comment. Reflection questions throughout help the reader digest the book, and could also be used in small group settings. At the close is a short glossary and six-book bibliography of sorts.
What folks will find most beneficial about Chester’s book is his ability to re-state Paul in easy-to-understand terms. For example, when discussing Titus 1:7-11 Chester says:
There are two common dangers in pastoral ministry and Paul is alert to both of them. They are what we might call over-pastoring and under-pastoring.
He elaborates on each kind of pastoring to help explain Paul’s exhortations to Titus in this first chapter.
Similarly helpful was Chester’s description in the section on Titus 2 (especially verse 14) of the Christian’s identity:
In Christ, we are members of the royal family of the universe. That is our status, and we cannot lose it. And our behaviour should match who we are. Royal children have royal manners.
One can easily see Chester’s concern with practical application of Paul’s letter in broader contexts. This makes it suitable as a go-to for devotional reading.
The introduction to Titus was not as substantive as I’d have liked. Or, at least, I wouldn’t feel prepared to lead a small group through the book from just having read this short introduction. (There was hardly anything about Crete, Titus’s setting.) Even the introduction in a good Study Bible (of similar or shorter length) could be more elucidating as to how to understand and read Titus.
I appreciated Chester’s interpretation of Titus as having to do with church “succession planning.” He (rightly, in my opinion) distinguishes between instructions for church structures that are “context-specific” and those that are “for ministry in every time and place.”
Nonetheless, I disagree with Chester’s interpretation that eldership in the church is to be male-only. This is a piece of Paul’s letter that I take to be context-specific and not universally binding–though I’m not sure Paul even intended in Titus to be talking about an elder’s sex, as such. Even as I tried to have an open mind on the issue, I didn’t think that the author made much of a case for his interpretation of Titus. And the idea of men as “good leaders in their home” does not really appear in Titus at all–not even in a context-specific instance.
UPDATE, 6/30/14: I glossed over this before, but wanted to mention (along similar lines as the above) that I found his application of Titus 2 to be offensive. I’m sure he didn’t intend it to be, but nonetheless: “It is not that younger women cannot have a career. But if they are wives and mothers, home is the primary place where they are to serve.” On the contrary, this is not a biblical mandate, and God calls plenty of “wives and mothers” to serve outside of the home, even to have robust careers… just as God calls “husbands and fathers” to the same!
There are some typos scattered throughout the book (including erroneously spelled Greek, as was also true in the Keller Romans volume) that the reader will have to try to ignore.
I did find Titus For You a largely worthwhile read (in spite of interpretive disagreements I had at other spots, too), but I think that for background and Bible study and teaching preparation, readers might want to start elsewhere. Then, perhaps, one could turn to Titus For You for some helpful suggestions as to how to understand and teach the application of the passages–theological caveat above notwithstanding.