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1 Timothy 1:3, KJV
As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine

Titus 1:5, KJV
For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee

These two verses seem to indicate a certain "hierarchy layer" between elders and apostles. Paul is clearly an apostle and he appoints Titus to ordain elders in every city of the island of Crete. On one hand, Titus was appointed by Paul, which means that Titus is in position of submission to Paul the Apostle. However, Titus has the power to ordain elders in cities of Crete, which means that those elders would be in position of submission to Titus. Thus, we have the following structure: elders -> Titus -> apostles.

I wonder how those Christian groups that deny any such hierarchy levels in their governance—for example, Congregationalists—explain these verses.

2 Answers 2

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Christians who consider each congregation to have no higher authority structures than its own elders or ministers do not think that these verses suggest anything else. These were new churches, having just been started by Paul and his associates, but without sustainable endemic leadership, so they needed to be kickstarted by Timothy and Titus. Once they appointed the first generation of leaders in each congregation, those leaders would be responsible for appointing the next generation. Each generation teaching, training and appointing the next is the model given in 2 Timothy 2:2:

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (NIV)

The same thing happens today when missionary church planters start new churches. At the beginning they will form the leadership, but the goal for many of these church planters is that the churches will become self-sufficient and self-governing. (Though not if they are planting churches for an existing denomination of course.)

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  • So you're saying then that "Titus has the power to ordain elders in cities of Crete, which means that those elders would be in position of submission to Titus" is not precisely true? Apr 28, 2015 at 14:28
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    @MattGutting This kind of interpretation would say that Titus would either be a co-elder with the elders he appoints for some period (say while he remained living in the town), or that he would cease to have any official authority over the congregation once the elders were appointed. He would still have authority as a senior, experienced and educated Christian, just as (Protestant) Christians all over the world look up to Packer, Carson, Stott etc, but no particular authority over the congregation.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 28, 2015 at 15:11
  • OK. There's "authority" and "submission" of a sort in particular while Titus is present, but nothing once he leaves the churches on their own. Thanks! Apr 28, 2015 at 15:36
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We can see this structure:

The Apostle Paul -> Titus -> elders of every church in Crete. (Titus)

The Apostle Paul -> Titus -> elders of the church in Dalmatia. (2 Timothy)

The Apostle Paul -> Titus -> elders of the church in Corinth. (2 Corinthians)

The Apostle Paul -> Timothy -> elders of the church in Ephesus. (1 Timothy)

The Apostle Paul -> Timothy -> elders of the church in Corinth. (1 Corinthians)

The Apostle Paul -> Tychicus -> elders of the church in Ephesus. (2 Timothy)

The Apostle Paul -> Artemas/Tychicus -> elders of the churches in Crete. (Titus)

The hierarchical structure has the same origin, the Apostle Paul. Therefore, the authority that they have to rule over these churches comes from the authority that Paul had over them.

There are three kinds of interventions of the Apostle Paul with the churches, 1) Establishing churches, 2) Ordaining elders (Acts 14:23), 3) Correcting deficient things (Titus, 1 Timothy). For this third class of temporary interventions, Paul sent one of his collaborators to set in order the things that are wanting. This does not create a supratemporal structure, but is used for a specific purpose, at a specific time. We can corroborate this with the various commissions that Timothy and Titus have had in different churches.

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  • So, according to you, Timothy and Titus were not a layer of authority between Paul and elders, and elders were not in submission to Timothy and Titus, right?
    – brilliant
    Oct 27, 2021 at 3:43
  • @brilliant No, Timothy and Titus were a layer of authority between Paul and elders of the church, and the elders were in submission to them. But, this authority was not theirs it was borrowed form Paul. And this submission was not perpetual, it only lasted as long as they were in that city on behalf of Paul. Oct 27, 2021 at 4:09
  • Ah, I see. Thank you.
    – brilliant
    Oct 27, 2021 at 4:29

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