Another function of those called to be apostles is to “set in order” within the local church. Paul states in Titus 1:5, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you…” We have already looked at the role of the apostle in recognizing callings and gifting – the grace of God on the lives of individuals. Here Paul mentions yet another aspect of the ministry of apostles – to set in order.
The apostle Paul sent Titus to Crete to set things in order. God has a standard for all believers and an even higher one for leaders (see Titus 1:5-9). Leaders were to set the standard and then model it. Leaders are not qualified on the basis of natural ability, intelligence, or education but on the basis of calling, moral and spiritual character and the ability to teach with skill as the Holy Spirit sovereignty has equipped them.
Titus was to correct wrong doctrine and practices in the Cretan churches, a task that apparently Paul had been unable to complete during his time there. This ministry of “setting in order” is mentioned nowhere else in the New Testament.
When a local church is out of order (doctrine, morals, character, leadership), the apostle will discern it and then set to work so as to bring things into correct biblical order. Apostolic ministry is necessary to set order in the Church and maintain that order. The Kingdom of God operates through divine order and authority. Apostles have God’s authority to set things in order. This is often an unpleasant function but a necessary one. Setting in order can mean correcting, rebuking, and removing people from certain positions.
It includes making adjustments in leadership, doctrine, vision or spiritual priorities. It also includes dealing with sin, rebellion, disobedience and confusion which often gains a foothold in the church. Apostles also deal with strife, division and carnality that manifests in the saints. When things are out of order in our lives and churches, apostolic preaching and teaching will confront it and correct it. The apostles have the grace, boldness and authority to confront and correct. This grace and authority comes from God and not man although it functions within established and trusted relationships.