Contemporary Christian practice has become seemingly synonymous with individualism. Which basically becomes, "I prayed a prayer this one time, I believe in Jesus...#winning"(I love dated references....) And from that moment on this person is self-confident enough to then proceed to live exactly how they want.....on their own.
But is this idea of "Me and JC are good, so that's all I need" really accurate?
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you--Titus 1:5
Paul is writing a follow up letter to his co-laborer Titus about what to do post-evangelization in Crete. Paul's ministry was to go all over the Roman world and proclaim the Gospel. Many people would respond in faith to this message and at that moment become "Christians".
In today's culture we do the Gospel proclamation part, and then.........um.......not much. What does Paul instruct Titus to do? To put "Order" to this new group of Christians. What does order imply? Clearly defined structures and systems. It does not imply a loosey-goosey every man for himself post-conversion experience. The assumptive position that Paul takes here(and through out the NT) is that Christian's would associate together in some manner of "ordered" community.
To be clear, he does not say, "Make sure these folks have a "church" so that they can finally REALLY become Christian". Instead, he writes with the expectation that becoming a Christian naturally leads itself to deliberate(orderly) community with defined structure and consistent and accountable fellowship.
To ignore this plain faced obviousness that is found throughout the New Testament is to deny the validity of the New Testament as an accurate revelation of God and His call to His people.
Perhaps that last sentence offended you. Good!! Let me explain it slowly.....Either the Bible is reliable as a full testimony of God and the Gospel or it is not. If it is NOT reliable, then, by all means, interpret it anyway that you choose to do so. If it IS, then what it says to us is important!
Find anywhere in the New Testament where the assumption for the Christian life is NOT shaped by an orderly community with established leadership(Elders) and I will concede my point......
Found it yet.....no????? Ok, lets proceed....
The second part of this passage from Titus describes the responsibility of Elders; 1) To be above reproach(to put it in short form), and, 2) To teach and defend the Gospel message from error and falsehood. 3) Bring discipline to those who are teaching falsehood. And this discipline has two purposes; 1- To protect people from untruth, and, 2- To bring the false teachers to repentance!
So, back to us and our Christian lives.......
A Christian's life is outwardly displayed by first belief and repentance. Belief in Jesus and repentance from sin. Where things like the fruit of the spirit can be great measurable markers of this.
The second aspect of outwardly displaying the internal reality of a Christian is participation within an "ordered" community.
Does perfectly exhibiting these two aspects MAKE someone a Christian. Nope. But will a Christian display these behaviors in their life. Yep.
This is going too far the other way......