Comments On The Epistle To Titus
The two fellowservants to whom Paul writes as individuals (Timothy and Titus) both required ministry which emphasizes truth and personal godliness, though each from a different viewpoint. For Timothy's evident godliness apparently tended toward introspection. and he must be reminded that the truth of God is the true regulator of all godliness. Titus on the other hand, possibly because he was more objective, or extrovert, was reminded that truth is according to godliness; that is that truth, rightly held, will produce personal godliness. How watchful is the Spirit of God to encourage true balance among saints! The name Titus means "nurse" and to properly care for the state of souls he must allow the truth to do its own vital work in his own soul.
Paul writes both as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, so that in the epistle considerate care is mingled with firm authority. His basis of writing is, first, the faith of God's elect; that is, the whole range of the Christian revelation, that which is the common property of those elect of God, and which attaches them both to God and to one another. The individual (Titus) cannot be separated from this. And secondly, "the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness." The truth is certainly of vital importance, the basis of all that is good and profitable. Yet if truth is rightly held, it will unfailingly issue in godliness, and as we have before seen, it is this precious balance of truth and godliness that this book presses upon us: one must not be separated from the other. If one claims any knowledge of the truth, let him evidence it in a godly walk and character.
This also however involves a prospect of greatest magnitude, that of eternal life, life in its fullest, perfected form, which cannot be touched by those things that corrupt this present life. This does not in any way deny that the believer now possesses eternal life as a vital, living reality in his soul but in the future he will enter into those outward circumstances also that are vibrant with the same life; there will be nothing around him then that is subject to death and decay. There is no shadow of doubt about this, for God, who cannot lie, promised it before the ages of time. This expression has been thought to refer to a promise before man existed, of which there appears to be no other record. However, since the ages of time properly began after man had sinned, and God began His work of dealing with him in various ways through the ages, is it not possible that the promise refers to that promise of life implied in the Seed of the woman bruising the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). This was certainly the introduction of Him who is Himself "that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested to us."
The manifestation of that eternal life is now only seen in the Word of God, and this manifestation "in due time" is of course the full truth of Christianity, preached publicly, and specially entrusted to Paul. "The commandment of our Savior God" had decided this, and not any special ability or energy on Paul's part. Note in Titus that God is seen in this character of Savior, just as Christ is, for of course both are One. He is Savior in every respect, whether from our sins, whether from present dangers and temptations, or whether in the future deliverance of His saints from this present evil world.
Titus is called Paul's "own child after the common faith," having been converted through Paul, and is wished grace, the favor of God that lifts one above all circumstances; mercy, God's compassion in the midst of circumstances; and peace, the tranquility of soul with which to pass through circumstances.
Verse 5 shows that Titus had been left in Crete by Paul, with the purpose in mind of establishing in an orderly way the assemblies there. There was evident need of this in the infant state of things existing, especially so since the New Testament was not in their hands. Paul had given commission to Titus to appoint elders in each city. Apostles were entitled to do this, and it may be that Timothy also was given this responsibility (1 Tim. 3:1-7), though this is not directly stated. There is in Scripture however no provision made for the continuance of such appointments, and we are shut up to considering this only as a means of establishing the church in its prime state. Of course, even though now there is no authority for appointing elders, yet men who have such qualifications as seen here and in 1 Timothy should be recognized by the saints for their wisdom and experience, so that order may easily be maintained without official appointment.
Verses 5 and 7 apply differing terms to the same person - elder and bishop (or overseer), the first speaking of him personally, the second of his work. As an elder he is one who has had experience, an important qualification, as 1 Timothy 3:6 insists, "not a novice," one new in the ranks of Christianity. His work of overseeing is that of caring for the spiritual order and welfare of the assembly.
For this he must be "blameless," having a character that cannot be called in question. In family life he must be basically reliable. Many had at that time, before conversion, married two or more wives. This disqualified them for such work, for it ignored God's basic order in creation, and if one is to help in maintaining order, he must be a proper example of order in his own life and in family life: his children were to evidence subjection to order.
For an overseer is the steward of God, entrusted with giving a true representation of God's order. And the negatives of verse 7 are important, just as are the positives of verse 8. Selfwill is the strong intention of having one's own way, a most destructive element in the assembly of God. Nor must an elder be one who is soon angry, apt to lose his temper: for this is sin. He is not to indulge in wine, nor to be a striker, that is, striking back against what he considers injustice. Nor is he to have such a character as seeks earthly gain by questionable means. Note in all of these things the necessity of his controlling himself, his desires, his temper, his appetite, his resentment against wrongs, his selfishness. In other words, if he is to keep the assembly in control for God, he must certainly know how to control himself.
The seven positives of verse 8 are precious. An hospitable entertainment of others is essential in caring for their welfare. A lover of goodness will so occupy himself with good that he will have little time for evil, even in fighting against it. To be sober is to use wise discretion in discernment and action. And "just" is added to this, a righteous, fair character in dealing with others. "Holy" is the character of separation to God, hating evil and loving good. "Temperate" is necessary too, the avoiding of extremes by a well-balanced moderation. And to crown all of this, an elder must be firm in holding to the pure Word of God, according to the doctrine, not according to his experience. For though experience is important, it must always give place to sound doctrine. It is only this that can be trusted in any way to meet the real need of souls, either to encourage those who need this, or to refute the gainsayers, those who tend to dispute against what is sound and dependable. Every elder should have some measure of ability in these things, by a good working knowledge of the Scriptures, and wisdom to use his knowledge rightly.
Even in that day there were many mere "talkers," not subject themselves, and empty in regard to what they had to say, yet deceiving others. This was specially true of those of the circumcision, those zealous for the mere formal religion of Judaism. Their number is multiplied today, though not by any means confined to those professing Judaism. Yet it is of the same mold, that which would reduce Christianity to an earthly level, with legal regulations and forms. These of course were not in the assembly, but ever active in attacking the truth held by the assembly, and seeking to deceive souls. Elders therefore were to be always on guard.
The means of stopping the mouths of such men was of course by the sound doctrine of the Word of God. This would preserve any honest souls from their deceptions. For whole houses were too frequently subverted by this undermining subterfuge, as is true today. Their motive is here exposed too, that of seeking money for themselves, a much too prominent feature of a great deal that passes for Christianity.
Paul quotes a Cretan prophet as indicating what was true characteristically of the people of Crete, a condition so prevalent that it could have too much influence even over those who were saved. "Liars, evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons" may dominate much of society, but the Christian is not to be like them, and sharp rebuke was necessary in order to awaken souls out of such things, and establish them soundly in the faith.
Jewish fables were to be thoroughly avoided. Those who had been given the pure truth of the Old Testament were not satisfied with truth, but added fables and commandments of men that actually turned souls from the truth. Of course, these things were so framed as to present a plausible, specious appeal, but merely appealing to the flesh. Strip them of their religious veneer, and their fleshly vanity is exposed.
But there is a reality worth clinging to. To the pure all things are pure: everything in creation has a proper place and function. To be pure is to be unmixed as regards motives and character, and therefore to regard things in their proper perspective, in uncorrupted simplicity. But those who have no faith are defiled or adulterated by sin's corruption, and consider nothing to be pure. Even their minds and consciences are defiled. Witness the present-day callous disregard for the sanctity of the marriage bond, the revolting abuse known as homosexuality, the prevalence of lies and hypocrisy; and all this mixed with a measure of religiousness! Their minds no doubt are active, but adroit enough to so rationalize as to twist truth totally out of its perspective; and knowledge becomes a deadly weapon rather than a help to a noble end. And conscience, though it cannot help but speak, becomes so defiled as to be ignored. How much better is "a pure conscience," one not adulterated by the strong desires of the flesh.
The claim of such people that they know God is plainly refuted by the evil of their works. For it is manifest that God's works are completely contrary to theirs, His being unadulterated, true, and fruitful; but they in their works abominable, sunk to a depth comparable to lowest idol worship (for it is idols of which God speaks as "abominations"); and disobedient, having no concern whatever for subjection to their Creator; and as regards every good work, reprobate, or worthless. When one trifles with the things of God, being not honestly in heart turned to the Lord Himself, how low he may sink without realizing the horror of such a condition!
In contrast to the vanity of others, as in the previous verses, Titus has pressed upon him his personal responsibility: "But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine." "Sound" has the force of being completely healthy, therefore well balanced according to the truth of God. And he is to speak for the sake of others. The aged men are first singled out as to be influenced by the truth. An aged man may not be qualified as an elder, but yet he should be sober also, not light or frivolous; grave, which indicates calm deliberation; temperate, not dogmatic or intolerant; sound in faith, in love, in patience, for full health in these things is evidence of proper maturity. As we have seen, the elder must have such moral character; but it is the same that is to be urged upon all those who are aged. Indeed, it is true Christian character, of which the aged should be special examples.
The aged women were to show a conduct suitable to sacred things. If there is a difference here in the admonition to them in comparison to men, it is because of special tendencies and dangers in each case. Strong feelings could incite an older woman to accuse another unjustly. And she should not indulge her natural tastes too freely. On the positive side is the precious character of being "teachers of good things." It is not here so much the teaching of Scripture as the teaching of moral conduct and character, for which of course Scripture is the only proper basis, and therefore to be rightly used in such teaching.
Without Scripture, they could not rightly teach the young women; though this is not to be mere academic teaching, but to have effect in sober wisdom in their lives, to encourage them to love their husbands and their children. This is wholesome work; for there are more than enough divisive evils at work, seeking to drive wedges into family life, without an aged woman adding to the friction. The young need her solid, faithful teaching.
Her teaching is not only to be by precept from the Word, but by example also; for we must learn well for ourselves what we desire to teach others. Notice how often in Titus we have urged the virtue of discretion, or sober-mindedness, which involves acting with due self-restraint, and in a manner becoming to whatever circumstances it may be in which one is placed. Purity too (no mixture of questionable things with what is good) is specially emphasized for the young women. "Keepers at home" does not mean confined to the home, but keeping home-life orderly, for this is a wife's special sphere. And as this epistle dwells upon the preciousness of subjection to due order, so the young women are to be obedient to their own husbands. Observe how the word "own" is here intended to encourage their hearts in this. It is important too, in order that the Word of God (which she professes to believe) should not be blamed by others for her insubjection.
As to young men, Titus is told to exhort them to be soberminded or discreet, as we have seen before. This of course is a covering virtue, which concerns the whole life. But Titus is also to show himself an example of good works, which is important for the sake of the young men.
Uncorruptness in doctrine is the honesty that keeps the Word of God inviolate, not mixing it with any rationalizing of men's minds. For this, exercise of soul is constantly needed, to strain out any impurity that threatens to corrupt sound doctrine. Gravity was to be there in common with the aged men; and sincerity is added, a pertinent reminder for young men, who may tend to become a little lax and light as to the truth, rather than holding it as a seriously precious reality.
Sound, (that is, healthy, profitable) speech alone is becoming to the Lord's servant, and to young men. Let us cultivate speaking in a way that cannot be condemned, for there is too much around that is unprofitable, and worse. Notice here how sound speech will put to silence the criticism of those who desire to oppose the truth, and will give them no occasion to speak evil of, not "you," but "us," as is the true translation. Leaders, and even saints as a whole, may be spoken against because of the indiscretion of some who profess Christ.
Servants (bond slaves) are told to be obedient to their masters, and more than this, to please them well in all their conduct and service. If this is to be true of slaves, who received no just recompense, how much more so in the case of employees for hire! Also, even if one were to feel resentful as to the way he was treated, yet he was not to answer back. How wise in these things to keep a guard over our lips.
"Not purloining:" an exhortation as needful today as then; for too many employees do not scruple to steal small things that belong to the employer. The Christian is to avoid this absolutely; and rather show true fidelity, a dependability that the employer can fully trust. This is not only for the employer's sake, but in order to adorn the doctrine of God. We must remember at all times who it is
that we are here to represent. Notice the expression, "God our Savior," which clearly implies the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our conduct should be an ornament to the doctrine concerning Himself.
Now verses 11 to 14 show us beautifully that which is basic to all proper character and conduct. The grace of God has appeared, bearing with it salvation for all men. How great a contrast is this to the law of God, which was addressed, not to all men, but to Israel alone, a law too which demanded obedience, but brought no salvation: indeed rather brought condemnation. But grace brings salvation unlimited, though certainly only appropriated by those who receive the Lord Jesus as Savior. For grace would not be grace if it were to force itself on anyone. What is freely given must be freely received if it is to be beneficial at all. Grace is the pure, unadulterated favor of God, favor to those proven to be both guilty and enemies of God. Of course, to receive it, one must realize his need of it. It has come in the person of Christ, and by virtue of the great sacrifice of Himself.
When once received, it has wonderful teaching power, such as law can never have. Law could command us to do good, but could not teach us to do so. But grace received produces such a response as to cause one to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The first is the decision of heart to no longer leave God out of our lives; the second the self judgment that refuses what is merely attractive to a deluded world and therefore appeals to fleshly desires.
On the positive side, however, grace teaches us to live soberly as to one's personal attitude and character; righteously, as regards his relationship to others; and godly as to his relationship with God. And this is not an ideal to be hoped for in the future, but for "this present world." No matter how contrary the world is, it is here and now that grace enables a fruitful life of faith.
But also, it presents a future prospect of immeasurable blessing, to which the believer looks forward with absolutely assured anticipation. "That blessed hope" is the coming of the Lord Jesus for His saints, that which therefore is unmixed blessing. "The appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" is His later manifestation to all the world in power and great glory. To many this will be blessing; but to many others solemn judgment.
The future coming of the Lord Jesus (v. 13) will remind us vividly of His having once given Himself for us in precious sacrifice, a matter to be freshly remembered for eternity. Elsewhere we read of various other objects of His great sacrifice, but here it is "that he might redeem us from all lawlessness," that is, from the attitude of self-will; "and purify unto himself," that is, remove all impurities, in order to make us a people fitted for His own company, His own possession, a people peculiarly His own, special to Himself, and zealous of good works. it is of course here the moral change accomplished by the grace of God through virtue of Christ's giving Himself for us. This we have seen to be predominant in this book.
Titus is not only to speak these things, but to exhort, that is, to stir up souls as to them; and further, to rebuke that which is contrary, and to do so with all authority: for it is the authority of God behind this. When the servant has the truth of God to speak, he should speak with firm decision, so that he will leave no impression of speaking that which he does not fully believe, and thus give occasion to others to despise him.
Though we are not of this world, as the blessed hope of Chapter 2:13 reminds us, yet while in it, our relationships toward it are to bear true Christian character. God has Himself constituted proper authority in the world's government: therefore the Christian is to be subject to it, whether or not he feels it is acting rightly or wisely, and though he may suffer from it materially. Of course, if in any given case such subjection would involve disobedience to God, then it is God, and not man, he must obey. Along with the character of subjection, however, is the virtue of being prepared to every good work, so that, when occasion arises, the goodness in meeting the occasion will be spontaneous.
Decisively we are told to speak evil of no man: in no case is this right. Even if it is necessary to expose evil, it is to be done with genuine desire for the recovery and blessing of the guilty person, rather than in any spirit of denunciation. No contentious attitude is to be present, but gentleness, and "all meekness unto all men." This does not mean giving in to evil, but neither is it self-defensiveness.
For we are reminded that we too were once in the condition that now we dislike in others. This should both humble us, and give us a spirit of patient consideration as regards them. The evils listed in verse 3 characterize all men generally: some things may be more pronounced in some than in others, but all have the same nature from which such things proceed. In us, nothing could change this but the grace of God in Christ: others too require the same grace if their condition is to be any different.
At a time when man was manifested in his hopelessly sinful state, it would be natural to think that judgment would fall, but at such a time, the kindness and love of God appeared. God is seen as Savior rather than as Judge. This is presented here to show that we who have been blessed by such love and kindness are now in a position to act in the same spirit toward others.
For our own salvation was not by works of righteousness, but by God's mercy, His meeting us in our circumstances of sin and shame, and having compassion. The washing of regeneration implies the communication of new life, but emphasizes the moral change that new life brings with it, for it is a cleansing process. And the Holy Spirit has renewed once and for all every soul who has received this mercy. The "old man" has been forever put off, and the "new man" put on.
We have seen that the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" is not a thing to be repeated, but has been done once as to every believer: this has renewed the believer in the spirit of his mind; for the Spirit has been poured on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. God does not give the Spirit by measure, for the Spirit is a living Person, and not limited by human limitations. And this blessing has come through Jesus Christ our Savior, He to whom all the riches of God have been given, and who delights to share unstintingly with His saints.
God's kindness, love and mercy have been seen in verses 4
and 5: now added to this is grace in verse 7. Grace justifies, for it lifts one completely out of a condition of guilt, and sets him rather in a condition of established righteousness before God. Mercy is not said to do this, for mercy is that which has come down to meet souls in the circumstances of their need, of distress, or poverty, or misery, and has had compassion upon them in those circumstances. Grace justifies, that is, it both clears from every charge of guilt, and imparts to us a positive credit of righteousness.
This leads to the sublime blessing of being made heirs of God, with the secure hope of eternal life in view. Romans 8:17 shows that we are heirs of God because of our identification with Christ, Who is Himself the true Heir of all things. By being joined to Christ, we become "joint-heirs with Christ," inheriting with Him all of that which He alone is worthy to inherit. Marvellous grace indeed!
As to eternal life, John's writings insist that the believer possesses this now, for the very nature of God is implanted within him, by new birth. But the viewpoint in Titus is that we look forward to eternal life in its fullest and purest manifestation; that is, in the very circumstances into which we enter at the coming of the Lord; and all that is merely natural life will be fully displaced by the life that is eternal; so that not only within us, but in everything around us, all will be radiant with the beauty of eternal life.
The apostle stresses now the faithfulness of his words, words dependable and basic in every way, and which are to have such effect upon Titus that he is to strenuously insist that believers are to be diligent in maintaining good works. It has before been established that our works have no place 'whatever in the salvation of our souls; but having been aved, good works are a proper result. It is not a question of merely refraining from the wrongdoing that once engaged us while we were in our sins; but of the positive doing of good for the sake of others. These things are good and profitable to men, for it is these things that men observe, not the inner motives, which of course God alone fully discerns.
But foolish questions require no answer: they should be avoided. Tracing of genealogies too is vain, for it is only glorying in flesh, which profits nothing. Contentions are merely the resource of those seeking to win an argument. The same is true of strivings about the law, for this makes mere law-keeping an object, and Christ, the Center of all pure truth, is actually ignored. All this is vain. How good rather if the servant of the Lord should follow the example of John the Baptist - always turning the attention back to the Lord Jesus, when others sought to engage him with questions intended to stir contention (Jn. 1:20-27).
Verse 10 is clear as regards the case of an heretical man. It has been a mistaken thought that a heretic is one who teaches fundamental error, such as the denial of the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, or other vitally important doctrines. Such cases as this would call for decisive action in putting the guilty man away from fellowship.
Heresy however is the pressing of a certain line of things to the exclusion of another line, also important in its place, and tending to make followers for oneself by this means. It may be, for instance, the pressing of God's grace so strongly that it would tend to nullify God's government in the assembly: or, on the other hand, possibly stressing God's government in such a way that God's grace is forgotten. This is dangerous imbalance. Such an one was to be admonished, and if the second admonition was not heeded, Titus was to "have done with" him. This is not excommunicating from fellowship, but refusal to listen to him, or to have any discussion as to his views. It may seem severe treatment, but it is God's way: if anything will lead to his recovery, it is this. No saint should give such a man the satisfaction of a hearing, for everyone who will listen to him he will seek to influence to his point of view in opposition to saints who seek to walk soberly as subject to the pure truth of God.
This is not of course the case of a weak brother who needs help, but of one who has proven himself determined in his wrong course. It is a perverse attitude, not simply ignorant, but sinful, for his own attitude condemns him. If in leaving him to God, the man is not recovered, he is likely to become more perverted, and go elsewhere to seek a following, for it is this he wants.
Paul evidently much desired to see Titus, and urges that when he (Paul) sends one of two brethren to Crete, Titus should do his utmost to come to Paul at Nicopolis in Macedonia. It may be that either the brother was to be a traveling companion for Titus, or that he was to remain in Crete for the help of the saints while Titus was absent.
However this may be, yet it appears there was a very real necessity of Paul's having personal fellowship with Titus. It may be that, having labored long in Crete as he had, Titus needed the encouragement and strengthening of the fellowship of such a man as Paul. And the apostle had a heart of shepherd care for every servant, as well as for all saints.
But Titus is encouraged to give every consideration and help to Zenas the lawyer and Apollos, as they evidently were to visit Crete for the ministry of the Word of God. No doubt these were capable men, and one might ask if they could not supply the encouragement Titus needed. Yet one can be a capable teacher, and not have the gift and wisdom of a shepherd. And moreover, it might be as well for Titus to leave the scene of his labors for a time, to gain a more objective view of his circumstances and associations.
"Ours also" no doubt refers to Zenas and Apollos, or indeed any servant identified with Paul. They were not merely to depend on the kindness of others, but be diligent in maintaining good works in view of whatever necessities. For diligence in practical things is a becoming accompaniment of gift in spiritual things: this is faithfulness in daily, practical living.
Paul now sends greetings to Titus from all who were with him, and widens this to include all in Crete in whom the truth had wrought to produce love in the faith toward the Lord's servants. All these are included in the grace he wishes Titus.
Leslie M. Grant