Paul's Epistle To Titus
Titus was a Greek and was converted to the gospel by Paul, who in consequence called him "mine own son" (1:4). He proved to be of much comfort to Paul in his affliction (2 Cor.7:6); and is shown to have had a loving care for the brethren generally (2 Cor.7:15).
The epistle was written to Titus when he was in the island of Crete. There is no actual record that Paul had been there, but by implication we must conclude that Paul was there with Titus, for it is recorded in Titus 1:5 that Paul left Titus in Crete to consolidate the work of the gospel, and to create Christian assemblies in every city. The epistle shows that the apostle's motive in writing to Titus was that he foresaw the progress of the gospel being endangered by "many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" (1:10).
Paul uses other strong words in verses 11 to 13—rebukes which may have been intended for the false teachers rather than the Cretans generally, although he quotes one of their own prophets as having said, truthfully in his opinion, that "the Cretians (the modern spelling is Cretans) are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies". The Cretans were notorious for their untruthfulness, and there is a Greek word "cretizo" which means "to lie". Their Prophet had also ranked them with animals, and as "idle gluttons" (RV), which means that they were of uncontrolled greed. The wonder is that among such a low community God should ordain that some among them should obtain salvation through the proclamation of the gospel there. Most of Paul's epistles showed the depravity which existed in his day in cities which were largely pagan, and yet as God told the apostle regarding Corinth, "I have much people in this city", so it was with Crete.
Good works of faith. Throughout the epistle emphasis is laid on "good works" and their maintenance (3:8) as the necessary evidence in all the brethren of salvation and this burden is laid upon Titus himself (2:7), and comprises Paul's final word of exhortation in 3:14. These works, of course, would be works as the outcome of their faith.
Chapter 1 is concerned with the appointment of elders or bishops (overseers) by Titus. Chapter 2 widens out to different sections of members of the Christian assembles, with separate exhortations for aged men, aged women, young women, young men, Titus himself and slaves. Much of the advice given is as instructive for modern times as when written. Titus (and the "thou" is emphatic) is instructed (v.1) to speak things that are suited to and consistent with sound teaching. We today will be much profited by carefully reading and considering all Paul's instruction, according to our respective age group, although in the present article, we can refer only to a few of the characteristics given.
Verse 2 referring to aged men indicates that their general behaviour must tally with belief. We mention gravity which is urged upon them, and make the observation that gravity does not mean gloominess.
Verses 3 to 5 urge the aged women to be "reverent in demeanour" (RV), and instructors, not publicly, of good things, and particularly in training (RSV) the young women in their domestic lives. This would be in order to counter the home‑disturbing tactics of the false teachers, as shown in 1:11: "Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake". The object of the wholesome instruction is vividly expressed in the words "that the word of God be not blasphemed" (Titus 2:5) on injuriously spoken against. Here it is not the "name" of God but His "word"—the message of the gospel in salvation—that might be besmirched and brought into disrepute in the eyes of unbelievers outside the assemblies. How careful all of us must be that our conduct shall not bring discredit upon that which we profess!
Young men are to be sober‑minded, which has perhaps special significance in service for the Lord, as Paul wrote in Rom.12:3: "For I say...to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith".
Titus himself was also exhorted that he be a "pattern" (v.7), that is to say, an example. Paul exhorted Timothy similarly: "Be thou an example of the believers" (1 Tim.4:12); not alone "to" believers but rather that he 'be a specimen of what is a true believer'.
Slaves are exhorted in verses 9‑10 (RSV) to observe a course of life which would have been completely the reverse of the conduct of slaves generally in those days. The latter part of vs.10 "that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" might at first appear as only applicable to slaves, but it is incumbent on all believers to be bound by these profound and urgent words. We are all called upon to "adorn the teaching" that has been imparted to us in God's word. The word for "adorn" in the original was used in "the arrangement of jewels to set off their beauty". This obligation is imposed upon all of us to beautify the already beautiful message, together with its precepts, which we have received.
Verse 11 begins "For" meaning "because of". Because of what? The answer is that God has intervened in the Person of His dear Son. Verses 11 to 14 introduce one of the most notable epitomes of saving truth anywhere in the New Testament, surveying the past, the present and the future. The past is in verse 11: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared"; the present is in the next verse: "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts (desires), we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world"; and the future in verse 13: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (lit. 'the appearing of the glory') of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". ln this section, reference is twice made to "a shining forth". Divine grace "appeared" (shone forth) and "the appearing (the shining forth) of the glory" of our Saviour has still to be manifested. Paul calls this "that blessed hope", but let not our conception of this be limited to the church of Christ being then received by Him in glory, but let us see Him also as the world's Great Deliverer from the curse of sin and death. These two parts of the "blessed hope" cannot be separated. Verse 14 does, however, give emphasis to God's chosen. They are described as "a peculiar people", but "a people for God's own possession" expresses the original more clearly. The object of their redemption is shown to be their purification or sanctification.
The third chapter begins with exhortations defining the believers' attitude to 'the powers that be', and calls to mind their condition prior to being translated from darkness into the light of the gospel. This change is characteristically introduced by Paul with the words: "But after...". (A similar expression by him occurs in Rom.3:21 "But now..". The comparison deserves study.) To Titus, Paul describes the "after" in verses 4 to 7: "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared (shone forth), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the holy Spirit; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life". Here we have three things: What we were—the wonder of our conversion—and our being made heirs of eternal life; all interwoven by God's kindness, His love, His mercy, and His grace!
After urging Titus to affirm these things constantly (v.8) Paul enjoins him to "avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain". By saying "avoid", Paul literally said "turn yourself about so as to face the other way", or in other words "ignore those who put forth such follies". They are called "hereticks" in the following verse. Paul's usage of this word is given by one writer as signifying: "An opinionative propagandist who promotes dissension by his pertinacity". After two warnings to such, Paul instructs Titus to reject them, literally meaning that he should "leave them out of account".
We conclude with a brief comment on verse 14 in which true fellow‑believers are urged to "maintain good works for necessary uses". In other words, unlike the Cretans and the false teachers, they were to make themselves practically useful, so "as to help cases of urgent need" (RSV). As we ponder all of Paul's wise words to his "own son after the common faith", may we also read, mark, and learn these precepts, so that "the word of God be not blasphemed" (2:5), but rather be adorned and embellished by our Christian deportment!
The Forest Gate Church Monthly