August 11, 2018
General Remarks on Titus
Titus is the last of three books known as the Pastoral Epistles because they are written to ministers rather than churches. In the New Testament, they appear in order of length from the longest to the shortest. Chronologically, Titus is first to be written, followed by First Timothy and Second Timothy. They were written by the Apostle Paul between 64 and 68 A.D.
Clement of Rome, who was a student of, and fellow worker with Paul, wrote that the Apostle taught righteousness to “the extreme limit of the west” which would have been Spain and Britannia at that time. But Acts ends with Paul in house arrest in Rome, and makes no mention of his trip to Spain, or the visits to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Crete recorded in First and Second Timothy and Titus. Since we know Paul was executed in Rome, we are left to wonder, when did he go to Spain, and why is the journey not recorded in Acts? Furthermore, why is his execution not recorded in Acts? The answers is obvious: these events are not recorded in Acts because they occur after the book of Acts was written. Paul was released from the Roman house arrest recorded in Acts. After his release, he went to the western limit of the Roman Empire, and made the visits to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Crete, which are recorded in First and Second Timothy and Titus.
After the journeys to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Crete, Paul is back in Rome. It is early in the persecution of the Church initiated by Nero. Peter has been executed, and John is imprisoned on Patmos. Paul is in the Mammertine prison awaiting execution. From there, he writes Second Timothy.
Titus, a Gentile, is a student of, and fellow evangelist with Paul. He was with Paul when he went to Jerusalem to speak to the Apostles (Gal. 2:2). And he is with Paul three decades later, on the Mediterranean island of Crete, where Paul leaves him to set the Church on the island in order and to ordain elders (clergy) in its various congregations (Titus 1:5). Since Titus’ work is very similar to Timothy’s in Ephesus, Paul’s letter to him covers much of the same topics and gives many of the same instructions and encouragements found in First Timothy.
Paul begins by identifying himself as the author of the letter. This is very important because false teachers abound, who also send letters and messages to churches and minsters. They even claim to be servants of God and apostles. Verse one confirms that the letter is from Paul, a true servant of God and Apostle, therefore, Titus and the Church of Crete can be assured if its truth.
In two, short verses the Apostle expresses the entire scope of God’s work of salvation, from the promise made before the world, to our election by God, to our eternal life. In verse 4 he shows his own part in God’s plan. God’s word has been committed to him to preach, according to the commandment of Christ.
Paul left Titus in Crete (5). This means Paul visited Crete in person, and left Titus there to continue the work on that island after Paul’s departure. Specifically, Titus is to “set in order things that are wanting, and to ordain elders in every city” (5). The Christians on the island have not been organised into congregations, and have no qualified clergy to lead the worship and preach the Scriptures in the worship services. Titus is to set these things in order. Therefore, an important part of his task is the education and ordination of elders in the new congregations. Paul commits the qualifications for elders to writing so all will know them, for many will probably seek ordination, especially to the office of bishop.
Verses 10-16 warn Titus, and through him the Church, about the false teachers. Such people have been a constant threat to the Church in every age, and were no less prevalent in Paul’s time than ours. Like others in the New Testament era, the false teachers on Crete are difficult to define because they often change their doctrines and practices according to whims and current ideological fads. Some emphsise the Greek philosophers. Some emphasise mystical experiences. Some emphasise Jewish ceremonial laws. Some emphasise secret knowledge they claim to receive from God that is above and better than the Gospel of Paul. Often, they combine several of these elements with Christianity, and attempt to bring them into the Church. Paul warns that such ideas and their teachers, are false. They are unruly, vain talkers, and deceivers (10).
Paul is especially concerned about those he calls “they of the circumcision.” There are at least two groups of them. One consists of Gentiles trying to bring Jewish practices into the Church. The second is Jewish people who want to turn Christianity into a sect of Judaism, much like the Pharisees and Sadducees. This Jewish version of Christianity is very enticing because it has the appearance of returning to the original faith of Christ. But Paul spends much time and effort in his works showing that the Judaisers confuse the preparations for the Messiah under the Old Testament, with the fulfillment in the Messiah in the New Testament. Thus, rather than returning to the original faith of Christ, the Judaisers actually reject it.
Paul says the false teachers must be stopped, meaning they must not be considered Christians or allowed to teach their doctrines in the Church. He reminds the Church that many of the false teachers are motivated by money, rather than a desire for truth (11). He even quotes one of the Greek philosophers against those who want to make Christianity more like a school of philosophy (12, 13). Jewish fables (14) are allegorical stories about the Old Testament. The commandments are Pharisaic rules about the Sabbath, circumcision, and diet. They are also doctrines which teach that people can atone for their sins by doing the ceremonies and sacrifices required in the Old Testament. Those things never did atone for sin, as we have seen in the Old and New Testament books.
Attempts to purify, or, save, ourselves through the ceremonies and rules of Judaism do not work. In fact, those who follow them remain impure no matter how strictly they keep the rules. But to the pure, those who are cleansed by Christ, all things are pure (15), including the foods that were symbolically unclean in the Old Testament. Those who believe they can be Christians, yet be made pure through the Old Testament rituals, show that they are disobedient reprobates (16). Why? Because they reject the salvation offered in Christ, and try to save themselves through things meant to point them to Christ.
The speech, in verse 1 is the same as the conversation in Philippians 1:27. It refers to our behaviour, as well as our words, saying both must be consistent and characterised by two important elements. First, they will be different from, and in direct contrast to that of the false teachers described in Titus 1:10-16. Second, they will “become,” meaning to be in complete accordance with the teaching of the Bible, which verse 1 calls, “sound doctrine.”
Verses 2-10 address this behaviour in the home. They begin with the men, to whom the responsibility and service of leadership is commanded. “Sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience” describes God’s will for them in the home. The helpmeets are addressed in verses 3-5. They are to behave in ways that are in accordance with and adorn holiness. Verse 3 calls this “behaviour as becometh holiness.” Basically the Bible teaches women to be Godly helpmeets with their husbands in the task and mission of establishing a Godly home and Church. Their behaviour will be in accord with their mission. Their words and actions will teach the younger women to do the same.
Young men (6), in addition to the goal of patterning their lives after the older men, are told to be soberminded. This is the complete opposite of the Greco-Roman view of youth as a time of self-indulgent pursuit of fun and entertainment. A major part of Titus’ mission on Crete is to exhort people to comply with this part of the will of God. Titus also is encouraged to exemplify and teach these things.
Verses 9 and10 turn to the role of servants. These may be hired workers, or slaves, for many of them became Christians in the early years of the Church. They are to be obedient to their masters (9). But obedience is not enough. They are to “please them well in all things.” Go beyond outward obedience to sincerely pleasing them. Answering again is what used to be called “back talk.” Instead of instant and willing obedience, back talk argues and seeks ways to avoid obedience. Purloining is stealing. Like the other men and women addressed in the chapter, their behaviour must adorn the Gospel, not detract from it. This necessarily means their concern is first for the glory of Christ, not their own convenience or situations.
Why would men accept lives of self control and sobriety? Why would women accept roles as helpmeets? Why would youths turn away from the Greco-Roman life of indulgence? Why would servants willingly please their masters and employers? Why would Christians deny ungodliness and worldly lusts to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age? Because we look for the blessed hope of the glorious appearance of Christ (12-15). We believe He is coming back to establish His rule of righteousness on this earth. He will allow His people to enjoy that reign, and will exclude those who excluded Him from their lives. We want to be His people. “Peculiar” (14) means to be set aside for Him, distinct and different from other people. These are the things Titus is to teach. These are the things all Churches are to teach, and all Christians are to do.
Chapter three begins by addressing the Church’s relationship with the state. Titus is to remind the Church to be “subject to principalities and powers” and to “obey magistrates.” In other words, obey the civil government. Romans 13 gives much counsel on this subject, and should be read in conjunction with Titus 3:1. We note here that the Bible does not place the state or its politicians above the law, and certainly not above God. Therefore, obedience to it is not absolute. But the Bible views the state as a minister of God and equates obedience to its lawful authority as obedience to God (Rom. 13:1, 2). The Church, therefore, seeks to be obedient and loyal to the rulers and nations in which she dwells. We pray for the rulers and the people, and we work for the peace and good of the nation. It is legitimate for Christians to seek the peace and security of their respective nations. To do so is not hateful to other nations, nor is it arrogance or oppression to want international relations and policies to be equitable and just to their own countries. The Bible is a standard by which we can measure justice, both in our country’s dealings with other nations, and in their dealings with us. It also gives a standard by which to measure our own governments and their policies, laws, and ideals, for the things God teaches in Scripture “are good and profitable unto all men” (8). We are to be as as supportive of our respective nations, as possible without transgressing the higher Law of King Jesus.
We are not to be brawlers or hurtful to others in our actions or speech (2). This is said in application to our relationship with individuals outside of the Church, but also applies to those inside the fellowship. Our actions and words are to be gentle, showing meekness to all men. We are to remember that we once were as far from God as they now are, and it is only by the grace of God that we have been brought into the paths of righteousness (3). We are saved through His mercy, not through any acts of righteousness we have done (5, 6).
The things of God are profitable for all people, but the things of sin are not profitable for any people. The questions, genealogies, and strivings about the law are examples of unprofitable things, which Titus and the churches under his care must avoid. Genealogies are fictional stories in which ancestors and descendants of Old Testament people are invented to allegorize the Scriptures. They are also attempts to link Christ to other gods and religious systems through fake genealogies of divine emanations. This will later be known as gnosticism. Strivings about the law are fruitless debates about things like Old Testament dietary rules, eating meat of animals that were sacrificed to idols, and how far a person can walk without breaking the Sabbath. Such questions have already been settled in other parts of Scripture, therefore, further debates about them only serve to divide the Church and divert it from its mission. A heretic (10) denies foundational truth about God and salvation. He is probably heavily influenced by the false teachers. Titus is told to reject such people. This means they are not to be ordained to the ministry, or allowed to teach in the Church in any capacity, including informal gatherings in homes. If they persist in their heresy, they are to be put out of the Church (11).
Verses 12-15 close the book of Titus. Zenas is requested to come with Titus to Nicopolis (13). He is called a lawyer, which could mean a converted Pharisee, or a practicing attorney. Apollos is well known to us through Acts 18:24 and following. Zenas and Apollos seem to be assisting Titus on Crete, and Paul wants the Church on that island to provide for their needs in their intended journey to Nicopolis (13). In this way, the Church of Crete learns to “maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (14).
“All that are with me salute thee” write Paul in verse 15. Artemas and Tychicus are with Paul in Asia Minor, and several ministers and lay workers are mentioned in Second Timothy 4:19-21. Paul continues, saying, “Greet them that love us in the faith,” meaning the Christians in Crete along with Zenas and Apollos. The Apostle closes the letter with that wonderful blessing, which expresses his prayer and the hope of his life work, “Grace be with you all. Amen.”
Since the travels of the Pastoral Epistles are not recorded in Acts, many are curious about them, especially as they relate to our understanding of the chronology in Titus and First and Second Timothy. In the hope of aiding that understanding, we may tentatively reconstruct Paul’s last travels as follows. Visiting Crete, he leaves Titus there to organise the Church on that island. From Crete, he visits the Churches in Asia Minor, where Trophimus is left in Miletus due to illness (2 Tim. 4:20), and Timothy is left in Ephesus to teach and strengthen the Church there. The Apostle John has ministered in Asia Minor for at least twenty years, but has been arrested and sent to the infamous penal colony on Patmos by this time. Antipas has been executed in Pergamos, which is also in Asia Minor (Rev. 2:13), and Peter has been executed in Rome. Undaunted, Paul moves on to Macedonia to strengthen the Churches in cities like Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. He probably also goes to Achaia to visit the Corinthians, for he mentions leaving Erastus there (2 Tim. 4:20). He is probably arrested in Corinth, as the persecution initiated by Nero grows in scope and intensity. From there, the faithful Apostle is taken to the Mammertine prison in Rome, where he writes his final letter, Second Timothy.