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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Titus 1

 

 

Verses 1-16

Chapter 1

THE MAINSPRINGS OF APOSTLESHIP (Titus 1:1-4)

1:1-4 This is a letter from Paul, the slave of God and the envoy of Jesus Christ, whose task it is to awaken faith in God's chosen ones, and to equip them with a fuller knowledge of that truth, which enables a man to live a really religious life, and whose whole work is founded on the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. In his own good time God set forth his message plain for all to see in the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the royal command of God our Saviour. This letter is to Titus, his true son in the faith they both share. Grace be to you and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Saviour.

When Paul summoned one of his henchmen to a task, he always began by setting forth his own right to speak and, as it were, laying again the foundations of the gospel. So he begins here by saying certain things about his apostleship.

(i) It set him in a great succession. Right at the beginning Paul calls himself "the slave (doulos, Greek #1401) of God." That was a title of mingled humility and legitimate pride. It meant that his life was totally submitted to God; at the same time--and here was where the pride came in--it was the title that was given to the prophets and the great ones of the past. Moses was the slave of God (Joshua 1:2); and Joshua, his successor, would have claimed no higher title (Joshua 24:29). It was to the prophets, his slaves, that God revealed all his intentions (Amos 3:7); it was his slaves the prophets whom God had repeatedly sent to Israel throughout the history of the nation (Jeremiah 7:25). The title slave of God was one which gave Paul the right to walk in a great succession.

When anyone enters the Church, he does not enter an institution which began yesterday. The Church has centuries of human history behind it and goes back before the eternities in the mind and intention of God. When anyone takes upon himself anything of the preaching, or the teaching, or the serving work of the Church, he does not enter on a service which is without traditions; he walks where the saints have trod.

(ii) It gave him a great authority. He was the envoy of Jesus Christ. Paul never thought of his authority as coming from his own mental excellence, still less from his own moral goodness. It was in the authority of Christ that he spoke. The man who preaches the gospel of Christ or teaches his truth, if he is truly dedicated, does not talk about his own opinions or offer his own conclusions; he comes with Christ's message and with God's word. The true envoy of Christ has reached past the stage of perhapses and maybes and possiblys, and speaks with the certainty of one who knows.

AN APOSTLE'S GOSPEL (Titus 1:1-4 continued)

Further, in this passage we can see the essence of an apostle's gospel and the central things in his task.

(i) The whole message of the apostle is founded on the hope of eternal life. Again and again the phrase eternal life recurs in the pages of the New Testament. The word for eternal is aionios (Greek #166); and properly the only one person in the whole universe to whom that word may correctly be applied is God. The Christian offer is nothing less than the offer of a share in the life of God. It is the offer of God's power for our frustration, of God's serenity for our dispeace, of God's truth for our guessing, of God's goodness for our moral failure, of God's joy for our sorrow. The Christian gospel does not in the first place offer men an intellectual creed or a moral code; it offers them life, the very life of God.

(ii) To enable a man to enter into that life, two things are necessary. It is the apostle's duty to awaken faith in men. With Paul, faith always means one thing--absolute trust in God. The first step in the Christian life is to realize that we can do nothing except receive. In every sphere of life, no matter how precious an offer may be, it remains inoperative until it is received. The first duty of the Christian is to persuade others to accept the offer of God. In the last analysis, we can never argue a man into Christianity. All we can say is, "Try it, and see!"

(iii) It is the apostle's duty also to equip others with knowledge. Christian evangelism and Christian education must go hand in hand. Faith may begin by being a response of the heart, but it must go on to be the possession of the mind. The Christian gospel must be thought out in order to be tried out. No man can live for ever on the crest of a wave of emotion. The Christian life must be a daily loving Christ more and understanding him better.

(iv) The result of faith and knowledge must be a truly religious life. Faith must always issue in life and Christian knowledge is not merely intellectual knowledge but knowledge how to live. Many people have been great scholars and yet completely inefficient in the ordinary things of life and total failures in their personal relationships. A truly religious life is one in which a man is on the right terms with God, with himself and with his fellow-men. It is a life in which a man can cope alike with the great moments and the everyday duties. It is a life in which Jesus Christ lives again.

It is the duty of the Christian to offer to men the very life of God; to awaken faith in their hearts and to deepen knowledge in their minds; to enable them to live in such a way that others will see the reflection of the Master in them.

GOD'S PURPOSE AND GOD'S GOOD TIME (Titus 1:1-4 continued)

This passage tells us of God's purpose and of his way of working that purpose out.

(i) God's purpose for man was always one of salvation. His promise of eternal life was there before the world began. It is important to note that here Paul applies the word Saviour both to God and to Jesus. We sometimes hear the gospel presented in a way that seems to draw a distinction between a gentle, loving, and gracious Jesus, and a hard, stern, and severe God. Sometimes it sounds as if Jesus had done something to change God's attitude to men and had persuaded him to lay aside his wrath and not to punish them. There is no justification for that in the New Testament. But at the back of the whole process of salvation is the eternal and unchanging love of God, and it was of that love Jesus came to tell men. God is characteristically the Saviour God, whose last desire is to condemn men and whose first desire is to save them. He is the Father who desires only that his children should come home so that he may gather them to his breast.

(ii) But this passage does more than speak of God's eternal purpose; it also speaks of his method. It tells us that he sent his message in his own good time. That means to say that all history was a preparation for the coming of Jesus. We cannot teach any kind of knowledge to a man until he is fit to receive it. In all human knowledge we have to start at the beginning; so men had to be prepared for the coming of Jesus. All the history of the Old Testament and all the searchings of the Greek philosophers were preparations for that event. God's Spirit was moving both amongst the Jews and amongst all other peoples so that they should be ready to receive his Son when he came. We must look on all history as God's education of men.

(iii) Further, Christianity came into this world at a time when it was uniquely possible for its message to spread. There were five elements in the world situation which facilitated its spread.

(a) Practically all the world spoke Greek. That is not to say that the nations had forgotten their own language; but nearly all men spoke Greek in addition. It was the language of trade, of commerce, of literature. If a man was going to take any part in public life and activity he had to know Greek. People were bilingual and the first age of Christianity was one of the very few when the missionary had no language problem to solve.

(b) There were to all intents and purposes no frontiers. The Roman Empire was coextensive with the known world. Wherever the traveller might go, he was within that Empire. Nowadays, if a man intended to cross Europe, he would need a passport; he would be held up at frontiers; he would find iron curtains. In the first age of Christianity a missionary could move without hindrance from one end of the known world to the other.

(c) Travel was comparatively easy. True, it was slow, because there was no mechanized travel, and most journeys had to be done on foot, with the baggage carried by slow-moving animals. But the Romans had built their great roads from country to country and had, for the most part, cleared the land of brigands and the sea of pirates. Travel was easier than it had ever been before.

(d) The first age of Christianity was one of the few when the world was very largely at peace. If wars had been raging all over Europe, the progress of the missionary would have been rendered impossible. But the pax Romana, the Roman peace, held sway; and the traveller could move within the Roman Empire in safety.

(e) It was a world which was conscious of its needs. The old faiths had broken down and the new philosophies were beyond the mind of simple people. Men were looking, as Seneca said, ad salutem, towards salvation. They were increasingly conscious of "their weakness in necessary things." They were searching for "a hand let down to lift them up." They were looking for "a peace, not of Caesar's proclamation, but of God's." There never was a time when the hearts of men were more open to receive the message of salvation which the Christian missionaries brought.

It was no accident that Christianity came when it did. It came in God's own time; all history had been a preparation for it; and the circumstances were such that the way was open for the tide to spread.

A FAITHFUL HENCHMAN (Titus 1:1-4 continued)

We do not know a great deal about Titus, to whom this letter was written, but from the scattered references to him, there emerges a picture of a man who was one of Paul's most trusted and most valuable helpers. Paul calls him "my true son," so it is most likely that he himself converted him, perhaps at Iconium.

Titus was the companion for an awkward and a difficult time. When Paul paid his visit to Jerusalem, to a Church which suspected him and was prepared to mistrust and dislike him, it was Titus whom he took with him along with Barnabas (Galatians 2:1). It was said of Dundas, the famous Scotsman, by one of his friends, "Dundas is no orator; but he will go out with you in any kind of weather." Titus was like that. When Paul was up against it, Titus was by his side.

Titus was the man for a tough assignment. When the trouble at Corinth was at its peak, it was he who was sent with one of the severest letters Paul ever wrote (2 Corinthians 8:16). Titus clearly had the strength of mind and the toughness of fibre which enabled him to face and to handle a difficult situation. There are two kinds of people. There are the people who can make a bad situation worse, and there are the people who can bring order out of chaos and peace out of strife. Titus was the man to send to the place where there was trouble. He had a gift for practical administration. It was Titus whom Paul chose to organize the collection for the poor members of the Church at Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:10). It is clear that he had no great gifts of speech, but he was the man for practical administration. The Church ought to thank God for the people to whom we turn whenever we want a practical job well done.

Paul has certain great titles for Titus.

He calls him his true child. That must mean that he was Paul's convert and child in the faith (Titus 1:4). Nothing in this world gives a preacher and teacher more joy than to see someone whom he has taught rise to usefulness within the Church. Titus was the son who brought joy to the heart of Paul, his father in the faith.

He calls him his brother (2 Corinthians 2:13) and his sharer in work and toil (2 Corinthians 8:23). The great day for a preacher or a teacher is the day when his child in the faith becomes his brother in the faith, when the one whom he has taught is able to take his place in the work of the Church, no longer as a junior, but as an equal.

He says that Titus walked in the same spirit (2 Corinthians 12:18). He knew that Titus would deal with things as he would have dealt with them himself. Happy is the man who has a lieutenant to whom he can commit his work, certain that it will be done in the way in which he himself would have wished to do it.

He gives to Titus a great task. He sends him to Crete to be a pattern to the Christians who are there (Titus 2:7). The greatest compliment Paul paid Titus was that he sent him to Crete, not to talk to them about what a Christian should be, but to show them what he should be. There could be no greater responsibility and no higher compliment than that.

One very interesting suggestion has been made. 2 Corinthians 8:18 and 2 Corinthians 12:18 both say that when Titus was sent to Corinth another brother was sent with him, described in the former passage as "the brother who is famous among all the churches," and commonly identified with Luke. It has been suggested that Titus was Luke's brother. It is rather an odd fact that Titus is never mentioned in Acts; but we know that Luke wrote Acts and often tells the story in the first person plural, saying: "We did this," or, "We did that," and it has been suggested that in such passages he includes Titus with himself. Whether or not that suggestion is true we cannot tell, but certainly Titus and Luke have a family resemblance in that they were both men of practical service.

In the Western Church Titus is commemorated on 4th January, and in the Eastern Church on 25th August.

THE ELDER OF THE CHURCH (Titus 1:5-7 a)

1:5-7a The reason why I left you in Crete was that any deficiencies in the organization of the Church should be rectified, and that you might appoint elders in each city as I instructed you. An elder is a man whose conduct must be beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, with children who are also believers, who cannot be accused of profligacy, and who are not undisciplined. For he who oversees the Church of God must be beyond reproach, as befits a steward of God.

We have already studied in detail the qualifications of the elder as set out by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It is therefore not necessary to examine them in detail again.

It was always Paul's custom to ordain elders as soon as a Church had been founded (Acts 14:23). Crete was an island of many cities. "Crete of the hundred cities." Homer called it. It was Paul's principle that his little Churches should be encouraged to stand on their own feet as soon as possible.

In this repeated list of the qualifications of the elder, one thing is specially stressed. He must be a man who has taught his own family in the faith. The Council of Carthage later laid it down: "Bishops, elders and deacons shall not be ordained to office before they have made all in their own households members of the Catholic Church." Christianity begins at home. It is no virtue for any man to be so engaged in public work that he neglects his own home. All the Church service in the world will not atone for neglect of a man's own family.

Paul uses one very vivid word. The family of the elder must be such that they cannot be accused of profligacy. The Greek word is asotia (Greek #810). It is the word used in Luke 15:13 for the riotous living of the prodigal son. The man who is asotos (Greek #811) is incapable of saving; he is wasteful and extravagant and pours out his substance on personal pleasure; he destroys his substance and in the end ruins himself. One who is asotos (Greek #811) is the old English scatterling, the Scots ne'er-do-well, the modern waster. Aristotle who always described a virtue as the mean between two extremes, declares that on the one hand there is stinginess, on the other there is asotia (Greek #810), reckless and selfish extravagance, and the relevant virtue is liberality. The household of the elder must never be guilty of the bad example of reckless spending on personal pleasure.

Further, the family of the elder must not be undisciplined. Nothing can make up for the lack of parental control. Falconer quotes a saying about the household of Sir Thomas More: "He controls his family with the same easy hand: no tragedies, no quarrels. If a dispute begins, it is promptly settled. His whole house breathes happiness, and no one enters it who is not the better for the visit." The true training ground for the eldership is at least as much in the home as it is in the Church.

WHAT THE ELDER MUST NOT BE (Titus 1:7 b)

1:7b He must not be obstinately self-willed; he must not be an angry man; he must not be given to drunken and outrageous conduct; he must not be a man ready to come to blows; he must not be a seeker of gain in disgraceful ways.

Here is a summary of the qualities from which the elder of the Church must be free; and every one is described in a vivid word.

(i) He must not be obstinately self-willed. The Greek is authades (Greek #829), which literally means pleasing himself. The man who is authades (Greek #829) has been described as the man who is so pleased with himself that nothing else pleases him and he cares to please nobody. R. C. Trench said of such a man that, "he obstinately maintains his own opinion, or asserts his own rights, while he is reckless of the rights, opinions and interests of others."

The Greek ethical writers had much to say about this fault of authadeia. Aristotle set on the one extreme the man who pleases everybody (areskos, compare Greek #700), and on the other extreme the man who pleases nobody (authades, Greek #829), and between them the man who had in his life a proper dignity (semnos, Greek #4586). He said of the authades (Greek #829) that he was the man who would not converse or associate with any man. Eudemus said that the authades (Greek #829) was the man who "regulates his life with no respect to others, but who is contemptuous." Euripides said of him that he was "harsh to his fellow citizens through want of culture." Philodemus said that his character was compounded in equal parts of conceit, arrogance and contemptuousness. His conceit made him think too highly of himself; his contemptuousness made him think too meanly of others; and his arrogance made him act on his estimate of himself and others.

Clearly the man who is authades (Greek #829) is an unpleasant character. He is intolerant, condemning everything that he cannot understand and thinking that there is no way of doing anything except his. Such a quality, as Lock said, "is fatal to the rule of free men." No man of contemptuous and arrogant intolerance is fit to be an office-bearer of the Church.

(ii) He must not be an angry man. The Greek is orgilos (Greek #3711). There are two Greek words for anger. There is thumos (Greek #2372), which is the anger that quickly blazes up and just as quickly subsides, like a fire in straw. There is orge (Greek #3709), the noun connected with orgilos (Greek #3711), and it means inveterate anger. It is not the anger of the sudden blaze, but the wrath which a man nurses to keep it warm. A blaze of anger is an unhappy thing; but this long-lived, purposely maintained anger is still worse. The man who nourishes his anger against any man is not fit to be an office-bearer of the Church.

(iii) He must not be given to drunken and outrageous conduct. The word is paroinos (Greek #3943), which literally means given to over-indulgence in wine. But the word widened its meaning until it came to describe all conduct which is outrageous. The Jews, for instance, used it of the conduct of Jews who married Midianite women; the Christians used it of the conduct of those who crucified Christ. It describes the character of the man who, even in his sober moments, acts with the outrageousness of a drunken man.

(iv) He must not be a man ready to come to blows. The word is plektes (Greek #4131), which literally means a striker. It would seem that in the early Church there were over-zealous bishops who chastised erring members of their flock with physical violence, for the Apostolic Canons lay it down: "We order that the bishop who strikes an erring believer should be deposed." Pelagius says: "He cannot strike anyone who is the disciple of that Christ who, being struck, returned no answering blow." The Greeks themselves widened the meaning of this word to include, not only violence in action, but also violence in speech. The word came to mean one who browbeats his fellow-men, and it may well be that it should be so translated here. The man who abandons love and resorts to violence of action or of speech is not fit to be an office-bearer of the Christian Church.

(v) He must not be a seeker of gain in disgraceful ways. The word is aischrokerdes (Greek #146), and it describes a man who does not care how he makes money so long as he makes it. It so happens that this was a fault for which the Cretans were notorious. Polybius said: "They are so given to making gain in disgraceful and acquisitive ways that among the Cretans alone of all men no gain is counted disgraceful." Plutarch said that they stuck to money like bees to honey. The Cretans counted material gain far above honesty and honour. They did not care how much their money cost them; but the Christian knows that there are some things which cost too much. The man whose only aim in life is to amass material things, irrespective of how he does so, is not fit to be an office-bearer of the Christian Church.

WHAT THE ELDER MUST BE (Titus 1:8-9)

1:8-9 Rather he must be hospitable, a lover of all good things and all good people, prudent, just, pious, self-controlled, with a strong grip on the truly reliable message which Christian teaching gave to him, that he may be well able to encourage the members of the Church with health-giving teaching, and to convict the opponents of the faith.

The previous passage set out the things which the elder of the Church must not be; this one sets out what he must be. These necessary qualities group themselves into three sections.

(i) First, there are the qualities which the elder of the Church must display to other people.

He must be hospitable. The Greek is philoxenos (Greek #5383), which literally means a lover of strangers. In the ancient world there were always many who were on the move. Inns were notoriously expensive, dirty and immoral; and it was essential that the wayfaring Christian should find an open door within the Christian community. To this day no one needs Christian fellowship more than the stranger in a strange place.

He must also be philagathos (Greek #5358), a word which means either a lover of good things, or a lover of good people, and which Aristotle uses in the sense of unselfish, that is, a lover of good actions. We do not have to choose between these three meanings; they are all included. The Christian office-bearer must be a man whose heart answers to the good in whatever person, in whatever place and in whatever action he finds it.

(ii) Second, there comes a group of terms which tell us the qualities which the Christian office-bearer must have within himself.

He must be prudent (sophron, Greek #4998). Euripides called this prudence "the fairest gift the gods have given to men." Socrates called it "the foundation stone of virtue." Xenophon said that it was that spirit which shunned evil, not only when evil could be seen but even when no one would ever see it. Trench defined it as "entire command over the passions and desires, so that they receive no further allowance than that which the law and right reason admit and approve." Sophron (Greek #4998) is the adjective to be applied to the man, as the Greeks said themselves, "whose thoughts are saving thoughts." The Christian office-bearer must be a man who wisely controls every instinct.

He must be "just" (dikaios, Greek #1342). The Greeks defined the just man as he who gives both to men and to the gods what is due to them. The Christian office-bearer must be such that he gives to man the respect and to God the reverence, which are their due.

He must be pious (hosios, Greek #3741). The Greek word is hard to translate, for it describes the man who reverences the fundamental decencies of life, the things which go back beyond any man-made law.

He must be self-controlled (egkrates, Greek #1468). The Greek word describes the man who has achieved complete self-mastery. Any man who would serve others must first be master of himself.

(iii) Finally, there comes a description of the qualities of the Christian office-bearer within the Church.

He must be able to encourage the members of the Church. The navy has a rule which says that no officer shall speak discouragingly to any other officer in the performance of his duties. There is always something wrong with preaching or teaching whose effect is to discourage others. The function of the true Christian preacher and teacher is not to drive a man to despair, but to lift him up to hope.

He must be able to convict the opponents of the faith. The Greek is elegchein (Greek #1651) and is a most meaningful word. It means to rebuke a man in such a way that he is compelled to admit the error of his ways. Trench says that it means "to rebuke another, with such an effectual wielding of the victorious arms of the truth, as to bring him, if not always to a confession, yet at least to a conviction, of his sin." Demosthenes said that it describes the situation in which a man unanswerably demonstrates the truth of the things that he has said. Aristotle said that it means to prove that things cannot be otherwise than as we have stated them. Christian rebuke means far more than flinging angry and condemning words at a man. It means speaking in such a way that he sees the error of his ways and accepts the truth.

THE FALSE TEACHERS OF CRETE (Titus 1:10-11)

1:10-11 For there are many who are undisciplined, empty talkers, deceivers. Those of the circumcision are especially so. They must be muzzled. They are the kind of people who upset whole households, by teaching things which should not be taught in order to acquire a shameful gain.

Here we have a picture of the false teachers who were troubling Crete. The worst were apparently Jews. They tried to persuade the Cretan converts of two things. They tried to persuade them that the simple story of Jesus and the Cross was not sufficient, but that, to be really wise, they needed all the subtle stories and the long genealogies and the elaborate allegories of the Rabbis. Further, they tried to teach them that grace was not enough, but that, to be really good, they needed to take upon themselves all the rules and regulations about foods and washings which were so characteristic of Judaism. The false teachers were seeking to persuade men that they needed more than Christ and more than grace in order to be saved. They were intellectualists for whom the truth of God was too simple and too good to be true.

One by one the characteristics of these false teachers pass before us.

They were undisciplined; they were like disloyal soldiers who refused to obey the word of command. They refused to accept the creed or the control of the Church. It is perfectly true that the Church does not seek to impose upon men a flat uniformity of belief; but there are certain things which a man must believe to be a Christian, the greatest of which is the all-sufficiency of Christ. Even in the Protestant Church discipline is not eliminated.

They were empty talkers; the word is mataiologoi (Greek #3151), and the adjective mataios (Greek #3152), vain, empty, profitless, was the adjective applied to heathen worship. The main idea was of a worship which produced no goodness of life. These people in Crete could talk glibly but all their talk was ineffective in bringing anyone one step nearer goodness. The Cynics used to say that all knowledge which is not profitable for virtue is vain. The teacher who simply provides his pupils with a forum for pleasant intellectual and speculative discussion teaches in vain.

They were deceivers. Instead of leading men to the truth they led them away from it.

Their teaching upset whole households. There are two things to notice there. First, their teaching was fundamentally upsetting. It is true that truth must often make a man rethink his ideas and that Christianity does not run away from doubts and questions, but faces them fairly and squarely. But it is also true that teaching which ends in nothing but doubts and questionings is bad teaching. In true teaching, out of the mental disturbance should come in the end a new and greater certainty. Second, they upset households. That is to say, they had an ill effect on family life. Any teaching which tends to disrupt the family is false for the Christian Church is built on the basis of the Christian family.

Their teaching was designed for gain. They were more concerned with what they could get out of the people they were teaching than with what they could put into them. Parry has said that this is indeed the besetting temptation of the professional teacher. When he looks on his teaching simply as a career designed for personal advancement and profit, he is in a perilous condition.

These men are to be muzzled. That does not imply that they are to be silenced by violence or by persecution. The Greek (epistomizein, Greek #1993) does mean to muzzle, but it became the normal word for to silence a person by reason. The way to combat false teaching is to offer true teaching, and the only truly unanswerable teaching is the teaching of a Christian life.

A BAD REPUTATION (Titus 1:12)

1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, has said: "The Cretans are always liars, wild and evil beasts, lazy gluttons." His testimony is true!

No people ever had a worse reputation than the Cretans. The ancient world spoke of the three most evil C's--the Cretans, the Cilicians, and the Cappadocians. The Cretans were famed as a drunken, insolent, untrustworthy, lying, gluttonous people.

Their avarice was proverbial. "The Cretans," said Polybius, "on account of their innate avarice, live in a perpetual state of private quarrel and public feud and civil strife...and you will hardly find anywhere characters more tricky and deceitful than those of Crete." He writes of them: "Money is so highly valued among them, that its possession is not only thought to be necessary, but highly creditable; and in fact greed and avarice are so native to the soil in Crete, that they are the only people in the world among whom no stigma attaches to any sort of gain whatever."

Polybius tells of a certain compact that a traitor called Bolis made with a leader called Cambylus, also a Cretan. Bolis approached Cambylus "with all the subtlety of a Cretan." "This was now made the subject of discussion between them in a truly Cretan spirit. They never took into consideration the saving of the person in danger, or their obligations of honour to those who had entrusted them with the undertaking, but confined the discussion entirely to questions of their own safety and their own advantage. As they were both Cretans they were not long in coming to a unanimous agreement."

So notorious were the Cretans that the Greeks actually formed a verb kretizein, to cretize, which meant to lie and to cheat; and they had a proverbial phrase, kretizein pros Kreta, to cretize against a Cretan, which meant to match lies with lies, as diamond cuts diamond.

The quotation which Paul makes is actually from a Greek poet called Epimenides. He lived about 600 B.C. and was ranked as one of the seven wise men of Greece. The first phrase, "The Cretans are chronic liars," had been made famous by a later and equally well-known poet called Callimachus. In Crete there was a monument called The Tomb of Zeus. Obviously the greatest of the gods cannot die and be buried in a tomb, and Callimachus quoted this as a perfect example of Cretan lying. In his Hymn to Zeus he writes:

"Cretans are chronic liars,

For they built a tomb, O King,

And called it thine; but you die not;

Your life is everlasting."

The Cretans were notorious liars and cheats and gluttons and traitors but here is the wonderful thing. Knowing that, and actually experiencing it, Paul does not say to Timothy: "Leave them alone. They are hopeless and all men know it." He says: "They are bad and all men know it. Go and convert them." Few passages so demonstrate the divine optimism of the Christian evangelist, who refuses to regard any man as hopeless. The greater the evil, the greater the challenge. It is the Christian conviction that there is no sin too great for the grace of Jesus Christ to conquer.

THE PURE IN HEART (Titus 1:13-16)

1:13-16 For that very reason correct them with severity, that they may grow healthy in the faith and not pay attention to Jewish fables and to rules and regulations made by men who persist in turning their backs on the truth.

"To the pure all things are pure."

But to those who are defiled and who do not believe, nothing is pure, because their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny their profession by their deeds, because they are repulsive and disobedient and useless for any good work.

The great characteristic of the Jewish faith was its thousands of rules and regulations. This, that and the next thing were branded as unclean; this, that and the next food were held to be tabu. When Judaism and Gnosticism joined hands even the body became unclean and the natural instincts of the body were held to be evil. The inevitable result was that long lists of sins were constantly being created. It became a sin to touch this or that; it became a sin to eat this or that food; it even became a sin to marry and to beget children. Things which were either good in themselves or quite natural became defiled.

So Paul strikes out the great principle--To the pure all things are pure. He had already said that even more definitely in Romans 14:20 when, to those who were constantly involved in questions about clean and unclean foods, he said: "All things are pure." It may well be that this phrase is not only a proverb but an actual saying of Jesus. When Jesus was speaking about these countless Jewish rules and regulations, he said: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him" (Mark 7:15).

It is a man's heart which makes all the difference. If he is pure in heart, all things are pure to him. If he is unclean in heart, then he makes unclean everything he thinks about or speaks about or touches. This was a principle which the great classical writers had often stated. "Unless the vessel is pure," said Horace, "everything you pour into it grows bitter." Seneca said: "Just as a diseased stomach alters the food which it receives, so the darkened mind turns everything you commit to it to its own burden and ruin. Nothing can come to evil men which is of any good to them, nay nothing can come to them which does not actually harm them. They change whatever touches them into their own nature. And even things which would be of profit to others become pernicious to them." The man with a dirty mind makes all things dirty. He can take the loveliest things and cover them with smut. But the man whose mind is pure finds all things pure.

It is said of these men that both their mind and conscience are defiled. A man comes to his decisions and forms his conclusions by using two faculties. He uses intellect to think things out; he uses conscience to listen to the voice of God. But if his intellect is warped in such a way that it can see the unclean thing anywhere, and if his conscience is darkened and numbed by his continual consent to evil, he can take no good decision at all.

A man must keep the white shield of his innocence unstained. If he lets impurity infect his mind, he sees all things through a mist of uncleanness. His mind soils every thought that enters into it; his imagination turns to lust every picture which it forms; he misinterprets every motive; he gives a double meaning to every statement. To escape that uncleanness we must walk in the cleansing presence of Jesus Christ.

THE UGLY AND THE USELESS LIFE (Titus 1:13-16 continued)

When a man gets into this state of impurity, he may know God intellectually but his life is a denial of that knowledge. Three things are singled out here about such a man.

(i) He is repulsive. The word (bdeluktos, Greek #947) is the word particularly used of heathen idols and images. It is the word from which the noun bdelugma (Greek #946), an abomination, comes. There is something repulsive about a man with an obscene mind, who makes sniggering jests and is a master of the unclean innuendo.

(ii) He is disobedient. Such a man cannot obey the will of God. His conscience is darkened. He has made himself such that he can hardly hear the voice of God, let alone obey it. A man like that cannot be anything else but an evil influence and is therefore unfit to be an instrument in the hand of God.

(iii) That is just another way of saying that he has become useless to God and to his fellow-men. The word used for useless (adokimos, Greek #96) is interesting. It is used to describe a counterfeit coin which is below standard weight. It is used to describe a cowardly soldier who fails in the testing hour of battle. It is used of a rejected candidate for office, a man whom the citizens regarded as useless. It is used of a stone which the builders rejected. (If a stone had a flaw in it, it was marked with a capital A, for adokimos (Greek #96), and left aside, as being unfit to have any place in the building.) The ultimate test of life is usefulness, and the man whose influence is ever towards that which is unclean is of no use to God or to his fellow-men. Instead of helping God's work in the world, he hinders it; and uselessness always invites disaster.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Titus 1:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/titus-1.html. 1956-1959.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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