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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Titus 3

 

 

Verse 1

III.

(1) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers.—Very careful and searching have been the Apostle’s charges to Titus respecting the teachers of the Church, their doctrine and their life; very particular have been his directions, his warnings, and exhortations to men and women of different ages on the subject of their home life. But, with the exception of a slight digression in the case of a slave to a Pagan master, his words had been written with a reference generally to Christian life among Christians. But there was then a great life outside the little Christian world; how were the people of Christ to regulate their behaviour in their dealings with the vast Pagan world outside? St. Paul goes to the root of the matter at once when he says, “Put them in mind,” &c. Very needful in Crete was such a reminder respecting obedience. The island had, when St. Paul wrote to Titus, been some century and a quarter under Roman rule. Their previous government had been democratic; and historians, like Polybius, who have written of Crete, have dwelt particularly on the turbulent and factious spirit which animated their people; added to which, the many Jews who we know formed a very large part of the Christian Church there, always impatient of a foreign yoke, would in such an atmosphere of excitement be especially eager to assert their right to be free from the hated rule of Rome.

The Greek words translated “principalities and powers” are better rendered here by “rulers and authorities,” as the word “principalities” is used occasionally in the English version for an “order of angels.” The terms include all constituted governors and officials, Roman and otherwise, in the island.

To obey magistrates.—Taken absolutely, to obey the temporal power. Our Lord’s words were the model for all teaching in this division of Christian ethics One great teacher after the other, in the same spirit, in varied language, urges upon the people of Christ a reverence and submission to all legally constituted authority in the state. This devoted Christian loyalty, no bitter opposition in after years to their tenets could chill, no cruel persecution of individuals lessen. Augustine, writes Professor Reynolds, could boast that when Julian asked Christians to sacrifice and offer incense to the gods they, at all hazards, sternly refused; but when he summoned them to fight for the empire they rushed to the front. “They distinguished between their Eternal Lord and their earthly ruler, and yet they yielded obedience to their earthly ruler for the sake of their Eternal Lord.” Least of any should we expect St. Paul to write such words, so loyal and faithful to Rome. He had found, indeed, little cause in his chequered, troubled life to be grateful personally to the Empire; with ears too ready had Rome ever listened to the cruel “informations” laid against him by his implacable Jewish enemies; she had imprisoned him, fettered him, hindered his work, and threatened his life; and when he was writing these deathless words of his, urging upon his devoted flock a loyalty changeless and true, for him the supreme vengeance of Rome was close at hand.

To be ready to every good work.—Ready cheerfully to aid all lawful authority, municipal and otherwise, in their public works undertaken for city or state. The flock of Titus must remember that the true Christian ought to be known as a good citizen and a devoted patriot.


Verse 2

(2) To speak evil of no man.—These commands of St. Paul to the Church of Crete breathe throughout the spirit of Christ, who “when He was reviled, reviled not again;” who said “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” The Christian in the days of St. Paul, and for “many days” after St. Paul had borne that gallant witness of his outside the gates of Rome, would indeed often be called in sad earnestness to put in practice these charges of the Apostle. In days of persecution, in times of suspicion, when the Christian profession exposed men to hatred and to sore danger, when all men spoke evil of them, these words of St. Paul were remembered and acted upon, and not only in Crete.

To be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.—Or better, not contentious, but, &c. These characteristics were not common virtues in Crete, then the resort and mart of so many different nationalities. Its singular situation in the Mediterranean, midway between Europe, Africa, and Asia, has been noticed, as have been the dispositions and vices of the inhabitants. Surely, St. Paul urges, the professed followers of the Crucified among the Cretans should aim at a nobler standard of life than was common among these rough and often selfish traders. These things charged here by St. Paul were new virtues to men. They are held up to admiration by no heathen moralists. The meekness signifies kindly forbearance. This Christian feeling, which looks lovingly on all sorts and conditions of men, on the stranger and the outcast, even on the vilest sinner, is especially enjoined here. It is the same sweet spirit of love which desires, in 1 Timothy 2:1, that prayer and supplication be made in the public Christian assembly for all men.


Verse 3

(3) For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived.—Better rendered, For we were once ourselves foolish, disobedient, going astray. Surely, the Apostle argues, Christians can never refuse obedience to one in authority, or decline to be meek, courteous, kind, and forbearing to their neighbours, because, forsooth, they deem the magistrate in authority or their neighbours idolators, and therefore outside the pale of God’s mercy and their courtesy; for remember, writes St. Paul, we were once (not so long ago) ourselves in their condition. We once needed mercy our selves. This strong appeal to Christians, by the memory of their past, by the memory of what they once were, must have gone home to one like Titus, himself of a Gentile family, and most probably nurtured in idolatry. It would, no doubt, be repeated with strange, touching earnestness, would this argument of St. Paul by Titus when he spoke to the assembly of the Cretan Christians. We were once ourselves “foolish,” that is, without understanding what was true; and “disobedient,” that is, unwilling, indisposed, to do what was right; “deceived,” or rather going astray (errantes), wandering away from the narrow road which leads to life.

Serving divers lusts and pleasures.—This is the service we served in the old past days of our sin and shame, while we were “disobedient” to what was right and pure. We were obedient to, we were “serving” as slaves, many an impure lust, many a wrongful pleasure—for the lusts and pleasures to which St. Paul referred were those of the people with whom for the moment the Apostle was classing himself. The pleasures of these partly Greek, partly Asiatic peoples consisted, indeed, in the wanton satisfaction of the lusts of the flesh; their shameless revellings were scarcely covered with their thin and flimsy veil of beauty and false refinement.

Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.—These pleasure-loving, lust-indulging ones envied each one his neighbour the good things he possessed; and thus we—for we, remember, were once of this number-once spent our lives in this atmosphere of hate, hating others with a jealous dislike, hated ourselves for the same reasons. Shall we then—once like them—now refuse all sympathy to these poor souls still left in ignorance and sin?


Verse 4

(4) But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.—Another thought now wells up in the Apostle’s mind. We of ourselves should never have become changed men, had not the kindness of God and His divine love for men shown itself. We, indeed, have no ground for self-exaltation, no excuse for haughty treatment of others, either in thought or action; for if we now live other and purer lives than they live, our change to better and higher things was owing to no desert or merit of ours, but solely to the mercy and the love of God. The changed life is here solely attributed to the manifestation to man of the kindness and love of God our Saviour. Here God our Saviour, as in 1 Timothy 1:1, and in several other passages in the Pastoral Epistles, must be understood as “God the Father;” the “kindness” differs from the “love towards man.” The first signifies generally that divine, measureless, all comprehensive love which we know is the glorious attribute of God. The second expression tells of the special love which the Almighty has for man, and which has been so marvellously shown in the sacrifice and death of the Son of God for us. The two words—the measureless, divine love which embraces all creation, and the special love of God for man—taken together, make up the one idea expressed by the “grace that bringeth salvation,” of Titus 2:11 of this Epistle. In the rare word philanthropia, the “love of God toward man,” a quiet but very solemn reminder is given to those “Christians” who would have no dealings with their less pure heathen neighbours. The word applied here to God tells them to love men, even the enemies of their holy religion; they are to obey the heathen magistrate, and to think kindly of and to act courteously towards their heathen neighbour, because God has loved men—all men. Here are they to be imitators of the divine pity, copyists of the divine love.


Verse 5

(5) Not by works of righteousness.—This by no means asserts that such works ever had been done, and then produced, as it were, before the bar of God, and weighed and found insufficient; but it simply maintains that to win salvation such must be done. Sad experience, more forcibly than any theological assertion, has demonstrated to us all the utter impossibility of any of us, even the holiest, ever, even for one day, doing the works of a purely righteous man.

But according to his mercy.—As there was nothing in us which called for such a salvation, as there were no acts of ours which deserved reward, His gift of salvation, which includes (Titus 3:7) eternal life, was owing entirely to His divine love which saw and pitied our misery, our endless suffering. Out of this hopeless state the eternal pity lifted us, and put us into a state of salvation. The next clause specifies the outward and visible sign of the salvation our loving God was pleased to ordain in His Church, namely, “baptism;” but here great care must be taken properly to understand what St. Paul meant by this baptism, to which he attributed so great power. In St. Paul’s mind it was no mere observance, but was a sacrament, in which all that was inward properly and completely accompanied all that was outward. In another place the Apostle has grandly paraphrased his words here. In the Galatian Letter (Galatians 3:27) he writes how “that as many as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ,” that is, have entered into vital union with Him—a blessed state, which most surely leads to life eternal, if the baptised only remain faithful.

By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.—Seeing, then, that God has saved us by His own act, independently of any work of ours, we ask, How has He effected this? The words we are here considering give the answer to the question. The Greek should be rendered, “by the laver of regeneration,” &c. Then, by means of the laver of regeneration, &c, has God put us into a state of salvation. In other words, He has effected this by means of “baptism” (for the laver here can only signify the baptismal font, and is called the laver of regeneration because it is the vessel consecrated to the use of that sacrament), whereby, in its completeness as a sacrament, the new life in Christ is conveyed. Baptism, then, is the means through which we receive the saving grace of Christ; in its laver we are born again to a new life, in it we receive strength through the Holy Ghost constantly to renew and to develop this new life, for it is not only the laver of regeneration but also of renovation by the Holy Spirit. But baptism is here understood in all its completion—the outward visible sign accompanied with the inward spiritual grace. In the case of one who is come to years of understanding seeking baptism, repentance and faith in the promises of God are absolutely required. In the case of infants, who have also from the very earliest times been, through this same laver, enrolled in the communion of Christians, the same profession is required, only they make it by their sureties, and directly that they have come to years of discretion they solemnly and publicly assent to what had been already affirmed in their name. Thus, by means of the laver of regeneration, &c, or, in other words, by baptism in all its completion—the outward act being accompanied with the inward faith—He saved us, that is, put us into a state of salvation. Of the difference between “regeneration” and “renovation,” the first, “regeneration,” is well explained in the words of the collect for Christmas Day, which speaks of the “regenerated” as “made God’s children by adoption and grace.” The second, “renovation,” the same collect goes on to speak of, when it prays that “the regenerated” “may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit.” The first, “regeneration,” is spoken of by St. John in his words, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7); the second is alluded to by St. Paul when he wrote, “the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).


Verse 6

(6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.—In other words, which—namely, the Holy Ghost—the Father poured abundantly on us through Jesus Christ cur Saviour. The argument continues thus: He (God) saved us first by the laver of regeneration and of renewal of the Holy Ghost, which God—he proceeds to say—shed (or poured out) abundantly on us, and this constant renewal of the Holy Ghost poured out on the heart of each individual believer was owing to the mediation of Jesus Christ, without whose blessed atonement this effusion of the Holy Spirit never had taken place. In this verse the several operations of each of the Persons of the blessed Trinity are clearly set forth.

It is the Father who is ever pouring out upon us the Holy Ghost. It is owing to the Son’s atonement and intercession that this blessed outpouring takes place at all. It is the Holy Ghost poured out on us abundantly who builds us up in the new life, and trains us for the glories of eternity. Here the “Son” is given the same title of “Saviour,” which, in the preceding verse (Titus 3:5), was applied to the “Father.” The appellation belongs to both the First and Second Persons of the blessed Trinity, inasmuch as the Father may be said to have been the architect of our salvation, while the Son was its builder.


Verse 7

(7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.—Here appears the glorious design of God’s salvation. We were in a hopeless and lost state, from which God’s love for man saved us by the laver of regeneration and renovation; and this was the end for which He saved us—that we should be heirs of eternal life. “Being justified,” that is, freed from the future punishment and consequences of sin, and received into the favour and friendship of God, which favour and friendship had been, through sin, forfeited. “By His grace,” by the favour and kindness of God the Father are we restored to His love and friendship. “Heirs,” see Romans 8:17, where this thought of our heirship of heaven is enlarged. “According to the hope of eternal life;” this life eternal is still for us in the future, though ever present in respect of hope; children of God we indeed are, and sharers in many a good gift of our Father, but eternal life, that glorious inheritance, is still in the far future, and as yet can only be enjoyed by us in hope, but it is a sure hope—eternal life—the hope of which is the mainspring of all Christian work and activity—though it includes it, of course, is something far more than merely endless existence. A veil, impenetrable to mortal eye, hangs between us and the many mansions of the Father’s house. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be;” we only know that then, we, in company with an innumerable host of blessed beings, shall share in the beatific vision; we only know that then “we shall ever be with the Lord;” and that with this thought and with these words are we to comfort one another. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18.)


Verse 8

(8) This is a faithful saying.—Then St. Paul, having, in those few but sublime words we have been considering, painted our present happy state—happy even on earth, where the glorious promised inheritance was still only a hope—and having shown how that this blessedness was the result of no efforts of our own, but that we owe it solely to the tender love and to the divine pity of God for man—cries out, Yes, “faithful is this saying!”

And these things I will that thou affirm constantly.—I will that ever and again, in the congregation, these words of mine, woven into the tapestry of creed, or hymn of thanksgiving or supplication, be repeated by the faithful believers in the Lord, to remind them, not only of the glorious hope of eternal life, but also to bring Him to their remembrance to whom they owe this glorious heritage; and as they repeat or hear the words telling them of the wondrous mercy showed to them for no merit or desert of their own, they will the more willingly think kindly of, and act loyally with, other men still living in that deep and loathsome darkness where they once dwelt, until God, in His pity, delivered them. Hearing this “faithful saying,” thought? the old man St. Paul, my children in Christ will surely be disposed to be more loyal subjects, more faithful citizens, more loving neighbours, though their civil magistrates, their fellow-citizens, their neighbours, be still idolaters, living without God in the world. And there was yet another reason for the constant repetition of this “faithful saying:” men would see that they owed all their glorious Christian privileges, their present peace, their future hope, to God’s free grace—that they had done nothing to deserve all this. Surely such a thought would spur them on to noble deeds, if it were only to show they were not wholly ungrateful. So he writes, Yes, affirm constantly this faithful saying.

That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.—But not only would St. Paul have them show their gratitude for the great mercy they had received, but he is specially anxious that they who by God’s grace had been led into the Christian company should now not only quietly and unobtrusively take their part in good works, but should ever be careful to be forward in all such things; he would have Christians conspicuous in their generous zeal to forward all good and useful undertakings. “Good works” here by no means is confined to works of mercy and charity though, of course, they include such, still they possess in this passage a far more comprehensive signification. All useful and beneficent undertakings, public as well as private, are reckoned among these “good works.” As was observed before, St. Paul’s ideal Christian must be a generous, public-spirited man. In the eyes of this great teacher the cloistered ascetic would have found but little favour; his hero, while ever the devoted, self-sacrificing lover of the Lord, must be known among his fellow-citizens “as careful to maintain good works.”

These things are good and profitable unto men.—The accurate translation of the Greek here would be, These are the things which are good and profitable unto men; but the older authorities omit the article, ta, before kala. The rendering, then (omitting the article), as given in the English version, would be correct: “These things”—that is, this practical everyday teaching, which bids Christians distinguish themselves among their fellow-citizens and countrymen in all generous and useful enterprises—in all good things, whether public or private—these things, says the Apostle, are good and profitable unto men; in sharp contrast to the unpractical and useless points insisted upon in the false teaching, apparently too common in the Cretan Church, and against which Titus is earnestly warned in the next (9th) verse.


Verse 9

(9) But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies.—The “questions” and “genealogies” have been discussed above (1 Timothy 1:4). The Apostle characterises them as “foolish,” because they were of an utterly unpractical nature, and consumed time and powers which were needed for other and better things. The “contentions” were disputes and wranglings which arose out of arguments advanced by different teachers upon the “questions” and “genealogies.” The “strivings about the law” were, most probably, arguments suggested by disputed and intricate points connected with the law of Moses. In the Talmud we possess unnumbered instances of all these strange and curious inquiries about which men then gravely disputed and wrangled, but none of which could in any way teach men how to make life more beautiful and loving, more like that fair pattern which St. Paul’s Master loved. St. Paul, well versed—thanks to his early and elaborate training—in all this useless, curious lore, once and for all would expel from orthodox Christian teaching everything which seemed to bear upon this favourite Jewish theology—so called. It had, cancer-like, eaten the life out of Judaism; it should not, if he could prevent it, poison in like manner the young life of Christianity.


Verse 10

(10) A man that is an heretick.—The Greek word translated “heretick” in the New Testament occurs here only. The term “heresies” occurs twice (1 Corinthians 11:19; Galatians 5:20). In neither, however, of these passages does the word signify there a fundamental or doctrinal error. This sense belongs to a usage of later times. From the meaning of the word “heresy” in these passages of St. Paul, we are able to deduce the signification of the term “heretic” here. The “heretic” of the Church in Crete appears to have been a man who, dissatisfied with the organisation and discipline introduced by Titus into the Christian community—not improbably considering himself in some way slighted—withdrew himself from the common body, and gathering round him other discontented spirits, established what might be termed a rival Church in Crete. Although at first, perhaps, no marked erroneous teaching forms part of the practice of such schismatics, still the tendency in such small rival communities is ever more and more to distinguish between their teaching and that of the larger body from whom they, in the first instance, cut themselves adrift.

After the first and second admonition reject.—The Greek word rendered “reject” would be more accurately translated shun, or avoid. There was, no doubt, some self-willed factious party leader in Crete well known to St. Paul to whom he referred here; but partly out of a loving hope that Titus would win him to his side, partly from the knowledge that this Letter was a public instruction to many a Church besides that of Crete, the disturber remained nameless. He was to be exhorted once, twice, and then if he remained contumacious he was to be left simply alone to his own devices. The community over which Titus presided in the place of Paul no longer were to know the obstinate heretic as a brother.


Verse 11

(11) Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.—Better rendered, is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned. Inasmuch as thou knowest, seeing that thy reproofs and warnings have been of none effect, that he is “thoroughly perverted”—the expression is a very strong one, and signifies literally hath been turned inside out. The same verb is used in the LXX. translation of Deuteronomy 32:20, the “very froward generation” of the English version—having been warned once and again, he is without the excuse of ignorance, but sins on in the full consciousness of his wilful and seditious life. His perverse conduct in stirring up party-feeling in the Church publicly convicts him of doing the very wrong which in general he professes to condemn. With these words the public or official portion of the Letter to the presiding presbyter in Crete closes. Paul had begun with directions how the church life of the island—up to this period apparently devoid of organisation—was to be arranged; he concludes with instructions how to deal with any who presumed to set themselves in opposition to his plans for the government of the community. The central portion of the letter is occupied in discussing how Christian doctrine is to influence the lives of those accepting it, and especially it treats of the conduct of Christians towards the Pagan world, with whom they will necessarily be brought in contact.


Verse 12

(12) When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me.—But Titus is here reminded—perhaps with some reference to the question of the treatment of the factious or heretic persons just alluded to—that he is only the temporary ruler of the Cretan Church, on a special commission of the great missionary Apostle. Not improbably one of these two was intended to supply the place of Titus when this favourite and trusted assistant of St. Paul was recalled to his master’s side. Of Artemas nothing certainly is known. Tradition, however, makes him subsequently Bishop of Lystra. Tychicus is mentioned in five of the New Testament writings—in Acts 20:4; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; and here. He seems to have been one of the most esteemed of St. Paul’s friends. He speaks of him as a beloved brother, a faithful minister and fellow-servant in the Lord; and the importance of the missions with which he was entrusted by his master to distant churches shows us how high this disciple stood in the opinion of St. Paul.

To Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.—There are several cities bearing this name—in Cilicia, in Thrace, and in Epirus; and considerable doubt prevails as to which the Apostle has been referring. On the whole, the Nicopolis in Epirus seems the most likely spot for the Apostle to have fixed on. This city was built by Augustus after the battle of Actium, whence it derived its name, “the City of Victory.”


Verse 13

(13) Bring Zenas the lawyer.—A name contracted, as it seems, from Zenodorus. The term “lawyer” might possibly indicate that this friend of Paul’s was a Roman jurist, but it is more likely that the law in which he was an expert was that of Moses. Hippolytus numbers him among the seventy disciples, and relates how in after years he was Bishop of Diospolis. He is never mentioned by name in the New Testament, except in this place.

And Apollos.—This famous teacher appears often in the New Testament records, in the Acts and several of the Epistles. A distinguished Alexandrian scholar and a disciple of John the Baptist, he was converted to Christianity by the agency of the devoted Priscilla and Aquila, the tent-makers. He became the friend and intimate associate of St. Paul, and might, had he chosen, have rivalled or even superseded St. Paul in his supreme authority over the churches planted along the Mediterranean sea-board. But Apollos seems resolutely to have declined any such rivalry, and to have lived ever as the loyal and devoted friend of the great Apostle; who, however, always seems to have treated the learned and eloquent Alexandrian as an equal power in the Church of Christ, classing Apollos with St. Peter and himself. Luther’s well-known suggestion that Apollos was the unknown writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews—“auctor Epistolæ ad Hebros . . . ut ego arbritror Apollo”—the authorship (though not the canonicity) of which has been a disputed point as far back as the days of Origen, in the first half of the third century—has been adopted, though, of course, with much reserve, by many. Attention has been called to the somewhat remarkable fact that the names of these three friends of St. Paul, who were classed among his most faithful adherents in this almost the last Epistle he wrote, were derived from three of the most famous heathen deities—Zenas from Zeus; Artemas from Artemis, the famous tutelary goddess of Ephesus; Apollos from the well-known sun-god.


Verse 14

(14) And let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses.—“Ours,” that is, those who with St. Paul and Titus in Crete called upon the name of Jesus. A last reminder to the brethren, whom with a loving thought he calls “ours,” constantly to practise good and beneficent works. In the expression “let ours also learn,” it would seem as though St. Paul would have Christians trained to the wise and thoughtful performance of works of mercy and charity.

It was with such injunctions as these that men like St. Paul and St. James laid the foundation storeys of those great Christian works of charity—all undreamed of before the Resurrection morning—but which have been for eighteen centuries in all lands, the glory of the religion of Jesus—one grand result of the Master’s presence with us on earth, which even His bitterest enemies admire with a grudging admiration.

In the short compass of these Pastoral Epistles, in all only thirteen chapters, we have no less than eight special reminders to be earnest and zealous in good works. There was evidently a dread in St. Paul’s mind that some of those who professed a love of Jesus, and said that they longed after the great salvation, would content themselves with a dreamy acquiescence in the great truths, while the life remained unaltered. It is noteworthy that these Epistles, containing so many urgent exhortations to work for Christ, were St. Paul’s last inspired utterances. The passages in question are Titus 1:16; Titus 2:7; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:14; 1 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21.


Verse 15

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Titus 3:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/titus-3.html. 1905.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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