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This chapter embraces the following points:
1. The usual inscription and salutation; Titus 1:1-56.1.4. In this Paul declares himself to be the author of the epistle, and asserts in the strongest manner his claims to the apostleship. He alludes to the great cause in which, as an apostle, he was engaged - as acting under the eternal plan of God for the salvation of the elect, and appointed to communicate the glorious truths of that system which had been now revealed to mankind. The object of this seems to be to impress the mind of Titus with his right to give him instruction.
2. A statement of the object for which Titus had been left in Crete, and the general character of the work which he was to perform there; Titus 1:5.
3. The qualifications of those who were to be ordained to the ministry; Titus 1:6-56.1.9. The characteristics laid down are substantially the same as in 1 Timothy 3:0.
4. Reasons for great caution and prudence in thus appointing elders over the churches; Titus 1:10-56.1.13. Those reasons arose from the character of the Cretans. There were many deceivers there, and the character of the Cretans was such that there was great danger that they who professed to be Christians would be hypocritical, and if put into the eldership that they would do great injury to the cause.
5. A solemn charge to Titus to rebuke them faithfully for their prevailing and characteristic vices, and to avoid giving any countenance to that for which they were so much distinguished; Titus 1:13-56.1.16.
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ - See notes at Romans 1:1; compare the notes at 1 Corinthians 9:1-46.9.5.
According to the faith of God’s elect - Compare the Romans 8:33 note; Ephesians 1:4 note; 2 Timothy 2:10 note. The meaning of the word rendered here, “according to” - κατὰ kata - is, probably, with reference to; that is, he was appointed to be an apostle with respect to the faith of those whom God had chosen, or, in order that they might be led to believe the gospel. God had chosen them to salvation, but he intended that it should be in connection with their believing, and, in order to that, he had appointed Paul to be an apostle that he might go and make known to them the gospel. It is the purpose of God to save His people, but he does not mean to save them as infidels, or unbelievers. He intends that they shall be believers first - and hence he sends his ministers that they may become such.
And the acknowledging of the truth - In order to secure the acknowledgment or recognition of the truth. The object of the apostleship, as it is of the ministry in general, is to secure the proper acknowledgment of the truth among men.
Which is after godliness - Which tends to promote piety towards God. On the word rendered godliness, see the notes at 1Ti 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:16. - The truth, the acknowledgment of which Paul was appointed to secure, was not scientific, historical, or political truth: it was that of religion - that which was adapted to lead men to a holy life, and to prepare them for a holy heaven.
In hope of eternal life - Margin, for. Greek, ἐπ ̓ ἐλπίδι ep' elpidi. This does not mean that Paul cherished the hope of eternal life, but that the “faith of the elect,” which he aimed to secure, was in order that people might have the hope of eternal life. The whole system which he was appointed to preach was designed to secure to man a well-founded hope of salvation; compare the notes, 2 Timothy 1:10.
Which God, that cannot lie - On the phrase” cannot lie,” see the notes at Hebrews 6:13. The fact that God cannot lie; that it is his nature always to speak the truth; and that no circumstances can ever occur in which He will depart from it, is the foundation of all our hopes of salvation.
Promised - The only hope of salvation is in the promise of God. It is only as we can have evidence that He has assured us that we may be saved, that we are authorized to cherish any hope of salvation. That promise is not made to us as individuals, or by name, but it becomes ours:
(1) Because He has made a general promise that they who repent and believe shall be saved; and,
(2) Because, we may have evidence that we have repented, and do believe the gospel. If this is so, we fairly come under the promise of salvation, and may apply it to ourselves.
Before the world began - That is, the purpose was then formed, and the promise may be considered as in fact then made; - for a purpose in the mind of God, though it is not as yet made known, is equivalent to a promise; compare the Matthew 25:34 note; 2 Timothy 1:9 note.
But hath in due times - At the proper time; the time which he had intended; the best time: see the notes at 1 Timothy 2:6; compare the notes at Matthew 2:2.
Manifested his word through preaching - See the notes at 2 Timothy 2:10. The meaning here is, that he has made known his eternal purpose through the preaching of the gospel; compare the notes at Romans 10:14-45.10.15.
Which is committed unto me - Not exclusively, but in common with others; see the notes at 2 Timothy 1:11.
According to the commandment of God our Saviour - Paul always claimed to be divinely commissioned, and affirmed that he was engaged in the work of preaching by the authority of God; see Gal 1:1-12; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1-45.1.4.
To Titus - See the Introduction, Section 1.
Mine own son - Notes, 1 Timothy 1:2.
After the common faith - The faith of all Christians; - equivalent to saying “my son in the gospel.” That is, Paul had been the means of converting him by preaching that gospel which was received by all who were Christians.
Grace, mercy, and peace ... - See the notes at Romans 1:7.
For this cause left I thee in Crete - Compare the notes, 1 Timothy 1:3. On the situation of Crete, see the Introduction, Section 2.
That thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting - Margin, “left undone.” The Greek is: “the things that are left;” that is, those which were left unfinished; referring, doubtless, to arrangements which had been commenced, but which for some cause had been left incomplete. Whether this had occurred because he had been driven away by persecution, or called away by important duties demanding his attention elsewhere, cannot now be determined. The word rendered “set in order”, ἐπιδιορθώσῃ epidiorthōsē, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, “to make straight upon, and then to put further to rights, to arrange further.” Robinson, Lexicon - There were things left unfinished which he was to complete. One of these things, and perhaps the principal, was to appoint elders in the various cities where the gospel had been preached.
And ordain - The word “ordain” has now acquired a technical signification which it cannot be shown that it has in the New Testament. It means, in common usage, to “invest with a ministerial function or sacerdotal power; to introduce, and establish, and settle in the pastoral office with the customary forms and solemnities” (Webster); and it may be added, with the idea always connected with it, of the imposition of hands. But the word used here does not necessarily convey this meaning, or imply that Titus was to go through what would now be called an ordination service. It means to set, place, or constitute; then, to set over anything, as a steward or other officer (see Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42; Acts 6:3), though without reference to any particular mode of investment with an office; see the word, “ordain,” explained in the notes at Acts 1:22; Acts 14:23. Titus was to appoint or set them over the churches, though with what ceremony is now unknown. There is no reason to suppose that he did this except as the result of the choice of the people; compare the notes at Acts 6:3.
Elders - Greek: Presbyters; see the word explained in the notes at Acts 14:23. These “elders,” or “Presbyters,” were also called “bishops” (compare the notes at 1 Timothy 3:1), for Paul immediately, in describing their qualifications, calls them bishops: - “ordain elders in every city - if any be blameless - for a bishop must be blameless,” etc. If the elders and bishops in the times of the apostles were of different ranks, this direction would be wholly unmeaningful. It would be the same as if the following direction were given to one who was authorized to appoint officers over an army: “Appoint captains over each company, who shall be of good character, and acquainted with military tactics, for a Brigadier General must be of good character, and acquainted with the rules of war.” - That the same rank is denoted also by the terms Presbyter and Bishop here, is further apparent because the qualifications which Paul states as requisite for the “bishop” are not those which pertain to a prelate or a diocesan bishop, but to one who was a pastor of a church, or an evangelist. It is clear, from Titus 1:7, that those whom Titus was to appoint were “bishops,” and yet it is absurd to suppose that the apostle meant prelatical bishops, for no one can believe that such bishops were to be appointed in “every city” of the island. According to all modern notions of Episcopacy, one such bishop would have been enough for such an island as Crete, and indeed it has been not infrequently maintained that Titus himself was in fact the Bishop of that Diocese. But if these were not prelates who were to be ordained by Titus, then it is clear that the term “bishop” in the New Testament is given to the Presbyters or elders; that is, to all ministers of the gospel. That usage should never have been departed from.
In every city - Crete was anciently celebrated for the number of its cities. In one passage Homer ascribes to the island 100 cities (Iliad ii. 649), in another, 90 cities (Odyssey xix. 174). It may be presumed that many of these cities were towns of not very considerable size, and yet it would seem probable that each one was large enough to have a church, and to maintain the gospel. Paul, doubtless, expected that Titus would travel over the whole island, and endeavor to introduce the gospel in every important place.
As I had appointed thee - As I commanded thee, or gave thee direction - διεταξάμην dietaxamēn - This is a different word from the one used in the former part of the verse - and rendered “ordain” - καθίστημι kathistēmi. It does not mean that Titus was to ordain elders in the same manner as Paul had ordained him, but that he was to set them over the cities as he had directed him to do. He had, doubtless, given him oral instructions, when he left him, as to the way in which it was to be done.
If any be blameless, the husband of one wife - See the notes at 1 Timothy 3:2.
Having faithful children - See the notes at 1 Timothy 3:4-54.3.5. That is, having a family well-governed, and well-trained in religion. The word here - πιστὰ pista - applied to the children, and rendered faithful, does not necessarily mean that they should be truly pious, but it is descriptive of those who had been well-trained, and were in due subordination. If a man’s family were not of his character - if his children were insubordinate, and opposed to religion - if they were decided infidels or scoffers, it would show that there was such a deficiency in the head of the family that he could not be safely entrusted with the government of the church; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 3:5. It is probably true, also, that the preachers at that time would be selected, as far as practicable, from those whose families were all Christians. There might be great impropriety in placing a man over a church, a part of whose family were Jews or heathens.
Not accused of riot - That is, whose children were not accused of riot. This explains what is meant by faithful. The word rendered “riot” - ἀσωτία asōtia - is translated excess in Ephesians 5:18, and riot in Titus 1:6; 1 Peter 4:4. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament, though the word riotous is found in Luke 15:13; see it explained in the notes at Ephesians 5:18. The meaning here is, that they should not be justly accused of this; this should not be their character. It would, doubtless, be a good reason now why a man should not be ordained to the ministry that he had a dissipated and disorderly family.
Or unruly - Insubordinate; ungoverned; see the notes, 1 Timothy 1:9; Luke 3:4.
For a bishop must be blameless - 1 Timothy 3:2.
As the steward of God - See notes, 1 Corinthians 4:1-46.4.2. A man, in order to perform the duties of such an office, should be one against whom no accusation could lie.
Not self-willed - Compare 2 Peter 2:10. The word - αὐθάδης authadēs - does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means, properly, self-complacent; and then, assuming, arrogant, imperious; Robinson, Lexicon - The gist of the offence - the very “head and front” - is that of being self-complacent; a trait of character which, of necessity, makes a man imperious, dogmatical, impatient of contradiction, and unyielding. Such a man, evidently, is not fit for the office of a minister of the gospel.
Not soon angry - See notes, 1 Timothy 3:2, and the margin there.
Not given to wine - Notes, 1 Timothy 3:3.
No striker - Notes, 1 Timothy 3:3.
Not given to filthy lucre - In 1 Timothy 3:0, “Not given of filthy lucre.” The same Greek word is used.
But a lover of hospitality - Notes, 1 Timothy 3:2.
A lover of good men - Margin, “or things.” The Greek (φιλάγαθος philagathos) means, a lover of good, and may apply to any thing that is good. It may refer to good men, as included under the general term good; and there is no more essential qualification of a bishop than this. A man who sustains the office of a minister of the gospel, should love every good object, and be ever ready to promote it; and he should love every good man, no matter in what denomination or country he may be found - no matter what his complexion, and no matter what his rank in life; compare the notes at Philippians 4:8.
Sober - Notes, 1 Timothy 1:2.
Just - Upright in his dealings with all. A minister can do little good who is not; compare the notes at Philippians 4:8.
Holy - Pious, or devout. Faithful in all his duties to God; Notes, 1 Timothy 2:8.
Temperate - ἐγκρατῆ egkratē. Having power or control over all his passions. We apply the term now with reference to abstinence from intoxicating liquors. In the Scriptures, it includes not only that, but also much more. It implies control over all our passions and appetites. See it explained in the notes at Acts 24:25; compare 1 Corinthians 7:9; 1 Corinthians 9:25; Galatians 5:23.
Holding fast the faithful word - That is, the true doctrines of the gospel. This means that he is to hold this fast, in opposition to one who would wrest it away, and in opposition to all false teachers, and to all systems of false philosophy. He must be a man who is firm in his belief of the doctrines of the Christian faith, and a man who can be relied on to maintain and defend those doctrines in all circumstances; compare notes, 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
As he hath been taught - Margin, “in teaching.” Greek “According to the teaching.” The sense is, according to that doctrine as taught by the inspired teachers of religion. It does not mean as he had individually been taught; but he was to hold the faith as it was delivered by those whom the Saviour had appointed to make it known to mankind. The phrase “the doctrine,” or “the teaching,” had a sort of technical meaning, denoting the gospel as that which had been communicated to mankind, not by human reason, but by teaching.
That he may be able by sound doctrine - By sound teaching, or instruction; Notes, 1Ti 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:16. He was not to dictate, or to denounce; but to seek to convince by the statement of the truth; see the notes at 2 Timothy 2:25.
Both to exhort and to convince - To persuade them, or to bring them over to your views by kind exhortation, and by the instruction which shall convince. The former method is to be used where men know the truth, but need encouragement to follow it; the latter, where they are ignorant, or are opposed to it. Both exhortation and argument are to be used by the ministers of religion.
The gainsayers - Opposers Literally, those who speak against; that is, against the truth; Notes, Romans 10:21.
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers - There are many persons who are indisposed to submit to authority (see the word unruly in Titus 1:6); many who are vain talkers - who are more given to talk than to the duties of practical religion (see the character of “Talkative,” in the Pilgrim’s Progress); and many who live to deceive others under the mask of religion. They make great pretensions to piety; they are fluent in argument, and they urge their views in a plausible manner.
Specially they of the circumcision - Jews, spoken of here as “of the circumcision” particularly, because they urged the necessity of circumcision in order that men might be saved; Notes, Acts 15:1. This proves that there were not a few Jews in the island of Crete.
Whose mouths must be stopped - The word here rendered stopped - ἐπιστομιζειν epistomizein - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, properly, to check, or curb, as with a bridle; to restrain, or bridle in; and then, to put to silence. It is, of course, implied here that this was to be done in a proper way, and in accordance with the spirit of the gospel. The apostle gives Timothy no civil power to do it, nor does he direct him to call in the aid of the civil arm. All the agency which he specifies as proper for this, is that of argument and exhortation. These are the proper means of silencing the advocates of error; and the history of the church shows that the ministers of religion can be safely entrusted with no other; compare Psalms 32:8-19.32.9.
Who subvert whole houses - Whole families; compare Matthew 23:14; 2 Timothy 3:6. That is, they turn them aside from the faith.
Teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake - For gain. That is, they inculcate such doctrines as will make themselves popular, and as will give them access to the confidence of the people. They make it their first object to acquire influence as ministers of religion, and then abuse that in order to obtain money from the people. This they would doubtless do under many pretences; such as that it was needful for the support of the gospel, or for the relief of the poor, or perhaps for the assistance of distant Christians in persecution. Religion is the most powerful principle that ever governs the mind; and if a man has the control of that, it is no difficult thing to induce men to give up their worldly possessions. In all ages, there have been impostors who have taken advantage of the powerful principle of religion to obtain money from their deluded followers. No people can be too vigilant in regard to pretended religious teachers; and while it is undoubtedly their duty to contribute liberally for the support of the gospel, and the promotion of every good cause, it is no less their duty to examine with care every proposed object of benevolence, and to watch with an eagle eye those who have the disbursement of the charities of the church. It is very rare that ministers ought to have much to do with disposing of the funds given for benevolent purposes; and when they do, they should in all cases be associated with their lay brethren; see Paley’s Horae Paulinae, chap. iv., No. 1, 3, note; compare 1 Corinthians 16:3. On the phrase “filthy lucre,” see the notes at 1 Timothy 3:3.
One of themselves - That is, one of the Cretans. The quotation here shows that Paul had his eye not only on the Jewish teachers there, but on the native Cretans. The meaning is, that, alike in reference to Jewish teachers and native-born Cretans, there was need of the utmost vigilance in the selection of persons for the ministry. They all had well-known traits of character, which made it proper that no one should be introduced into the ministry without extreme caution. It would seem, also, from the reasoning of Paul here, that the trait of character here referred to pertained not only to the native Cretans, but also to the character of the Jews residing there; for he evidently means that the caution should extend to all who dwelt on the island,
Even a prophet of their own - Or, a poet; for the word “prophet” - προφήτης prophētēs - like the Latin word “vates,” was often applied to poets, because they were supposed to be inspired of the muses, or to write under the influence of inspiration. So Virgil, Ecl. ix. 32: Et me fecere poetam Pierides ...me quoque dicunt vatem pastores. Varro, Ling. Lat. vi. 3: Vates poetae dicti sunt. The term “prophet” was also given by the Greeks to one who was regarded as the interpreter of the gods, or who explained the obscure responses of the oracles. As such an interpreter - as one who thus saw future events, he was called a prophet; and as the poets claimed much of this kind of knowledge, the name was given to them. It was also given to one who was regarded as eminently endowed with wisdom, or who had that kind of sagacity by which the results of present conduct might be foreseen, as if he was under the influence of a kind of inspiration.
The word might have been applied to the person here referred to - Epimenides - in this latter sense, because he was eminently endowed with wisdom. He was one of the seven wise men of Greece. He was a contemporary of Solon, and was born at Phaestus, in the island of Crete, b.c. 659, and is said to have reached the age of 157 years. Many marvelous tales are told of him (see Anthon, Class. Dic) which are commonly supposed to be fabulous, and which are to be traced to the invention of the Cretans. The event in his life which is best known is, that he visited Athens, at the request of the inhabitants, to prepare the way by sacrifices for the introduction of the laws of Solon. He was supposed to have contact with the gods, and it was presumed that a special sacredness would attend the religious services in which he officiated. On this account, also, as well as because he was a poet, the name prophet may have been given him. Feuds and animosities prevailed at Athens, which it was supposed such a man might allay, and thus prepare them for the reception of the laws of Solon. The Athenians wished to reward him with wealth and public honors; but he refused to accept of any remuneration, and only demanded a branch of the sacred olive tree, and a decree of perpetual friendship between Athens and his native city. After his death, divine honors were paid to him by the Cretans. He wrote a poem on the Argonautic expedition, and other poems, which are now entirely lost. The quotation here is supposed to be made from a treatise on oracles and responses, which is also lost.
The Cretians are always liars - This character of the Cretans is abundantly sustained by the examples adduced by Wetstein. To be a Cretan, became synonymous with being a liar, in the same way as to be a Corinthian, became synonymous with living a licentious life; compare Introduction to 1 Corinthians, Section 1. Thus, the scholiast says, παροιμία ἐστι τὸ κρητίζειν ἐπὶ τοῦ ψεύδεσθαι paroimia esti to krētizein epi tou pseudesthai - “to act the Cretan, is a proverb for to lie.” The particular reason why they had this character abroad, rather than other people, is unknown. Bishop Warburton supposes that they acquired it by claiming to have among them the tomb of Jupiter, and by maintaining that all the gods, like Jupiter, were only mortals who had been raised to divine honors. Thus the Greeks maintained that they always proclaimed a falsehood by asserting this opinion. But their reputation for falsehood seems to have arisen from some deeper cause than this, and to have pertained to their general moral character. They were only more eminent in what was common among the ancient pagan, and what is almost universal among the pagan now; compare the notes at Ephesians 4:25.
Evil beasts - In their character, beasts or brutes of a ferocious or malignant kind. This would imply that there was a great want of civilization, and that their want of refinement was accompanied with what commonly exists in that condition - the unrestrained indulgence of wild and ferocious passions. See examples of the same manner of speaking of barbarous and malicious men in Wetstein.
Slow bellies - Mere gormandizers. Two vices seem here to be attributed to them, which indeed commonly go together - gluttony and sloth. An industrious man will not be likely to be a gormandizer, and a gormandizer will not often be an industrious man. The mind of the poet, in this, seems to have conceived of them first as an indolent, worthless people; and then immediately to have recurred to the cause - that they were a race of gluttons, a people whose only concern was the stomach; compare Philippians 3:19. On the connection between gluttony and sloth, see the examples in Wetstein. Seldom have more undesirable, and, in some respects, incongruous qualities, been grouped together in describing any people. They were false to a proverb, which was, indeed, consistent enough with their being ferocious - though ferocious and wild nations are sometimes faithful to their word; but they were at the same time ferocious and lazy, fierce and gluttonous - qualities which are not often found together. In some respects, therefore, they surpassed the common depravity of human nature, and blended in themselves ignoble properties which, among the worst people, are usually found existing alone. To mingle apparently contradictory qualities of wickedness in the same individual or people, is the height of depravity; as to blend in the same mind apparently inconsistent traits of virtuous character, or those which exist commonly, in their highest perfection, only alone, is the highest virtue.
This witness is true - That is, this testimony long before borne by one of their own number, was true when the apostle wrote to Titus. The fact that this was the general Character of the people, was a reason why he should be on his guard in introducing men into the ministry, and in the arrangement of affairs pertaining to the church. That it was true, see proofs in Wetstein.
Wherefore rebuke them - Notes, 2 Timothy 4:2.
Sharply - ἀποτόμως apotomōs - “cuttingly, severely” - from ἀποτέμνω apotemnō, “to cut off.” The word is used here in the sense of severity, meaning that the reproof should be such as would be understood, and would show them plainly the wickedness of such traits of character. He was not to be mealy-mouthed, but he was to call things by their right names, and not to spare their faults. When men know that they are doing wrong, we should tell them so in few words; if they do not know it, it is necessary to teach them, in order to convince them of their error.
That they may be sound in the faith - That they may not allow the prevailing vices to corrupt their views of religion.
Not giving heed to Jewish fables ... - See the notes at 1 Timothy 1:4.
And commandments of men that turn from the truth - Notes, Matthew 15:3-40.15.5.
Unto the pure all things are pure - See the notes at Romans 14:14, Romans 14:20. There is probably an allusion here to the distinctions made in respect to meats and drinks among the Jews. Some articles of food were regarded as “clean,” or allowed to be eaten, and some as “unclean,” or forbidden. Paul says that those distinctions ceased under the Christian dispensation, and that to those who had a conscience not easily troubled by nice and delicate questions about ceremonial observances, all kinds of food might be regarded as lawful and proper; compare the notes at 1 Timothy 4:4-54.4.5. If a man habitually maintains a good conscience in the sight of God, it will be accepted of him whether he do or do not abstain from certain kinds of food; compare the notes at Colossians 2:16. This passage, therefore, should not be interpreted as proving that all things are right and lawful for a Christian, or that whatever he may choose to do will be regarded as pure, but as primarily referring to distinctions in food, and meaning that there was no sanctity in eating one kind of food, and no sin in another, but that the mind was equally pure whatever was eaten.
The phrase has a proverbial cast, though I know not that it was so fused. The principle of the declaration is, that a pure mind - a truly pious mind - will not regard the distinctions of food and drink; of festivals, rites, ceremonies, and days, as necessary to be observed in order to promote its purity. The conscience is not to be burdened and enslaved by these things, but is to be controlled only by the moral laws which God has ordained. But there may be a somewhat higher application of the words - that every ordinance of religion, every command of God, every event that occurs in divine Providence, tends to promote the holiness of one who is of pure heart. He can see a sanctifying tendency in everything, and can derive from all that is commanded, and all that occurs, the means of making the heart more holy. While a depraved mind will turn every such thing to a pernicious use, and make it the means of augmenting its malignity and corruption, to the pure mind it will be the means of increasing its confidence in God, and of making itself more holy. To such a mind everything may become a means of grace.
But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure - Everything is made the means of increasing their depravity. No matter what ordinances of religion they observe; what distinctions of meats, or drinks, or days they regard, and what events of Providence occur, all are the occasion of augmented depravity. Such distinctions in food they make the means of fostering their pride and producing self-righteousness; the mercies of God they abuse to pamper their own lusts, and the afflictive events of Divine Providence they make the occasion of murmuring and rebellion. Naturally corrupt at heart, no ordinances of religion, and no events of Providence, make them any better, but all tend to deepen their depravity. A sentiment similar to this is found in the classic writers. Thus Seneca, Epis. 98. Malus animus omnia in malum vertit, etiam quae specie optimi venerunt. So again (de Beneficiis v. 12), (Quemadmodum stomachus morbo vitiatus, et colliques bilem, quoscunque acceperit cibos mutat - ita animus caecus, quicquid fill commiseris, id onus suum et perniciem facited.
But even their mind and conscience is defiled - It is not a mere external defilement - a thing which they so much dread - but a much worse kind of pollution, that which extends to the soul and the conscience. Everything which they do tends to corrupt the inner man more and more, and to make them really more polluted and abominable in the sight of God. The wicked, while they remain impenitent, are constantly becoming worse and worse. They make everything the means of increasing their depravity, and even these things which seem to pertain only to outward observances are made the occasion of the deeper corruption of the heart.
They profess that they know God - That is, the Jewish teachers particularly, who are referred to in Titus 1:14. All those persons were professors of religion, and claimed that they had a special knowledge of God.
But in works they deny him - Their conduct is such as to show that they have no real acquaintance with him.
Being abominable - In their conduct. The word here used - βδελυκτοὶ bdeluktoi - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means that which is detestable, or to be held in abhorrence.
And disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate - Margin, “void of judgment.” On the word here used - ἀδοκίμος adokimos - see the Romans 1:28 note; 2 Corinthians 13:5 note. It means here that in reference to everything that was good, their conduct was such that it could not be approved, or deserved disapprobation. It was for this reason; from the character of the people of the island of Crete, and of those who claimed to be teachers there enforcing the obligation of the Mosaic law, that it was so important for Titus to exercise special care in introducing men into the ministry, and in completing the arrangements contemplated in the organization of the churches there. Yet is this character confined to them? Are there none now who profess that they know God, but in works deny him; whose conduct is such that it ought to be abhorred; who are disobedient to the plain commands of God, and whose character in respect to all that pertains to true piety is to be disapproved by the truly pious, and will be by God at the last day? Alas, taking the church at large, there are many such, and the fact that there are such persons is the grand hindrance to the triumphs of religion on the earth. “The way to heaven is blocked up by dead professors of religion.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Titus 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent