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Paul introduced himself as a bond-servant (Greek doulos, lit. slave) of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Then he explained the ministries each of these titles represented. Paul usually commented on the source of his apostleship, but here he wrote of its purpose.
"Undoubtedly the background for the concept of being the Lord’s slave or servant is to be found in the Old Testament scriptures. For a Jew this concept did not connote drudgery, but honor and privilege. It was used of national Israel at times (Isaiah 43:10), but was especially associated with famous OT personalities, including such great men as Moses (Joshua 14:7), David (Psalms 89:3; cf. 2 Samuel 7:5; 2 Samuel 7:8) and Elijah (2 Kings 10:10); all these man were ’servants (or slaves) of the Lord’" [Note: The NET Bible note on 1:1.]
God’s bond-servant brings God’s elect to saving faith in Christ. Christ’s apostle brings the saints into the knowledge of God’s truth that He has designed to produce godly living.
"The doctrine of divine election firmly establishes the believer’s eternal security. God has not left the believer’s assurance of salvation captive to changing feelings or faltering faith. Rather, the faithfulness of God demonstrated in his divine election secures the believer’s salvation in the will and purposes of God himself." [Note: Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin Jeremiah , 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 265. Griffin wrote the commentary on Titus in this volume.]
"Although surrounded with mystery, the biblical teaching on election is for believers and is intended as a practical truth. It assures faithful, struggling believers that their salvation is all of God from beginning to end." [Note: Hiebert, p. 427.]
I. SALUTATION 1:1-4
As usual, Paul began this letter with comments that not only introduced himself and greeted his reader but also set the tone for his emphasis in what followed. The emphasis in this section is on Paul’s duty and the nature of his message rather than on his authority. This salutation is remarkably long and heavy for such a short epistle. Only Paul’s salutation in Romans is longer. This fact reflects the seriousness of the matters that Paul addressed in this letter.
"Ultimately what Paul has done in this introduction is to place his own apostolate at the center of God’s story; his authority and message are essential to it and derive their meaning from it. Thus, Paul is authenticating the ministry of his coworker Titus by establishing his own authority to instruct Titus." [Note: Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, p. 665.]
God intended both prongs of Paul’s ministry, evangelism and edification, to bring individuals into the fullness of eternal life.
"’Resting on’ [NIV] is from the single Greek word epi. But it is better to understand this word as ’with a view to,’ as in Ephesians 2:10. Thus Paul’s thought is that all of his ministry is ’with a view to’ eternal life." [Note: A. Duane Litfin, "Titus," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp. 761-72.]
This hope was something God had promised from eternity past. [Note: George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 284.] God had long since proved Himself consistently faithful to His promises. The unusual epithet "who cannot lie" (apseudes, free from falsehood) brings out the absolute trustworthiness of the hope just mentioned.
There is ancient evidence that Cretans considered lying culturally acceptable. [Note: See Bruce W. Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities, pp. 149-50.]
"But a more specific pagan theology may be at the root. Paul’s reference to ’the God who does not lie’ could well lampoon the character of the Zeus of Cretan tales, who in fact did lie to have sexual relations with a human woman (taking the human form of her husband). This same Zeus was also held to be the epitome of virtue (defined by his possession of the cardinal virtues), a dimension of his character that will come more into focus later in the letter." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 670.]
In recent times, however, God had revealed new information to His apostles concerning the hope of eternal life that God had promised long ago. Paul was referring to the gospel. [Note: Knight, p. 285; Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 672.] God had commanded him to pass it on (Acts 26:16-18; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:16), and He has commanded us to do the same (Matthew 28:19-20).
Paul’s reference to God as "our Savior" introduces the thought of salvation, which is a key theme in this epistle (cf. Titus 1:4; Titus 2:10-11; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:4-6). Salvation is a present reality in the life of the church.
There is not enough information in the New Testament to clarify the sense in which Titus, like Timothy, was Paul’s "true child" (Gr. gnesio tekno) in the faith. Perhaps Paul had led him to Christ. [Note: William Barclay, The Letters of Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p. 265.] But the apostle had definitely taken him under his wing as a protégé. Paul made it clear to all readers that he regarded Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile, and himself, a Jew, as sharing the same faith.
Note the testimony to the deity of Christ that Paul gave by referring to both Christ Jesus and God the Father as "our Savior" (Titus 1:3-4).
"Here alone he [Paul] calls Christ soter, ’Savior,’ rather than kurios, ’Lord.’ It is as if he anticipates the two crucial theological arguments that undergird his ethical exhortations in chapters 2 and 3, in both of which Christ as Savior is at the center (Titus 2:13; Titus 3:6) as the one through whom God’s grace has come to save us and to instruct and enable us in living godly (Titus 2:11 ff.) and peaceful (Titus 3:1 ff.) lives." [Note: Knight, p. 286.]
"But both colliding and resonating with this story line was the religious-political discourse of Imperial Rome. At this point in time, the emperor freely took the title ’savior’ to himself. A Savior Christology, such as Paul constructs powerfully in this letter, would surely also level a subversive blow at this claim (cf. on 1 Timothy 6:14)." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 676.]
"This theologically rich introduction to the Epistle to Titus moves in scope from Paul’s reflections on the sovereignty of God in human salvation to Paul’s role in achieving God’s purposes." [Note: Griffin, p. 274.]
"Although this theology is common in salutations, . . . it addresses specific issues in Crete, where Titus was dealing with a Jewish influence that most likely downplayed Christ (cf. Titus 1:10)." [Note: William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, p. 383.]
Titus, like Timothy, served as the agent of an apostle with apostolic authority. He was in a position of authority over the other local Christians.
"Timothy was not the pastor of the church at Ephesus in the modern sense of that term; nor was Titus the bishop of the Cretan churches, as is sometimes thought. Both men are addressed as the personal representatives of the apostle Paul and had been left at their stations to carry out the work assigned to them by the apostle." [Note: D. Edmond Hiebert, Titus and Philemon, p. 7.]
"Titus may have been older, more mature and therefore less prone to depression and the need for encouragement than was Timothy. The Cretan situation was also less serious, and Titus was in less danger." [Note: Mounce, p. 385.]
The public reading of this epistle would have helped the Christians recognize Titus’ authority and submit to Paul’s instructions.
The churches in Crete needed organization. The ones in Ephesus, where Timothy was when Paul wrote 1 Timothy, had been in existence longer and seem to have been better organized. An evidence of this may be that in 1 Timothy Paul wrote about removing bad elders (1 Timothy 5:19-25). In Titus we see no need for this. Paul prescribed an organizational structure but left it flexible. He did not dictate the details but left these open for local leaders to determine. Consequently the quality of the church’s leaders was very important.
"It is . . . impossible to determine how many elders would have been selected in every town (meaning ’in the house church of each town’); but the general rule would probably have been a plurality of leaders." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 224. Cf. Philippians 1:1.]
We do not know how many churches there were on Crete, but Homer, who lived in the ninth century B.C., referred to the island as "Crete of the hundred cities." [Note: Cited by Barclay, p. 268.] It was heavily populated.
A. The appointment of elders 1:5-9
Paul began his instructions with these directions to emphasize the priority of setting qualified leaders over the affairs of the local churches (cf. Acts 6:3).
II. INSTRUCTIONS FOR SETTING THE CHURCH IN ORDER 1:5-3:11
As in 1 Timothy, Paul plunged into the business of his letter immediately since he was writing a trusted colleague. This partially explains the absence of a thanksgiving section in these two epistles. The serious threat of false teaching may be another reason. By contrast, 2 Timothy is more personal, and it contains a thanksgiving.
Paul listed 17 qualifications for an elder here. 1 Timothy 3 contains 15, but they are very similar and in some cases identical, though some here are new.
"Since the office of bishop is one of authority and power, the vices named are those to which persons in such positions are tempted." [Note: F. D. Gealy, The First and Second Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, in The Interpreter’s Bible, 11:528.]
Social and domestic qualifications
1. "Above reproach" (Titus 1:6), blameless, is the translation of the Greek word used in 1 Timothy 3:10 (anegkletos) to describe deacons, there translated "beyond reproach." Paul used a synonym as the first qualification of elders in 1 Timothy 3:2 (anepilempton) translated there "above reproach." The words are virtually the same and mean that the elder must have no obvious flaw in his character or conduct that would bring justifiable criticism on him or the church. Paul gave the reason for this qualification in Titus 1:7 a.
". . . the purpose of this code is identical to that of 1 Timothy 3 in that it is meant to test the candidate’s ’blamelessness.’ The broad standard appears twice at the head of the list (Titus 1:6-7; compare 1 Timothy 3:2). Then the remainder of the verses place ’blamelessness’ into a concrete framework, treating the domestic, personal and ecclesiastical aspects of the candidate’s life." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 224.]
2. "Husband of one wife" (Gr. mias gunaikos aner; Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2) means he must presently be a moral husband at least. [Note: See my discussion of this qualification in the 1 Timothy notes. See also Patrick Fairbairn, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, Appendix B.]
3. "Having children who believe" (Gr. tekna echon pista, Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:4) adds a factor not present in 1 Timothy. While the churches in Crete appear to have been young, the fathers in them were old enough to have believing children. The elder must have his children under control. [Note: Knight, p. 290.] The context seems to limit the children to those who are still living at home and are not yet adults, assuming the elder had children. [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 255.]
"One view understands Paul to be limiting membership in the office to those whose family members all believe; pista can certainly bear this meaning. [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:261; and J. Vernon McGee, Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 5:486, held this view.] Another view is that the term means, more generally, ’faithful’ or ’trustworthy’ (Titus 1:9; Titus 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; compare 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1), which quality is then delineated in the phrase that follows. While the first view is possible, it seems to place more stringent requirements on the elder than does 1 Timothy 3:4. Moreover, in view of this parallel, Paul probably means that the elder’s children are to be faithful in obeying the head of the house. In fact, the rest of the verse contrasts ’faithful’ with the charge of being wild and disobedient, which suggests a more general kind of faithfulness." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 255.]
This second view also seems correct since the decision to believe in Christ is the child’s, and even the best Christian parent cannot guarantee it.
"Too often, new Christians feel a call to the ministry and want to be ordained before they have had a chance to establish their families in the faith. If the children are small, the problem is not too great; but mature children go through a tremendous shock when all of a sudden their household becomes ’religious’! A wise father first wins his own family to Christ and gives them a chance to grow before he pulls up stakes and moves to Bible school. We would have fewer casualties in the ministry if this policy were followed more often." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:261. On the subject of a special "call" to "the ministry," see Edward L. Hayes, "The Call to Ministry," Bibliotheca Sacra 157:625 (January-March 2000):88-98.]
Paul next listed five vices (Titus 1:7) and then (strong "but," Gr. alla) seven virtues (Titus 1:8-9).
4. "Not self-willed" (me authade; Titus 1:7), self-pleasing, means he is not arrogant or overbearing. He does not insist on having his own way. Such a person will usually take other people’s criticisms and suggestions. Much damage has been done in churches by elders who force their own wills on the other elders.
"God’s household manager must be a servant, not stubbornly self-willed, since it is God’s household, not his own (cf. Mark 10:41-45; 1 Corinthians 3:5-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2)." [Note: Fee, p. 174.]
5. "Not quick-tempered" (Gr. me orgilon; Titus 1:7), soon angry, is also a negative trait described elsewhere as being uncontentious (1 Timothy 3:3).
6. "Not addicted to wine" (Gr. me paroinon; Titus 1:7) also appears in 1 Timothy 3:3.
7. "Not pugnacious" (Gr. me plekten; Titus 1:7) or violent, a striker, is also in 1 Timothy 3:3.
8. "Not fond of sordid gain" (Gr. me aischrokerde; Titus 1:7) restates "free from the love of money" (1 Timothy 3:3) with emphasis on "making profit out of Christian service, rather than dishonest gain . . ." [Note: C. K. Barrett, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 129. See René A. López, "A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice Lists," Bibliotheca Sacra 168:671 (July-September 2011):301-16.]
"Complete honesty in financial matters and an attitude of detachment toward wealth (compare 1 Timothy 6:7-8; 1 Timothy 6:17-19) that leads to generosity are the signs of a leader who will be able to model faithfulness in these things before the congregation." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., pp. 226-27.]
9. "Hospitable" (Gr. philoxenon; Titus 1:8) also occurs in 1 Timothy 3:2.
10. "Loving what is good" (Gr. philagathon; Titus 1:8) is obvious in meaning. Paul did not mention it in 1 Timothy.
11. "Sensible" (Gr. sophrona; Titus 1:8) means sober, sober-minded, self-controlled. The NASB translators rendered the same Greek word "prudent" in 1 Timothy 3:2.
12. "Just" (Gr. dikaion; Titus 1:8) means upright, fair, equitable.
13. "Devout" (Gr. hosion; Titus 1:8) means holy, set apart to God.
14. "Self-controlled" (Gr. egkrate; Titus 1:8) means disciplined and temperate.
15. "Holding fast the faithful word" (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:2) means he remains committed to God’s truth and does not depart from it. He conserves it and preserves it from dilution, deletion, and distortion.
16. "Able . . . to exhort in sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:2) means he can encourage others with the Scriptures.
17. "Able . . . to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 3:2) means he can point out the error of false teaching and explain why it is wrong.
"Collectively, then, the force of this ideal profile of leadership, constructed of stereotypical faults to be avoided and positive virtues to be cultivated, is to project an image of public respectability and good reputation for which Paul co-opts the model of the Hellenistic ideals." [Note: Idem, The Letters . . ., p. 690.]
"In admitting a man to the ministry [of an elder] the primary consideration must ever be the integrity of his character rather than his spectacular gifts." [Note: Hiebert, Titus and . . ., p. 37.]
Modern elder boards would do well to study these qualifications and those of deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13) to construct a list on which all members of the board agree. I suggest that they should also agree on an "official" interpretation of the qualifications. This will preclude others in the church from causing division by pitting one elder’s personal interpretation against that of another elder.
In contrast to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 contains no mention of deacons. This may reflect a less advanced stage of church organization in Crete than what existed in Ephesus, since deacons were the assistants of the elders. [Note: J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 230. Cf. 1:5.] Another possibility is that the churches in Crete were smaller and so did not need formally recognized deacons.
Paul characterized the false teachers as rebellious (against God’s truth) and empty talkers; their words were only human opinion rather than God’s Word. He also said they were deceivers. [Note: See López.] Their listeners expected that what they were teaching was the truth, but it was not. Such men existed especially among the Jews, perhaps orthodox Jews, but mainly among Jewish Christians. Many Jews lived on the island of Crete. [Note: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17:12:1.] Titus had to shut their mouths because they were causing great upheaval in the church. Their motive, Paul revealed, was money obtained illegitimately, probably by teaching falsehood under the guise of truth. According to Polybius, the Cretans had a reputation for loving money. [Note: Quoted by Mounce, p. 397. See also Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 699, footnote 90.]
"When a teacher or a preacher looks on his teaching or preaching as a career designed for personal advancement and personal profit and gain, he is in a perilous condition." [Note: Barclay, p. 276. Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15.]
"The term ’households’ may refer specifically to actual family units; however, the term probably refers to house-churches where most Christian instruction was conducted." [Note: Griffin, p. 289.]
I prefer the normal meaning of the word, which is family units.
B. The correction of false teachers 1:10-16
Paul emphasized the need to guard the church against false teaching to inform Titus how to deal with the problems false teachers create. The instructions in this pericope naturally grew out of Paul’s emphasis on the elder’s responsibility to handle the Scriptures accurately and to correct those who misrepresent them (Titus 1:9).
The Cretan poet that Paul quoted was Epimenides, who lived in the sixth century B.C. Other Pauline citations of pagan writers appear in Acts 17:28 (Aratus) and 1 Corinthians 15:33 (Menander). This line from one of Epimenides’ writings had received wide acceptance in the Greek world as being true. Paul agreed with this poet. The Cretans generally tended to be liars, beastly, lazy, and gluttonous.
"So notorious were the Cretans that the Greeks actually formed a verb kretizein, to Cretize, which meant to lie and to cheat . . ." [Note: Barclay, p. 277.]
Paul evidently felt these qualities marked the false teachers especially. Therefore he charged Titus to rebuke them sharply.
"Failure to confront problems within the church, whether theologically or practically based, may be indicative of a basic indifference with regard to God’s truth or the nurturing of truly Christian relationships. The fear of giving offense and a highly individualized view of personal faith may discourage church leaders from following the biblical mandate to rebuke. The restoration that is possible both in fellowship and in sound doctrine is compromised by this reluctance to confront. Loving, sensitive, yet firm confrontation can result in stronger relationships and restored unity or perhaps a needed purging of those who deny the truth." [Note: Griffin, p. 290.]
Apparently Jewish myths and laws laid down by those who rejected God’s truth fascinated these false teachers (cf. Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:3-7; 1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:4; Colossians 2:21-22).
The context does not clarify whether those who turn away from the truth are believers or unbelievers (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3). They could be Christians (cf. Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:12) [Note: Knight, p. 295.] or non-Christians (cf. Luke 13:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:11) or both.
These "commandments of men" (Titus 1:14) involved abstaining from certain foods (asceticism; cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-4; Colossians 2:20-22). Paul reminded his readers that to the pure in heart all things, including foods, are pure (clean; cf. Matthew 15:11; Mark 7:15; Mark 7:20; Luke 11:39-41). However the impure in heart spread impurity wherever they go through their words and deeds (cf. Haggai 2:13-14).
Titus 1:15 looks at the attitudes of the false teachers whereas Titus 1:16 views their actions. The divisive and destructive influence of the false teachers betrayed their inner attitude of impurity regarding God’s truth. They were really abominable and disobedient to God as well as disapproved by Him. They could do no deeds He would approve.
"Of all bad men religious bad men are the worse." [Note: C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 32.]
Whenever a person’s talk and walk conflict it is usually his walk rather than his talk that reveals what he really is (1 John 1:6).
". . . Titus 1:16 is the hinge verse of the epistle. Paul has addressed the initial issues of the necessity of godly leadership and has called attention to the seriousness of the Cretan problem. In this verse he identifies a key issue: the opponents are teaching that what a person believes and how a person behaves are not related, and that godly living is not a necessary corollary to God’s salvific plan and work. Then in the next two chapters, after giving instructions for different groups within the church, Paul will give Titus two creedal statements that show that obedience comes out of salvation and must come out of salvation, for it is a purpose for which salvation was provided." [Note: Mounce, p. 402.]
"These verses [10-16] are the only real discussion of Paul’s Cretan opponents (cf. Titus 3:10-11). The situation in Crete appears to be similar to that in Ephesus, with a few important differences. The problem was real since their teaching was already upsetting whole households, and yet the Cretan opponents receive less attention, suggesting that the problem was not as developed as in Ephesus. The opponents were unqualified, rebellious, and inappropriate for positions of leadership in the church. In fact, Titus 1:10-16 have the purpose of explaining why Titus must appoint only qualified people to church leadership (Titus 1:5-9). The opponents were teaching senseless babble, words without meaning, myths. This passage clearly shows that the teaching was primarily Jewish and taught asceticism and guidelines for ritual purity and defilement. The opponents were part of the church but had left the truth of the gospel, and therefore they must be rebuked so that they and the church may become healthy in their faith." [Note: Ibid., p. 395.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Titus 1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26