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Bible Commentaries
Titus 3

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 5-11


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.

Verses 1-11

C. The conduct of the saints 2:1-3:11

Having specified the type of men qualified to lead the church, and having pointed out the deficiencies of certain unqualified leaders, Paul turned to discuss the conduct of individual Christians in the churches. He dealt with these instructions by dividing them up among various groups in the church and then reemphasizing what proper behavior for all saints looks like.

Verses 1-2

Instructions 3:1-2

Several duties of all Christians follow. We should (1) be subject to governmental rulers and other authorities by being obedient to them and (2) be ready to do whatever is good. We should (3) slander no one and (4) be peaceable (Gr. amachous, lit. non-fighting), gentle, and considerate toward everyone (cf. 1 Peter 2:23).

"The Christian must not adopt the arts of the agitator." [Note: Hiebert, "Titus," p. 443.]

"So far Paul has been concerned with the internal arrangements of the Cretan churches and the duties of their members to one another. Now he comments briefly on their relationship to the civil power and their pagan environment generally. The point he makes is that they should be models of good citizenship precisely because the new, supernatural life of the Spirit bestowed by [Spirit] baptism finds expression in such an attitude." [Note: Kelly, p. 249.]

"People who are ever fighting are wretched citizens and neighbors; people who are willing to yield in gentleness are admirable, especially when they follow the gentle spirit of Jesus." [Note: Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, p. 928.]

Verses 1-8

Individual responsibility 3:1-8

"After a brief exhortation to Titus (Titus 2:15) to ’teach these things’ (at least Titus 2:1-14), Paul returns in this section to the major concern of the letter-’good works’ (i.e., genuinely Christian behavior) for the sake of the outsider (Titus 3:1-8) and in contrast to the false teachers (Titus 3:9-11)." [Note: Fee, p. 200.]

Verses 1-11

2. The behavior of all in the church 3:1-11

Paul broadened the focus of his instructions to clarify the responsibilities of all Christians in view of God’s grace.

Verse 3

To motivate his readers to obey these commands Paul encouraged them by reminding them of the way they used to be. They had already come a long way. Each characteristic he mentioned in this verse contrasts with one he had urged his readers to adopt earlier in this epistle. They-Paul included himself-had been foolish, not sensible; disobedient, not submissive; deceived, not enlightened; and enslaved, not free and self-disciplined. Moreover they had been malicious, not peaceable; envious, not considerate; and hateful, not loving. [Note: See López.] Again, Christian behavior is to be the opposite of Cretan behavior.

Verses 3-8

Rationale 3:3-8

Verses 4-5

The appearance Paul referred to is the sending of Jesus Christ to die for us, the Incarnation. That was the greatest revelation of God’s kindness and love for humankind. God took the initiative. God does not save people because they behave righteously but because He is merciful (cf. Romans 3:27-28; Romans 4:4-5; Galatians 2:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9). The salvation He provides consists of rebirth that Paul likened here to washing off sin’s filth (John 3:3-8; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 1:23) and renewal by God’s Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). He did not mention human faith because his emphasis here was on God’s grace in providing salvation.

"He came to tell men, not of the justice which would pursue them for ever until it caught up with them, but of the love which would never let them go." [Note: Barclay, p. 299.]

In Titus 3:5 "washing" could refer to conversion and "renewing" to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the new believer. Another view is that "washing" could refer to baptism with "regeneration" and "renewing" describing what the Spirit does in salvation. [Note: A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:607.] Probably "washing" is a metaphor for spiritual cleansing rather than for baptism with the emphasis in the entire phrase being on the Spirit’s cleansing, regenerating work. [Note: Fee, pp. 204-5.]

Note the reference to the work that all three members of the Trinity accomplished in our salvation in these verses.

Verses 6-7

God poured out His Holy Spirit on believers richly. He did this first at Pentecost (Acts 2), but He does it since then whenever individuals experience conversion (cf. Romans 5:5). His grace always exceeds our need. God has not only graciously declared us righteous, but He has also graciously made us the heirs of eternal life. Paul’s whole emphasis was on the grace of God. We owe everything to God’s grace.

In Titus 3:5-7 Paul explained what God did (saved, washing, regeneration, renewing, justified), its basis (God’s mercy), its means (the Holy Spirit), and its goal (hope of eternal life).

Verse 8

The "trustworthy statement" (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11) Paul referred to is probably what he had just written in Titus 3:4-7. The first "these things" in this verse are the things that he had just described in those verses. Titus was to speak about these great truths confidently (cf. Titus 2:15). The intended result was to be that those who have trusted God for salvation would practice good works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:14-26). The second "these things" in the verse refers to these good works. This verse summarizes the point Paul made throughout this epistle. Good works, he added, are essentially excellent as well as profitable for everyone on the practical level.

"The best way a local church has to witness to the lost is through the sacrificial service of its members." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:268.]

Some successors of the Protestant Reformers (e.g., Theodore Beza in Geneva, and Williams Perkins in England) argued that a true believer in Jesus Christ will inevitably persevere in faith and in good works. This appears to have been an overreaction to the Roman Catholic accusation that justification by faith alone leads to antinomianism. If the professing Christian does not continue to persevere in faith and good works, these reformers contended, such a person was never really saved in the first place. [Note: See R. T. Kendall, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649; idem., Once Saved . . ., pp. 207-17; and M. Charles Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance.] Paul’s strong exhortation for believers to maintain good works indicates that he believed it was possible for genuine Christians not to maintain good works.

"The purpose of the epistle to Titus was to instruct him about what he should do and teach in the Cretan churches. A special theme of the letter is the role of grace in promoting good works among God’s people (Titus 2:11 to Titus 3:8)." [Note: Litfin, p. 761. Cf. Mounce, p. 452.]

Verse 9

On the other hand Titus should shun what was worthless and unprofitable. In view of the context Paul especially meant those things the false teachers were promoting (Titus 1:10; Titus 1:14; 1 Timothy 1:3-7; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23). Examples of these kinds of controversies that the Jewish commentaries have preserved are the following. Should a Jew eat an egg laid on a festival day? What sort of wick and oil should a Jew use for candles he burns on the Sabbath? The genealogies in view were speculations about the origins and descendants of persons, which some thought had spiritual significance (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4). [Note: Knight, p. 353.]

"I have learned that professed Christians who like to argue about the Bible are usually covering up some sin in their lives, are very insecure, and are usually unhappy at work or at home." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:268.]

Verses 9-11

Titus’ responsibility 3:9-11

Verses 10-11

If a false teacher who engendered faction rather than unity by his teaching refused to change his ways after one or two warnings, Titus should have nothing more to do with him (cf. Matthew 18:15-17). [Note: See Ted G. Kitchens, "Perimeters of Corrective Church Discipline," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:590 (April-June 1991):201-13.] The reason for this rejection is that the false teacher is not straight in his thinking, he is sinning, and he is self-condemned. If such a person refuses to judge himself, God will judge him (1 Corinthians 11:31-32). I believe all the leaders of God’s people should follow this instruction; Paul evidently did not intend it only for Titus. Church leaders should give ministry by such a false teacher no platform in the church.

"The significance of refuting false teaching in this letter is indicated by Paul’s direct attack on factious men at the beginning of the letter (Titus 1:10 ff.) and now at its conclusion (Titus 3:9-11). His outstanding theological statements (Titus 1:1-4; Titus 2:11-15; Titus 3:3-7) provide the ’sound doctrine’ that motivates believers to ’good works’ and makes the gospel ’attractive’ to a lost world. In contrast, the false teachers with their erroneous teaching motivate their followers to works that in essence ’deny’ a true knowledge of God (Titus 1:16) and destroy the doctrinal unity of the church." [Note: Griffin, p. 328.]

Verse 12

Paul evidently intended to send either Artemas or Tychicus (2 Timothy 4:12) to take Titus’ place in Crete. Paul wanted Titus to join him for the coming winter in Nicapolis ("city of victory"), probably the one in Illyricum that lay on the Adriatic coast of western Greece opposite northern Italy.

Verses 12-15


Paul closed this epistle by sending Titus instructions concerning fellow workers, a final charge, and greetings. He did so to enable him to complete his task of setting the church in order.

Verse 13

Zenas and Apollos (cf. Acts 18:24 to Acts 19:1) were apparently in Crete with Titus and planned to leave Crete for other places of ministry. They may have previously carried this letter from Paul to Titus. Zenas ("gift of Zeus") was evidently a converted Jewish lawyer who was an expert in the Mosaic Law, as the word "lawyer" (Gr. nomikon) means in the Gospels. [Note: Mounce, p. 458; Robertson, 4:608.] Or he could have been an expert in Greek or Roman law, in view of his Greek name. [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., pp. 801-2.] Paul urged Titus and the Cretan Christians to help these two brethren by ministering to their needs. The apostle gave them a concrete opportunity to put good deeds into practice.

Verse 14

Paul gave a final encouragement to the Cretans through Titus to be faithful in providing for their own regular financial responsibilities (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12). "Engage in good deeds [occupations]" probably refers to normal wage-earning activities rather than special fund-raising projects (cf. Titus 3:8). The NIV rendering "provide for daily necessities" translates this thought more clearly than the NASB. The stereotype of Cretans generally (Titus 1:12) evidently applied to some in the church. Industriousness would provide the Christians with what they needed; they would not be unfruitful (cf. Titus 3:9; Luke 8:14; John 15:2).

Verse 15

We do not know who was with Paul when he wrote this epistle or where he was when he wrote it, but obviously he was in the company of other Christians. Paul sent greetings to the faithful in Crete and closed with a benediction for them. The second "you" is plural in the Greek text.

"As in 1 Timothy 6:21 and 2 Timothy 4:22, the plural betrays that the letter was expected to be read out publicly." [Note: Kelly, p. 259.]

Paul opened and closed this epistle with references to faith and grace (Titus 1:4). "Grace" appears in the first and last chapters of every inspired letter from Paul plus 1 and 2 Peter and Revelation.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Titus 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/titus-3.html. 2012.
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