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(1) But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.—To introduce a regular organisation and the principle of a central church government into the numerous but scattered Christian congregations in Crete was Titus’ first work. The second and equally weighty mission the Apostle Paul charged him to execute was the refutation of a school of professed Christian teachers, who were promulgating doctrines at variance with the teaching of St. Paul and his brother Apostles, and were also, by their example and lives, fatally lowering the tone of Christian life. It was to the latter point—the evil moral influence of these teachers—that the attention of Titus was especially directed. False doctrinal teaching was bringing forth already its sure fruit, in the form of a life utterly unlike the pattern life of the Master. In contrast to this erroneous and misleading teaching, Titus is directed to exhort the varied ages, the different sexes, the bond and the free, to live lives which will bring no dishonour upon their Christian profession. The strictly practical nature of these charges is remarkable. Before touching upon doctrine, he presses home to these various ages and ranks the necessity of a quiet, useful life. The “sound doctrine” by which Titus was bidden to regulate his teaching is an expression peculiar to these Pastoral Epistles (see Note on 1 Timothy 1:10), and stands in clear contrast to the sickly, unhealthy teaching, fanciful and false, of the misleading teachers of Crete.
(2) That the aged men.—Not presbyters, or elders, in an official sense, but simply the “old men” in the congregations.
Be sober.—In a more extended sense than the bare literal meaning of the word would give. Let the elder men be “thoughtful,” in contrast with the thoughtlessness of careless youth.
Grave.—And quietly earnest, in contrast with all passion and undue excitability.
Temperate.—Discreet, or self-restrained, would be a better rendering for the Greek word.
Sound in faith, in charity, in patience.—Here Paul the aged sums up for the aged men of Crete in these three words, so well known by all his devoted hearers then, by all the devout students of his theology in subsequent ages, the great principles out of which the true saint life springs—faith, love, patience. In the famous Pauline trilogy of virtues, in this place, “patience” takes the place of hope, because this brave patience, this enduring fortitude, especially becomes the old man waiting for death. In respect to these “three” they must be healthy, sound. The faith must not be adulterated with superstitions—the love must be chivalrous, not sentimental. It must be no partisan feeling, but a tender affection, broad and inclusive, as was St. Paul’s and his Master Christ’s. The patience must be no mere tame acquiescence in what seems to be the inevitable, but must be brave, enduring, suffering—if suffering comes—for the Lord’s sake with a smile on the lips. “Not without reason,” writes Calvin, “does St. Paul include in these three the sum of Christian perfections.” It is with “faith” that we worship God—no prayer, no work of piety, can be severed from “faith.” “Love” spreads its wings over all our duties to our neighbour; and “patience” must ever go hand in hand with both “faith” and “love.” Without “patience” could “faith” hardly endure; and the affronts and unkindnesses of the world would, without this high virtue of patience, soon deaden and even destroy “love.”
(3) The aged women likewise.—St. Paul, faithful to what had now become one of the guiding principles of Christianity, the equal position of women in the city of God, fellow-heirs with men in the citizenship of the city which hath foundations, proceeds to remind the elder women of Crete of their own high duties in the company of believers. They now—the women—must remember that the position which Christ and His disciples had claimed for them in the world was not without its grave responsibilities. These aged women of the flock. like the elders just exhorted, had also much to do for Christ.
That they be in behaviour as becometh holiness.—That is, that they should show themselves as it becometh holiness; or, more literally, in demeanour reverend. The Greek word rendered “in behaviour,” or “in demeanour,” includes dress, appearance, conversation, manner; includes an outward deportment dependent on something more internal. The elder Christian woman in her whole bearing should exhibit a certain dignity of sacred demeanour; there should be something in her general appearance, in her dress, in her speech, in her every-day behaviour, which the younger and more thoughtless sister could respect and reverence—an ideal she might hope one day, if the Master spared her so long, herself to reach. For an admirable gloss on these words, see 1 Timothy 2:9-10.
Not false accusers.—Or better, perhaps, not slanderers. St. Paul knew well how easily old age yields itself to this temptation. Old age is at times intolerant, censorious, even bitter, forgetful especially of the days of youth; but Christ’s aged saints must use their voice for better things than these.
Not given to much wine.—This warning was probably called for, owing to the evil habits and customs of the Cretans.
Teachers of good things.—Or, teachers of what is good. Beza’s rendering, “mistresses of honour” (honestatis magistrœ), is singular and expressive. This does not mean that these aged women should occupy the place of public instructresses, but that they should, by here and there speaking a kind warning word, and, better still, by the golden silence of a useful honoured life, teach their younger sisters lessons of truth and faith and love.
(4) That they may teach the young women to be sober.—Better rendered, simply, that they may teach (or school) the young women, omitting the words “to be sober.” In Ephesus the representative of the Apostle was directed himself to exhort the younger women; very likely the same charge being given here to the aged women of the congregations was owing to the state of the Cretan Christian, which called not only for more practical and homely, but also for more individual, exhortations. So here this special work was left for the elder women among the faithful to carry out. Such a reformation, not only in the discipline of the Church, but also in the individual life and conversation, as St. Paul desired to see in Crete, would never be brought about by a sermon, or even by many sermons, however eloquent and earnest, from Titus. It would be a matter requiring long time and patience, and would, as observed above, rather follow as the result of patient individual effort and holy example.
To love their husbands, to love their children.—There was evidently in Crete a feverish longing for excitement, for novelty in religious teaching; hence the demand for, and consequent supply of, the “fables” and “commandments of men” spoken of in Titus 1:14. Women as well as men preferred rather to do something for religion and for God, and thus to wipe out past transgressions, and perhaps to purchase the liberty of future licence. They preferred the rigid and often difficult observance of the elaborate ritual, “the tithing of the mint, and anise, and cummin,” to quietly and reverently “doing their Father’s business.’ St. Paul’s method of correcting this false and unhealthy view of religion was to recall women as well as men to the steady, faithful performance of those quiet every-day duties to which God had, in His providence, called them. The first duty of these younger women, St. Paul tells Titus, and which he would have their elder sisters impress on them, was the great home duty of loving their husbands and children. While St. Paul would never have the women of Christ forget their new and precious privileges in the present, their glorious hopes in the future, yet here on earth he would never let them desert, or even for a moment forget, their first and chiefest duties. Their work, let them remember, lay not abroad in the busy world. Their first duty was to make home life beautiful by the love of husband and child—that great love which ever teaches forgetfulness of self.
(5) To be discreet.—See Note in Titus 2:2 of this chapter.
Chaste.—Not only in act, but also in look, in speech, in thought, even in dress.
Keepers at home.—The older authorities here, instead of “keepers at home” (domum custodientes, domus curam habentes), read workers at home; the Greek word is not found elsewhere. The sense of the passage is, however, little changed by the alteration. The meaning is clear, “Domi mansit lanam fecit.” Home duties, cares, pleasures, sacrifices of self—these God-appointed duties ought to fill the mind and the heart of the young wife. There should be no desire, no attempt, to go round to the other houses, and so contracting idle, gossiping habits. Hofmann thus sums up these directions to the young Christian women of Crete, “Gute Hausfrauen will der Apostel haben.”
Good.—Gracious, kind, thoughtful to others, especially to inferiors.
Obedient to their own husbands.—More accurately, submitting themselves to their own husbands. Women who really love their Master Christ should take care that, as far as in them lay, the law of subordination in the family to its rightful head should be strictly carried out. In a Church like that of Crete, made out of divided houses often, where the Christian wife was married to a Pagan husband, such a charge as this was especially needful.
That the word of God be not blasphemed.—These words refer to all the exhortations from Titus 2:2 onwards, but more particularly to those clauses enforcing home duties immediately preceding. There was, of course, the fear that wives, carried away by religious fervour, might neglect the plainer every-day duties for the seemingly loftier and more self-denying occupations included under the head of religious works. Such failure in every-day tasks would, of course, be bitterly charged on the religion of Christ, and the gospel would run the danger of being evil-spoken of, even in other than purely Pagan circles. But the reference extends over a broader area than that occupied by Christian mistresses of households. All, of every rank and age, who think they love the Lord Jesus should remember that the “enemy” is ever watching their words and works; never should they who wear the colours of the great King forget the charge of the King’s son, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
(6) Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.—The task of influencing the young men belongs especially to Titus. Among them, in respect to age, he still must be reckoned; as regarded their peculiar temptations, none could be found so fit as the still young Christian disciple of St. Paul (he ‘was probably about forty years of age when he was placed over the Cretan Church) to set out vividly before them both the peril and the only means of guarding against it. Brought up in a Pagan home, not improbably in the luxurious and wicked Syrian Antioch, drawn to the Master’s side in the fresh dawn of manhood, tried in many a difficult task and found faithful, the words of Titus, exhorting the youth of Crete to be sober-minded, or self-restrained, would be likely to have great weight. In this word, which urged self-restraint, a young man’s duty is briefly comprehended. No task, the wise Chrysostom tells us, is after all so hard and difficult for youth, as obtaining the mastery over oneself in the matter of harmful pleasures. The Apostle gives but few special directions here for his disciple’s guidance, for he is going to tell him how he will best win these young men to the side of Christ. It will be, he proceeds to show him, most effectually done by the sight of the example of his own manly, self-restrained religious life.
(7) In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works.—Here St. Paul shows Titus that his especial work is the instruction of no one peculiar class or order, or age or sex, but that he is so to fashion his whole life that it may afford a “pattern” to all—men and women, bond as well as free; in all things a ceaseless activity was prescribed to the superintending presbyter in Crete. In everything that was earnest and true, Titus ought to be the one showing an example to the rest; in peaceful, quiet days, as in times of danger and threatening, he must set the pattern—now of useful labour and toil—now of brave, patient endurance for the Lord’s sake.
In doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.—The older authorities omit “sincerity.” Neither of the terms “uncorruptness” and “gravity” refers to the subject-matter of the “doctrine” or “teaching,” but to the bearing and behaviour of the “teacher.” While he occupies the place of a teacher, Titus must show in his life and conversation “uncorruptness”—apthoria, the word found in the older authorities, the meaning of which differs very slightly from the word adiapthoria, found in the received text. He must, in all those points of his life which are connected with his teaching, show a purity (chastity) and freedom from all interested motives; he must be above seeking for popular applause; but besides this “uncorruptness,” in everything touching public instruction he must aim at a certain “gravity,” not only in his public delivery of sermons and lectures, but also in his general private intercourse with his flock. He must, in a word, never forget he is the chief teacher in the Church of Crete of his Master’s religion.
(8) Sound speech, that cannot be condemned.—The substance of Titus’ teaching, whether in the more private intercourse with individuals or in his preaching in the Christian gatherings, must be healthy, practical, manly, in contrast to the sickly, morbid, fanciful instruction the false teachers of Crete were in the habit of giving. His words, too, must be well weighed and thoughtful, as well as earnest and impassioned; they must be such as would expose him neither to contempt nor to the charge of presumption. Between the lines of the exhortation of the 7th and 8th verses we can read the anxiety of the Apostle that his representative in Crete should take all possible care that the matter of his teaching and preaching was studied and prepared with all the attention and thought so important a duty demanded. He should remember, too, that the words as well as the works of the Christian teacher will be subject to a sharp and often hostile criticism. These warnings and reminders of St. Paul, it should be borne in mind, belong to all ages of the faith.
That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.—The older authorities, with one exception, read “of us,” instead of “of you.” If Titus fairly carries out the exhortation of the last two verses, then the enemy, either the false teacher or the Pagan opponent of Christianity, confounded by the pure, self-sacrificing, earnest life, overcome by the well-weighed, thoughtful utterance of great truths, by the impassioned exhortation to men and women to lead noble, honest lives, will surely be ashamed of his bitter opposition, when he finds neither in the life nor in the teaching anything which he can fairly criticise as “bad.” As the better supported reading, “of us,” associates St. Paul and others with Titus, the evil thing which might have been said of Titus in reality would be spoken against St. Paul and the elder Apostles.
(9) Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters.—The accurate translation here is bond servants. The words in this and the following verse, it must be remembered, are addressed to “slaves.” With some special reference to the peculiar circumstances of the Church in Crete, St. Paul had been giving general directions to his representative (Titus 2:1-8) respecting instruction and advice he considered it expedient should be given to the varied orders and ages of professing Christians in the island. These directions were arranged with respect to “age” and “sex.” He now turns to the question of the instruction of another large class, among whom were to be found many Christians—“the slaves.” These he masses together under one head. Not improbably these “words” to be addressed particularly to slaves were called out by some particular instances of insubordination and of impatience under their unhappy condition among the Cretan slaves. Indeed, the repeated warnings to this unfortunate and oppressed class (see Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; 1 Timothy 6:1) tell us that among the difficulties which Christianity had to surmount in its early years was the hard task of persuading “the slave” that the divine Master who promised him a home, if he were faithful and true, among the many mansions of His Father, meant not that the existing relations of society should be then changed, or its complex framework disturbed. St. Paul knew it was a hard matter to persuade the bondman, fellow-heir of heaven with the freeman, to acquiesce patiently in his present condition of misery and servitude. Hence these repeated charges to this class. These poor sufferers were to obey cheerfully, readily, as the next clause told them.
And to please them well in all things; not answering again.—The last words are better translated not gainsaying; the Vulgate has contradicentes. It signifies that they should obey cheerfully, willingly, without sullenness; not thwarting or setting themselves against their masters’ plans or desires or orders; and the Apostle, in Titus 2:10, gives them a noble inducement for this brave, sweet patience he would have so earnestly pressed upon them. Such conduct on their part, he tells them, would serve greatly to help the Master’s cause; it would prepossess many hostile minds in favour of a religion which could so powerfully influence even the slave. Chrysostom comments thus: “Greeks form their estimate of doctrines not from the doctrine itself, but from the actions and the life” (of those who profess the doctrine).
(10) Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity.—It must be remembered that many of the slaves in the Roman empire were employed in other duties besides those connected with the house or on the farm. Some were entrusted with shops, and these being left often quite to themselves, of course great opportunities for dishonesty and fraud were constantly present. Others received an elaborate training, and as artists, or even physicians, worked in part for their masters. A slave in the days of St. Paul had a hundred ways of showing to his owner this true and genuine fidelity, opposed to mere assumed surface obedience and service.
That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.—A slave cheerfully accepting his hard yoke, and striving with hand and brain to please and advance the interest of his earthly master only for the dear love of Christ, must have been in those days of cynical self-love a silent, yet a most powerful preacher of a gospel which could so mould and elevate a character so degraded. Calvin remarks that it is indeed noteworthy how God deigns to receive an adornment from slaves, whose condition was so mean and abject that scarcely were they considered to rank among men at all; “they were ranked as ‘possessions.’ just like cattle or horses.” Professor Reynolds very happily remarks here: “This teaching of St. Paul is in harmony with the words of the Lord Jesus—out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise. God gets His highest praise from the lips of little children, His robes of glory from the faithfulness, honour, and simplicity of born slaves.”
(11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.—More accurately translated, For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men. “For” gives the ground, the base upon which the practical exhortations to freemen as well as to bond-servants, contained in Titus 2:1-10, rest. These words might be paraphrased thus: “Yes, exhort all classes and orders, every age of life, each sex, bond as well as free, to struggle after pure, good, righteous lives, for I tell you, in very truth, like a sun on a darkened world has the grace of God arisen with salvation in its beams.” Compare the grand Isaiah passage, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1); and also the words of Malachi (4:2), “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” (See, too, Isaiah 9:2.) The thought of these passages was not improbably in St. Paul’s view while he wrote the words to Titus telling him to exhort his flock, for God’s grace had appeared to all men. The Greek word translated “appeared” occurs in Luke 1:79 and Acts 27:20—both writings closely connected with St. Paul, if not in great part written by him—and in each of these passages it is used to express the shining of the sun. The “grace of God” here spoken of is that divine favour to and love for men upon which the whole work of redemption was based, the object of which redemption was the ultimate restoration of man. The epiphany, or manifestation of this grace to the world, commenced with the incarnation of our Lord; but the reference here must not be limited to that or to any one event in the blessed Life. The expression “bringing salvation to all men” is another of those hard sayings which have been pressed into the service of that kindly but erring school of expositors which shuts its eyes to the contemplation of the many unmistakable sayings which warn the impenitent and hardened sinner of the sad doom of eternal death. The “grace” alone brings salvation to all men—in other words, it is that grace of God whereby alone it is possible for mankind to be saved. The expression by no means asserts that all men will be saved by it, but that it is the only means by which salvation is possible.
(12) Teaching us.—Literally, disciplining us; educating us by life’s sad experiences. God’s grace is in truth a stern discipline of self-denial and training for higher things.
Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.—More accurately, to the intent that, having denied, &c. The object of the loving discipline of our Father in heaven is that we, having done with those things in life which are offensive or dishonourable to God, having put aside as worthless all inordinate desires for the things of this world—all those things which exclusively belong to this life and have nothing to do with the life to come—having denied all this, that we should live as righteous men the remainder of our lives here.
We should live soberly, righteously, and godly.—In these three terms the blessed life our Lord would have His own to lead on earth is summed up—to ourselves, to our neighbour, and to our God. The first, “soberly,” to ourselves—wisely and temperately, keeping ever a mastery over our passions; the second, “righteously”—justly and honourably, having due regard to our duty towards our neighbour; the third, “godly”—piously, ever remembering to live as in the presence of the Eternal.
In this present world.—Or, in the present course of things. The Apostle adds these words to his summary of the life Christians should lead, to remind them that the present world was but a transitory, passing scene after all, and that there was another and a different “course of things” at hand; and this leads him on to another point. The manifestation of the “grace of God,” in the first coming of the Lord in humiliation (Titus 2:11), teaches us to live our lives in expectation of the second manifestation of His glory in His second coming in power (Titus 2:13). We must—in this great passage contained in Titus 2:11-14—bear in mind that there is a two-fold epiphany spoken of: the one, the manifestation of the “grace of God”—that is past (it was the first coming and the earthly life of Christ); the other, the manifestation of the “glory of God”—that is to come. It will be shown in the second advent when the Lord comes in glory with His holy-angels; and the first epiphany (manifestation) in humiliation is an ever-present reminder to us to live in continued expectation of the second in glory.
(13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing.—The Greek should here be rendered, looking for the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory. And that holy life, just urged on the believer, of quiet self-restraint, of love to others, of piety towards God, must be lit up by a blessed hope, by a hope which is far more than a hope; that holy life of the faithful must be a continued waiting for a blessed hope—“the hope laid up for us in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). It may be asked, What is this hope? We answer, it is “the hope of glory” which we shall share with the Son of God, when we behold Him as He is. So for us the hope of glory is intimately bound up with the second coming of the Lord. Then the life of the lover of the Lord must be one continued looking for, waiting for, the coming of the Lord in glory—must be a looking for that hour when we shall see in all His divine majesty, Him who redeemed us. In that life and light, in that majesty and glory, His own will share.
Of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.—The translation here should run, of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. From the English version, it would seem that Paul’s idea was that the Christian should live waiting for the glorious appearing of the great God, accompanied with our Lord Jesus Christ. The rendering we have adopted, on what seems conclusive grounds, speaks of a Christian life, as a life ever looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In this sublime passage the glory of the only begotten Son alone finds mention. Taken thus, it is a studied declaration of the divinity of the Eternal Son, who is here styled “our great God and Saviour.” Reasoning merely on grammatical principles, either translation would be possible, only even then there is a presumption in favour of the translation we have adopted. (See Ellicott’s Note on this verse.) But other considerations are by no means so nearly equally balanced. The word “manifestation” (epiphany), the central thought of the sentence, is employed by St. Paul in his Epistles five times, and in every one of them to describe the manifestation of Christ, and in four of them to designate the future manifestation of His coming in glory, as here. The term epiphany is never applied to the Father.
Again, the whole of the context of the passage specially relates to the “Son of God.” The introduction of the epiphany “of the Father” would be a thought not merely strange to the whole New Testament, but would bring quite a new idea into this statement, which sets forth so sublimely the epiphany of Christ as the ground of the Christian’s hope—an idea, too, no sooner suggested than dropped, for the passage goes on to speak only of the Son. Perhaps, however, the weightiest argument that can be adduced is the consensus of the Greek orthodox fathers, who, with scarcely an exception, concur in the interpretation which understands the expression “of our great God” as used of Jesus Christ. To select two examples out of the long chain of fathers reaching from the apostolic age who have thus understood this text: “St. Paul here calls Christ the great God, and thus rebukes the heretical blasphemy which denies His Godhead” (Theodoret). “What can those persons say,” asks Chrysostom, referring to this passage, “who allege that the Son is inferior to the Father?” (See Wordsworth’s Note here.)
(14) Who gave himself for us.—(See Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:25.) These words take up the thought expressed in the term “Saviour” of the last verse. “Himself,” His whole self, as has been well said, “the greatest gift ever given;” “for us,” that is, on our behalf.
That he might redeem us from all iniquity.—That He for us might pay a ransom, the ransom being His precious blood. Our Saviour, by the payment of this tremendous ransom—O deepest and most unfathomable of all mysteries!—released us from everything which is opposed to God’s blessed will. Here the mighty ransom is spoken of as freeing us from the bondage of lawlessness; elsewhere in the divine books the same ransom is described as delivering us from the penalties of this same breaking the divine law—“alles was der Ordnung Gottes widerstreitet” (Hofmann, Commentary on Titus).
And purify unto himself a peculiar people.—The expression “a peculiar people” is taken from the LXX. translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, where the words occur several times (see Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2); the idea is also purely an Old Testament one. Just as Jehovah wished to establish a people which should belong to Him (“peculiarly His,” “His very own”), submitting to His laws, in contrast to the rest of mankind, lawless, idolatrous—so Jesus would set apart and purify for Himself a people, which for His sake should devote itself to God, in contrast to the rest of humanity sunk in selfish sins. As Israel of old lived under the constant impression that they would again behold the visible glory of the Eternal, so His people now should live as men waiting for a second manifestation of His glory.
Zealous of good works.—The man who hopes to see the epiphany of Jesus his Lord and Love in glory will struggle zealously with hand and brain to live his life in such a manner that he may meet his Lord, when He comes in glory, with joy. It was a people composed of such “zealots” of goodness, of men longing for His sake to do their utmost for His cause, that our great God and Saviour wished to purify unto Himself.
(15) These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.—These words are the conclusion of this part of the Letter of St. Paul to Titus. A new division of the Epistle begins immediately after this verse with the third chapter. He is to speak the words—many of them sharp and bitter—told him by St. Paul; he is to remember now to exhort, now to rebuke, and all this “with authority,” as chief pastor of the flock of Crete formally commissioned and appointed.
Let no man despise thee.—“Speak,” wrote the brave-hearted old man Paul, “speak with decision, and rebuke and punish if need be with vigour, remembering the dark character of the people with whom you have to do.” And perhaps in the background of this stirring admonition of the aged master to his disciple, placed in so difficult and responsible a position, there is the anxious warning again: Yes, but show all diligence too in your own words and doings, so that every word of thine may have its full weight, that none may despise thee on account of thine own life.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Titus 2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25