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Paul, A Servant of God
The Greeks had two words for slave. One was used for someone captured in battle and forced into slavery. The other described those born into slavery. Paul used the latter when he called himself a servant of God ( Tit_1:1 a). James uses the same words in Jam_1:1 . Jesus described Moses as a servant of God ( Rev_15:3 ). It is especially appropriate for Christians to think of themselves as slaves. When we are born to walk in newness of life, we change masters from Satan to righteousness ( Rom_6:3-4 ; Rom_6:16-18 ). We are God's slaves because he bought us with the price of his own Son's blood ( 1Co_6:19-20 ).
Paul was commissioned by Christ to carry the good news to the Gentiles ( Act_9:15 ). His purpose was to further the cause of Christ and help God's people grow in faith and knowledge ( Rom_1:5-6 ). He wanted to spread the truth which was associated with godliness. Other truth, for instance from the fields of math and science, could be taught by others. Such preaching is grounded in the hope of eternal salvation. It comes out of the plan God made even before he formed the world ( 2Ti_1:9 ; Rom_16:25 ; Col_1:26 ). That plan had been made known in the church ( Eph_1:9-11 ; Eph_3:8-11 ). Its truth was assured by the fact that it is impossible for God to lie ( Tit_1:1 b-3; Heb_6:18 ).
Titus is one of those people many of us would like to meet. Little is written about him, but what is written commends him. He was born of Gentile parents ( Gal_2:1-3 ). He was a traveling companion of Paul. Like Timothy, Titus is described by Paul as his true son in the faith ( 1Ti_1:2 ; Tit_1:4 ). The apostle sent him to Corinth during a troubled time. Paul was anxious over the report he would bring back. In fact, he left Troas despite the open door he found there ( 2Co_2:12-13 ).
When they met in Macedonia, Paul received comfort from God in the form of Titus' words. The apostle rejoiced in the way they had refreshed the young preacher. Their response to loving instruction had confirmed the things he had earlier told Titus. Titus grew to love and appreciate them for their obedience (7:6-7, 13-16). Paul urged him to return with the second letter to complete the good work he had begun at Corinth (8:6, 16-18, 23). He described Titus as a partner and fellow worker.
Paul also sent him on a mission to Dalmatia ( 2Ti_4:10 ). He left him in Crete to help the church with things lacking. When the job was finished, the aging apostle wanted him to meet him in Nicopolis ( Tit_1:5 ; Tit_3:12 ). Paul's prayer for Titus was that he would receive grace, mercy and peace from God ( Tit_1:4 ).
Crete and Titus’ Task
This young preacher was left by Paul on the island of Crete ( Tit_1:5 ). Crete is the largest and southernmost of the Greek islands. At 3,200 square miles, it is about half the size of New Jersey. It is 160 miles from east to west. From north to south, the island is from 6 to 35 miles in width. The northern coast provides good natural harbor. Much of the southern coast has mountains rising up from the sea. At its center is Cape Lithinos, the most southerly point of Crete. Immediately east is the bay known as Fair Havens. Crete was annexed by Rome in 67 B. C. It was combined with Cyrene to form one province. Because of its geographic location, Crete was exposed to a wide variety of influences. The Greek islands were used almost like stepping stones for traffic moving from Asia Minor to Greece. There was a temple of Bacchus on this island famed for its wine. The people were known for drunkenness and trickery. The Cretans had a reputation for lying, as Paul makes clear in Tit_1:12 .
Titus was left on the island with the specific mission of setting things right. Several problems are dealt with in the epistle that were likely on Paul's mind when he wrote these words. Clearly, Paul must have been on Crete with Titus at one time. Likely this occurred after he was released from his first Roman imprisonment. In addition to providing the things they were lacking, Titus was to appoint elders. These were to be in every city, among the hundreds in Crete, where the gospel had spread.
Jews from Crete were present on the day of Pentecost ( Act_2:11 ). Some may have obeyed the gospel and taken the seed home when they returned. On his journey to Rome, Paul spent some time in Fair Havens. The text does not tell us whether he got to go ashore. Because the Fast was already past, we know it was the fall of the year. Paul advised them to winter there. The ship's owner and helmsman insisted they try to reach Phoenix, a harbor some fifty miles west of the bay. Luke details the tragic choice they made ( Act_27:1-44 ).
Qualifications of Elders
Each man Titus appointed to serve as an elder was to be above reproach ( Tit_1:6 ). Such included being the faithful husband of one wife. He could not be single or divorced and remarried for any cause other than fornication ( Mat_19:3-9 ). His children must have obeyed God's word. They could not be involved in wasteful living without self control ( Eph_5:18 ; Luk_15:13 ). Neither were they to be unwilling to submit to authority ( 1Ti_1:9 ).
It should be noted that Paul considered the word bishop to be interchangeable with elder. In fact, in Act_20:17 , he called for the elders from Ephesus to meet him at Miletus. Yet, he said it was their job to "oversee" the flock, which comes from the word translated bishop here. These men were overseeing God's flock, so it was important they faithfully handle their responsibility (compare 1Co_4:1-2 ).
If the church is to go forward, it cannot afford to have a leader who always insists on having his own way ( 2Pe_2:10 ). He must be able to govern himself. Therefore, he must not be quick tempered, a drunkard, violent or greedy for money acquired in dishonest ways ( Tit_1:7 ). Instead, he must exhibit deep concern for the needs of others. His home must always be open to the stranger ( Tit_1:8 ). His goods should be available to help widows and orphans ( Heb_13:2 ; Jam_1:27 ). God's leader loves good things ( Php_1:10 ). He is a thoughtful man who constantly displays self control.
Elders should be upright in their treatment of their fellow men ( Act_10:22 ). This is certainly appropriate for the one who loves God and strives to imitate his holy nature ( 1Pe_1:15-16 ; 1Jn_4:7-11 ). The elder will be wise and moderate in his use of all things ( 1Co_9:25 ).
Holding Fast The Truth
Elders will cling to the truth, even in the face of strong opposition ( Tit_1:9 ). They are ministers of the word, as the words "able to teach" would indicate ( 1Ti_3:2 ). Of course, Paul is speaking of wholesome, reliable words ( 1Ti_6:3-5 ; 2Ti_1:13 ; 2Ti_2:1-2 ). They must be skilled at teaching those in error the ways of righteousness. To do this, an elder would have to know the word of God. He must be able to use it to convince the false teacher of his errors. An answer must especially be given to those who speak against the truth.
Paul describes the specific false teachers of whom he is speaking in Tit_1:10 . They were rebellious. They spoke empty words intended to deceive ( 2Pe_2:18 ). This was particularly true of those who taught the necessity of circumcision for those in Christ. Such teachers had often created problems for Paul. Titus would have been well aware of the problem ( Gal_2:1-5 ; Gal_2:11-16 ). If one could have been justified by the law of Moses, there would have been no need for the death of Christ. However, none could live perfectly. The law had no sacrifice that could remove sin, so Christ had to die for us ( Heb_10:1-10 ). Our freedom, then, is in Christ, not Moses' law ( Gal_5:1-6 ).
Silence the False Teachers
Elders must be able to silence, as when wind instruments cease to play, such false teachings ( Tit_1:11 ). To stop them, they may answer them or deny them the pulpit, or both. Whole families could be led astray by their deceptive teachings (compare 2Ti_2:18 ). Sadly, Paul says their only purpose in such teachings was to gain shameful material wealth. No wonder Paul urged the Ephesian elders to take heed to themselves and the flock ( Act_20:28 )!
Paul continues his description of the nature of the false teachers by quoting a Cretan poet. J. W. Roberts says Epimenides and later Callimachus wrote, "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons." In fact, a Cretism was a lie. Obviously, such men were not interested in spiritual matters. Their one desire was to receive fleshly pleasure. Paul wanted such who were in the church to receive a sharp reprimand. Otherwise, some of the Cretan Christians might have gone back into that lifestyle. Also, Paul hoped such would turn the false teachers back to sound teaching in accord with the truth ( Tit_1:12-13 ). Sound teaching would help the false teachers turn aside the myths of the Jewish teachers ( Tit_1:14 ). It would enable them to ignore the commands of those teachers as well.
The pure see things, such as shoes, clothing, pots, etc., as pure and useful. However, the defiled man sees only defiled things ( Pro_23:7 ). One can tell whether a man is of a pure or impure nature. He has only to look at his works. The false teacher will be found to be contemptible in God's sight, disobedient and unsuited to any good work ( Tit_1:15-16 ; Mat_7:15-20 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Titus 1". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29