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There are four letters addressed to individuals which the Holy Spirit indicted through the apostle Paul. Three are called pastoral, because directed to young preachers, exhorting them to diligence in their calling. The fourth, to Philemon, is decidedly personal.
While the two letters to Timothy and that to Titus are in some respects alike, there is this marked difference: to Timothy the apostle stresses the importance of sound doctrine, whereas to Titus he dwells on sound behavior. In other words, the subject of this epistle is, “The truth which is according to godliness.”
Never was there a time when the necessity of practical piety was so marked as in the days in which our lot is cast. Loose doctrine makes for loose living. On the other hand, it is quite possible to contend earnestly for fundamental principles when the life is anything but consistent with the profession.
Titus was a Greek, as Paul tells us, who accompanied him to Jerusalem to discuss the Gentiles’ relation to the law of Moses. A trustworthy man apparently, for to him was committed the responsibility of a collection among the Gentile assemblies for the relief of the famine-stricken Jewish brethren in Palestine. Paul speaks approvingly of Titus’ general behavior, and yet significantly adds, “With Titus I sent a brother.” He would allow nothing to cast disparagement upon a servant of God in money matters. In this we see an important lesson for ourselves.
When Paul wrote this epistle Titus was in the island of Crete and was what we might call an apostolic legate to whom was committed the work of organizing the churches of Crete. The letter was evidently written between Paul’s two imprisonments, for we have no record of his having been in Crete prior to the first imprisonment, nor of his later wintering at Nicopolis. But evidently after he was freed from the charges brought against him by the Jerusalem Jews, he went about, as tradition declares, continuing his ministry until arrested a second time. It was during this interval that he went with Titus to Crete, later leaving the younger man to complete the work while he moved on to other parts.
The three chapters of the epistle are its natural divisions. Chapter 1 dwells upon the need of godliness in the church; chapter 2, godliness in the home; and chapter 3, godliness in the world.
Godliness in the Church
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate, (vv. 1-16)
Let us look particularly at the first chapter. Verses 1-4 give the salutation. J Paul speaks of himself as a bondman of God, and a sent-one of Jesus Christ in accordance with the faith of God’s elect. Faith here refers not to trust nor confidence in God on the part of the elect but to that body of doctrine which the elect are called to defend. He adds, “And the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.” Godliness is literally “godlikeness,” or “piety.” The truth apprehended in the soul produces piety in the life. This is insisted on in this letter.
The statement of verse 2 deserves special consideration: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” It should read, “the age-times,” or “the times of the ages,” in place of “world.” There are two Greek words, not merely one, that are here together translated “world.”
The “times of the ages” are the dispensations, the redemptive ages which began after the fall of man. The promise of life here referred to, as also in 2 Timothy 1:1, was the declaration Jehovah made when He cursed the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is the promise of life. It was not a promise given before the creation of the material universe, but before the ages of time had started to run their course. Sin had come in, but man was not to be left under the sentence of death. A divine Deliverer was to come from God, the Virgin’s Son, who would bring in life. In due time God fulfilled this promise, and it is now proclaimed by His Word throughout the world.
From verses 5-9 we have instruction given to Titus in regard to the ordination of elders. He was to set in order the things that were wanting, organizing the churches in a godly way and ordaining elders in every city by apostolic direction. These elders must be blameless, husbands of but one wife, having their households in godly subjection. That elder and bishop refer to the same person seems evident: “For,” he continues, as though speaking of exactly the same class, “a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God,” a man who holds himself in control, not willful, nor of bad temper, self-indulgent, quarrelsome, nor yet covetous, but hospitable, warm of heart toward his brethren, delighting in those who are good, sober, just, holy. He must not play fast and loose with Holy Scripture, but hold fast the Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers. Thus in five short verses the apostle portrays for us the ideal elder or bishop. Elder suggests a man of maturity, while bishop emphasizes his office, the word meaning an “overseer.”
The need of godly order in the church was evident. In Crete, as elsewhere, there were many unruly, vain talkers and deceivers, particularly those who had come out of Judaism. Never having been fully delivered from the law, they prated of their greater privileges, and sought to bring the Gentile believers into bondage. “Whose mouths must be stopped, [for they] subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” That is, they were seeking to form a party around themselves, having in view their own aggrandizement and enrichment.
These Cretan Jews were like their Gentile fellow countrymen of whom Epimenides had written, “The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” The last expression might read, “greedy gluttons.” What people are by nature comes out even after Christ has wrought in their souls, and therefore calls for greater watchfulness. The old nature is not changed by conversion, though a new nature is given. But the motions of the flesh must be put to death if there would be a life of victory and piety. So Paul commands Titus to rebuke them sharply in order that they may be sound in the faith. They must be warned against Jewish fables and commandments of men (taking the place of revealed truth), which would only lead to apostasy.
The fifteenth verse has frequently been utterly misused: “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.” This does not mean that things which to others are unholy become in themselves pure when done by those of superior mind. It means that the pure delight in purity, even as the unholy delight in that which is impure. With mind and conscience defiled such may make a great religious profession declaring that they know God, but their evil works prove that they are utter strangers to Him. It is against the behavior of such that Titus is called upon to warn the people of God.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Titus 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11