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‘Paul, a bondservant (doulos) of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,’
This is the only place where Paul opens his letter by claiming to be the ‘servant (bondservant) of God’, although he uses the title ‘bondservant of Jesus Christ/Christ Jesus’ in Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1. He likes to vary his introductions. He is here paralleling it with ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ’, which, with variations, is a more regular title. James, in James 1:1, has ‘a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’.
The title ‘servant of God’ (doulos theou) is applied to Moses (and only Moses) as a title of honour (1 Chronicles 6:49; 2 Chronicles 24:9; Nehemiah 10:29; Daniel 9:11). Although in LXX the references in Chronicles are translated as ‘pais theou’, those in Nehemiah and Daniel are translated ‘doulos tou theou’. It therefore indicates high status as a proclaimer of God’s truth directly appointed by God, on a parallel with Moses, and parallel with ‘an Apostle of Jesus Christ’. A parallel title ‘the servant of YHWH’ was more common in the Old Testament.
The titles may, however, also be seen as a title of humility as Paul presents himself as the slave of God. In that sense we also can use the title.
‘Apostle of Jesus Christ.’ This is the parallel New Testament status to ‘Servant of God’ as used of Moses. He was set apart from his mother’s womb to be one in whom ‘His Son’ was revealed (Galatians 1:15-16), to the unique Apostleship which he shared with Jesus’ twelve Apostles (Galatians 1:17; Gal 2:8 ; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 9:5; Romans 11:13), and James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19) and possibly with Barnabas (Acts 14:14), although the last reference may be a lesser temporary use as of those ‘sent forth’ by the church (but see 1 Corinthians 9:6 in context). Paul is here claiming his full status as a unique representative of Jesus Christ as he does in most of his letters in one way or another. Compare especially 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1.
‘According to the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.’ Some see this as indication that somehow Paul’s servanthood and apostleship were regulated by the faith of God’s elect, being determined by it (compare 1 Corinthians 9:2) others, however argue that ‘according to’ means ‘with regard to’. Thus Paul is simply stating that his position as a servant of God and an Apostle is for the benefit of God’s elect and for the furtherance of the knowledge of the truth. ‘According to’ could also mean ‘in accordance with’, indicating that that was how the faith of God’s elect saw it. All are in their own way true. The phrase ‘God’s elect is Pauline, being found otherwise only in Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12. But the idea that God’s people are the elect of God is found more widely, e.g. Matthew 24:22; Matthew 24:24; Matthew 24:31; Luke 18:7; 2Ti 2:10 ; 1 Peter 1:2. They are those who have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
‘And the knowledge (epignosis) of the truth which is according to godliness.’ This might be seen as tending to support the idea that it was how his position was seen both by the elect and by the genuine truth, or it may be seen as signifying that he was a source of the knowledge of the genuine truth. Epignosis was a popular word for knowledge with Paul, containing within it an element of ‘spiritual knowledge’ or ‘true knowledge’ in contrast with false knowledge for which gnosis is always used (1 Timothy 6:20). But the distinction is not rigid. What we can say is that false knowledge is never called epignosis in the New Testament.
‘The truth which is according to godliness.’ Compare 2 Peter 1:3. True knowledge produces godliness. True godliness and true truth go together. ‘Godliness.’ Godliness (eusebia), is not necessarily a satisfactory translation as the word does not necessarily involve God, It signifies ‘the fulfilment of obligation’, whether to God (and therefore true worship and piety) or men (and therefore loving one’s neighbour as oneself for His sake). So we may see it as Godly faith, resulting in a genuineness towards God from a worshipful heart, which also results in our fulfilment of our obligation towards our fellowman. This is always the case for those who come to spiritual knowledge of the truth.
‘In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal,’
And God’s elect, those who have come to a knowledge of God’s truth are ‘in hope of eternal life’. This is not a wishful hope, but a certain hope, like the hope that fills a child’s heart as the vehicle in which it is travelling is almost in sight of the treat in store. It knows that it is about to happen. It refers to our confident expectation of full spiritual, everlasting life under God’s eternal Kingly Rule in the new heavens and the new earth. Through Christ we already have eternal life if we are His (John 5:24; 1 John 5:13), the new life that throbs in our hearts and transforms our lives (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17), but in the future we will enjoy it in overwhelming measure.
‘Which God, who cannot lie, (is free from all falsehood), promised before times eternal.’ And this life was promised by the God Who cannot lie, in a promise made before ‘the times of the ages’, in other words before the world began. (See Ephesians 1:3-14; Romans 8:28-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). This was the message that was entrusted to Paul under God’s command (Titus 1:3), and has been committed to Titus to pass on to others. Thus the hope is a hope both of Paul and of the elect.
These reminders were an important part of his bolstering of the faith of those who had not themselves seen with their own eyes the risen Jesus Christ, especially in view of the challenging times. He was not giving Titus new teaching, he was reminding him of the vision that they both shared.
‘But in his own seasons manifested his word in the message, wherewith I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Saviour.’
But while the promises were made ‘before the times of the ages’, they came into fulfilment in the seasons that God chose. Firstly through Moses and the Prophets, and then ‘when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman -- to redeem those who were under the Law’ (Galatians 4:4). And it was the message of Moses and the Prophets as they pointed forward to Jesus Christ, and the message of Jesus Himself, with which he has been entrusted in accordance with the command of ‘God our Saviour’. His teaching was under divine command. If only we realised this more in our own lives, how much more effective our witness would be.
‘God our Saviour.’ Compare 1 Timothy 1:1. In Titus Paul slides easily between ‘God our Saviour’ (here, Titus 2:10; Titus 3:4) and ‘Christ Jesus our Saviour’ (Titus 1:4; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:6), even speaking of ‘the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13). It will be noted that each time that he speaks of God our Saviour he follows it almost immediately with a similar reference to Jesus Christ. The dual reference is no doubt deliberate.
Sometimes it is easy to get the mistaken idea that God is harsh, and that Jesus is the soft face of God. But that is, of course, totally untrue. God Himself is the Saviour. His heart is fully in it and He performs His saving work through Jesus Christ in full co-operation with Him. As Jesus put it, ‘My Father works up to now, and I work’ (John 5:17). They are doing the saving work together.
‘To Titus, my true child after a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.’
His letter is specifically addressed to Titus, but almost certainly intended to be read publicly. Note the greeting of ‘grace be with you all’ in Titus 3:15. He describes Titus as his ‘true child’. Many of his children in the faith had let him down, but not Titus. And he and Titus are sharers in a common faith, along with all who ‘love the Lord Jesus in sincerity’ (Ephesians 6:24). It is the truth concerning Jesus crucified and risen that binds them together, and it is for all equally, both Jew and Gentile.
‘Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.’ Paul tends to vary his salutations, but this is the only example where ‘our Saviour’, forms a part of such a salutation. The idea has an unusual prominence in this letter. Paul is conscious that the young Cretan believers should be fully aware of the saving activity of God and Jesus Christ. It is not, however, unique for Jesus is described as ‘the Saviour’ in Ephesians 5:23; Philippians 3:20; and ‘our Saviour’ in 1 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:10. Compare also Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Acts 5:13; Acts 13:23; 2 Peter 1:1; 2Pe 1:11 ; 2 Peter 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; 2Pe 3:18 ; 1 John 4:14; Jude 1:25.
His prayer for Titus is that God would reveal towards him His grace, His unmerited favour and compassion, and would grant him wellbeing and peace in his heart and in his life. In one way or another this was a common greeting combining Gentile and Jewish greetings. The usual combination of God, in this case ‘the Father’, and Christ Jesus, in this case ‘our Saviour’, but regularly ‘the Lord’, demonstrates the equal status that Paul applies to Jesus in the Godhead. God and Jesus can be spoken of in the same breath. Both are the objects of our worship, both are the source of our hope.
‘I left you in Crete for this reason, that you should set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave you charge.’
Paul begins by pointing out to Titus why he left him in Crete. It was so that he could go among the churches on the island (there would probably be a number of house churches in each city and town) and set things in order, where there was any lack. Especially he had noted that there was not an established body of elders in every city. (Crete had been called ‘the island of a hundred cities’, and to begin with the churches might have been small). Thus on leaving Crete he had charged Titus to appoint such elders, where there were none, and one of the purposes of his letter was in order to give guidance in respect of this.
Eldership was at that time the method of overseeing the churches. Compare here how in Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas had ‘appointed elders in every church’ while in Acts 20:17 Paul called to him the elders of the church at Ephesus when he was passing through the area. Furthermore the synagogues were run by elders, and it had been the natural pattern for the Jewish church to follow, both in Jerusalem (compare Acts 15:0) and when the church began to separate from the synagogues. It would therefore have been a natural type of organisation for Paul to follow. Thus this letter portrays the system that we would have expected at this comparatively early date.
Titus Is To Appoint Suitable Elders In The Churches (Titus 1:5-9 ).
The fact that this is a young and growing church comes out in that in many cities there appear to have been no official elders. Cretans had been present at Pentecost (Acts 2:11) and no doubt took the Gospel back with them, and we know that Paul visited Crete on the way to Rome (Acts 27:8). However, we know nothing more about how the church had become established in Crete, but if no elders had been appointed it is clear that their ministry was informal. That was not, of course, unusual in the early church, and the meetings around the island may well have at first been small. But news of the growth of the church had reached Paul’s ears, and he had paid them a visit along with Titus, and had arranged for Titus to remain there (Titus 1:5) in order to aid them in establishing their life and witness. Paul now gives Titus guidance about the appointment of suitable elders.
a I left you in Crete for this reason, that you should set in order the things that were wanting, and appoint elders in every city, as I gave you charge (Titus 1:5).
b If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of riot or unruly (Titus 1:6).
b For the bishop must be blameless, as God’s steward, not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled (Titus 1:7-8).
a Holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers (Titus 1:9).
Note that in ‘a’ he is to set things in order in the churches of Crete, and in the parallel those appointed are to be able to do the same. In ‘b an elder must be blameless, and in the parallel all bishops are to be blameless.
SECTION 1. Titus Must Set The Churches of Crete On The Right Path In the Light Of the False Teachers Who Are There (Titus 1:5 to Titus 2:8 ).
In this section Titus learns that he must appoint elders, ensure that the church receive sound doctrine, warn them against false teaching, and require of them true Christian living. The fact that elders needed to be appointed points to a church which was growing throughout the island.
a Titus is to set things in order and appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5).
b The moral requirements for elder/bishops (Titus 1:6-8),
c The need to hold to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers (Titus 1:9).
d The false teachers, ‘many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision, who are mercenary and whose mouths must be stopped (Titus 1:10-11).
e “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons”, so that the Christians must purify themselves from such behaviour by being sound in what their faith requires of them and by not being like them (Titus 1:12-13).
f They must not give heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth (Titus 1:14).
e The pure are compared with the impure, the former being pure, the latter defiled (Titus 1:15).
d Some profess to know God, but by their works they deny him and are abominable and disobedient (Titus 1:16).
c Titus is to speak the things which befit the sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
b The moral requirements for all believers, male and female, young and old (Titus 2:2-6).
a In everything Titus is to show himself an example of good works, showing uncorruptness, gravity, sound speech which cannot be condemned as regards his doctrine so as to shame any detractors (Titus 2:7-8).
Note that in ‘a’ Timothy is to set things right, and appoint elders, and in the parallel he is to show himself a good example in behaviour and words. In ‘b’ we are given the moral requirements for elders/bishops, and in the parallel the moral requirements for the church members (compare the similar pattern in 1 Timothy). In ‘c’ he must ensure that he preaches sound doctrine, and in the parallel the same applies. In ‘d’ he warns against false teachers who are also mercenary, and in the parallel he warns against who reveal themselves to be abominable and disobedient. In ‘e’ the Christians are to purify themselves from the behaviour of ordinary Cretans, and in the parallel the pure are compared with the defiled. In ‘f’ they are not to take heed to false preachers.
‘If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of riot or unruly.’
Compare 1 Timothy 3:2 for similar instructions concerning the appointment of overseers (bishops), and 1 Timothy 3:10 for the application of the term ‘blameless’ to deacons. The word means to be beyond reproach, unable to be accused of anything unsatisfactory. Being the husband of one wife excludes polygamists, divorced persons, adulterers, those engaged in sexual misbehaviour and probably, but not necessarily, single men (the point might be not more than one wife). What is required is that the men have exercised sexual restraint successfully within a stable marriage. Their children must also reveal that there is good family discipline. They must be believers, and not open to an accusation of prodigality (literally ‘inability to save’, thus wastefulness or extravagance) or of open misbehaviour. In other words the influence of the proposed elders over their families must be seen to be such that they follow their lead. By this they will have proved their leadership capabilities.
‘For the overseer (bishop) must be blameless, as God’s steward, not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre,’
The natural significance of these words is that an overseer (bishop) and an elder are equivalent. There would thus be a number of ‘bishops’ in each city. The need for blamelessness is repeated but this time not with regard to their home life, but with regard to their business life. They must be blameless as God’s stewards (God’s household managers) with regard to their own lives if they are also to be over the household of God. Those who cannot use their time and money wisely in their own environment, are no fitted to be elders of the church. By describing the overseer as God's steward, Paul brings to mind the picture of the church as God's household (compare 1Ti 3:5 ; 1 Timothy 3:15; 2 Timothy 2:20-21; Ephesians 2:19-22). In the secular household the steward had the responsibility of managing his master's affairs. The church leader must also be one who can responsibly see to managing his Master’s affairs by his oversight of the church. This will require dedication and faithfulness (Luke 12:35-37; Luke 12:42-43; 1 Corinthians 4:2-5). They must thus not be headstrong, (self-pleasing, obstinate, inconsiderate, self-willed, having no thought for others), they must not be easily irritated, (hot headed or choleric, or a nurser of anger), not be always ready for a fight or an argument, not be of unseemly behaviour (behaving like one given to strong drink), not be violent or a browbeater, not be greedy for money obtained in an underhand way.
‘But given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,’
In contrast we are now told what they should be. They should be hospitable (literally ‘a lover of strangers’) and always ready to welcome people into their home (compare Matthew 25:35; Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). In a time when inns were in short supply, expensive and often unsavoury this was important. They should love what is good, whether it be good people, good behaviour, good things or good works, for their aim should be the promotion of good. They should be sober-minded (shunning all appearance of evil), just and fair (giving to all what is their due), holy (concerned about what is decent in life) and self-controlled, (a total master of themselves).
‘Holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers.’
But above all he must hold to the faithful and true word which is in accordance with true Christian teaching, so that when he exhorts it is with sound doctrine, and in a way that convicts those who speak against him. He must be ‘apt to teach’ (1 Timothy 3:2). Note that Paul dose not just dismiss the false teachers. The hope is to win them back to the truth. It is only when they prove to be completely obstinate that he ‘commits them to Satan’ (1 Timothy 1:20).
‘According to the teaching.’ This may indicate the standard oral teaching passed on from one church to another from the main churches, but more likely it cover written records of that teaching which were being circulated.
‘For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped. Men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.’
The Cretan church was clearly plagued with men who ignored the church leadership and did their own thing, ‘unruly men’. And they were called this because their message was also unorthodox. They were vain talkers about idle speculations and deceivers in that they portrayed their ideas as being true to Christian teaching, when they were not. And a great number of them were Jewish so-called ‘Christians’, who replaced the central message of the cross and resurrection (Titus 2:14; Titus 3:4-6) by offering fanciful interpretations of the Old Testament (1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16) and the way of asceticism which resulted in a requirement to observe laws of cleanliness (1 Timothy 4:3), abstain from marriage (1 Timothy 4:3) and the observance of particular feasts (Colossians 2:16-17; Colossians 2:20-23). Their aim was to make themselves ‘pure’.
Thus Paul says, ‘their mouths must be stopped (muzzled).’ This will be best achieved by so presenting the truth that falsehood falls away. But the more persistent ones must, if necessary, in the end be disciplined (1 Timothy 1:20). The fact that that is not mentioned here suggests that Paul is hopeful that Titus will be able to win them back to Christ.
‘Men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.’ In some parts things were getting pretty bad. They were inveigling themselves into households and then ‘overthrowing them’ by convincing them of their false speculations. This may mean that they set them in disarray, or even that they converted them altogether. And all the time many of them were doing it in order to make a profit out of it. Such is the depths to which their ‘Christian’ testimony had fallen. Paul probably knew of one or to cases where this had happened. p> Titus 1:12 ‘One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons”.’
He then cites a quotation from Epimenides, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons”. Epimenides was described in Greek literature as a prophet, and Paul is therefore putting them on the spot. Either they reject this description of them, thus decrying one of ‘their own prophets’, or they accept his description and condemn themselves. Meanwhile he is citing something that the majority of Greeks would have confirmed, and doing it in terms of one of their own.
The writing is not extant, but is referred to in the early fathers. Some, however, impute it to Callimachus who cites half of it in a hymn to Zeus. The Cretians in fact had a reputation for being liars because they claimed that the tomb of Zeus was in Crete, which offended those who saw him as a god and very much ‘alive’. Indeed they coined the word ‘kretizein’ meaning a ‘Cretan liar’. Here, however, Paul uses pseustai, the normal word for liars.
The description fits the false teachers. They are lying, they are behaving like animals, and they are greedy.
The Reason Why He Needs To Be Such A Paragon Is Because Of The False Teaching That He Will Have To Deal With (Titus 1:10-16 ).
We are now given a picture of the false teachers whom Titus has been sent to combat, not by disputing with them, but by leading the true believers into righteous thinking and living.
a For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped. Men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake (Titus 1:10-11).
b One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons”. This testimony is true. For which reason reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:12-13).
c Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth (Titus 1:14).
b To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled (Titus 1:15).
a They profess that they know God, but by their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (Titus 1:16).
Note that in ‘a’ they are men of evil tongue who must be stopped, while in the parallel they are men of evil behaviour who must be stopped. In ‘b’ Cretans are seen to be of low morals, while Christians are to live rightly according to their faith, and in the parallel the to the pure all things are pure, while the emphasis is on those who are defiled so that it has even defiled their minds and their consciences. In ‘c’ he must take no notice of Jewish fables, or what is demanded by people who have turned away from the truth.
‘This testimony is true. For which reason reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,’
Paul confirms his view that this testimony is in general true of Cretans, and therefore calls on Titus to reprove sharply (incisively) any who behave like this and call on believers to live as those who are sound in faith. The behaviour described in Titus 1:12 is not for Christians, and is contrary to all for which Christians stand. It is a reminder that we also should consider our national characteristics and repudiate any which are contrary to the teaching of Christ.
‘Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.’
Thus they are to give no heed to Jewish fables, often, but not necessarily, drawn around genealogies (compare 1Ti 1:4 ; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1 Timothy 6:20). He may partly have had Philo and his adherents in mind with their metaphorical use of Scripture which avoided the plain meaning. But the Rabbis too were prone to speculation. There were many Jews, and no doubt Jewish Christians, in Crete, who would be an especial target for such false teachers. Nor are they to heed the commandments of men who turn away from the truth by demanding response to Jewish and other ordinances which were now superseded.
‘To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.’
‘To the pure all things are pure’ may have been a proverb, but it may have been coined by Paul on the basis of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 7:15; Mark 7:18-19; compare Romans 14:20. The point is that true purity is of the heart. And as long as the heart is pure then nothing can defile a man. That is why Jesus was never defiled when he touched a leper, or someone who was unclean, in order to heal them. He was totally pure. And those who have been made pure in the blood of Christ also cannot now be defiled by ‘things’. On the other hand if the heart is defiled and unbelieving (not truly believing in Jesus Christ) then nothing is pure whatever ordinances they go through (compare Isaiah 1:11-17). Even their mind and consciences are defiled so that they can neither understand or judge what is right.
Alternatively it is possible that ‘To the pure all things are pure’ was cited by the false teachers, on the grounds that having been purified by their ceremonies, rites and gaining of knowledge they could then do what they liked, because having been made pure in spirit nothing in the flesh could defile them. If so Paul’s reply is clear. To those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure.
‘They profess that they know God, but by their works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.’
These people profess that they know God (they have a form of godliness - 2 Timothy 3:5) but by their works they deny Him. They do not let their light shine before men so that they may see their good works and glorify their Father who is in Heaven (Matthew 5:16). Rather they are abominable (loathsome, to the Jews it was a word connected with idolatry, and therefore indicated shame) for they spoil all that they come in contact with. And they are disobedient, disobedient to the Gospel, and disobedient to the command to love their neighbours as themselves, for their ears are closed to God. ‘And to every good work rejected after testing (adokimos).’ None of their supposed good works measure up to God’s requirements (compare Matthew 6:1-18). It is clear that their knowledge of God, such as it is, makes little difference to their manner of life. Paul clearly considers that any genuine Christian will become totally different in attitude when he or she is converted.
Adokimos is a Pauline concept (five times in Paul outside the Pastorals, including e.g. Romans 1:28; 1 Corinthians 9:27; once in 2 Timothy 3:8 and once in Hebrews 6:8).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Titus 1". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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