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The Apostle opens his Epistle, with his usual Benediction. He points out to Titus the Qualifications for the Ministry. He gives a sad Account of the Grecians, among whom Titus dwelt; and concludes, the Chapter with the same.
(1) ¶ 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; (2) In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (3) But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
I detain the Reader at the very entrance on this Epistle to observe to him, the striking expression of the Apostle on the subject of faith. He calls it the faith of God's elect. I would not speak decidedly on the occasion, because I would rather that the godly Reader should, under grace, decide for himself. But I would humbly ask, doth not the Apostle, by the very phrase, evidently imply, that amidst all the professions of faith, to be met with in the world, there is but one, which is true and genuine, namely, the faith of God's elect? And what that is, the scriptures, in every part show. The faith of God's elect, looks at the special act of Jehovah, the purposes, will, decrees, and pleasure, of his infinite and eternal mind, as manifested in his threefold Personality of character, toward the Church of God, in Christ Jesus. And this faith of God's elect, is the special gift of God to the elect; distinguished from all other, and is the fruit and effect, of the first, original, and eternal cause, in God's election; whereby, without any regard to any one motive whatever, but God's own free will and pleasure, he hath chosen the Church in Christ, to be holy and without blame before him in love. Ephesians 1:4 . And hence, in the riches of his grace, hath made all suitable provision, for the accomplishment of all the purposes, connected with this act of sovereign love, during the whole time-state of the Church, until the Lord hath brought her home to eternal glory. The faith of God's elect, includes, therefore, in its view, all the blessed acts, and works of grace to render the whole effectual, for the accomplishment of that hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began. This is the faith of God's elect.
And what tends to make it special, and endear it yet more, is, that it is only in the privilege of the elect themselves to exercise; and they only by God's gift. For so the charter of grace runs. Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, to believe on him. Philippians 1:29 . Sweetly therefore the same Apostle, when writing to the Thessalonians, dwells upon the subject, when he saith; But we are bound to give thanks alway to God, for you brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath, from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 . Reader! do not hastily turn away from the view of this most precious scripture, of the faith of God's elect. Look at the distinguishing properties of it, again and again, with thanksgiving and praise. Observe, it is not the common faith of men, or devils. It is not historical faith, hearsay faith, head knowledge faith. But it is the special, personal faith, of God's elect. It is a given faith, the fruit and effect of the same source and cause; from whence all the blessings connected with it spring; namely, the electing love of God. It cannot be possessed by any, but the elect. And by them only, as the gift of God. Oh! the preciousness of the faith of God's elect! Lord give it me to possess, in all its blessed, distinguishing properties! May my spirit live, in the daily, hourly enjoyment of it; having it kept always alive in my soul, in living upon Christ, and Christ in God; as manifested in the electing, predestinating love of God my Father; the blessed betrothing, redeeming, justifying, sanctifying love of God my Savior; and the regenerating soul-quickening, spiritual-life-preserving grace of God the Holy Ghost. Oh! the unspeakable mercies, which give birth to the faith of God's elect!
But it would be wrong to pass over unnoticed what the Apostle saith in connection with the faith of God's elect, namely, and the acknowledging of the truth, which is after godliness. This was blessedly added by the Apostle, as if to put a stop to the charge against the faith of God's elect, as though it were a doctrine contrary to godliness. Whereas the fact is, there can be no real godliness without it. All the labored attempts of carnal men, to make a show of outside godliness, having no spring within, can be but a show; for it hath no resource, to give life to it at first, or keep it alive after. But the faith of God's elect being founded in the love of God, hath, for its spring, the grace of God, which bringeth salvation and this both teacheth and enableth to the denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to the living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-13 . The faith of God's elect, can never fail of producing those effects, in every instance. And no faith, but the faith of God's elect can produce them. The faith of devils, the faith of mere Professors, and Pharisees, the lip confession, learnt from the creeds of men, and all the other trumpery of human invention, have no belief, but that which produceth fear and trembling. James 2:19 . It is only the faith of God's elect, which connects with it the acknowledging of the truth, and the practical effects of truth, which is after godliness.
One word more on this paragraph. What is this faith of God's elect exercised upon? Paul saith ; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. Reader! I beseech you look at the bottom, and foundation of this hope. Paul calls it a blessed hope. Titus 2:13 . And a blessed hope indeed it is, in all the properties of it. For first. It originated in God's own purpose, and that from all eternity. Nothing moving the Lord to it, but his own infinite mind; and his holy will and pleasure. Not our misery or need; for it was before the world began; and, consequently, neither our misery, nor his mercy to that misery, gave rise to it, for it was before both. The Apostle saith, that it was according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:9-11 . What a bottom is here to found the sure mercies of David upon; when beheld as in God, and from God, and by God; and that from all eternity?
Secondly. Consider the sweet properties of it, and it will appear indeed a blessed hope. All are founded in Covenant securities, in which everything is provided for, to make it permanent, sure, and everlasting. The ancient settlements of eternity, in the council of peace, between the Persons of the Godhead, all are so formed, as to guard against the possibility of failure. God the Father, who cannot lie, hath sworn to it. Christ, who is our Righteousness, hath fulfilled all the purposes concerning it. God the Spirit, who is all holy; confirms it in the hearts of the people. And, as all the individual members, for whom this eternal life is designed, and to whom it is given, are all chosen and numbered, in the decrees of God; nothing can arise, to prevent the accomplishment of it, from any causes whatever, during the time-state of the Church, but what hath been foreseen and provided for from all eternity.
And, lastly, to mention no more. What endears it, and recommends it to every heart, of the highly favored objects of this divine promise is, that it is altogether free, unsought for, yea, unthought of and neither bestowed for deservings, or restrained by undeservings; but freely given without regard to either, as if to magnify the riches of divine grace, and to display divine sovereignty according to that unalterable scripture: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. Exodus 33:19 with Romans 9:15 . Oh! the riches of God's eternal purposes in Christ! Oh! the sweet, and precious faith of God's elect!
(4) To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. (5) ¶ 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: (6) ¶ If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. (7) For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; (8) But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; (9) 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. (10) For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: (11) Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.
I have, in the opening of the first Epistle of Paul to Timothy, given my views of what the Apostle meant, in calling those companions of his sons. On this point I need not enlarge. Neither shall I detain the Reader, with any unnecessary observations, on the history of Crete, where Paul saith he left Titus, to arrange the government of the Church in that place. We know but little of this place from scripture. It was one of those islands, in the Mediterranean Sea, where Paul, in his voyage, passed. Acts 27:7 . But it could not have been at that time, the Apostle left Titus there. It might have been more likely, when he went over various parts of Greece. Acts 20:2 . But this is not so material, to our present purpose, to enquire. I would rather call upon the Reader, to remark, with me, Paul's anxiety as is here, and elsewhere expressed, respecting the ordination for the ministry. Let any person bring into one view, all that the aged Apostle, hath said on this subject, in his Epistles to the Churches, and to Persons; and it will strike him, I think, as it doth me, with full conviction, that nothing lay nearer the heart of Paul, than the caution, which ought to be observed, in sending men to labor in the word and doctrine. If the Reader will indulge me, I will take advantage from what the Apostle hath here charged upon Titus, on the subject, to offer a short observation.
The work of the ministry, is in itself so arduous, its duties so various, and its eventful consequences so infinitely important; that no man of the least seriousness, if he thought at all, would run unsent. Paul, when speaking of himself on this occasion, seems to express the greatness of his surprise, that one, less than the least of all saints, should have the grace given to him for such a purpose; that I (said he) should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Ephesians 3:8 . Had the Apostle considered the gifts of nature, or of art, as qualifying for the ministry; certainly his liberal education, and his powers of eloquence, might have been thought very suitable requisites. But in Paul's view, these things rather hindered; than forwarded the Lord's service. What things were gain to me; those (said he) I counted loss for Christ. Philippians 3:7 . And certain it is, the Apostle had in view at all times, his wonderful conversion; and his call of Jesus to be his Apostle; as well as the ordination of the Holy Ghost to the ministry; as the great authority, by which he acted, in the service of the Lord. How would Paul have shuddered, had he been told of men, rushing into the ministry, unsent of God, and unanointed by the Holy Ghost? What a contradiction in terms, would it have appeared to the Apostle's mind, had he heard of Preachers going forth to the conversion of ethers, when unconverted themselves? The characters Paul here speaks of whom Titus was to ordain, were such as not only lived in the Spirit, and walked in the Spirit, in the exercise of the graces of the Holy Ghost, he hath here enumerated; but holding fast the faithful word, which he himself had been taught; that he might be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convince gainsayers. But how awfully doth the Apostle speak of many unruly and vain talkers; whose mouths (he saith) must be stopped: and who teach things, which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.
Reader! let us turn from the view, for it is most awful. Let us seek relief to our mind, from the painful contemplation in beholding, if but a moment, the beautiful account of Paul's own ministry. Paul stood amazed, at the grace shown him, that the Lord should count him faithful, putting him into the ministry. And the constant sense he had of his own vileness; and the discoveries made to him, of the Person, glory, excellency, and riches of Christ and his grace tended to keep the Apostle always at the feet of Jesus, humbled, and self abased before him. And it was thus Paul went forth to the ministry, preaching Christ. It was Christ that Paul preached. Christ, as he is in himself; and Christ, as he is to his people. The plainest, the simplest language, and not excellency of human gifts, and human attainments, marked all his discourses. Seeing then (said he) that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech. 2 Corinthians 3:12 . Blessed be God for putting him into the ministry! Blessed be God for all the grace given to him, in this service. And blessed he God, for every instance both then, and now, and in all ages of the Church, where Jesus his Almighty Master, hath blessed his ministry, to the souls of his people!
(12) One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (13) This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; (14) Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. (15) 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. (16) They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
The words of this first verse are a quotation from one of their Profane Writers; and the Apostle declares, that what is here said was correct. Lying is the common crime of all human nature. The scripture saith, the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray, as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Psalms 58:3 . Reader! it is our mercy to know it: and in that knowledge, to be looking to Jesus, for deliverance from this, and every other evil of our fallen nature, in his righteousness; who is the way, and the truth, and the life. John 14:6 . And while Cretians, or Jews, or all other carnal, and unregenerated men, are giving heed, to mere fables and commandments of men: seeking in outward things, acceptance with God; how blessed is it, to mark the vast difference, arising from inward and renewing grace, in the soul, making all things pure, where God hath purified the heart, through faith. Oh! the blessedness of being born again. It is this which makes the whole state blessed. A child of God, renewed of God, from the Adam-nature of the fall, is brought at once into a state of justification before God, and this regeneration makes the new creature alive, in the spiritual enjoyment of union with Christ. All things, pertaining to life, and godliness, are pure to him, in Christ. Whereas to the unregenerate, defiled as they are in the old nature of sin; there can be nothing pure. Their persons, and their prayers, their sacraments, and their offerings are all alike offensive; and can never find acceptance with God. For all are offered without an eye to Christ, and consequently sin. They may, and perhaps do, profess, as the Jews of old did, to know God. Yea, they may acknowledge, as many nominal Christians do, in creeds and prayer books, their belief in the Persons of the Godhead. But all this, is but a profession, void of saving knowledge. Where no work of grace hath passed upon the soul; there no real knowledge of God in Christ is found. And the close of this Chapter awfully states the case of some wherefore they are in this unbelieving condition; being, saith the Apostle abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate; or void of judgment, (as the margin of the Bible renders it;) that is, without understanding. See Job 28:28 . compared with Isaiah 27:11 . and Jude 1:4 . Reader! do not pass away from this scripture, without pondering over the distinguishing mercy. Oh! what a work of God is that, which by quickening from a death in trespasses and sins, brings the child of God into a new and spiritual life, to the knowledge of God the Father's love, the Savior's grace, and the Spirit's fellowship? What a work is wrought, when the child of God is new born? Reader! hath the Lord wrought it in your instance? Can you say with Paul: God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us; even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ? Ephesians 2:4-5 .
I desire to bless God the Holy Ghost, for all his abundant mercies in his divine teachings, and his holy scriptures of truth. And beg his grace, to give me a right understanding in all things, that my faith, may be the faith of God's elect. None but this, I am well assured, can come up to the standard of the truth which is after godliness. And whatsoever is not of this faith, is sin. Precious Lord Jesus! thou great Author, and finisher of faith, increase my faith!
And do thou, Almighty Father of mercies; confirm, and establish my soul, in this blessed hope of eternal life, founded in thine everlasting love; and secured in thine unchangeable promise, given in Christ Jesus before the world began. Oh! the preciousness of this life, which is eternal; confirmed by covenant engagements; revealed in the holy scriptures; and resulting from free, unmerited, unsought for, yea, unthought of grace!
Oh! Lord the Spirit! distinguish thine ordained servants in the ministry, by the special marks of thine own ordination. They, whom thou hast sent forth, will, through thy grace, be found blameless in Christ, as the stewards of God. But, Lord! stop the mouths of those, who run unsent of thee. The pure in spirit, by regenerating grace, will be pure. But to the unregenerate, who are still in the old unrenewed nature, nothing is pure. Praises to our God in Christ, for discriminating grace!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Titus 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany