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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Titus 3



Verses 1-15

THE FIRST AND second verses of chapter 3 follow up the same theme, giving further details of the godly behaviour that the Gospel inculcates. Obedience and subjection to authorities, and gentleness and meekness unto all men are features very much the opposite of all that the Cretians were by nature. They are also very much the opposite of what we all are, and this the Apostle puts on record in verse Titus 3:3. “We ourselves” he says in contrast with the “them” of verse Titus 3:1. What a picture he gives us in this verse of himself and Titus and all the rest of us, if viewed in our natural characteristics: a fearful indictment but true! That, being such, we should hate one another is hardly surprising, but then we were hateful ourselves. Coming after this how wonderful is verse Titus 3:4 !

Hateful were we, every one of us. Though we were each blind to the hateful features in ourselves we were quite alive to what was hateful in other people, hence the world is full of hatred. Now God looks down upon this scene and there breaks upon the world of hatred the light of His kindness and love. That God should love the unlovable is wonderful: that He should love the positively hateful is more wonderful still! Yet such is the case. The words, “love... toward man” are the translation of the one Greek word, philanthropia. The kindness and philanthropy of our Saviour God have appeared. The word indicates not merely that God loves man as

He loves all His creatures but that He has a special affection for man—a specially warm corner in His heart for man, if we may so speak.

His philanthropy expressed itself in kindness and mercy, and by His mercy we have been saved.

In Scripture salvation is generally connected with a work accomplished for us. This is true whether we consider Old Testament types or New Testament doctrine. We have to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord which is achieved outside of us. The passage before us is however an exception to this general rule, inasmuch as we are said to be saved by a work wrought upon us and in us. The work in us is quite as necessary as the work for us. This is very plain if we consider the type of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. By the mighty work of God wrought for them they were saved out of the land of bondage, yet in spite of all the wonders accomplished on their behalf the vast majority of them fell in the wilderness and never reached the land of promise. Why? The answer of Scripture is, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19); that is, they had no faith, no work of God took place within them.

Salvation then, according to verse Titus 3:5, is not according to our works of righteousness but according to God’s mercy, and the means of it are “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” In John 3:1-36 where the new birth is in question we have the Spirit of God as the Agent or Operator and the “water” as the instrument producing it. Here too we have the Spirit and the water, only the latter is alluded to under the term “washing.” But we must note that the word, “regeneration” in our verse is not exactly the equivalent of the new birth. The only other place in the New Testament where the word is used is in Matthew 19:28, and it indicates the new order of things which is to be established in the day of Christ’s glory. We have not got that new order of things yet but we have come under the washing, the cleansing, the moral and spiritual renovation which is in keeping with that day.

This washing is by the Word. It is so stated in Ephesians 5:26, only there it is the repeated and continuous action of the Word which is in question, here it is the once-for-all, never-to-be-repeated action of the Word in our new birth. The Word however is not operative upon us apart from the action of the Holy Spirit who works in renewing power.

This Scripture speaks not only of the Spirit’s initial work in us in new birth, and of the renewing which is consequent upon that, but also of the gift of the Spirit. He has been “poured out” on us abundantly. Thus bestowed He energizes the new life that we now have and works a day-by-day renewing within us, which works out a continuous and increasing salvation from the old life in which once we lived. The Spirit has been poured on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, and as the fruit of His work. He has been poured on us abundantly, and hence it is that we may enjoy that which really is life in abundant measure. We not only have life but have it abundantly, as the Lord himself tells us in John 10:10.

The work in us, then, is quite as necessary as the work for us. It is equally true that the work for us is quite as necessary as the work in us, and this is indicated in verse 7. We could not become heirs of God merely by the work of the Spirit in us, for we needed to be justified before God and this is accomplished by the grace that wrought for us in Christ. Washed, renewed and justified it was possible for grace to go further and make us heirs, but all these three things were equally necessary.

We are made heirs, you will notice, according to the hope of eternal life; that is, we share equally with Paul in this wonderful hope, as may be seen by comparing this verse with the second verse of chapter 1; though we are none of us apostles as he was.

God saves us in order to make us His heirs and it is striking how He is presented as Saviour in this epistle. It is even more striking how the term Saviour is applied to both God and the Lord Jesus in such a way as to assure us that Jesus is God. In Titus 1:1-16, it is “God our Saviour” in verse Titus 3:3, and “Christ our Saviour” in verse 4. In Titus 3:1-15, it is “God our Saviour” in verse Titus 3:4, and “Christ our Saviour” in verse 6. In Titus 2:1-15, it is “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” in verse 13.

When at the beginning of verse Titus 3:8 the Apostle says, “This is a faithful saying” it is not easy to determine whether he refers to what he has just written or whether to what immediately follows, but it would appear to be the former. It seems that Titus was to constantly bring before these conversed Cretians the way in which they had been washed and renewed and justified and made heirs, in order that they might be stirred up to the maintenance of those good works which were in keeping with such grace, and not only in keeping with grace but also good and profitable to men.

How clearly this illustrates what is often said, namely that all suitable conduct flows from an understanding of the place in which we are set. Here again we meet with the fact that the knowledge of grace promotes practical holiness and does not lead to carelessness.

By constantly maintaining and affirming the truth Titus would be enabled to avoid all those foolish questions and contentions about the law which were so common in those days. There is nothing like diligence in what is good to shut out evil. There might of course be a man who carried these questions and strivings to such a point that he became a leader of a faction in the church, a maker of a sect—for this is what the word, “heretic” means. Such an one was to be admonished once and twice, but if then he still remained obdurate he was to be rejected. To make oneself into a leader of a party is a serious sin.

The epistle closes with a few words as to other labourers in the service of the Lord. They were to be supplied with all necessary things, and this leads the Apostle to lay it as an obligation upon all saints to apply themselves to labour of a good kind that they might not only have themselves the necessities of life but have the wherewithal to give and thus be fruitful. The once lazy Cretian is now to be a diligent worker and a helper of others.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Titus 3:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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