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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Titus 1

 

 

Verses 1-4

The salutation

Titus 1:1-4

Paul established a church in Crete and left Titus there to finish what he had begun: to put the churches in order, seeing that they had proper pastors, leaders, doctrine and practice; to refute the false teachers and Judaizing preachers who made holiness to consist in certain foods and ceremonies; and to exhort believers to the discharge of their responsibilities by arguments based on the grace of God and the gospel of Christ (v.9; Titus 2:6; Titus 2:9-10).

Titus was an uncircumcised Greek of great grace and gifts who was very dear to the apostle. He is mentioned frequently in the apostle's writings (2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 8:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Galatians 2:1-3).

This was not a private epistle to Titus, but a public epistle to the Cretans, and thus to all believers! (2 Timothy 3:15-17.)

Titus 1:1. ‘A servant of God’ – a humble but high title by which Peter, James and Paul wished to be known. Paul was once the servant of sin (Titus 3:3), but being called by grace, he became a willing, loving servant of God and righteousness (Romans 6:16).

‘And an apostle of Jesus Christ’ – called, qualified and sent by Christ to preach his gospel; one who had his doctrine, commission and special gifts (to confirm his mission and ministry) directly from the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 2:3-4).

‘According to the faith of God's elect.’ His message was the message of Moses, Abraham, Isaiah and all the elect of God of every dispensation! The foundation of the prophets and apostles is redemption and resurrection by the grace of God through the merits and blood of Christ (Romans 1:1-3).

‘And the acknowledging of the truth.’ This clause explains the nature of the faith of God's elect. It rests on, trusts in and holds to the truth of God as revealed in the scripture! Faith can find no strength, comfort or assurance in feelings, ceremonies, or tradition – only in the truth of scripture! (John 16:13; John 17:17; Colossians 1:5; John 8:32.)

The gospel is ‘a doctrine of godliness.’ The truth of it and experience of it have an influence that promotes internal and external godliness, leads to the worship and fear of God and results in a sober, honest and sincere conduct and way of life (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Titus 1:2. ‘In hope of eternal life’ – resting in the hope of eternal life. Our hope is not in anything now seen or possessed (physically or materially), but something future! Our hope is the life of Christ, begotten in us by the Holy Spirit, secured in the hands of Christ and laid up for us in heaven (Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-4).

1. Eternal life is a promise, and so of free grace; not a reward or a wage, but a promise!

2. Eternal life is the promise of God, who is faithful to his word and cannot lie (being the God of truth).

3. Eternal life was promised before the world began. Life and redemption were given in Christ from the beginning (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:3-4).

Titus 1:3. Now in his own appointed time God has made known his word – either Christ, his essential word; or the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation; or the word of promise of eternal life in Christ; or all three – for are they not all one? Christ is the word; Christ is our life; Christ is the gospel! God has revealed the message of eternal life in Christ through the preaching of the gospel which was committed to Paul and other faithful apostles and preachers (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 10:13-14; 1 John 1:1-3). The word is the seed by which life is given (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).

Titus 1:4. Titus was not Paul's natural son, but Paul, being the instrument of his conversion, his teacher and his spiritual leader, calls him his ‘son.’

‘After the common or general faith.’ Paul immediately adds that this faith is common to them both and to all who knew the Redeemer; for though Paul was a great apostle and leader of men, in himself he was nothing and could do nothing. Our sufficiency is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:4-9).

Here is Paul's usual salutation: ‘May you have a fresh discovery of God's grace, love and free favour in Christ. May you have a fresh application of the pardoning mercy of God through Christ. May you have peace of heart through the blood of Christ.’ Let this be our sincere prayer for every believer.


Verses 5-9

Hold fast the faithful word

Titus 1:5-9

Titus 1:5. How long Paul was in Crete is unknown, but he had spent some time there. When he had to depart, he left Titus there to continue what he had begun. The building of a church and the growth of individual believers is not a work that can be brought to maturity or perfection at once (John 16:12-13; Ephesians 4:11; Ephesians 4:13; 1 Peter 2:2). Titus was left to teach the young converts the doctrines of the gospel; to instruct the church in the proper order of ordinances, discipline, officers, conduct and manners; to answer and deal with false teachers and troublemakers; and to ordain pastors in every city (Acts 14:23).

Paul knew that churches could not long remain without the ministry of pastors. Where there is a body of believers, a pastor should be appointed over them. It is thought by some from 1 Timothy 5:17 that there were two classes of elders; however, it is certain that this text refers to those who taught the word, for immediately afterward he calls them ‘bishops.’

Titus 1:6-9. Paul points out the necessary qualifications of pastors other than being called to that office and gifted for that work by the Spirit of God (Acts 13:2-3).

‘Blameless.’ No man is entirely free from sin or blameless in the sight of God, but the meaning is that he should be a man of excellent reputation among men, a man of honesty, integrity and upright conduct!

‘The husband of one wife.’ It is not required that a man be married (Paul was not) or that he should not have a second wife after the death of the first, but one wife at a time! Polygamy and divorce were prevalent at that time. The elder is to be married to one woman only!

‘Having faithful children.’ This cannot mean that his children must all be converted, for that is not in the power of any man (2 Samuel 23:5). The phrase can only intend that they shall be brought up in the principles and doctrines of Christ, and as long as they remain at home they shall be restrained, disciplined and obedient to their parents (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

‘Blameless as the steward of God.’ This refers to his faithfulness in the discharge of his office, faithfulness to his Lord and the trust committed to him (to preach the gospel and feed the sheep, and to those persons under his care).

‘Not self-willed’ – not doing things according to his own will, but seeking only the will and glory of God. He is not to be stubborn, obstinate and inflexible.

‘Not soon angry,’ but slow to wrath, which shows a man to be one of compassion and understanding. An angry man is not fit to teach others nor to lead the church.

‘Not given to wine.’ The pastor is not intemperate in the use of wine and is not addicted to the use of it.

‘No striker’ – either with his tongue or hands. He is not a bully nor a harsh person, but gentle and considerate.

‘Not given to filthy lucre’ - not greedy of money or possessions. Covetousness and greed are distasteful in any believer, but especially in a minister of the gospel (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

‘A lover of hospitality.’ The elders minister to people; therefore, they must love and be concerned for individuals. Their hearts, hands and homes must be open to all men, especially to those of the faith.

‘A lover of good men’ - a lover of goodness, of good things and good people, which shows the sincerity of his character.

‘Sober,’ or self-controlled and moderate.

‘Just,’ righteous and fair in his dealings with others.

‘Holy,’ devout toward God, the word and in his personal and private life.

‘Temperate’ – in eating, drinking, hobbies and in all things pertaining to the flesh.

‘Holding fast the faithful word.’ This is the chief gift and requirement in a pastor. He is chosen principally for the sake of teaching, for the church cannot be governed or taught in any other way than by the word of God! The word is called the ‘faithful word’ and ‘the word which he has been taught.’

1. ‘The faithful word.’ It is so called because it is the word of God, it is true and it is to be believed! It contains nothing but truth and will not deceive either in its doctrine or promises (1 Timothy 1:15).

2. ‘The word he has been taught’ – according to the prophets, Christ and the apostles. We are to teach nothing else for doctrine or in a theoretical way except the word of God (Isaiah 8:19-20). Opinions, speculation and human logic have no place in the pulpit.

Sound doctrine and true scriptural preaching will not only edify, exhort and instruct the true believer, but it will at the same time subdue, convict and answer those who are in error and who deny the truth (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

It is true that pastors, elders and bishops (by whatever name they may be called) are teachers and overseers in the church and should lead the congregation not only by instruction, but by example; but these qualifications, with the exception of ‘apt to teach,’ ought to be characteristics of every believer. Not just our pastors are to be men of godliness, honesty and witnesses of truth, but every believer has, first, a responsibility to glorify God in word and deed, thus adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour, and, second, a ministry to fulfill.


Verses 10-16

The two voices of a pastor

Titus 1:10-16

Titus 1:10. Pastors ought to have two voices – one for gathering the sheep and the other for dealing with and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scriptures supply him with the means of doing both! Holding fast the faithful word, he is able to call men to Christ and at the same time correct false teachers.

There are many ‘unruly’ persons who are disobedient and incorrigible, who will not be subject to the apostles, to the word, or to those who have the rule over them. They will not be brought into the church unity and teaching.

‘Vain talkers,’ who speak empty, frivolous and unscriptural things which have no substance, only tend to disturb and divide.

‘Deceivers’ lead astray both themselves and others; by their good works and clever words they deceive the simple.

‘Especially they of the circumcision.’ These are Jews who professed Christianity but tried to mix Moses and Christ, the law and the gospel, works and grace!

Titus 1:11. Good pastors, elders and church leaders ought to be on guard against errors in doctrine or spirit, so as not to give silent approval or permission to them, which would allow error to make gradual progress and allow wicked men the opportunity of spreading their poison. Silence them with scripture and if they persevere banish them from the assembly!

Teaching things contrary to the Scriptures and foreign to the gospel of Christ, they are able to corrupt not only individuals, but whole families. These teachers have no concern for the glory of God or the good of the church, but are interested in gaining popular applause and honor from men and in increasing their worldly substance.

Titus 1:12. One of their own poets and spokesmen, Epimenides, said, ‘The Cretians are always liars.’ Lying seemed to be a governing vice, a national sin, characteristic of them. It was a sin to which they were especially addicted.

‘Evil beasts.’ They were savage, cruel and mischievous people.

‘Slow bellies’ – intemperate, gluttonous and drunkards. This is the testimony of one of their own leaders and the apostle warns Titus what he is up against in dealing with them.

Titus 1:13. This statement about the Cretians (Titus 1:12) is certainly true! Paul knew it to be a fact from his own experience among them while he was on the island. Therefore they were to be rebuked sharply, first, for these bad principles, second, for teaching things they ought not and, third, for immoralities. Rebuking and severely reproving those in error is not an enjoyable task, but it must be done that they might be sound in the faith of Christ. (Titus 1:14.) If the truth of God concerning creation, providence, redemption and resurrection ever gains admission to our hearts, if we are ever fully persuaded of ruin by the Fall, redemption by the blood and regeneration by the Spirit, then all of the ‘Jewish fables’ of ritualism, legalism, ceremonialism and the commandments and traditions of men will be so tasteless and empty that they will not attract our minds. Men are delivered from error and kept from sinful practices by the truth of the word (Psalms 119:9; John 17:17).

Titus 1:15. The Jewish teachers insisted that Christians were still under the law in regard to certain kinds of food, together with certain washings and purifications as ordered by Moses (Colossians 2:20-22). Paul states that no kind of food is unlawful in the sight of God. To those who love Christ and are made righteous by his merit and blood, all food and drink is received with thanksgiving, and they are not defiled by what enters the mouth (Matthew 15:11). To those who are ‘polluted and unbelieving,’ nothing is pure, for they sin in all that they do. They gain nothing by guarding against uncleanness in certain food and drink, because their pollution is inward, of the mind and heart and, therefore, even that which is pure is polluted by them. ‘Their mind’ denotes the understanding and ‘conscience’ relates to the heart (Isaiah 1:5).

Titus 1:16. These Judaizing church members professed that there is one God, and that this God is Father, Son and Spirit, as believed by the apostles. But this knowledge lay in theory and profession only. They did not have a spiritual, experimental knowledge of God in Christ, which alone brings salvation and eternal life (John 17:2; Matthew 11:27).

They boasted that they knew God, but their lives, words and works showed that they had no knowledge of him. They revealed by their mixing of works and grace that they did not know Christ in his redemptive character. They revealed by their covetousness, lies and disobedience that they did not know Christ in his sanctifying work. They revealed by their interest in ceremony and certain foods, and their efforts to establish a righteousness, that they did not know anything about Christ's righteousness (Romans 10:1-4). There is no good in them, but they are altogether reprobate.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Titus 1:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/titus-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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