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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Titus 3



Verse 1

‘Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work,’

And just as bondservants are to be subject to their masters, so the whole church are to be subject to their rulers and the authorities who are over them, and ready for any good work. Note that this obedience is to their rulers and refers to anything that is ‘a good work’. There would be an exception if what was required of them was wrong. We can compare here Romans 13:1-4. Christians are not to be anti-authority.

Verse 2

‘To speak evil of no man, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men.’

Furthermore just as the bondslave must not speak against, or contrary to, his master, so must the Cretan Christians not speak evil of anyone. The general principle applies to all (compare James 3:1-12). Nor must they be unnecessarily contentious. There would, of course, have been times when they would have had to stand up for a matter of principle or conscience, but it should only be in the interests of all, not just of their own interests. They should rather be gentle and kind. This word carried the meaning of someone who always observed the true spirit of the law. They were to be concerned for what was innately just. And they were to ‘show meekness’ towards all. That is theymust be self-controlled and not always looking to their own interests. Compare the use of the same words in 1 Timothy 3:3 of elders. They were therefore to show consideration, thoughtfulness and humility towards all men.

u> For Redeemed Man Is A Changed Man Because Of What God Has Wrought In Him And Is Therefore To Live A Changed Life As Paul And Titus Have Themselves Experienced (Titus 3:3-10).

As this short letter comes to its conclusion Paul now draws attention to what God’s salvation means for all who are now Christians. All, without exception, had been utterly sinful in various different ways, but God our Saviour had stepped in His great kindness and love (compare Ephesians 2:6) and in accordance with His mercy has saved us, giving us new life and the renewal of the Holy Spirit promised in the Prophets, which has been poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And the result is that we have been accounted righteous through His unmerited favour, and made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. And then he stresses that for all who are involved this must mean being careful to maintain good works, while avoiding all that is foolish and contentious, for these last belong to the old life, so that we should rid ourselves of them.


a For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving many kinds of desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another (Titus 3:3).

b But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and His love toward man, appeared (Titus 3:4).

c Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

d Which He poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:6).

c That, being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7).

b Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I desire that you affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:8).

a But shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about law, for they are unprofitable and vain. A factious man (promoter of dissension) after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one is perverted, and sins, being self-condemned (Titus 3:9-11).

Note that in ‘a’ we were once foolish and deceived, hateful and hating one another, and in the parallel he is to shun what is foolish and deceitful, and especially promoters of dissension and hatred. In ‘b’ God’s kindness and love towards us has appeared, and in the parallel our kindness and love must be shown towards others. In ‘c’ we have not been saved by works of righteousness, but because of His mercy, which has resulted in new life and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, while in the parallel we have been justified by His unmerited favour so that we might be made heirs of eternal life. Centrally in ‘d’ this has all been poured on us through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Matthew 3:11).

Verse 3

‘For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving many kinds of lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.’

Paul begins his final summary by again revealing what is in the heart of all men (compare Romans 3:10-18; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:17-24). He could have added, there is none righteous, no not one, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:23). For the summary brings out man’s folly in failing to recognise the truth, which results from man’s disobedience which darkens his mind, with the consequence that man is deceived by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4), and thus follows many kinds of desires and pleasures, and lives in malice and envy, while being hateful and hating others. It is a damning indictment.

We might at first look at this and say, this was not what I was like. But if we think about it we will recognise that the description is only too true. Why did we take so long to come to Christ? Because we were foolish (without spiritual understanding). What was a main cause of our foolishness? It was an unwillingness to obey God and His Law. As Jesus Himself said, ‘he who wills to do His will, will know of the teaching whether it is of God’ (John 7:17). Men do not appreciate God’s teaching because they do not want to do His will. That is the reason why they are disobedient, and wander from the truth, as we also once did. That all men are deceived is unquestionable. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, ‘the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who believe not, lest the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine on them’.

‘Serving many kinds of desires and pleasures.’ This basically summarises the life of nearly all men and women, including sadly many who call themselves Christians. The aim of their lives is to satisfy their desires and enjoy their own pleasures, with little or no thought of God.

‘Living in malice and envy.’ It would be a brave person who claimed never to act out of malice and envy. Envy ruins and spoils many people’s lives and all are at times malicious, although some more often than others. And this in a country influenced for centuries by Christian teaching. It was from this that Jesus came to save us.

· ‘Hateful.’ The truth is that we all have traits in us which are hateful, even if some are more so than others. Most of us can behave despicably. Thank God for those who realise it and admit to it. Others are often despicable and never realise it. Theirs is the sad case. My experience is that most small time solicitors (lawyers) are at times especially despicable. They may be nice at times but they make use of their legal knowledge to try to make others squirm (we exclude, at least partly those who are simply conveyancers). It is unfairly taking advantage of the weak. That is truly despicable. It is very hard to be a Christian solicitor. But it does not, of course, just apply to solicitors, it is simply that they are in a position to make it more obvious. Others are almost as bad as they are.

‘Hating one another.’ How many can truly say, ‘I never have hatred in my heart for anyone.’ Only people who do not know themselves. The world is full of people hating each other. That is why we have wars, and street fights, and speak harshly about people. That is why we rise up in marches and demonstrations. Next time you see a demonstration just listen to the spokesmen. We are not saying that all involved in such demonstrations are necessarily full of hatred. Much depends on the demonstration and what it is about. But they regularly stir up hatred. (Of course we do not call it hatred, it is just that our opponents are so hateful)

So Paul’s words are just as applicable today as they were then. The truth is that we nice people, are often not quite as nice as we think we are once we begin to feel aggrieved.

Verse 4

‘But when the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared,’

And that is why God stepped in. He is the One Who is full of kindness and love in such contrast to what we are (Ephesians 2:4; Ephesians 2:6; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:8). And as ‘our Saviour’ His kindness (chrestotes - benevolence) and love (philanthropia - love for mankind at large) appeared in Jesus Whom He sent with the greatest gift of all, the ‘drenching in the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 3:11). He sent Him to be the transformer of our lives, and to make it possible for us to be acceptable to Him in spite of what we are. And He did it as our Saviour through the cross.

This picture of a generous and loving God was new to the world in which Paul and Titus preached. The pagan gods were selfish, contentious and thought mainly of themselves. So the concept of God as benevolent and interested in them was something totally new.

The idea of God as Saviour is common in the Old Testament. See 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 106:21; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 43:11; Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 63:8; Jeremiah 14:8; Hosea 13:4. In Isaiah it is central to God’s continual promises of salvation and deliverance. Thus any connection with the use of the term in secular history is simply secondary.

Verse 5

‘Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,’

And this work of salvation which He has wrought in us if we are Christians, was not because of any works that we had done in righteousness. It was not deserved in any way. It simply resulted from His compassion and mercy. And it was through ‘the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit’. This does not mean that it was outwardly through baptism and inwardly through the Holy Spirit. That is totally to misunderstand the picture. (How we love to bring baptism in when water is mentioned as though water was never used for anything else. Even in a context like this we still have to keep God under our control). It is a picture drawn from the Old Testament where the coming of the Holy Spirit was likened to the pouring out of rain from above, washing the earth and regenerating it. See Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:1-5; Isaiah 55:10-13; Ezekiel 36:25-27). And the result was to be life and fruitfulness. It was to be the renewal of the Holy Spirit which had been so long awaited.

Alternately the washing of regeneration may have in mind the Old Testament examples of the washing away of sin (not defilement) as found in Isaiah 1:16; Isaiah 4:4; Jeremiah 2:22; Jeremiah 4:14 where it is a picture of the removal of sin, not of a ritual washing. The new birth washed away all their old sins and their old ways (compare 1 Corinthians 6:11), and they became new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this case the regeneration is seen in terms of the positive removal of their sin, not of ritual washing.

All the Gospels emphasise that it was a prime ministry of Jesus, to drench men in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; compare John 7:37-38; Acts 2:33). And it is this work of Jesus that Paul is describing here, a work that began while He was on earth (John 3:1-6; John 4:10-14), continued in the Upper Room (John 20:22), flowered at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), and has gone on ever since, a work that takes place in men and women when they hear the Gospel and truly believe (1 Corinthians 1:18).

In fact baptism is never described as ‘washing’ (Acts 22:16, the only possible exception, is debatable). It is always seen as an indicator of life from the dead through the Holy Spirit. Nor did ritual washings in the Old Testament ever cleanse (‘you shall not be clean until the evening’ was the constant refrain). They simply washed away earthly defilement so that men could then reach out to God, and Peter makes clear that that is not what baptism is all about (1 Peter 3:21). What baptism does of course signify is the working of the Holy Spirit, picturing it in terms of the heavenly rain. The Christian is baptised as a picture of what has happened to him, and as an act of his resulting total commitment to Christ as his Lord.

Verse 6

‘Which he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour,’

And if we are Christians this washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit was poured out on us richly through Christ Jesus our Saviour. Note the ‘poured out’. What was poured out? The water of the washing of regeneration as heavenly rain. Compare Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:1-5.

Verse 7

‘That, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’

And the result of this life-giving experience, as a consequence of our also being accounted as righteous by His unmerited favour, is that we are made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. As heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ we can look forward with confident hope to Life in all its heavenly fullness (Romans 8:17), adding even more to the life that we have already received. This was where we came in, in Titus 1:2, for as we have seen in the introduction above it is a keynote of the Gospel. Note how in Romans 8:9-17 this life is directly connected with the Holy Spirit and the resurrection.

Verse 8

‘Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I desire that you affirm confidently, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men,’

‘Faithful is the saying’ must look back to the whole of the previous Titus 3:4-7. It is saaying that it is something that is totally unquestionable. Thus Paul wants Titus to affirm it constantly, in order to ensure that all who have savingly believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. Paul knows nothing of a Christian who is not directly involved in going around doing good. And he sums it all up by saying, ‘These things are good and profitable to men’, as they surely are.

Verse 9

‘But shun foolish questionings, and genealogies, and strifes, and fightings about law, for they are unprofitable and vain.’

Having opened our eyes to the glory of the Gospel Paul now warns against letting its light be dimmed by becoming involved in fruitless controversies. Titus is to shun (turn his back on) the foolish questions, genealogies, arguments, and struggles about the Law and its metaphorical meaning that are common among the false teachers, because they are unprofitable and without purpose. They are simply fairy tales. The problems here were clearly very similar to those in 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:4; 1 Timothy 6:20. The Old Testament Scriptures were by them being turned into a field of speculation and fantasy.

Verse 10-11

‘A factious man after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one is perverted, and sins, being self-condemned.’

And if a man is a promoter of dissension and will insist on continually arguing about such things and pushing his ideas forward he may be given a second warning. And if he fails to heed the second warning he is to be ‘refused’, that is, not be given the opportunity of ministry. He has revealed by his behaviour and attitude that he is perverted, and is sinning. He is revealing himself as self-condemned.

Verse 12

‘When I shall send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, give diligence to come to me to Nicopolis, for there I have determined to winter.’

Paul then tells Titus to make all speed to come to Nicopolis to see him, for he is planning to winter there. No doubt he was planning a winter campaign during the period when travel by boat was impossible and wanted Titus to join him in it and update him on the situation in Crete. Speed was necessary so as not to miss the opportunity of summer travel. Meanwhile he would send either Artemas and Tychicus to replace him. Tychicus was later sent to replace Timothy in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:12). It is clear that Paul was careful to ensure that the churches that he saw as under his care always had a responsible person there to keep watch over things, one of his travelling lieutenants. There were a number of places named Nicopolis so we do not know where this was.

Verses 12-15

Final Instruction and Salutes (Titus 3:12-15).

Verse 13

‘Set forward Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting to them.’

Meanwhile it is clear that Zenas, a lawyer (of either Hebrew or Roman law), and Apollos were either in Crete, or would be met by him on his journey, and would soon be moving on. Titus was asked to ensure that they were well provisioned. This points very strongly to them being in Crete.

Verse 14

‘And let our people also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.’

And finally he must make sure that the Cretan Christians do not neglect good works for those where help was necessary. There was much poverty and therefore a great need for such activity. Thus their lives would be fruitful. Paul wanted every Christian to be involved.

Verse 15

‘All who are with me salute you. Salute those who love us in faith. Grace be with you all.

Paul then closes off by sending greetings from all who are with him, and calls on Titus to salute all who are loyal to Paul and love him as a brother. And he finally wishes that God’s unmerited goodness will be with them all.


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Titus 3:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

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Friday, December 4th, 2020
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