Lessons From The Book Of Titus

By Alfred Bouter

How amazing is God’s Word! No matter how we look at it, search and study it, we will always find that it is wonderful because God is Wonderful (Isa. 9:6). This includes the epistle that the apostle Paul wrote to Titus.
The name Titus probably means “nurse,” which fits his service quite well. Even though Titus was not Jewish, Paul called him his “true child” (Ti. 1:4 NASB), as he was saved early in Paul’s public ministry as apostle to the Gentiles (see Gal. 2:8). Some years later Titus and others accompanied the apostle to the Jerusalem council meeting (Acts 15), although this may not have been his first time there (Gal. 2:1-3)1.
During the apostle’s third missionary journey, Paul sent Titus, as a useful servant, to Corinth (2 Cor. 2:13, 7:6,13-14). Titus also helped organize a special collection for the poor in Jerusalem and Judea (8:6,16,23, 12:18). The donations were collected in Macedonia and Greece and brought to Jerusalem near the end of Paul’s third journey (Acts 20-21; Rom. 15:25-27).

However, shortly after his arrival there Paul was arrested and put on trial, first in Jerusalem, and later for at least two years in Caesarea. The trial continued, eventually ending in Rome2
(Acts 22-28), where he remained for two full years (28:30-31). After his release from prison the apostle must have traveled extensively (Rom. 15:24,28), of which we have no details in Acts and only some hints in a few Epistles. At some point Paul left Timothy in Ephesus, while he traveled further (1 Tim. 1:3).

Titus accompanied the apostle during his ministry in Crete,3 a large island situated in the Mediterranean Sea southwest of Greece. For a long period of time, beginning about 4,000 years ago, Crete had been considered to be a place of cultural greatness. Having ministered there, Paul left Titus on the island with instructions to put certain things “in order” (Ti. 1:5).

A few years later Paul was arrested and sent to Rome to be put on trial, having been falsely accused of a serious crime (2 Tim. 1:8,12,15-18). He found himself in difficult circumstances, much harder than the two years in Rome about five years earlier (Acts 28:30-31; Phil. 1:15-18). Several people visited him between the various sessions of this trial (see 2 Tim. 4:16-18), including Onesimus (1:16) and others (4:10). Many departed from Paul’s teachings – which were and still are from God – in those days (2 Tim. 1:15), and Demas forsook him completely (4:10). After visiting Paul, others went on to serve elsewhere, while Luke remained faithfully with the apostle. Paul expected Timothy to arrive from Ephesus, bringing Mark (v.11). At some point during this difficult period Titus must have come to visit Paul in Rome on his way to Dalmatia (4:10). That region is on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, where Paul may have been during his third missionary journey, having referred to Illyricum (Rom. 15:19).

A special bond existed between Paul and Titus. This is an example and encouragement for older and younger believers spiritually to walk, grow and serve the Lord together, in a relationship of mutual appreciation and commitment.

To Put Things In Order
When Paul had left Titus in Crete, he gave him specific instructions to put things in order among the assemblies – in the homes and in the community. As an apostle, Paul had God-given authority to appoint elders in the assemblies he had started together with Barnabas (Acts 14:23). Now he delegated this authority to Titus for the assemblies they had visited in Crete. From Acts 20 we know that the Holy Spirit placed elders in the midst of the flock of the Lord’s people as overseers, not over the flock (v.28).

The apostles and their delegates are no longer with us to choose or establish elders, but the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are present. God’s thoughts have not changed, and the resources needed to practice His desires are still with believers and will remain here until the Lord’s return. This implies a challenge for us today: Rely on Him in all things, instead of on man’s institutions or devices.

In his letter Paul introduced himself as a “bond-servant of God” (Ti. 1:1) – an example to Titus and to all believers to truly serve God, the Lord Jesus and His people. While being subject to the Emperor, as explained in Romans 13 and elsewhere, Paul was first and foremost God’s servant.

He described believers as God’s chosen or elect ones, having the knowledge of the truth and living godly lives with a sure hope (Ti. 1:1-2) in a world without it (Eph. 2:12). This reliable hope is good now and for eternity for all those who have received eternal life (Jn. 3:16) and are linked with God’s counsel, or purpose, from before the world’s foundation. It rests in “God, who cannot lie” (Ti. 1:2), and it is connected with His promise from before the ages (2 Tim. 1:1,9; Eph. 3:5-9) and His “eternal purpose” (v.11). All this gave Titus the right context in which the things that remained were to be “set in order” (Ti. 1:5). It is the same for us as we rely on help from the Savior-God.4

This short epistle with instructions to Titus for the benefit of the believers in Crete is of great significance to all believers. It contains precious gems and practical instructions. The believers are left in this world to represent God and, as children of God, to reflect His qualities and features. This applies especially to those in leadership positions, for the more they have received the more responsible these ones are and the clearer their light should shine.

The good qualities mentioned in this letter are to be seen in all believers, but first of all in the elders (overseers) and deacons (servants). God’s standards are very high; in fact, only the Lord Jesus as a perfect Man on this earth fully answered to them. However, God desires that all believers, not only elders and leaders, follow these norms and imitate our Lord’s perfect example even though we are not perfect.

The following outline shows how all believers are addressed in this epistle, and Titus in particular, in view of the tasks to instruct, help, lead, correct and encourage. In fact, God’s Word addresses all believers, giving lessons in all its instructions whether we are directly addressed or not. Reading slowly through the text, asking the Lord to bless His Word to us today, we will receive His blessing and encouragement. He can and will use what we read to instruct us about something that is on our minds.

Brief Outline of Titus5
I. Salutation (1:1-4)
II. Qualifications Of The Elders (1:5-9)
III. Characteristics Of The False Teachers (1:10-16)
IV. Godly Behavior For Different Groups (2:1-10)

A. Older men (2:1-2)
B. Older women (2:3)
C. Younger women (2:4-5)
D. Younger men (2:6-8)
E. Slaves (2:9-10)
V. Role Of Grace In Promoting Godly Behavior (2:11-3:11)
A. The educating power of grace (2:11-14)
B. The gracious behavior that results from grace (2:15-3:2)
C. Grace as a motivation for godly living (3:3-8)
D. Behavior inconsistent with grace (3:9-11)
VI. Final Instructions And Greetings (3:12-15)

A Few Remarkable Nuggets
Obviously in this short paper we cannot deal with all the different matters this epistle addresses. However, what becomes apparent when reading Titus is God’s desire that all Christians function according to His thoughts and plans, as His disciples and witnesses. His desire represents a tremendous challenge for all true believers, because Satan is totally against it as long as we are in his world. The place where we live today is in enemy territory; he is the “ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30) and the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4 NKJV), opposing God’s testimony.

In this spiritual battle, he uses the same tactics (1 Jn. 2:16) as he did with Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). This is allowed by God, but with Him in firm control, for He is sovereign and above all. Trials allowed by God led Job, for example, to recognize God’s greatness (Job 42:2), and so it is for believers today. God wants all believers to be His witnesses. This is beautifully explained in Titus 2:11-15. First, the grace of God has appeared to all men. In other words, every man, woman and child is addressed by God in grace with His special offer of salvation. Those who accept it by faith, whether slaves or princes, are then instructed to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, just as 1 John 2:15-17 and many other passages explain. Right and upright conduct, in true self-judgment, is needed and will lead to further instruction in God’s school. This is intended for all believers.

We are in God’s school every day, and His teaching will lead us to:

          • Become sober, sensible, honest with ourselves, and self-controlled.
          • Act rightly with others, both Christians and non-Christians.
          • Be godly, or pious, with the right attitude in relation to God. This implies introducing God into every part of our lives and depending on Him.
          • Have the correct outlook on the future in accordance with God’s teaching on Christ’s coming for the Church, the Church meeting Him in the air, and being with Him forever in glory (1 Th. 4:14-17).
          • Understand in truth the work of redemption and its results.
          • Realize that we belong to Him.
          • Manifest the zeal of true love that expresses itself in actions for His honor.

The overall context of this passage is Paul’s teaching that Titus should urge the bond slaves to be subject to their own masters (Ti. 2:9). Instead of teaching social activism, Paul took the difficult situation which believing slaves experienced as an opportunity for them to promote God’s interests – to be living testimonies of the true Master. Such a behavior (see vv.9-10) would powerfully speak to their earthly masters, better than Paul could say in words. With a conduct of faith and faithfulness (v.10) the Christian slaves would adorn, or beautify, the doctrine of God our Savior. Their changed attitude would be a powerful testimony to their unbelieving masters of the power of God’s grace that changes lives (vv.11-15). Paul explained elsewhere that a slave may buy himself free; a master who has become a believer may even free his slaves, but rebellion, or rioting, is never an option.

God’s Desire For Us All
It is not only slaves who are placed in this world to shine for God. In Titus 3, Paul taught that all Christians need to be subject to rulers, including any authority placed over us by God, while showing respect to all fellow men. The apostle used seven key expressions to describe the right attitude (vv.1-2):

          1. Be subject,
          2. Obedient,
          3. Ready for every good work,
          4. Not maligning,
          5. Not contentious, but
          6. Gentle and
          7. Meek

These seven points summarize our new lifestyle, in contrast to the one before we were saved. The old lifestyle is summarized by seven other keywords in verse 3:

          1. Foolish,
          2. Disobedient,
          3. Deceived,
          4. Enslaved,
          5. Wasting time in evil and envy,
          6. Hateful and
          7. Hating one another.

These new and old lifestyles do not only refer to the slaves but to all human beings saved by the grace of God. Paul then summarized this grace with seven characteristic terms, as shown by the Savior-God in His kindness and love for mankind:

          1. He saved us, not by works of righteousness we did or might have done,
          2. But according to His mercy,
          3. Through the washing of regeneration by God’s Word …
          4. And by the renewing of the Holy Spirit …
          5. Whom He poured out abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
          6. As a result, we have been justified, or declared righteous, through God’s grace …
          7. As He made us heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Eternal Life
This is a wonderful gift, because the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God, is the true God and the eternal life (1 Jn. 5:20). He is the Gift as well as the Giver. The moment we believed, God gave us the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12) and we received eternal life (3:16). Furthermore, we wait for the Lord Jesus to come again (1 Th. 4:14-18), when He will take us to where eternal life dwells (Jude 1:24). That is why Paul speaks about “the hope of eternal life” (Ti. 1:2, 3:7). This is not a contradiction, since at the moment we believed we received eternal life. At the same time we were put on a path that leads to eternal life – to the realm where the eternal life dwells and where we will dwell with Him.

Paul explained that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5) and that the Holy Spirit was “poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Ti. 3:6 NASB). On the day of Pentecost, Peter said that Jesus of Nazareth had been “exalted to the right hand of God” and that “having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33 NKJV). In the house of Cornelius, Peter testified that “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (10:45). Praise God for the riches of His grace, manifested by the triune God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

1 Before he started his missionary journeys, Paul, together with Barnabas, brought financial support from Antioch to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30). Perhaps Titus went along with them, if Galatans 2:1-3 refers to that trip. Others think that this last quotation refers to the Jerusalem council described in Acts 15.
2 This journey to Rome is sometimes called Paul’s fourth missionary journey.
3 The New Testament refers to Crete or Cretans seven times by name (Acts 2:11, 27:7,12,13,21; Ti. 1:5,12).
4 Six times in the pastoral epistles Paul refers to God as our Savior (1 Tim. 1:1, 2:3; 4:10; Ti. 1:3, 2:10, 3:4).
5 Litfin, A. D. (1985). Titus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 761). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.