Some Thoughts On The Epistle To Titus

By Alan H. Crsoby

Paul began this letter with a reminder that as an apostle he had been sent with the message of eternal life – a blessing God had planned for mankind even before the “ages began” (Ti. 1:2 ESV). This was similar to what he told the Ephesians: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3-4). In Titus, Paul pointed out that his preaching of this fact is something with which he was “entrusted by the command of God our Savior” (Ti. 1:3). To Paul, Titus was his “true child in a common faith” (v.4).

Point Out Elders
The apostle left Titus in Crete “to set right what remained unordered” (JND) and to point out (Greek: cheirotoneo) “elders in every town” (v.5 ESV). Paul described those who were to be pointed out as elders, particularly those who should serve as overseers, or bishops (KJV): They should be “above reproach” (ESV), be “discreet” (JND) and “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that [they might] be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (vv.7-9 ESV).
We should note that the words “appoint,” “ordain,” “minister,” “bishop” and a few others reveal the theological bias of the translators. “Appoint” and “ordain,” for instance, do not mean creating elders but merely recognizing “those who had already been raised up and qualified by the Holy Spirit and had given evidence of this in their life and service” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p.67).

Elders who would serve as overseers were to have some spiritual leadership abilities. These leaders would be men who could see what needed to be done and do it, possibly with the help of others. Therefore those who were gifted in “helping [and] administering” (1 Cor. 12:28) would be involved.

Rebuke The Judaizers
Titus was to “silence” those of the “circumcision party” – presumably Judaizers – and those who would “turn [people] away from the truth” (Ti. 1:10-13). Judaizers do not believe God’s Word about salvation being by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16). They errantly think we must do or practice certain things like Jews otherwise we cannot be saved. The work of Judaizers has resulted in today’s church altars, special clothing and positions for those who are called ”clergy” (consider the priests in Ex. 28:1-40), and in “questions of food or drink, or with regard to a festival [“holiday,” KJV] or a Sabbath” (Col. 2:16).

There are Christians who have set up a “church calendar” which involves the commemoration of various aspects of Christ’s life – particularly His birth, death and resurrection. These are not found as festivals or holy days in Scripture; instead we find the “breaking of bread” (Acts 20:7; Lk. 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). Our Lord asked us to remember Him in this very special way. In remembering Him each week, the bread leads us to think on His becoming flesh (the focus of Christmas), and the wine leads us to think on His death and resurrection (what Easter celebrates). Paul said that by remembering Him in the manner in which He instructed, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” for us (v.26). By contrast, the Galatians were rebuked for observing “days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10) as part of a church calendar.

Beware Of Those Seeing Nonexistent Evil
Paul said, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Ti. 1:15). In other words, these “defiled and unbelieving” assign the worst possible interpretation to motives and actions. They will be very persuasive. We should never allow ourselves to be ruffled by their talk until we investigate for ourselves and obtain the facts in their true light.

Teach According To Sound Doctrine
Paul wrote to Titus, which we can also apply to ourselves: “Teach what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). Such teaching will be full of truth and wisdom yet differing according to the maturity of the hearers. Older men were to be taught “to be [serious], dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and steadfastness” (v.2). Younger men were “to be self-controlled,” and Titus was to teach them as a model to “show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (vv.6-8). Older women were “to be reverent in behavior,” not destroying or harming the reputation of others, but teaching the younger women (vv.3-4). The younger women were to be taught “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (vv.4-5, italics added) – but this does not mean wives were to be servants to their husbands! “Bondservants,” or what we might call “employees,” were “to be submissive to their own masters in everything; … well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering” (vv.9-10). They were not to call in sick just to take a day off or extend a bathroom break beyond what was necessary, for example.

In every case the guiding principle is to be: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17). In this way we will “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Ti. 2:10).

Be Ready To Do Good Work
We are to be submissive and obedient to the “governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). It is very difficult to do good works with your income when you have to pay it to the government as fines, or in your home when you are confined in jail! In short, conduct your life so you are always “ready for every good work” (3:1).

We are warned against speaking evil of people (v.2). Here, the Bible uses the Greek word blasphemeo, from which we get our English word “blaspheme.” Therefore we notice that we can “blaspheme” – speak evil of or irreverently of – people as well as God. This sin is not uncommon among believers, including those who are well-versed in Scripture and sound in doctrine. A colleague of mine once described his Bible-believing relatives: they emphasized avoiding “worldly things” but they would speak badly of others in their absence. As a consequence, one was afraid to leave the group even for a brief period for fear of what they would say of him or her.

We are not prohibited from passing on news about the comings and goings of others, but we are to avoid giving accounts of people’s doings that make the talk evil. Scripture tells us, “Whatever is commendable … if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). Talk that fits these descriptions would encourage good works in others.

We are also told to avoid “controversies” and “quarrels” (Ti. 3:9). Our religious flesh gets ego-pleasing pleasure from gathering followers, especially if we get them to follow us into a division. Those who do this are called “heretics.” Paul wrote: “quarrels about the law … are unprofitable and worthless” (v.9); “the law is holy … and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). Thus a person who uses “truth” to cause dissensions and quarrels is ”warped and sinful” (Ti. 3:11).

Live In The Grace Of God
The grace of God is both an impressive fact and an extraordinary person, namely “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13). In coming into this world to die in our place He made salvation available to everybody. This salvation brings not only deliverance from eternal punishment but also the power “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (v.12)

Meanwhile, we are to be living as though we are expecting the Lord Jesus to appear on this earth in glory (v.13). This is what the devout Jews were looking for when Christ came the first time, but they did not realize that the Christ would have to suffer death and be resurrected before He would “enter into His glory” (Lk. 24:26). We, now, “being justified by His grace we … become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Ti. 3:7). Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:14),

In closing, Paul made the simple request, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works … and not be unfruitful” (3:14). We become unfruitful by allowing foolish controversies and dissensions to stir up divisions. The Lord earnestly desires us to be one (Jn. 17:22), but nowhere does Scripture tell us that our purpose in this world is to be a “representation of His one true Church.” Instead, are we not told to “be careful to devote [ourselves] to good works” (Ti. 3:8)? We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).