About Jesus - Steve Sweetman

Home Page    

Paulís Letter toTitus


This commentary is based on the NIV Bible, 1984 edition. The chapter titles of this commentary are the same as the section titles found in the NIV, which makes for easier comparison.

Titus was a Gentile who had worked with Paul from time to time. When things were strained between Paul and the Corinthians for example, Paul sent Titus to the Corinthian church instead of going himself. (2 Cor. 1:13, 8:6, 12:18)

The letters to Timothy and Titus are very similar in nature. The one difference seems to be that Timothy had to re-establish order in Ephesus, while Titus had to establish order in Crete, where Paul had left him.

Paul most likely wrote this letter in and around 62 AD while in Macedonia.

Paulís Introduction (ch. 1:1 - 4)

As in every letter that Paul writes, he introduces himself. In this case, as in most cases he calls himself an apostle, and a servant of Jesus Christ. Paul calls himself a servant, that is a servant by choice, not by constrain. Yet after meeting the risen Christ, he would say he had no real logical choice in the matter. The same should be true of us. Once we meet Jesus, we have no other logical choice than to give ourselves to Him.

Paul says that he is a servant "for the faith of Godís elect". We should note the word "elect". It is a word that Paul has used before. Simply put, God has chosen all mankind to salvation. For those who receive this salvation He justifies. These people are called "Godís elect". He has elected to be saved those who have received his gift of salvation. This is the only logical explanation for the use of this term. If God predestined certain to be saved (the elect) and certain not to be saved, then all of the "whosoever willÖ" verses donít make sense.

Paul is also a servant of Jesus who promotes true "knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness". Once we have received salvation, then the truth of salvation will begin to work within us, causing us to live a godly life. Paul would expect such a life from his converts. If he did not see godliness, he might then question their salvation.

Paul says that this "faith and knowledge rests on the hope of eternal life". One of the driving forces in Paulís life was the hope of resurrection. Paul suffered a lot in his life without complaining because he had a great hope in the future, that is in Heaven.

Here Paul says that this hope was "promised by God, who does not lie, before the beginning of time". Paul had great revelations from Jesus Himself. Most likely part of his understanding came from these revelations, along with the written Scriptures of the Old Testament. His concept of salvation was that God planned it before He even created mankind. This may be a hard concept for us to understand, raising many questions as a result. The fact of the matter is that when God created the earth and all that is therein, He understood that He would come to earth in the form of a man named Jesus to be humiliated and suffer death for that which He created.

Paul continues by saying that at Godís "appointed season He brought His word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour". There is a lot in this sentence. First of all it suggests that God has seasons. It suggests that God has a timetable in which His plans and purposes will be revealed and set into motion. He does not wait for man to do certain things. He does what He wants, when He wants. Beside, if He were to wait for us to accomplish certain things before He could do certain things, His plans would never get accomplished. God is sovereign. He does what He wants when He wants.

Another point this sentence makes is Paulís place in the revelation of the gospel to mankind. Paul seems to be specially appointed by God to preach His message to man. Paul, more than others appears to be "entrusted", as he puts it, with this gospel. Yes, there were other apostles that were appointed to preach as well, but none seemed to be more predominant and effective as Paul. It is my thinking that Paul was an apostle of apostles. So much of Christian teaching is based on what Paul taught. If he is wrong, then we are all wrong, and in serious error. Paul, even more than Jesus, defined the true nature of the gospel.

Paul uses the phrase "God our Saviour". Yes, Jesus is the one who died on the cross for us, but Paul says that God Himself is our Saviour. He is the one behind the death and resurrection of Jesus. The bottom line is that God is our Saviour, understanding that the God that Paul is speaking about is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This letter was written to "Titus, true son in our common faith". Like Timothy, Paul must have been instrumental in leading Titus to Jesus, thus he calls him his "true son", not a biological son, but a son in "common faith", that is, they both trusted Jesus with their lives.

Titusí In Crete (ch. 1:5 - 16)

Paul asked Titus to remain in Crete (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) "to straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town". Because of Paulís evangelistic ministry in the island there were a number of Christian communities formed. Paul moved on to other places and wanted Titus to stay behind to appoint elders in these churches. Note the word "elders" is in the plural. Paulís church structure policy was that a "group of elders" should be set in place to care for the church. No one man would stand out over against another, as in our modern church.

Note also that Paul says that since there were no elders appointed as yet, there was "unfinished" work to be done. In Paulís mind, a local church needed elders to care for the people.

As Paul told Timothy, he now tells Titus what characteristics and qualifications elders must have. They are as follows. Elders "must be blameless, suggesting that they should be of high moral and ethical character. No one should be able to point a finger at an elder with just cause.

An elder "must be the husband of but one wife". There is some debate whether this means "one wife at a time" or "one wife in a life time". It is my position that the phrase means "one wife at a time". The character quality involved in this qualification is faithfulness and trustworthiness. If a man cannot be faithful to his wife and family, he might not be faithful to a church. This is not the thinking in todayís world, especially in our political system where most think that the personal life of a public person should not reflect on his or herís political life. Yet in my thinking, if a man cheats on his wife, why would he act any differently as a leader in our community or country. Personal moral and ethical character should be important in every area of our lives. Also, one area of our lives does reflect on other areas of our lives.

An elder must have control over his children, and his children must be believers. For some reason Paul does not tell Timothy that the children must be believers, only that the children should be in subjection to him. They also must not be "wild and disobedient". This is a tricky qualification. There comes a time in our childrenís lives when they must make their own decision to follow Jesus or not. In my thinking, once they are passed this age, this qualification is not in effect.

Therefore concerning "believing children", it is my thinking that Paul is speaking about children who are still at home and young enough to still be under the control of the parent. I am not sure that Paul is speaking of adult children in this case. The point to be made here is that if a man cannot control his children, how could he control the church. When it comes to caring, there are similar elements in both caring for children and those in the church. Yet beyond the aspect of caring, who cannot care for someone who does not want to be cared for. There comes a point in a childís life when they make their own choices. Church members make their own choices as well.

In verse 7 Paul says, "since an overseer is entrusted with Godís work, he must be blameless (high moral and ethical character). Not overbearing (pushy and harsh), not quick tempered, not given to drunkenness (not necessarily an abstainer), not violent (must be gentle), not pursuing dishonest gain" (one is an elder because he is called to be an elder, not because he can make a good living from his ministry).

Note the use of the word "overseer" in this verse. It is another word for the same duties. An elder is also called an overseer, a pastor, a shepherd, and a bishop. These are five different words for the same duties. Elder implies "older man", while "overseer implies part of the job description, that is overseeing, or looking after the church.

In verse 8 he continues by saying, " rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.

Paul says that elders must hold to "the trustworthy message" of the gospel as they were taught. They must be able to "encourage others with sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it". This is similar to what Paul tells Timothy when he says that elders must be able to teach. They must be able to teach and also able to refute wrong doctrine. Some may be more given to teaching than others, but all elders must have Scriptural knowledge and understanding and be able to pass it along to others when needed, as well as being able to refute wrong teaching.

In verse 10 Paul gives the reason why an elder must be qualified to teach and refute wrong doctrine. He says that "there are rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group". There are many people, as Jesus puts it, who like to be heard for their many words.(Mat. 6:7) Here Paul calls these people talkers. They like the limelight. They like to be the ones who do all the talking, all the teaching. They like to be seen, and the pulpit is a very visible place for them. If their only motivation is to be heard, then they should not be allowed to speak in the church. Beyond merely talking, they are actually out to deceive the church. Paul says that many of these people can be found in the "circumcision group", that is those of Jewish persuasion.

Concerning these big talkers and deceivers Paul says that "they must be silenced because they are ruining whole households". Paul is quite bold in his use of words and just as bold in practice. He detests those who teach false doctrine and destroy families and churches in the process. The only reason why they are promoting their own doctrin is for financial gain, something else that really irritates Paul.

Cretens seemed to have quite a bad reputation. Paul quotes from an ancient Creten philosopher who said that "Cretens are always liars, evil brute and lazy gluttons". Even though Paul has no respect for such philosophers, he agrees with this statement, suggesting that the Creten false teachers fell into this descriptive statement.

Concerning these men Paul tells Titus "to rebuke sharply". Once again these are strong words. Why should Titus rebuke these men sharply? So they will be sound in their faith. Whether these men have true faith or not may be debatable, but whatever the case, Paul wants to bring soundness to the faith they have. Another reason for this rebuke is so that they will no longer pay attention "to Jewish myths", whether from the Law or from their tradition.

In verse 15 Paul says "to the pure all things are pure". This verse can be easily misinterpreted, as it often has been. It does not mean a Christian can sin, because sin has become pure. Sin is still sin. Sin is not one of the things that are pure. In context Paul is speaking of Jewish tradition and false teaching, such things as eating meat. Paul calls himself pure, because of the cross of Christ. Therefore meat has become pure to him. He can eat meat because it is no longer impure.

Yet on the other hand, to those "who are corrupted", that is those who do not believe the truth of the gospel, nothing is pure. Whether they eat meat or donít eat meat, they are in a state of impurity.

Paul says that these false teachers who teach Jewish tradition as a means of salvation have corrupt minds. They claim to know God, but their actions deny Him". This is often the case. Our mouths can profess faith in Jesus but our actions tell a different story. Our mouths claim faith, and our actions deny the faith we claim to have, suggesting we have no faith in the first place.

Paul closes this chapter with some more strong words against false teachers. He says, "They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good".

What Must Be Taught To Various Groups (ch. 2:1 - 15)

Once again Paul brings home the importance of teaching "sound doctrine". I maintain, in a day and age when we want to experience all that we can, whether it be spiritually, socially, or in any other aspect of life, Paul puts great importance on right thinking. He tells Titus that he "must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine".

Part of what is sound doctrine is what Paul wants Titus to teach older men, and that is , being "temperate (not over-indulgent), worthy of respect (of good moral character), self controlled, and sound in faith, love and endurance."

In similar fashion, Paul tells Titus to teach older women to be "reverent in the way they live (respectful in all things), not to be slanderous, nor addicted to much wine (can drink some wine)". These older women should be teaching the younger women such things as being self-controlled, busy at home, pure, and subject to their own husbands". All for the purpose that the Word of God will "not be maligned".

Note that Titus is not told to teach younger women. He is told to teach older men and older women, and younger men. The older women are to teach the younger women. The younger men should learn to be "self-controlled", and follow the good example that Titus is suppose to be.

In verse 8 Titus is encouraged to be "sound, serious, and full of integrity" in his teaching so that those who want to oppose him will "be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us". Paul often shows a concern about what people think and say about him and his fellow workers. He has no problem with words of persecution that are based on the gospel, but he is very much opposed to criticism that is well founded. The gospel itself is an offense and cause for opposition. We donít need to bring condemnation on ourselves for our own foolishness, either in our words or in our actions.

Paul even addresses Titus to teach slaves to be respectful of their master in order that the gospel will be "attractive" to them. Paul does not try to suggest that slaves find freedom. From what Paul says elsewhere, he is not opposed to having slaves as long as you treat them well, as a brother in the Lord. In this respect, you might call them employees, rather than slaves, for this is how Paul would view them. Paul is definitely against the practice of "slave trading" as you can see in 1 Tim. 1:10.

In verse 11 Paul says that "the grace of God has appeared to all men". How has Godís grace been so apparent? First of all Godís grace was seen in the life and death of Jesus Himself, and secondly it is apparent in the gospel message that Paul and others taught.

Paul continues to say that the grace of God teaches us to live righteous lives, not ungodly lives. Grace that is preached in the gospel appears in two forms. First of all there is grace, that is, "Godís unmerited favour". By this we mean that God has shown us great mercy, even though we did not deserve it. Salvation is freely given to us once we trust Jesus for it. Secondly, grace by definition means "God gives us the ability to live a righteous life". Therefore the gospel as preached by Paul says that we have been freely granted salvation, but once we have received this salvation, God expects change in our lives that comes through His grace and the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Paul says that we should live godly lives "as we wait for the blessed hope Ė the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ". This verse is extremely important. It is one of those few Scriptures that clearly say that Jesus is God. Jesus being God is fundamental to our Christian faith.

Concerning Jesus, Paul writes that he "gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a people that is His very ownÖ" The word redeem simply means to purchase. Jesus has paid the price for us to escape all wickedness. This is all inclusive. This means that we are set free from the punishment due to our wickedness. It also means that we have the God given ability to flee wickedness. It also means that in the next age we will be free from all wickedness.

Jesus also redeemed us so He could have a people "for His very own". This was Godís intent in the Garden of Eden. This will be realized in Jesus at the end of this age. Then in the final analyses Jesus will present all those who trust Him to His Father. We will belong to Jesus for all of eternity, something that is very close to the heart of both Jesus and our Father God.

Paul closes this chapter by saying, "these are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you." Like Paul, Titus had God given authority to represent His message to the church. Based on this authority the church was to respect Titus, and as Paul says, he should not let anyone despise him. This suggests that he should stand up for himself when unduly opposed.

Doing What Is Good (ch. 3:1 - 11)

On occasions Paul addresses the topic of obedience to "rulers and authorities", as he does here in verse 1 of chapter 3. Paul tells Titus to remind his people to be submissive to the ruling authorities. History tells us that many Christians, including Paul were killed by these same rulers. So to what extent were these Christians to obey those civil rulers that were over them? In simplest terms, Christians were, and are today supposed to respect and obey the ruling authorities as much as they can, and as much as the gospel allows them. Where the government is not in line with godliness, and in our day, Biblical thinking, we do not obey. We say like Peter, that we need to obey God rather than man. We do need to be good citizens, yet with the understanding that we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God. As Christians we find ourselves living in a dichotomy, that is to say, we are citizens of two worlds. When these two worlds come into conflict, we obey our higher calling.

Paul says as Christians we are to "slander no one, be peaceable, and considerate, and to show true humility to all men". These qualities are meant for us to be true witnesses to those who are not Christian. In too many cases we as Christians have not demonstrated these qualities as we should, thus being a black mark on the church and on Jesus Himself.

Paul describes himself and other Christians as once being worldly, that is to say, "foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated, and hating one another." This world that Paul describes does not sound very nice, but in reality, it is the world we live in, and once again, this world is too prevalent in our modern church.

Yet in verse 4 Paul says that the "kindness and love of God appeared" which saved us. What did Godís love save us from as seen in this contest? Godís love has saved us from many things, but in context He has saved us from this world of envy and hatred that he describes here.

Paul continues by saying that we "are not saved by righteous things that we have done, but because of His mercy". (ch. 3:5) Paul grew up in Jewish circles that was steeped with the Old Testament Law and the traditions of his fathers. In this context Paul had to do many things to find acceptance with God. But since the cross of Christ, Jesus put an end to all of that. Godís mercy has made it possible for us to regain acceptance into the presence of God, and it is all based on His grace alone. We can do absolutely nothing, but trust Jesus to find and also to keep this salvation.

Paul says that He has "saved us through the washing of rebirth, and the renewal by the Holy Spirit". Like Jesus in John 3, Paul calls our initial salvation a rebirth. At this rebirth we have been completely washed of our sins in the sight of God. This rebirth is based on the fact that at initial salvation we receive the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul means when he speak of the "renewal by the Holy Spirit". Once again, in John 3 Jesus says that we must been born again of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is involved in our conversion experience, if not, we have not been converted, or saved, or whatever term you would like to use. Without receiving the Holy Spirit, you cannot be born again.

Verse 6 says, "whom He poured out on us generouslyÖ"
The pronoun "He" refers to God our Father, who has poured out His Holy Spirit to us with great generosity. This generous gift of the Spirit is given "so that we might be justified by His grace". In these couple of verses Paul is teaching the basics of the gospel. He links receiving the Holy Spirit with being "justified". Justification is the act whereby God views us as holy and just, just as He Himself is holy and just. This justification process depends on us receiving the Holy Spirit. You can see this clearly in this passage since Paul links justification to the renewal of the Spirit.

Receiving the Spirit and being justified results in us becoming heirs of "eternal life", Paul says. Becoming a Christian is far more than a thing for this life, but for all of eternity.

In verse 8 Paul tells Titus to stress these things to the people God has gave him care over so that those who trust in God may "devote themselves to doing good". Yet another result of being saved is that we will be able to devote ourselves to good things. This devotion to good things is not the thing that keeps us saved. It is a natural result of us being saved.

In verse 9 Paul tells Titus, as he has told Timothy, to avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the Law. Titus was most likely young, as was Timothy and maybe eager and willing to jump into some of the arguments that the "circumcised group" would want to trap him in. Paul simply says, "donít get involved". This would be good advise for a young man. Besides, as Paul says, "these are unprofitable and useless".

Concerning these men who always want to argue over Jewish tradition, Paul tells Titus to warn them once or twice, but after that "have nothing to do with them". Beside, "they are warped and sinful", and already condemn themselves by what they say and do. Any dealings beyond simple warnings is only a waste of time and energy on Titusí part, and he has better things to do.

Final Remakes (ch. 3:12 - 15)

Paul closes this letter by telling Titus that he is going to spend the winter in Nicopolis, and that he wants Titus to come to be with him. Paul will send Artemas and Tychicus to replace him in Crete.

A lawyer named Zenas and another man named Apollos appear to be leaving Crete on a trip, perhaps a missionary journey. Titus is encouraged to send them on their way, that is to supply what they need for their trip. Giving such support is part of the churches responsibility. Paul puts it this way. "Our people must learn to devote themselves to what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives". Remember the Ctetens have a reputation of being lazy. Paul wants them to work, not only for their own daily needs but for the daily needs of those who are given to the work of the Lord.

Verse 15 ends this letter. Paul writes, "everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all".

Home Page