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