From: Busy Teacher’s Guide to Titus Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2021
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Busy Teacher’s Guide to the New Testament:
Quickly Understanding Titus
Roland H. Worth, Jr.
Copyright © 2021 by author
The Apostolic Greeting
1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior; 4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. --New English Translation (for comparison)
1:1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness. Paul self-describes himself as owned in body and purpose by God (“a bondservant of”) and as one of those appointed “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” The first stresses his perception of obligation while the second emphasizes the sense of duty that went with it. Also their duty to obey the inspired instructions that God has given him to share.
Paul is not setting out on some eccentric course. His words reflect “the faith of God’s elect,” the faith as it should be rather than something he has invented. Paul is not defying the truth; rather what he writes is “the acknowledgement of the truth” as God has established it. He and the truth are, if you will, walking hand-in-hand.
Furthermore that truth always produces “godliness.” If it produces anything else--a violation of
its ethical and religious truth . . . or the production of varied excuses to
ignore it--then our alleged “religion” destroys any pretense of being “godly”
or in accordance with “the truth.” This
principle has an obvious application to “many” in
1:2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. The “eternal life” that God has promised is utterly certain to occur because God’s nature excludes lies. In fact He “cannot lie.” God had determined to offer that opportunity “before time began.” This indicates recognition that His human creation would, sooner or later, lose its compass and stand in need of redemption. He could have made men and women unable to sin, but He was determined that His creation would have free will to decide how they would act. How they used that free will was left up to them.
Who it was “promised” to, we are not informed. It could be to Himself, to His Son, or to His creation. To the extent that it included the last, it would be an unspoken promise until the prophets started writing of the coming Messiah and Redeemer. The first and very vague reference to this, however, is found in Genesis ’s warning to Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head [i.e., destroy his previous destructive power] and you shall bruise His heel [which was reflected in Jesus’ death--which was nothing worse than a foot wound when contrasted with the manifested power of the physical resurrection and grant of Kingship].”
1:3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior. God waited until the proper occasion (the “due time” = “the fullness of time,” Galatians 4:4) to provide the redemption that produces eternal life. Salvation was not something that could be physically demonstrated. It has to be “manifested (= revealed)” through “preaching.”
That “preaching” would expand those having that Divine blessing from a relatively small group to a vastly larger number (cf. the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20). To expand the number even further, the obligation to preach was explicitly given to Paul as well: note the use of the words “the commandment” used in connection with that responsibility of preaching. The preaching wasn’t something he had to logically deduce from his conversion; it was something he was explicitly informed of. There was left no doubt to his role in increasing the number of redeemed by sharing that message far and wide.
The Father is described as “our Savior” in this verse and Jesus in the next. Both played vital roles: The Father in deciding when and how it would be offered and the Son in coming to earth and offering a sacrificial death for humanity’s sin.
1:4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. So much had Titus and Paul interacted and worked together that the apostle regards him as a “son” in the faith--with the implication (by the use of that language) that his preaching had led to his conversion. Furthermore he is “a true son:” Just as we would use such language of an offspring who has adopted as his own the principles we taught him as a youth, so has Titus matured in the faith and adopted Pauline standards as his own.
He promises the younger man three interlocked blessings: “Grace” (= Divine favor), “mercy” (= Divine forgiveness), and as the result of having both “peace” (= reconciliation and acceptance) with God. Money could never buy these; only the right convictions and a proper lifestyle could obtain them.
In a very real sense these come from both the Father and the Son. The Father laid out the plan for obtaining and the Son shared how to obtain them in both His own teaching and, later, through the teaching of His apostles (John 16:13-15).
Need For and Qualifications
of Congregational Elders
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. --New English Translation (for comparison)
1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you. Paul had left Titus behind when he left the large island--which was some 35 miles wide at the largest and 160 miles long . . . with it was said about a hundred cities. (The circumstances surrounding when and why he was there in the first place we are not informed of; the locals would already have known of course.) Paul had left his representative behind because there were additional things that needed to be done and he wanted a reliable individual . . . one he personally knew and had worked with . . . to carry out the work.
First there is the general guideline to “set in order the things that are lacking.” Note the plural “things”--he had multiple matters in mind. The words presuppose that Titus already knew what these were. The fact that they had not already been dealt with argues that there simply had not been enough time to complete the task.
The one duty that is specified is to “appoint elders in every city.” No elder--singular or plural--over the entire island but over the individual congregations that existed in each community. The number specified is clearly plural and their “jurisdiction” is specified as “in every city” rather than any wider area. Paul himself had set the example for these local appointments (Acts ).
This had not been an apostolic suggestion or counsel but something he had “commanded,” language applicable to both the necessary appointments and the dealing with what was “lacking.” It was not left vague and imprecise but described in enough detail for Titus to know what his guidelines were in regard to both matters.
In regard to the eldership qualifications, he next repeats them (verses 6-9). This would reassure the congregations that the criteria were not those invented by Titus but those demanded by the apostle himself. In effect he is saying, “If they have a problem with these requirements, let them argue with me over them!”
Greek behind “set in order:” A medical parallel to what Titus was to do, “Used by medical writers of setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones.” (Vincent’s Word Studies) Until they have qualified elders they, so to speak, have a “church body” that can not fully function the way it should.
1:6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. The candidate’s general character should be one without obvious fault (“blameless”). He should be married with a family: After all, if he can’t successfully manage the complexities of wife and family, how in the world is he going to successfully deal with the disagreements of 20 or 30 or more times such a number?
“Faithful children” could carry the connotation of either “faithful” (= trustworthy and obedient) to parents or being such to the Lord. The second approach argues the need to have at least one child significantly older than early childhood. In First Timothy the requirement is worded, “having his children in submission” (3:4), which points toward being “faithful” to the parents. Whether specified or not, it is hard to see how the lack of either would gain credibility for a candidate for church office.
Much discussion has raged as to “how many children” should an elder have. In an earlier age having less than several would have normally been regarded as an abject failure. Nowadays even having just one is almost regarded as a “sacrifice beyond the call of duty.” But if we don’t have children, there is no next generation in the first place. And if we wish the cause of Christ to prosper, it is only logical to prefer a multiple number of them as well: More children = more Christians in the long run.
It should be noted, however, that when we ask “do you have children?” the answer will always be in the affirmative regardless of the number. It is hard to imagine the answer would have been any different in the first century.
The children are expected to be self-controlled rather
than “running wild.” They are to avoid
moral excess (“dissipation”) and defiance (“insubordination”)--a term
applicable to blatant disregard for either what parents or law demand.
1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money. What is described as an “elder” in the plural in verse 5 is here referred to as a “bishop” in the singular because the requirements are applicable to every single individual. Not just to the collectivity of the eldership but to every individual one. If we were to argue otherwise then would it not be incredible that the requirements to be a bishop are spelled out in detail while that for elders are skimmed over?
Note that the behavior of offspring (verse 6) is counted here as an indication of whether he is “blameless.” Not all of it, of course, because additional examples of avoided behavior are promptly given. But without a “clean sheet” in regard to all of them, the individual lacks the needed criteria for office.
He is going to play the role of “steward of God”--one given responsibility by God to handle the affairs of a local congregation. He is to function not as an independent arbiter of right and wrong but in full conformity to the standard of God Himself. The idea being conveyed is well pointed out in such substitutes as “overseer” (NASB), “supervisor” (GW), and “church leader” (GNT).
The overall standard he must meet is being “blameless”--lacking obvious fault and failure. Then certain ways of lacking that “blameless[ness]” are spelled out. He must not be one demanding that his personal preferences must be met (“not self-willed”). Rather he must be one centered on assuring that God’s standards are met regardless of his own preferences.
He does not “fly off the handle,” a modern approximation of the standard of not being “quick-tempered.” He doesn’t drink too much (“not given to wine” = obsessed with, addicted to). To make this carry the connotation of not drinking anything alcoholic at any time for any reason pushes the language far beyond what is being said. He is not one who tries to establish his authority with his fists or weapons: “not violent.”
Nor is he obsessed with income: “not greedy for money.” He knows he needs it, of course, but that is only a small part of what life means for him. Any other attitude can result in a church leader who has little time for anything congregational because his real priorities are elsewhere. Even worse, it can result in a leader who looks upon himself as a shepherd with a “flock” that needs to be fleeced.
1:8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled. He’s kind to both members and to visitors to his town and congregation: “hospitable”--a concept that can cover everything from a good meal to temporary lodging. He not only has the behavior of one who does the right thing, it is also to reflect his inner priorities for he is “a lover of what is good” rather than what advances his own cause and position.
He is serious minded (“sober-minded”), which in no way rules out having a sense of humor, but does rule out not taking what is serious seriously. Those preferring other renderings typically choose either “sensible” (CEV, Holman, NASB) or “self-controlled” (ESV, NET, NIV). In other words, he is “well balanced” both in his way of thinking and behavior.
To have the mind frame of emphasizing such matters, his character must be honorable--both “just” and “holy.” The first term stresses his morality and the second his purity. Alternatively . . . treating others honorably and fairly and God with piety. To do this requires that he be “self-controlled,” not free wheeling anywhere and everywhere but working toward the goals he has set for himself and the congregation.
1:9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. The elder is not an independent authority. He is to hold tight to the reliable message (“faithful word”) he has learned and to use it to teach others. After all this apostolic message was, by nature, “sound doctrine”--something that could be trusted and fully relied on. Using it, he was to encourage (“exhort”) others as to what they should do and believe.
Those who insisted upon “contradict[ing]”
that thoroughly reliable standard are to be persuaded as to what the truth is: He is to “convict” them of their error rather
than ignoring it (“refute,” Holman, NIV; “correct,” GW, NET; “reply
The Moral and Spiritual Dangers
Facing Christians in
10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. --New English Translation (for comparison)
For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision. The situation Titus faces does not involve just one or two people; it is a large scale problem: the existence of “many” troublemakers. What they share in common is being “insubordinate:” out of line, out of place, defying and undermining the truth. They come in two major forms. One group involves people who speak without really thinking: “idle talkers.” They speculate, they wonder, they conjecture about hypothetical situations and imaginary realities that might never occur in the future or about which there is absolutely no real evidence of having occurred in the past.
Then there are the “deceivers.” These also come in more than one form. There are those who take pleasure in accomplishing whatever they set out to do and see no particular evil in lies and misrepresentations so long as they accomplish the “greater good” of convincing you to embrace their delusion.
Then there are those who are themselves victims of deception--by others or their own delusions--but who are so enthusiastic about their supposed “insight” that they set out to convince others to embrace it too. These think they are truth tellers when they are really deception tellers due to the major mistakes in their “evidence” and their reasoning. Delusions of importance fall under this category (Galatians 6:3) as do those who consider themselves Christians but refuse to let it control their behavior (James 1:26).
James refers to such a person who thinks nothing is wrong in them saying anything and everything they please as one “who deceives his own heart” (). Isaiah pictures those who make idols as self-deceivers, unable to grasp that what they are making couldn’t possibly be real gods (44:18). “A deceived heart has turned him aside” (verse 20) or as the ESV words it, “a deluded heart has led him astray.”
What their ethnic composition might be in other parts of
That there were also Gentiles with a similar problem of enchantment with “fables,” is clearly implied but that it was predominantly Jewish is argued from the addition of the word “especially:” the advocates weren’t exclusively from that one source, but they were the dominant faction. These Gentiles could be those recruited to the Jewish delusions or ones following their own inventions.
whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. Their “mouths must be stopped,” of course, carried no implication of violence or intimidation. Rather they were to be silenced by the exposure of their errors and fantasies. (Denying them pulpit opportunities to expound their doctrines would also be a reasonable application of Paul’s instruction.) It was not isolated cases of success that Paul is concerned with but that they were able to undermine (“subvert”) far more--entire families. Having a fatal germ in you is bad enough; when it has consumed an entire “organ” [= family] of the (church) “body” that makes it far worse.
They taught “for the sake of dishonest gain.” They sought to make money off their teaching and preaching. They may well have functioned on the basis of knowing dishonesty: The brethren are simply more “marks” to be fleeced for personal enrichment. The language would also apply if they are self-deceived: how could it possibly be honorable if you make money off what is clearly wrong or which only had “idle talk” (cf. verse 10) to substantiate it?
Whether the delusions and deceptive teachings were the result of greed or the cause of it, it remained wrong. He was aware that the danger could contaminate the souls of church leaders as well for he stresses that one of the qualifications for elders in Crete is that they “not [be] greedy for money” (Titus 1:7)
The problem certainly wasn’t limited to that one place either. There are never geographic boundaries. In 1 Timothy 6:5, where Paul writes to the Ephesians, the apostle had rebuked the “useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.”
The apostle Peter also spoke of how bent doctrine could easily be linked with greed: “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words” (2 Peter 2:1-3). The mentality had also existed among the ancient Jews and they--surely like these first century deluded!--convinced themselves that their optimistic words would be carried out by the Lord: “Her heads judge for a bribe, / Her priests teach for pay, / And her prophets divine for money. / Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, / ‘Is not the Lord among us? / No harm can come upon us’ ” (Micah )
Cultural popularity of financial gain by any and all means where Titus was preaching: “Bishop Ellicott quotes a striking passage from Polybius, Histories. vi. 46. 3, with respect to the Cretan character: ‘and generally their character as to unfair gains and covetousness is of this kind—they are the only nation in the world among whom no sort of gain is thought unfair.’ . . .
“For their ferocity and greed and falseness cf. Polybius vi. 46, 47, ‘The Cretans, on account of their
innate avarice live in a perpetual state of private quarrel and public feud and
civil strife. . . . and
you will hardly find anywhere characters more tricky and deceitful than those
of the Cretans.’ ” (
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” It was a Cretan who provided this harsh assessment and not an outsider. In fact, the mind frame was so widespread that this “prophet” of theirs could insist that Cretans “always” act this way. Their culture and upbringing caused three severely negative traits to exist in the general population: Honesty was readily dispensable (“always liars”) and they had such debased character that they were no better than “evil beasts.” Today we might say, “they had no redeeming characteristics:” one looked at them and could only find yet something additional to criticize.
Finally they were “lazy gluttons:” should we count that as one trait or two? “Lazy” carries the connotation of those who don’t really want to work hard at much of anything; they wanted the desired results of such but anything that involved hard intellectual (or physical) labor was anathema to their way of thinking. Overindulgence of the food instincts was their center of gravity (“gluttons”). Those who constantly overate and took pride in it would be incredibly hard to describe as anything other than “lazy” as well. The two faults walked hand in hand.
Historical context of the quotation and its portrait
of typical Cretans: “Epimenides, a native either of Phaestus
or of Cnossus in
This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. Paul affirms that “this testimony is true;” we would probably say: “he took the words out of my mouth,” embracing the proverb as quite accurate and reliable. “They want to doubt me? Cite to them one of their own supposed prophets!” There were exceptions--after all there were a variety of congregations scattered around the large island--but they were exactly that, the exception to the rule.
Knowing that such traits were widespread, how should Titus react? (Especially knowing that his church members had been raised up in such a culture.) He is not to quietly tolerate its re-emergence among them: “Boys will be boys” to use the twentieth century expression. Rather he is to criticize (“rebuke”) the behavior quite firmly (“sharply”). As one commentator describes it, he is wielding a verbal scalpel “ just as the skilful surgeon uses the knife to save the patient’s life.” (Pulpit)
If they accept the validity of the criticism and change their behavior they will “be sound in the faith.” A most interesting word choice: It clearly implies that they will be unsound in the faith if they don’t; they will have failed to measure up to the proper standards demanded by Christian principles.
Alternative translations: Effective synonyms for “sound in the faith” are “healthy in the faith” (ISV, NET) and “faith that is alive and well” (GW).
not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. That the “fables” that were alluring them were overwhelmingly “Jewish” makes sense because he had just warned a few verses earlier that these deceivers were “especially those of the circumcision” (verse 10). The term “fables” might be paralleled with modern “tall tales” that may make interesting listening but have no root in the real world. But these ones were to be embraced as if they provided insights into reality and fascinating truths that mere Pauline Christianity had missed.
It wasn’t just speculation they were envolved in. They were also intent upon creating an independent body of supposed truths and requirements independent of what the apostles were teaching. Because these did not have root in genuine Divine revelation, they were mere “commandments of men.” Since they did not have the imprimatur of God on them, it is hardly surprising that they were merely the instructions of those “who turn from the truth.” They gloried in “their” truth while rejecting “the” truth.
Paul invokes the language of Jesus when He quotes and embraces the words of Isaiah (“in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” Matthew 15:9) and surely expects the implication of it to be as true as during the Lord’s own ministry (15:3-9).
Alternative translations for “fables:” “myths” is the most common substitute (ESV,
NASB, NIV, among others);
Historical note on the kind of speculation the gnostics developed over time: “‘The old Judaism got itself entangled in a
new Platonism. Those endless genealogies which had always charmed the
Israelite, as he traced his own pedigree from Seth and Abraham and David, were
now beginning to soar into higher heights of speculation, till at length they
dealt with angelic relationships and lost themselves in interminable mazes of
celestial emanations.’ Dr Vaughan, The
Wholesome Words of Jesus Christ, p. 7.” (
To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. Those who set out to persistently behave honorably (“the pure”) will have a positive outlook on things: “To the pure all things are pure.” Unless forced to by circumstances or evidence to decide otherwise, they believe the actions of others and the motives behind them are as honorable in nature (“pure”) as their own.
However there was another type of person even among the Cretan Christians. These were morally “defiled”--carrying with it the implication of major failures in conduct. They lacked commitment to God’s will as well (= “unbelieving”). “Nothing is pure” in their lifestyle because it is not rooted in the teaching of the Absolutely Pure One. As the result, their thinking (“their mind”) and moral judgment (“conscience”) are twisted, bent, and unreliable (“defiled”).
One might find here a critique of classical “Judaizing” elements in the church that sought to bind Old Testament eating and circumcision laws on Gentile converts. Their reasoning had been vigorously repudiated by both the Lord (Mark , 18-23) and the apostle (Romans ; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Corinthians 8:8).
However these “Jewish elements” do not appear to be ideologues of that type, they were men who sought to financially exploit their brothers and sisters in the Lord (). They were deep into “Jewish fables”--not Old Testament text (). True they also enjoyed disputes about Mosaical issues (“strivings about the law”) but that is mentioned last in a rebuke of their obsession with “foolish disputes, genealogies, [general] contentions [apparently about a wide variety of matters]” (3:9). Hence what they are having to deal with seems clearly “a different kettle of fish” than what Paul did in Romans and Galatians.
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. Oh, these people were Christians or so they said--predominantly Jewish in light of verse 11’s reference to “especially those of the circumcision”--but that in no way stops Gentiles being involved as well. They readily “profess” their faith in God and claim to understand (“know”) both Him and His will. But such claims fell short when compared with their behavior and actions (“works.”) In those they denied Him and His teaching and that was demonstrated by two important facts. The first was that their moral conduct was “abominable” and, when that term doesn’t quite fit a particular behavior, outright “disobedient” to the Divine will.
As the result of being so deeply on the wrong road, they are “disqualified for every good work.” Their pattern of evil has so bent their minds and attitudes that the passion for doing genuine good has effectively been destroyed. Paul emphatically believed in salvation by faith, but he also expected and demanded that that faith be actively expressed in behavior as well. How can genuine “good works” occur when one no longer has the faith incentive to wish to perform them?
One may still go through the motions but that is all. We might well suspect that Paul’s point goes even further: Being so bogged down with destructive characteristics, are they now likely to have any incentive to even try to do so?
The Type of Lives To Be Lived
By Older Men and Women
1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: 2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; 3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things. --New English Translation (for comparison)
2:1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. Titus couldn’t control what others said, but Paul is fully aware that he can control what he himself has to say. Hence the admonition to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” He does not insert the word “speak only the things” because necessary inference requires it be intended. A useful example we might add as to the validity of that interpretive tool.
“Sound doctrine” is to be both his teaching tool and
the substance of what he teaches.
Not his personal preferences but what he knows constitutes the truth on
the various matters he has to deal with. Paul doesn’t merely denounce heresy, he presents the proper substitute for it. The GW translates it as accurate
2:2 that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience. Paul divides Timothy’s listeners into five broad groups:
(1) Older males (2:1-2)
(2) Older women (2:3)
(3) Younger women (2:4-5)
(4) Younger males (2:6-8)
(5) Servants / slaves (2:9-10)
This way he covers the logical divisions both chronologically and gender wise. He doesn’t go “in depth” about any of them but lays out his principles in broad strokes of description.
Now as to the older males--not just elders--they are to be serious (“sober”), respectful (“reverent”) rather that flippant and unconcerned with the feelings of others, moderate in attitude and action . . . avoiding excess (“temperate”). As to the remainder of the list he insists that they need to be “sound” (= steadfast and reliable) in regard to their religious convictions (“faith”), have the proper motivation in how they treat others (“love”), and exercise self-control (= “patience”).
2:3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things. The older ladies should reflect the same lifestyle: to act in a “likewise” manner. They are to be respectful in behavior (“reverent;” “lives in a way that shows they are dedicated to God,” GW). They are to avoid character assassination (“slanderers”), and control their drinking (“not given to much wine”). Some older women--not to mention men!--have the strange delusion that the reins on their behavior that were exercised in youth can be safely thrown aside in their mature years. Older age is not designed to give one the opportunity to “make up for lost time” in mischief making or to engage in irresponsible behavior.
So far as teaching, it is to reflect the “good things” that the gospel provides. Oddly this teaching requirement is not specified of the older men. Perhaps this is because Paul’s other epistles so heavily emphasize the duty laid upon males to do the (public) teaching, that it was useful to reminder the women that they also had a role to play in the overall scheme of things. It is more likely mentioned because a specific content of their teaching begins the next verse: “That they admonish the young women to. . . .” There are simply some things it is easier for people to hear when it comes from their own gender. There is also what seems a “natural” teaching role of the young in their household.
Greek: “Given to much wine (οἴνῳ πολλῷ δεδουλωμένας) More correctly, enslaved to much wine.” (Vincent’s Word Studies) It is a voluntary enslavement; no one has forced us into it but our own fears, worries, and self-indulgence. Cf. Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19.
The Type of Lives To Be Lived
By Younger Women
4 That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. --New English Translation (for comparison)
2:4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children. Who are the “they” who are to teach the young women? Coming right after the instruction to older women, the logical connection would be with either their mothers and/or older women in general. (By the nature of biology, their mothers would be “older women” compared to their offspring!) Reinforcement by others can also play a key role in convincing younger folk of either gender that a guideline makes sense. At the least it conveys to them that this matter is the consensus at least among those they are most involved with.
“Admonish” carries the stress that this is something to be emphasized in order to make its importance unquestionable. Some prefer to translate this as “encourage” (Holman, ISV) while others enhance that intensity to “train” (ESV, GNT, NET). Since all of this involves teaching, others prefer to opt for “teach” (MEV, NCV, RSV).
The age of “the young women” did not need to be specified because the instruction logically applied to all such individuals rather than a narrow fragment of them. The guiding principle towards both “husbands” and “children” is to be “love” (= constructive good will as expressed in whatever will be of genuine benefit to them). Strange as it may sound in the abstract, we husbands can be difficult to love at times. And I’m not talking about a male who obviously mistreats “his woman.” I’m talking about the fact that both genders usually have a distinctly different emphasis as to what is important. It can be as if the two are speaking different languages even though the words are all spoken in English!
Nor is it automatic that mothers will “love their children.” Childbirth leaves some women ecstatic with joy at what has been produced. It can also result in a sense of near catastrophe: “What in the world am I going to do with this squealing little monster?” Affection then has to be practiced and incorporated into one’s ongoing mindframe.
2:5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. They need to have the wisdom to be restrained in how they deal with others (“discrete”) while retaining a good moral lifestyle (“chaste”) “in look, and word, and act” (Cambridge Bible). They need to be “homemakers”--not necessarily homemakers only but to at least regard it as pivotal to their self-definition of success. Their general moral character is to involve far more than just their sexuality: they are to be overall “good” in action and attitude.
They are to be “obedient to their own husbands.” They have no obligation to try to please anyone else. The wise husband appreciates that being done--and respects their own reciprocal obligation not to abuse it into an excuse to embarrass or humiliate their spouse. You want to sabotage your relationship? There is no better way than forgetting that principle!
Such behavior is necessary to assure “that the word of God may not be blasphemed”--insulted, used as a pretext to reject the gospel. Pagans did not grasp all the moral “niceties” but broadly worded ones like this they certainly did: You need to actually live by the principles you claim to profess. The flip side of that is that you can disgrace what you claim to believe by how you act. And the enemies of the faith will often happily use the inconsistencies as a verbal baseball bat (note the “blasphemed”).
Old Testament precedent: Romans 2:17-24 (especially verse 24) shows that God’s people causing blasphemy against God due to their moral excesses also occurred in the days of their foreign exile. There Paul quotes from the emphatic denunciation in Ezekiel 36:16-28 (especially verse 21). Why does fundamental moral blindness never permanently vanish but merely be recycled by a later generation?
The Type of Lives To Be Lived
By Younger Males
6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. --New English Translation (for comparison)
2:6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded. Just as Titus was to lay down the standards of good behavior for older folk, he was “likewise” to emphasize them (“exhort”) to those who were younger as well. We use the expression “sowing wild oats while young.” It’s nothing unique to the modern world. Even in Paul’s day it was important to emphasize that younger males should remember the need to be morally serious about their future and their lifestyle (“sober-minded”).
Other translations typically select “self-controlled” (ESV, NET, etc.) or, less often, “sensible” (ISV, NASB). Both of these fall under the category of “us[ing] good judgment” (GW). They are not to play the role of “loose cannon” seeking out whatever enjoys their current fancy.
2:7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility. Titus was not to fall into the trap of implicitly (or far worse, explicitly), saying “do as I say and not as I do!” Instead he was to show others that these characteristics could be manifested among the young by showing that he himself embraced and lived by the same standard.
An honorable lifestyle was essential: “a pattern of good works,” not just a sporadic or occasional act of doing so, but “in all things.” It was to be his standard of living. This meant that he was to live in conformity with the “doctrine” he taught. He was to manifest “integrity” in what he advocated and pled for. No one exempted and with all principles being applied consistently to one and all.
He was to manifest “reverence” in his life: respect and honor for both God and His will. He would so adhere to the Divine standards that there would be no way of separating them from what he taught . . . by quiet omission or excuse making. In other words he was to manifest “incorruptibility” in his teaching and behavior. He would not alter it for either friend of foe--or personal preference.
2:8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. What he said--both substance and manner--should be beyond any legitimate criticism. It should be “sound (= reliable) speech that cannot be condemned.” It should be so well done that even a typical “opponent” would be embarrassed (“ashamed”) at his inability to find anything worthy of legitimate criticism. There will be “nothing evil” (= legitimately critical, condemnatory) that he can say without fearing he will make a fool out of himself. When criticism lacks all credibility it isn’t likely to be made at all.
The Type of Lives To Be Lived
By Servants / Slaves
9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. --New English Translation (for comparison)
2:9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back. Specifically he has in mind slaves, but the principle would be equally applicable to any servant who answered to that man’s authority. The requirement of obedience only applied to “their own masters”--not to others, though one can count it as a “given” that, whether free or slave servant, the master would expect them to be respectful to all guests and such like.
Their goal should be centered on satisfying the master in regard to whatever might arise (“pleasing in all things”). This may well have been a special problem in Crete at all levels of society due to the pervasive trait of its people to enjoy and yield to major character failings: “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (1:12).
Furthermore whether employee or slave, there is the inherent temptation to get by “with the least I have to do” rather than being exemplary. Nor are they to be argumentative as both groups might be tempted to be (“not answering back”). The “boss” may be “dumb as molasses” but he still deserves the courtesy of being treated as the person in charge of the household. After all, he is!
The “all things” obviously has the limitation of all things that are honorable. Avoiding as much as one can what is dishonorable is inherently praiseworthy. Since Paul seems to have in mind a situation where the latter is unlikely to occur, he likely has Christian masters mainly in mind. We may despise slavery to our heart’s content today, but in an age when it was common, it was still a world better to have to answer to someone sharing the same set of standards!
not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Neither servant nor slave would be likely to be provided much in the way of wages. Hence either cash or goods that might be “disappeared” without great likelihood of being noticed, could easily be a temptation. But the guideline was to avoid such “pilfering.” But the attitude should be extended to matters in general as noted in the following words--“showing all good fidelity” to the man’s interests and goals. One might innocently or inadvertently betray such by action or inaction but there was not to be the embitterment that would intentionally cause one to do so.
This is not just Pauline teaching. This is the “doctrine of God our Savior,” language that fits both the Father and the Son. Their doctrine is identical after all (John -15) and the expression is explicitly applied to the Son in verse 13 of our current chapter. By doing this they would “adorn” it--give honor and credit to the God who provided the instruction; “beautify” it by showing that the doctrine can indeed be lived if we are committed to doing so. After all they were supposed to give that doctrine respect “in all things”--all matters, “everything” (ESV, NET)--even this one where there easily might be a temptation to seek out an excuse not to do so.
Many bondservants were not household ones. Hence the principle found here applies to a far
broader range of situations than we would immediately suspect: “Almost all trades arts and professions
were at this time in the hands of slaves; and so all tricks of trade, all
mercantile or professional embezzlement and dishonesty, are covered by the word
[pilfering; purloining in KJV]; just as ‘all good fidelity’ ‘covers the whole
realm of thought, of speech temper and gesture, as well as embraces the
sanctity of covenants, the sacredness of property, and the dignity of mutual
relations.’ ” (
Divine Grace Demands Moral Living
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own own special people, zealous for good works. 15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. --New English Translation (for comparison)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Having divided his listeners into five categories in verses 1-10, Paul now explains why that teaching applies to them: Because God has provided redemption (“salvation”) to everyone who is obedient (“all men”). Hence the teaching that rightly applies to all the groups needs to be stressed. He is not to zero in on only one particular category of obedience.
That salvational grace “has appeared” (= been made visible to) and shared with everyone. It is Titus’ duty to continue to do so for “the gospel is not a hidden mystery, but is proclaimed to the whole world.” (Pulpit Commentary)
Although Divine “grace” has been revealed to mankind--bringing with it “salvation”--it is of benefit only if one meets the conditions with which it is given. It is never a matter of meeting humanly invented standards but those of God. And a cross section of them as to conduct and behavior are about to be given. . . .
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age. Since it is “grace” (in the preceding verse) that is “teaching us,” what can that possibly mean than that this is what “grace” not only asks but demands of us? And we know what those matters are made known through what the gospel teaches. If we “spit in the face” of what grace requires, what possibility do we have of salvation? We literally “fall short of the grace of God:” Hebrews 12:14-16 cites this as occurring specifically because of “bitterness,” committing “fornication,” and being a “profane person like Esau.” (The first one is mentioned in verse 15 and the last two in verse 16.)
Being a Christian requires repudiation of evil. “Ungodliness” covers any and all conduct that contradicts good moral behavior as defined by God’s standards. It may not explicitly violate it, but does it implicitly violate what it reasonably and rationally implies? If it does, then it falls into the category of sin.
One method of falling into “ungodliness” is by yielding to “worldly lusts,” those desires that center on gaining the wide varieties of temporal pleasure that compromise our moral or ethical standards. Adultery violates the moral one, for example, and greed and dishonesty violates the second. Or, if you wish, violates both of them since “moral” and “ethical” are virtually synonyms.
We are to live serious lives (= “soberly”) rather than lives in which nothing much really matters as we shift from one present fancy or fantasy to our next one. What this involves can perhaps be seen well in the alternative translation of “self-controlled” (ESV, GW, NET, NIV). We behave “righteously,” which covers honorable behavior as defined by God, who has far higher standards than rebellious mankind! We are to also live “godly” lives, ones that manifest obedience to God’s will.
(We make this distinction in this verse because “righteously” seems to cover so well the moral aspects of discipleship while there are areas of religious behavior that do not directly involve morality at all; hence the need for “godly” to cover a wider range of subjects. They are so close to being synonyms, however, that in passages mentioning only one, they can be taken as functioning in that manner.)
Alternative translations: The “profane” in Hebrews 12 is translated
by a variety of other terms: “godless” (ISV,
NIV, NRSV), “ungodly” (CEV,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Why are we willing to live the moral and religious life the apostle demands? Because we are looking forward to the second coming of our Lord. This will be a “blessed hope” until it actually happens . . . an honorable, praiseworthy passion for what has not yet occurred. When it happens it will be a “glorious appearing.” After all, the resurrection will occur (1 Thessalonians -17), He will return quite visibly (Acts ), and with numerous angels (Matthew ). What else could it be but a “glorious appearing”?
Then he will “complete” our salvation by changing our very bodies into a form fit for the eternal heavenly kingdom (1 Corinthians -45, 50-55). Given what will happen, how could one possibly avoid applying both “great God” and “Savior” to “Jesus Christ”? He will prove it by what He has done. (Cf. John 1:1-14 where He is also depicted as such.)
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. One might call our relationship with the Lord a matter of “reciprocal obligation” . . . we owe loyalty to Him because of what He freely did for us: He “gave Himself for us.” No one could have taken His life if He had refused to die; it was a purely voluntary sacrifice (John -18). But because of that sacrifice He was able to “redeem us.” We couldn’t do it for ourselves, not even the most observant Jew could have under the Mosaical system “for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It was only possible through the sacrificial offering of His own body (verses 5-10).
That sacrifice did two things simultaneously. First it “redeem[ed]” us from the guilt of all of our transgressions (“every lawless deed”). None were omitted whether we count them as “large” or “minor”--as we mortals typically do. But so far as God goes, they all fall into the category of “sin that forgiveness needs to be sought for.”
Secondly the personal sacrifice by the Lord was His method to “purify for Himself His own special people.” “Purification” was required for certain tasks under the Old Testament system. We also needed to undergo such a process in order to be set apart as His people: Our sins needed to be forgiven. No “purification” in the Old Testament was able to do this (Hebrews 10:4, above). As Jesus Himself said, He came “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark ).
Our obligation for receiving this otherwise unpurchasable gift was to seek out (be “zealous for”) everything that falls in the category of “good works.” By such continued obedience we manifest our thankfulness and make our spiritual selves even stronger. We find something roughly comparable in the Old Testament: If they left behind their idolatry and other sins then “I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23). First obedience and then the blessings.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. Titus wasn’t just to read these instructions to the congregation; He was to zealously preach (“speak”) them as well. That way everyone would have the oral reading of the words emphasized even further. Doing both of these would stress to them that Timothy was not following some agenda of his own, but that which the apostle had set.
The teaching would obviously involve two things. First the “exhort[ing]”--encouraging, insisting, “pushing” for the adoption of these attitudes into the listeners’ lives and behaviors. But there would also be the need to “rebuke”--to criticize and upbraid any behavior that violated these standards.
Paul is not giving idle speculation; he is giving obligatory standards for everyday behavior. They needed to be emphasized both as encouragement to persevere in them and as criticism when they were forsaken. Titus didn’t need to feel skittish about stressing the matters. He should do it “with all authority,” knowing that the authority of both Paul and Christ backed it up.
Then a gentle (?) reminder to the local hearers of these words: “Let no one despise you.” If they dislike it, they should argue with Paul or with Christ. Titus is merely the loyal intermediary. They are not to vent their spleen on him.
Remembering Both Divine Grace
and Our Past Wasted Lives
Motivates Us To Honorable Behavior
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. 3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. --New English Translation (for comparison)
3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. Rulers can be annoying. Sometimes they can be outright unwise or unperceptive, but that in no way alters the fact that they are legally in charge and have the right to make decisions that are accepted as obligatory. Paul describes these as both “rulers” as well as “authorities.” (In Luke variant word forms of the underlying Greek--“power” [= rule] and “authority”--are both applied to the Roman governor.) Some make the distinction that the first involves those who have authority and the second those who are officially and legally recognized as enjoying it.
This is very close to my original thinking on the matter, which could well be valid: He could be using these as virtual synonyms lest a technical difference in label applied to the person be used as an excuse to ignore their instructions. If they have the authority of “ruler,” they are to be recognized as such whether the label would normally be applied or not. In both cases they are recognized as ones having the right to set down the rules.
Their authority is to be accepted as far as is honorable and does not involve the repudiation of one’s Christian obligations (Acts ). “To obey” them is the default position and not one finally adopted because of running out of excuses not to. To recognize their authority in no way implies acceptance or endorsement of their moral lapses, failings, and excesses however.
Why is this
put first in his multi-verse list of ethical guidelines? Christianity, legally speaking, lay in a
nebulous area. It could be viewed as a
“Jewish sect” since Jesus had both been a Jew and a large number apparently
existed in the local congregations on
The first of what we would more traditionally classify as ethical behavioral instruction lays down the broad guidance of “be[ing] ready for every good work.” (Obviously Paul included recognizing the validity of government authority as also falling under this because one can’t imagine him including the requirement unless it did.) However they aren’t to have some narrow and limited list of “must dos;” instead they need to routinely pursue anything and everything that is honorable behavior (“good work[s]”) whether in regard to the government or other matters. He then proceeds to provide a cross section of what else these would include. . . .
context on how the obedience to government instruction would often be specially relevant: “Fairbairn refers to the earlier history of the island and a
‘known tendency on the part of the Cretans to insubordination and turmoil,’
quoting from Polybius vi. 46, ‘constantly upset by
seditions and murders and tribal wars.’ ” (
3:2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. They are to dwell on the good of others whenever possible and “to speak evil of no one.” Of course that assumes there is no evil being done by that person. To be silent when they are doing obvious wrong would be to give them tacit permission to continue to do so! But even then one must avoid lies, misrepresentation, blatant exaggeration, and the “hundred and one” other ways that people have to do needless harm to others. This is part of our centering our minds on the good things of life and not the warts (cf. Philippians 4:8). The difficulty of fulfilling this goal would vary according to the types of people we deal with: remember that Paul is specifically writing about how to act among “the rough and turbulent Cretans!” (Pulpit)
The one who routinely--and especially with virtual happiness!--“speak[s] evil” of others is the very kind of individual who is guaranteed to violate one or more of the positive criteria Paul presents next. Some prefer to translate the prohibition as referring to “insult” (ISV), “malign” (NASB), or “slander” (Holman, NET) and the term is broad enough to cover all of these--and other forms of derogatory claims as well.
Being “peaceable” means you don’t exaggerate a problem and you try to find a way to resolve it whenever possible. Being “gentle” means treating others kindly rather than abrasively and with vicious ridicule.
These attitudes are not to be exhibited just toward some
people--friends, kin, individuals you want to impress, for example. One is to manifest “all (= full, complete,
continuing) humility to all men”--to everyone you have dealings
with. Even those you’d rather not have
much of anything to deal with in the first place.
3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. The reason for such broad generosity of spirit is that “we ourselves” had once been just as blind and dumb as so many others currently still are. This carries with it the implicit reminder: “Don’t return to the ways you once were!”
The picture Paul paints of their pre-conversion lifestyle reflects the fact that it was not a matter of just having some one major character fault, but having a variety of negative and destructive traits. If the Cretans themselves could (jokingly?) claim that all of them were “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (), Paul is simply sketching out the variety of ways their other failures were reflected.
He begins with the gentlest criticism: they had been “foolish”--misguided, lacking good judgment. Being “disobedient” to God’s law and, at times, even common sense would be natural. Their priorities did not reflect such being important. They were “deceived”--by false teachers or by their own twisted priorities? Most likely the latter since they aren’t explicitly rebuked for believing the wrong things but for behaving wrongly.
“Serving various lusts and pleasures” is vague and imprecise, but simultaneously so effectively all encompassing! By the way, the Greek behind “serving” is so intense that it can rightly be translated as “slaves to” (ESV) or “enslaved by/to (ISV, NET, NIV). True you are “doing what you want to” . . . but you have simultaneously enslaved yourself to a never ending search for yet more of it.
The evils you seek are called “various lusts.” These are whatever you have a passion and great longing for even though they are sinful; “pleasures,” whatever would make you happy and satisfied even though you are indulging your taste for excess. The spectrum of behavior covered is vast, but that is because human beings so effectively undermine their character and scruples in such a profoundly wide variety of ways. In effect, Paul is leaving them to fill in the specifics of how it applies to them personally.
“Living in malice and envy” implies that these were not sporadic mistakes but the habitual way they acted. Other translations bring this out by referring to how they were “enslaved by” (NIV) or “slaves to” (ESV, GW) these things. They manifested not mere “envy” that others had what they did not, they also manifested actual “malice” (= anger, rage) toward them for their success.
That “malice” manifested itself, not unexpectedly, in
being “hateful” toward them. If not to
their faces--they might be too important to openly malign--then behind their
backs as false accusations and innuendo are thrown in their direction. “Hating one another” could be just a
repetition to reinforce how passionately and persistently these emotions were
vented. It could also be reminding us
that this hatred of specific individuals easily becomes generalized
toward one and all--even to ones in no way any better off than we are! They become the chronic naysayers,
venting their spleen on anyone they encounter.
Their attitudes have been dangerously bent out of shape . . . not just
toward a few people but toward everyone.
3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared. In spite of mankind’s reprobate lifestyle that is depicted in verse 3, God has not washed His hands of His human creation. Instead He manifested both “kindness” and “love” in order to be humanity’s “Savior” from its own blindness and excesses.
Historical context: What Paul says targets Gnostic style thinking in several areas: “While it cannot be asserted that the heretical characteristics noted in the Pastoral Epistles point collectively to any specific form of error, it is true, nevertheless, that certain characteristics of the economy of grace are emphasized, which are directly opposed to Gnostic ideas. Thus the exhortation that supplications be made for all men, supported by the statement that God wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1, 4), is in the teeth of the Gnostic distinction between men of spirit and men of matter, and of the Gnostic principle that the knowledge (ἐπίγνωσις) of truth was only for a limited, intellectual class.
“To the same effect is the frequent recurrence of all, for all, in connection with the saving and enlightening gifts of God (1 Timothy 2:6, , ; Titus ). So here [in 3:4]: not only has the saving grace of God appeared unto all (Titus ), but it has revealed itself as kindness and love to man as man.” (Vincent’s Word Studies)
3:5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. God’s generosity was obviously, as stated here, not produced by the exemplary behavior of humankind. At its best our “works of (= manifesting) righteousness” are qualitatively inadequate to earn salvation. Even more so the collective destructive lifestyle of the human species.
Speaking of the Old Testament in particular, the only way “works” could have saved them would be if they had observed them perfectly: no one ever did or could. Only when “grace” was added to the situation under the gospel was it possible for anyone to be sure of their salvation; “grace” compensated for what human perfection could never obtain.
Hence God had to act due to “His mercy” if He was to act at all. And He thought enough of the human species not to dismiss it as a lost cause. He produced a “regeneration” of our original moral uprightness by “washing” away our sins, bringing spiritual “regeneration” to us. Or, as the apostle Peter described it, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . .” (Acts ).
He renewed in us the original “holy spirit” that we once had. Note that we do not capitalize the two words, as in the bulk of translations including the one we are using here. To “renew” it implies that at some earlier point in our life we once already had it. How then could “the renewing of the holy spirit” in our current verse be linked to the usual understanding of receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts --a gift which we never had before?
If one translates this, as often done, as “renewal by the Holy Spirit” (ISV, Holman, NIV) one has something to work from. However even then, aren’t we motivated to obey the gospel by our search for a renewal of (what originally had been) a holy spirit within us? Standing alone this makes great sense, but then in verse 6 we are immediately faced with a possible reference in the opposite direction. There are three possible options: (1) that gift of the Spirit is the receiving of a purified spirit as here in verse 5;
(2) as in verse 6 what we have here also refers to the Spirit personally being “poured out on us;”
(3) or that the S/spirit in both senses are being covered, one in each verse: We have the gift of a renewed “holy spirit” (verse 5) because the Holy Spirit (verse 6) poured out on us the forgiveness of our sins. We heard His message and we obeyed. We received the reality of salvation by meeting the prerequisites He had revealed. The Holy Spirit made it possible through His message rather than through miraculous personal action upon our souls.
3:6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Since it was the Holy Spirit “poured out on us,” it would make sense that we have a direct action of the Divine Spirit itself in mind. But the one text that best fits this in a more or less literal sense is that of the apostles being provided supernatural guidance by the Spirit on the day of Pentecost after it immersed them (Acts 2:1-4). The new convert’s receipt of the Spirit, however, is afterwards described as “receiv[ing] the gift of the Holy Spirit” rather than receiving the Spirit Himself (Acts ). Of course we could argue that “it happens to us but we don’t visually see it” which sounds far more like rationalization rather than explanation.
The intended image of verses 5 and 6 combined seems to be this: our spirit is renewed in its original purity by the washing away of our sin--the imagery of the “pour[ing] out” of a tide of Spirit produced mercy and forgiveness being a reasonable parallel to how the pouring out of a flood of water on our physical body can produce a cleanness of the flesh.
Yes the forgiveness and purification we gained at conversion was the result of God sending the Lord and Jesus Christ dying on the cross and becoming “our Savior.” The Spirit did not act alone and what He accomplishes in restoring our purified spirit is made possible through what Jesus of Nazareth accomplished on the Cross. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It took the voluntary sacrifice of the full embodiment of holiness in the Lord to accomplish a goal that could be obtained in no other manner. This forgiveness was “abundantly” given because it covered the sum total of our past lifetime of sin.
3:7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Our forgiveness is pictured here as our being “justified” (= made just, made acceptable) by “His grace” (= Divine mercy, forgiveness). He demanded little of us in conversion but He offered, in exchange, nothing short of the “hope (= expectation, guarantee) of eternal life.” On this earth we moderns have sixty or so years; by redemption we have a joyful existence beyond our ability to even fully grasp the duration (“eternal”). We become “heirs” (= ones who are guaranteed an inheritance) of that joyful and never-ending future.
Note that baptism (the “washing of regeneration” in verse 5) is part of the means through which we are “justified by His grace.” It is the point at which our seeking of Divine forgiveness merges with God’s desire to “justify [us] by His grace.” No baptism, no forgiveness through grace.
Even so life can be difficult. At times even discipleship can become a burden due to problems beyond our control: poverty, disease, evil treatment. But even then the reward remains infinite in comparison . . . if we don’t turn our back on it due to our frustration and despair. God makes no one be saved, but will joyfully accept all who are willing.
3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. Christians should be dedicated to living the right way. Hence to “be careful (“devote themselves,” ESV, NIV) to maintain good works.” Not just to avoid evil, but to pursue the type of life that is constructive and of benefit to both themselves and others. This he calls “a faithful (= reliable, “trustworthy,” ISV, NET) saying (= principle, guideline, summary).” There are some generalizations you might doubt, but not this one. This one is always reliable. That is why Paul insisted that Titus “affirm [this] constantly.”
Note how faith and good behavior are bonded together as a unit: “that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain gold works.” Humankind’s idle theological speculation tries to make them two contradictory entities. In contrast God intends for the two to be melded together both now and throughout our discipleship.
Of course the “works” are not, for example, some idle formula of prayer intended to gain us Divine acceptance by its multitude of repetitions (“they think they will be heard for their many words”--Matthew 6:7), but “works” in the sense we use it in everyday life . . . of actions and behavior. Paul himself stresses some of the ways to do so in the next to last verse of this chapter, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” These are Bible style works.
(To argue that the expression “good works” means to have honest and honorable occupations is truly creative but is hardly what either Paul or James mean when they use such language. At most it would be an example of the “good works” that are to be maintained.)
This lifestyle is inherently “good” (= virtuous, honorable, desirable).” But that is not only a matter of fact but it is also praiseworthy because it is “profitable” (= beneficial)” to one and all. No one will be made worse by this standard. Their character will only be enhanced and improved.
Interpretive disagreement: A good number insist that “this is a faithful saying” applies to what he had just been saying rather than to what is said in the current verse. Are we to then deduce that what Paul now says is not “faithful” (reliable)--or, at least, as much as what came earlier? No one would think of arguing such foolishness! Furthermore the wording “faithful saying” automatically inclines one toward something relatively short like in the current verse rather than something much longer, which would be the case if verses 5-7 (and earlier?) are included. Of course one could opt that the current verse and the preceding verses are all effectively included in his description--because verse 8 is essentially a concise summary of all included in the preceding verses.
Reject Needless Divisiveness
9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. --New English Translation (for comparison)
3:9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. In the previous section Paul had already mentioned the evils that once had been in their lifestyle and which they had abandoned (verse 3)--or were supposed to have! But the negatives in human nature may be stilled but rarely totally eliminated. Hence he stresses the type of foolish and destructive behaviors they should continue to avoid. He begins with “foolish disputes.” Some things are simply not worth arguing about. Other things are only worth “arguing” about a little because we know there is no way to conclusively settle the matter. These easily become “foolish disputes” even if they weren’t to begin with.
“Genealogies” aren’t worth working up a dander about
either. I assume the State Library of
Virginia still has the volume I stumbled across in their catalogue way back in
the 1960s: “The genealogy of [so-and-so]
as traced back to Adam.” Hardly
likely is it! The “genealogies”
mentioned here are hardly likely to be so innocent. In
“Contentions” cover conflicts in general: People can always find something to fight over can’t they? But one particular type of conflict is specified: “strivings about the law.” First of all, the Jewish law was nailed to the cross (Colossians -14). So conclusions about its requirements have little relationship to New Testament believers. Second of all, conflicts over such matters are most likely to have arisen from others seeking a way to continue to bind its rules on believers. Remember Paul’s rebukes of the judaizing tendency among some Christians?
The fact that “they are unprofitable and useless” has immediate contextual reference to disputes about the Jewish law, but it is hard to believe anything other than that the remark also applies in principle to the other disputes he mentions in this epistle. In the apostle had warned of people agitating irrelevant matters that would especially concern Jews: He speaks of how they were “insubordinate” and “idle talkers”--even “deceivers,” indicating that some had a secret agenda far beyond the issues they were immediately speaking about. And not always about specifically Jewish matters either since their teaching was motivated “for the sake of dishonest gain” (). Wasting time on these disputes would not be of any spiritual benefit either.
Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition. What do you do with a troublemaker? Coming right after verse 9 he surely has in mind the kind of disrupters mentioned in that verse. However the human capacity for unlimited mischief making could be applied to virtually any subject that comes to mind. Hence Paul’s admonition surely applies just as equally to these cases as well.
When you face such a troublemaker you are to give them a strong criticism for the disturbance they are making: “admonition” conveys the idea that it is being heavily emphasized. In effect, “this is wrong and you have to stop doing it!” Translating “warn” (NIV) and “warning” (ESV) brings that message out explicitly.
If he repeats the offense a second time, the rebuke is to be repeated. After that there is no alternative but to “reject” the man (or woman!). That action certainly carries with it the connotation that some translations make explicit: “have nothing more to do with them” (ESV, GNT). Whether that is to be done by an act of formal church exclusion is not stated and the wording would authorize either individual or group action depending upon the actual situation. In Matthew 18:15-17 the rejection is also behavioral but targeting the individual doing personal injustice to others: “if your brother sins against you” (verse 15).
Why “reject” that person? Assuming it even needs any explanation, Paul immediately explains. . . .
knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. He is “warped” (= “twisted,” CEV, NET) because he is stirring up strife over matters that are “unprofitable and useless” (verse 9) even if--which is utterly improbable--he turns out to be right. He is a walking, talking, troublemaker who can only offer the congregation controversy that serves no purpose and which can only lead members down blind alleys or into overt sin.
He is “sinning” in acting this way. This can be taken in either (or both) of two ways: He is mentally awry (= “warped”) by his way of thinking and reasoning; that itself is self-produced “sinning.” Alternatively his empty theorizing causes him to stumble into sin as the result of his defective reasoning and rationalization.
Hence his attitude and behavior are unworthy of continued toleration. He is not really condemned by fellow believers; he is already “self-condemned” by his actions and attitude. Foes don’t really have to make the case against him; all they have to do is listen to the fables and idle imaginings that he persists on repeating and refuses to drop--and note the behavior it leads to (verse 9).
Brief Final Messages
12 When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. 14 And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. --New English Translation (for comparison)
send Artemas to you, or Tychicus,
be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have
decided to spend the winter there. Paul has
already decided where he intends to stay through the coldest months and wishes
Titus to join him there. That season
inevitably produced difficulty in travel and, if done by sea, even great danger: It was at this time that Paul suffered
shipwreck on the way to
We know only a little about Tychicus. We know that he acted as Paul’s agent to carry his letter to the Ephesians. In introducing him to the congregation, Paul describes him as “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (). He uses similar words in describing him to the Colossians as “a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord” (4:7).
All we know about Artemas--who is nowhere else mentioned in the New
Testament--is that the apostle clearly respected his talents and dedication and
was considering sending him to
Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. Although Titus has been given a “maximum” date to arrive (winter), Paul wishes to see Zenas and Apollos as soon as possible--they needed to be sent “with haste,” with no delay. Why these two are specified we are not told.
All we know about Zenas is what is revealed here--that he was a “lawyer,” which surely proves that a person does not have to be a reprobate to follow that field of work! (Although a cynic would still say, “it surely helps if one is to be overly successful!”) It could be that Zenas was going to work as the apostle’s lawyer in any dealings with the Roman authorities or had proved unusually successful in gospel labor.
More probable is the fact that the word “lawyer” was also applied among the Jews to “teachers of the law,” “religious lawyers” (experts) if you will. The closest translation I found that seems to take it this way is the ISV which describes him as “the expert in the Law.” The Complete Jewish Bible however renders it “the Torah expert,” with the italics indicating an interpretive addition.
we know more. He was a brilliant orator
and defender of traditional Judaism and was brought to enlightenment about the
gospel by the work of
Apollos had played a major role in the spiritual development of the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (3:6). Paul had wanted Apollos to return to that city with others, but he had insisted that it would be best for him to do so at a different date ().
And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. Christianity is not just avoiding evil; inherent in it is doing the right thing as well. Hence the emphasis on the obligation “to maintain good works:” “maintain”--don’t let them drop off your ongoing agenda. Continue doing them today, tomorrow, and permanently. “Good works” implies anything and everything that we can do that is of a positive and beneficial nature for other people: Family, friends, fellow Christians, neighbors, and those we work with.
They especially needed to avoid neglecting “urgent needs.” The modern distinction between “problems” and “big problems” is surely manifested here. It is not that the first category is to be neglected, but that priority has to be with those that are immediate and most pressing. What these will be will depend upon our circumstances and our acquaintances. They won’t always be the same as our fellow church members since we have overlapping but not identical groups of friends and acquaintances.
An obvious example is the kind of situation that James mentions:
4 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2)
If you don’t help when you have the capacity to do so, you reveal that though your faith may theoretically exist, it is only a pretense--it never has an embodiment in helping others as it should. And you will note that James illustrates his point not with the “nice extras” of life, but with the essentials.
The Cretans needed to “maintain good works”--the exact subject James happens to be concerned with! Both are discussing what Paul calls “urgent needs.” Can there be anything more “urgent” than what James is describing--people without food or essential clothing?
The same result also exists in both passages if beneficial actions do not occur. Paul describes the failure as being “unfruitful;” James describes it as lacking the “works” that faith must produce if it is to be regarded as true and full faith. How can that possibly be anything other than being “unfruitful?” There isn’t a real difference in teaching between the two men is there?
As to the sending of Zenas and Apollos “with haste, that they may lack nothing:” note carefully that immediately after this is the plea of our current verse, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” Read together, does not that have to imply that the Cretans are to meet as much as they can of the travel needs (and presumably expenses) of both Zenas and Apollos? It is not a theoretical future need that is most in Paul’s mind--though those would surely occur as well--but this almost immediate one.
All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. Everyone who is with Paul (“all”) want to pass on their greetings whether they have been mentioned by name or not. Likewise Titus is to especially pass their sentiments to all those Cretans who have special “love” toward Paul and those working with him. (Note the possible implication that certain Cretans may not have thought much of the apostle!)
Paul wishes “grace” to be with the Cretan Christians in whatever varied forms it might be needed. Not just to some of them but to “all”--immediately if they are already acting as they should; upon repentance, to the remainder.
A. E. Humphreys.
James B. Coffman. Commentary on Titus. Internet edition at: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc.html.
Marin R. Vincent. Word Studies. Internet edition at: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt.html.
H. D. M. Spence, editor. Pulpit Commentary on 2 Timothy. Internet edition at: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/titus/1.htm.