Brief Notes on the Epistle to Titus.

Introduction.

The great subject of the Epistle to Titus is the maintenance of godliness, that becomes us as Christians, in our individual lives; in our earthly relationships, and in our attitude toward the world.

In this Epistle the apostle does not unfold the order, and behaviour, that should mark us when come together in assembly, as in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, but instructs us as to the conduct that becomes us in our private lives. This is surely of the first importance, for it is possible to be exceedingly careful as to our outward demeanour when found together in assembly meetings, and yet careless as to our behaviour in the family circle, in business connections, and before the world. Carelessness in the private life will surely lead to hypocrisy that uses a fair profession in public to cover up a poor walk in private. To this carelessness in the private life, may we not trace much of the weakness that often marks the assemblies of God's people, even if meeting according to Scriptural order?

In the course of the Epistle, the apostle, again and again, insists on the connection between truth and godliness. If the truth is not maintained, godliness will surely fail; if godliness is not maintained the truth will fall into disrepute. Nevertheless, the apostle does not unfold the doctrine, nor is the maintenance of sound doctrine the leading subject, as in the Epistles to Timothy. He is rather pressing the importance of the right behaviour which is consistent with true doctrine.

From the first chapter we learn the qualities that should mark those who undertake the care of God's people, hold fast the truth, and rebuke the unruly.

In the second chapter we have set forth the behaviour that becomes us as individuals, in the different relationships of life, and which is consistent with the grace of God by which we have been so richly blessed.

From the third chapter we learn what is our right attitude, as Christians toward the world, in consistency with the kindness and love of God toward men.

Titus 1.

(Titus 1:1-4). The introductory verses are of the deepest importance, for in them the apostle briefly alludes to the great foundation truths of Christianity, which form the basis of our practical walk as believers; govern our individual life before God, as well as in our relations with one another, and our attitude toward the world.

The apostle speaks of believers as "God's elect." The election of God includes all the chosen of God, whether from among Jews or Gentiles, and thus takes us outside Judaism which recognises only those of Jewish descent. There follows a striking summary of the outstanding marks of God's elect:

Firstly, such are marked by "faith" which is the door into all blessing (Acts 14:27), and brings the believer under the shelter of the work of Christ, and into relationship with God. It stands in contrast to a religious profession which consists in the performance of ceremonies, and submission to ordinances, that are possible to the unregenerate apart from faith in God.

Secondly, "the faith" of God's elect, will lead to the acknowledgement of the truth, in contrast to mere speculations and reasonings of natural men, about the truth, by which they are not only "never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," but are led to "resist the truth," and become "reprobate concerning the faith" (2 Tim. 3:7, 8).

Thirdly, we are reminded that the truth will ever lead to a life of godliness, in contrast to error which leads to ungodliness. In writing to Timothy, the apostle warns him against those in the christian circle "who concerning the truth had erred:" of such he has to say, "they will increase unto more ungodliness" and "overthrow the faith of some" (2 Tim. 2:16-18). In this passage in Titus we have "faith," "truth," and "godliness" linked together. In Timothy we are warned that the overthrow of faith, error, and ungodliness are bound together.

Fourthly, the godliness, or "patient continuance in well doing" of the elect will lead to the sure and certain "hope of eternal life," when godliness will have its bright reward, in contrast to the portion of unbelievers who, by unrighteousness, are passing on to indignation and wrath (comp. Rom. 2:6-8). The hopes of a Jew, or a man of the world, are limited to life in this world, and centre in earthly possessions, and worldly ease and prosperity. The Christian's hope is connected with a life that is not dependent on the things of time, or of this world. Eternal life was promised before "the ages of time," and connects the believer with the counsels of God for eternity. As we pass through the world it enables us to enter into fellowship with God as the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3), and in its fulness will only be enjoyed in life's eternal home. Therefore, while we have this life as a present possession, it can also be set before us as our hope.

Fifthly, the truth as to godliness, and our hope, has been manifested by God's "word." Believers are not left to tradition and the reasonings of their own minds, but they have the authority of the unerring word of God for the assurance of the truths they believe.

Sixthly, the truth manifested in the word, has been made known to us by the "preaching" which had been specially committed to the apostle, with all the authority of God, for the Gentiles, and, as we know, to be continued by "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).

Seventhly, the apostle's salutation indicates that if we are to acknowledge the truth, walk in the godliness that is consistent with it, have before us the blessed hope to which it leads, understand the word which unfolds the truth, and proclaim it to others, we shall each need, even as Titus, "grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour."

(Titus 1:5). Having brought before us the outstanding truths of the Christian faith, the apostle states the reasons that led him to write this Epistle. Titus had been left in Crete for a twofold purpose: first, to set in order certain things that were lacking in the assemblies in Crete; secondly, to appoint elders to maintain order. To carry out this service Paul writes to give Titus definite directions so that he may act with the authority of the apostle according to his instructions.

Today we have no apostles, and no apostolic delegates, to appoint elders, and for any to claim such authority would be mere pretension. It has been pointed out that there are no such directions in any of the epistles addressed to assemblies, clearly indicating that no authority has ever been given to assemblies to appoint elders or choose their own leaders. Nevertheless, we are surely to profit by these directions, and thus learn what are the qualities that still prove an individual brother fitted for watching over the interests of the Lord, and guiding others in the maintenance of order and godliness in local assemblies.

It will be noticed that it is not the possession of an eminent gift that fits a believer for such service, but rather moral qualifications. He is to be blameless, not only in his personal conduct, but in the circumstances of life both in the family circle, and in his relations with others. One has said, "While giving the evangelists and teachers their place, we should also value those who in a similar and less obtrusive way are devoting themselves day by day to strengthen the bonds of affection, and to repress the sources of disorder which, as we all know, continually spring up in christian assemblies" (W.K.).

(Titus 1:6). The one who would seek to maintain order in the house of God, must first show that he can maintain order in his own house. He must be blameless in his family relations — the husband of one wife, and his household free from all charge of riot and unruliness.

(Titus 1:7, 8). Moreover, the one who would press godliness on others, must himself be marked by godliness. The apostle thus contrasts the ungodliness of the flesh — marked by self-will, passion, violence, and covetousness with godliness — marked by hospitality, the love of goodness, discretion, righteousness, piety, and temperance.

(Titus 1:9). Moreover, the one who would instruct others in the word, must himself hold fast "the faithful word" as he has been taught through "faithful men" (comp. 2 Tim. 2:1, 2). "Holding fast the faithful word," will enable us, on the one hand, to encourage God's people with sound doctrine, and on the other hand, to "refute gain-sayers." It is not the knowledge of error that will enable us to meet it, but the knowledge of the truth — "holding fast the faithful word." We need to be "wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil" (Rom. 16:19).

(Titus 1:10, 11). In contrast to those who hold fast the truth revealed in the "faithful word," that leads to godliness, there were men, in those early days, who were "vain talkers," teaching error, and thus deceiving their hearers, and leading to ungodliness among the people of God by subverting whole houses. Such were actuated by the low motive of base gain. These false teachers were especially found amongst the Jews who opposed the truth by seeking to lead Christians back to a religion of outward forms and ceremonies in temple worship, that appeals to the flesh. When here, the Lord exposed the leaders of a corrupted Judaism, as being hypocrites who honoured God with their lips, but with a heart far from Him and who had turned the House of God into a den of thieves. The flesh does not alter, and thus christian assemblies are faced with the danger of linking with a profession of Christianity the outward forms of the circumcision, which ends in using a religious profession as a means of gain.

(Titus 1:12-14). We further learn that in seeking to maintain order and godliness in the assemblies of God's people, we have to take into account the different characteristics of people formed by their particular circumstances and nationalities, which may lead to the flesh showing itself in special evils. The circumstances of the Cretians made them particularly liable to deceitfulness, laziness and gluttony — characteristics to which one of their own prophets had drawn attention. Such manifestations of the flesh, so contrary to godliness, called for severe rebuke, in order that they might be "sound in the faith," and thus preserved from Jewish fables, and the commandments of men that would turn from the truth.

(Titus 1:15, 16). To turn back to false teaching, and make a religious profession for false gain, is to open the door to all the natural tendencies of the flesh, and thus lead to ungodliness. Souls would thus become defiled in "mind and conscience." This leads to the terrible condition in which a profession of God is linked up with works that are a practical denial of God. In the sight of God, such professors are "abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work found worthless." Is not this a solemn picture of Christendom in these last days that has the "form of godliness, but denying the power thereof?" (2 Tim. 3:5.)

Titus 2.

(Titus 2:1). In the second chapter we have brought before us the godliness that is consistent with, and the outcome of, sound doctrine to which the apostle refers in verses 1, 7 and 10. The behaviour, of which the apostle speaks, is that which becomes Christians in their individual and private lives in relation with one another. We thus learn that Christianity affects the smallest details of the every-day life, and that sound doctrine will lead to a godly life in every stage, and relationship, of our path on earth.

(Titus 2:2). In aged men, godliness will be manifested by sober mindedness, gravity of manner, discretion in words and acts, and soundness in the faith, in love and in patience.

(Titus 2:3). The aged women are to be marked by behaviour that becomes those who have to say to sacred things. By reason of their age and experience of life they will probably have a large acquaintance with others; let them beware lest such knowledge becomes an occasion for slander. Their age and infirmity may necessitate the use of a stimulant, but let them beware of becoming enslaved to much wine. By reason of their age and experience they should be able to teach what is right and good, and thus in a special way admonish the younger women.

(Titus 2:4, 5). The younger women should be attached to their husbands and children. Discreet in their words and actions; chaste in their dress and deportment; diligent in home work; good, and subject to their husbands, so that nothing in their lives may give occasion for the word of God being brought into contempt.

(Titus 2:6-8). Young men are to be discreet in their words and ways. Titus, himself, being a young man, is especially exhorted to act in a way that would be a pattern for the young men, both in good works and in doctrine. Again we learn how intimately the life and the doctrine are connected. On the one hand, if the life is not right, the teaching, however correct, will have no power; on the other hand, let us beware of being content with good living while indifferent to sound teaching. In doctrine we are to avoid any perversion that would tend to corrupt the truth. Further in teaching we are to maintain gravity and thus avoid all extravagancies of manner that would bring the teaching into contempt. Moreover, we are to be careful to use "sound speech," and beware of using words and expressions current in the world but entirely out of place in divine things, and that would lead to the teaching being condemned. Acting in the light of these exhortations, those who seek to oppose would be silenced, having no evil thing to say of us.

(Titus 2:9, 10). The christian servant (or "bondman") should be marked by obedience, and carry out his duties in a way that would commend him to his earthly master. This would involve that they refrain from contradicting their masters, or robbing them, but, on the contrary show all faithfulness. Thus, while acting rightly to their earthly masters, they would in all things adorn the teaching "which is of our Saviour God."

In the closing verses of the chapter we have a striking summary of the doctrines of Christianity that lead to the life of godliness. The world can, in measure, recognise and appreciate the right conduct to which we are exhorted in the first part of the chapter, but it knows nothing of the working of grace in the souls of believers, of which the apostle speaks in the closing portion. The current religion of the day is ready to preach morality and right conduct, but ignores the grace of God which alone is the true source of all godliness. How important then to have our souls established in the grace of God, without which morality will yield no lasting blessing.

(Titus 2:11). At once the apostle brings before us "the grace of God" as the foundation of all our christian blessing. We learn that grace brings blessing to us: teaches us how to live in the present world (verse 12); and gives us to look for a blessed hope in the future (verse 13). Seeing that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, we should hardly be surprised if the judgment of God had appeared. But the amazing fact is that the first appearing of the Lord Jesus has brought the grace of God into the world; for, while the law came by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Again we read, "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 1:17; 3:17). Moreover, if "all the world" is "guilty before God," this grace of God, that brings salvation hath appeared "for all men" (N. Tn.).

Directly we open the New Testament, we are face to face with the blessed fact that the time had come, in the history of this ruined and guilty world, when God had intervened for the salvation of men through the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we read, "Thou shalt call His name JESUS (i.e., Saviour) for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). In order that this salvation might be available for all, Christ Jesus "gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:4-6). When ascended to glory, the message is still that there is no salvation in any other, "For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). So, from the birth of Christ to His ascension, we see set forth in Him the grace of God that brings salvation for all men.

(Titus 2:12). If the grace of God brings salvation for all men, it also teaches those who receive the blessing through faith in Christ how to live a consistent life. So far from grace leading us to be indifferent as to our walk, it will lead, not only to the denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts, but, to a life marked by sobriety as regards ourselves, righteousness in our relations with others, and piety in relation to God. So living, the Christian will be a true witness to the grace of God "in the present course of things" that, alas! is marked by ungodliness and lust.

Sobriety will deliver us from having inflated ideas of our own importance, and lead to a sober estimate of ourselves in the presence of God. If living righteously we shall give to all their rights. Living piously we shall act in a spirit of reverence that walks in secret before God, and in the confidence of faith, brings everything to God. It is the opposite of the sanctimoniousness that leads to wearing a religious garb, the making of long prayers in public, and mere outward display, in order to gain a religious reputation before men. Characterised by sobriety, righteousness, and piety, the believer would be preserved from all eccentricities, and would present a well-balanced life, that would become a witness to the grace of God.

(Titus 2:13). Moreover, grace begun on earth will lead to glory. It gives us a blessed hope beyond this present age, with all its violence and corruption, that will be introduced by the "appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." At His first appearing we saw "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). At His second appearing we shall see "the glory" of Christ. At His first appearing, in His lowly grace, He became a homeless stranger in His own creation, with not where to lay His head. At His second appearing He will be manifested in glory as "the blessed and only ruler, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:14, 15). When He appears in glory, believers will be with Him, and like Him, and perfectly at home with Him, for the grace that brings salvation fits us for the glory. If grace makes us strangers in this world, it makes us at home in the glory of the world to come.

(Titus 2:14). This blessed Person — Who is indeed "the great God," and yet our Saviour, the Man Christ Jesus — Who will come in glory to deal with all the wicked in judgment, is the One of Whom the believer can say, "He gave Himself for us," to "redeem us from all lawlessness," in order to secure for Himself a people exclusively for Himself, who will be zealous for the good works that will mark the life of godliness to which grace leads. He has thus established a claim upon us — a claim of love — that we should be for His pleasure. Christ has died for us, that henceforth we should not live unto ourselves, but unto Him that died for us and rose again (2 Cor. 5:15). No one has such a claim upon us as Christ, for, as one has asked, "Who in this world, the nearest or dearest, ever gave himself for you?" To live for His pleasure will set us free from all lawlessness.

(Titus 2:15). Already the apostle has exhorted Titus to speak "the things which become sound doctrine," and now again he not only instructs him to speak of these things, and thus expound them, but to "exhort" his hearers to carry them out, and, if necessary "rebuke" any opposition to them. He was not to be hindered, if any man sought to pour contempt upon him, because he was a young man.

Titus 3.

Having been instructed as to the behaviour that becomes us in our relations with one another, we are now reminded of the conduct that should mark Christians in reference to the world we are passing through.

(Titus 3:1, 2). As the elect of God we are called out of this world to share in the blessed hope of the coming glory of our Saviour Jesus Christ. As strangers in this world, it is no part of our responsibility to interfere with its government. Whatever the character of the worldly powers our place is to be subject, and obedient to rule. Whatever evil may mark their works, our place is to be ready to every good work. Whatever the character of the rulers, themselves, we are to refrain from speaking evil of any man. Whatever violence or injustice we may have to meet, our place is to act in a spirit of gentleness and meekness that refuses to insist upon our rights.

We know that it is not always easy to act in this spirit, for naturally violence, injustice and insult, stir up resentment in our hearts, leading to revengeful thoughts, if not angry denunciations, and the effort to avenge ourselves (Rom. 12:18, 19).

(Titus 3:3). To enable us to refuse the tendencies of the flesh, and act according to these exhortations we are reminded of two truths:

First, if we find it difficult to meet evil with good, violence with gentleness, and insults with meekness, let us remember that we, ourselves, were once ignorant of the grace of God, and, in those days, we, like the world, were marked by disobedience, deceit, lust, malice and envy. This being so, it surely becomes us to meet in a spirit of gentleness and meekness, the evils in others, of which we ourselves were once guilty. To act otherwise, would only be to fall back into acting in the flesh by meeting evil with evil.

(Titus 3:4-7). Secondly, as a yet greater incentive to act in the spirit of grace towards others, we are reminded of the kindness and love in which God has acted towards men, and the mercy which has saved us from the judgment we deserve. If then God in His mercy has saved us from the world and its evils, it becomes us to show kindness and mercy to others as we pass through the world.

Let us remember that we were not saved by any meritorious works that we have done, but through the mercy of God. Not only are we saved from judgment, but a new life has been imparted to us, and the Holy Spirit given to us to live this new life. By this new life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed from the old life with its ignorance, lust, malice, and envy. We are thus washed with the cleansing that will mark the regeneration, when in the days of the Kingdom all will be made new. If we are saved from the world, and cleansed from the old life, it is in view of the glorious inheritance to come, in which eternal life in all its fulness will be enjoyed.

(Titus 3:8). The word by which these great truths are made known to us is faithful. Therefore, we can with all confidence affirm these things, and exhort those who have believed to maintain the conduct that is consistent with them. These things: the grace of God, the conduct to which it leads, and the hope that it gives, are good and profitable unto men.

(Titus 3:9). If there are things to affirm which are good and profitable, there are also things to avoid. There is the danger of the mind being occupied with "foolish questions," with genealogies, contentions and strivings about the law. Such things are unprofitable and vain.

(Titus 3:10, 11). Moreover, there are not only certain things to be avoided, but there may also be persons that we should reject, or "have done with." An "heretic" is not necessarily one that teaches false doctrine. In the Scriptural meaning of the word he is one who makes a party to uphold certain views. If deaf to a first and second admonition, it is evident that he is perverted from the path in which we are called to walk, and having refused all admonition, we are to refrain from further intercourse with him.

(Titus 3:12, 13). The epistle closes with a glimpse of the godly care that should exist among the saints in reference to the Lord's servants, and those who devote themselves to the ministry. The apostle desires the company of Titus, but seeing the need in Crete, he instructs him not to leave until Artemas and Tychicus arrive in the island. He desires also that believers should continue in their temporal work, not only to meet their necessary wants, but also to enable them to help in meeting the necessities of the Lord's servants, and thus bring forth fruit that would abound to their account (Phil. 4:17, 18). H. Smith.

Before the perfume could rise to God for a sweet smelling savour, the incense had to be beaten very small, and laid upon the coals of the altar (Ex. 30, Lev. 16). The prayers of believers, the product of their diverse trials and sorrows, are a sweet savour to God. David says, "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Rev. 5:8; Ps. 141:2).

From the German.