The second in order of the pastoral epistles was written to Titus, Paul's own child, according to the common faith, a Greek by birth (Gal. 2:3), who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem on the occasion of the conference, at which the freedom for all who had been Gentiles from subjection to circumcision and the law of Moses was definitely determined. The presence of Titus with Paul at that time was an illustration of the truth so firmly held by the great apostle of the Gentiles.
A genuine (gnesios) child of Paul in the faith as Timothy also was, he did not, however, apparently hold the same place in the apostle's heart as his faithful and almost constant companion, the son of Eunice, whom he called his beloved child in the last canonical epistle which came from his hand. (2 Tim. 1:2.) Titus is described as Paul's companion and fellow-labourer (2 Cor. 8:23), and the only special service with which his name is connected, previous to the date of the letter addressed to him, is that carried out at Corinth, first in ascertaining for Paul the state of the Corinthian assembly, and how they had responded to his epistle (2 Cor. 2:13, 7: G); and second, by his return thither to collect their alms on behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem.
His heart refreshed and encouraged by the manifest tokens of repentance among the saints at Corinth (2 Cor. 7:7), he was ready, at the apostle's wish, to return there to get ready their contributions, ere Paul himself should revisit them, being full of zeal for the Christians at Corinth. On another occasion, at the close of the apostle's life, we learn that Titus had gone to Dalmatia, doubtless on some service which concerned the saints and the interests of Christ. (2 Tim. 4:10.) But at the time when this letter was penned he was in Crete, left there by Paul after a visit made between his first and second imprisonment at Rome. Crete must have been indelibly fixed in the remembrance of our apostle. Sailing under its lee, abreast of Salmone, on his voyage to Rome, and coasting along it with difficulty, they reached the Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea, in which harbour Paul counselled the centurion and those in charge of the vessel to winter. Had his advice been followed, the owner would not have lost either the vessel or its cargo. As it was he lost both; for, attempting to reach Phenice, a better harbour, they were driven along till they were shipwrecked at Melita. (Acts. 27)
What opportunities Paul had of preaching whilst the vessel remained at the Fair Havens, and what results, if any, there were from his presence at that time on the island, we have no means of ascertaining. Nor do we know by whom the gospel was first preached, or any assembly there founded. To Crete, however, Paul repaired when once more free, and an assembly had been established in every city before Paul penned this letter, which, though short, is most useful, the walk and behaviour of saints in different conditions and relations of life forming the subject of this communication.
Evidently Titus was one whose special sphere was the Church of God, and lie is the only apostolic delegate that we read of commissioned to establish elders. To him Paul writes this letter, which in this resembled the first addressed to Timothy, in that it furnished him with credentials in support of his mission; so that all might know the authority on which be acted in the island of Crete. "Paul, a servant" (doulos), "of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging" (or full knowledge) "of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested His word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, mine own child after the common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour."*
* Mercy is probably to be omitted, and Lord also, the epistle being the only one written by Paul in which that title of our Saviour does not occur. John is the only other writer in whose epistles (unless 2 John 3 is an exception) He is never called Lord.
Important statements are these. There is a faith which God's word owns. It is the faith of God's elect. Creeds there might be, religions too, diverse in character one from another. But there is something definite here spoken of - the faith of God's elect, that which they profess, and the fruits of which are displayed in godliness or piety. There is a hope too of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised from eternity; and all this has now been manifested by the proclamation with which Paul was entrusted according to the commandment of our Saviour God. In connection with this he writes to Titus, desiring for the saints the full knowledge of the truth which is according to piety, and unfolding the communication he had for him from God in connection with things ecclesiastical (1), social (2), and civil (3).
Commencing with things ecclesiastical, he reminds him that he had left him in Crete to set in order things that remained unordered, and to establish elders in every city. Hereupon the apostle states the qualifications needful for one who should fill such an office; for the office of elder and bishop we here see is the same. (Compare v. 5 with v. 7.) The term elder was the title of respect; the term bishop or overseer was that characteristic of the work. The qualifications here enumerated are much the same as those set forth in the instructions to Timothy. But since on that occasion a prominent matter was the taking care of the assembly of God, the bishop, Timothy is reminded, should be apt to teach, ruling his house well, and having his children in subjection with all gravity. Here, where the dealing with gainsayers is the prominent thought, Titus is reminded that the children of such an one should be believers (v. 6), and the bishop himself should hold fast the faithful word according to the teaching, so as to be able both to encourage with sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers. Most needful was that in Crete; for there were many unruly,* vain talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths should be stopped; for such perverted whole houses, teaching things which ought not to be taught for the sake of base gain. Now this was not surprising. It was in harmony with the Cretan character, as described by Epimenides, one of themselves whom Paul here quotes. "They were liars, evil beasts, slow bellies;" i.e., lazy gluttons. No wonder that such trafficked in truth, without regard to the soundness of their teaching. Temporal ends governed them, not the desire to be subject to the Spirit's teaching nor to gain the Master's approval. Such were to be stopped, and the bishops in the different assemblies would be doing their duty in watching, that such teaching found no place in their midst. As for the dupes of such teaching, which fell in with the natural bent of the Cretan character, Titus was to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, which turn from the truth. To the pure all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but both their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." Amongst a people like this God had worked, calling out from them His own, who were to break morally with their past evil ways, and to refuse all such teaching and practice as is here condemned.
*By the omission of and after unruly the words which follow, vain talkers and deceivers, explain the character of their unruliness. The Jews seem to have been plentiful in Crete (Acts 2:11), hence Judaising Christians may have been numerous in the island.
Nor was it only in the assembly that no such teaching was to be allowed. The fruits of sound doctrine were to be manifested in the social circle and in the everyday walk of life. (2) So Titus was to speak the things that become sound doctrine, watching over and exhorting the elder men, the elder women, the younger women, and the young men. Discreetness was to characterize each one in any of those classes. The elder men, the young women, and the young men, were to manifest discreetness by their deportment. The elder women would show it likewise in their admonishing the young women as to their duties in life. The special sphere of the woman - home - and the important results which would follow indirectly to the whole assembly, and, it might be, beyond it, from their quiet godly walk, are here simply set forth.
As for Titus himself, he was to be a pattern of good works - in doctrine, showing uncorruptness, gravity, a sound word that could not be condemned, that those opposed should be ashamed, having nothing evil to say, not of you, but of us; i.e. the Christian community at large. After this servants, literally slaves, come in for a word. (9, 10.) Such were to be subject to their own masters, pleasing them well in all things - not gainsaying nor robbing them - that they might adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. In a word, it is Christianity in common life on which the apostle insists, a practice in conformity with the doctrine; for it is doctrine according to godliness that we are called to hold fast. In connection with this the most ordinary duties of life are perfectly compatible; whilst to neglect them would be to afford an opportunity to the adversary to speak injuriously of the word of God (v. 5) and to speak evil of Christians, and certainly would not be adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (v. 10.) To what a service is the humblest Christian called, the lowest in social rank!
But though such would result from the manifestation of Christian life and principles, they are not the motives by which we are to be actuated. Grace is to be the motive, the saving grace for all men, which has now appeared. This furnishes the subjects of it with a motive, teaching, and an expectation. The favour of God in salvation has met us in the depth of our need and guilt. If God has saved us, it is because we were lost and undone, and deserving of His wrath to rest on us for ever. Hence that grace teaches us that, "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly;" i.e. watchful over self, upright in our ways, and manifesting true piety, of which the Lord Jesus is the mystery, expecting the "blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." These things Titus was to speak, and to exhort and rebuke with all authority. And to enforce all this, Paul adds, "Let no one despise thee."
But the saints were dwelling on earth. Hence there were responsibilities connected with civil government, and a behaviour which it became them to manifest before and to men. Subjection to powers and authorities, obedience to rule, readiness for every good work, the speaking evil of no one, absence of a contentious spirit, with gentleness and the manifestation of meekness toward all; these things became the Christian, and should characterise him, as he remembered what he had been (v. 3), and how the kindness and love towards man (lit., philanthropy) of our Saviour God has appeared, who according to His mercy has saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, being justified by God's grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of everlasting life. Saved, redeemed, justified, partakers of the Holy Ghost, and heirs according to the hope of everlasting life, these blessings, the fruits of the Lord's atoning death, Christians had part in. Moreover, they had part in the washing of regeneration - a washing connected morally with the new order of things, to be established by power in the kingdom when the Lord should reign. Hence, in accordance with the faithful saying here recorded by the apostle, they who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. (v. 8.) This Titus was to affirm constantly, avoiding foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strifes about law; for they were unprofitable and vain; and shunning, or ceasing to have to do with, an heretical man after a first and second admonition, his very position condemning him.
One observes the practical character of the apostle's teaching in this epistle. If he speaks of the grace of God, and of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, he reminds us of the practical bearing which redemption by blood should have on our walk. If he speaks of the kindness and love towards man of God our Saviour, he reminds us that we are saved through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, telling us of the character of the washing, and of the power to walk for God in this scene.
Paul looked to winter at Nicopolis, where Titus was to join him, and now telling him of an opportunity for illustrating practical teaching contained in this epistle (v. 13), and with an exhortation to the Cretan Christians to apply themselves to good works for necessary wants, that they should not be unfruitful, just the opposite to their national character, he ends with the salutation, "All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all."
C. E. Stuart.
All difficulty in connection with the reception of the truth, as well as every departure from the truth, arises from the working of the mind. Faith receives what God says, and rests in implicit confidence upon His word.