The Epistle to Titus.

Scope and Divisions of the Epistle to Titus.

Titus, as already said, is the Deuteronomy of the second division of Paul's epistles. Its connection with the epistles to Timothy has also been noted. Godliness is in both the great thing insisted upon. The ordination of elders is for this purpose, while the promise of eternal life which is dwelt upon here as in Timothy, is in the same direction. It is the basis, in fact, of everything in the work in man. In the epistle to Titus, the declension beginning and its results are not so manifestly before us. It is not the object, although the conflict between good and evil is quite manifest also, and that within the Church itself; but the great point in Titus is that "the truth is according to godliness;" the word of revelation is that which, in fact, produces it, and, of course, sustains what it has produced. The truth, therefore, is according to godliness — cannot be severed from it. If the truth departs, godliness of necessity departs also; and if there is not godliness in the profession of the truth, the truth itself necessarily suffers and is perverted. This is the moral lesson which makes Titus, therefore, essentially Deuteronomic.

The epistle itself is of a very simple character. The two parts of it give us: the first, the general principle that the truth is according to godliness; the second, the relation of one of these to the other: that is, that the doctrine necessarily, as made known in the power of the Spirit, is the mold into which the life is cast, and the inspiration of the life itself. These things give us, therefore, the two divisions of the epistle:
1. (Titus 1.): The truth according to godliness.
2. (Titus 2, 3.): The relation of one of these to the other.


Division 1. (Titus 1.)

The truth according to godliness.

The connection of truth with godliness, that is, the inseparability of the two, is that which is first insisted on. The character of the relation itself comes afterwards.

1. The truth is emphasized at the very start. Paul speaks of himself as a "bondman of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is after godliness." The opening words, as usual, give us thus the key to the epistle. The election of God is that which is the final dependence of the soul, that is, the will of God in love which goes out after its objects; a will which, surely, nothing can oppose, which must be characterized by His own nature, which alone, therefore, can give the limits of it. God cannot lie, God cannot repent; and in every manifestation of His will we find the activity of a nature which is love, and is so as much as anywhere in the refusal of the evil itself, which is the destruction of everything. It is not an arbitrary thing on God's part, that He ordains the judgment of evil, which is the necessary contradiction of His whole nature, and of all, therefore, that can possibly be for blessing. Love is in this way intolerant, of necessity. Tolerance here could not be love. God has His own way in grace of meeting souls in the deepest need that can be, but grace itself is never apart from the destruction of evil. Thus, there is that by which this grace of God works. If God saves, it is by "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." There is no other way. Man has everywhere received and drunk in the lie of the devil. By that lie, if it is not refused, he is destroyed. All the corruption that is in the world has come in through it. Thus, then, there must be the acknowledgment of the truth which is after godliness. For this, the apostle is set. He is the minister of it, his confidence being that "hope of eternal life which God who cannot lie promised before the age-times." We see, as in Timothy so here, the going back to the beginning. Whatever may have come in since, God's purpose as revealed there abides. Whatever the delay and the need of patience, yet the end is certain. These "age-times," we have already seen, are practically the dispensations, the different steps by which God has worked out and developed what was in His mind, and made way for the full truth, which is now manifested. That long preparation of the world for that in which alone lies all blessing for man is a lesson most serious in its nature as to what man is, while it has reference also, no doubt, to the manifestation of things before the principalities and powers, the creatures of God outside of humanity, but who, nevertheless, are personally interested in all that in which God reveals Himself. How deep this interest is we have now, and can have, probably, but little knowledge; yet we have glimpses of it scattered all through the word of God. The earth, with all the littleness which infidelity, with its feigned humility, has pointed out to us, has, nevertheless, been the theatre of that with which God has connected the manifestation of His glory as nowhere else, and the very littleness of man himself, as well as the evil condition in which he is found, has part in the manifestation. The time of full revelation is now come. This is the very season of God appointed for it; and how much, if we entered into this, might we reckon upon therefore, if indeed the knowledge of God Himself is that which in a practical sense is our very life itself. "For this is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." How little have we entered into the character of the present dispensation! How little have our hearts grasped of this desire of God to communicate His mind to us, and to bring us thus into fellowship with Himself — no longer as those to whom He speaks as servants merely, and who are to move obedient to His will, but as unto children, those brethren among whom Christ Himself takes His place as the First-born, and to whom, as unto friends, He becomes the revealer of the Father's counsels.

If we knew this aright, what interest would it give to every part of Scripture, to His thoughts with regard to His people Israel, and, back of them, to that display of Himself in nature, to which Scripture is the key! How wonderful to be those upon whom, thus, the ends of the ages are come, and to whom the stores that have been accumulated all along the line of revelation become the treasury of faith! This is His word, to which Paul was devoted — not simply His gospel, though the gospel must be the beginning everywhere, necessarily, and at once introduces the soul that has received it into the very heart of divine revelation. But the Word itself goes far beyond what we commonly call this, and is nothing less than that which is not merely to bring us out of sin into holiness, but to qualify us for that place with Christ to which infinite grace has destined us. How little we realize what the body of Christ means in this way, that body in which the Spirit dwells as never before, in order to give us capacity for the reception of these communications! When will we awake to realize and answer to this grace of God?

Again, we find the apostle insisting upon the character of God as a Saviour-God, a commandment from whom is just that which manifests the energy of a love which imperatively requires the fulfilment of its counsels. He is writing to Titus, his true child, as he declares, even as Timothy was — his child according to the faith which he had been the instrument used of God in communicating to him. To him he wishes grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus the Saviour. This individuality which the epistle emphasizes, as we have seen also with the epistles to Timothy, is that which, while it comes out in the most distinct way in the ruin of the Church which has come in, yet was always an absolute necessity. The soul must be for itself before God. We are not saved in the multitude, but saved individually; and in all our life, the more simply we have to do with God Himself, for ourselves, as if there were none other, the more fitted we shall be for fellowship with others, and to serve the ends for which God has united us together.

2. Titus had been left in Crete distinctly to complete the order of the assembly there, and to appoint elders in every city. The characters required in an elder are stated much as in Timothy, especially the family character, as one may say; for the elder is to be a father in the local assembly. Thus, he must be "the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of excess, or unruly." For the character of his children he is thus distinctly accounted as responsible. As an overseer, he is to be blameless as a steward of God, with nothing that would show a lack of government in his own spirit, "not headstrong, not passionate, not given to wine, no striker, no seeker of base gain." On the other hand, not merely of a negative character, but "hospitable, a lover of good, discreet, righteous, pious;" himself "holding fast the faithful word according to the doctrine taught, so as to be able both to exhort with sound teaching and convict the gainsayers."

The circumstances in Crete were of special exigency, and we see in them how, wherever the soul is not fully with God, the natural character necessarily comes up. One of their own, a prophet of themselves, had characterized the Cretans as "always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies" (or, "slothful gluttons"). This did not hinder the grace of God in its work amongst them; for, as we know, it is the glory of God's grace that it can avail for the chief of sinners; but it showed the character in which the evil, if it were suffered to come out, would display itself. Thus, among the Cretans there were many vain speakers and deceivers, the circumcision having specially this character, through the constant opposition which we have found legality was always manifesting to the truth of God, and the plausible cover of previous revelation under which it sheltered itself. It was imperative that the mouths of such should be stopped, as those who subverted whole houses, teaching things which ought not to be, and always with that character which is so naturally and necessarily displayed among those who are not satisfied with that which alone can satisfy. The corruption which is in the world is through lust, and at the bottom of all this plausible perversion of that which had been given of God there was a spirit coveting that which it counted gain. There was need, therefore, of sharp reproof in these cases — above all, that they might be sound in the faith, the very spring of godliness, as we have seen the epistle declares it. Judaism, astray from the purpose of God with regard to it, was only resulting in fables and commandments of men turning from the truth. The liberty that existed in Christ was denied by it. Rules for outward conduct had supplanted that purity of heart which alone made all things pure, while to the defiled and unbelieving there was really no line of separation at all; to them nothing was pure, even the mind and conscience being defiled. With all this there was the profession of the knowledge of God, while in works they denied Him. We see how the knowledge of God should necessarily result in works accordant — how it will, in fact, necessarily do this, or it is not true knowledge.

Division 2. (Titus 2, 3.)

The relation of one to the other.

1. The apostle goes on now to show more distinctly the character of the relation of truth to godliness. The doctrine was in itself sound or wholesome doctrine, that would bring about in its reception a healthy condition of soul. Thus there would be things becoming to it. The apostle briefly characterizes them: on the part of the aged men, "sobriety, gravity, discretion, soundness in the faith," — as part of a moral character which, indeed, it is, — "love, patience;" on the part of the elder women, a behaviour such as became sacred things. They were not to be slanderers, not to be enslaved to much wine; on the other hand, teachers of what was good, admonishing by precept as well as example the younger women to be lovers of their husbands, of their children, "discreet, pure, busy at home." "Keepers at home" goes too far here. Home was their proper sphere, and they were to be occupied with things there, leaving none of their duties undone. They were to be "good, subject to their own husbands," that the word of God might not be blasphemed. The young men were to be discreet, not given to the impulse so natural to those who are as yet more or less unacquainted with themselves and with the manner in which things work out. While Titus was to exhort them to all this, he was, to be himself a "pattern of good works, in teaching uncorrupt, grave, with sound speech, that could not be condemned," able thus to reprove the opposition which would surely be found, and which all must count upon meeting. Bondmen were to be subject to their own masters, to make themselves well pleasing in all things, "not answering again, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity," that they might adorn the doctrine of our Saviour-God in all things. These are, in a general way, the things that characterize the truth in its reception, as the apostle directly now declares.

2. "For the grace of God," he says, "hath appeared, bringing salvation for all men;" and this grace it is that effectually teaches how to live aright. It brings the soul to God, thus putting away ungodliness. It satisfies the soul with Him, and thus dries up the fountain of lusts. It brings into the light of His presence, and thus enables one to live with due regard to things as they are; discreetly therefore, righteously, and piously, in the present age, so adverse, as it is, in its whole course to that which is of God, and under the power of the god of it, which is the devil. The soul thus blessed and having found its portion outside the world, in that to which the world could add nothing, had for its blessed hope "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ," — the time of the full revelation of Him who was already by the Spirit revealed in it, and to whose will it was henceforth bound by every possible tie of love and gratitude. Thus, for the redeemed, redemption had its character as deliverance from all lawlessness, from the whole spirit of insubjection natural to man. Those who were redeemed were a people peculiar to Himself, His own, His possession, purified therefore for Himself, according to His own will, and "zealous of good works." Here was the power of the life in the truth itself, and thus anything which touched this was a blight necessarily upon all else. Titus, therefore, was to speak in this way, "exhorting and rebuking with all authority." He was not to carry his own personal meekness so far as to let the truth in him be despised. The apprehension of these things would of necessity deliver from all half-heartedness with regard to them, and from all toleration of half-heartedness in others.

3. The apostle has thus put Christ before the soul in the power of His work as the Redeemer, and as the Object for the heart, the One whom it was liberty to serve. He now turns to emphasize the work of the Spirit, still in connection with and as the basis of exhortation to a conduct suitable. They were to be put in mind "to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be ready for every good work, to slander none; not to be contentious, but mild, showing all meekness towards all men." none; see that meekness is necessarily in that which is personal to one's self. It is the refusal to insist upon our own rights, but therefore is out of place entirely when it is a question of yielding the rights of God. Here what would enable for the manifestation of such a spirit would be to look back upon the past, to realize the condition in which we all were at one time: "without understanding, disobedient, in error, enslaved by various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." What a proof of the power of the gospel to turn those having such a character into the very opposite of all this; and here, again, it is the kindness and love to man of our Saviour-God which has appeared. Notice how the divine glory of Christ is ever before him. "Our great God and Saviour" is Christ Himself. No one else could have accomplished this. No one could have been allowed, if able, to bind the hearts of others to himself. The Maker of men has become the Redeemer, and it is in this that is found the moral power of the salvation. For this, all "works of righteousness which we have done" must be set aside absolutely. They would naturally make the soul owe something to itself, and the glory of God would be proportionately obscured. Now it was "according to His mercy He saved us, and this by that which was a work of the Spirit of God, a "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit shed upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." This phrase, the washing of regeneration," has been little understood, and thus naturally perverted. The word for "washing," which might be rendered also, and has been rendered, "bath," would in this way, so naturally to a ritualist, speak of water-baptism, that the argument was irresistible that here regeneration was in baptism itself. It is acknowledged, of course, that the word "regeneration" is one which is found in the New Testament in only one other place, but that in so different a connection as has hindered the realization of the meaning, to which, nevertheless, this should have led the way. The Lord promises to the twelve that "in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His kingdom," they also shall "sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." "The regeneration" is in this passage the millennial state; but thus we may see already the difference between it and the idea of new birth, whatever the connection may be between these. The millennial regeneration is not a new life infused into the world, but it is a new state of things brought about by the new government over it. Thus, the Lord speaks of the throne of the Son of man and of thrones for His disciples. The throne of the world in the hands of the perfect Ruler is, in fact, what brings about the regeneration. Righteousness now reigns. In the new earth it will dwell; but in the millennium there is yet neither the full reality, nor, therefore, the full permanence of deliverance from evil. Righteousness reigns, and evil is not suffered any more, but the full blessing waits to be manifested in that which is eternal and not millennial. The subjugation of evil, Christ's foes put under His feet, goes on through the millennium, in different stages, towards completeness. It is the preparation for eternity, but not the eternal state itself.

It is plain, therefore, that there is a parallel between the stages of God's preparation of the earth for blessing and that of the individual man. The present stage of the earth is that out of which the Christian has been delivered, the state of bondage to corruption, the dominion of sin. The present state of the Christian is that which the earth itself waits for, the time when the power of sin will be broken and righteousness will reign. For us righteousness reigns now, but the conflict with sin is not over. This, in the millennium, will be fully seen at the end, when there is once more the outbreak of evil, Satan being let loose. What follows this is the dissolution of the present heavens and earth and the coming of the new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness, just as the dissolution or the change of the body makes way for the perfect eternal state with us. Thus there is a complete parallel, which we cannot be wrong in accepting as that which will help us with the expression here. "The washing of regeneration" is the deliverance from the power of sin, which is no more tolerated, but which is not, by any means, wholly removed. "The renewing of the Holy Spirit" is that which is constantly needed to supplement this, although the word used does not speak of a mere reviving or refreshing constantly, but rather of a change into that which is new, — thus, of ways, habits, — as the light more and more penetrates, and the word of God manifests more and more its perfection and its power for the soul.

This, then, is the way by which God accomplishes in us His salvation, working in us the willing and the doing which we work out. We are reminded here that the Holy Spirit is that which is "shed upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." There is abundant power, therefore. We are never left to our natural weakness, the Spirit of God finding in the work of Christ His ability to deal with the sin within us, and to carry us on to the perfection which we have found already before God in Christ Himself. Thus having been "justified by His grace," we become "heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Here is the necessary result, as we have seen, of that sonship to which the Spirit of God in us testifies; but the inheritance itself we enter in the recognized path of pilgrimage and strangership here. The eternal life which is in its fulness before us, and nevertheless in us at the present moment, manifests thus its power over us as carrying us forward in the power of the joy in that which is unseen, which makes the strangership here natural and easy.

4. The apostle immediately turns again to exhortation. In the power of all this he would have it earnestly affirmed that those who believe God should take care to pay diligent attention to good works. We see how the working out of salvation "with fear and trembling" is most consistent with the knowledge that God is working in us for the accomplishment of this. The sense of the greatness of the love which is thus manifested towards us, and of the glory of Him who has identified Himself with us in this way, is that which makes us all the more tremble lest in any way we should dishonor Him. "These things," then, "are good;" and, as good, are "profitable to men." But again Titus is warned, as Timothy has been, of the foolish questions, and genealogies, and strifes, and contentions about the law, which we see everywhere as dangerous for those who inherit the blessings of Judaism, but who are so apt, therefore, to mistake the figure for the reality. Man's will also is ready to come in and manifest itself, so that a man that is "a heretic," or, as the Revised Version puts it, "a factious man," a man who makes troubles with the dreams of his own mind, was to be shunned after a first and second admonition. It is not a question necessarily of assembly-judgment, for the matter might not be, in fact, serious enough for this, but a refusal to enter into that with him which, even though it may be in some measure true, yet has an exaggerated and one-sided importance which perverts it. The perversion springs, as it ever does, from the self-will of the man himself, not humble and subject to the word of God, while yet he may be diligently employed about it, but seeking his own in reality, and not the things of God. Thus "he sinneth, being self-condemned."

5. The epistle ends, as commonly, with personal matters and greetings, which have so tender an interest, as opening to us the life of those days, and the heart of the apostle, exercised by the trials of the way, and for others, the companions of his way. He is not here the "prisoner of the Lord," but has been in Crete, and is now in Macedonia, or on his way to it. Written, as seems evident, after his first imprisonment, it is one proof, among others, of his realization of the confidence expressed in the epistle to the Philippians of his deliverance at that time: "I know that I shall abide with you all, for your furtherance and joy of faith." The three "pastoral" epistles, with that to the Hebrews, are the only Scriptural record of the interval between that and his final condemnation in the last year of Nero, A.D. 68. But there is consistent testimony that he fulfilled, also, his desire to visit Spain (Rom. 15:24).

One can say little that is not obvious of these closing verses.