Titus 1

The Need for Order and Good Behavior
Titus 1
Titus 1. In this first chapter we have first the introduction or salutation, followed by a description of Titus’ mission in Crete, which was to set things in order, and ordain elders. The last part of the chapter gives us the cultural backdrop of the assembly in Crete; i.e. the character of people generally in that area, which needed to be overcome by the saints in their practical conduct.

Salutation (1:1-4)

vv.1-4 In the salutation or greeting of this epistle, Paul expands upon his apostleship in a remarkable way. We must remember that Paul was in the twilight years of his service, and now looking back, he reflects on the true place that God had given his ministry. Perhaps in his younger days this aspect of things was not in Paul’s view, because it is normal for those in the freshness of youth to focus on the work at hand, rather than the big picture. But in Paul’s later epistles (Titus, 2 Timothy), he reflects on his ministry through the lens of eternity!

The Writer and His Apostleship (vv.1-3)

1 Paul, bondman of God, and apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s elect, and knowledge of the truth which is according to piety; v.1 Paul Introduced. In this epistle, Paul doesn’t include other brothers’ names in the greeting, as he often did when writing to an assembly (2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). This letter is a personal letter to Titus, of a pastoral nature. Paul introduces himself as first a servant or bondman of God, and secondly as an apostle of Jesus Christ. It is interesting that the epistle of Titus brings before us our responsibility to God, and thus the unusual expression “servant of God” is used instead of the more common “servant of Jesus Christ”. Being a servant of God comes from a sense of belonging to Him (Acts 27:23; Rom. 6:22). The work that Titus was called to had to be carried out according to the will of God. Paul identifies himself as an “apostle of Jesus Christ”. In addition to being a personal epistle, it also serves as Titus’s official commission from Paul, giving him apostolic authority to do what he was instructed, including the appointment of overseers in Crete. The instructions contained herein come with all the authority of a commandment from God. The apostleship of Paul is presented in connection with two things. First, Paul’s apostleship was connected with “the faith of God’s elect” , which refers not to the Christian faith in general (Eph. 4:5; Jude 3), but to the personal faith of the elect. Paul’s ministry served to establish souls in a genuine relationship with God! Second, his apostleship was connected with the “knowledge of the truth which is according to piety”, which refers to the knowledge of Christian doctrine in keeping with practical conduct that is approved of God. This fits with the character of Titus!
Godliness or Piety.

Godliness, sometimes translated piety, comes from the Greek word meaning "well devout", and it refers to a manner of living that is totally pleasing to God. Godliness or devoutness involves our motives, our attitude, and our conduct in the sight of God. Christ is the perfect example for us in this (1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 5:7).

2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time, 3 but has manifested in its own due season his word, in the proclamation with which “I” have been entrusted, according to the commandment of our Saviour God; vv.2-3 The Hope and Promise of Eternal Life. Paul continues to speak of him apostleship, and says it is “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the ages of time”. This would indicate that the Father, who always enjoyed eternal life, made a promise to the Son before the world was made that He would share that life with others; i.e. bring intelligent beings into that circle of fellowship (see John 17:2). It was the effect of Paul’s apostleship (and the others’, 1 John 1:2-3) to bring souls into the fellowship of eternal life (2 Tim. 1:1). Paul, nearing the end of his ministry, directs the saints into the ministry of the Apostle John, who takes up this very line of doctrine (1 John 5:4-5, 11-12). Eternal life is a life we have now, but will enter its fullness in heaven. Paul often views eternal life in the  future aspect as he does here; i.e. as a hope or future prospect, “in hope of eternal life”. This looks forward to an eternity of enjoying the love and communion of the Father and Son by the Holy Spirit! Read more… The promise of eternal life was made before the world began, but it’s accomplishment has been “manifested in its own due season” after the death and resurrection of Christ, through the preaching of “his word”. Paul had been “entrusted” with the proclamation of this gospel, “according to the commandment of our Saviour God”. Paul’s preaching the gospel and thereby bringing souls into the fellowship and hope of eternal life was a commission from God Himself, who made the promise in the first place, and then issued the commandment to His servants to proclaim the gospel!
Our Savior God. Notice that God is mentioned as “God our Savior”, not as “God our Father” as in other epistles. In fact, we find the same title found throughout this epistle (Tit. 1:3; 2:10, 13; 3:4), and also throughout 1 Timothy. When God is presented in this way, He assumes a character in relation to all mankind; as a God of mercy and grace, reaching out as a deliverer for all mankind. And as such, our behavior as associated with Him is important as a testimony to all mankind; “God our Saviour”.1

The Recipient and His Relationship to Paul (v.4)

4 to Titus, my own child according to the faith common to us: Grace and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus our Saviour. v.4 Greeting to Titus. Paul refers to Titus as “mine own child according to the faith common to us” similar to his relationship to Timothy. However, Paul does not speak to Titus in the same level of affection that he does to Timothy (his “beloved child”), who obviously was a closer companion of Paul’s. Also, Paul does not refer to Titus as a youth, which would indicate that Titus was somewhat older than Timothy. The “faith common to us” is the faith common to all Christians, whether they be Jews like Paul, or Gentiles like Titus. Paul prayed for two things for Titus; “grace and peace”“Grace” is enabling and sustaining power to walk as God would have us here in this world. “Peace” refers to settled peace with God (Rom. 5:1), not only with regard to our standing, but also with regard to our circumstances. These are from “God” whom we know as “the Father”, and from “Christ Jesus” (the exalted man in glory) whom we know as “our Savior”.

The Need for Order and Good Behavior (1:5-16)

Good Behavior, and Oversight. In v.5 the body of the epistle begins. We will notice throughout the epistle that good works or good behavior is emphasized. There is always a danger of separating theory from practice, and while good works are neither the means of salvation nor the means of preservation, they are a necessary component of Christian living, and vital to the testimony of the Church as the house of God. The church ought to be the opposite of what we have in v.16; “They profess to know God, but in works deny him”. That the saints might continue to in good behavior, God has established oversight in His house. Titus was given a delegation of authority to establish a foundation of oversight in Crete, but appointing overseers. These overseers or “elders” would be responsible for the care of the souls and the conduct of the assembly, “as they that must give account” (Heb. 13:17).

Titus’ Mission in Crete: to Establish Order (vv.5-9)

5 For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou mightest go on to set right what remained unordered, and establish elders in each city, as “I” had ordered thee: v.6 To Establish Elders or Overseers. Apparently, Paul and Titus had travelled to Crete together, and then Titus was left behind to do the work of establishing elders. Perhaps the reason Paul did not do this himself was because it was a work that must be done carefully, and involved continued observation of a man’s character. In any case, this was something that “remained unordered” when Paul departed, but he insisted on the need for oversight in Crete. Therefore, Paul “ordered” Titus to do this important work, and through this letter gave his fellow servant the delegated authority to carry out the mission.

The world for overseers is 'episkopos', which means 'those looking on'. It is translated 'bishops', and 'overseers', referring to the office itself. The word for elders is 'presbuterous', and means seniors or older ones, and refers specifically to the persons who occupy the office. Note that the word 'elder' can mean 'older ones' in a general sense, depending on the context, as in 1 Peter 5:5; "Likewise ye younger, be subject to the elder". But in other places 'elders' are those who occupy the office of an overseer, as in Acts 20, where Paul spoke to "the elders of the church", saying, "...all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God" (Acts 20:17, 28). Those who fill this office have the care of the local assembly, to feed and shepherd them. We find that the office of an overseer was local; "elders in each assembly" (Acts 14:23), contrary to the Church's practice of setting up "bishops" who preside over vast regions. More details on elders will follow. Elders are always mentioned as a plurality, never a single man over an entire congregation.

Here we have “elders in each city”, indicating that there were multiple elders in each assembly, and there were multiple assemblies in the large island of Crete. Read more…
6 if any one be free from all charge against him, husband of one wife, having believing children not accused of excess or unruly. v.2 An Orderly Household Testimony. The overseer must be “free from all charge against him”, or beyond major criticism. There should be nothing in the life of an overseer that others could point to a find fault with, first in his household (v.6) and then in his personal life (v.7). The household covers two relationships:
  1. His marriage. The overseer is to be “husband of one wife”. We can see that this would exclude women from the office of an elder. Great confusion and disorder comes into the house of God when women take the place of leadership. Also we see that an overseer was to be a married man. Notice that Paul was not married, and he never calls himself an elder. Peter on the other hand was married, and calls himself an elder (1 Pet. 5:1). Although polygamy was still prevalent at the time Paul wrote to Timothy, it was not to be true of an overseer. A man with more than one wife is in a position where his marriages run contrary to the mind of God in creation (Matt. 19:18; Gen. 2:24). Further, a polygamist would have difficulty understanding the mind of the Lord in certain matters, because his own affections are divided between multiple women. Finally, there is bound to be trouble and disorder in the home of a man with more than one wife, as the sad history of Jacob and David would show us. One such man could be in fellowship, but not in oversight.
  2. His children. An overseer must have “believing children”, and those children must be living orderly lives. The Lord entrusts a man with a family first, as a proving ground, although the responsibility of caring for the assembly is far greater. God will not entrust the care of His assembly to those who have not taken care of their own children. The greatest responsibility of a parent is to see that their children are taught the gospel from a young age. Note that this passage helps us to understand that an overseer should be one of sufficient age to have children and for that track-record to be established. It is important for the father’s authority to be maintained in the home such that order is maintained; having his “children not accused of excess or unruly”. If a man’s children are uncontrolled or given to excess, it is usually because their father cannot control himself.
7 For the overseer must be free from all charge against him as God’s steward; not headstrong, not passionate, not disorderly through wine, not a striker, not seeking gain by base means; v.7 Free of Defects in Personal Character. Not only is the overseer to have the testimony of an orderly household, but he must be personally free from defects as to his responsibility toward God, “as God’s steward”. A steward is one who is given responsibility over the affairs or possessions of another, whose interests he is responsible to maintain. As God’s steward, an overseer must reflect God’s character! We are given five negative things having to do with lack of restraint that ought not to be found in any believer, but especially in an overseer.
  1. First, the overseer is to be “not headstrong”. This means that one in the role of an elder should not insist on having this his way. He should have a gentle spirit, and defer to the thinking of others whenever possible.
  2. Second, the overseer is to be “not passionate”. This means he should not be given to emotional swings or outbursts. Such a characteristic would make the overseer unable to have sound judgment in matters, and could lead to increased tension in the assembly.
  3. Third, the overseer is to be “not disorderly through wine”. In 1 Tim. 3 one who was “given to excesses from wine” was prohibited from oversight. An “excess” is too much of something, even if it is not harmful or even good in small amounts. Alcohol is acceptable and even beneficial, when used in moderation. Excessive use of alcohol can lead to two kinds of disorder: it can lead to drunkenness, which is a positive sin (1 Cor. 5:11), or it can lead to addiction, which is also wrong (1 Cor. 6:12). A man who uses alcohol to the point where he falls under its influence cannot be an overseer.
  4. Fourth, the overseer is to be “not a striker”. This means they are not to lose their temper and lash out in anger, whether physically striking someone,2 or hurling verbal abuses. An overseer must be able to tolerate criticism, be patient with others, submit to insults, and even suffer mockery in some cases without striking back.
  5. Fifth, the overseer is to be “not seeking gain by base means”. He should not be looking to get rich through dishonest ways. Such a tendency could be a very real snare to those in a place of responsibility in the assembly. It is imperative that the overseer have moral integrity.
8 but hospitable, a lover of goodness, discreet, just, pious, temperate, v.8 Full of Positive Moral Traits. 
9 clinging to the faithful word according to the doctrine taught, that he may be able both to encourage with sound teaching and refute gainsayers.

Aside: The Cultural Backdrop of the Cretan Assembly (vv.10-16) 

10 For there are many and disorderly vain speakers and deceivers of people’s minds, specially those of the circumcision, 11 who must have their mouths stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which ought not to be taught for the sake of base gain. 12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, has said, Cretans are always liars, evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons. 13 This testimony is true; for which cause rebuke them severely, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not turning their minds to Jewish fables and commandments of men turning away from the truth. 15 All things are pure to the pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and found worthless as to every good work. 
  1. God assumes here, in a peculiar way, the character of a Saviour-God with regard to the world: a principle of great importance in all that concerns our conversation in the world and our intercourse with men. We represent in our religious character a God of love. This was not the case in Judaism. He was indeed the same God; but there He took the character of a Lawgiver. All were indeed to come to His temple according to the declaration of the prophets, and His temple was open to them; but He did not characterise Himself as a Saviour-God for all. In Titus we find the same expression. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
  2. St. Nicolas punched somebody in the face at the first council of Nicea.