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. Titus is given a list of qualifications that an overseer must possess. 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. We find that the Judaizing teachers had taken root in Crete and were busy in their work of bringing the saints under the law in order to exploit them financially. Paul gives Titus the criteria for determining who was merely a false professor.

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 related to “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. It relates to holiness, and certainly includes it, but is broader. 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 (Jude 3). 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 regarding our standing, but also regarding 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 by 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). Even for those who are not elders, these qualities should be seen in every believer.

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.5 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… Order is a blessed thing in the assembly, because it provides a healthy environment in which relationships and gift can flourish!
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.6 An Orderly Household Testimony. The overseer must be “free from all charge against him”, or beyond major criticism (Luke 1:6). There should be nothing in the life and testimony 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 descend on 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 Titus, 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. It would seem from Acts 2:11 that some from Crete heard the gospel many years earlier, which meant that there could have been some who had believing children. Note also 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 in self-will. He should have a gentle spirit, not forceful, but graciously deferring to the thinking of others whenever possible, and yet at the same time remaining firm in submission to the Word and will of God.2 An example of the opposite would be Diotrophes (3 John 9-10).
  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,3 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, 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. vv.8-9 Full of Positive Moral Traits. Not content with negatives, Paul gives seven moral traits that should be found in those who are qualified for oversight.
  1. First, the overseer is to be “hospitable”, which means he should serve the practical needs of the saints (this often includes welcoming them into his home) to willingly serve and refresh them and make them comfortable in whatever way he can. Notice that this is laid at the feet of the overseer, not his wife, although having a hospitable wife is certainly advantageous. Many examples could be used, but Abraham and Aquila are two superb examples. Much of the work of an overseer will be done in his own home, perhaps in the living area, or around the dining table. Hospitality is one of the primary ways we can show love to the saints.
  2. Second, the overseer is to be “a lover of goodness”, which means he will be occupied with what is pleasing to the Lord. Good is contrasted with evil.
  3. Third, the overseer is to be “discreet”, which means having carefulness or discernment about one’s behavior and appearance. A discrete person acts appropriately, is trustworthy with confidential information, and isn’t loud or obnoxious.
  4. Fourth, the overseer is to be “just”, or morally consistent in his relationships with God and others. One example would be righteous business operations. Another example would be fair or impartial judgment in issues that arise in the assembly. A failure in this area would disqualify one for oversight.
  5. Fifth, the overseer is to be “pious”, or as it is elsewhere translated “holy”. Holiness is the hatred of evil and the love of what is good. It includes holiness, not only in conduct but also in heart. A lack of holiness would render a man unfit for oversight.
  6. Sixth, the overseer is to be “temperate”, or controlled. Self-control should characterize every area of a believer’s life, as it is one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We must maintain control of our speech, our appetite, our desires, and even our natural interests, in the fear of God.
  7. Last, the overseer is to be strong in the Word of God and sound doctrine. He should be found “clinging to the faithful word according to the doctrine taught”. An elder is not necessarily one with the gift of teaching, but he certainly should have the quality of being familiar with the scriptures, and “clinging” to the Word in dependence and pursuit of God’s mind. Also, his thoughts should be formed by an understanding of the apostles’ doctrine. Being strong in the Word of God and doctrine, such a person will be equipped for two things: “that he may be able both to encourage with sound teaching and refute gainsayers”. For many in the assembly, the overseer will use his familiarity with scripture and sound doctrine to encourage the saints. But for those who were looking to contradict sound doctrine, the overseer would be able to systematically refute them from the Word of God. It is possible to do this without fleshly arguments. When done properly, what arose as an attack against the assembly actually lead to the fortification of the assembly!

The Moral Backdrop of Crete (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. vv.10-11 The Backdrop of Crete. The need for order in the assemblies of Crete is underscored by as description of the moral “backdrop” in that island. What Paul describes is a strange mixture of despicable national temperament and Judaism. To further establish the deficient character of ethnic Cretans Paul quotes a native prophet in v.12. There were “many within the Christian testimony in Crete that were “disorderly” (the opposite of “order”, which Titus was sent to establish), and were speaking to people and deceiving the minds of many. It is added, “specially those of the circumcision”, referring to the deceivers. This shows us that the class of actors referred to here are none other than the Judaizing teachers mentioned in many of Paul’s epistles, only they had taken root in Crete and mingled themselves with the local culture. The effect of their teaching was to “subvert whole houses”, which they would often do by convincing the head of the house, or more underhandedly by coaxing “silly women” (2 Tim. 3:6) to receive their false teaching. When a whole house is steeped in error, it becomes a stronghold of evil that is nearly impossible to penetrate. The motive for these Judaizing teachers is given: “teaching things which ought not to be taught for the sake of base gain”. These ones were seeking to bring the saints into legal bondage to exploit them financially. The effect of this false teaching was severely damaging to the assemblies, and Paul urges Titus that their mouths must be stopped! It was on account of this wicked influence that it was imperative for Titus to establish order and appoint elders in Crete.
Judaizing teachers are mentioned in many of the Epistles: they had made inroads among the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:22), the Philippians (Phil. 3:2), the Colossians (Col. 2:18), the Cretans (Tit. 1:10), but nowhere with as much success as among the Galatian assemblies. The tendency towards natural religion has been the bane of Christianity. They were those of whom Paul wrote, "desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm" (1 Tim. 1:7). They were of Jewish ethnicity but had come under the umbrella of Christianity. They found some benefit to being among Christians. Their primary motive was to gain a following and thereby to profit financially. They claimed to be closely connected to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, but they could not prove their genealogy as Paul could (Phil. 3). Paul was raised up as a suited vessel to deal with the Judaizers, because he himself had been one!
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. vv.12-14 The Cretan Culture and Its Tendency in the Assembly. Paul quotes a native prophet of the Crete, a philosopher called Epimenides of Crete from the 6th century BC, who wrote a poem called Cretica concerning the Greek god Zeus. Actually, Paul quotes this famous poem twice, once in Acts 17:28 and once in Titus 1:12. The poem was written by a pagan idolater who believed Zeus was immortal, an opinion that differed from the common view of the Cretans, which was that Zeus was mortal. Paul quotes two lines from this poem for separate purposes, and shows that they are true.4 In Acts 17 Paul explains that the idolatrous poet was correct in describing the attributes of the Creator, although wrong in assigning them to Zeus. But in Titus he shows that the line about the Cretans, although intended by Epimenides for a different purpose, was intrinsically accurate in that described the deceitful, base, and slothful character of the people of Crete; Paul says, “This testimony is true”. This is similar to what Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:33, quoting Thais, a play by the Greek playwright Menander. Even one of their own pagan philosophers could see the flaws in Cretan culture! With these tendencies ingrained in their natures, the saints in Crete who had fallen into error needed to be rebuked, that they might be “sound in the faith”. This would indicate that Paul is speaking of true believers that had fallen into error, compared to unbelievers in vv.15-16. How different this instruction is from the human wisdom promulgated today, that suggests we must accommodate the inherited tendencies of our flesh! We find that the flesh in everyone tends toward sin, but in certain cultures, ethnicities, and environments the flesh is more prone to one weakness versus another.5 This provide a valuable principle: the corruption of culture is no excuse for sin! What is needed in the case of corrupt culture is rebuke. It is interesting that the natural character of the Cretans tended toward “turning their minds to Jewish fables and commandments of men turning away from the truth”. A system of law, of human religion that appeals to the flesh, is remarkably compatible with a culture of laziness and sin, because it makes man the standard instead of God, and contents the conscience with the knowledge of fulfilled ceremonies rather than true holiness.
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. v.15 The Effect of Inward Purity and Defilement. Paul shows that a person’s inward condition affects their appreciation of things. To “the pure” or true believers in possession of the life of Christ, they delight in what is pure. It doesn’t mean that a believer can meddle with sin or defilement and somehow not be affected by it. Rather, it means that the pure find in all that God has provided – even in natural things – what is pure. The pure do not need a law of ordinances to govern their use of things, because their nature delights in what is good! In addition, the believer has an object outside of himself that garrisons the mind with what is good (Phil. 4:8). By contrast, “the defiled” or unbelievers take pleasure in moral filth, just as a pig takes pleasure in the mud. Every circumstance becomes an opportunity for those who are defiled to gratify their lusts. The reason is that “both their mind and their conscience are defiled”, i.e. their thought-processes are corrupt such that their minds run along evil lines, and their conscience – which should convict them of evil – is also corrupt through repeated violations. It is for this very reason that the Law is suited to man in the flesh, and why the Judaizing teachers were pushing the law, because it is the only device that makes sense to the defiled mind! This principle, that inward defilement affects the mind and conscience, would be important in detecting false teachers in Crete (v.16), and in the church today! 
16 They profess to know God, but in works deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and found worthless as to every good work. v.16 False Profession Exposed. It is inevitable that those who make a false profession will eventually be exposed, because their works will manifest who they really are. There are many in the Christian profession even today who “profess to know God, but in works deny him”. Three things characterize those who make a profession without inward reality. First, they are “abominable”, meaning detestable or loathsome to God. Their ways are at variance with the very nature of God, who is Light and Love. Second, they are “disobedient” to the Word of God. The greatest test of reality is that of obedience. Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Third, they are “found worthless as to every good work”. The force of this clause is that when it comes to the kind of works that really manifest the life of Christ, those who are false will come short. A person defiled in mind and conscience can donate large sums of money to religious purposes, work to organize Christian events, and even attend assembly meetings regularly. But when it comes to situations that necessitate Divine love and compassion, or situations that demand holiness or separation from evil, these ones will act amiss because they do not have the life of Christ. The Lord Himself warned the disciples that “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
  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. It is the grossest mistake that self-will implies courage, though it may lead to rashness or even recklessness. Nothing gives so much quiet firmness as the consciousness of doing the will of God. – Kelly, W. Notes on the Epistle to Titus.
  3. St. Nicolas punched somebody in the face at the first council of Nicea.
  4. Translated by J. Rendel Harris, the poem reads:
    They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,
    Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.
    But you are not dead: you live and abide forever,
    For in you we live and move and have our being.
  5. For instance, in Corinth where there was much natural energy, sexual sin was prominent and addressed repeatedly in the epistles to them. Meanwhile, in connection with Crete where lying and laziness were prominent, sexual sin isn’t specifically mentioned once in Titus, though generally covered in Titus 3:3.