Behavior Before the World & Conclusion
Titus 3. In this final chapter of the epistle to Titus, Paul lays down the behavior that should characterize the believer as a testimony here in this world. We have our conduct in our private relationships (ch.2), but we also have our conduct in our public life (ch.3). Both are important. In addition to telling us how to be different from the world, Paul lays down the reasons why we are different (vv.3-7). In a fitting conclusion, Paul addresses what is profitable and unprofitable ministry (vv.8-11), and then give some final instructions and a salutation (vv.12-15).
Behavior Before the World (3:1-11)
Good Conduct before the World (vv.1-2)
¶ 1 Put them in mind to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient to rule, to be ready to do every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be mild, shewing all meekness towards all men. vv.1-2 Conduct before the World. The first area of conduct before the world is that of subjection and obedience to civil authorities. This would have been an especially difficult issue because of the background of Crete, where the citizens were notorious for their unruly lifestyle. “Rulers” and “authorities” would cover the personages of those in power in every level of government or law enforcement. But “be obedient to rule” goes a little deeper and covers more broadly the issue of obedience to whatever rule we are under, the highest being God’s. But God desired more than righteousness from His saints; “be ready to do every good work”. Goodness implies moral perfection, in motives and actions reflecting the heart of God. To “speak evil of no one” covers all kinds of evil speaking from gossip all the way up to slander. There is a particular danger of speaking evil about those in authority. The believer is “not to be contentious”, meaning not trying to stir up strife, and not joining in fighting of any kind. To be “mild” is to tolerate criticism, be patient with others, submit to insults, and even suffer mockery in some cases without retaliating. Mildness is a beautiful quality seen perfectly in the Lord Jesus, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). Finally, the believer must show “all meekness towards all men”. “Meekness” means not giving offense, and it requires humility and selflessness. Christ Himself is the perfect example of meekness (2 Cor. 10:1), although we might think of Moses who is called the meekest man that ever lived (Numbers 12:3).
Submission to Civil Authorities. It has been well said; “obedience and submission are the healing principles of mankind”. God has an order in everything that flows from His hand. If we want things to run smoothly, we need to follow God’s order. This applies broadly to the household, the marriage relationship, the assembly, and even our place in this world. No authority is perfect, except for God Himself; but the authority is still recognized by God. We must not confuse authority with infallibility. We find in Romans 13:1-2 that governments are instituted by God. Therefore, rebellion in any context is wrong. When the civil authorities make laws that prevent a believer from following the Word of God, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But generally speaking, the governments “are not a terror to a good work, but to an evil one” (Rom. 13:3). It is very important for those who profess the Name of Christ to “be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient to rule” (Tit. 3:1), even if the laws don’t make sense or we dislike them. Paul gives two reasons in Romans 13. First, the powers that be are ordained of God (“for conscience”). Second, disobedience will bring consequences (“for wrath”), although this is not the highest reason. Two additional reasons are given in 1 Pet. 2:13-17; “obey every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” because it is “the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” Third, submission to authority is a response of love in our hearts to the One who has asked us to submit (“for the Lord’s sake”). Fourth, we are also to submit to civil authorities as a testimony before the world; to be a good testimony in a dark world where unbelievers are looking for avenues to blame us (“for the testimony”).
Why We are Different from the World (vv.3-7)
3 For we were once ourselves also without intelligence, disobedient, wandering in error, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. v.3 What we were: the old lifestyle. We were once part of this world in thought, in action, and in spirit. Paul gives a scorching denunciation of our former condition before conversion. We were “without intelligence”; that is, though we may have been wise in the eyes of this world, we were totally ignorant of the knowledge of God. We were also “disobedient”, living in lawlessness and transgressing every known standard of God. Although we may have thought we had purpose, vision, and truth, we were totally deceived. We were really “wandering in error”, without moral direction. This led us into slavery, “serving various lusts and pleasures”. Our sinful desires burst forth into all kinds of immorality, and then we became addicted to those things. Even our relationships with others become destroyed by our twisted minds and hearts; “living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another”. “Malice” is bad thoughts about others, and “envy” is the desire to have what belongs to another, be it power, possessions, or people. “Hateful” describes the feelings from others that we awakened in them by out abhorrent behavior, and “hating” describes the feelings in us toward others. Like a murky, surging river, the evil spilled out of our mind, flowed into our actions, and cascading into our relationships, destroying everything en route. This summarizes our old lifestyle. This is where we would still be if it had not been for the kindness and love of God!
4 But when the kindness and love to man [‘philanthropy’] of our Saviour God appeared, 5 not on the principle of works which have been done in righteousness which “we” had done, but according to his own mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; vv.4-6 What took place: our salvation. When all hope was lost, when all we deserved was the judgment of God, “the kindness and love to man of our Saviour God appeared”. Amazing grace! The darkness of our lost condition and the extremity of our desperate state became rather the opportunity for God’s love to appear. The Greek word is ‘philanthropy’, being the combination of ‘philo’ or affection and ‘anthro’ or man. What man calls philanthropy can do nothing to save souls from their depravity. This love and kindness appeared in the form of salvation, the eternal salvation of our soul! The apostle insists that this salvation is “not on the principle of works” but “according to his own mercy”. The principle of works will never save the soul, because man has no works to offer (v.3). Instead, our salvation is by “His own mercy”. Our salvation took place “through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”. The washing of regeneration does not refer to baptism, although baptism is the outward sign of it. Instead, regeneration refers to the total transformation of lifestyle that a person undergoes when they are saved! It is “washing” in the sense of cleansing from an old moral state; cleansing of associations and separating us into a new sphere entirely. Regeneration is not limited to new birth and the moral cleansing associated with new birth, but to the effect of the whole work of grace in our lives. It involves a new life, and also the energy of that new life, i.e. the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is connected with New Creation, whereby we are “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10), and “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).1 The “washing of regeneration” is process by which we are brought into the New Creation. Quickening and sealing are the work of the Spirit of God, and the effect of both is regeneration. You see the work of regeneration begin in a person when they are born again, because they have a new life. But they cannot get free of that old lifestyle until they are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who comes in as the energy of that new life.2 Read more… This washing is paired with “renewal of the Holy Spirit”, which the ongoing work of the Spirit of God to conform us to the rule of the New Creation, and maintain us in the enjoyment of resurrection life! This doctrine of regeneration and renewal fits well with the epistle to Titus. God reached into His own heart of mercy to save us, and “poured out on us richly” the Holy Spirit “through Jesus Christ our Saviour”. We can clearly see that our salvation required (1) the finished work of Christ, and (2) the Holy Spirit being shed upon us. The word “richly” indicates liberality, a fullness to meet every need!
7 that, having been justified by “his” grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. v.7 What we are now: justified heirs. In this verse we have our portion now: we are justified and heirs of eternal life. It is important to see that the justification here is viewed as past; “having been justified”. This is important because not seeing that could lead one to conclude that justification follows in the indwelling of the Spirit (v.6), as if the Holy Spirit was given to prepare us for justification. On the contrary, Romans clearly teaches that justification is consequent on faith toward God (Rom. 5:1), and then the Holy Spirit indwells the believer (Eph. 1:13). By the sovereign grace of God, we have been justified, which means we have been declared perfectly righteous by God, by virtue of our sins being forgiven, and our standing in Christ’s place before Him! Read more… There are many aspects of justification, but when we have justification by grace, it brings out the source or cause (Rom. 3:24). In addition to being justified by His grace, we have also “become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. This brings us back to the first chapter, where Paul spoke of the hope of eternal life in connection with his apostleship (Tit. 1:2). When Paul speaks of eternal life in the future aspect as he does here, this looks forward to an eternity of enjoying the love and communion of the Father and Son by the Holy Spirit! We are heirs of this fellowship called ‘eternal life’, which we enjoy now with our limited capacity, but will enjoy then in its fullness! We are not heirs of righteousness, because we are already justified by grace; but we do wait for the hope of righteousness (Gal. 5:5), which we will have when with and like Christ!3What a contrast with our former state (v.3)!
Profitable and Unprofitable Ministry (vv.8-11)
8 The word is faithful, and I desire that thou insist strenuously on these things, that they who have believed God may take care to pay diligent attention to good works. These things are good and profitable to men. v.8 Profitable Ministry. This is an instance where Paul comments on a “saying” or “word” of the early Christians, similar to 1 Tim. 1:15, 1 Tim. 4:9, and 2 Tim. 2:11. It is difficult to know if the saying is before or after the expression, but it seems that in this case it refers to the previous confession of vv.3-7. Perhaps the sentiments of those verses were a common saying among early believers, and Paul commends it heartily; “The word is faithful”. The previous confession – of the kindness and love of God, the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, of justification and being made heirs – has a powerful effect on the lives of the saints; “that they who have believed God may take care to pay diligent attention to good works”. Good works are an essential element in the believer’s walk! It is an understanding of grace, and the place we have been given through grace, that leads to good works. This is in contrast with the law. Paul’s desire for Titus was that he should “insist strenuously on these things”, referring to salvation by grace.45 This is profitable ministry; “These things are good and profitable to men”. The fact that it is to “men” generally may show that he refers to not only the teaching of good works (for believers), but also to salvation by grace. In the following verses we have the converse: that which is unprofitable for the saints.
9 But foolish questions, and genealogies, and strifes, and contentions about the law, shun; for they are unprofitable and vain. v.9 Unprofitable Ministry. Here we have four categories of unprofitable ministry, which Titus was to shun, and so should we.
- “Foolish questions” are time-wasting issues that are raised simply for the purpose of discussion, but there is no real moral benefit to them. They are designed to throw doubt on the truth, and they never settle a matter in the soul. They never put the conscience in the presence of God, but they do give a person an exalted view of their own intellect.
- “Genealogies” were the obsession of the Judaizing teachers with proving their genealogical credentials. In 1 Timothy Paul speaks of them as “indeterminable genealogies”, which may refer specifically to the futile attempts made by the Judaizing teachers to prove their roots, in contrast with Paul who could easily do this (Phil. 3) but would not boast in it. In either case, we can apply the principle of these “genealogies” to ourselves today. It is unhealthy to occupy the saints with one’s own record or perceived qualifications.
- “Strifes” are arguments and debates that divide the saints. It could simply be divisive topics, or it could be ministry that attacks someone or maligns their character. Such things have no place in ministry for the benefit of the Lord’s people.
- “Contentions about the law” are the argumentative obsessions of the legal minds, who were making minor points of the law into major issues of debate. In this context it would have been the law of Moses, but in application to us, we need to guard against the spirit of legality in our ministry, i.e. making the focus of our ministry the small superficial details while the heart is left untouched.
We are to “shun” these types of conversations, for “they are unprofitable” because they do not help the saints, and “vain” because they stroke man’s ego. Further, the things mentioned in v.9 often become the fuel that a “heretical man” will use to create division (vv.10-11).
10 An heretical man after a first and second admonition have done with, 11 knowing that such a one is perverted, and sins, being self-condemned. v.10 Dealing with a Heretic. The case may arise, as it apparently had in Crete, that a man would seek to divide the saints. Often such a person will tend to gather people around himself and form a clique. Paul warns in 1 Cor. 11:18-19 that a “division [inward schism]” will lead to a “sect [outward heresy]” if it is not judged. A divisive brother will eventually become a heretic, if he is allowed to proceed. In Rom. 16:17-18 Paul instructs the saints how to deal with a divisive person; “But I beseech you, brethren, to consider those who create divisions and occasions of falling, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learnt, and turn away from them. For such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” We are not told to excommunicate a divisive brother, but to “avoid” him. Putting out a divisive brother will lead to an outward division, because many will go with him. Instead, we are to avoid that brother, and reach out to those who are following him. Hopefully he will repent, but if not, he will leave the fellowship, seeking to take others with him. A heretic is one who has broken away from the fellowship of the saints over some issue which he has pressed, but not necessarily heterodox teaching. How then should we deal with one who has become a heretical man? We cannot excommunicate someone who has already left.6 We should admonish him once or twice, and “after a first and second admonition have done with”. If a heretic goes on unrepentant, we should not prolong communications with them, because that is what they want; they are seeking to “draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). We are to realize that a heretical person “is perverted”, meaning their character is twisted. What is the use of prolonging discussions with a person who has already proven themselves corrupt? We must understand that a heretic is sinning, i.e. it is positive evil. Even though they may not have been put out by the assembly, they are “self-condemned” by putting themselves outside of it.
Final Instructions and Salutation (3:12-15)
¶ 12 When I shall send Artemas to thee, or Tychicus, use diligence to come to me to Nicopolis; for I have decided to winter there. v.12 Titus to be Relieved in Crete, then to Join Paul. Titus was to expect the arrival of either Artemas, of whom we know nothing about, or Tychicus, a close companion and fellow laborer of the apostle Paul (Col. 4:7-8). Tychicus was one Paul could rely on to carry epistles, to relay news, encourage the saints, and strengthen assemblies. We read nothing of Artemas, yet he was equally qualified and could be sent. It would seem from 2 Tim. 4:12 that perhaps Tychicus was sent to Ephesus instead, which meant Artemas would have gone to Crete to join Titus. Both could not be spared; “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2). This further shows that Titus was not an official overseer of Crete, as some falsely imagine. Another would be sent to join Titus before he left for Nilopolis, where Paul would stop for the winter. Bible scholar William Kelly suggests this Nicopolis was a coastal city in Epirus, built by Augustus Caesar in honor of his great victory at Actium. This shows that Paul had been set at liberty after his first arrest (Acts 28). He was allowed to make another missionary journey under some level of supervision and wrote the epistle to Titus while at liberty. This journey would have taken place between AD 63 and 65. We gather that this journey took place because of the persons and places mentioned in Titus and 2 Timothy, and also from statements as in Philemon v.22, where Paul, writing from Rome at his first imprisonment, tells Philemon, “Prepare me also a lodging”.
13 Zenas the lawyer and Apollos set forward diligently on their way, that nothing may be lacking to them; 14 and let ours also learn to apply themselves to good works for necessary wants, that they may not be unfruitful. vv.13-14 Supporting Traveling Servants. Two other fellow servants were passing through Crete, and Titus was to set them forward on their journey, making sure their needs were supplied. Of Zenas the lawyer we read nothing, although his name is given before Apollos, the eloquent teacher and preacher that is mentioned often in the New Testament (10 times). Zenas was probably a lawyer in the sense of being familiar with Jewish law, rather than Roman law. Companionship in service can be a tremendous blessing! Notice that in some cases Paul directed individuals where to go, as he had with Titus to Crete, and again to join him in Nicopolis. We have another example of that with Artemas and Tychicus, whom Paul would direct. But in other cases, the Spirit would lead ones on missions that Paul had no authority over but would encourage however he could. Zenas and Apollos were on such a mission. After Titus joined Paul in Nicopolis, he would then depart on his own mission to Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10). It is wonderful to see the various ways these dear servants of the Lord were used: in some cases under apostolic direction, and in other cases led directly of the Spirit! These traveling servants would have very real needs, and Titus was to help them in every way possible. The saints in Crete also were to labor to help meet the “necessary wants” of those travelling in the Lord’s work. How sad it would be if a traveling servant of the Lord passed through was greeted by coldness and indifference! This should never be the case; “that they may not be unfruitful”. It is touching to see how Paul with Titus refers to the saints as “ours”.
15 All with me salute thee. Salute those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. v.15 Salutation. Paul passed on the greetings of all those with him, wherever he was. Most likely Paul was writing from somewhere in Macedonia. Paul wanted Titus to salute those who truly loved Paul and his companions in the bonds of the Christian faith. Lastly, Paul prayed for grace for Titus, and for the saints in Crete. It is especially fitting here in Titus, where the theme of the epistle is the effect of grace in our lives leading to good works. Perhaps the “all” would indicate that this epistle might be read publicly.
- This is similar to the practical result of putting off the Old Man and putting on the New Man (“put off all these”, Col. 3:8, and “put on therefore”, Col. 3:12).
- Some believers hold that regeneration is God coming in and regenerating our human nature. That isn’t true. God condemned sin in the flesh, and doesn’t try to improve it. Instead He gives a new life (quickening) and a new power (the Spirit) and the result is regeneration.
- “…when eternal life shall swallow up our bodies also, and this in heavenly glory.” – Kelly, W. The Epistle to Titus.
- The apostle is laying down the only ground of power for a fruit-bearing course; and hence is urgent with Titus, that he should insist constantly and thoroughly on the sure but exclusive truth of salvation by grace in all its fulness as well as reality. This was the apostle’s first theme for individual souls everywhere and always; he now presses it on Titus. Without it there is no readiness or power for good works; without it conscience is clouded, and the heart hardened: there is neither life nor peace where it is unknown. – Kelly, W. The Epistle of Paul to Titus.
- When at the beginning of verse 8 the Apostle says, “This is a faithful saying” it is not easy to determine whether he refers to what he has just written or whether to what immediately follows, but it would appear to be the former. It seems that Titus was to constantly bring before these converted Cretians the way in which they had been washed and renewed and justified and made heirs, in order that they might be stirred up to the maintenance of those good works which were in keeping with such grace, and not only in keeping with grace but also good and profitable to men. How clearly this illustrates what is often said, namely that all suitable conduct flows from an understanding of the place in which we are set. Here again we meet with the fact that the knowledge of grace promotes practical holiness and does not lead to carelessness. – Hole, F.B. The Epistle to Titus.
- Now how could you with propriety put away him who had already gone away? The utmost which could be done, when it was no mistake (perhaps with a right design yet an ill-guided conscience), but deliberate intention with wilful slight and defiance of the assembly, would be to close the door formally, so that he could not enter fellowship again without as formal restoration. This in effect, when it truly applied, might be equivalent to excommunication; but it would bear on its front the stamping the offender with the fact of his own selfwill; while the faithful also would show themselves not indifferent but vigilant and holy in the case. – Kelly, W. The Epistle to Titus.