Titus 1 - Churches in Crete

INTRODUCTION: Titus was a Gentile who had been a companion of the apostle Paul for a number of years, most notably as a representative for Paul to the church at Corinth as indicated in 2 Corinthians, before he ministered in Crete. There is no mention of Titus in the gospels or in the book of Acts, so three of Paul's letters provide the small amount of biographical data we have for Titus, and there is a more thorough discussion of that information in the separate MPN Bible study, "Paul and Titus." The letter Paul wrote to Titus was to put into writing that which he had given to Titus verbally. The letter has provided guidance for church leaders down through the centuries. Titus was an uncircumcised Gentile who had not converted to Judaism, and Paul had entrusted to him the task of making the churches in Crete a Godly blend of Gentiles and Jews. Paul was providing written detail for refuting some of the unwarranted requirements Christian Jews wanted to impose on Gentiles. The letter to Titus set a pattern for Gentile leadership and the changes in composition of the developing Christian churches as they began the trend to more Gentile members, and lost nearly all signs of Jewish tradition in style of worship.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible [WEB] unless otherwise designated.


A - Paul's salutation in his letter to Titus

Titus 1 “1 ¶ Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s chosen ones, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who can’t lie, promised before time began; 3 but in his own time revealed his word in the message with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Saviour; 4 to Titus, my true child according to a common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

COMMENTS: Paul's opening is similar to that in most of his other letters as he places servant first, but he is usually more direct by saying he is an apostle "by the will of God." The phrase he uses here in his first statement about his apostleship asserts "according to the faith of God’s chosen ones," placing him among the called of God, still with no personal accomplishment to qualify him as an apostle. He continues by saying that the knowledge of the truth, and hope of eternal life is directly from God, "which God, who can’t lie, promised before time began." Then at the time chosen by God and not by Paul, he was entrusted with God's revealed word, and that was according to the commandment of God our Savior. The specific event that set Paul apart is recorded for us in Acts as he was commanded by the risen Christ while he was still known as Saul. “9:3 As he travelled, it happened that he got close to Damascus, and suddenly a light from the sky shone around him. 4 He fell on the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5 He said, "Who are you, Lord?" The Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise up, and enter into the city, and you will be told what you must do."” Paul also plainly stated the authority of his apostleship in the opening of his letter to the Galatians. “1:1 ¶ Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), 2 and all the brothers who are with me, to the assemblies of Galatia:” So, in every way in the first three verses, all that Paul mentions is fully attributed to the Lord. When the apostle Paul personally addressed Titus in verse 4, the WEB translation uses the phrase "my own child" for the two original Greek words. The first Greek term (which is ) is used only four times in the New Testament, and in both 1 Timothy and Titus many translators followed the pattern of the KJV by selecting "my own" as the English word choice. But in the KJV in 2 Corinthians 8:8 the choice is "'sincerity' of your love," and in Philippians 4:3 the word choice is "'true' yokefellow." Young's Literal Translation does not insert the word "my," and uses "true child" to translate the two Greek words in Titus 1:4. The second Greek word in the Titus passage (which is ) is translated as son in the KJV, but that word is more often translated as child (77 versus 21 times). Young's Literal Translation, and the WEB, use child rather than son in Titus chapter 1, verse 4. I believe that Paul wanted Titus to know that both of them had received the faith that is "common" to Jew and Gentile by the will of God. John 1 “11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The phrase "according to the common faith" could be very important as Paul was appointing Titus to firmly ground churches that would probably have a component of Jewish believers who might otherwise not readily accept being under the teaching of Titus as a Gentile. As the apostles would be passing off the scene in the coming years, it was necessary to make clear to all Christians that the apostles had affirmed that Jew and Gentile are equal in Christ. Peter had earlier said this when Paul, Barnabas, and Titus were in Jerusalem regarding the claim by some Jews that Christian Gentiles had to be circumcised, Acts “15:7 When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are."” Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans, “10:9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed." 12 ¶ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. 13 For, "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."” Paul then completes his direct address to Titus with "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.” These three spiritual qualities that are given only by the Lord to believers have eternal value. That is far more excellent than what those terms might describe for an unbeliever to experience only in this temporal world. Paul has named God as Savior in verse 3, and the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior in verse 4. These verses give God the glory as the source of salvation to eternal life, and in essence they proclaim that God and Christ are one.


B - The duty set before Titus

“5 ¶ I left you in Crete for this reason, that you would set in order the things that were lacking, and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you;"

COMMENTS: In Acts 2:11 Cretans were mentioned among the many different groups of those who heard the gospel message in their own tongue. But the only mention of the island of Crete in the New Testament is in Acts chapter 27. This was during the time when Paul was being taken to Rome as a prisoner. The ship that Paul was on stopped at fair havens on the southeast part of Crete for an unspecified period before they left to continue to Rome. There are no details of what Paul may have done in Crete, or if Titus was with him at that time; but the following passage gives indication that more than one person was with Paul, and that Paul was given some liberty at a previous stop Before the ship reached Crete. Acts “27:1 ¶ When it was determined that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to a centurion named Julius, of the Augustan band. 2 Embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to places on the coast of Asia, we put to sea; Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us. 3 The next day, we touched at Sidon. Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him permission to go to his friends and refresh himself.” Based on that passage, it is possible that Paul also had some liberty to visit at fair havens, and may have left Titus there at that time. However, there is no definitive portion of scripture that records when Paul left Titus in Crete. Paul's letter indicates that it was important to "set in order the things that were lacking," and appoint elders in the various cities. Paul does not enumerate what was lacking, though there may have been some clarification of the gospel needed to stabilize each assembly, and that may have included acceptance of uncircumcised believers, before elders could be appointed. Sound leadership is important whenever people assemble around the word of God. Elder leadership is for those most mature in their faith, and quite often these people would also be elder in physical age to the majority of the assembly. The apostles had insisted that there be no difference between Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ, so Gentiles would also be qualified to be elders.


C - Necessary qualities for a leader of the local church

6 ¶ if anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, who are not accused of loose or unruly behaviour. 7 For the overseer must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain; 8 but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober minded, fair, holy, self-controlled; 9 holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, that he may be able to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict those who contradict him.”

COMMENTS: The most direct cross reference for this passage is in 1 Timothy chapter 3 as Paul provides a similar outline. Both passages agree that an overseer must be a very temperate man who is the husband of one wife. As for his children 1 Timothy states in the WEB version, “3:4 one who rules his own house well, having children in subjection with all reverence; 5 (but if a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the assembly of God?)” In Titus 1:6, the WEB has "children who believe" (similar to other respected translations), but the KJV uses "faithful" to describe the children in relation to their father, and faithfulness to their father would provide a contrast to things that should not characterize their behavior. This is in closer agreement to the passage in 1 Timothy that does not indicate the children must be believers, but they should be in subjection to their father. Young's literal Translation is thus, Titus 1:6 "if any one is blameless, of one wife a husband, having children stedfast, not under accusation of riotous living or insubordinate." The Williams New Testament translation is similar to the YLT, “1:6 Each elder must be above reproach, have only one wife, and his children must not be liable to the charge of profligacy or disobedience.” Though I am using the WEB for the main text of this study, I believe the KJV is a better translation for that particular phrase. A man can be expected to be in control of his own household, but salvation is of the Lord for "those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Since the overseer is God's steward of the assembly, there should be no legitimate claim to charge him with the aspects listed as negative by Paul. He should exhibit the positive characteristics that would give him a good reputation even to those outside the church. This will minimize distraction from delivery of the word of God. It is of utmost important that he hold to the faithful word that is according to the teaching of the Lord and of his apostles, that he may be able to urge and encourage in the sound doctrine, while also clearly refuting those who contradict that sound doctrine. Most of the Jewish leaders and teachers had rejected the Lord's teaching, including even the high priest, and therefore condemned him as a blasphemer. Surely this must have contributed to confusion for Jews who later became Christians.


D - There are those who must be rebuffed for false teaching

“10 For there are also many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for dishonest gain’s sake. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, and idle gluttons." 13 This testimony is true. For this cause, reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not paying attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”

COMMENTS: Paul does not say that all of the "unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers" are of the circumcision (i.e. Jews), but at this early point in the development of the Christian church, there were still Jews who held on to certain Jewish teaching and traditions, and believed they should apply to Gentiles. Paul said those who were mainly interested in dishonest gain, could overthrow whole houses by teaching things that should not be taught, and he said their mouths needed to be stopped. The general population of Crete apparently had a bad reputation as liars, and as those whose chief goal was to fulfill their own desires through whatever means convenient. Since this was the prevalent society, Paul urges Titus to reprimand, correct, repress them severely or abruptly that they may be sound in the faith. The purpose was to firmly ground the body of believers in the truth, not allowing them to be led astray by Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.


E - Distinction between the pure and the defiled

“15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. 16 They profess that they know God, but by their works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work.”

COMMENTS: Paul said even though some will insist that certain ceremonial and dietary restrictions must be followed by all Christians, he asserts that all things are pure to those who are truly pure. Peter was told directly by the Lord that signs of separation between Jew and Gentile had been cleansed. Acts 15 "5 I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision: a certain container descending, like it was a great sheet let down from heaven by four corners. It came as far as me. 6 When I had looked intently at it, I considered, and saw the four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ’Rise, Peter, kill and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered into my mouth.’ 9 But a voice answered me the second time out of heaven, ’What God has cleansed, don’t you call unclean.’ 10 This was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven." Paul wrote about this matter in other letters, indicating these practices have an appearance of worship, but lacked the substance of pure faith. Colossians 2 “20 If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, 21 "Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch" 22 (all of which perish with use), according to the precepts and doctrines of men? 23 Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren’t of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” For those who are defiled and unbelieving, no strict regimen that they follow will make them pure. In fact their own reasoning and their own sense of right and wrong are impure and corrupt. They may profess to know God, but their actions and attitudes deny that the Holy Spirit is at work within them. Jesus said this in Matthew 7 “15 ¶ "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them. 21 ¶ Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, I am thankful that the opening of the Apostle Paul's letter to Titus helps me to understand that it was your plan to bring Jew and Gentile together. Paul was a scholarly Jew who initially rejected Christ, and persecuted the church. He became a servant of the resurrected Lord as an apostle, by your choice and for your purposes. You have also chosen me by your grace to be your servant within my role as part of the body of Christ, and Paul's letter has reminded me that I now share in the grace common to the greatest and the least in the kingdom of God. I ask for your guidance as I continue to study your word so I will avoid empty traditions that may be held by various denominations that could carry me or others away from pure worship. I want to be able to follow sound doctrine and to refute teaching that is not consistent with your word. I believe that you have made me pure in your sight, and therefore if I continually seek your word, you will make the practices that come from my heart to be pure as well. This is not limited to those times when I am together with other Christians, but must also shape my conduct before unbelievers, that my reputation will not be a cause for reproach to the church. Thank you Lord for your mercy and grace in my life. Amen.

Paul and Titus
Titus Chapter 2 - Continue in Sound Doctrine
Titus Chapter 3 - Continue in Good Works

Published 30 March 2012