Titus 1

1 Paul apparently wrote this letter in Macedonia between his first Roman imprisonment mentioned at the end of Acts and the second one mentioned in 2 Timothy. The date is thought to be somewhere in the range of 61-63 A.D.

Paul introduces himself and his qualifications. The first is that he is a bondservant of God. He recognized the great debt he owed to Christ, and had committed his life to following God's direction. His second qualification stems from the first. He was an apostle, one of the men who was commissioned to minister by the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-16). As is a common theme in the Bible, those who have authority from God must first be servants. Paul notes his authority here because he will be giving instructions that the Church must follow.

Paul's purpose was to help people develop their faith in Christ, and to know the truth of God. One who knows the truth displays it in godly actions and the hope (assured trust) that what God has promised in the past will indeed happen.

2 One of the things God can not do is lie. He is Truth, and He is true to His nature.
3 God has set out a time line to accomplish His purposes in the best way possible. Throughout history, God has revealed parts of His plan for the universe, but people must wait until the proper time for these things to take place. For instance, God told people throughout history that He would send a Savior and King. Many people longed to see Him, but Jesus did not come to earth in the flesh until the appointed time in history (Mat 13:16-17).

After Jesus rose from the dead, even until this day, the message of hope is spread through the proclamation of the Good News. The first part of our hope is fulfilled. We have a Savior who makes us right before God. The second part of the hope is the fulfillment of the first hope. It will be accomplished at the Resurrection, when the faithful will be raised from the dead, given immortal bodies, and live forever in the presence of God enjoying the full measure of His love, goodness, and riches.

Paul was commissioned by Christ to tell others about this hope, and how it affects our everyday lives.

4 Paul uses the word "son" to describe his relationship with Titus. In the Greek, the word was typically used to describe a biological son, not an adopted one (he also used this term with Timothy and Onesimus). In the context of Paul's ministry, this indicates that Paul led Titus to the Lord. Titus was like a spiritual son. In another sense, Titus "inherited" a portion of Paul's ministry.

The common faith is the body of doctrine that is true for all believers. It includes, among other things, the belief that Christ Jesus is God in the flesh, He died for our sins, rose from the dead, and imparts forgiveness through faith.

Paul concludes his greeting by reminding Titus of the grace he has received. This grace imparts peace between people and God. Both are gifts from God. We can not earn grace or generate peace with God on our own.

5 There is no record of Paul's mission in Crete. It is commonly reckoned that Paul was released from the Roman imprisonment recorded in Acts and then went on a missionary journey. During that time, he wrote this letter and 1 Timothy. After that, he was imprisoned again and wrote 2 Timothy just before his execution.

Crete is one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean. There were several independent republics and at least 100 cities on the island. There were many Jews on the island during Paul's time, and some had seen the events at the Pentecost after Jesus' resurrection (Acts 2:1-11). If there were church groups in "every" city, then Paul and Titus had a very successful ministry indeed. Paul obviously had pressing business elsewhere, so he had left the organization of these churches to his partner. This letter addresses the organization of the church, sound doctrine, and the display of faith through good works.

Titus' initial task was to ordain teaching elders among the churches. If a church plant were to be successful, it would need to be lead by indigenous people who were qualified to do the task.

6 There are three areas of life that must be in order before a man is considered a potential elder: Family, personal, and religious. This passage has many similarities to 1 Tim 3:1-13 (which covers elders and deacons).

The marriage to one wife obviously eliminates polygamists. It may also eliminate those who have divorced and remarried (which might also indicate that they are not "above reproach"), but it should not eliminate those who were remarried widowers. There is a question about whether single men were considered as candidates. While people may have felt more comfortable with a man who proved to manage his house well, we should remember that Paul and many of his fellow missionaries were single.

In the Timothy passage, Paul indicates that the potential elder's children must be obedient. Here he makes it clear that this does not merely mean obedient to their father, but obedient to God. The implication is that the father will have influenced his own family to faith. His family would know the "real him" best, and if the man were inconsistent in his faith at home, it would likely show up clearly in his children. Note that this does not mean that if a Christian man has a rebellious child he is therefore a poor Christian or has not tried his best. He might otherwise be an outstanding Christian, but if he has rebellious children, he should spend time focusing on them, and allow someone who does not have this problem to focus on the church body.

The next set of conditions cover the candidate's personal characteristics. A prospective elder should not be someone who wastes time indulging in sinful pleasures. In contrast, he should use time wisely for the Lord.

The man must not be unruly, but should be one who recognizes authority. If he has a reputation for rebelling against civil or Christian authorities, it may be evidence that he sees himself as the final authority on things rather than his superiors, or even God.

  • The candidate is to have a good reputation as one who handles the tasks God gives him well.
  • He must be focused on God's plans, not his own ambitions and opinions.
  • He should be a rational, patient person, not one who will become excessively angry at the slightest provocation. He must have control over his emotions.
  • He should not be one who abuses alcohol (or other mind-altering drugs). He must be able to make good decisions, and thus should not be constantly in a state of stupor.
  • He should not be a man who looks for fights, either physically or verbally. There will be times when he must oppose wickedness in the church and society, but he is to approach these situations humbly, and in a non-combative way.
  • He should not be someone who is guilty of financial dishonesty. He must not be a thief, or have questionable business practices. In every area of his life, he is to be known as an honest man.
  • Instead of being selfish, leaders are supposed to be hospitable, that is, caring for the wellbeing and comfort of others.
  • The potential elder is to love those words, actions, and things that promote righteous living.
  • He should be known for making plans that are well thought out.
  • He should contend for what is right and fair in cases of dispute.
  • He is to be devoted to God in every part of his life.
  • He should be in control of his emotions and words, not prone to outbursts or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Elders must know what the Scriptures mean and be able to accurately teach it. There will be those that oppose biblical doctrine or twist it to their own use. The elder must know how to correct them, and have the knowledgeable authority to do so.
10 There was a need for leaders with sound doctrine, good reputations, and a desire to see the truth prevail because the young churches were being easily swayed into compromising their faith with outside influences. Some people were using the church as a forum for their own doctrines. Compared to the Gospel, the messages these false teachers brought was worthless, yet they were able to captivate and persuade their audiences. Paul specifically targets the "circumcision group," which held the general belief that Christian converts must practice Jewish traditions, focusing on the rite of male circumcision.
11 The people who believed these false teachings compromised the message and effectiveness of the Gospel. Often whole families came to faith together because they generally believed what the head of the household did. Likewise, if the head of the household could be persuaded to compromise his faith, it was likely that the rest of the family would follow suit. This perilous situation had to be stopped as quickly as possible. The endorsement of those with good doctrine would allow them to combat, with authority, false teachings.

False teachers generally taught for their own personal gain. Usually this involved selfish financial gain. Whereas missionaries like Paul used whatever money they received to further the ministry of Christ, false teachers spent the money on themselves. False teachers also "gained" in power, and it fed their egos to have followers. The purpose of Christian ministries, though, is to point people to Christ, not to missionaries or leaders.

12 These false teachers were "Cretans." The Cretans had a very bad reputation in Roman times, and the term is still used as slang to refer to brutish people. Paul quotes from one of their own poets, Epimenides, to show that they were even willing to admit their faults. It appears to have been a cultural attitude that permeated the island. It is possible that their favorite pastime was to sit around overindulging in food and listening for who could tell the biggest, believable lie.
13 To Paul it was obvious that these cultural sins were being brought into the church. However, the truth of the Gospel is a serious matter, and not to be subjected to cultural or philosophical manipulation. This is a reoccurring theme in many of the letters of the New Testament.

It appears that some of these false teachers were professed Christians who would likely turn to sound doctrine once they were rebuked. It is likely that the majority of Christians on Crete were relatively new believers what had not yet taken the time to work on some of the blatantly sinful areas of their lives. Undoubtedly, overcoming all of one's sins is a lifelong battle, but overcoming the most harmful and obvious sins is usually the first order of business for new Christians.

14 The Jews in Crete and other places had tried to manipulate the Gospel with traditions stemming from the Old Testament. This is not to say that those traditions are bad. In fact, some of them are very good. However, the "circumcision" group was teaching that salvation depended on these traditions. The Gospel makes it clear that salvation depends on Christ alone. Traditions can be helpful in reminding us of our faith, but they do not make our faith. The misconception of traditional acts being equated with faith was prevalent in the Jewish culture of the time.

Paul also refers to "commandments of men," which were rules that people made up and then incorrectly elevated their importance. In modern times we often hear about legalistic groups that have rules like "no dancing," or "no modern musical instruments." Some groups tout these rules as salvation indicators. However, such rules either have no biblical basis, or are, in fact, contradicted by Scripture. The best idea is to stick with the salvation plan as outlined in the Bible.

15 May a Christian do whatever he wants? The answer is yes, because what the Christian wants to do is right in the eyes of God. The true Christian follows God's standards, and so avoids sin without legalism or traditional religious rites. Those who do not believe in Christ can not please God no matter how philanthropic, disciplined, or "religious" they may be. The key to being acceptable to God is by establishing a good relationship with Him through faith in Jesus. Once one believes, the Spirit enters the believer's life, convicting the conscious in the right way and cleanses the mind.
16 The false teachers claimed to know God, but their actions made it evident that they did not. They were using "religion" for the sole purpose of financial and social gain. Their denial of sound doctrine is also evidence that they did not know God. Even if they attempted to do good deeds, their actions would be tainted with selfish desires. Even if they appear to be "winning people to the Lord," they are really winning people to themselves and to a doctrine that can not lead to salvation. Ceremonies, rituals, and rules do not save people -- only a loving relationship with Christ saves people.