Titus 3

1 Whereas Paul spoke to the responsibilities of differing groups before, he now expresses characteristics which are applicable to all Christians. The first is to be subject to the civil rulers and authorities. Christians are to be law-abiding citizens. We must remember that God appoints all the earthly authorities, regardless of how it appears they attained their offices (votes, coupes, inheritance, etc.). Rulers are charged with the welfare of their subjects, and the subjects in turn are to submit to their authority. We can be assured that God will hold every ruler accountable for his or her conduct in office. God also holds the citizens accountable, as do the governing authorities themselves.

Most laws can be followed without any moral reservations. In some countries, it is rare to have a law passed that conflicts with Christian values. However, in some countries, it is illegal to be a Christian, and the penalties can include imprisonment, torture, and death. In those cases, it is not possible for a Christian to obey the civil authorities by denying Christ. Different people will handle this different ways. Some people modify their behavior so that they continue undetected. Some will go into exile and possibly become citizens under a government that is not oppressive. Others choose to stay and endure the penalties.

At the time of this writing, Paul had already endured imprisonment and a number of other civil penalties for preaching the Gospel. He was always ready to do this good deed regardless of his circumstances. There are a number of good deeds that a Christian can do to draw attention to God. Our fellow citizens may or may not be interested in knowing God, but they are usually interested in good deeds, especially if they are the recipients. We can care for others because God cared so much for us.

2 Christians are not to gossip or criticize others in a destructive manner. Such criticism tends to alienate rather than embrace others. Christians are supposed to live in such a way to bring peace to people, not strife. We can not necessarily prevent others from bringing in strife, but we are to act responsibly.

We must approach others in a gentle and considerate manner, remembering that godly behaviors and thoughts do not come from those who do not know Christ. In fact, attempting to force non-Christians into a Christian lifestyle brings about as much resentment as a Christian would if he were forced to worship idols. We are to fit into society without conforming to it. We are to live persuasive lives that will invite people to choose to know God rather than try to drag reluctant people into the kingdom. The latter simply can not work because Christianity is based on a relationship with God that changes the heart, not a set of rules that modify behavior.

3 The unsaved person would likely consider this statement insulting and arrogant. However, the believer understands that to live without God is ultimately foolish. With the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts, it is much easier to see the destructive nature of the godless life - relationally, physically, and spiritually. The characteristics here can be placed under two general categories: godlessness and selfishness. We were all like this before we came to know Christ. Far from being arrogant, we should approach non-Christians with humility, knowing that we once were faithless too.

If a Christian is displaying any of these characteristics, he should take immediate steps to remedy them. It is true that a new Christian is likely to continue to display his old nature until he learns how to be obedient to God, which can take time. However, the Christian should always be improving. It is a shame that these things can run rampant in our churches because Christians find it easier to fall back on forgiveness rather than work with God at reshaping their lives for the better.

4 God could have either destroyed or ignore His disobedient creation, but He decided to do neither of these. In His kindness, He reached out to us.
5 People can not save themselves with good deeds because righteousness depends on one's relationship with God, and nothing else. God saves us through the sacrifice of Christ which allows us to be spiritually born and cleaned up by the Holy Spirit. Only then can our good deeds be acceptable to God.
6 Regeneration is made possible because of Jesus' sacrifice for us. It is not something that is limited to a group, or even in its effects. There is more than enough salvation to go around for whoever wants it, and it is powerful enough to work in anyone's life, regardless of their past.
7 The benefits do not end with a cleansed life that is acceptable to God. First, His grace through Jesus justifies us; that is, it forever frees us from the guilt and ultimate penalty of our sins. Second, the Christian has an eternal inheritance in heaven. We will live forever in the presence of the One who is life and love, enjoying His abundant blessings. These are hopes we hold on to no matter how good or bad our circumstances may be.
8 The task of correcting opponents and encouraging believers was an intimidating task, but Paul encourages Titus to speak with confidence based on the facts of salvation and eternal life.

Titus is to encourage his fellow Christians to do good deeds. They should seek to enhance the spiritual and physical welfare of those around them, not just themselves. God has made available the greatest benefit to people through Jesus. Christians are to make Jesus available to others through our words and actions.

9 There are some things that are not profitable, and can discourage Christian and non-Christian alike. These are religious controversies. Paul had already discussed the circumcision group, but he also mentions those who focus on genealogies, debate about the fine points of the Mosaic Law, and generally cause strife.

For the Israelites, genealogy is very important because their physical inheritance, political position, and religious standing all depended on who they were descended from. For converted pagans, this obviously had little benefit. Although not specifically stated, the Israelite Christians were trying to leverage their ancestry to put themselves into positions of power within the church.

Following the Law was also important for the Jews. There are many dire warnings in the Old Testament concerning those who do not hold strictly to the Law. The Jews spent a great deal of time discussing exactly what obeying various laws entailed. They established many traditions and rules that made following the Law even more difficult. Elsewhere, Paul discusses the importance of the Law, but points out that the Law can not save. So while important, the grace of God supercedes the Law, and it is therefore not necessary to impose the stringent requirements of the Law on Gentiles.

Paul also wants people from causing strife in general. This can include all other kinds of destructive behaviors like gossip, power struggles, extortion, etc.

10 Those who pursue such controversial arguments are to be warned. If they continue to do so, they are to be put out of the church. Titus had already seen the destruction that false teachers were wreaking in the local churches. They were not to be allowed to continue because they were 1) diminishing the confidence that people had in their salvation and 2) weakening the witness of the church.

Confrontation and excommunication is difficult, but church leaders are charged to do so. In many churches today there is a lot of focus on getting and retaining every member they can. Unfortunately, this makes them reluctant to confront and cut off those who are deleterious to the cause of Christ. The purpose of the church is to embody and advance the mission of Christ, not simply to please people or grow in numbers. A church that keeps its focus pure, is going to be pleasing to those who follow Christ, and attractive to those open to God.

11 Titus, and church leaders today, need not feel guilty about making false teachers leave. They distort the Scriptures, making the Gospel weak or useless. They oppose God and demonstrate that they have no good relationship with Him. They cut themselves off from salvation, and try to convince others to do the same. Such people can not be allowed to continue in a church body. A church body can be a place to introduce non-believers to Christ, but the unsaved can not be allowed to take over and let their philosophies affect the message and work of the Gospel.
12 Paul ends his discussion about false teachers and tells Titus what he has in mind for future ministry. In late fall or early winter of that year, Paul would send one of the men listed to replace Titus. Titus was then to join Paul and spend the winter with them as they planned future ministries. Titus would have enough time to organize the churches and deal with the false teachers in Crete. His replacement would then enter a situation that was easier to handle. Apparently, Paul considered Titus an excellent missionary and organizer, and wanted to use these abilities elsewhere rather than keep him in Crete as an ongoing administrator.

Artemas is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, but Tychicus is mentioned in several other places. Nicopolis was the capital of Epirus, on the western shore of Greece.

13 Apollos was a renowned speaker in the early Christian church. Zenas is not mentioned elsewhere, but was obviously Apollos' traveling companion at the time. It is not clear whether Apollos was in Crete, planning to head that way, or possibly be the bearer of this letter. In any event, Paul reminds Titus to be hospitable to them.
14 Doing good deeds does not come naturally for most people since our cultures tend to train us into selfishness. Titus' generous hospitality would serve as a good example to the rest of the church. Missionaries always had pressing needs. By providing for them, both the missionaries and the church body would be producing the kinds of fruits God desires.
15 Paul's companions and the church where he was ministering sent greetings to Titus. Titus was to pass on those greetings to Paul's friends in Crete.