The New Testament book of Titus was written to advise Titus in his responsibility of supervising the churches on the island of Crete. The background was one of Paul – an educated, articulate, motivated man who was filled with the Holy Spirit – who would shortly no longer be available to build, encourage, discipline, and teach.
Titus was a Greek believer. Taught and nurtured by Paul, he stood before the leaders of the church in Jerusalem as a living example of what Christ was doing among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:1-3). Like Timothy, Titus was one of Paul’s trusted traveling companions and closest friends. Later he became Paul’s special ambassador (2 Co. 7:5-16) and eventually the overseer of the churches on the island of Crete (Tit. 1:5). Slowly and carefully, Paul developed Titus into a mature Christian and a responsible leader. The letter to Titus was a step in this discipleship process. As was the case with Timothy, Paul told Titus how to organize and lead the churches.
Paul begins with a longer-than-usual greeting and introduction, outlining the leadership progression – Paul’s ministry (1:1-3), Titus’s responsibilities (1:4, 5), and those leaders whom Titus would appoint and train (1:5). Paul then lists pastoral qualifications (1:6-9) and contrasts faithful overseers with the false leaders and teachers (1:10-16).
Next, Paul emphasizes the importance of good deeds in the life of the Christian, telling Titus how to relate to the various age groups in the church (2:2-6). He urges Titus to be a good example of a mature believer (2:7-8) and to teach with courage and conviction (2:9-15). He then discusses the general responsibilities of Christians in society – Titus should remind the people of these (3:1-8), and he should avoid divisive arguments (3:9-11). Paul concludes with a few matters of itinerary and personal greetings (3:12-15).
Paul’s letter to Titus may be brief, but it is an important link in the discipleship process – helping a young man to grow into leadership in the church. In reading this pastoral letter, one gains not only an insight into the organization and life of the early church, but understands principles that can be used for structuring contemporary churches.
The Layout of Titus
Leadership In The Church:
This is concentrated in (1:1-16) … Paul calls for church order and right living on an island known for laziness, gluttony, lying, and evil.
Right Living In The Church:
This is concentrated in (2:1-15) … Christians are to be self-disciplined as individuals, and must be orderly as people who form one body, the church. This self-discipline and orderliness has to be observed even when these principles are not respected or rewarded by society.
Right Living In Society:
This is concentrated in (3:1-15) … Although others may not appreciate our efforts, we must live upright lives, respect the government, and control our speech. We should live together peacefully in the church, and be living examples of our faith to contemporary society.
Themes: Explanation and Importance
A GOOD LIFE
The Good News of salvation is that we can’t be saved by living a good life; we are saved only by faith in Jesus Christ. But the gospel transforms people’s lives, so that they eventually perform good deeds. Our service won’t save us, but we are saved to serve.
A good life is a witness to the power of the gospel. As Christians, we must have commitment and discipline to serve. Are you putting your faith into action by serving others?
Titus’s responsibility in Crete was to appoint elders to maintain proper organization and discipline, so Paul listed the qualities needed for eldership. Their conduct in their homes revealed their fitness for service in the church.
It’s not enough to be educated or to have a loyal following to be Christ’s kind of leader. You must have self-control, spiritual and moral fiitness, and Christian character. Who you are is just as important as what you can do.
Church teaching must relate to various age groups. Older Christians were to teach and to be examples to younger men and women. People of every age and group have a lesson to learn and a role to play.
Right living and right relationship go along with right doctrine. Treat relationships with other believers as an outgrowth of your faith.
Christians must be good citizens in society, not just in church. Believers must obey the government and work honestly.
How you fulfill your civic duties is a witness to a watching world. Your community life should reflect Christ’s love as much as your church life does.
A Closer Look… Titus 1:1-16
In this pastoral letter, Paul speaks about the qualifications for elders, officials of a church:
An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunken-ness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others and refute those who oppose it. (Tit. 1:6-9)
Paul spoke about offenders in the church that had to be refuted (those who believed that the law of Moses still had to be observed for salvation and sanctification, those interested in money, those interested in “Jewish myths” (v. 14; speculations of a Gnostic strain, allegedly based on Old Testament scriptures), those still encouraging asceticism), to keep the message of the good news of Jesus Christ untainted:
For there are many rebelious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Tit. 1:10-16)
A Closer Look… Titus 2:1-15
Paul talks about the proper operation of the church, and focuses on the duties of its minister:
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Tit. 2:1-10)
When we have God’s grace, we live in a fashion becoming it:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Tit. 2:11-14)
A Closer Look… Titus 3:1-15
Paul reminds all believers to be subject to rule and authority, and speaks in a wider sense to the relation of believers to all people:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Tit. 3:1-7)
Paul speaks about divisive people, and what to do:
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Tit. 3:9-11)