“These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let not man despise thee.”
Paul had given to Titus the calling to pastor (shepherd) the new Christians in the various congregations on the island of Crete. This included the selecting and ordaining of men as officebearers in order that the congregations might be instituted churches (). It also included exhorting and convincing the unruly, vain talkers, and deceivers ( ). And it included preaching and teaching “the things which become sound doctrine” ( ), that is, godliness.
Paul detailed the godliness required by a faith that holds for truth what God has revealed in His Word (). Then he explained why godly living is to be expected of these new Christians ( ).
Now, in the above text, Paul concludes as he began. He repeats the calling to “speak” the things that become sound doctrine () with these words: “these things speak and exhort and rebuke.” May God graciously enable us to understand His Word, and may godly officebearers heed the admonition contained in it.
What were Titus’ duties?
First, we may say that Titus’ duties were the same as those that God gave to Paul. Paul details his duties in. He must live and work in the consciousness that he is a slave of God. Titus is a slave of God both by virtue of creation and by virtue of redemption. Every human must acknowledge that he is not his own but owes his all to his Creator and Sustainer. Every breath, every ability, and every moment is a gift from the Creator of the heaven and earth. Thus every breath, every ability, and every moment must be used with thanksgiving to the glory of the Giver.
In addition, every child of God is a slave of God also by virtue of redemption. We have been bought with the blood of God’s Son from the bondage of sin, and we have been given the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Jesus Christ. Whereas all the reprobate increase their sin by denying that they are the servants of God, the regenerated and justified elect are given the consciousness that they are not their own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to their faithful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. They, by the Spirit of Christ, are made sincerely willing and ready to live unto Him. They willingly and with great delight acknowledge themselves to be slaves of God.
Second, Titus was commissioned by the apostle Paul to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (). The Scriptures do not state specifically of Titus that he received the laying on of hands (as they do of Timothy), nor are we specifically told that he held an office (some conclude that he had the office of evangelist). Nevertheless, when Paul gives to Titus the responsibility to ordain elders and to “speak the things which become sound doctrine” ( ), then we may assume that Titus had an office in the early church—a position of some authority. It was his responsibility to ordain elders and to speak authoritatively of sound doctrine and of the things that are consistent with sound doctrine.
Another duty of Titus was to stand opposed to gainsayers and false teachers. They taught “things which they ought not” (b, ). These were and are instruments of Satan to oppose the truth and those who bring the truth. They present not only wrong beliefs, but also sinful living: insubordinate, vain talkers, deceivers ( ). They spread their teachings for the sake of getting rich ( ). This shows that false teachings lead to spiritual unhealthiness.
Titus is to make a sharp contrast between himself (as a true office-holder) and the false teachers. First, he was to be “a pattern of good works” (), that is, have an attitude and conduct that was exemplary. To the best of his ability Titus was to be an example to the new Christians. He was to say, “Do as I do.” “Follow me.” He must do “good works,” that is, those deeds that are useful and beneficial to others.
Finally, our text gives to Titus the duty to speak “these things.” “These things” consist of the teachings concerning God, the Creator and Sustainer of all, the teachings of sovereign, gracious, and particular salvation accomplished by the only Mediator, God’s Son. While these are the essential teachings, Titus is to teach the Scriptures. The inspired writings of the Old Testament were those that Paul and Timothy and Titus were taught from their childhood. Only the Scriptures are “able to make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” and they alone are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” ().
This instruction is to be “sound,” that is, “healthy.” There cannot be a love of the truth without a love for the hearers. One cannot love God and His truth without also loving the neighbor, that is, being concerned about his spiritual well-being. Any teaching that is faithful to God’s Word results in the spiritual health of the hearer.
How is Titus to carry out his duties?
Paul instructs Titus how to perform his duties: “speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority.”
Titus must first speak—literally, keep on speaking. He must use the faculty of speech, both publicly and privately, faithfully and with boldness, clearly and plainly. Titus must preach the doctrines that declare the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures—not his own ideas, nor the politically correct thoughts of the day, and of course not any false doctrine. And he must keep on speaking about the lifestyle that flows from the right teaching. He must instruct them to realize that how they live must harmonize with what they believe.
This truth he must speak. Note that the word translated “doctrine” in the KJV is, literally, “teachings, instruction.” This word implies that one is teaching others. The truth of God’s Word is to be communicated as clearly and as sincerely as possible. The concern of the teacher is not only the accuracy of the instruction but also whether the instruction is understood and received. This further implies that the instructor may not be promoting himself or concerned for his own well-being (for example, “for filthy lucre’s sake,”). Rather, his motive of grateful love of the awe-inspiring God is to be obvious, along with a love for (concern for the spiritual well-being) of those he is instructing. When one loves the truths because they are his salvation, then he loves to proclaim them. He wants others to know the same joy. He wants them to share in the desire that God be glorified.
Second, Titus must keep on exhorting. This word is translated in a variety of ways in the KJV: exhort, comfort, beseech, encourage. This Greek word means literally to “call alongside.” It paints a picture: two people are standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Instead of coming at the new Christians on Crete in the arrogant manner of one who is going to set others straight, Titus must call the young Christians to his side, and show them how to deal with a problem or to face an issue. Titus is to teach in such a way that he stands next to them, identifying himself with them. To exhort implies that he lets his fellow-saints know that he also is listening to the instruction that God is giving through him. He also is hearing what he is being used of God to teach.
Third, Titus is to keep on rebuking. This word means to reprove, to refute, to chide or admonish, to call to account. This word implies a love for those being rebuked. The rebuke is a warning and is a pointing out of their errors with a view to correcting them. Notice how Paul speaks of rebuking in: “Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Even though he had just identified the Cretians as “always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies,” they are to be rebuked in order that they may become sound in the faith.
Fourth, Paul tells Titus to keep on speaking, exhorting, and rebuking “with all authority.” Titus must know that he has been given authority from Christ through the church to give these commands to the saints. The authority is derived, not original. It is an authority that belongs, not to Titus’ person, but to Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, who sends Titus. Titus is to make it plain that when he is speaking, exhorting, and rebuking, those being instructed are to see that they do not have a choice as to whether they are going to heed it or not. They are to bow in humble obedience, acknowledging the truth and striving mightily to live according to it. The word is to be brought with authority—the authority of God’s Word.
Finally, Titus is told, “Let no man despise thee” (cf.). One despises another when he sets himself up in his mind as better than the other. It is to exalt myself, with the result that I look down on others. Ultimately, of course, Titus cannot prevent others from despising him. When there are those who despise him, he must continue to do his work carefully and humbly, forbearing them ( ; ) and committing himself and them to Him who judges righteously ( ).
Nevertheless, Titus is to conduct himself in all of his work in such a manner that he gives no occasion for himself to be despised. He is to perform his duties with diligence and humility. He is to “walk in wisdom toward them that are without,” and his speech is to be “always with grace” (). He is to behave himself so that he is not worthy of being despised.
May every officebearer so speak and exhort and rebuke.