This is the third of the Pastoral Epistles which Paul wrote, the others being I and II Timothy. He wrote this letter to Titus who was working in the church on the Island of Crete.
Titus is addressed in this letter as, “my own son after the common faith” (Titus 1:4). This indicates that he probably was a Greek Christian, converted under Paul’s preaching. Though his name does not appear in the Book of Acts, he is referred to in Acts 15:2. There, mention is made of the controversy regarding the circumcision of the Gentile converts. It was decided to send Paul and Barnabas “and certain others” to Jerusalem for a conference to decide this issue. The “others” include Titus, according to Galatians 2:3. When Titus was in Jerusalem for this conference, the Jews there wanted Titus to be circumcised, but Paul refused to allow this (Gal. 2:5). The conclusion was that the Gentile converts need not be circumcised, Acts 15:13-29; so Titus was a test case.
Titus was also involved in the work in the church at Corinth. According to II Corinthians 12:18, Paul sent him to Corinth as his representative to deal with the problems in the church there. This tells us that Paul saw him as a gifted pastor who was capable of dealing with difficulties that arose in the churches. He also assisted in the weekly collection for the poor in Jerusalem (I Cor. 16:12; II Cor. 8:6). Paul was eager to know if the circumstances in the church of Corinth had improved and whether they responded to his first epistle which Titus brought to them. He learned of the results when Titus met him in Macedonia (II Cor. 7:6, 7). He then sent Titus back again and gave him the second epistle which he delivered to the Corinthian church (II Cor. 8:16-18).
Titus appears also as traveling with Paul after his release from the Roman prison and prior to his being taken captive a second time. During this interval, Paul went to the Island of Crete and left Titus there to “set in order the things which were wanting and ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:8). According to early church tradition, Titus became the bishop of the church of the Cretians. Paul later informed Titus that Artemas or Tychicus would be sent to Crete, so Titus was free to leave and rejoin Paul at Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Whether Titus did this we cannot be sure; he did, however, join Paul in Rome from which he later went to Dalmatia (II Tim. 4:10).
From this we can see that Titus was a close and trusted co-worker with Paul He was a capable pastor, gifted with words and wisdom in dealing with difficult situations in the church.
Since this letter was sent to Titus to instruct him in how to labor in the churches on the Island of Crete, it quite naturally brings up the question as to how those churches came into being. According to Titus 1:5, Paul says he left Titus in Crete, indicating that Paul also had been there. When did Paul visit Crete? Reference is made to the fact that on his voyage to Rome, after he had appealed to Caesar in order to spare his life from the angry Jews, his ship touched the Island of Crete,Acts 27:12, 13. This hardly seems to be the time that he would have left Titus behind. Rather, it must refer to his travels between the two Roman imprisonments. Paul visited the Island of Crete then, helped establish a church there, traveled on, but left Titus there to continue in the labor. Now Paul instructs Titus in what he should do to help the church in Crete.
The encyclopedia tells us that Crete, an island off Greece situated between the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, is about 150 miles long and 20 miles wide. It has many mountains and, interspersed in the valleys, people were able to raise crops and make a good living. The people had a reputation for evil (Titus 1:12). The highest mountain, Mt. Ida, was the legendary birthplace of the Greek god Zeus.
We also learn in Acts 2:11 that “Cretes” were represented in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost. It would seem natural that these converts returned home and thereupon were influential in organizing a church on the island. Paul labored with this group when he traveled to them and subsequently Titus continued the same work.
It is suggested that since the subject matter is so similar to that of I Timothy, the letters were written about the same time, possibly the same day. If so, Paul expressed his concern for Titus who was laboring in Crete and for Timothy who was working in Ephesus. The date would also be about the same, A.D. 64-67.
This small letter is a call for holiness in the church of the Lord Jesus. Tenney expresses it well: “The situation in Crete was discouraging. The church was unorganized, and its members were quite careless in behavior. If the injunctions of chapter 2 are indication of what the churches needed, the men were lax and careless, the older women were gossips and winebibbers, and the young women were idle and flirtatious. Perhaps the preaching of the gospel of grace had given the Cretans the impression that salvation by faith was unrelated to an industrious and ethical life. Six times (Titus 1:16; Titus 2:7, 14; Titus 3:1, 8, 14) in this short epistle, good works are urged upon Christians. Although Paul says that salvation cannot be earned by good works (Titus 3:1) he affirms with equal vigor that believers must be careful to maintain good works. The disturbance in Crete had been caused by a combination of ethical laxity which sprang from the natural tendencies of the Cretans (Titus 1:12, 13), accentuated by disputation over Jewish fables and commandments which were promoted by a Judaizing group (Titus 1:10) who were godless (Titus 1:16), unruly (Titus 1:10), divisive (Titus 1:11), and mercenary (Titus 1:11). These teachers differed from those that troubled the Galatians because their error was moral perversity whereas that of the Galatians was stringent legalism. Both are condemned by this epistle” New Testament Survey.
Paul’s purpose in writing this letter was twofold. First, he wanted to encourage and help Titus deal with the specific needs of the church in Crete. Second, he requested that Titus leave Crete and meet him in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). In carrying out this purpose, Paul sets forth the need for a holy life as it must be based upon doctrinal purity. Two passages in this letter set forth the Christian doctrine (Titus 2:11-14 and Titus 3:4-7). These truths are to be believed not only, but must influence the members of the church unto holiness. Hence, the Christian church must be active in discipline, to see to it that the holy life is followed, (Titus 2:15 and Titus 3:11).
1.Salutation (Titus 1:1-4). Paul identifies himself as an apostle who is called by God to bring the message of godliness through the gospel preaching (Titus 1:1-3). Likewise, he identifies Titus as the recipient, “mine own son after the common faith,” upon whom he pronounces the blessing.
3.Titus must be willing to expose those false teachers (Titus 1:10-16). Some are Jewish, who are ignorant and teach for money (Titus 1:10, 11). They were quick to point out evil in others; though accurate, they did not apply it to themselves (Titus 1:12, 13). They heed Jewish fables and commandments of men, profess godliness, but deny Him in their works (Titus 1:14-16).
4.Paul instructs the church to be sound in their family and personal life (Titus 2:1-15). The aged men must be strong in faith and be sober (Titus 2:1, 2); aged women must not be false accusers, but teachers of good things (Titus 2:3); the young women must learn to love their husbands, be chaste, keepers at home (Titus 2:4, 5); the young men must be sober-minded, sound in speech, and live so that no one can speak evil of them (Titus 2:6-8); servants must be obedient to and please their masters, show good fidelity, and adorn the doctrine of God (Titus 2:9, 10). The doctrinal basis for all this is in the grace of God which is in Christ Jesus Who redeemed and purifies us (Titus 2:11-15).
5.Instruction is given regarding holiness in public life (Titus 3:1-7). They must be subject to the magistrates (Titus 3:1), not be brawlers nor speak evil of anyone, but be gentle to all men (Titus 3:2). The doctrinal basis for this is that they have been delivered from former evil through the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit through Christ unto the inheritance of life everlasting (Titus 3:3-7).
6.Concluding exhortations to holiness (Titus 3:8-15). Believers are to maintain good works (Titus 3:8), avoid foolish questions Titus 3:9), discipline heretics, for they condemn themselves (Titus 3:10, 11). Paul informs Titus that he will send Artemas or Tychicus to Crete so that Titus will be free to join Paul at Nicopolis. He asks him to take Zenas and Apollos along (Titus 3:12, 13). All are exhorted to do good works (Titus 3:14). He expresses his concluding greetings (Titus 3:15).
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. Review the Scriptural references to Titus and indicate who he was and what his relationship was to Paul as they worked in the early church. Note that the King James Bible at the end of Titus 3:15 says of Titus, “ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretians.”
2. What do we know about the church in Crete?
3. How is this letter similar to I Timothy? How is it different?
4. Show that the message of holiness for the church was important for the church in Crete and is just as important for our church today.
5. Make reference to the two doctrinal passages contained in this letter (Titus 2:11-15 and Titus 3:4-7). Explain how doctrine is the basis for our Christian life. Along this line, show that justification and sanctification are inseparable.
6. Explain how, in light of this letter, we can say that the gospel has social implications.
7. What is the difference between foolish questions (Titus 3:9) and wholesome spiritual discussion?