Titus 1 (day 1130) 3 February 2013
1-4: Paul’s introduction of himself in Titus is longer than in his other letters. He sees himself as the God-appointed defender of the true faith.
Titus, like Timothy, was one of Paul’s most faithful companions and helpers. Paul refers to him in verse 4 as “my loyal child in the faith,” a hint that Titus was one of those of whose conversion to Christianity Paul was responsible. He was a Gentile Christian who apparently was never circumcised (Galatians 2:3), evidence of Paul’s victory over the Circumcision Party’s efforts to demand that Gentile converts first become Jews by circumcision before being allowed to take part in the church. Elsewhere Paul refers to him as “my brother (2 Corinthians 2:13),” and as “my partner and coworker (2 Corinthians 8:23).” It was Titus by whom Paul sent his stern letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 12:18), and who was responsible for a reconciliation between them and Paul (2 Corinthians 8:23, 7:13 and 7:6). When Paul made his first trip to Jerusalem to defend his mission to the Gentiles before the leaders of the Church, Titus went with him along with Barnabas (Galatians 2:1).
5-9: We learn that Titus was used by Paul in a significant role in Crete. Unfortunately, we don’t know when Paul was in Crete or what was accomplished there. The only mention of Crete in the book of Acts comes late, when he is sailing under guard to Rome and passes south of that island, but makes no landing there. However, it is apparent that Titus was given a great deal of authority: he was to appoint elders in towns all over Crete, and bishops as well. (The qualifications for bishops were also given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.) Those who serve as leaders in the church have always been held to higher standards of behavior than others.
10-16: Paul doesn’t have a very high opinion of the populace on the Island of Crete. He cautions Titus that he will be confronted by many who will try to contradict everything he says. He must be firm in resisting any attack on the pure faith that Paul has passed on to him. Verse 15 is an extraordinary insight into human character. There are some people who are able to see the good in everything; they are the “pure,” as Paul calls them. There are others, however, whose corrupt character makes it impossible for them to see the good in anything.
Titus 2 (day 1131) 4 February 2013
1-2: Doctrine does not exist for itself, but is rather an instrument by which right behavior can be directed. So, Titus is to advise older men to behave in such a way that exhibits sound doctrine. His primary concern in this chapter is that Christians must present a good face to the community so as not to bring disgrace on the church. It would damage the church’s reputation (and thus the strength of its witness) for older men to behave rashly or foolishly.
3: Older women should likewise behave in such a way that demonstrates how their lives have been ordered by the gospel.
4-5: Older women are charged with the responsibility of teaching the younger women “what is good,” and there follows a list of things such character should produce, including family responsibilities and personal character. In that culture, for a wife to refuse to submit to her husband would have been scandalous and might have damaged the church’s reputation by proxy.
6-8: Likewise, young men are to conduct themselves in such a way that does not invite censure by opponents of the church.
9-10: Model behavior of slaves would in a similar way serve to show the church in the best light possible to the outside world.
11-15: All of this is predicated on a basic doctrine of the church: Christ gave himself up so that salvation might be available to all. God’s grace trains us to exhibit those qualities that make for peace in any community – self control, upright and godly living. This is what Titus should teach them with boldness so that no one would have reason to look at him condescendingly.
Titus 3 (day 1132) 5 February 2013
1-7: Another checklist is given Titus to use as a teaching outline. Seven dos (be subject to authorities, be ready for good works, speak evil of none, avoid quarreling, be gentle, be courteous) are followed by seven don’ts (foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to pleasure, full of ill will and envy, despicable, hating). We used to live by the don’ts, he says, but Jesus saved us through his mercy, not our deserving. Salvation was transmitted through “the washing of rebirth” – probably a reference to the change of heart that leads us to baptism, what John Wesley would call justification – and through “renewal by the Holy Spirit” – what Wesley would call sanctification. Being justified by the grace of Jesus Christ is not the goal, but is the necessary step toward “becoming heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
8-11: Coming to faith is therefore not the ultimate goal, but devotion to good works leads us through the process of sanctification – the process of being made holy. Avoid stupid controversies, he says, and I’m sure he was thinking about the circumcision debate. Avoid genealogies; God can raise up stones as children to Abraham, said John the baptizer (Matthew 3:9). Avoid arguing about the law, since the law does not have the power to save (Romans 3:28). Avoid contentious people, since they lead you into stupid controversies.
12-13: Paul often sent his letters by courier. Tychicus is mentioned in other letters (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7); Artemas is otherwise unknown. Nicopolis is on the western coast of Greece, and Paul says he is going there for the winter and wants certain people to come to him there. Zenas the lawyer is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, but is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Tradition has it that Zenas was one of the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus into the villages of Galilee (see Luke 10:1-24). That he is called a lawyer may mean that he was a Jewish scribe or rabbi who converted to Christianity. Apollos, of course, was a travelling apostle mentioned often by Luke and Paul (Acts 18:24 and 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:12, 3:4-6, 3:22, 4:6 and 16:12).
14-15: One last entreaty to do good, and Paul signs off with a typical closing.