New Book: Titus

by Stephen Harris

Titus was a member of Paul’s apostolic team, who was given the job of remaining on the island of Crete after Paul and the remainder of the team had since left, in order to firmly establish the newly planted churches there.  

Paul introduces his epistle with a very deliberate description: “God, who does not lie”.  This would have meant a lot to the Titus and the Cretans, because “Cretan” was synonymous with the word “liar” in Greek (Kretizo).  Why?  Previously they had followed the example of their Greek god Zeus, who had a reputation for lying and deceit.  Describing God as one “who does not lie” means that Paul is actually saying that there is a massive difference between the false God Zeus and the true God.  This non-lying God can be trusted; He has promised eternal life before and now introduced that eternal life as a reality to be grasped.

Paul’s first task for Titus is for him to establish teams of elders (or “overseers”, which is used synonymously) in every one of the towns in Crete.  What kind of person should be an elder or overseer?  Men of good character who will hold fast the faithful word, able to both exhort the believers, and refute those who oppose.  The latter is important because it appears that there are others in the churches (apparently Jewish converts) who are teaching falsely for the sake of making money.

Titus’s second task is to explain “sound doctrine”, which rather than finer points of theology actually relates to how various different Christian segments of society should be living. These segments are: older men and women; younger women and men; and slaves.  Their Godly behaviour is to be a witness to those around them and so is very important in order that “the opponent may have nothing bad to say about us” (2:8).

Paul expands on this point by explaining where the motivation for living differently comes from.  It is from the grace of God, which brings salvation and also teaches us to live a godly life as we wait for the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus gave Himself to purify us from all lawless things – not that we should remain in them.  This salvation is grounded not on how we lived before (deeds of our righteousness 3:5) but on God’s own mercy.  But our response to this mercy is to do good deeds out of gratitude.

The epistle concludes with a warning regarding arguments and useless debates about the law, which are simply unprofitable and lead to factions.  Factious men (probably the same as mentioned in Chapter 1) are not to be tolerated but given only two warnings to desist.  Finally Paul explains that Titus will not be in Crete forever, his mission is clearly defined and short-term; backup in the form of Artemas and Tychicus is on the way and on their arrival Titus should leave Crete to find Paul in Nicopolis.