Titus Overview

Titus Overview

Paul identified himself as the author of the letter to Titus, calling himself a “bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (Titus 1:1). The origin of Paul’s relationship with Titus is shrouded in mystery, though we can gather that he may have been converted under the ministry of Paul, who called Titus “my true child in a common faith” (1:4). Titus accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey, during which the apostle sent him to Corinth at least once (2 Corinthians 2:12–13; 7:5–7, 13–15; 8:6, 16–24). Paul clearly held Titus in a position of great respect as a friend and fellow worker for the gospel, praising Titus for his affection, his earnestness, and his bringing comfort to others.

Paul wrote his letter to Titus from Nicopolis in AD 63, after the apostle’s release from his first Roman imprisonment. Upon leaving Timothy in Ephesus to minister there, Paul accompanied Titus to the island of Crete, where he intended Titus to lead and organize the island’s churches in their early years of existence. While the gospel had no doubt spread to Crete soon after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:11), Paul and Titus likely did a good deal of evangelism on the island in the weeks before Paul commissioned Titus to a leadership position there.

Three summaries of the incarnation dot the pages of Titus, providing a framework within which the Christian can view the work of God in the world and in individual lives (Titus 1:1–4; 2:11–14; 3:4–7). All three passages involve the manifestation, or appearance, of God in Christ, rooting the Christian faith in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Only when God the Son took on human flesh in the person of Jesus was the believer’s faith in God made sure. In other words, since God poured out His grace on all humanity, He cleanses His people from their sin and purifies believers for Himself. This grace of God instructs us to live upright and godly lives in this present age (2:11–3:8).

The doctrine of the incarnation in the letter to Titus grounds its message of producing right living through the careful attention to theological truth. The churches on Crete were just as susceptible to false teachers as any other church, so Paul directed Titus to establish a group of faithful elders to oversee the doctrinal purity and good conduct of the believers on Crete. Paul exhorted Titus to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), a clear direction that this should be the young pastor’s primary role.

However, Paul also understood that when a body of believers embraces sound doctrine, the result is changed and purified lives that produce “good deeds” (mentioned in Titus 2:7, 14; 3:8, 14). God’s grace is the motivation for all good deeds. Paul gave instructions to Titus about the roles of specific groups of people—older men, older women, young women, young men, and slaves—as well as general instructions to all believers about their conduct. Right living was essential because Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed,” saving us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 2:14; 3:5).

How seriously do you consider your beliefs about God in the overall scheme of your life? The book of Titus reminds us that our beliefs about God impact every decision we make. Sometimes it is difficult for believers today to see the point of getting all worked up about the person and nature of Christ or the doctrine of the Trinity. However, Paul made clear that a church that teaches and preaches sound doctrine will see results in the lives of its people. Not only will people be saved from their sins, but God’s grace will also motivate them to live out that saving faith with renewed and purified lives.

Many churches today focus more on the form of their worship—music styles, lighting, and building designs—than they do on the content of the faith they mean to proclaim. Without a firm base of sound doctrine, the church will lay its foundation in shifting and sinking sand. Make doctrine a priority in your own life, as well as encouraging it in your churches. Nothing is more significant than a solid foundation in Christ. Nothing is more motivational than grace to live a life of good deeds.

Titus 3:14

Titus 3:14…”Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.” What people? Those in the church, and in the case of this epistle, the church on the island of Crete. How does this relate to us today? Well, this is one example of the myriad New Testament instructions on how to function in our local church, so for us, it applies to the church to which we belong. So, according to this verse, we need to learn to do what is good, which implies that we need to be discipled. In other words, we aren’t born with an inherent knowledge of what is good, especially not when it comes to God’s word. This includes providing for the urgent needs of others in our church. If we don’t care for others in our church, then our lives are unproductive according to this passage. So, what about you? Take time to think carefully about how to apply the Word of God to your life, and let it read you, instead of using it as a magic lamp for your own selfish wishes.

Titus 3:10

Titus 3:10…”Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.” Those who believe in God, must make it their care to maintain good works, to seek opportunities for doing them, being influenced by love and gratitude. Unity should be around the gospel, and God’s word. Distinctions and controversies which are not central to the Christian faith should be avoided, and this verse outlines how we should deal with divisiveness. If we are hung up on the style of music, the color of the carpet, or the coffee being served before the service, then we’ve missed the point of the church. We are to put aside these small preferences for the sake of unity, and take care to flee from those in our church who are consistently marked by this kind of pettiness.

Titus 3:7

Titus 3:7…”So that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Justification, in the gospel sense, is the free forgiveness of a sinner; accepting him as righteous through the righteousness of Christ received by faith. God, in justifying a sinner in the way of the gospel, is gracious to him, yet is still perfectly just and holy because of Christ’s sacrifice. As forgiveness is through a perfect righteousness, and satisfaction is made to justice by Christ, it cannot be merited by the sinner himself. Eternal life is set before us in the promise; the Spirit works faith in us, and hope of that life; faith and hope bring it near, and we are filled with joy in expectation of it.

Titus 3:1

Titus 3:1…”Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” Spiritual privileges do not make void or weaken, but confirm our civil duties. Being subject to rulers and authorities includes our speech, therefore our words need to demonstrate respect, even to those rulers with whom we disagree. Good words are not enough without good works. So, we are to show meekness on all occasions, not toward friends only, but to all men, though with wisdom, James 3:13. Also, to be ready to do whatever is good, we must be constantly praying, because if left to our own interests and desires, we’ll be ready to do what is selfish.

Titus 2:13-14

Titus 2:13-14…”While we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, 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.” At, and in, the glorious appearing of Christ, the blessed hope of Christians will be complete: To bring us to holiness and happiness was the end of Christ’s death. Jesus Christ, that great God and our Savior, who saves not only as God, much less as Man alone; but as God-man, two natures in one person. He loved us, and gave himself for us; and what can we do less than love and give up ourselves to him! Redemption from sin and sanctification go together, and make a peculiar people unto God, free from guilt and condemnation, and purified by the Holy Spirit.

Titus 2:6

Titus 2:6…”In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” Continuing on the theme of being careful of which teachers we follow, this verse lays out some additional considerations. Any pastor/elder must be careful how they live, or their message will not be credible. 1 Corinthians 8 is a great reminder, particularly that knowledge alone isn’t sufficient if it’s not used to build others up spiritually.

Seriousness is also important because when we teach others that its appropriate to approach God as your “bro” or “buddy” it opposes what the bible teaches. Anytime anyone in the bible has an encounter with God, it brings about tremendous awe and people fall face down. In Ezekiel 1, this is exactly what we see after his vision ‘of the likeness of the glory of the Lord’ in verse 28. Further, when angels of the Lord appear in scripture, they almost always say “do not be afraid,” which means they elicit reverence. We can certainly approach the throne boldly in Christ, but it also needs to be done with reverence and awe, and never casually. A casual teacher, with casual views of God, will have casual views of scripture, and therefore produce casual Christians. Jesus would call casual followers of Him goats (Matthew 25:31-33), and therefore we need to flee from teachers who present God and His word in a casual way.

Soundness of speech includes consistent, clear teaching, which allows the bible to speak for itself. Carefulness in not taking verses out of the context of the passage, book, testament, and bible as a whole is extremely important. Check any teaching which uses single verses as theological swords, and be sure to understand everything you read and hear in context.

Titus 1:11

Titus 1:11…”They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” The false teachers Paul is referencing were a big problem in the early church. Nothing has changed though, and thankfully faithful saints like Martin Luther have been used by the Lord to correct false doctrines throughout the history of the church. Today, any teaching that includes a bible verse is often considered true by church goers, and biblical illiteracy is prevalent. This environment has been a fertile ground for false teachers. Unfortunately, most pastors are afraid to point out which teachers to avoid, or even worse, they don’t recognize false doctrine. In this verse, one clear mark of a false teacher is dishonest gain, which should tip us off to a number of popular teachers today who have clearly sought riches through ministry. We need to carefully examine what we are being taught, lest we follow the kinds of teachers Paul is referencing here. Since we can’t “silence” these teachers (see the verse above) because of their popularity, we should at least know who to avoid specifically.

Here is a very helpful video by Shai Linne, explaining why identifying false teachers is not only biblical, but loving:

Titus 1:3

Titus 1:3…”And which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior.” What has been brought to light? Based on verses 1-2, he’s speaking specifically about faith, truth, and hope. The accuracy of these three is extremely important, and depending on who’s preaching to you, it can vary quite a bit. But, according to this verse, preaching is one of the primary ways we learn about what God is like. This is scary given how many times (23 to be exact) the bible warns about false teachers. With that said, here are 7 traits of false teachers:

1. Different Source—Where does the message come from?

Peter says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you “with stories they have made up” (2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message.

2. Different Message—What is the substance of the message?

For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. “We have everything we need for life and godliness in Him” (1:3). For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2:1).

Notice the word secretly. It’s rare for someone in church to openly deny Jesus. Movement away from the centrality of Christ is subtle. The false teacher will speak about how other people can help change your life, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying, you will see that Jesus Christ is not essential to his message.

3. Different Position—In what position will the message leave you?

The true Christian “escapes the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (1:4). Listen to how Peter describes the counterfeit Christian: “They promise . . . freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity, for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2:19). The true believer is escaping corruption, while the counterfeit believer is mastered by it.

4. Different Character—What kind of people does the message produce?

The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brother kindness, and love (1:5). The counterfeit Christian is marked by arrogance and slander (2:10). They are “experts in greed” and “their eyes are full of adultery” (2:14). They also “despise authority” (2:10). This is a general characteristic of a counterfeit believer.

5. Different Appeal—Why should you listen to the message?

The true teacher appeals to Scripture. “We have the word of the prophets made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it” (1:19). God has spoken, and the true teacher appeals to his Word.

The false teacher makes a rather different appeal: “By appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error” (2:18). So the true teacher asks, “What has God said in his Word?” The false teacher asks, “What do people want to hear? What will appeal to their flesh?”

6. Different Fruit—What result does the message have in people’s lives?

The true believer is effective and productive in his or her knowledge of Jesus Christ (1:8). The counterfeit is “like a spring without water” (2:17). This is an extraordinary picture! They promise much but produce little.

7. Different End—Where does the message ultimately lead you?

Here we find the most disturbing contrast of all. The true believer will receive “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:11). The false believer will experience “swift destruction” (2:1). “Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping” (2:3).

Jesus tells us that there will be many who have been involved in ministry in his name, to whom he will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21).

Titus 1:2

Titus 1:2…”In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” God promised us eternal life in eternity past. Election (or predestination) is implied in this verse, and is throughout the bible in addition to all the clear, explicit teachings on this doctrine (Titus 1:1 for example). For the elect, He has always known us, set His affection on us in eternity past, changed our hearts in rescuing us in Christ, and will sanctify us until we’re glorified. We should rejoice in this, knowing that although we have to battle every day, the war has already been won, and the fruit we see is assurance of our salvation! However, this can be a hard teaching if we try to limit God’s attributes and power according to our own finite knowledge, understanding, and abilities. Interestingly, we’ll get in a car or on a plane not fully understanding how everything works and believe that we’ll get to our destination. Our trust in these simple actions demonstrates that we’ll put our hope in something we don’t fully understand. We show our intellectual inconsistency with spiritual things when we treat God and His word differently. The doctrine of election is true because the bible says it is. And, according to this verse, God does not lie.