New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ- Paul several times calls himself "a servant of God". In the light of all his other allusions to Moses, Paul is surely alluding to the frequent descriptions of Moses as God's servant.

For the sake of the faith of God's elect- Paul in Romans understands election as evidence of grace; some are called to 'know the truth', to have faith, and others are not. This immediately removes any pride from any spiritual achievement, be it of faith or understanding.

And their knowledge of the truth- Or 'acknowledging'. There is a tremendous power in the basic doctrines of the One Faith. We come, over time in our spiritual growth, to acknowledge "the Truth" (2 Tim. 2:25), to be led to a Godly way of life by not only knowing the Truth but acknowledging its power (Tit. 1:1).

The truth which is ultimately all about reverence towards God- The NIV in Tit. 1:1 speaks of “the truth which leads to Godliness". Truth doesn’t save of itself. Thus true understanding is related to true Godly living- if we translate the doctrines into practice. The Passover would only be properly kept, Moses explained, if the meaning of it was understood (Dt. 6:20-25). Again we note that 'the truth' is not a phrase which refers to set of theologies correctly understood. Perhaps this was a misconception even in those days which Paul is correcting, by saying that this phrase is instead ultimately practical and not theoretical.

1:2 In hope of eternal life- This is to be connected with the fact that God promised this "before times eternal". The mind boggles at the huge significance which our eternity has to God. He had the idea of it before eternity and He intends to give us eternity.

Which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal- This is an intentional tautology. There can be no point before infinity. But the contradiction achieves its end- we are blown away by the thought that somehow, in a beginning before eternity, the most precious thing in our hearts was promised. And that is, our eternity, our deepest and most passionate hope, that which we fear losing above everything else... was in fact secured and promised. How was it promised at that 'point'? The Greek can mean 'to assert to oneself', and this is I think the idea. God asserted within Himself that we would come to eternity. And God cannot lie, not to us nor to Himself. And He has spent infinity preparing this for us, through developing this earth with its unique possibilities for our existence, our personal gene pool, our calling etc. What a wonderful day it will be when finally all this work of infinity comes to term in our immortalization at the Lord's return to earth! This is all a rather deep and intellectual way of saying that God passionately wishes to give us that which is our master passion too- acceptance in His Kingdom. Another take on this phrase would be to go with the AV "Before the world began" and to understand the promise of eternal life made in the promises to Abraham as being before the Jewish world began at the Sinai covenant. 

1:3 But in his own time manifested His word in the message- The message / word is simply that God wishes to give us eternal life. We are playing a part in God's eternal purpose; the idea of giving us eternal life began 'before infinity', God asserted this plan within Himself; and He waited all this time to use us to go take that message to people who could accept it and thus come to eternity. This is why any genuine attempt to spread that message has His eternal power and strengthening and enablement behind it. It could also be said that the manifestation of that word of eternal life / salvation was in the person of the Lord Jesus.

The message with which I was entrusted- In a sense God requires not help from man; and yet in another sense He has delegated His work to us, and limits His achievements according to what we are willing to do. C.S. Lewis in The World’s Last Night observes: “He seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. Creation seems to be delegation through and through. I suppose this is because He is a giver”. As any employer soon learns, delegation is a risk. We have been “entrusted with the Gospel” (Tit. 1:3 RV); and therefore the world God so wants to love, the world God is appealing to, may never see Him; for He makes His appeal through us, as Paul told the Corinthians. The same word is found in 1 Tim. 1:11 (see notes there). The Gospel has been entrusted to us; in a sense, the progress of God’s work depends upon us. He could save who He wishes as He wishes, but it seems He prefers to work through the mechanism of preachers sharing His word with others. See on 2:11.

According to the commandment of God our Saviour- A reference to the great commission? Or to the specific calling given to Paul at this conversion? Recall how Paul does at times begin his letters with an appeal to the fact he has been specifically commissioned as a preacher (Gal. 1:1-12; 1 Cor. 1:1; Rom. 1:1-4; 1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:11). He has just written that the message was entrusted to him personally. But this is not to say that we have not also been commissioned to share the same message.

1:4 To Titus, my true child- There is no evidence that Paul had converted or baptized Titus. But clearly Paul had much influence in his life. Timothy was likewise Paul's son in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2) although it was due to Eunice and Lois that Timothy had come to faith. This shows that our pastoral efforts for others can make them just as much our children in the faith; and these are the family ties which shall last eternally. "My own child" (AV) would suggest that there was some unique influence of Paul upon Titus, just as in natural families.

After a common faith- Whoever is baptized after believing the doctrines of the true Gospel is our brother or sister- regardless of who baptized them, or what name they go under. Titus was Paul's son "after the common (Gk. koinos) faith" (Tit. 1:4 AV). The faith, the doctrines which he had been taught by Paul and been baptized upon believing, were what had made him Paul's son; and therefore that faith was what bound them together in fellowship. The Faith in Jesus, as in the basic doctrines which make baptism valid, are the basis of our commonality, our fellowship, with each other. Perhaps Paul is saying that Titus had become his son due to the Gospel, i.e. he had converted him. But see above.

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour- AV "Grace, mercy and peace". Peace with God comes from knowing His mercy in forgiving us, and that is because of His grace. Paul wished that Titus would feel this; there was real meaning in this otherwise standard greeting.

1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was so you would- The letters to Timothy begin with Paul saying he has left Timothy in Ephesus for the same reasons. The letter to Titus can be seen as a kind of template upon which those to Timothy are written; for there are many similarities of wording. The fact Paul speaks with such authority regarding matters in Crete suggests he had been instrumental in starting the work there. For he is careful not to get involved in any pastoral work which was the responsibility of others, and he did not build upon others' foundations (2 Cor. 10:16; Rom. 15:20). His mission and vision was to begin the Lord's work afresh in each place- no bad policy for any true missionary. But when was Paul in Crete? The only time mentioned is during his journey to Rome, when they stayed for a short time near Lasea (Acts 27:7-9), but because it was such a small place and not much fun to spend the Winter in, the sailors wished to sail further along Crete towards the larger port of Phenice (Acts 27:12). It was whilst trying to sail there that they got blown right off course and ended up on Malta. It would seem that during the stay near Lasea at the inlet known as Fair Havens, Paul preached in Crete. It would have been no more than a village. And from that work there arose churches throughout Crete, for Titus was to "appoint elders in every city". They were pushing towards Rome, and so they surely would not have spent long at Fair Havens. And yet there is a strange turn of phrase about their stay there in Acts 27:9: "Now when much time was spent...". The modern versions seek to avoid the difficulty by suggesting that much time had been spent on the journey overall; but the Greek really suggests that they had spent "much time" at Fair Havens. They hadn't, really. But it was a significant amount of time from God's viewpoint, because as a result of this witness, several churches developed. And the witness began in a remote village, a mere anchorage rather than a harbour, near Cape Leonda, from where they had to walk five miles to the nearest shops in Lasea, itself little more than a village by modern standards. And from that remote spot the Gospel spread throughout the island. This to me has the hallmark of the divine. 

Set in order- Used by medical writers of setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones. The reference is to the body of Christ.

The things that were lacking- Literally, the things lacking in time to fix up. This was just the right word to use considering how brief was Paul's time in Crete. No wonder he wanted Titus to remain there and establish the new churches. Although we note that Paul wrote the letter from Macedonia, according to the endnote attached to the letter. This would be reason to think that Paul was released from the house confinement with which the Acts record ends, and from Rome went to Macedonia; and then returned to prison in Rome by the time of 2 Tim. 4, when he is clearly awaiting his death in Rome.

And appoint elders in every city- "Every city" suggests the Gospel had spread throughout the island; although the 'cities' were no more than villages or towns by modern European standards. Paul's approach to pastoral work was that it needed elders; the congregations were not left to just take it in turns to teach and run their meetings. This was not because they had the miraculous gifts of the Spirit and we in this age do not. It was simply that a system of eldership has always been God's way of structuring the life of His people, and there is no reason to think it is not to this day.

As I instructed you- The implication could be, as with Timothy in Ephesus, that Titus had not initially done what Paul had asked him.

1:6- see on Gal. 6:4.

If anyone is blameless, the husband of one wife- This could mean 'not polygamous', or could refer to not being a womanizer. He was to be a man of one woman.

Having children that believe- The converts on Crete had not long been baptized. The idea may be that it was quite acceptable for "children" to also convert; the elders should be heads of households who had accepted the faith. This was the more necessary because there is no archaeological evidence for dedicated Christian meeting places in the first century; the churches met in homes. The reference to "whole houses" (:11) would be to house churches.

Who are not accused of riot or unruly- But a related word is used about the behaviour of God’s son, the prodigal (Lk. 15:13). The implication would therefore be that these brethren had done all they reasonably could so that the child wouldn’t turn out like this.

1:7 For the bishop, as God's steward- Literally, a household manager. This is saying that the elder must have demonstrated ability to manage his own family well; family life is the training ground for work in God's family. The same is true today; an elder cannot really be a person who has clearly failed in family life because of their own faults.

Must be blameless- This is the language of priesthood. There are many allusions to the language of priesthood in the New Testament, both as major statements and also in passing, as here.

Not arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain- Clearly there were such people within the church membership, who formed the potential group from which Titus was to choose elders. He is told not to choose these types. We get the impression of a church completely open to all manner of sinners, including violent alcoholics; but the leadership was not open. A church open to sinners- all sinners- but led by Godly leadership is the ideal we should be working towards in our times. For we can hardly say that some sinners but not others are allowed.

1:8- see on Rom. 12:13.

But given to hospitality, a lover of good, self controlled, just, holy, disciplined- Literally, a lover of xenos, the very opposite to a xenophobe. This was a significant characteristic for a Christian to have, when most people were extremely insular and parochial, feeling negatively towards all from outside their immediate experience or geography. The same basic mentality is in us all, but in Christ we are not to be like that but the opposite, as recipients of the Lord's outgoing love toward us.

1:9 Holding to the faithful word which is according to the doctrine- "Holding" is elsewhere used about holding on to the Lord Jesus (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13), so the logos of faith could refer to the Lord Jesus, who is the substance of "the teaching / doctrine". The use of didache prompts the thought that there was perhaps a body of teaching which was used in missionary work, and the appointed elders would be teachers who were faithful to that. The early Christian document known as the Didache may possibly be in view, but probably the body of teaching has intentionally not been preserved for us.

Mt. 6:24 = Tit. 1:9. Holding to God as your master rather than mammon is achieved through holding on to His word. Paul spoke of holding fast the faithful word (Tit. 1:9) with allusion to holding to our Master (Mt. 6:24). But- and this is an important caveat- don't deceive yourself that time spent in expounding Scripture is necessarily Bible study as God wants it- although it may make an impressive impact on a group of assembled Christians. True Bible study and understanding was what lead the Lord to the death of the cross. To truly love God with all our heart and understanding, not just for the intellectual fascination of it, is more than a burnt sacrifice.

That he may be able to minister comfort using the sound doctrine- Sound or faithful teaching is to be used as a "comfort" and not as an end in itself. The Bible is not a puzzle to be solved, with those who successfully make their way through some intellectual jungle of interpretation being rewarded at the end of it, for their mental tenacity and good fortune in meeting up with good teachers. God is not passive, He more actively seeks human salvation and the useful triumph of His Son's work in human lives.

And also refute those who oppose it- "Refute" means to convict, and the word is often used with the hope of eliciting repentance and reformation. We have the picture of the new churches under pressure from those teaching non-Christian ideas; but Paul doesn't say they should be driven out of the congregation. Rather his concern is with not allowing them to teach their ideas, and to convict them in the hope of their repentance. If individuals holding false ideas are to be excluded from the church, then we surely would expect to read about it here in the pastoral letters. But we never do. The concern always is with maintaining true teaching from the podium, as it were. Defenders of a closed table may respond that this is an argument from silence; but the silence is repeated, noticeable and deafening.

For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers- The idea is of men who were not subordinate to anything or anyone. Paul seeks to inculcate a structure in these new churches, of subordination to authorized elders, and to the didache or body of teaching which had been the foundation of the churches.

Especially they of the circumcision- Titus himself was a Gentile (Gal. 2:3) and the early converts in Crete were likely Gentiles. But there was a conscious campaign of destabilization of the early churches by the Jews. The same pattern is seen throughout Paul's arguments to Timothy about the situation in Ephesus. Gentile converts were being destabilized by Jewish teachers who were getting access to the platform; just as happened in the Galatian churches. The burden of the pastoral letters is to eliminate false teaching and replace it with sound teaching. Exclusion from the breaking of bread is never once mentioned as a tool to be used to this end.

1:11 Whose mouths must be stopped- They must be excluded from the teaching structure; there is no mention of driving them out of the church or limiting their access to the Lord's table.

Men who overthrow whole houses- The churches of Crete as elsewhere in the first century were comprised of house groups, which were vulnerable to subversion by individual teachers.

Teaching things which they should not, all for money's sake- What exactly was the connection between their teaching and money? Were they demanding payment for their teaching services? That sounds unlikely to have been successful. Perhaps they were pedalling a version of the prosperity gospel. Or perhaps they were playing on the fact that Judaism was a registered religion within the Roman empire, and religious Jews were free from army service and paying some taxes. To affiliate with the synagogue was attractive; and we note that the false teachers were Jewish (:10,14). See on :15 To the pure.

The early corruption of Christianity was due to false teachers who like Balaam "loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2 Pet. 2:15); they taught false doctrine for the sake of money (Tit. 1:11). Time and again the NT warns against elders who would be motivated by the love of money rather than the Lord Jesus and His people (1 Tim. 3:3,8; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 5:2). The Greek translated "filthy lucre" in the AV is hard to understand; it doesn't just mean 'money'. It suggests profit that is somehow filthy, morally disgusting. This is what money turns into, in God's eyes, when men so love it.

1:12- see on Jn. 1:46.

One of their prophets said- It is often claimed that what follows is a quotation from the Cretan teacher Epimenides. He is not called a false prophet, although he was. God is not so keen to as it were cover His own back, footnoting all the time to the effect that 'this is not true'. Hence the usage of the language of demons in the Gospels when such things do not exist. But Epimenides was born around BC 660- many centuries before. The "their" in view clearly connects with the preceding context, which is about Jewish false teachers, who may well have repeated what Epimenides was supposed to have said many centuries ago.

Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons- To lie like a Cretan was a well-known saying in the first century. The laid back island lifestyle would have made Crete an unlikely area for the Gospel. But as noted on :5, the Gospel spread there like wildfire. So we have a picture similar to what we find today- secular people were eager to respond to the Gospel, tired of the empty life of flesh pleasing, but on conversion still carried with them the baggage of that previous culture.

The Cretans were typical port dwellers, making a living from entertaining passing sailors and their passengers, disposed to laziness from the good life, easy money and pleasant climate. Their idleness had led them to obsession with vanity in listening to vain arguments about words and turning to Judaism (:10). We see in parts of the church today an obsessive over-interpretation of Scripture, sectarianism, neo Judaism- and partly this is likewise a result of not harnessing the good life as it should be, to the Lord’s service. See on 2 Thess. 3:11. It’s noteworthy that division over ‘doctrine’ and demands to exclude others who fail to agree on some complex matter of theology nearly always come from the prosperous churches of the West, and not from the poor unto whom the Gospel is preached and willingly accepted.

1:13 This testimony is true- But not every Cretan was like that. Yet Paul doesn't worry to cover his back, he accepts that this is the general spirit on the island, and it had affected the believers- and they needed to be rebuked for it. We can deduce from this that many of the converts were local Cretan Gentiles. At first blush it may seem strange that such people, still very secular and worldly in their outlook, could be attracted to Judaism and Jewish fables (:14). But this is the huge attraction of legalism; it enables a fleshly mind and lifestyle to be respectably maintained under the guise of deep religiosity.

For which cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith- Soundness in the faith doesn't refer to purity of correct doctrinal understanding. Rather does it refer to the practical issues of not lying, not indulging the flesh in gluttony etc.

1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables- To the false doctrines of Judaism which were being pedalled within the ecclesia. Yet the spirit of our day generally is to be more and more tolerant of doctrinal deviants, rather than 'giving heed', 'watching' against them. There is a telling play on words here. The Greek for "giving heed" is normally used concerned taking heed, being ware, of false teachers (Mt. 7:15; 16:6; Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 1:4; Tit. 1:14). Paul's implication is: 'Instead of giving heed to the danger of these people within the ecclesia, you gave heed to them in the sense of listening to them'.

And the commandments of mere men who aim to turn away others from the truth- This is further evidence that there was a consciously organized Jewish plot to infiltrate the early ecclesias and break down the faith of the Gentile Christians. Despite this, never once does Paul advocate dealing with the problem by closing the doors of the church or fencing off the Lord's table. Instead his method is repeatedly to ensure that the teaching ministry is sound. If access to the Lord's table is indeed based on qualification, we would for sure have expected Paul to talk about this in these pastoral letters, and in addressing the problem of known infiltration of the church. Note that it was Jewish fables which were being used to turn believers away from the truth- which is in Jesus. Not everything Jewish must be automatically accepted and glorified by Christians- there is a tendency that way in some quarters. It was Jewish fables and ideas which actually led to Gentile Christians in Crete losing their faith.


1:15- see on Lk. 11:41.

To the pure, all things are pure- The reference is surely to the Jewish food laws. The parallel in Timothy would be the comment that all food is to be accepted now (1 Tim. 4:4,5), which in turn alludes to the statement to Peter that all foods are to be seen as pure (Acts 10:15). All foods have been declared clean in Christ (Mk. 7:19). Indeed, food is not of itself morally pure or impure (Rom. 14:20). Paul's argument is that things are not of themselves impure- in contrast to the Judaizing arguments referenced in the preceding verse. What makes the usage of those things pure or impure is the attitude of heart which we bring to them. The legalists had tried to bring every issue of human life to the point of being pure or impure. It was a matter of atoning for one’s endless impurities by ritual- rather than a heart matter. Seeing Crete was an island, this was only possible by paying for sacrifices to be made at the Jerusalem temple. This may explain the strong financial element to the false teaching noted on :11.

But to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; both their minds and their consciences are defiled- This element were within the church, but effectively unbelieving in Christ. Everything was potentially impure- because the Judaists thought that their laws covered every possibly part of human experience. It may seem strange, at first blush, that the easy going, morally lax islanders of Crete would be attracted by this kind of thinking. But actually, this kind of purchased legalism is very attractive to worldly Christians with a niggling conscience. They can buy in to the whole idea of a superior spirituality and understanding, and as it were purchase legal righteousness which makes no demand upon their heart or private behaviour. And the niggling conscience is apparently appeased, to the point that it is actually "defiled" and ceases therefore to function.

1:16 They profess that they know God- There are so many parallels with the letters to Timothy. The equivalent of this is the reference to those who have "a form of Godliness" but deny its power (see on 2 Tim. 3:5). The 'profession' of knowing God may refer to some confession of faith, perhaps of a standard "form of Godliness", made at baptism.

Tit. 1:16 AVmg. speaks of those who “profess that they know God” but are “void of judgment”. The same word is used in Rom. 1:32 about those who know the judgment of God; they know it will come. But they have a mind “void of [an awareness of] judgment” (Rom. 1:28 AVmg.). We can know, know it all. But live with a mind and heart void of it.  We can know Him, but have no real personal sense of judgment to come. These are sobering thoughts. There is a theoretical knowledge of God, and the knowing of God in ongoing fruitful relationship. Thus those who do not understand will ultimately be condemned by God (Rev. 1:16-18 cp. 14:10).

But by their works they deny him- The same word is used in 2 Tim. 3:5; some had "a form of Godliness" denied the power thereof. The power of that form of Godliness issued in good works. But the legalism of these Gentile law-keepers was such that they disallowed themselves from doing good works, and their legalistic obedience actually made them "disobedient".

They are detestable, disobedient- See above. Paul the carefully obedient Pharisee, spotless as to legal righteousness, described himself at that time as being amongst the disobedient (3:3). The essential law is not about acts of commission; it is a heart issue, obedience to the spirit of Christ.

Unfit for any good work- Just as everything was impure to them (:15), so their mentality resulted in an inability to do anything good. Because the good works the Lord seeks are those which are done from a motive of gratitude for His total grace. "Unfit" translates a Greek word commonly used for 'rejection'. It's as if the Lord seeks people to do His good works in this world; but he rejects these types. Their apparent emphasis on works rather than faith left them unable to perform good works. For the heart motive is all important, and legalistic obedience stops this.