New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


2:1 But you- Despite the presence of other, false, teachers, Titus was to focus on teaching which promoted spiritual health or 'soundness'.

Must teach what accords with sound doctrine- His teaching was to accord with sound teaching; presumably referring to the basic teachings which comprised the Gospel message. The argument suggests that “sound doctrine” is a body of material against which subsequent teaching can be compared. Being unsound in the Faith is another way of saying that in works a man is denying Christ; to be "sound in the faith" is to tell the truth and not be lazy nor gluttonous (Tit. 1:13,16). Good behaviour "adorns the doctrine of God", i.e. the basic doctrines of the Gospel (Tit. 2:10); the practical commandments of Tit. 2:2-10 are "the things which befit the sound doctrine" (Tit. 2:1 RV) which Titus was to teach. It's almost as if Paul is telling Titus to bring out the practical implications of the doctrines which he was teaching. “Doctrine" refers to a code of behaviour, not just a set of correct propositions concerning God and His plan with men. Thus we don't read about "pure doctrine" anywhere in the AV; but rather "sound doctrine": living, active doctrine. The things which become sound doctrine are soberness, etc. (Tit. 2:1-4).

2:2 That older men- This may refer to old in age, or to elders. The way the commands proceed to younger men (:6) may suggest it is older people who are in view.

Be sober-minded, dignified- This and other characteristics which Paul is appealing for were not inculcated by obedience to Jewish food laws and rituals which form the context of these exhortations (1:15). A number of these characteristics are mentioned in :12 as being inculcated instead by living under grace. Realizing that we are saved in spite of ourselves actually provokes in us a desire to be spiritual in response to that grace. For we cannot be passive to knowing that by grace, I shall indeed live eternally.

, sound in faith, in love, in patience- This appeal is made to old men [elders?], old women and young men (:5,6). It was obviously a very needed exhortation in the context. And yet the ecclesias in Crete were prone to be attracted by hard core Judaism, according to our notes on chapter 1. This is proof for all time that legalistic obedience and keeping Jewish food laws (see on 1:15) is not the same as self-control. Indeed it would seem that by attempting legalistic obedience, these Gentile converts were justifying a lack of self-control in their lives in other areas. Col. 2:23 makes precisely the same point- that obedience to Jewish rituals is of "no value" in the battle against self-gratification. By contrast, living under grace is what teaches us to overcome the flesh (:12).

That older women likewise be reverent in demeanour- Vincent: 'as those who are engaged in sacred service'- an allusion to priestly service. The idea is that the rank and file also live out the spirit of priesthood. The Greek means 'on sacred duties'. This could mean that these older women were elders in some kind of spiritual office in the church. But the allusion may be to priesthood, which was the domain of males under the old covenant. But now the entire church were to see themselves as a "holy priesthood", including older women, who were otherwise excluded from religious duties in most religions including Judaism. True Christianity opens up opportunities for service to those whom society would generally consider as unqualified to serve or be useful. Elderly women were particularly in that category in the first century, and there are many such groups within societies today. But the Lord has use for everyone because He has given each convert unique talents and callings to service- and not just to the visible leadership of a church.

Not slanderers- The same word usually translated "devil". This is proof enough that the word diabolos simply means a slanderer and does not necessarily refer to any cosmic being. But the 'devil' is often used as a personification for the Jewish opposition to the Christian movement in the first century. These women had perhaps been influenced by Jewish thinking, just as in 1 Tim. 4:7 we noted that the older sisters in Ephesus were teaching Jewish fables.

Nor enslaved to much wine- The incidence of alcoholism amongst elderly females is not something which receives much attention today, and we can be sure that this was a radical area to address in first century Crete. The older women were liable to just be overlooked in society and in any pastoral program. But Paul sets a great example in showing that each and every believer, in whatever situation they are in, must be valued and cared for. And he puts the finger on a weakness which many would've just shrugged off as irrelevant to the main thrust of church life and just a personal matter. But if they were teachers, it was not right that they were also alcoholics.

Teachers of that which is good- These women had a teaching ministry- something unheard of in most contemporary religions. This is one reason for thinking that the 'older women' and 'older men' here could refer to elders rather than necessarily those older in age. We see here the immense value of the human person. In an age when old women were considered irrelevant to the functioning of any religious group, Christianity had a unique place for them. They are not criticized for teaching; as we saw in commenting upon 1 Timothy, the female teachers are rebuked for the content of their teaching rather than the fact they were teaching at all. The pastoral letters repeatedly focus upon the need for correct teaching, rather than suggesting that troublesome individuals be excluded from the church or the breaking of bread. The lack of such commands is significant. It is a silence that is deafening. These churches were threatened by serious false teaching and immorality; but Paul's inspired answer is to control the platform, the teaching ministry, rather than throwing people right out of the church or the symbols of the Lord's patient, saving love.

2:4 So that they may train the young women- This could suggest that there was a specific women's ministry intended, after the pattern of Miriam teaching the women of Israel.

To love their husbands, to love their children- In an age of arranged marriage rather than love marriage, this was a required exhortation. And it shows that 'love' as God intends is an act of the will. It is not something which comes and then can leave. It can be practiced in response to a command like this. The 'love' they were to show them was not, therefore, the natural love of a women towards her children; but the conscious act of Christian love. They were living in an age, as we are, where people were "without natural affection" (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3). There was to be a resurrection of love, and a break with the spirit of the age in regard to feelings and family commitment. It could be that there was a specific reference here to not practicing abortion or infanticide, which were common.

2:5 To be self-controlled, pure, working at home- The Greek in all these verbs suggests a moral, sexual tendency towards immorality which was to be guarded against. Again we note that the attraction of legalistic Judaism had not influenced them for good. Rather were they perhaps feeling justified in immorality because of a few acts of legal obedience.

Kind and submissive to their own husbands- This is written in the context of church life where both husband and wife were believers. For wives in Eph. 5:22 and Col. 3:18 were to submit themselves to their own husbands as unto the Lord Jesus. The context of Titus is that there were many false teachers around, demanding submission to them. But the women were to not submit themselves to them, but to their husbands who were hopefully leading the family in sound teaching. Likewise believing slaves were to be submissive to their believing masters, who also were intended to be teaching them rightly (:9). The force of "their own" suggests to me that there were competing claims for submission; and the context is of false teachers seeking submission to themselves. This I suggest is the first context for the 'submission' which is in view here and in :9.

That the preaching of the word of God may not be mocked- The pastoral letters continually reflect a concern that there was a watching world outside the churches, eager to slander and mock the Christian movement. And no reason must be given for this to be legitimate. He assumes that all believing men and women would be preachers of the word, yet if the wives were disorderly in their behaviour they would bring mockery upon the message preached. See on 1 Tim. 6:1.

2:6 The younger men likewise exhort to be self-controlled- See on 2:2 self-controlled. But the Greek is literally 'sober minded', and the "likewise..." suggests this may be a continuation of the criticism of the older women for being alcoholics (:3). The soberness in any case is a required characteristic of all believers because of the immense gravity of the issues with which we constantly deal with- eternal life and eternal death, living in the shadow of the Lord's crucifixion death for us. These things can only issue in a sober, serious mindset.

2:7 In all things show yourself as an example of good works- This suggests a conscious self exhibition, of the kind Paul makes in 1 Tim. 1:13-15. This is not posing or posturing; it is a realistic acceptance of the fact that actions speak louder than words. In a largely illiterate congregation, the real teaching of the Christian life was by example, and not by appeal to words on scrolls or ancient manuscripts which were inaccessible to the majority.

In your teaching show integrity- Lack of integrity in teaching is found in telling people what we perceive they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear from God.

Dignity- The spirit of first century Crete was what we have today- a love of entertainment, light hearted joking and enjoyment. This is not to feature in teaching. We are dealing with ultimately serious issues, of eternity. And if we have grasped them, our teaching will likewise be with an appropriate dignity and soberness. The continual appeals for soberness [NEV "self-control"] were obviously needed in Crete and they are in our age no less.

2:8 Sound speech that cannot be condemned; so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us- Again we have the impression of the Christian churches being surrounded by critics, who had infiltrated them, and who were ever seeking to slander the Christian movement. The context requires that there were within the churches such 'opponents', eagerly grabbing hold of the words and behaviour of Christian leaders in order to speak evil of the Way of God in Christ. We recall how the Jewish opposition "spake evil of the Way" in Acts 19:9. The opposition were going to do this no matter how careful Titus was. Therefore the "put to shame" may refer to how they would ultimately be silenced at the day of judgment, where it will supremely be manifest that the true Christian "cannot be condemned". Speaking of the sudden destruction of the wicked at the future judgment, David reflected: "So they shall make their own tongues to fall upon themselves" (Ps. 64:8). Unsound speech will be condemned, or perhaps [will lead to our] condemnation.

2:9 Encourage servants to be submissive to their masters- See on :5 submissive. The implication would be that their masters were also believers; see on :9.

And to be pleasing to them in all things- The other 8 occurrences of the Greek word are all about being well pleasing to the Lord. This confirms my suggestion that the masters were believers "in Christ", and they were to view their masters as the Lord; all service done to them was done to Christ. This was an incredibly liberating concept for those locked into slavery, just as it is to those locked in to the slavery of working on minimum wage or other forms of modern slavery. One of the most obvious issues faced by Christian slaves was that they were often treated as the sexual property of their masters or mistresses. Should they resist or not? We could read Paul's inspired position here as assuming that what is in view is "all things" which are not contrary to the Lord's way. And he is only addressing that. But that would be an assumption. So we must at least allow the possibility that he is here allowing believers in difficult circumstances to follow one principle [obedience to masters] whilst breaking another.

Not argumentative- The slave owned nothing, not even his or her own body. There was a chronic search for meaning and self value, a desire to preserve identity, define boundaries and keep self-respect, and secret ownership over at least some things, however small. These needs reflected themselves in arguing back with masters over requests made, and in petty theft of objects (:10). All these psychological needs were met in Christ, and according to contemporary references to Christianity, it was very popular amongst the slave population for precisely these reasons. The Lord likewise knows exactly our needs, emotionally and psychologically. And if we will accept it, there is the ultimate answer in Christ.

2:10 Not petty thieves- See on :9 Not argumentative. The believers who were in slavery were told no to 'purloin', not to steal little bits of property and money in the hope that one day they would save enough to buy their freedom. And yet we in our century with our mortgages and pension schemes are in just the same desperate, petty, small minded position! The ultimate freedom has already been paid for and given us. In Christ we have "all things" that really matter. The Greek word is only used elsewhere in describing how Ananias and Saphira "kept back" part of the price (Acts 5:2,3). This implies they were guilty of similar 'petty theft'. They only kept back a small part of the price, lest their story lack credibility. But for this they were condemned; just as false weights and measures were so condemned under the Law, when the falsity would have been very small in order to appear credible. God is in the small things and watches our attitude intently; small things and attitues to wealth in petty matters are clear indicators of our real spiritual level. The word is used in the LXX for how Achan stole quietly from the spoil of Jericho (Josh. 7:1). So small scale dishonesty is being connected with the behaviour of the likes of Achan and Ananias which led to their immediate condemnation. Such small scale dishonesty by slaves  was extremely common, and is often mentioned by contemporary writers; to the point that a servant was called a 'thief' in Latin slang.  No matter how common a sin may be, this doesn't change how seriously God sees it. That's a simple take away from all this.

But showing integrity in everything; that they in all things may make attractive the doctrine of God our Saviour- The psychological breakout from the awful mental trap of slavery... this was a huge advertisement for the teaching of the Gospel, and of the practical success of God's plan of salvation in Christ.

2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men- “The grace of God… bringing salvation to all men…” is an allusion to the great commission to preach salvation to all men. But here, grace is said to do this. The conclusion seems unavoidable: grace and the preacher are inextricably linked. The experience of grace is the essential motive behind all witness, and the witness itself is about God's saving grace. That salvation is by grace enables us to look forward with eagerness rather than uncertainty to the second coming, and our lives are thereby changed. "The grace of God… teaches us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts… looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2:11-13). The word 'appearing' refers both to the appearing of grace now, and the appearing of the Lord at the second coming (:13). The ultimate outworking of grace will be at the Lord's return, when we shall be raised from the dead and this mortal shall put on immortality. The basis for our confidence at His appearing is that it is grace which will appear.

The Greek for “all men” suggests that God’s grace that brings salvation to all has appeared; but we have to take that salvation to others and they must respond to it. "All men" and "us", we who have heard it, are paralleled (:12). Or we could conclude that potentially all men could be saved, but they will not be because the preachers haven’t taken the message of God’s grace to them and they haven’t all responded to it. See on 1:3. In the context, Paul has just addressed various categories- old men, old women, elderly female alcoholic Christians, young men and slaves. God's grace has appeared to "all men" in the sense of all kinds of people; and His desire to save teaches all people, of whatever type and station, the transformation of their lives which is appropriate in their situation.

2:12 It trains us- "Teaching us", although the word is elsewhere often translated 'to chasten'. Feeling and experiencing God's grace does chasten us, far more strongly than direct discipline in terms of punishment. Just as God’s grace is likened to a king in Romans, reigning over us, here it is likened to a teacher. From the time of our spiritual birth at baptism, we are trained up by grace. The contrast is with how Paul was trained up from a child in the things of the Law (Acts 22:3); Titus was up against converts who were prone to influence by legalistic Judaism, as noted on chapter 1. If we grasp the wonder of salvation by grace, that we are saved by status, counted as righteous right now, we can’t be passive to it; we have to respond by living a spiritual life. Knowing we are saved by grace can alone enable us to look forward eagerly to Christ’s return (:13). The initial aim of the letter is to guide Titus as to how to teach and who to appoint as teachers. But he is reminded that the most powerful teacher is the experience of grace. The Gentile converts on Crete were tempted by Judaistic legal obedience; but as noted on chapter 1, this wasn't achieving spiritual characteristics in them. It is grace which teaches them.

To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions- "Worldly" is only used elsewhere about the Jewish world (Heb. 9:1). The lusts or passions of the Jewish world were those provoked by living under law, believing that obedience to commandment and avoidance of sin is the way to salvation. Paul's autobiographical section in Romans 7 describes this in his own experience; obsession with law bred lust and sinful desire. Living under grace is the way to 'deny' those lusts; believing that we are saved by grace, already in the status of 'saved', totally independent of our obedience or disobedience. Our response to that will be so powerful that we reject or overcome the passions of the flesh.

And to live self-controlled, upright, and Godly lives in this present age- These are all internal, mental characteristics brought forth by God’s “grace”, or gift. That gift is the work of the Holy Spirit within our spirit.

2:13 As we look for the blessed hope- Grace and faith in the forgiveness of sins teaches us to look for the blessed hope and the appearing of Jesus. It is not the apparent fulfilment of Bible prophecy in geopolitical events which makes us look for the blessed Hope. Rather it is God's grace and the certainty of salvation which makes us look for it the more eagerly. The same word is used in Jude 21, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life". It is confidence in this which allows us to be as men who wait in constant expectation of our Lord's return (s.w. Lk. 12:36 "men that wait for their Lord"). We look not simply for His coming, but for the Hope of salvation. The Greek elpis doesn’t mean a 'hope for the best' kind of hope but rather refers to a solid certainty. If we aren't sure of salvation at His return, we can hardly look forward to it. A firm grasp of salvation- definite salvation- by a real grace alone means we can look to that day with confidence and expectation. See on Col. 1:5. The 'blessed' hope is literally 'the happy hope'; and we "look for" this, or as the Greek suggests, we admit it, we accept it. God's grace therefore gives us the joy of certain salvation and joyful anticipation of the return of the Lord Jesus. The good news of the Gospel really is of joy and peace and security. But too often the only real message seems to be 'Learn to read the Bible effectively, understood a package of true doctrines, then you will be responsible to judgment, and hopefully, you may be accepted for eternity'. This is a non-Gospel. It is hardly good news, which brings joy and peace along with it.

The manifesting of the glory of the great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ- The same Greek word used in :11 for 'the appearing' of God's grace. The point is that when grace appeared in our lives, we were assured of salvation at the Lord's return- in the sense that we should be able to say that if the Lord comes now, or we die now, then we shall surely be saved. If God’s glory is to be eternally revealed, we are to live that same glory within our own minds now; in this sense we “have eternal life”, the kind of life we shall eternally live begins now.

2:14 Who gave himself for us- The phrase 'to give self for' is used several times in the NT; it doesn't necessarily have to refer to the crucifixion, although that is surely largely in view. The Lord's 'giving of Himself' resulted in purification and redemption, according to this verse. But those things are elsewhere predicated upon the Lord's blood, shed on the cross.

That he might redeem us from all iniquity- "Redeem" or 'ransom' suggests that we are bought out of slavery to our master- "iniquity". As Romans 6 puts it, we are no longer slaves of sin once we accept the Lord's death in baptism. We are totally forgiven of all sin once "in Christ"; by grace and not by our works. The Lord's death didn't simply redeem us from all kinds of sin because we are forgiven those sins; but rather, because the grace shown us results in us quitting sin.

And purify to himself a people for his own possession- There is another aspect attaching to the fact that the Lord obtained our freedom from our sins. Because we are forgiven, not because of our works of repentance but simply by grace are placed in a status of 'saved', we cannot be passive. We respond to this by allowing ourselves to be 'purified' by His Spirit, and zealously responding in good works. This purification, whereby He possesses / dwells within us, is by the Spirit.And thus we become His very own personal possession. We are His, and He thereby abides in us. The argument is so similar to that in Romans. "Purify" translates a Greek word often used about ritual, legal purification. The reference is to the fact that Jewish false teachers had been pressurizing these Gentile converts with their various theories of purification (1:15). The Lord is now at work to purify us, rather than us having to perform rituals to purify ourselves. We are to respond to His actions by purifying ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1). But the Biblical emphasis is upon His cleansing / purifying action, which we respond to. The gift of the Spirit is described as God purifying our hearts in response to our having believed the Gospel (Acts 15:9). The Holy Spirit is a holy mind / disposition, a working within us, rather than any external ability to perform miracles. The sacrifice of Christ means that our conscience, our mind, is "purged from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14). Believing we are totally redeemed from sin means that we wish to respond in good works of service. And we are empowered to do so by the conscience being purified. The language of Heb. 9:14 is very similar to what we have here in Titus. There are many parallels between Titus and the letters to Timothy; in them we read of the pure / purified heart and conscience of the believer (1 Tim. 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; 2:22). This purifying of the heart is a reference to the Lord's work through His spirit, in the hearts of all those who have accepted His redemption of them by grace. All this is in pointed contrast to the way the Jewish false teachers in Crete were offering sinful Gentiles a conscience about sin which was defiled rather than purified (1:15,16).

Zealous of good works- As noted above, these good works arise from believing that we have been redeemed from sin by grace and not works. The wonder of that is so great that we can no way be passive to it. The Greek for "zealous" is usually used about zeal for the Mosaic law, which was an attraction for the group on Crete. But the "good works" in view are not works of obedience to legal statutes, but the good works planned by God from the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:10). Everything was set up for us; to encounter God's grace in the cross, and His forgiveness of us for our specific sins; and therefore our response to Him will be of a uniquely personal nature, doing specific, unique good works which were prepared for us to do. And we are never better than when living in response to the cross in the way intended.

 2:15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority- The authority was the Spirit-guided word of Paul in the letter to Titus. The "things" refer to the wonderful message of salvation by grace, and transformation in response to it. These things were what should be taught from the platform, and not Judaistic legalism. And they were to be a comfort to the hearers [the idea of 'exhort'].

Let no one despise your teaching- See on 1 Tim. 4:12 Let no man despise your youth. People did despise the teaching; but we allow others to despise us. It is our choice whether we allow them to despise us. The Judaists would have mocked the message of salvation from sin by grace; they were arguing for purification by ritualistic obedience rather than by the Lord's work in our hearts by the Spirit. But Titus was to be unashamed of the message.