New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


3:1 Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities- to be obedient, to be eagerly ready to do every good work- These terms could refer to authority figures within the church i.e. elders. But they more naturally refer to local magistrates etc. The picture presented of the Cretan congregations is very negative. There were problems with alcoholism, slander, aggression, laziness, in trouble with the law and not obeying court judgments. They were keen to obey Mosaic Law, but not the civil law around them. They needed to be exhorted not to be "disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (:3). And yet never is there any talk about restricting the breaking of bread to these folks or casting them out of the church. Rather the focus is on having the right teaching mechanisms to try to improve these folks.

"Every good work" continues the thought from Tit. 2:14, where in response to the Lord's death for us, we are to be zealous for good works. 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. This is why this same chapter will go on to encourage us to "devote ourselves... to good works" (:8,14). 

"Eagerly ready" means 'prepared'. A related word is used in Eph. 2:10. Good works were prepared for us to do from the beginning. And we in our turn are to be eagerly ready to do them. "Beforehand prepared" suggests we were prepared for the performing of our good works from a specific beginning point. And that surely was at 'the beginning'. Our entire genetic history, the nature of our early childhood experiences and surrounding family, was prepared so that we would be born with the wiring required to do the works intended. To turn away from those works, through disinterest, laziness, wilful lack of perception... is to waste so much. We on our side must be prepared unto every good work (2 Tim. 2:21); "be ready [s.w. prepared] unto every good work" (Tit. 3:1). We are to be on the look out, prepared, for those good works . We were "beforehand prepared to glory" (Rom. 2:10, the only other usage of the Greek word). We were intended for salvation, the Kingdom and our place at the Messianic wedding banquet were "prepared" (a related word; Mt. 22:4; 25:34). But not all shall be saved, because they have wasted God's intention and not responded to it. We note the word "intention" in Eph. 2:7. By sitting at the Lord's table now we show our willingness to go along with His intention that we shall sit there eternally. We note the usage of the same word, repeatedly, about how the last supper [breaking of bread] was "prepared" ( "Where will you have us prepare for you the Passover to eat?... he will show you a large upper room prepared and ready; there prepare it for us. And the disciples went into the city and found as he had said to them. And they prepared the Passover", Mk. 14:12,15,16). The first breaking of bread was prepared for them ahead of time [just as our good works were "beforehand prepared"], although they had to prepare it. This all speaks of how our place at the final Messianic banquet is prepared for us, but we must accept the invitiation; and we show that by sitting at the banquet now.

3:2 To speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, but to be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men- One theme of Titus is that God’s amazing grace and the certainty of salvation should be perceived so strongly by us that we will not argue about words and have strife with others (:9,10; 2:12). Those who trigger divisions amongst brethren over strife about words and meanings are reflecting their own insecurity concerning their personal salvation by grace alone. The Greek is literally 'not quarrelling', using the same word as we will meet in 3:9 for "quarrels about the law". As observed on chapter 1, the Cretan converts were generally worldly and still very influenced by alcohol and the laid back, lazy life. But they were tempted to get involved with endless strivings about Jewish legal interpretation... And that makes psychological sense. They thought their uncommitted Christian life could be made right by a few acts of legalistic obedience, and getting involved in argument about abstract matters of interpretation. And the same has been seen so often in conservative Protestant circles.

Titus was to teach the Cretan brethren that because they had been washed and regenerated in baptism, therefore they were not to speak evil of others, because it was in the past that they used to be like that (Tit. 3:2-6). But they still were acting like that, even after baptism! They are called upon to remember the implications of their baptism, and live out the status they thus attained before God.

3:3 For we also once were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another- Paul says that this catena of poor behaviour was him before his conversion. Yet he was legally obedient to the Law. But it didn't elicit a spiritual person within him. So he holds up his own conversion as an example to those on Crete who were tempted to turn to the Law as a means of spirituality. Legalistic obedience just would not elicit spirituality, and Paul was the parade example of that. He wished them all to follow his pattern (:4), just as he wrote to Timothy of his being a Christ-appointed model of conversion (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

3:4 But when there appeared the kindness of God our Saviour-
Paul refers to the Lord's appearance to him on the Damascus road, and sees this as programmatic for each believer. "God our Saviour" reflects how God's kindness was manifest through the Lord Jesus, Yahoshua, 'Yah's salvation'. Eph. 2:7 clarifies that the path of expression of God's kindness is through the Lord Jesus: "His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus". His kindness is "in Christ Jesus". And we cannot be passive to that, for we are often exhorted to show "kindness" (s.w.)- in response to His kindness towards us in Jesus. The "kindness" of God is "His love toward man" which was shown on the cross (Jn. 3:16). His kindness is therefore "in Christ" and more specifically in the death of Christ. We are therefore to be "kind" to each other because God forgave us- in the cross (Eph. 4:32 s.w.). The goodness [s.w. "kindness"] of God [displayed above all through the cross] leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4), which is why we naturally examine ourselves at the breaking of bread or whenever we engage with the cross.

And His love toward man- See on :3 For we also... God's love towards man was specifically manifest, or 'appeared', in the cross. This is the continual reference of the love of God or Jesus. God so loved the world, He loved the world in this way, that He gave His Son, as the serpent lifted up on the pole in the wilderness. The Lord appeared / was made manifest to take away our sins- which was achieved on the cross.  

3:5 Not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy He saved us- This is a warning against the tendency towards Judaism in the Cretan congregations which we noted in chapter 1. The idea was that by doing works, there was a chance of future salvation. Paul's point is that we have been saved, we are in the 'saved' status, in that every believer should be able to say that if the Lord returns now, or we die now, then by grace we shall surely be saved. Hence the significance of the past tense: "He saved us". God forgives men on the basis of their faith in the blood of Christ, and association with it by baptism; "not by works of righteousness, which we have done" (Tit. 3:4-8). God's basis of salvation is not works. We must be careful not to insist on 'forsaking' sins in physical terms to the extent that we too preach justification by works. Just one sin deserves death. No amount of forsaking that sin can change that sentence. God's way of escape is for us to be in Christ, so that He looks upon us as if we are Christ, imputing Christ's perfect character to us. Therefore forsaking sin is not in itself the basis of salvation; rather is it faith in Christ. Of course, true faith shows itself in works. But none of us has the degree of faith which we ought to have, and therefore none of us does the amount or type of works which we should. To insist that someone shows their faith by specific works, e.g. certain changes in their marital status, is to insist that there is a direct, definable relationship between faith and the precise type of works which that faith leads to. Yet we are not so strict with ourselves. The faith and works of each of us are far from complete. Exactly because we are not saved by works but by God’s mercy, therefore Paul wished to “affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:5,8). In this sense, as Paul says in Romans, grace reigns as a King. It has power over every department of human life and thinking.

The grace of God guarantees our salvation. Yet we find it so hard to believe- that I, with all my doubts and fears, will really be there. Israel were warned that they were being given the land (cp. salvation) "not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart... for thou art a stiffnecked people" (Dt. 9:5,6). These words are picked up in Tit. 3:5 and applied to the new Israel: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing (baptism) of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit"- by His grace alone.
The spiritual life renews (Tit. 3:5), giving us that newness of life, that ongoing baptism and resurrection experience, which Rom. 6:4 promises. This way of life, as it develops, creates its own momentum for further change.

Through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit- "Washing" is literally 'the laver', suggesting that through baptism we come closer into the sanctuary to offer sacrifice. It is a clear reference to how baptism saves us; not, as Peter says, by the simple ritual in itself, but because it unleashes within us the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. When Paul says that after baptism, we walk in "newness of life", he has the same thought in view (Rom. 6:4). But here Paul explains the mechanism of how that works. The making new, the regeneration, is through the Holy Spirit. The only other usage of "renewing" is in Rom. 12:2, where we read of our being "transformed by the renewing of your mind". The idea is that this renewing is being done to us; it is not an appeal to renew our own minds by our own steel willed efforts, but rather to allow the renewing process to operate. Our own steel will isn’t enough to renew our minds; we are to allow the process enabled at baptism, the laver of regeneration, to have its work in us. This renewing is an ongoing, daily process ("the inward man is renewed day by day", 2 Cor. 4:16); the renewing is unto the knowledge of the image of Christ (Col. 3:10 Gk.). The purpose is to actually create the mind of Christ in us, to make us after His image; for this is what we are counted as being, and Christ through the work of the Spirit within our spirit / mind is seeking to make us like Him in reality. Romans 8 expounds this in more detail. The “regeneration”, or re-birthing, spoken of here has obvious connection with Jn. 3:3-5, which speaks of water baptism giving rise to a spiritual rebirth; and here Paul is filling out the details. This renewing by the Spirit comes about “through Jesus Christ” (:6), perhaps meaning ‘on account of our baptism into Jesus Christ’.

Baptism is a washing away of sins (cf. Acts 22:16). The descriptions of the believers as being washed from their sins in the blood of Christ therefore refers to their doing this by means of baptism (Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Tit. 3:5 [NIV] speak of this as “the washing of rebirth”, referring to our being “born of water” at baptism [Jn. 3:5]). "According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit. 3:5) connects with Christ washing the church with the water of the word (Eph. 5:26). Baptism is therefore done by Him, in a sense; His washing of us then speaks of His ongoing psychological renewal of us afterwards.

3:6 W
hich He poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour- This term is used for the shedding of the Lord's blood (Mt. 26:28 etc.) as well as for the outpouring of the Spirit. As noted on :4, the Lord's death and what it achieved is never far away from Paul's inspired thought. It is the Lord's death which compels us forward, from behind as it were, more powerfully than ever dangling in front of us the carrot of future salvation in the Kingdom. The Spirit was given as a result of the Lord's death (Jn. 7:39; symbolized by the Lord's breathing His last breath in the direction of His people, and water gushing from His smitten side). It's not only that His sacrifice enabled our salvation, and that salvation in practical terms involves our transformation by the Spirit in this life. He there on the cross is to be the inspiration for a truly spiritual, Spirit filled life. The Spirit was poured out on Pentecost (Acts 2:17,18,33); but that gift was the purifying of our hearts (Acts 15:9; see on 2:14). The Holy Spirit gift results in the love of God being shed into our hearts / minds (Rom. 5:5). We must pause to consider how the converts on Crete were a rough lot, and apparently were still the same. Paul is saying that the Spirit has been poured out richly into their minds. Why then were they not transformed? Because the Spirit does not force spirituality; we are enabled to be spiritual, we have now this huge potential for transformation. And here we are all being urged to make far fuller use of it.

This was so that being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life- The gift of the transforming Spirit was so that we might receive eternal life. Our salvation involves change now; that is why when the Lord's death enabled our salvation, the Spirit was given and made available for all who would believe. So being made heirs speaks of the Spirit making us appropriate to be heirs- by grace, for of our own strength we shall never conform our minds and lives as is appropriate. We are "made heirs" by baptism into the Lord Jesus, the seed of Abraham who is the singular "heir"; but the whole process doesn't end there. We are "made heirs", made in practice who we are by status, by the ongoing operation of the Spirit after our baptisms. Hence the NT emphasis that it is baptism which results in the gift of the Spirit. It is therefore too simplistic to argue that baptism alone makes us heirs (on the basis of Gal. 3:27-29). Baptism effects this only in that it symbolizes and demonstrates our faith in God's work, by grace through the Spirit, which will 'make us heirs'. By status, we are made heirs of the Kingdom by baptism into the Lord Jesus, Abraham's seed. But we must allow the Spirit to work in us to make us who we are by status- people with the actual faith of Abraham. The wonder of certainly having the Hope, the certainty of eternity, lays the basis for the subsequent warnings against wasting time with fruitless questions; and the simple advice to avoid heretics, literally 'schismatics', those who force a choice (Gk.) and thereby divide us. If we are truly rejoicing in the Hope, we will keep away from anything which distracts from this- even if those things are apparently connected to 'religion'. Ignore the divisive and their fruitless issues, in the light of the wonder of certain salvation. Those who do waste their times on those people and issues are in fact reflecting their own insecurity about their eprsonal salvation. For if you have the certain Hope, your sphere of thought and action will simply be different.

The connection is clearly with Heb. 11:7: "By faith Noah, being warned concerning things not seen as yet, moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith". The ideas are the same as here- "being justified by His grace ['given righteousness by grace through faith'], we might be made heirs [s.w. 'became heir'] according to the hope of eternal life". Noah was 'made an heir' of imputed righteousness through building and entering the ark, which Peter says represents baptism.

3:8 This teaching is trustworthy- AV “A faithful saying”, one of the collection of "faithful sayings" Paul often refers to, which perhaps formed a corpus of pastoral material for the illiterate church to commit to memory, and meditate upon.

And I want you to insist on these things- The teaching about the Spirit in the preceding verses is not just a nice theological extra. This is utterly fundamental to Christian life in practice; the 'insistence' was because of the desire to justify themselves by legalistic obedience to Jewish laws. We too must insist on the ministry of the Spirit and acceptance thereof. This is not just a nice idea, to be casually meddled with on the level of exposition or interpretation. This is the essence of Spiritual life and is the path towards our salvation. No wonder it was part of a "faithful saying" to be firmly committed to memory and meditated upon.

So that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works- The whole message of salvation by grace and not works is what actually provokes good works in practice; in thankful response to the salvation without works which we have received. The wonder of it is such that none who believe it can be passive to it. Paul told Titus to affirm the faithful sayings “confidently, to the end that they which have believed… may maintain good works” (Tit. 3:8 RV). The congregations’ spirituality was related to the confidence of their pastor’s presentation. Those “good works”, as ours, have been “afore prepared” in the Father’s plan for us to perform (Eph. 2:10); but we have to be inspired to live up to the potential which He has prepared for us. Num. 14:20 records how the Father forgave Israel according to Moses’ word. And in just as real a sense, He has placed the reconciliation of this world in the hands of our ministry. The belief that we will be saved is the only real anchor in life’s uncertain storm. “When the kindness of God our saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us… that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life… and concerning these things I will that thou affirm confidently, to the end that they which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works” (Tit. 3:4-8). The confident, regular reassurance of other believers was to be part of the ecclesial diet with which the Cretan brethren and sisters were constantly fed. And this assurance was to be the foundation of ecclesial growth as members individually developed the mind of Christ.

These things are excellent and profitable for people- The key issue in teaching is being helpful to others; and not simply talking about what we want to talk about.

3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law- The controversies and genealogies were therefore related to Jewish arguments. Compared to the wonder of transformation by the Spirit spoken of in the preceding verses, arguments about interpretation are to be seen as distractions which are to be avoided. The 'avoiding' in practice meant not allowing this kind of thing to be taught in the early churches.

For they are unprofitable and worthless- Compared to the teaching about the Spirit, leading to good works; which are "profitable" and "excellent" (:8).

3:10 A divisive person, after a first and second warning, reject- The context is of divisions caused by teaching about the Jewish law, and any provocation of argument about interpretation which distracted from the path of Spirituality outlined in :5-7. The rejection was not from the church but from the pool of teachers. A teacher was not to provoke endless questions, doubts and arguments about interpretation; but to positively inculcate spirituality and following of the Spirit.

3:11 Knowing that such a one is perverted and sins- "Perverted" is better "subverted"; taken over and used as an agent of the Jewish program of infiltrating and subverting the early churches, by distracting them from the essence of Christianity by arguments about interpretations of Jewish law.

Being self-condemned- If we examine / judge / condemn ourselves now in our self-examination, God will not have to do this to us at the day of judgment. If we cast away our own bodies now, the Lord will not need to cast us away in rejection (Mt. 5:30). There is a powerful logic here. If we pronounce ourselves uncondemned, we condemn ourselves (Tit. 3:11); if we condemn ourselves now, we will be uncondemned ultimately. See on 1 Cor. 11:29.

3:12 When I shall send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, give diligence to come to me at Nicopolis, for there I have decided to winter- Paul wanted the personal presence of Titus, but he was sending others to replace him in Crete during his absence. And when the replacements arrived, then Titus was to leave. We recall Paul's later begging for Timothy to personally come to him. Paul needed his brethren, very deeply. He was no self-motivated maverick.

Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing- A Jewish lawyer who had converted to Christ? Perhaps such a person was needed to address the Judaistic influence on Crete. But maybe he was indeed a secular lawyer who had been converted.

3:14 Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works
, to help those in urgent need, and not to be unfruitful- The call for good works is frequent here and in the letters to Timothy; but the works, as explained, were to flow from the experience of grace, and not as acts of isolated obedience which it was hoped might give a better chance of salvation.

All that are with me greet you. Greet those that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all- There was a difference between those who loved Paul, and the "all". Yet for all of them, including those who didn't accept Paul's authority, he wished the experience of God's gift / grace of the Spirit. If some do not accept us personally, we are still to follow Paul's example and treat them as brethren and wish them God's grace.