Reading Titus


  • Content: instructions to Titus for setting in order the church(es) on Crete, including the appointment of qualified elders and the instruction of various social groups, set against the backdrop of some false teachers
  • Author: the apostle Paul (although doubted by many)
  • Date: ca. A.D. 62-63, apparently from Macedonia at about the same time as 1 Timothy (see 3:12; Nicopolis is on the Adriatic coast of Macedonia)
  • Recipient(s): Titus, a Gentile and sometime traveling companion of Paul (see Gal 2:1-3; 2 Cor 7:6-16; 8:6, 16-24; 1 2:17 - 1 8); and the churches on Crete (Titus 3:15, "you all")
  • Occasion: Paul had left Titus on Crete to finish setting the churches in order, while he and Timothy (apparently) went on to Ephesus, where they met a very distressing situation (see 1 Timothy). But Paul had to go on to Macedonia (1 Tim 1:3; cf. Phil2:19-24); perhaps the Holy Spirit reminded him while writing 1 Timothy that some similar problems had emerged in Crete, so he addressed the churches through a letter to Titus
  • Emphases: God's people must be and do good-this is especially true of church leaders; the gospel of grace stands over against false teachings based on the Jewish law


OVERVIEW OF TITUS

    In some ways Titus appears to be a smaller version of 1 Timothy, where false teaching prompted instruction on qualifications for church leadership: at the same time Paul addresses other matters that the false teachers have triggered. Hence, both the qualifications for elders and the indictment of the false teachers have some striking similarities to what is said about them in 1 Timothy.

    But there are also some significant differences. The most noteworthy is the fact that Timothy was left in a situation where the church had been in existence for nearly twelve years, and he had to deal with elders who were leading the church astray. Titus has been left in Crete to set new churches in order. Thus, in this case, Paul begins with the qualifications for church leaders (1:5-9), before taking on the false teachers (1:10-16). This is followed by general instructions on how to deal with older and younger men and women and with slaves, with emphasis on doing good (2:l-10), which looks like an expansion of I Timothy 5:l-2 and, 6:l-2. The rest of the letter then emphasizes, in light of the grace of God their "doing good" in the world (2:11-3:8), which is again set in contrast to the false teachers (3:9-11).



SPECIFIC ADVICE FOR READING TITUS

    While problems with the false teachers lie behind much of what is said in Titus, they do not seem to be such a dominant factor as in 1 Timothy. They themselves are to be silenced (Titus 1: 11), while people who would follow them must be rebuked (1:13). There are enough similarities with I Timothy to make one think that the same kind of leaching is in view: They are into Jewish myths (Titus 1: 14) and genealogies (3:9), based on the law (3:9); they love controversies (1:10; 3:9); they are deceivers (1:10) and lovers of money (1:11); and they use the law (apparently) to promote ascetic practices (1:15). This final item gets more emphasis in Titus, which Paul responds to with a much greater emphasis both on grace and on doing good.

    So as you read, look especially for Paul,s emphasis on doing good. Although found also in 1 Timothy (1 Tim 2:10; 5:10), this theme permeates Titus (Titus 1:16;2:7, 14;3:1, 8, 14; cf. 1:8). For Paul there is no tension between grace and doing what is good. The latter is the proper issue of the former. what is at odds with grace is the ,.religious, use of the law, maintaining purity through observance of regulations, as a way of maintaining God's favor. But a genuine experience of grace results in a people who are eager to do good (2:14). Thus these two themes merge in two great theological passages (2:11-14; 3:4-7), the latter of which constitutes another of the five trustworthy sayings in these letters.


A WALK THROUGH TITUS 

 1:1-4Salutation
 
    As with I Timothy, and in contrast to 2 Timothy, this letter is more "business" than personal, thus it lacks a thanksgiving/prayer report. For whose sake (Titus's or the churches'), do you think, is the long elaboration on Paul's apostleship? After you've read through the whole letter, you might want to come back to this passage and list the ways it anticipates items in the letter.

 1:5-9Appointing Elders 

    This list is very similar to I Timothy 3:2-7. The fact that "appointment" is in view here (not "replacement") is expressly stated (Titus 1:5), which also accounts for the one major difference with I Timothy, namely, the duties mentioned in Titus 1:9. On their being "hospitable" (v. 8), see 3 John. And don't miss the next item in Titus 1:8: They are to "love what is good."

 1:10-16Opposing False Teachers  

    The false teachers must be silenced because they play right into the hands of a proverbial understanding of Cretans. Believers who would be tempted to follow them must be rebuked. Again note how the section ends: These people are "unfit for doing anything good."

 2:1-10Godly Living for Various Social Groups  

    Picking up the same four groups as in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, plus the slaves from 6:1-2, Paul gives instructions on "sound doctrine" (medical imagery for being healthy) for older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and slaves. Note how often the reasons given for godly living are for the sake of those on the outside (Titus 2:5, 8, 10). Again, note verse 7: Titus is to set an example "by doing what is good."

 2:11-15The Basic for Godly Living  

    Now Titus is given the theological bases for the preceding instructions- the grace of God, our future hope, and Christ's redemption, which has as its goal a people of his own, who are "eager to do what is
good" (v. 14).

3:1-8 The People of God in the World 

    As in 2: 1 - 1 0, notice how "doing good" is pointed outward-how to live in a godly manner for the sake of an ungodly world (3: 1 -2), since we were once there ourselves (v.3). The basis for such living is salvation wrought by the Triune God (w. 4-7)-rebirth initiated by God's love and effected through Christ's justifying grace and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, who is poured out on us generously through Christ. Verse 8 offers the motive.

 3:9-11Final Indictment of the False Teachers
  
    You might want to compare what is said here with 1:10- 16. Thus the letter signs off the way it began.

 3:12-15Concluding Personal Notes and Greetings  

    Note that after some personal words to Titus about his and others' comings and goings (w. 12-13), Paul hits the main theme of "doing what is good" one final time (v. 14), before a concluding exchange of greetings and the grace-benediction.


The significance of this letter for the biblical story is Paul's insistence
that grace and doing good belong together, as long as the latter is
not confused with religious observances.