All the Bible, Every Book: Titus
Bring Credit to the Teachings of God
This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths,
so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works.
These things are good and beneficial for all people.
The thirteen Pauline Epistles develop the foundational truths of Christianity introduced in the Gospels. Paul wrote nine letters to churches and four to individuals. He writes from the perspective of the Apostle to the Gentiles, church-planter, pastor, and friend. His letters contain instructions, exhortations, and corrections that were real-time—messages to real people, gathered in real churches, with real problems as they endeavored to follow Christ and make a difference in their world. One consistent theme undergirds all of Paul’s teaching—the reality of every believer’s position in Christ.
Like His Master before him, Paul gathered a group of men to be with him as he ministered the gospel. Timothy and Titus were especially close to Paul (1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4), and he mentored them through challenging assignments. He chose Titus for the most difficult leadership roles. Titus accompanied him uncircumcised to Jerusalem in the middle of the controversy over whether Christians should follow the Jewish Law (Acts 15). He chose Titus to straighten out the problems in Corinth (2 Corinthians). Titus was a leader in the project to collect gifts for the suffering church in Judea (Romans 15:25-26). Paul has nothing but praise for his young companion. Titus was the ideal pastor, genuinely devoted to God and his flock (2 Corinthians 8:16, 17), and effective and earnest in his leadership (2 Corinthians 7:13-15).
Pastoring the unruly churches of Crete may have been Titus’s toughest duty. Paul left Titus in Crete to set the church there in order (Titus 1:5), by dealing with false teachers (1:10-11) and corruption (1:12). “Tradition has it that Titus, having become the first bishop of Crete, died there in advanced years. His successor, Andreas Cretensis, eulogized him in the following terms: ‘The first foundation-stone of the Cretan church; the pillar of the truth; the stay of the faith; the never silent trumpet of the evangelical message; the exalted echo of Paul’s own voice’.” (Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 76)
No book of the Bible more clearly connects the grace of God in Christ to the manifestation of good works in His people. “The purpose of the epistle of Titus was to instruct him about what he should do and teach in the Cretan churches. A special theme of the letter is the role of grace in promoting good works among God’s people.” (Duane Litfin, “Titus” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 761) The key word of Titus is kosmeo, the verb that means to “adorn,” to set forth attractively—as a musician does, who plays a piece of music beautifully. (Tom Constable, Titus, p. 4). This pastoral epistle provides instructions for every church to fulfill the God-given assignment to “adorn,” “show the beauty of,” “bring credit to” the teaching of Jesus (God our Savior) in everything:
Titus: Display the beauty of Christ’s teaching through your good works!
The letter divides into two major sections: (1) appoint elders who “adorn” the teaching of Christ; (2) organize the church according to sound doctrine so that its members “adorn” the teaching of Christ.
I. Paul exhorts Titus to set in order the Cretan churches to display the beauty of Christ’s teaching by appointing qualified elders, correcting false teaching, and teaching its members Christ-honoring behaviors.
A. Paul salutes Titus by reminding him of the centrality of the truth of Christ Jesus concerning eternal life that has been entrusted to the church. (1:1-4)
B. Paul exhorts Titus to appoint qualified elders in the church who demonstrate the Spirit’s power in their lives and hold firmly to and teach effectively the faithful message (1:5-9), and to rebuke false teachers whose motives and lives demonstrate they are disqualified as leaders or teachers. (1:10-16)
D. Paul exhorts Titus to instruct the Cretan Christians of all ages and social relationships and strata to adorn Christ’s teaching with good works. (2:1-3:5)
1. Communicate the behavior that accompanies sound teaching. (2:1)
2. Older men and women are to demonstrate mature, selfless behaviors that will encourage younger Christians and model how to live in such a way to bring credit to the teachings of Jesus. (2:2-10)
3. Remind all that the power to live this way comes from God’s grace that redeems believers from slavery to sin, assures them of the “blessed hope” of the coming of Christ, and makes us eager to do good. (2:11-15)
4. Sum up all of this teaching by exhorting believers to live radically different lives as citizens of Crete due to their resources and responsibilities in Christ. (3:1-11)
Be exemplary citizens—obedient to authority, ready to do good works, peaceful, courteous, mature, and unified (3:1-4), because you are recipients of a wondrous salvation by grace (3:5-7). Therefore, stop fighting and living selfishly and start insisting that believers embrace the truths of salvation by grace and live as if it were true—intent on engaging in good works. (3:8-11).
E. Paul gives final encouragement and instructions to Titus and the Cretan church. (3:12-15)
II. TITUS AND YOU: The key verb kosmeo is used in Matthew 25:7 to describe the trimming of a lamp. When the lamp is “trimmed” by removing the burned off part of the wick, the flame burns brighter. This is our privilege—to live a life unencumbered by sin and worldly concerns so that the “teachings of God our Savior may burn brightly in our lives. One of the most practical books of the Bible on the Christian life, Titus gives every Christian three requirements for displaying the beauty of Christ’s teaching in everyday life:
A. Recognize Your Need to Know the Word of God: Titus stresses sound doctrine as the “message” of God who cannot lie (1:1-4), the “faithful message” elders must hold firmly (1:9), “sound teaching” that is the basis of Christ-honoring behaviors (2:1), and the “teaching of God our Savior” (2:10). The honest truth that understanding sound doctrine doesn’t necessarily translate into a Christ-honoring life does not release us from our responsibility to know sound doctrine. Wrong beliefs always lead to wrong behaviors. Any believer who wants to adorn the faithful message of God our Savior must begin with the foundational commitment to know His Word. Are you consistently, persistently, and, as a lifetime discipline, growing in your understanding of God’s Word, the Bible?
B. Rest in the Grace of God: Titus gloriously describes the grace of God. The “chosen ones” “hope of eternal life” is the motivation for godliness (1:1-4). The “grace of God” brings salvation to all people and “trains us to reject godless ways” as we “wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope” of Jesus’ soon coming,” and rely on the fact that “he gave himself to set us free from every kind of lawlessness,” so that we are “eager to do good” (2:11-15). “The kindness of God” in Christ appeared, saving us “not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy” so that we have been made completely new by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit” and are declared righteous as heirs of eternal life (3:4-7). The only works that will adorn the work of Christ flow from the unshakeable confidence that we belong to Him and have been made completely new and totally empowered solely due to His grace. Have you settled this in your own life?
C. Resolve to Do Good Works: Titus reveals the purpose of the grace of God being poured out on undeserving sinners. We are to glorify Christ by doing good works in His name. Jesus wants us to obey Him by displaying His life in the primary relationships of life in community and as citizens. The need to respond to grace by doing good works is stressed six times in three chapters: (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).