Titus 3:1-15.
 Minister as Good Citizens 

        American Journal of Biblical Theology     Copyright 2004, J.W. Carter
 
www.biblicaltheology.com          Scripture quotes from KJV


Paul's letter to Titus follows Paul's commission of Titus to serve the young churches of Crete, churches that were probably founded by Christians who left Jerusalem shortly after their experience at Pentecost. Though they were excited about their new-found faith, they may have lacked sufficient discipleship experience to have attained solid doctrine.  Paul's letter to Titus reveals that, by the time of Titus' arrival there, the church was in crisis.  The leadership of the individual church groups knew little of Christian doctrine, resulting in groups that were little more than social clubs with a Christian theme.  The predominant motivation for leadership was personal pride, and the philosophies and beliefs of Cretian culture were adopted by the church.  The Cretian culture was more decadent than many other areas of the Mediterranean, resulting in a church that had wandered far from the purity of the faith.  

Up to this point in the letter, Paul has dealt with the situation with the leadership by exposing the problem and providing guidance on identifying and training leadership (Chapter 1).  Then he turned to a discussion of the appropriate conduct of Christians within their own community (Chapter 2.)  Now Paul turns to a discussion of the appropriate conduct of Christians as members of the non-Christian culture.  It is clear that there was little, if any, difference between the conduct of the members of the Cretian church and those of the non-Christian community within which they lived.  

As Paul presents a formula for righteous living for those who are members of the church body, how does a Christian continue to be a member of a godless, secular world and yet be appropriately separated from it?  Some Christians think that, to be separate from the secular world, one must be completely cloistered, avoiding contact with it.  Such a philosophy nullifies the ministry of evangelism, and if all Christians felt this way, nobody from outside the families of the church would ever hear the Gospel.  This describes much of Christian culture today, where churches are social organizations that care little for the state of those in the world around them, churches that do what they as a body want to do, and through a minimalist attempt to minister to the lost, neglect their true commission to make new disciples.   The church has not been called to cloister, but called to serve as a beacon of God's love in the community.  How can the church do this, and yet maintain the integrity of behavior, doctrine and message?

Titus 3:1.

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 

Paul first states that Christians have an important responsibility to their secular community and its government.  Most churches today reside in communities where the government is relatively supportive of their existence.  This was not true in the first century, and even as Christians are critical of this secular culture and government today, the argument to avoid the government was even more defensible in the Cretian church in Paul's day.  The "them" in this sentence refers to the members of the church whom Titus has been called to serve and teach.  Paul first states that the church is to be "subject to principalities and powers."  This is the same "principalities and powers" that Paul writes about to the Ephesians as those that Christians wrestle against. (Eph. 6:12.)  Christians find themselves in opposition to the principles of secular government, but are still called to be in submission to that government.  This submission is the same, voluntary submission that he describes as the voluntary submission of a Christian slave to his owner.  It is the same voluntary submission that husbands and wives have for one another (Eph. 5:21).  Though the government is secular, and by its secular nature is often godless and evil, it is still ordained by God (Rom. 13) to maintain social order and collectively provide for the people.  

Consequently, as Christians are in subjection to the authority of God through the Lord, Jesus Christ, they are also to recognize and accept the authority of government and live within it in an obedient manner.  The witness of the true nature of the church is maintained when its members are obedient to the laws of the land.  A spirit of rebellion against the "magistrates" is inconsistent with the basic doctrines of the faith, as those doctrines stand upon a foundation of agape love.  Those who are obedient to the magistrates are respected by them, and through a positive relationship with the government, the church is empowered to have some influence and serve as an agent for positive change.  

Paul then, assuming an attitude of obedience to the government, calls upon Christians to be ready, to be vigilant, as they look for opportunities for good works.  "Every" good work can include providing tangible support for the good things the government is engaged in, as well as working to make a positive change in government.  Citizens of the United States have often seen the positive influence of Christian leadership who, without exception, are highly criticized by the secular culture for their faith as they serve in office.  The secular world and media will do all they can do diminish the influence of Christian leadership, but those who's faith is mature enough to withstand those dark principalities, do provide both a testimony to the faith, and are able to make positive changes through godly leadership.  Christians should, in a spirit of agape love, support those Christians who are engaged in public office, and be wise enough to recognize when the secular media is distorting the truth in order to press their anti-Christian agenda.  "Every good work" can be an encouragement to any Christian who feels called to serve as salt and light in government.  

Titus 3:2.

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. 

As Christians are engaged as citizens in this secular world, they are to be different.  The nature of love in the heart of a Christian should motivate them to be different than those who do not understand the nature of agape.  A Christian is a missionary of the gospel in this secular world.  However, it is easy to forget that commission, given the variety of events and persecutions that Christians experience when immersed in the wickedness of the world.  

Speak evil of no man.  The lost of the world are just that:  lost.  They are still loved of God, and God seeks their redemption.  It is God's plan that their redemption come through Jesus Christ, following the hearing of the gospel so that they can make an informed decision for faith.  It is the commission of the Christian to be the one to share that gospel.  This defines the relationship between one with faith and one without.   Consequently, it is not appropriate that Christians take part in tearing down or speaking evil of those who have not turned to God in faith.  Rather, Christians are called to love all people, not just those who are easy to love.  Love is not expressed by speaking evil, but by speech that is edifying, speech that opens doors to ministry and mission.

Be no brawlers, but gentle.  Secular humanism is driven by pride and self-promotion.  Pride and self promotion is often expressed in violent and abusive behavior as one fights for his own "space."  Violence is the response of one who does not love.  Consequently, violence is not an appropriate expression of Christian faith.  The word used for "brawling" refers specifically to violence that is focused toward other persons.  The Spirit of Christ is always gentle.

Meekness unto all men.  Meekness is characterized by bringing strength and directing it under external control.  Strength is not lost in meekness.  I am reminded of an incident involving my then adolescent nephew.  He came to me with eyes full of tears resulting from the abuse he was receiving from other boys.  He was encouraged when I told him how he was a "better man" than they were, for this young man was very accomplished in the martial arts and if push came to shove, he would have easily handled them all.  However, though he had the capacity to respond by brawling, he chose for himself the path of meekness.  This was a far more difficult path for a young man, and is an example to all Christians.  He bore the burden of the persecution he was receiving, drawing his strength from his faith and those who knew him.

Titus 3:3.

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 

There is an implication here that Christians are poor citizens among the lost because they think of themselves as being better, or certainly more "righteous."  One does not need to search far to see evidence of this.  As Christians relate to those in the lost world, they should never forget that this list of characteristics of the lost is also descriptive of every Christian before they received God's grace.  This list is not inappropriate behavior for those who are lost, for without God, the very nature of the spirit of a lost soul is self-centered.  It is the expression of self-centeredness that produces these behaviors, and even when Christians turn their focus away from God and back to themselves, they will revert to such behavior.  The "foolishness" that Paul refers to is a lack of spiritual discernment.  Spiritual discernment is not to be expected from the godless pagan.  It is this lack of discernment that causes the lost to fall into the list of behaviors that Paul describes.  Again, even the Christian must maintain a level of spiritual discernment to relate to his pagan neighbor in love, 

Titus 3:4-6.

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 

The Christian who is mature and discerning will understand that, without God, no person has any righteousness of their own.  Jesus stated this when He said, "No man is good"  (Matt. 19:17).  Salvation did not come from any righteous act of man, and so every Christian who is saved received that salvation solely by grace because of God's mercy.  There is no work of righteousness that can attain the goal of salvation, so no Christian can point to their own "righteousness" to try to elevate themselves over the lost.  Still, the benefit-reward philosophy that is natural for man is hard for men to set aside.  People want to think that salvation is the reward for something they have done for God, either by living "right" or following some set of rules or guidelines.  Most world religions teach a success that comes from their own determination of righteousness that comes from works.  However, the gospel teaches that salvation is "not by works of righteousness which we have done."  No man can point to his righteousness and use it as a badge of honor that separates him from others, for every person is unrighteous, and he who would use this as a reason for self-promotion is already demonstrating an unrighteous pride and arrogance.   It is only through what Jesus Christ did that people can be found righteous before a pure and righteous God.  It is in this manner that Jesus is Savior as well as Lord.  

Titus 3:7.

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

Salvation is attained, not because of what we have done, but because of what God has done through Jesus Christ.  "Grace" is a favor given to one who does not deserve it.  Christians cannot think less of the lost for any reason of comparison between themselves, since all of the work of salvation was done by Christ, not by man.  As a Christian, I am not righteous, nor am I any more righteous than the lost.  To sin is to sin, and no Christian is free from its commission and consequences.  It is only Jesus' righteousness in me, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that I am sanctified.  All that the lost soul needs in order to be saved is to hear and respond to the gospel message.    Some argue that they must get their life right before turning to a righteous God.  No man can "make his life right", only God can do that as He chooses for Himself those who have placed their faith and trust in Him, and 

Titus 3:8.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

This "faithful saying" is the very truth of the gospel message.  Paul states that he will affirm it constantly, and we see evidence of this as he always, at some point, repeats some portion of the gospel message in all of his writings.  Why do Christians continually need reminding of the "old, old story?"  It is easier for Christians to lose focus on their mission and ministry and fall back into the natural state of self-will, than it is to fall into obedience.  The maintenance of "good works" requires the continual affirmation of God's grace, as such good works are never the intrinsic response of human nature.  That which is "good and profitable" is that which is godly, and man has no natural godly tendencies.  It is only through God's mercy and grace that His righteousness is found, and Christians, upon finding it, are commissioned to live a life of obedience to Christ.  Obedience to Jesus, as Lord, is characterized by behaviors that are "good and profitable," and there is no shortage of teachings in scripture that describe godly living.   

Titus 3:9.

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 

It is, therefore, easy to fall into godless behavior when Christians are so immersed in a godless world.  God's grace is simple, and because of His mercy, available to all.  Paul admonishes Christians to avoid attitudes and actions that lead to spiritual error, error that is realized whenever one adds to the requirements of grace.  In the Cretian church, much energy was fruitlessly expended on debates and divisions over theological issues that are not related to God's grace.  "Foolish," as used here, refers to that which is is senseless.  The pursuit of senseless questions created, and still create, divisions in the body of Christ as members align themselves behind mutually exclusive positions on unimportant arguments.  There is a Judaistic flavor to the specific nature of the debate as Paul refers to the Old Testament genealogies that were so important to the Jewish faith.   Though debate of the trivialities of theology can be entertaining and enlightening, and can serve to help one understand their own beliefs, such debate should be avoided if it is speculative (foolish), and/or lead to contentions or striving.  Theological debate should never serve to divide people of faith, but rather to bring them together in unity with the Spirit.  It is this destructive spirit of division that Paul contends against, a spirit that profits only the evil one.

Titus 3:10-11.

A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. 

Much of the error in the early church, just as today, comes from the acceptance of heretical teaching by pastors, teachers, and leaders, who are not dedicated to the truth of the gospel, but rather to their own agenda, or are crippled by ignorance of the truth.  Paul tells Titus, and the church, to reject the teachings of those who do not teach the truth.  Paul, by recommending a response to the "first and second admonition" refers to a quick response to error.  Christians tend to have a difficult time with the application of rebuke, as they desire peace.  However, "peace at all costs" can carry with it a tremendous cost.  

When error is being taught, the response to it should be clear and swift, yet in the Spirit of Christ, the one in error should be met with love, respect, and dignity.  Not only is such action beneficial to the church, but is also beneficial to the "heretic."  The work of the heretic, though even sincere, is subversive, sinful, and self-condemning.  James reminds us that not all should strive to Christian leadership for theirs is the greater condemnation (Jas. 3:1).  The heretical teacher is responsible before God for the damage to the gospel that he does in Jesus' name.  When a person's motivation for leadership, pastoring, or teaching comes from a foundation of pride and self-promotion, sin is expressed, and judgment awaits.  Brining a false teacher quickly to the truth is beneficial for all involved.  So, sometimes a rebuke is in order.  We see that, in Paul's ministry, he found rebuke of error one of his primary ministries.  Did his rebuke of the false teachers "hurt the feelings" of those teachers?  Did Paul's rebuke engender controversy?  There is little question that surgery sometimes requires the letting of a little blood, but the healing of the illness makes the surgery worth the pain.  

The church should never allow spiritual and doctrinal error to go unchecked.  It is the truth of the gospel that separates the church from this pagan world, and when an apathetic church allows the teachings and doctrines of this world to permeate its message, the message is lost.  The result is a church that is accepted by society as it differs little from it, but it is a church that is powerless to reach its true mission to reach the lost with the gospel and disciple the saved.

Titus 3:12.

When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. 

Paul closes the letter with some instructions for Titus concerning his and Paul's future ministry.  Paul did not send Titus to Crete for a permanent ministry, but rather to serve to bring its churches from spiritual and theological chaos back to the truth.  At some point, Paul would send either Artemas or Tychicus to replace him.  Paul closes his letter to Timothy with a similar promise.  There is little question that such a ministry is difficult.  No pastor or leader probably wants to spend his ministry experience in the throes of the conflict cycle of rebuke and teaching.  This difficult ministry would take a lot from Titus, so Paul makes it clear that he will send another to take his place in the near future, and that Titus is then to return to Paul.  Paul mentions his intent to winter at Nicopolis, presumably a town on the west coast of Greece, and by so doing makes it clear that Titus will remain at Crete for only a few more months.  We know virtually nothing of Artemas, but we do see frequent references to Tychicus who was a faithful co-worker with Paul.   

Titus 3:13.

Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. 

Likewise, we know nothing of "Zenas the Lawyer."  He is simply described as one who serves to represent the law, Judaic law if Jewish, and Roman law if Greek.  However, we are quite familiar with Apollos who became knowledgeable of the gospel in Ephesus, and is mentioned in many different ministry situations in the early church.  The two of these were traveling through Crete, and Titus is instructed by Paul to minister to their needs as they pass through.  Paul continually served to "network" those who worked with him so that they could take care of one another in their various travels.  This is simply a note to Titus that the pair will be traveling through, and it is also a note to the Cretan church that validates their ministry.  This would allow Titus to take advantage of their short presence by providing them with some ministry opportunity.  The context of their naming also identifies them as the carriers of this letter.

Titus 3:14.

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. 

"Ours also" or "our people" refers to the members of the Cretan church.  Titus is to teach, and the people are to learn, to devote themselves to good works, works that profit the kingdom of God.   Even in his close of the letter, Paul returns to this theme that he feels is so important to the church in Crete.  It is also a theme that is important to the church today.

Titus 3:15.

All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

Finally, Paul closes his letter, he brings greetings to all who are with him at the time.  Though unnamed, Apollos and Zenas will be able to name them to Titus.  Paul clearly identifies that Titus is not in this work alone.  Paul not only sent Apollos and Zenas to him, but Paul and those with him continue to remember Titus.  Likewise, Paul also asks to be remembered to all of those in Crete who love him and those with him.  Paul then closes his letter with, "grace,"  or charis, in the Greek.   It is of grace that Paul writes the letter, it is grace that Paul teaches in this letter, and it is with grace that Paul closes it.

The church today is not so different from the early church, and probably more like it than that which would be preferred.  The early church was divided and fragmented into small clusters of exclusive groups.  Each group had its leader, many of whom had their own idea of what Christianity was.  Many church leaders were serving their own needs for pride's fulfillment rather than the true needs of the church.  Many were simply ignorant of the gospel that they purported to administer.  The church today is likewise fragmented into denominations that each have their own special, and often exclusive, formula for faith.  Often church groups are led by people who use their position to fulfill their own need for significance rather than to serve Christ.  The formula needed today is the same formula needed in Crete:  Assign leadership to mature Christians, minister to one another in the church, and minister to those outside the church and in all things do so in submission to the Holy Spirit, in the truth of the gospel, and always in love.  If all churches did this, the church would be united and empowered to be a far more effective voice for God in this godless world.