Titus 1
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The full representation which the apostle gives of his apostolic office is designed at once to mark the authority by which he gives the instructions that follow, and to serve as an index to the contents of the whole Epistle.

I. THE CLAIMS OF THE APOSTLE. "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ."

1. He is a servant of God. Not, as he often describes himself, "a servant of Jesus Christ." The title seems to mark the relation

(1) of one who had once been a slave to sin, but, having become free through Christ Jesus, was still, so far as obligation, service, and life were concerned, a servant of God;

(2) his devotion to God after the type of Old Testament service, Moses and the prophets being pre-eminently called the "servants of God;"

(3) his ministry in the service of a royal Master (Matthew 18:23-32), who makes him a member of his household, a pillar of his temple, a sharer of his throne (Revelation 3:21).

2. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ. This is a more exact definition of his office.

(1) He had his commission and his doctrine from him.

(2) He had all the signs and proofs of an apostle in him, for he had received power to work miracles as well as to declare Divine truth.

(3) It is, therefore, vain and deceptive for any to assume the name who cannot show the signs of an apostle.

II. THE END OF THE APOSTOLIC OFFICE. "For the faith of God's elect, and the full knowledge of the truth which is after godliness." It was designed for the furtherance of the faith and knowledge of believers.

1. The apostle felt that he was appointed to preach the doctrine of faith, and to be the instrument of bringing men to the obedience of faith. (Romans 1:5; Romans 10:17.)

(1) Therefore all claims to apostolic authority by men who have abandoned the faith, or overlaid it with error and superstition, are to be rejected by the Church of God.

(2) All true faith rests on the Divine foreordination; for it is "the faith of God's elect." Election is, therefore, not to be regarded as equivalent to faith, much less as its consequence (Ephesians 1:4); for it is its true cause. The Father is the Elector, as the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier.

2. The apostolic office was designed likewise to impart the full knowledge of the truth which is after godliness.

(1) Truth is the object - the Word of truth, which comes from him who is the God of truth, who is Christ the Truth itself, who is the Spirit of truth. It was this truth that the apostle preached with all faithfullness and clearness.

(2) Knowledge is the subjective aspect of it, and becomes ours through faith.

(3) The fruit of this truth is "godliness" It is designed to promote holiness of life and character. It is impossible that this knowledge can be morally unfruitful.

III. THE BASIS OF THIS TRUTH. "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before eternal times." The ground and condition of this truth is the hope of eternal life, which is the animating principle at once of the apostle and of the Church of God.

1. The principle of hope. The word occurs fifty-two times in the New Testament, and is always connected with God, with the Mediator, and with believers.

(1) Its author is God, who is "the God of hope" (Romans 15:13), who has given us "a good hope through grace" (2 Thessalonians 2:16), and given us Christ as "our Hope," even "the Hope of glory."

(2) Hope connects us with the future as memory with the past, and is intended to neutralize the materializing influence of earthly life around us. Thus, God has given us prophecy and promise to gratify the wants, the longings, and the anticipations of the human soul.

2. The object and sum of Christian hope. "Eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before eternal times."

(1) This life is in Christ Jesus; "for the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). But it includes

(a) the full fruition of God to all eternity;

(b) the fellowship of the Redeemer's throne;

(c) the fullness of joy;

(d) likeness to Christ.

(2) It is eternal life, without a break in the happy continuity of bliss; for it is life without sin or death to mar its perfectness. It is eternal, because he is at once its Author and Support, as being that "Eternal Life that was with the Father" (1 John 1:2).

(3) The age of this promise. "Before eternal times."

(a) This is not merely before the times of the world, or

(b) before the world began,

(c) but really in the eternity past;

because the reference is not to the covenants of Adam or Abraham, but to the covenant of redemption in Christ before the foundation of the world (2 Timothy 1:9-11). The apostle does not merely say that the promise of eternal life was the result of a Divine purpose fixed from eternity, but that it was made from eternity to believers, because it was made to Christ, whose members they are. It is impossible to understand the meaning of these words without reference to the federal transaction between the Father and the Son (Zechariah 6:13). This was the very "promise of life in Christ Jesus" of which the apostle speaks to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:1).

(4) The guarantee for the fulfillment of this promise. "God, that cannot lie, promised" it. God gave both a promise and an oath to Abraham, that "by two immutable things, in which it was impossible that God should lie," we should have a sure hope (Hebrews 6:18).

IV. THE MANIFESTATION OF THIS ANCIENT PROMISE. "But in his own seasons manifested his Word in the message wherewith I was entrusted, according to the commandment of God our Savior."

1. The manifestation was made in God's own seasons.

(1) It is not to be supposed that it was made only by the Apostle Paul, for it was made by the other apostles; and ages before their day it was manifested, with more or less clearness, under the Old Testament dispensation.

(2) But the Apostle Paul was one of those specially entrusted with the Word, and specially with "the revelation of the mystery hid for ages" (Romans 16:25).

2. The Word of God, and the whole order and fullness of the Church, are to be regarded as the unfolding of the ancient promise of eternal life.

3. The Word is made manifest by preaching. (Romans 10:17.) Preaching is an institute peculiar to Christianity, which it formed for itself as its chosen mode of utterance. Christianity is not a philosophy or a thaumaturgy. It is propagated, not by priests, but by preachers. There are no priests in Christianity but the one High Priest of our profession, who, if he were on earth, would not be a priest (Hebrews 8:4).

4. The preaching is done in virtue of a Divine call or commission. "Wherewith I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior." All the ministries of the New Testament, high and low, are committed as trusts to the Church. Therefore a minister ought to have a true call from on high before accepting the responsibilities of office. The apostle was very emphatic in announcing his call to the apostleship, not as in any way due to his own wilt or wish, but to Divine command, it was the command of "God his Savior;" not the Son, but the Father - the usual phrase of the apostle being "according to the will of God" (2 Timothy 1:1).

V. THE APOSTOLIC SALUTATION. "To Titus, my true son after the common faith."

1. The person thus addressed.

(1) Titus was a pure Gentile. It is interesting to remember that the dearest friends and companions of the apostle's life were Gentiles, and not Jews - such as Luke, Titus, and Timothy, who was half-Gentile. Was this leaning caused in any degree by the distrusts and enmities with which he was pursued through life by his Jewish countrymen?

(2) Titus was, like Timothy, one of the apostle's converts. This fact would endear him to the apostle's heart. He was a genuine son of the apostle in virtue of the faith common to all Christians; implying that

(a) there is but one faith (Ephesians 4:5);

(b) one Object of faith, Jesus Christ;

(c) one end of faith, eternal life.

(3) Titus was evidently one of the apostle's most trusty disciples, though he was less a companion than Timothy, and less allied to him on the terms of an affectionate intimacy. Titus was firm, strong, and capable, with adaptability in the way of administration and of repressing moral disorders among distracted or disturbed communities.

2. The greeting. "Grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior."

(1) The blessings sought for Titus. "Grace and peace."

(a) Grace is the full and eternal fountain of the goodness of God, opened to the wants of men in the blessed gospel;

(b) peace is the blessing of the saints, to which they are called in one body, and the safeguard of heart and mind through him who is their Peace (Philippians 4:7).

(2) The source of these blessings, alike God the Father and God the Son, as being equally the Author and Giver of all spiritual blessings. The whole structure of the Epistle is based on the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. - T.C.

A servant of God. One of the great revelations of the gospel is the dignity of service. "To be ministered unto" was the end of Roman ambition. Pride and precedence ruled supreme. The Jews sought to be "Herods;" the Gentiles sought for consulships and proctorships. Everywhere we see patrician selfishness in proud palaces, and, as a dark opposite, whole colonies of slaves. The words that fell from the lips of the Master were illustrated in his life: "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."

I. A SERVANT OF A STRONG MASTER. God! None can stand against him. In the end sin will reveal its weakness. It may storm and plot and fume against his will, but it is impotent at heart. "The Lord reigneth. The dominion of sin is undermined, and through the cross its leadership in the prince of this world is destroyed. Christ is henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." He must reign!

II. A SERVANT OF A KIND MASTER. One who will not expect more service than we can render, and who knows and appreciates the kited of service we can render, and who will "reward every man according to his works." Kind in the law of service, which is a law of blessedness; causing it to be not a yokedom, but the joy of a child's freedom. "Blessed are they that do his will." Happiness never to be attained when sought as an end, is here found in the highway of duty.

III. A SERVANT OF A FAITHFUL MASTER. One who will stand by his servants in all times of disheartenment, obloquy, and difficulty. One who keeps his promises, so that they are all "Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus." Ever faithful to his holy tryst. "Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you." Faithful to his vouchsafed protection. "Giving his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." Faithful to the great Messianic promise, that to his Son "shall the gathering of the people be." Paul gloried in such a service, and he would have Titus know him by no higher name than "a servant of God." - W.M.S.

The truth which is after godliness. This was to be "acknowledged" or obeyed. For truth is not a library for the leisurely, or a mine for the curious. It is the present truth - the practical truth; a truth that is always to be translated into life.

I. THIS IS A DIVINE TEST OF TRUTH. "After godliness." Like inspiration, it is profitable for instruction in righteousness. It is a seed whose preciousness is tested by the golden grain in its ripened ear. It does not produce a mere "pietism" or sentimental emotionalism; it produces godliness. Some are valiant for theoretical and doctrinal truths who bring forth no "fruit unto holiness." We are able to take the vantage-ground of Christian history, and to argue that there are no lives like Christian lives: that in this type of character are all the essentials of godliness - a life within, which cleanses the heart, energizes the will, quickens the conscience, elevates the taste, and purifies and sanctifies the life. This is the Divine test of truth: "By those fruits ye shall know them."

II. THIS IS A DIVINE MARK OF THE APOSTOLATE. Paul claims to be "an apostle of Christ, according to the faith of God's elect." He does not say that the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, gave sacred and special commission to him; for there is no record that they did. He does not claim, like Peter, to have been with Christ on the holy mount; or to have been with those disciples who were with Christ at his ascension, when "he led them out as far as to Bethany, and lifted up his hands and blessed them," or to have heard the command then given, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." Nor does he rest his apostolate on anything ceremonial or formal alone. By the manifestation of the truth he commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God. The truth of his message was one ground of authority and the godliness of it another, and those two bases of authority - truth and goodness - are strong and eternal. None can shake the temple built on such granite foundations as these. Philosophies may change and councils may err, but these abide forever. So Titus had to learn that his ministry was connected with a truth that must be lived, as well as a truth that must be taught. - W.M.S.

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, etc. These words direct our attention to certain phases of redemptive truth. The substratum of the gospel is not merely truth, but redemptive truth. Truth, not merely to enlighten the intellect and to discipline the mental faculties, but to raise the human soul from spiritual ignorance to intelligence, from spiritual bondage to liberty, from selfishness to benevolence, from materialism to spirituality, from the "prince of darkness" to the true and living God. Here it appears -


1. An enterprise devoted to the highest purpose. What is the purpose? It is here described:

(1) As the promotion of the faith of God's elect. "According to the faith of God's elect." The idea is, perhaps, the furtherance of true faith amongst those to whom God had, in the exercise of his sovereignty, sent the gospel. As a fact, all men have not had the opportunity of receiving the gospel; indeed, only an insignificant fraction of the race have had it brought to them. This fraction is a class so highly privileged that they may be designated the "elect." Why should they have the gospel sent to them, and not others? Ask why some should inherit health, others disease; some wealth, others poverty; some intellectual powers of a high order, others minds but little removed from brute intelligence. "All these worketh the selfsame Spirit, devising to every man severally as he will." Now, to further and promote faith among those to whom the gospel goes is one of its grand purposes.

(2) As the promotion of the knowledge "of the truth which is after [according to] godliness." More accurately rendered, "The knowledge of the truth which is beside, or which leadeth to godliness" (Ellicott). The grand purpose here indicated seems to be that all who are divinely favored with the gospel should so believe it, and practice it, that they may become godly in their lives. What a sublime design is this, to make men God-like! Or, as it is expressed in the next chapter, "The grace of God hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."

2. An enterprise employing the highest human agency. "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ." "Paul's mode of designating himself here," says Dr. Fairbairn, "does not exactly coincide with his form of expression in any other Epistle. Elsewhere he calls himself a servant, a bondman of Christ (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 4:12), but here only of God. A noteworthy variation, not on its own account, but as a mark of genuineness; for it is impossible to conceive what motive could have induced any imitator to depart in such a manner from the apostle's usual phraseology. The δέ coupling his calling as an apostle of Christ with his relation to God as a servant, cannot be taken in an adversative sense, for there is really no opposition; but it is used, as not infrequently, to subjoin something new, different and distinct from what precedes, though not strictly opposed to it." Paul was one of the greatest of men. In natural endowments, penetrating insight, vigor of thought, logical force, and rhetorical aptitude, he had in his age but few equals. His acquirements, too, were great. Brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, acquainted with Grecian culture, and master of rabbinic law, he could stand side by side with the greatest reasoners, sages, and orators of his time. But, beyond all this, he was specially called and qualified by God for propagating the gospel of his Son. There is no enterprise on this earth demanding a higher kind of human agency than the gospel, nor (notwithstanding the mental feebleness and the moral meanness cf the thousands in every age who have worked, and are working, in connection with it) can there be found a higher class of men, both intellectual and moral, than some who have been, and still are, employed in indoctrinating men with the truths of the gospel.

II. AS A TRANSCENDENT PROMISE. "In hope of eternal life, which God, that [who] cannot lie, promised before the world began [times eternal]." This promise is:

1. Transcendent in value. "Eternal life." This means something more than an endless existence. An interminable existence might be an interminable curse. It means not only an existence without end, but an existence without evil, without sin, error, sorrow, misery. Ay, and more than this, an endless existence in connection with good, and with good only, with knowledge, holiness, liberty, and companionship with the best created spirits, and with the great God himself. Eternal life is eternal goodness.

2. Transcendent in certitude. It is made by God, "that cannot lie. Are not all things possible with him? Yes, in what may be called a physical sense. It is possible for him to destroy, in the twinkling of an eye, the present creation, and to produce a new one. But, in a moral sense, there is an impotency. His cannot" here is his will not, and his "will not" is his glory. A higher eulogy you cannot pronounce on any man than to say he cannot be ungenerous, he cannot be false, he cannot be unjust, he cannot be dishonorable. Inability to do wrong is the glory of the Infinite. This promise, then, cannot fail; it must be realized. "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass away."

3. Transcendent in age. "Promised before the world began [times eternal]." When was that? Before the foundation of the earth was laid, or the wheels of time began their revolutions. When he occupied the boundlessness of immensity alone. The gospel is an old promise: the Lamb was slain "before the foundation of the world. The gospel is not a threat, but a promise.

III. As A GRADUAL REVELATION. But hath in due times [in his own seasons] manifested his Word through preaching, [in the message] which is committed unto me [wherewith I was entrusted] according to the commandment of God our Savior." There are three thoughts here suggested concerning the revelation of this promise of eternal life.

1. It was manifested at a proper time. "In due times [in his own seasons] manifested his Word." God has a season for everything, everything in the material and the moral. Nothing but sin appears in his universe that does not come "according to his time." Oceans ebb and flow, planets perform their revolutions, kingdoms rise and fall, generations come and go "according to his time." He had a time for the revelation of his redemptive truth, and when the time dawned it beamed on the world.

2. It was manifested by apostolic preaching. "Through preaching.' Redemptive truth came into the world through man, and it is Heaven's design that it should be propagated through the world by man. It is to be preached, not only with the lips, but by the life. The true preacher must incarnate it. His life must illustrate and confirm the doctrine that his lips declare. It was before the gospel came to men in written documents that it won its greatest victories. Some think that too much importance is attached to the Bible in this work, and that it is vain to expect that the circulation of the Scriptures will answer the end. History shows it has not done so, and the philosophy of the work explains the reason; hence it must be revealed in the voice and the life.

3. It was manifested by the Divine command. "Which was committed unto me [wherewith I was entrusted] according to the commandment of God our Savior." The Divine command came to the apostle to preach the gospel at various times - came to him on the road to Damascus, came to him in the temple at Jerusalem, came to him in the ship on the Adriatic. Yes; the Divine command comes to all: "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel." Not only was it by command that Paul preached to mankind, but now to Titus.

IV. As A LOVE-BEGETTING rower. "To Titus, mine own son [my true child] after the common faith." "Mine own son." What an endearing expression! The gospel converter becomes the father in the highest and divinest sense of the converted. No relation so close, vital, and tender as the spiritual relation of souls. Paul's desire is, for Titus, "Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior." Here is the wish of heavenly philanthropy, a philanthropy that embraces the complete and everlasting well-being of its object. Having the "grace, peace, and mercy" of God, we have everything we require; we have "all and abound."

CONCLUSION. Prize this redemptive truth, practice this redemptive truth, preach this redemptive truth. It is the "power of God unto salvation." - D.T.

In hope of eternal life. How often these words have been inscribed over the resting-place of the dead! How restful they are! How such inscriptions in the dark catacombs tell of the new and blessed era that Christianity introduced! But it would be a mistake to connect them only with heaven. "This is life eternal," we read, "to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

I. HOPE AND LIFE ARE HERE CONNECTED. It was not so in paganism. Men lost hope. They lived in and for the present day, and when tired of life committed suicide. Hope, such as the great Christian hope, brightens all human duties and joys. Life is real and earnest, all through the years. Age does not dim the brightness of the eye of the soul. So we are saved by hope" - saved from ennui, disheartenment, and misery. We find Paul rejoicing in hope and patient in tribulation because of the life within, that was hid with Christ in God.

II. SERVICE IS ASSOCIATED WITH ETERNAL LIFE. Paul is a servant of God, and that service is quickened by faith and sustained by hope. The Christian teacher sees not only man in his fall and misery, but he sees the ideal man in him - one who may be re-created in Christ Jesus. The desert blossoms as the rose, as hope cheers the sower who plants the immortal seed of the kingdom in human hearts. The measure of our life is the measure of

(1) the cheerfulness and

(2) the continuance of our service.

And what hope! It includes glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life. W.M.S.

God, who cannot lie. Man can lie. Man does lie. His word is not always his bond. He indulges in exaggeration. He tells half-truths, which are ever the worst of lies.

I. SOME THINGS GOD CANNOT DO. He who gave the moral Law embodies in himself that Law. He cannot do that which is untrue, unrighteous, unjust! "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent." This is our consolation in trouble. God is faithful, who hath promised - faithful in all that is exquisitely minute as well as all that is magnificently great. And in the wide sweep of the Divine promises we may find our rest in all times of tribulation. "All the promises of God in him [in Christ] are Yea and Amen, to the glory of God the Father." He cannot lie.


1. Carry our own cares, because we will not trust our Father, and cast all our care on him.

2. Recall our Fast sins, and so torture our hearts with remembrance of them, when God has said that he has blotted them all out, and will remember them against us no more.

3. Lose the bright vision of heaven, and so become cast down in old age, forgetting that there can be no suppressio veri, or suppression of truth, with our Savior. "I go to prepare a place for you; if it were not so, I would have told you. This should be the rest of our hearts, if we have believed in Christ to the salvation of our souls. We are in him that is true. - W.M.S.

Before the world began. This is one of the glories of the gospel. It foresees all events in history, and provides for all the necessities of a being who is born to be redeemed.

I. THERE ARE NO AFTER-THOUGHTS WITH GOD. Our vision is imperfect. Our plans miscarry, because we have not taken in all aspects of the future. Sometimes our provision for that future is too limited; sometimes it is ill adapted, and we say, had we foreseen, we could have avoided disappointment, disaster, and defeat. All the future lies clearly before the omniscient gaze of God. "The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world."

II. GOD'S PURPOSES ARE REVEALED IN HIS PROMISES. ]Not before the earth began, but before the world began - the world of busy men and women; the world of toil and strife, of sin and sorrow, and the developments of guilt and grief. Then it was that God declared that "the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." This involves all. Sin would have involved death; but the eternal life which St. Paul speaks of here was the gift of God in the incarnate Savior. "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." - W.M.S.

But hath in due times manifested tits Word through preaching... according to the commandment of God our Savior. The entire dispensation of Divine mercy from the earliest ages is a manifestations, or a "showing forth." This takes place in God's own way and in God's own time. We who are Christians now wait for "the manifestation of the sons of God."

I. THERE IS ALWAYS A DUE TIME. The clock of time is set to the order of Divine events. Generations give place to the age, and the age to the day, and the day to the hour. "Father, the hour is come." This was the fullness of time. Then the Romans had prepared the roads for the ambassadors of Christ to travel; and the Greeks had provided a perfect language for the written record of the revelation; and the dispersed Jews had circulated the Old Testament Scriptures, and had settled in foreign lands and planted synagogues; and Philosophy had confessed her failures in the opinion of her leaders, that there must be a Divine Deliverer, if deliverance comes at all; so that when men by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God in such a fullness of time to send forth his Son.

II. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THE PREACHER. Truth, like the gospel, needs a loving heart and a living voice and a living experience to utter its sweet enchantments. It has pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save such as believe. That is to say, what the world calls foolishness. But men will always listen to and love the human voice when charged with truth and tenderness and pity. The press is doing a noble work, but it will not supplant the pulpit. Style changes, and methods change; but God "fashioneth their hearts alike." Dickens spoke his own works, and thousands flocked to hear. Carlyle and Emerson both acknowledge the mighty and immortal power of speech. A preaching which has intellect, conscience, and heart in it, and which is filled with the Spirit of Christ and the cross, will never become effete. It is God's own way, and his ways are higher than our ways. - W.M.S.

The common faith. Amid all diversities there is unity. In this sense we know that what is called "Catholic" authority rests on what was believed "always, everywhere, and by all." Theories of religion vary, but the great facts and doctrines are the things which cannot be shaken, and still remain. The word "faith" is sometimes used for that experience of the soul which we call trust, and as such is an inward reception of Christ and his cross; but it is also used, and is so used here, as descriptive of the gospel revelation itself.

I. THE APOSTLES DIE, BUT THE FAITH REMAINS. We are not disciples of Paul, or Barnabas, or Timothy, or Titus, but of Christ. These apostles did not draw men to themselves, but to Christ. They were, as Paul declares, "ministers by whom ye believed." To be in the true succession is to have the spirit of the apostles, and to hold the faith of the apostles. So far as the gospel has been perverted by mediaeval superstition or the earlier traditions of the fathers, it is not the common faith. An inspired revelation of truth enables us in every age to preserve the common faith. As the philosophic Coleridge said, "It is evident that John and Paul held Christ to be Divine." The glorious gospel of the grace of God is preserved to us intact by the holy Gospels and the Epistles, and men true to the Bible harmonize in their acceptance of "the common faith."

II. THE LIFE OF THE TRUE CHURCH IS THE SAME IN EVERY AGE. The root must be the same, because the fruit is the same. First truth and then life. The cry for forgiveness, and the peace that comes through the cross. The power of the atonement to crucify selfishness, and to lead men to live as not their own. The consciousness of human impotence, and of the might of the Holy Spirit in the inner man. All these are inward experiences of life, resulting from a common faith. Added to these are the experiences which attest life in conduct. We know the same artist's touch in the picture, the same sculptor's hand in the molding of a figure, the same architect's design in the buildings; and we know Christians by the "life hid with Christ in God," producing those "fruits of the Spirit" which attest, in their beauty and their purity, the energy and the sanctity of the Divine life. It is "the common faith" which gives to Christians, in every land and every age, the same likeness to their Lord. - W.M.S.

Its object was principally to supply the deficiencies in the Church organization of the island.


1. Its situation and history. It lies almost equidistant from Europe, Asia, and Africa; a large and populous island of the Mediterranean; the Caphtor of the Old Testament, and now known as Candia. It was a place of ancient civilization, noted for its hundred cities, and became a Roman possession about seventy years before Christ.

2. The foundation of the Cretan Church. This probably occurred immediately after Pentecost, for it is said that men of Crete were present on that occasion (Acts 2:11), and we know that the island abounded with Jews of wealth and influence. The false teachers in Crete were Judaists. There are several reasons for believing that the Church must have been a considerable time in existence. Time must be allowed for the development of heresy. Time must likewise be allowed for the growth of character and reputation, so that Titus, guided by the Church, might have no difficulty in selecting the right class of office-bearers. The fact, likewise, that the bishops were to "have believing children" affords a strong presumption that the Church must have been in existence at least twenty or thirty years.

3. Its existence without organization. The Church in Crete seems to have had no regular parties, the ordinances were probably in confusion, and though the power of heathenism had been broken in one of its quasi-strongholds, the Christians had not utterly escaped contamination. The state of matters in this interesting island proves

(1) that there may be a true Church where there is no regular ministry. Thus there is no foundation for the theory that the clergy are the Church, or even essential to its existence, though they are necessary to its edification.

(2) It proves also that a regular ministry is necessary. Therefore the arguments of Darbyites go for nothing. A ministry was specially needed to check the unruly and vain talkers in Crete, as well as to apply the sanctifying influence of the gospel, as well as a wholesome Christian discipline to the cure of moral disorders.

II. THE SCORE OF TITUS'S LABORS. "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou mightest set in order the things that were wanting, and ordain elders in every city." The apostle had himself successfully labored in the island, and the gospel had in consequence spread among many of its cities. But he had been summoned away from the scene before he could do anything to organize the community or regulate its varied Church life. He therefore sent Titus as his delegate to discharge this duty.

1. Titus was to set in order the things that were wanting. As Crete was a most luxurious and corrupt place, as heathenism affected its whole family and public life, as the Church bad got into disorder through its contiguity to paganism, or was unable to organize itself strongly in the face of a hostile world, Titus was left behind to fix the order and circumstances of public worship, including the celebration of Christian ordinances, to establish a godly discipline which would purify family life, to instruct the Cretans more fully in the doctrines of the gospel which were attacked by designing Judaists, and generally to superintend the development of all matters affecting Christian faith and practice.

2. He was to ordain elders in every city.

(1) The elders were the pastors or teachers of congregations, and were so called on account of their age and gravity of manner. They were also called "bishops" (ver. 2; Acts 20:17, 28), on account of their office as overseers of the flock. It is now universally conceded that these names are but different designations of the same office-bearers. We read in Scripture of "bishops and deacons" (Philippians 1:1), but never of "bishops and elders," simply because bishops and deacons represent two different orders, but bishops and eiders do not. These bishops were simply the pastors of congregations.

(2) There were several elders in each congregation. Titus was "to ordain elders in every city," that is, a plurality of elders for each Church. There was certainly a plurality in several Churches (Acts 14:23; Acts 15:22).

(3) These elders were to be ordained or solemnly set apart to their office.

(a) The word "ordain" throws no light on the question whether the appointment took place with or without the co-operation of the Church. But the same word is used in the account of the ordination of the deacons who were chosen by the Christian people (Acts 6:3). In another case (Acts 14:23) the ordination of elders did not take place without the co-operation of the Church, which selected by a show of hands, as the word signifies, the candidates for ordination. The directions given by the apostle to Titus with regard to the qualifications of elders imply that the choice lay, not with Titus, who was a complete stranger to Crete, but with the body of the Christian people who were familiarly acquainted with the private work and public gifts of believers.

(b) The ordination was the act of Titus, who was the delegate of the apostle. It is not improbable that Zenas and Apollos, who were then in Crete, were associated with him in the act of ordination. It is now generally admitted that he was net appointed permanent Bishop of Crete, for his stay was designed to be short (Titus 3:12). This whole passage proves the importance of Church organization, while it presupposes a certain amount of Christian knowledge and feeling, among the members of the Cretan Church. - T.C.

Set in order the things that are wanting. Christian life is destined for development and for continuance. To this end the Church is to be the center alike of evangelistic effort and of Christian culture. Here is -

I. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE ECCLESIA, OR THE "CHURCH." "And ordain elders in every city." The New Testament gives no sanction to the idea that an unorganized Christianity is the simplest and the best. The precedents of the early Christian Church were to be faithfully adhered to. Whether the organization of the Church was to be a growth conditioned by the circumstance of every age, is a question we do not here discuss; but that there was to he organization is here settled forever. The expression, "in every city," shows that the life of the Church was not to be spasmodic, but settled.

II. THERE MUST BE LIFE AS WELL AS ORGANIZATION. This, too, is manifest here. Christians were enjoying "grace, mercy, and peace;" were "renewed in the spirit of their minds." Divine life comes from faith in Christ alone, and is not dependent upon aught else. The declaration of Paul is there always and everywhere, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." We are, therefore, to recognize the fruits of the Spirit everywhere, whether the gardens in which they grow be according to our plan and ideal or no. But as all Christian life needs constant care and discipline, as the disciple needs teaching, and the justified need sanctification, so there was to be the "setting in order" of all that we mean by the organized Christian Church; not that every detail is to be binding, or to be reproduced by every Church in every age. - W.M.S.

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, etc. Titus was now at Crete. "Crete, over whose Christian population Titus had been placed by Paul, was a well-known, large, and populous island in the Mediterranean. It lies geographically further south than any of the European islands, and, roughly speaking, almost at an equal distance from each of the three Old World continents, Europe, Asia, Africa. We identify it with the Caphtor of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4; Amos 9:7). In modern times it is known by us as Candid. Very early it was the scene of an advanced civilization. In the 'Odyssey' it is mentioned as possessing ninety cities; in the Iliad' as many as one hundred. Metullus added it, b.c. 69, to the Roman dominion. In the days of Augustus it was united into one province with Cyrene. It abounded with Jews of wealth and influence; this we learn from the testimony of Philo and of Josephus. It probably received the gospel from some of those of Crete who, we are expressly told, were present when the Spirit was poured on the apostles on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection (Acts 2:11). The apparently flourishing state of Christianity on the island at this time was in great measure, no doubt, owing to the residence and labors among them of the Apostle St. Paul, whose work appears to have been mainly directed to preaching the gospel, and to increasing the number of the converts, which, from the wording of ver. 5, was evidently very great, elders being required in every city." The following thoughts are deducible from these words.

I. THAT IN EVERY CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY THERE SHOULD BE THE MAINTENANCE OF ORDER. "Thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting." "The words," says Dean Spence, "explain the cause of Titus's appointment in Crete. The 'things that are wanting' were what Paul meant, no doubt, to have done himself, but was prevented by being hurried away; for him the cud was nigh at hand. These 'things' were want of Church officials, lack of Church government, want of cohesion between the Churches of the island; in a word, there was plenty of Christian life, but no Christian organization as yet in Crete. It was rather a number of Christian brotherhoods than one." "Set in order." God is the God of order, as witnessed in the harmonious operations of nature. Disorder, both in the mental and moral domains, is abnormal and pernicious; it implies evermore a deviation from the established law of Almighty love. A disordered body is diseased, so is a disordered soul. A disordered family lacks the condition both of peace and prosperity. A disordered Church, for many reasons, is the greatest of all evils. Confusion in a Church is a calumny of Christ, and obstructive at once to its peace, power, prosperity, and usefulness. "Order," says Southey, "is the sanity of the mind, the health of the body, the peace of the city, the security of the state. As the beams to a house, as the bones to the microcosm of man, so is order to all things."

II. THAT THE MAINTENANCE OF CHURCH ORDER MAY REQUIRE THE MINISTRY OF SPECIAL SUPERINTENDENTS. The words "elder," "bishop," "pastor," etc., all refer to the same office, and that office means "superintendent," or "overseer." "These presbyters were to be most carefully selected, according to the instructions Titus must remember Paul had given him on some previous occasion." There was to be some one to overlook all. Such a one is to maintain order, not by legislating but by loving; not by the assumption of authority, but by a humble devotion to the spiritual interests of all. The ministry of such a man is needed because of the many elements of discord that exist, even in the best communities, such as temper, self-will, pride, etc.

III. THAT THE SUPERINTENDENTS SHOULD BE MEN OF DISTINGUISHED EXCELLENCE. "Blameless," etc. The highest offices in Church and state should always be filled by the highest characters. The morally small man, elevated to a high office, is an incongruity and a curse; and yet how common is such a sight! Moral serfs on thrones, moral rogues on the bench, moral sycophants in the ecclesiastical world! Here Paul denotes the style of men required to superintend the Church. "If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly," etc. "The expressions," says Dr. Fairbairn, "indicate one possessed of that prudence and self-control, that uprightness of character, that kind, generous, disinterested, gracious disposition, which were fitted to command the respect and secure the confidence and affection of a Christian community - one altogether such as might serve for a pattern to a flock over whom he was appointed to preside, and guide their affairs with discretion." The qualifications of this office are here given in:

1. A negative form. "Not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre."

2. A positive form. "The husband of one wife, having faithful children, a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught." - D.T.

The apostle first mentions their qualifications in a moral point of view before he speaks of their duties as teachers.

I. BLAMELESSNESS. The minister must be one against whom no charge can be brought. His name must be spotless (1 Corinthians 1:8; Colossians 1:22). The Church must be able to respect him.

1. Because he must be an example to the believers.

2. Because he could not otherwise consistently check or reprove the blameworthy ways of others. (Titus 1:13.) Christian life in Crete was unsound both as to morals and doctrine.

3. Because as "a steward of God he has grave responsibilities, both to God and to the flock. He must be both wise and faithful in relation to the house of God... the Church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15), which is entrusted to his keeping.

II. THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFE. His family relationships are of much moment, for polygamy was the established rule of heathenism.

1. This passage does not make the marriage of ministers compulsory, as it is in the case of priests in the Greek Church.

2. It is totally inconsistent with the principle of the celibacy of ministers in the Church of Rome.

3. It does not prevent the second marriage of a minister, which is sanctioned by Scripture. (Romans 7:1; l Corinthians 7:8, 9, 39.)

4. It simply condemns polygamy.

III. THE CONDUCT OF HIS CHILDREN. "Having believing children, who are not accused of riot or unruly."

1. The bishop will be judged by his family life. The family is the nursery of the Church, and these two societies act and react upon each other reciprocally, so that a bad or weak or injudicious father can never be an efficient or respected minister. If he cannot rule his children, how can he rule the Church of God (1 Timothy 3:5)?

2. His children ought to be:

(1) Believers, adorning the doctrine of the gospel by purity and obedience. There must be evidence that they have been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

(2) They ought to be free from the imputation of dissoluteness. There must be no ill reports concerning profligacy.

(3) They must not be unruly, that is, disobedient to parents. Those ministers would be unfit to govern the Church whose authority was disregarded by their own children. The minister's home in Crete was, therefore, to be a pattern of order, purity, and piety.

IV. NOT SELF-WILLED. The elder ought not to cherish:

1. A self-loving spirit, which leads to the disregard of the rights, or claims, or feelings of others.

2. A haughty and imperious temper. One who is both obstinate and proud can have no influence over his flock, he ought to be humble, easy to be entreated, able to rule his own spirit, and considerate to others.


1. He ought to have a temper not quickly provoked by contradiction or evil-speaking. Many tongues will be busy with him, as many eyes will be watchfully turned upon his walk.

2. He ought to remember the temper of his Master, "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again." He ought to be "slow to wrath," and imitate the Divine long-suffering and patience.

VI. NO BRAWLER. The word suggests the conduct of one insolent through wine, quarrelsome and furious. The minister must not only abstain from drunkenness, but avoid the passionate folly of men carried away by this sin.

VII. NO STRIKER. He must never lift his hand against his fellows.

1. He is the peacemaker of his parish.

2. How can he restrain the violence of others if he cannot hold his own hands?


1. Covetousness is idolatry in a minister as well as in the members of his flock. It implies the existence of a divided heart.

2. An avaricious temper is condemned by the example of Christ, who, "though he was rich, became poor" to make many rich.

3. It is a peculiarly heinous sin to make a gain of godliness.

4. A covetous minister will seek his own things, not the things of Jesus Christ. - T.C.

For a bishop, etc. Here we have the moral qualification necessary for an overseer or bishop of the Churches. These bishops were to be an order by themselves, not, as Baxter would have them," Primus inter pares," or "first among equals." Each overseer who was naturally placed in a leading city ought, from his prominence as overseer of the district, to be a ministerial example to his brethren. The practical counsels here given apply equally to all aspects of the "overseer," or bishop.

I. THE BISHOP AT HOME. Polygamy was so widespread that it could not be arrested and done away with at once. But the bishops, as leaders of men, were to set the example. Polygamy, like slavery, was to be destroyed by the influence of the cross - by the crucifixion of human selfishness, and the realization of God's ideals in the dignity of woman and in the sacredness of human life. "Having faithful children," to whom "riot," or the indulgence of unruly appetites and habits, was unknown.

II. THE BISHOP AS A STEWARD. Having elevated position and large opportunity for good. We must remember that character makes the good steward, not ex-cathedra commands and exhortations. "Not self-willed;" but remembering that the measure of his power is to be the measure of his humility. "Not soon angry;" for if there be no self-repression, if the volcanic fires of the heart be not subdued, it will be of no use for him to preach about the cross which crucifies self. "Not given to wine;" for intemperance bereaves a man alike of reason and of religion. "No striker;" for although the Romans of that day used their power over slaves and dependents by buffeting them, and sometimes killing them, the servant of Christ must be gentle unto all men. "Not given to filthy lucre;" for covetousness kills other virtues, and draws by its tap-root all nourishment from the plants of grace.

III. THE BISHOP AS A BROTHER. "A lover of hospitality." Remembering how many would like to share his counsels, to walk in the light of his influence, and to be refreshed by his sympathies. "A lover of good men." Not great men, merely as men of genius and power; but men whose hearts were true and pure. "Sober, just, holy, temperate " - a "city that lieth four-square."

IV. THE BISHOP AS A TEACHER. Not indulging in novelties or new philosophies. Not a creator of truth, but a teacher of it, remembering that he is a trustee of truth. "Holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught." Finally, we see that all was not so harmonious and peaceful even in the early Church; for the bishop is to exhort and convince the gainsayers, which show that he must be "able" as well as "good." - W.M.S.


1. This trait was specially suitable to a time when Christians, travelling from one place to another, were in the habit of receiving kindly entertainment from brethren.

2. This habit may bring blessing to our houses. Some have thereby "entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).

3. It recommends the gospel to find its ministers ready at all times to feed the hungry, opening heart and house to the poor and needy (Luke 14:13).

4. Yet the hospitality is not to be that of luxury or sensuality.

II. A LOVER OF GOOD. It points to a heart in sympathy with everything good and noble and of good report, as opposed to the corrupt tendencies at work in Cretan society.


1. The word points to the stir-restraint which controls the passions, in accordance with the dictates of conscience, reason, and the gospel of Christ. It is opposed to the irascibility already condemned in ministers (ver. 7).

2. It points to sobriety of intellect; for the minister must not be led away by false enthusiasm, or entangled with spiritual fanaticism. He is to follow quietly the even tenor of his way, under the guidance of truth.


1. There must be the full recognition of the rights of others.

2. There must be such a management of pastoral duty that poor and rich, ignorant and learned, will be treated with the most impartial fairness. There must he "no respect of persons."

3. There must be no casting of stumbling-blocks in the way of others.

4. There must be sincerity, uprightness, and faithfulness in admonitions and counsels.

V. HOLY. The minister must he true in his relations to God.

1. He rejoices to be numbered with the company of the saints.

2. His conduct must flow from a holy heart, as the effect of a new heart.

3. His holiness must rebuke the ungodly, and make his words like ointment poured forth.

4. It implies a separateness of walk, like him "who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners."

VI. TEMPERATE. This word points to eating and drinking, to lusts of the flesh, to abstinence even from things lawful for the sake of peace and the glory of God. - T.C.

The apostle reserves to the last place the most important of all the qualifications needed by elders.

I. THE DUTY OF ADHERING TO THE TRUTH. "Holding fast the faithful Word which is according to the teaching."

1. The doctrine of the gospel is "the faithful word:"

(1) Because it contains nothing but the truth.

(2) Because it never deceived any that trusted in it.

(3) Because it truly displays the faithfulness of God.

2. It is no mere subjective opinion of the preacher, but is based upon or in agreement with the teaching of the apostles. "Which is according to the teaching." The truth is not to be discovered by the preacher, but delivered to him.

3. It is to be steadfastly maintained. The preacher is not to allow it to be wrested from his grasp by false teachers. The apostle was always emphatic as to the importance of this duty. "Hold fast the form of sound doctrine, which thou heardest from me" (2 Timothy 1:13); "Continue thou in the things thou hast learned" (2 Timothy 3:14). It was a powerful lever in his hands for moving the hearts of men.

II. THE DESIGN OF THIS QUALIFICATION. "That he may be able both to exhort in the sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers."

1. The preacher must be qualified for exhortation in the sphere of a sound, healthy, practical teaching. This implies that men had some knowledge of the truth, but they need to be persuaded to follow it rather than a morbid and unpractical teaching that can in no way minister to edification.

2. He must be qualified to refute the arguments of false teachers. And nothing is so powerfully conducive to this end as sound doctrine firmly held and wisely applied. - T.C.

They were within the communion of the Christian Church. It was, therefore, all the more necessary that the ministers should be holy, laborious, and uncorrupt.

I. THE MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE ADVERSARIES. "For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision."

1. They were refractory. Though standing in Church relationships, they refused all obedience, and pursued purely factious and divisive courses, that led to the subversion of discipline and the distraction of families. Such persons mar the prosperity of many a Church.

2. They were vain talkers. Corruption quickly makes its way from the heart to the lips, and flows forth in glib and empty babbling.

(1) There is no allusion here to heresy, for the vain talking is merely opposed to useful and solid doctrine. The teachers were fluent and superficial, speaking, perhaps, great swelling words of vanity, which were of no profit to the hearers.

(2) The tongue was made for speaking, but it is the Lord's will that it should always he used for iris glory. It ought to be the utterer of the "wisdom that is from above," which is "first pure, then peaceable."

(3) Vain talkers are the pest of Churches and families, sowing the seeds of distrust and turning men's minds against the gospel.

3. They were deceivers. They deceived others by their good words and fair speeches, their vain speculations and their dexterous arguments, and thus became very dangerous persons.

4. They were of "the circumcision party in the Church.

(1) They were members of the Church, and therefore in a position to do much mischief.

(2) They were Judaizing Christians, who blended the Law and the gospel, teaching that circumcision was necessary to salvation.

(3) They were the persistent enemies of the Apostle Paul through his whole life, and thwarted him in his labors in every part of Asia and Europe.

II. THE EFFECT OF THEIR SEDUCTION. Subverting whole houses." They pursued a process of sapping and mining, subverting the faith (2 Timothy 2:18), and bringing whole families to disorder and ruin. It was not a case of mischief done to a few isolated individuals. Thus they undermined the peace and stability of the Church itself.

III. THE MOTIVE OF THEIR TEACHING. "Teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." The real root of the evil is laid bare by the apostle. It was a sordid love of gain. Therefore the teaching was such as would accommodate itself to the prejudices of men. These men had no regard for God's honor, for the interest of Christ, or for the welfare of souls; they only sought to increase their worldly substance by gaining popular applause.

1. Money in itself is no evil, for it has no moral character. It is only a blessing or a curse according to the use that is made of it.

2. "The love of money is the root of all evil? It leads men to dishonor God, to ignore the claims of truth, to sacrifice the peace of the Church. The Pharisees in our Lord's time devoured widows' houses. How many people still sacrifice religion so far as they imagine it to conflict with their worldly advancement!"

3. The motive of these Cretan adversaries was baser than if it had been mere fanaticism or the love of proselytism. (Matthew 23:15.)

IV. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE APOSTLE'S STRONG LANGUAGE CONCERNING THEM. "One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons." This testimony is true. These words refer not to "those of the circumcision," but to the inhabitants of Crete, who had generally welcomed the injurious teaching referred to.

1. The apostle's quotation of a heathen poet, Epimenides, shows that it is not improper for Christians to study the literature of heathen nations. Classical studies were once, on moral grounds, discouraged by the Church. Calvin says that nothing learned ought to be rejected, even though it should proceed from "the godless."

2. The quotation is the unbiased judgment of a Cretan poet, held in high honor for so-called prophetical gifts. It represents the character of the Cretans in the darkest light, as if to justify a heathen proverb, "The three worst C's in the world are Cappadocia, Crete, and Cilicia."

(1) "Cretans are always liars." This estimate is fully borne out by profane writers, as well as by the proverb that makes "Cretizing" synonymous with "deception."

(2) They were evil beasts. In allusion to their fierceness, their wildness, their cruelty.

(3) They were "idle gluttons." They were sensual and slothful, corpulent and idle, and therefore fit disciples of teachers whose "god was their belly," and were content to eat the bread of others without working.

3. The apostle endorses this heathen testimony, showing that the Cretans had not changed their national character in six hundred years.


1. This does not warrant civil persecution.

2. It warrants the use of cogent arguments to silence gainsayers, such as those by which our Lord silenced the Sadducees and the Pharisees, as well as the use of faithful and stringent discipline to repress ecclesiastical and moral disorders. The adversaries were to be opposed by reason, faithfulness, and love, above all, by the faithful preaching of the gospel in its positive as well as its negative aspects. - T.C.

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision, etc. In the preceding verses Paul stated one purpose for which he left Titus in Crete, viz. to set in order "the things that are wanting," and to ordain elders in every city. He recognized at once, not only the importance of order in the new community, but also the importance of appointing men who, intellectually and morally, were qualified for its establishment and continuance., In these verses he gives Titus directions as to his aggressive work in Crete. He was to do battle with sin. "For there are many unruly [men] and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert [overthrow] whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." The great work of the gospel minister is to do battle with sin. In the text, sin is referred to as appearing in two aspects, in religious sect and in national character.

I. IN RELIGIOUS SECT. "Specially they of the circumcision." These, undoubtedly, are Judaizing Christians, men who pretended to be converted to Christianity, men who sought not only to mingle Judaic elements with the new religion, but to inculcate and disseminate it in that form. Observe the description of sin as it appeared in this religious sect - these men of the circumcision. Here is:

1. Factiousness. "Unruly." Not only would they not bow to the established order of the Church, but not to the spirit and principles of the new religion. They would not yield to the masterhood of Christ, the Author and Substance of the gospel; they were stir-willed. They would have a sect of their own.

2. Ostentation. "Vain talkers." Vain, not merely in the sense of proud, but in the sense of emptiness. In truth, as a rule, the emptiest men, intellectually, are at once the most conceited and loquacious. They talk, not for the edification of others, but for the gratification of themselves. Their fluency, whilst it wins the admiration of fools, deludes the ignorant, and disgusts the thoughtful.

3. Falsehood. "Deceivers." All merely nominal Christians are deceivers. They practically misrepresent the doctrines they profess to hold.

4. Mischievousness. "Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert [overthrow] whole houses." "The translation should ran, 'seeing they subvert,' etc. There was, indeed, grave cause why these men should be put to silence: the mischief they were doing in Crete to the Christian cause was incalculable. It was no longer individuals that their poisonous teaching affected, but they were undermining the faith of whole families. For an example how Titus and his presbyters were to stop the mouths of these teachers of what was false, comp. Matthew 22:34-46, where the Lord, by his wise, powerful, yet gentle words, first put the Sadducees to silence, and then so answered the Pharisees ' that neither durst any man from that day ask him any more questions'" (Dr. Ellicott).

5. Greed. "Teaching things which they ought not, ton filthy lucre's sake." All the speeches they made, all the influence they exerted, sprang from sordid motives. Sin has a thousand branches and but one root, and that root is selfishness. How many, in what we call the religious world, are found teaching things which they ought not, for "filthy lucre's sake" - things that gratify popular taste, that agree with popular prejudice, chime in with the popular thought! All this to fill their pews and to enrich their coffers. Now, these sins which are discovered, in the religious sect are prevalent outside of all religions; but they receive a peculiar color, shape, enormity, and mischievousness when we find them in the religious realm. The devil is less hideous amongst his fellows in hell than he is amongst the sons of God. Hence, to do battle with sin in these religious forms is the grand work of a true preacher; and truly, in this age, and here in England, he will find these sins on every hand. He will see factiousness building up sects, and little sects within sects; ostentation - vain speaking, braggardism, sometimes cooing and sometimes bawling, everywhere; falsehood - rogues robing themselves in the garb of sainthood, wolves in sheep's clothing; mischievousness - by their empty words and pernicious example subverting "whole houses," filling the domestic air with poisonous cant; greed - the gospel itself made a trade, and vested interests created in connection with doctrines and doings antagonistic to the life and spirit of him whom they call Master. Ah me! conventional religion is a calumny on the religion of Christ. Never was a Luther wanted in Christendom more than now. He is wanted to substitute the pure gospel of Christ for the denominationalized gospel.

II. IN NATIONAL CHARACTER. "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies [idle gluttons]." There are three sins mentioned here which seem to have prevailed amongst the Cretans as a race.

1. Lying. "The Cretans are always liars." Who made this charge against the Cretans? Paul says, "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own." The quotation is from a poem on 'Oracles,' by Epimenides, of Phoestus, who flourished b.c. 600, lived to the age of a hundred and fifty, and was supposed to have been a sleeper in a cave for fifty-seven years. He appears to have deserved the title prophet in the fullest sense. Plato speaks of him as a Divine man. The Cretans were characterized by the sin of lying - "always liars." This expression was quoted by Callimachus in his ' Hymn to Zeus,' and well known in antiquity. "The very word 'to Cretize' (Kretizein), or to play the part of a Cretan, was invented as a word synonymous with 'to deceive,' 'to utter a lie; 'just as Corinthiazein, 'to play the part of a Corinthian,' signified 'to commit a still darker moral offence.' Some writers suggest that this despicable vice of lying was received as a bequest from the early Phoenician colonists."

2. Sensuality. "Evil beasts." Not only liars, but gross and sensual, living in animalism and for it. All men may be called "beasts" who attend to their animal appetites as means of gratification rather than of relief. He who seeks happiness from his senses rather than from his soul is a beast; he who seeks it from without rather than from within is not better than a beast. The happiness of a true man cannot stream into him from without; it must well up from the depths of his own high thinkings and pure affections. Gluttony. "Slow bellies [idle gluttons]." Their gluttony made them dull, heavy, and indolent. Such are what may be called tribal or national sins. They were not confined to the Cretans, but for them the Cretans were notorious. These are national. But are these sins extinct in England? Have we no lying here? Our social air is impregnated with falsehood. Have we no sensuality and gluttony? Yes, alas! tens of thousands are every day pampering themselves with luxuries, whilst millions are being starved to death. Here, then, are common sins with which the preacher has to do battle. He has to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith."

CONCLUSION. A true preacher, then, has no easy task. He has to wage fierce battle with the sins that are around him - the sins of the sect and. the sins of the tribe. He is not to pander to men's tastes, nor to battle with mere opinions and theories, but with sins; he must "resist unto blood, striving against sin." "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." - D.T.

At this point the apostle drops the reference to bishops, and lays upon Titus himself the duty of applying the proper remedy.

I. THE UTILITY OF REBUKE. "Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith." The nature of the people demanded sharp treatment. "Sharpness and severity are but the other side of love itself, when the wounds can only be healed by cutting." Ministers are sent to give rebuke (Jeremiah 44:4; Micah 3:8).

1. They may give it privately.

2. Or publicly (1 Timothy 5:20).

3. Fearlessly (Ezekiel 2:3-7).

4. With all authority (Titus 2:15).

5. With long-suffering (2 Timothy 4:2).

6. If sharply, yet with Christian love (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

7. The good receive rebuke

(1) kindly (Psalm 141:5);

with love to those who administer it (Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 24:25);

they attend to rebuke (Proverbs 15:5).

II. THE DESIGN OF THE REBUKE. "That they may be sound in the faith." It was:

1. That they might be recovered from their errors, and receive sound doctrine, and use sound speech that cannot be condemned.

2. That they may be sound in the grace of faith, and manifest it by departing from their evil works. This soundness of faith is described negatively by their "not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth."

(1) Jewish fables. These are mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4. They were, no doubt, rabbinical, and ultimately crystallized into the Talmud. Our Lord condemned them (Matthew 15:3). The traditionary principle has, in spite of this warning, spread widely in the Church. We see it in the Latin Church, in the Greek Church, in Islamism. It is, in fact, the ruling principle of all these communities, which have no real love for the Scriptures.

(2) The commandments of men.

(a) They stand in antithesis to the commandments of God (Matthew 15:9; Colossians 2:22).

(b) They evidently were of a ceremonial character, and involved ascetic peculiarities, touching the question of abstinence from meats, and from other things created by God for man's enjoyment.

(c) Their origin was evil, for they sprang from men turning away from the truth. It was not merely Mosaical prohibitions with regard to food that they enforced, but ascetic additions and exaggerations in the spirit of the later Gnosticism. The course of these men was downward. They were departing fast from the gospel. - T.C.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but to the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.


1. The pure are not those ceremonially pure, but those

(1) justified from all sin by Christ's righteousness;

(2) clean through the Word spoken to them;

(3) with hearts purified by faith;

(4) with the graces of faith unfeigned, love without dissimulation, and hope without hypocrisy.

2. Their privilege, purchased by the blood of Christ, was the lawful liberty of using all meats under the gospel which were forbidden by the ceremonial law.

(1) Jesus had taught that defilement conies from the heart, not from the shambles (Luke 11:39-41).

(2) The Church solemnly at Jerusalem decreed the abolition of this old distinction of meats (Acts 15.).

3. The apostle elsewhere teaches the same truth. "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for that man that eateth with offense" (Romans 14:20). All meats are pure to the pure in heart.

4. The distinction of meats among Roman Catholics tends to the neglect of the Divine Law altogether. People on the Continent go to balls on the Lord's day who will feel their souls in danger from eating an egg on Friday.

5. The saying of the apostle has an almost proverbial east; for it asserts that "all things" - that is, more than mere food - may have a purifying tendency in the case of the pure. Nothing is unclean of itself, but good, and to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3-5).

II. THE MORAL RETRIBUTION OF THE IMPURE. It is that they pollute all they touch, and everything becomes the means of increasing their depravity.

1. There is nothing impure or evil in creation; it is in the mind and heart of men; these can turn the choicest gifts of God into the means of moral defilement.

2. Unbelief is the fountain from which all the evil flows; for to the "defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure." The worshippers may, by their distinctions of food, only foster pride and self-righteousness; but all alike springs from unbelief, which disregards the authority of the Word of God.

3. The impurity is not merely external, such as many dread, but internal; for it extends to "the mind and conscience," to the whole intellectual, volitional, and moral nature of man. Thus the last safeguard of the soul disappears, as the retribution upon man's neglect of God, truth, and purity. There is no longer a taste for the simple truth of the gospel, but a frightful facility for self-deception. - T.C.

Unto the pure all things are pure. The gospel centers morality as well as religion in the heart. Men of corrupt tastes cannot have correct morals, because a man may sin against himself as well as against society. An impure heart makes an impure world of its own within; and that, if it hurts none else, hurts the man himself, wrongs his own soul. Here we see that the eye sees what it wishes to see, or what the inward taste desires to see. A pure man does not under stand the double entendre; does not see the vision of evil beneath the veil of words or the disguise of art.

I. THE FIRST REQUIREMENT. "A pure heart." Make the tree good. A bad man will find impure suggestion anywhere and everywhere - even in religious literature, even in the unsuspecting words of holy men - for his heart is not renewed. So possible is it for men to find evil even in things good.

II. THE GREAT SAFEGUARD. "All things are pure." There is no false delicacy. No prudery, no affectation. In meditation or conversation they catch no stain of defilement from the subjects they are mentally brought into contact with. Their safety is from within; for "out of the heart are the issues of life." - W.M.S.

But unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. This is the worst Nemesis of evil; it hurts the man. We can injure the physical senses - the eye, the ear; so we can injure the mind and the moral senses.

I. THE DESCRIPTION OF CHARACTER. Why this couplet? "Defiled and unbelieving" seems at first a strange combination of ideas. Not so. To defile is to march off - to file away from. So men leave the King's highway of holiness, purity, truth, and righteousness; and they do this because they are unbelieving. They will not accept the revelation of God, that sin is loss, shame, misery, death; and that holiness is happiness and life eternal.

II. THE DREAD ISSUE. Nothing is pure. All waters take the color of the soil over which they pass. The stained windows make a stained light. An impure heart colors everything - thought, imagination, observation, conversation, and common life. And this is the doom! Their mind and conscience are defiled. They feel it. They know it, and at times they confess it. Many shrink from themselves who have never had resolution to seek him who can "create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within them." - W.M.S.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, etc. We notice, at the outset, two facts suggested by the passage.

1. That there is an essential difference in the moral characters of men. There are some "pure" and some "defiled," some holy and some unholy. What is the underlying inspiring principle that makes this difference? The predominant disposition. Perhaps there is no moral being in the universe who is not under the masterhood of some one sentiment or passion, to which can be traced, as to a mainspring, all the motions of his being. This controlling tendency is the moral monarch of souls, or, in Scripture language, is the moral "heart of the man." This supreme disposition exists in all men in two distinct and opposite forms, either in sympathy with the true, the right, and the spiritual, or in sympathy with the false, the wrong, and the material. That soul alone is pure whose governing sympathy is God and the true. Supreme love for the supremely good is the true life of the soul, and the fountain of all its virtues. He whose controlling sympathies run not thus, is impure and corrupt.

2. Pleat the outward world is to men according to this difference. The whole external universe is to a man according to the moral state of his soul. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" - so is he in relation to himself, to all without, and to God. This being so, the text teaches the supreme importance of moral character. Let us look at -

I. THE MORALLY PURE IN RELATION TO ALL THINGS. "Unto the pure all things are pure." This is true in relation to three things.

1. In relation to appearance. The proverb goes that the greatest rogues are ever the most suspicious. A thoroughly selfish, ungodly soul will see but little good even in the best men. It is a law that man judges his fellow by himself, and the more corrupt a man is, the more severe his judgment on others. A good man is neither given to suspicion nor censoriousness; he sees some good in all men.

2. In relation to influence. The influence of all outward things upon men is dependent on their moral character. Our Lord says, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth defileth a man." The moral character is an all-transformative power in the center of man's being. It turns the unclean into the clean, and the reverse. A good man, like the bee, can extract honey from the bitterest plant; or, like the AEolian harp, can turn the shrieking wind into music.

3. In relation to appropriation. As the body lives by appropriating the outward, so does the soul; and as the effects of the appropriation, whether universal or otherwise, depend on the condition of the body's health, as the appropriation of a diseased body only increases the physical ailment; so with the soul. A corrupt soul appropriates, even from the most strengthening and refreshing means of spiritual improvement, that which weakens and destroys. Pharaoh and his host got moral mischief out of the ministry of Moses; and the men of Capernaum were pressed into a deeper and darker hell through the elevating and enlightening ministry of Jesus of-Nazareth. Mark, then, the supreme importance of moral character.

II. THE MORALLY DEFILED IN RELATION TO ALL THINGS. "Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Here is the converse. Mark, in passing, three things.

1. The sphere of the defilement. "The mind and conscience." "The mind," says a modern expositor, "is the willing as well as the thinking part of man, as it has been well defined the human spirit (pneuma) in one of its aspects, not simply quatenus cogitat, et intelligit, but also quatenus vult. Defilement of this mind (nous) means that the thoughts, wishes, purposes, activities, are all stained and debased. The second of these, the conscience (suneidesis), is the moral consciousness within, and that which is ever bringing up the memory of the past, with its omissions and commissions, its errors, its cruel, heartless unkindness, its selfish disregard of others. When this is defiled, then this last safeguard of the soul is broken down. The man and woman of the defiled conscience is self-satisfied, hard, impenitent to the last. Every part and faculty of the soul is stained with sin. The body may be cleansed by ceremonial ablutions, and the external manners and speech kept pure by culture and civilization, but the soul be black; the outside of the "cup and of the platter clean," but inside full of corruption.

2. The cause of the defilement. "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him." There is nothing, perhaps, so morally defiling to the soul as religious hypocrisy. The man who with the lip professes to know God, and who in the life denies him, gets deeper stains upon his soul than the agnostic who professes that he knows nothing about him. What millions in our churches every Sunday publicly, at each service, avow with their lip their belief in God, but in their week-day life "he is not in all their thoughts"! Thus souls get deeply dyed in corruption in Christian churches.

3. The hideousness of the defilement. "Being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." However fair their conduct in the religious observances, they are "abominable" within, hideous to the eye of God. However rigorous in their observances and religious ordinances, they are "disobedient" in heart, they outrage moral laws; however useful they regard themselves and appear to others, they are "reprobate," they are rejected and worthless. These "defiled" in soul defile everything without; all outward things in their appearance, influences, and appropriation are to them corrupt.


1. The natural sovereignty of the human son. We are not necessarily the creatures of the outward; we have within the power to bend circumstances to our will, to get good out of evil, to turn outward dissonance into music, deformity into beauty, poison into nourishment. Let us adore our Maker for this wonderful endowment - an endowment which guards us from the coercion of outward forces, secures to us an inward freedom of action, and enables us to put all outward things in subjection to our own spiritual selves.

2. The dependency of the soul's destiny on itself. A man's destiny depends upon his moral character, and his character depends upon himself. As food, however nutritious, cannot administer strength to a man's body without the digestive and appropriative power, so no external influences, however good and useful in themselves, can raise a man's soul without the right action of its faculties. Man cannot be made good. His body may be borne to the summit of a lofty mountain without the use of his limbs, but if his soul is to ascend "the holy hill of the Lord," he must climb it every inch himself. Fortune or patronage may raise him to some eminent social position, but he cannot reach a single stage of moral dignity - the true dignity of man - apart from his own earnest endeavors. The transformative power of the soul is to external circumstances what the builder is to the materials out of which he rears his edifice. The choicest materials may be brought together - gold, marble, and cedar - but unless the builder use them with artistic skill they will never take the form of a beautiful structure. So the providence of God may gather around man all the facilities and elements for the raising of a noble character, but unless he use them with his own spiritual hand, he will never produce such a structure.

3. The grand end of true teaching. What is that? The supreme importance of every man obtaining a true moral character. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." In moral goodness of soul alone, can we not only find our heaven, but find our way safely and happily through this life. We live in a world of evil. We cannot escape its sinful influence by endeavoring, like the anchorite, to avoid its touch. Whilst no man should put himself in the way of temptation, no man should be afraid to confront evil, to go into its most malarial regions if duty call. In truth, if man's well-being depended upon escaping outward evil, it could never be realized, because to live in the world he is bound to live in its midst, and evil must stream into him every day. How, then, is he to reach a blessed destiny? Not merely by endeavoring to frame his life according to the outward rules of morality and religion, but by a right use of his own spiritual powers. There is a power in the body, when in a healthy state, to appropriate whatever goes into it from external nature that is wholesome and necessary, and to expel that which is noxious and superfluous. The soul has a power analogous to this; a power to appropriate the wholesome and to expel the injurious. This power we call the transformative. Let us use it rightly - use it as Noah used it, who, amidst the blasphemy and ridicule of a corrupt generation, walked with God, and fulfilled a noble destiny; as Paul used it at skeptical Athens, in dissolute Corinth, and in pagan Rome, who from experience left the world this testimony: "All things work together for good to them that love God." - D.T.

The apostle here describes their moral deficiency. "They confess that they know God, but in works they deny him."


1. Their knowledge of God was purely theoretical or speculative, but they were practical atheists.

2. Hypocrites often profess great knowledge of God.

3. Even in apostolic times the communion of the Church was considerably mixed. There is no trace of a pure Church anywhere on earth. The Church in Crete had unbelievers in its visible membership.

II. THEIR DENIAL OF GOD TOOK A MOST PRACTICAL SHAPE. Their conduct gave the lie to their profession. They wore:

1. Abominable in the sight of God. They were morally abandoned. They were as hateful in the sight of God as the idols of the nations.

2. Disobedient. They were refractory and incorrigible, despising all order and repudiating obligation.

3. Reprobate unto every good work. They were as useless for the service of God as reprobate silver, which cannot bear the fire of the refiner.

(1) They did no good works.

(2) They had neither knowledge nor inclination to do good works.

(3) Therefore they were quite useless in the service of God and man. - T.C.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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