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.
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(3) For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived.—Better rendered, For we were once ourselves foolish, disobedient, going astray. Surely, the Apostle argues, Christians can never refuse obedience to one in authority, or decline to be meek, courteous, kind, and forbearing to their neighbours, because, forsooth, they deem the magistrate in authority or their neighbours idolators, and therefore outside the pale of God’s mercy and their courtesy; for remember, writes St. Paul, we were once (not so long ago) ourselves in their condition. We once needed mercy our selves. This strong appeal to Christians, by the memory of their past, by the memory of what they once were, must have gone home to one like Titus, himself of a Gentile family, and most probably nurtured in idolatry. It would, no doubt, be repeated with strange, touching earnestness, would this argument of St. Paul by Titus when he spoke to the assembly of the Cretan Christians. We were once ourselves “foolish,” that is, without understanding what was true; and “disobedient,” that is, unwilling, indisposed, to do what was right; “deceived,” or rather going astray (errantes), wandering away from the narrow road which leads to life.

Serving divers lusts and pleasures.—This is the service we served in the old past days of our sin and shame, while we were “disobedient” to what was right and pure. We were obedient to, we were “serving” as slaves, many an impure lust, many a wrongful pleasure—for the lusts and pleasures to which St. Paul referred were those of the people with whom for the moment the Apostle was classing himself. The pleasures of these partly Greek, partly Asiatic peoples consisted, indeed, in the wanton satisfaction of the lusts of the flesh; their shameless revellings were scarcely covered with their thin and flimsy veil of beauty and false refinement.

Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.—These pleasure-loving, lust-indulging ones envied each one his neighbour the good things he possessed; and thus we—for we, remember, were once of this number-once spent our lives in this atmosphere of hate, hating others with a jealous dislike, hated ourselves for the same reasons. Shall we then—once like them—now refuse all sympathy to these poor souls still left in ignorance and sin?

3:1-7 Spiritual privileges do not make void or weaken, but confirm civil duties. Mere good words and good meanings are not enough without good works. They were not to be quarrelsome, but to show meekness on all occasions, not toward friends only, but to all men, though with wisdom, Jas 3:13. And let this text teach us how wrong it is for a Christian to be churlish to the worst, weakest, and most abject. The servants of sin have many masters, their lusts hurry them different ways; pride commands one thing, covetousness another. Thus they are hateful, deserving to be hated. It is the misery of sinners, that they hate one another; and it is the duty and happiness of saints to love one another. And we are delivered out of our miserable condition, only by the mercy and free grace of God, the merit and sufferings of Christ, and the working of his Spirit. God the Father is God our Saviour. He is the fountain from which the Holy Spirit flows, to teach, regenerate, and save his fallen creatures; and this blessing comes to mankind through Christ. The spring and rise of it, is the kindness and love of God to man. Love and grace have, through the Spirit, great power to change and turn the heart to God. Works must be in the saved, but are not among the causes of their salvation. A new principle of grace and holiness is wrought, which sways, and governs, and makes the man a new creature. Most pretend they would have heaven at last, yet they care not for holiness now; they would have the end without the beginning. Here is the outward sign and seal thereof in baptism, called therefore the washing of regeneration. The work is inward and spiritual; this is outwardly signified and sealed in this ordinance. Slight not this outward sign and seal; yet rest not in the outward washing, but look to the answer of a good conscience, without which the outward washing will avail nothing. The worker therein is the Spirit of God; it is the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Through him we mortify sin, perform duty, walk in God's ways; all the working of the Divine life in us, and the fruits of righteousness without, are through this blessed and holy Spirit. The Spirit and his saving gifts and graces, come through Christ, as a Saviour, whose undertaking and work are to bring to grace and glory. Justification, in the gospel sense, is the free forgiveness of a sinner; accepting him as righteous through the righteousness of Christ received by faith. God, in justifying a sinner in the way of the gospel, is gracious to him, yet just to himself and his law. As forgiveness is through a perfect righteousness, and satisfaction is made to justice by Christ, it cannot be merited by the sinner himself. Eternal life is set before us in the promise; the Spirit works faith in us, and hope of that life; faith and hope bring it near, and fill with joy in expectation of it.For we ourselves - We who are Christians. There is no reason for supposing, as Benson does, that this is to be understood as confined to Paul himself. There are some things mentioned here which were not probably true of him before his conversion, and the connection does not require us to suppose that he referred particularly to himself. He is stating a reason why those to whom Titus was appointed to preach should be urged to lead holy lives, and especially to manifest a spirit of order, peace, kindness, and due subordination to law. In enforcing this, he says, that those who were now Christians had formerly been wicked, disorderly, and sensual, but that under the influence of the gospel, they had been induced to lead better lives. The same gospel which had been effectual in their case, might, be in others. To others it would be an encouragement to show that there were cases in which the gospel had been thus efficacious, and they who were appointed to preach it might refer to their own example as a reason why others should be persuaded to lead holy lives. In preaching to others, also, they were not to be proud or arrogant. They were to remember that they were formerly in the same condition with those whom they addressed, and whom they exhorted to reformation. They were not to forget that what they had that was superior to others they owed to the grace of God, and not to any native goodness. He will exhort the wicked to repentance most effectually who remembers that his own former life was wicked; he will evince most of the proper spirit in doing it who has the deepest sense of the errors and folly of his own past ways.

Foolish - See this word explained in the notes at Luke 24:25, where it is rendered "fools;" compare Romans 1:14, where it is rendered "unwise," and Galatians 3:1, Galatians 3:3; 1 Timothy 6:9, where it is rendered "foolish."

Disobedient - To law, to parents, to civil authority, to God. This is the natural character of the human heart; see Luke 1:17; Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:16, where the same word occurs.

Deceived - By the great enemy, by false teachers, by our own hearts, and by the flattery of others. It is a characteristic of man by nature that he sees nothing in its true light, but walks along amidst constant, though changing and very beautiful illusions; compare Matthew 24:4-5, Matthew 24:11; 2 Timothy 3:13; 1 Peter 2:25; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 18:23, where the same word occurs; see also Revelation 20:3, Revelation 20:8,Revelation 20:10, where the same word is applied to that great deceiver who has led the world astray. Every one who is converted feels, and is ready to confess, that before conversion he was deceived as to the comparative value of things, as to the enjoyment which he expected to find in scenes of pleasure and riot, and often in what seemed to him well-formed plans.

Serving divers lusts and pleasures - Indulging in the various corrupt passions and propensities of the soul. We were so under their influence that it might be said we were their servants, or were slaves to them (δουλεύοντες douleuontes); that is, we implicitly obeyed them; see the notes at Romans 6:16-17.

Living in malice - Greek, "in evil" - ἐν κακίᾳ en kakia; that is, in all kinds of evil; see the notes at Romans 1:29, where the word is rendered maliciousness.

And envy - Displeasure at the happiness and prosperity of others; Notes, Romans 1:29.

Hateful - στυγητοὶ stugētoi. This word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It means that our conduct was such as to be worthy of the hatred of others. Of whom, before his conversion, is not this true?

And hating one another - There was no brotherly love; no true affection for others. There was ill-will felt in the heart, and it was evinced in the life. This is an apt description of the state of the heathen world before the gospel shines on it, and it may be regarded as the characteristic of all men before conversion. They have no true love for one another, such as they ought to cherish, and they are liable constantly to give indulgence to feelings which evince hatred. In contentions, and strifes, and litigations, and wars, this feeling is constantly breaking out. All this is suggested here as a reason why Christians should now be gentle and mild toward those who are evil. Let us remember what we were, and we shall not be disposed to treat others harshly. When a Christian is tempted to unkind thoughts or words towards others, nothing is more appropriate for him than to reflect on his own past life.

3. For—Our own past sins should lead us to be lenient towards those of others. "Despise none, for such wast thou also." As the penitent thief said to his fellow thief, "Dost thou not fear God … seeing that thou art in the same condemnation."


were—Contrast Tit 3:4, "But when," that is, now: a favorite contrast in Paul's writing, that between our past state by nature, and our present state of deliverance from it by grace. As God treated us, we ought to treat our neighbor.


foolish—wanting right reason in our course of living. Irrational. The exact picture of human life without grace. Grace is the sole remedy for foolishness.

disobedient—to God.

deceived—led astray. The same Greek, "out of the way" (Heb 5:2).

serving—Greek, "in bondage to," serving as slaves."

divers—The cloyed appetite craves constant variety.

pleasures—of the flesh.


hateful … hating—correlatives. Provoking the hatred of others by their detestable character and conduct, and in turn hating them.

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish; without any knowledge, wisdom, or spiritual understanding.

Disobedient: the word signifieth as well unbelieving as disobedient, neither persuaded to assent to the truth, nor yet to live up to the rule of the gospel.

Deceived by the deceitfulness of sin.

Serving divers lusts and pleasures; being slaves to our sensitive appetite.

Living in malice and envy; suffering wrath to rest in our bosoms, till it boiled up to a desire of revenge, and showed itself in actions of that nature, and pining at the good and prosperity of others.

Hateful; deserving to be abominated by good men.

And hating one another; and hating good men, or such as were our neighbours: and having been so ourselves formerly, we ought to pity such as still are so.

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish,.... Nothing has a greater tendency to promote humility, and check pride in the saints, than to reflect upon their past state and condition, what they themselves once were; and this is a reason why magistrates, though evil men, should be obeyed in things good and lawful, and why no man should be spoken evil of, and why every man should be treated in a gentle manner, and used with mildness and meekness; since the apostle himself, and Titus, and other saints, whom he designed this as an instruction for, were formerly, in their unregenerate state, just such persons themselves; and therefore should not glory over them, and treat them in a contemptuous manner: and besides, the same grace that had made a difference in them, could make one in these also, and which might be made in God's own time: and particularly, whereas they observed great ignorance in these men, they should consider that they also had been "foolish", and without understanding of things, divine and spiritual, and neither knew their own state and condition, nor the way of salvation by Christ; yea, the apostle himself, though he had a zeal for God, yet not according to knowledge; he did not know lust, nor the exceeding sinfulness of sin, until he was enlightened by the Spirit of God; he was ignorant of the righteousness of God, and went about to establish his own, which he imagined to be blameless; and thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus:

disobedient; both to the law of God, and Gospel of Christ; disbelieving the truths of the Gospel, and not subjected to the ordinances of it, notwithstanding the evidence with which they came, and the miracles by which they were confirmed.

Deceived; by the old serpent Satan, who deceives the whole world; and by an evil heart of unbelief, as well as by false teachers and leaders; and so, as the word signifies, were wandering about in darkness and ignorance, and were as sheep going astray, until they were returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of souls.

Serving divers lusts and pleasures; the lusts of the flesh are many and various, which promise pleasure to them that obey them, though that is but imaginary, and very short lived, and which subjects persons to bondage and slavery; for such who indulge to these things, are overcome by them, led captive, and brought into bondage, and are the servants of sin, vassals and slaves to their own corruptions; and such these saints had been, here spoken of:

living in malice and envy; they had not only malice and envy in their hearts against their fellow creatures, but practised it in their lives; yea, their lives were a continued series of malice and envy; particularly this was true of the apostle, who haled men and women out of their houses, and committed them to prison; breathed out slaughter and threatenings against the saints; was exceedingly mad against them, persecuted them to strange cities, and compelled them to blaspheme, and gave his vote for punishing them with death.

Hateful, and hating one another; abominable in the sight of God, as considered in themselves, and on account of their nature and practices; and to be abhorred by all good men; and who, by their continual feuds, quarrels, and animosities among themselves, showed an hatred, an abhorrence of one another.

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

(2) He confirms again the former exhortation by propounding the free benefit of our regeneration, the symbol of which is our baptism. (Ed.)

Titus 3:3. Ἦμεν γάρ] γάρ shows that the thought following it is to give a reason for the previous exhortation. But the reason does not lie in this verse taken by itself (Chrysostom: οὐκοῦν μηδενὶ ὀνειδίσῃς, φησὶ· τοιοῦτος γὰρ ἦς καὶ σύ; so, too, Hofmann), but in this verse when connected with the verse following. The meaning therefore is: As we were in the state in which they are now, but were rescued by the kindness of God, it becomes us to show kindness and gentleness towards those whom we were at one time like. Ἠμεν stands first as emphatic; ποτέ, “at one time,” viz. before we became believers. Wiesinger: “The contrast to ποτέ is given by ὅτε δέ in Titus 3:4; we have here the well-known contrast between ποτέ and νῦν; comp. Romans 11:30; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:21; Colossians 3:7-8; they are the two hinges of the Pauline system.”

καὶ ἡμεῖς] “we too;” ἡμεῖς includes all believing Christians. It is to be noted that even here Paul makes no distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians (otherwise in Ephesians 2:3).

ἀνόητοι] is equivalent to ἐσκοτισμένοι τῇ διανοίᾳ, Ephesians 4:18; without understanding, viz. in reference to divine things; not simply: “blinded regarding our true destiny” (Matthies), or: “without knowing what is right” (Hofmann). Heinrichs refers this and πλανώμενοι, to idol-worship, but the apostle is not speaking here of Gentile Christians alone.

ἀπειθεῖς] disobedient to divine law; Heydenreich wrongly refers it to the relations with the authorities.

πλανώμενοι (see 2 Timothy 3:13) stands here not in a neuter, but in a passive sense: “led astray,” proceeding on a wrong path, not merely “in regard to knowledge,” but more generally. Wiesinger: “sc. ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας, ἀλήθεια being regarded not as abstract truth, but as the sum total of moral good;” comp. Jam 5:19; Hebrews 5:2.

δουλεύοντες ἐπιθυμίαις καὶ ἡδοναῖς ποικίλαις (see 2 Timothy 3:6) ἡδοναί, as Jam 4:1; Jam 4:3. He who follows his lusts is a slave to them, hence δουλεύοντες; see Romans 6:6; Romans 6:12. Michaelis gives it too narrow a meaning by referring it to sins of lust.

ἐν κακίᾳ καὶ φθόνῳ διάγοντες] κακία is not “vileness,” but “wickedness;” comp. Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:31; otherwise in 1 Corinthians 5:8 and other passages, where it is synonymous with πονηρία.

διάγοντες] connected with βίον only here and in 1 Timothy 2:2.

στυγητοί (ἅπ. λεγ.) is equivalent to μισητοί (Hesychius), “detested and detestable;” it is wanting in Luther’s translation.

μισοῦντες ἀ̓λλήλους] comp. Romans 1:29.

Titus 3:3-7. Cretans who hear this epistle need not feel hurt as though I were thinking of them with exceptional severity. We were such ourselves until we came to know the love of God, unmerited and saving and sanctifying and perfecting.

3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish] ‘Sometimes’ in the old sense of ‘sometime,’ Ephesians 2:13, ‘ye who sometimes were afar off.’ Cp. Shaksp. Rich. II. 1. 2. 54 (Bible Word-Book, p. 551):

‘Farewell, old Gaunt: thy sometimes brother’s wife

With her companion grief must end her life.’

The position and tense of the verb and particle justify our rendering For there was a time when we too were foolish. ‘Foolish’; ‘in this word there is always a moral fault lying at the root of the intellectual,’ N. T. Syn. § 75; as in Luke 24:25, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart,’ and Galatians 3:1 ‘O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you?’ so ‘wanting in spiritual sense,’ ‘blind’; cf. 1 Timothy 6:9; 2 Timothy 3:9.

disobedient, deceived] disobedient, as Titus 1:16, 2 Timothy 3:2, and all other N.T. passages; ‘insuadibiles,’ Theod. Mops. Lat.; ‘inobedientes,’ Jerome; not as Vulg.’ increduli,’ ‘distrustful;’ going astray, rather than ‘deceived;’ the verb is no doubt used in both passive and neuter sense, but compare the use of the pres. part., Matthew 18:12, ‘doth he not leave the ninety and nine … and seek that which goeth astray?’ and 1 Peter 2:25, ‘For ye were going astray like sheep;’ where the argument for patience from a sense of having erred and strayed is just the same. May not St Peter have taken up this very force of the word, and so been led to the quotation from Isaiah 53? It is a question whether even in 2 Timothy 3:13 ‘leading astray and going astray’ would not express the antithesis better than ‘deceiving and being deceived.’ There is no stress on their ‘being deceived,’ which might furnish rather an excuse than an aggravation.

serving divers lusts and pleasures] The Greek is stronger, being the slaves of, as Luke 16:13 ‘to be God’s slave and Mammon’s slave’ and elsewhere. ‘Divers’ is only used by St Paul in these ‘Pastoral’ letters; of diseases, Luke 4:40 : twice in Heb., twice in St Peter, once in St James. But the compound is used of ‘wisdom,’ Ephesians 3:10. ‘Pleasures’ in the N.T. use is stronger than our English word. It only occurs James 4:1; James 4:3 of lusts and adulteries, 2 Peter 2:13 of day-revels and debauchery, and Luke 8:14 of their ‘choking’ effect, along with carking care and riches.

living in malice and envy] ‘Malice’ is the ‘evil habit of mind’ which manifests itself in positive evil and harm-doing, see note on Titus 2:9 and Trench, N. T. Syn. § 11. It comes between a state of envy and the actual working of ill to a neighbour.

hateful, and hating one another] Vulg. ‘odibiles odientes invicem’; ‘hateful’ in the particular form of the Greek word here does not occur elsewhere in N.T., but is formed just as ‘abominable’ in Titus 1:16. The full sense is well seen in the compound ‘hateful to God’ (not as A.V. ‘haters of God’) Romans 1:30.

The whole verse seems an echo, in brief, of the fuller description of heathen life written ten years before in Romans 1:18-32. As in Titus 2:12, St Paul identifies himself with the Cretans in self-condemnation, and divine mercy; exemplifying the ‘meekness’ he inculcates.

Titus 3:3. Γὰρ, for) As God has treated us, so we ought to treat our neighbour.—καὶ ἡμεῖς, we also) Ephesians 2:3.—ἀνόητοι, foolish) We have not come to the knowledge of God of our own accord (of ourselves). [This is the very exact image of human life without grace. Grace, and grace alone, is the remedy even for foolishness. Some, which may appear wonderful, though they excel in some things by singular skill and sagacity, yet in other things, when godliness or even mere natural equity is the point at issue, make the most wretched blunders, and permit themselves to be imposed upon, and their authority to be basely exercised.—V. g.]—ἀπειθεῖς, disobedient) We did not obey God when revealing Himself.—ἡδοναῖς, pleasures) which consist even in evil speaking, not merely in the taste of the tongue (i.e. the pleasures of the palate).—ποικιλαῖς, various, divers) 2 Timothy 3:6. A remarkable epithet. Variety delights.

Verse 3. - We for we ourselves, A.V.; afore-time for sometimes, A.V.; hating for and hating, A.V. Foolish (ἀνόητοι); a Pauline word (Galatians 3:1, 3), found also in Luke 24:25 (see 1 Timothy 6:9); of frequent use in classical Greek. Disobedient (ἀπειθεῖς); as Titus 1:16. In Luke 1:17 it stands, as here, absolutely, meaning disobedient to God and his Law. Deceived (πλανώμενοι); led astray, made to wander from the path of troth and right, either by false systems of religion, or by our own evil affections and appetites (see 2 Timothy 2:13; 1 Peter 2:25; 2 Peter 2:15, etc.). Serving; slaves to (δουλεύοντες); 2 Peter 2:19 (see above, Titus 2:2). Lusts (ἐπιθυμίαις); not always in a bad sense, as here, though usually so (see Luke 22:15; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Revelation 18:14). Pleasures (ἡδοναῖς); always in a bad sense in the New Testament (Luke 8:14; James 4:1, 3; 2 Peter 2:13). Living (διάγοντες); see 1 Timothy 2:2, where it is followed by βίον, which is here understood. Διάγειν τὸν βίον αἰῶνα χρόνον σάββατον. etc., are common phrases both in the LXX. and in classical Greek for passing or spending one's life, time, age, etc. But it is only found in the New Testament here and in 1 Timothy 2:2. Malice (κακίᾳ). This word is sometimes used of wickedness generally, as Acts 8:22; James 1:21; 1 Corinthians 5:8; and probably Romans 1:29; and even of badness in things, as Matthew 6:34. But it frequently in the New Testament denotes malice, the desire to do harm to others, as Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8, etc. Envy (φθόνῳ); almost always found in St. Paul's enumeration of sins (Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:4, etc.). Hateful (στυγητοί); only here in the New Testament, not found in the LXX. (though the verb στυγέω occurs once or twice in the Maccabees), but used in good classical Greek. The above is a sad but too true picture of human life without the sweetening influences of God's Holy Spirit. Titus 3:3Divers - pleasures (ἡδοναῖς ποικίλαις)

Ἡδονή pleasure, only here in Pastorals. oP. See on James 4:1. For ποικίλαις divers, see on 2 Timothy 3:6.

Malice (κακίᾳ)

Only here in Pastorals. See on James 1:21. In N.T. κακία is a special form of vice, not viciousness in general, as Cicero, Tusc. iv. 15, who explains by "vitiositas, a viciousness which includes all vices." Calvin, on Ephesians 4:32, defines as " a viciousness of mind opposed to humanity and fairness, and commonly styled malignity." The homily ascribed to Clement of Rome, describes κακία as the forerunner (προοδοίπορον) of our sins (x). Malice is a correct translation.

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