June 15, 2017 | Truth & Godliness

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine…This [that you are justified by grace and an heir of eternal life] is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”
[Titus 2:1; 3:8 NASB]
Truth & Godliness
I was reminded that I had not yet sent out my personal study notes for my most recent teaching series – the amazing letter to Titus. Please forgive the delay and enjoy diving in to this book of scripture!
Objective (what we hope to see God accomplish in us through the study): That we partner with God in continually reforming our lives, church, (and eventually world) according to truth and godliness.
Statements of the objective: “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order.” (Titus 1:5 ESV)
Researchers at the University of Maryland and at Harvard recently created “time crystals,” which are quantumly different than the matter around them. The scientists took ions out of their natural state and used either microwaves or lasers to “prod” the ions. In response, the ions formed a type of bonded community that appeared to operate in a perpetual motion of forming and re-forming. I was astounded not so much by the research, which may prove eventually fruitless, as by the parallels to the book of Titus. In Titus, God prods us with His Word and Spirit to produce a type of community different than the world around us, a place and time of perpetual reformation. Far from fruitless, this reforming changes everything.
– WB notes
Premise (why we are studying this): It’s hard for Christians to stay on track, following Jesus every day. Surely we are as surrounded by cretins as Titus was by Cretans. Seriously, this world can be a tough place for Christians and their churches – and not only because of “Cretan” societies. The cretin in the mirror is a mess as well. Thankfully, God engages with His people to meet our needs and prosper us in Christ. Titus shows that He especially does this through sound doctrine lived out in good deeds.
Statements of the premise: “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” “This [that you are justified by grace and an heir of eternal life] is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” (Titus 2:1; 3:8 NASB)
“There were things ‘unfinished’ in the first century Cretan church where Titus served and as we read through the letter we discover what they were. They have a familiar ring to them. They are the very things that need to be addressed in our churches today. But there is so much more to the letter than a mere list of things that needed to be tackled. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul explains why they are to be tackled and how they are to be tackled and by whom. In doing so he gives inspired guidance for churches in all ages as each faces its own unfinished task.”
– David Campbell, Opening Up Titus, 8
Theme of the study (what the study is about): Titus calls us to live out our right doctrine (orthodoxy/truth) in right living (orthopraxy/godliness).
Statements of the theme: For the grace of God has appeared with salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works. (Titus 2:11-14 HCSB)
“In Titus he [Paul] stresses worthy Christian conduct and insists that Christian conduct must be based on and regulated by Christian truth. Nowhere else does Paul more forcefully urge the essential connection between evangelical truth and the purest morality than in this brief letter.”
– Edmond Hiebert, Titus (EBC), 424
Textual background:
1.        Authorship and Canonicity. The Pauline authority guaranteed this letter early and universal recognition as canon. No concerns were raised until early modernity, and those arguments are so unconvincing that they are not worth mentioning.
2.        Date of composition. This question is impossible to answer with certainty, though we can proclaim 65 A.D. as likely. Here is F.F. Bruce’s Pauline chronology:
In 1913, J.V. Bartlet touted the idea that Paul achieved a great start on Cretan evangelism during his voyage to Rome. Putting in at both Salmone and Fair Havens, the Alexandrian grain ship carrying Paul waited out a series of storms – delays that could easily have given time for Paul’s practice of reasoning with Jews and Gentiles. While Acts mentions little regarding Crete (and nothing of Titus), Acts 17:7-13 details what Luke calls “considerable time” spent on Crete.
We have no way of knowing whether Titus was on that trip in Paul’s retinue or was later sent to Crete. The official Orthodox Church of Crete holds to a tradition (they would write “Tradition”) that Paul left Titus there before heading off toward shipwreck on Malta, rescue, and eventual journey to Rome.
Sometime after Paul’s release, he wrote the three letters we call “pastoral” – I Timothy, Titus, and II Timothy. II Timothy was obviously written after Paul was arrested as part of Nero’s persecution begun after the fire of 64. The others are evidently written before that arrest began. In Titus, Paul still has complete freedom of movement, planning to winter on the west coast of Greece and wanting Titus to join him. Thus, Titus could have been written anytime between his 62 release and the 65 arrest.
3.    Literary style and language. The diction and themes are clearly Pauline, developing subjects discussed in his other writings. Paul writes to Titus a brief letter describing various tasks to be accomplished in the churches on the great island. He also inserts some pithy and sublime theology.
Historical background: 
1.     Titus. Ryrie’s summary is excellent:
A Gentile by birth (Galatians 2:3), Titus was converted through the ministry of Paul (Titus 1:4). He accompanied Paul to Jerusalem at the time of the apostolic council (Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:1-3). He was Paul’s emissary to the church at Corinth during the third missionary journey (2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 8:6, 16). Titus and two others took the letter we call 2 Corinthians to Corinth and urged the Corinthians to make good their promise to give to the poor in Jerusalem. Paul left Titus in Crete to use his administrative gifts to consolidate the work there. Artemas or Tychicus probably relieved Titus in Crete so he could join Paul in Nicopolis (Titus 3:2), from where Paul sent him to Dalmatia [modern Croatia] (2 Timothy 4:10).
– Charles Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, p. 1830.
Titus was obviously very important to Paul and his work. Probably the most telling testimony to his import is found in Paul’s consternation when Paul was delayed and didn’t meet as planned in Troas. (See 2 Corinthians 2.) Concerned about Titus, Paul cut off promising ministry in Troas to head for Macedonia in hopes of finding his young partner. (See 2 Corinthians 7.)
Edmond Hiebert summarized Titus nicely, saying, “These scanty references to Titus reveal that he was trustworthy, efficient, and valued young co-worker. He possessed a forceful personality, was resourceful, energetic, tactful, skillful in dealing with difficult situations, and effective in conciliating people.” – Titus, 422.
Paul surely gave Titus the ultimate compliment in 2 Corinthians, the letter Titus took back to Corinth. Dealing with the inevitable grumpiness found in every church going through a capital campaign, Paul wrote: “Did any of the men I sent to you take advantage of you? When I urged Titus to visit you and sent our other brother with him, did Titus take advantage of you? No! For we have the same spirit and walk in each other’s steps, doing things the same way.” (2 Corinthians 12:17-18 NLT)
2.     Church growth. No one has yet surpassed Sir William Ramsay scholarly and brilliant study of both St. Paul the Traveler and The Church in the Roman Empire. Ramsay deftly combines history and archeology to show how churches grew in the first 140 years after Jesus’ resurrection. His insights directly impact the purpose of this letter to Titus, as they help us understand what it means to “set in order what remains.” (Titus 1:5) Sir William notes:
  • Church membership came disproportionately from the wealthier classes, especially outside Judea. This may be due to Paul’s practice of reaching first through the synagogue, or may be attributable to his excellent grasp of Roman law and Hellenic thought.
  • Paul’s pattern was to reach first to the Jews in their synagogue and then to reason with Gentiles. There appears to have been plenty of opportunity for each during the winter he docked at various cities in Crete.
  • The organization of each local church was truly local. The Hebrew idea of village Elder leadership wasn’t ingrained in some communities and had to be taught. Even where the Elder image was understood, it took time to groom Elders and establish a self-perpetuating council.
Especially before 100 A.D., much of the scripture teaching was done by professionals who travelled circuits with letters of introduction. It was thus important for local Elders to be a permanent, steady force able to hold the congregation to biblical doctrine.
3.     False teachers. It isn’t completely clear what particular brand of false teachers Titus is to confront in Crete. Based on the two warning passages, it seems that Judaizers are at work, teaching similar heresy to that found in Galatia. (See Galatians 1:8.) Some scholars think Crete was beset by early Gnostic-type teachers, but nothing in the text demands this. If proto-Gnostics were operating there, the short summary in the Archeological Study Bible is very helpful (see 1 John 4, p. 2029)
Another great note on false teachers in the pastoral epistles can be found in Hays & Duvall’s Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook:
False teachers are to be rebuked and silenced (1 Tim. 1:3; Titus 1:11-13). Paul does not take false teaching lightly. Such error will upset whole families (Titus 1:11), “destroy the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18), “spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:17), and deceive people into thinking they are right with God when they are not (Titus 1:16). Doctrinal error jeopardizes souls and, therefore, must be dealt with firmly and clearly. Hope is held out that false teachers and their followers will repent (2 Tim. 2:24-26), in which case they will be received by the church. However, those who persist in teaching false doctrines must be put out of the church (Titus 3:10-11).
– Ray Van Neste in Daniel Hays & Scott Duvall The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook, 884.
4.   Pastoral epistles. Walter Liefeld has an insightful comment regarding our designation of the letters as pastoral:
As far as we know, D.N. Berdot, writing in 1703, was the first to use the term pastoral to describe the letters as a group…But is the term pastoral appropriate for these letters? The task assigned to Timothy and Titus, who may be described as “envoys” or “apostolic delegates,” was to address problems that required an apostolic authority. The nature of the care to be given had more to do with combating false teaching than with the day-to-day shepherding of the flock. Their aim was to establish stable leadership within the churches rather than to serve as pastors themselves among the flock on a long-term basis. Yet pastoral concern, gifts, and personal qualities were needed during this period of stress, both in the two apostolic delegates and in the elders they sought to establish firmly in the churches. Paul had previously exhorted the Ephesian elders to be “shepherds of the church of God” (Acts 20:28). Such pastoral qualities are needed today, and the term pastoral, though not completely appropriate, has value.
– Walter Liefeld, Titus (NIVAC), 19.


Arichea & Hatton, A Handbook on Titus; Barclay, New Testament Words; Brannan, Parallel Passages in the Pastoral Epistles; Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free; Calvin & Pringle, Timothy, Titus, Philemon; Campbell, Opening Up Titus; Constable, Titus Notes; Getz, Life Essentials Notes;Hiebert, Titus (ESB);Idleman, not a fan.; Ironside, Timothy, Titus, Philemon; Larson, Titus (Holman); Lea & Griffin, Titus (NAC); Liefeld, 1&2 Timothy, Titus (NIVAC); Litfin, Titus (BKC); Morgan, The Religion and Theology of Paul; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire; Utley, Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey – Timothy & Titus