For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

1:1.  “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;”


“... servant” here is literally “bond slave,” which declares that he was completely at God’s disposal, his own will being entirely subject to God’s.  This same submissive attitude was displayed by the Lord Himself, as revealed in His prayer in Gethsemane, “... not my will, but thine be done.”  It was because his life was patterned on Christ’s that Paul could exhort us, “I beseech you, be ye followers of me,” 1 Corinthians 4:16, adding in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”


How did Paul become a bond slave of God?  By trusting in Christ as his Savior, for that act of faith makes everyone who exercises it also God’s bond slave, as it is written, “What? know ye not that ... ye are not your own.  For ye were bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20; “For he that is called ... being free, is Christ’s servant.  Ye are bought with a price ...” 7:22-23.


This is written for our instruction.  Were we to look simply at the life of Christ we might be tempted to say, “It is impossible for us to live such dedicated lives; His nature was different from ours; He didn’t have our fallen Adamic nature,” but Paul was a man having within him the same evil nature as dwells in us side by side with the new nature received at conversion, and if such obedience was possible for him it is possible also for us.  We have no excuse for disobedience.  Our prayer therefore should be for grace to walk in Paul’s footsteps, as he walked in Christ’s.


It is to be remembered, however, that the believer is no more compelled to serve than is the unbeliever to be saved.  Paul was God’s bondslave, not by Divine compulsion, but by an act of his own free will, and if we are to yield the same obedience as he, it must also be by an act of our own free will, by which we dedicate ourselves completely to the Lord Jesus Christ.


But Paul was also “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” something very different from being His bond slave.  As already noted, his being a bond slave was by his own choice; His being an apostle was by the Lord’s appointment.  Those who were apostles had no more choice in that matter than has the believer relative to the spiritual gift given him at conversion.  But as with the bond slave, so was it also with the apostle: his obedience in doing what was assigned him as an apostle was subject to his own free will.  Consider Judas.  He was an Apostle, yet he choose to betray the Lord.  The Apostle could obey or disobey as he chose, his eternal reward being proportionate to the measure of his obedience; and so is it with us relative to the exercise of our spiritual gift.  Our eternal reward will be proportionate to our faithfulness in using that gift.  It is for this very reason that Paul exhorts, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee,” 1 Timothy 4:14, and again, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee,” 2 Timothy 1:6.


We should note, incidentally, that the term used in relation to spiritual gift is always singular “the gift” not “gifts.”  Scripture lends no support to the idea that any believer receives more than one spiritual gift.  In relation to this, the Apostles were unique: they appear to have been endowed with every spiritual gift.


The sad truth is that myriads of believers fail to heed these injunctions given by Paul, with the result that there are countless believers who have been saved for years, but who don’t even know what spiritual gift they have been given; and the result is that the local churches languish while attempting to maintain the facade of spirituality by the activity of the flesh: men with no evidence of spiritual qualification, presuming to occupy the place of elders; others, of evangelists; and others, of teachers. 


It is, in fact, as it was in the days of Rehoboam, who, when the Egyptians had carried away the shields of gold made by Solomon, replaced them with brass replicas, 1 Kings 14:25-28.  From a distance they may have looked the same, but gold speaks of Divine glory; brass, of judgment.  The truth is that the glory had departed because of sin, and had been replaced by judgment.  Ichabod the glory is departed could have been written over God’s house in that day, and so could it be written over many a local church today.


“... according to the faith of God’s elect,” is a term that has been variously interpreted, but a careful examination of Scripture reveals that “God’s elect” are not those whom He has predestinated to be saved (no one is predestinated to salvation), but to those who, by their own free will choice, make themselves His elect by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  The elect are foreknown by God as those who would believe the gospel when presented to them, but Divine foreknowledge is not to be confused with predestination.  Relative to accepting or rejecting salvation, man has a freewill choice; relative to the result of that choice he has none: God has predestinated the unbeliever to eternal punishment in the lake of fire; and the believer to eternal bliss in heaven.  Each man chooses his own eternal destination by accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior, but it can’t be emphasized too much that no one is predestinated either to be an unbeliever or a believer.  It is the eternal destination of each that is predestinated.


A verse which emphasizes the difference between foreknowledge and predestination is Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow (as those who would trust in Christ), he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  Notice that they were not predestinated to be believers, but to be conformed to Christ’s image, after becoming believers.  As to belief, men have a choice; as to what is predestinated of them as believers they have no choice: they will be conformed to Christ’s image.


With reference to election 1 Peter 1:2 declares that believers are, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” not according to His predestination.  Men become elect by trusting in Christ.


“... and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness.”  The faith which leads one to trust in Christ, and thus become one of God’s elect, is meant by God to lead him on to understand that that same truth is designed to produce godliness.  The obedience which leads a man to trust in Christ should also impel obedience that will produce a Christ-like life.


The “faith of God’s elect” therefore is simply the faith which all believers have in common, whether that believer be Paul the Apostle or the most obscure saint.  It is within that realm of faith that some have been made Apostles (the apostolic office was confined to the twelve and to Paul), some evangelists, some elders, some teachers, and all the other classes of servants whom the Lord deigns to use for the up building of His Church, the service rendered in obscurity being no less necessary than that which is exercised in the limelight.


1:2.  “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began:”


Faith in Christ sets before the believer, not just a hope which may or may not be realized, but rather the confident, pleasant certainty that what God has promised will be fulfilled.  The eternal life which every believer receives the moment he trusts in Christ will be enjoyed in all its fulness in eternity, with nothing of the flesh to mar its perfection. 


Relative to eternal life, incidentally, we should note that everlasting and eternal are not necessarily synonymous.  Eternal is that which has neither beginning nor ending.  It is the life of God.  Everlasting, however, in common with eternal, will never end, but for the believer it has a beginning: it begins for him the moment he becomes a believer, and receives the Divine life.  This truth is demonstrated in John 3:15-16, verse 15 declaring that the believer receives eternal life, i.e., the life of God Himself; and in verse 16 he is assured that he will have it eternally: he can never lose it.


The believer’s confident expectation is based on the immutability of God’s promise, for He cannot lie, Hebrews 6:18.


“... promised before the world began:”  Whatever other reasons there may be for its being declared that God promised all of this in eternity past, one reason is that it assures us that the Divine plan of redemption was not an after-thought on God’s part.  He wasn’t taken by surprise when Adam sinned.  By His foreknowledge He knew exactly what man would do, and had already prepared His unique plan of salvation.  Since the time mentioned here was antecedent to man, some understand promised to mean literally purposed.


An obvious question is, Who or what is it that cherishes this “hope of eternal life”?  The answer is, all of God’s elect, i.e., all believers, for no matter to what dispensation he may belong, every believer is marked by the expectation of eternal life as the reward of the faith to believe God, that expectation being based on the immutability of the promise given in eternity past by God Who cannot lie.


1:3.  “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior;”


Though God’s plan of salvation was conceived in eternity past He has chosen to reserve the revelation of that plan until the age that began with Adam, the first intimation of it apparently being given in His instruction to Adam and Eve to bring each of them a lamb to die in their stead to temporarily atone for their sin, and to point typologically to the Lord Jesus Christ Who would eventually come to fulfill all the OT types by dying on the cross to make eternal atonement for the sin of all who would trust in Him as Savior.  The believers of the OT age had the faith to anticipate the coming of Christ just as we of this present Church age have the faith to believe that He did come. 


They couldn’t prove that He would come, nor could we prove that He has come, but by faith they and we believe with absolute certainty in His incarnation, vicarious death, and glorious resurrection.


The “due times” are the dispensations into which God has divided what we know as time.  It is by the preaching of the gospel, and the teaching given saints, that this promise of God has been manifested, i.e., revealed to men, Paul being one of those commissioned or commanded by God to make known this great soul-saving revelation of His mind and will.  Nor was the proclamation of this good news confined to the Apostles.  The Lord’s command to every believer is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15.


The description of God as “our Savior” continues to emphasize that the Lord Jesus Christ is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy spirit.


1:4.  “To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”


The description of Titus as “mine own son after the common faith,” indicates that Titus was one of Paul’s converts, “... the common faith” meaning simply “the faith held by every believer.”


 “... mercy” isn’t found in many manuscripts, the generally accepted reading being simply, “Grace and peace.”  Grace goes beyond mercy, for while mercy relates to the withholding of deserved punishment, grace relates to the bestowal of undeserved blessing.  Every believer is the beneficiary of God’s matchless grace, the punishment due to us because of sin having been meted out to our Substitute at Calvary.  Something of the extent of God’s grace towards us is revealed in the fact that we have been made joint heirs with Christ of all that is God’s; but the impossibility of our measuring that grace is declared in the assurance, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9.


The peace which is also the possession of the believer is likewise beyond description, as it is written, “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7.


If the word “mercy” is retained, as it is in some manuscripts, then we are reminded also that God’s mercy, like His grace and peace, is also immeasurable.  Who can begin to measure the mercy that would redeem at such cost the rebels we were before God saved us?


And again, the equality of the Son with the Father is emphasized in that the One as much as the Other is declared to be the Source of grace, mercy, and peace, and all the other countless blessings which have been bestowed upon us.  Well might every believer exclaim, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift,” 2 Corinthians 9:15.


1:5.  “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:”


Crete means fleshy, a meaning that is particularly appropriate, not only to the state of the population in general, but also to those who constituted the churches there, their conduct being marked largely by the indulgence of the flesh.


Unquestionably Titus had been left in Crete to deal with disorders and establish the believers relative to God’s order, no small part of his task being to rebuke the evil proclivity of the Cretans to indulge the lusts of the flesh.  But neither can there be any question that Paul’s ultimate objective was that the Cretan saints, walking in obedience, would enjoy fully the blessings of grace, mercy, and peace.  This, however, is also written for our instruction.  Only as we also are obedient will we enjoy God’s blessings in all their fulness.


To “set in order the things that are wanting,” is literally to put in order what was still unsettled, i.e., matters in regard to which they were ignorant or uncertain, or wilfully disobedient.


To “ordain elders” was to appoint them, and it has to be recognized that the Divine order governing the churches in the apostolic age was not identical with the order appointed for them after AD 70 when Jewish autonomy ceased.  For example, the book of Acts makes it very clear that until that date there was one order for Jewish believers, and a separate one for their Gentile brethren.  Following that early day when the Church was in its infancy, the Apostles and their delegates (as here Titus), ordained or appointed the elders, the Holy Spirit apparently revealing to them those to whom He had given the gift of eldership.  But after that early age there is no scriptural hint of human ordination or appointment of the shepherds of the churches.  As is made clear in Eph 4:11, the Holy Spirit, by His Own sovereign choice, bestows the gift of shepherding upon men at the time of their conversion (as He does with every spiritual gift), and gives those same men as gifts to the churches.  But as with every other spiritual gift, the man is responsible not to neglect it, but to stir it up, i.e., develop it, and as he does, it gradually becomes apparent to the congregation that he has been given the gift of shepherding, and is diligent in using it.  The sheep soon recognize the shepherds in their midst.  There is no human appointment hinted at in Scripture, nor is there any scriptural authority for what is practiced in some assemblies, i.e., the invitation of existing elders to someone to “join the oversight.”  Godly men with true shepherd hearts need no such formal recognition, their mutual care for God’s sheep producing  a harmonious guidance that ensures His blessing.


“... as I had appointed thee:” means simply “... as I instructed you.”


1:6.  “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.”


It is generally believed that Timothy and Titus had both been fully instructed relative to the qualifications of elders,

and that those listed here in the letter to Titus are just a brief summary of those instructions.


“Blameless” refers to that integrity of character against which no legitimate complaint can be brought.


“... the husband of one wife” is generally accepted as referring to one who is not a polygamist, though there are some who construe it as prohibiting a second marriage in the event that the man is widowed.  The latter view, however, is one that has no scriptural support; and having regard to the fact that polygamy was common in those days, the former view is undoubtedly correct.  The other circumstance that would come under this proscription would be that in which the man was divorced, and in view of what God says about divorce it is clear that in the eyes of many, believers and unbelievers alike, a divorcee would not meet the requirement of being blameless.


Some see this requirement as meaning that the man must be married, and certainly there is much to support this view in the light of what is said about his ruling his own house well, and having his children in subjection.


“... having faithful children not accused of riot (profligacy, reckless living) or unruly.”


The ability to control his own house is a prerequisite for the man who would be an elder.  1 Timothy 3:4 adds “having his children in subjection with all gravity,” the italicized phrase   emphasizing the fact that his control of his family is to be marked, not by abusive tyranny, but by gentle, yet firm control, as James Allen puts it “with a firmness that makes it advisable to obey, with a wisdom that makes it natural to obey, and with a love that makes it a delight to obey.”


1:7.  “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;”


The description is still of an elder, but the term “bishop” draws attention to the fact that the elders are stewards to whose charge God has entrusted the care of the believers in the local church. Each local church is autonomous.  Scripture knows nothing of the hierarchical order found throughout Christendom today under which the term bishop designates one who superintends a group of churches.  The authority of the elders does not extend beyond the local assembly, and each assembly is autonomous; nor is there any hint in Scripture of any degree of rank amongst the elders of the local church.


“... steward” designates an administrator of an estate or household, elders being those whom God has gifted as His appointed agents to take care of a local church.


“... blameless” is also translated unaccusable, of irreproachable character.


“... not self-willed” means that an elder is not to be stubborn, arrogant, presumptuous, overbearing, selfish, but rather to be reasonable and ready to yield to others in inconsequential matters.


“... not soon angry,” i.e., not short-tempered or quarrelsome.


“... not given to wine.”  An elder is not to use wine to excess; nor is he to be a striker, i.e., ready to come to blows.


“... not given to filthy lucre.”  Nor is he to be a money-grabber or to stoop to questionable methods of making money.  Money is not to be all-important to him, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” 1 Timothy 6:10.  The terrible crime and end of Judas stand as a warning against coveting money, while the Lord’s approval of the generous man is declared in the assurance that, “God loves a cheerful giver,” 2 Corinthians 9:7.


1:8.  “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;”


An elder is also to be hospitable, not just from a sense of duty, but cheerfully, and out of love for the Lord and His people, and also for strangers, the exhortation given to all of us being, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” Hebrews 13:2, this reference being to the experience of Abraham and Lot when they were visited by angels as recorded in Genesis 18:2 and 19:1.


“... a lover of good men,” is also translated, “a lover of what is good,” “right-minded,” “loving, and a friend to believers, especially to strangers.”


“... sober” means to be sensible, self-controlled, of good judgment; and “holy,” pure; temperate, self-controlled, continent, abstemious; while just means to be upright; and holy, pure in thought, word, and deed.  Temperate means to be moderate, not given to excess or extremes in anything.


1:9.  “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”


“Holding fast” here means to cling tenaciously to the Scriptures, particularly in the face of opposition, “as he hath been taught” including what he has been taught by others, and what he has been taught by the Holy Spirit relative to the deeper spiritual meaning of the Scriptures.


“... sound doctrine” means the truth of Scripture, by his understanding of which he will be able to invite, implore, intreat believers to live according to the teaching of Scripture; and convince hostile unbelievers of the need to believe that body of truth and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.


The same truth is emphasized also in the exhortation given Timothy by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  This is an exhortation all of us need to take to heart, for there has probably never been greater need to be able to refute the lies of false teachers, a breed whose numbers are multiplying today, and whose evil work is facilitated as never before by the internet, and by the ability to produce printed material easily and at little cost.


1:10.  “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially of the circumcision:”


The opponents mentioned here are generally understood to have been mostly the unbelieving, undisciplined, rebellious Jews who tried by their specious arguments to contradict the truth, and mislead the people.


1:11.  “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”


The false teachers must be silenced, for by their lies they were ruining whole families by turning them away from the truth of the Gospel, their nefarious work being done in order to make money.  And little has changed since then, for the activity of their present day counterparts has, for the most part, the same evil objective.


1:12.  “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.”


Such, in fact, was the depravity of the Cretians that one of their own teachers had described them as liars, lazy, wicked, vicious, savage brutes, idle gluttons, who loathed work.


1:13.  “This witness is true.  Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;”


Paul agreed that the description had been accurate, and accordingly instructed Titus to correct them, the Cretian believers, as sternly and rigorously as necessary, so that they might change their ways, and be firmly established in their faith. 


The lamentable state of the professing Church today is due in no small measure to lack of sharp rebuke, the quest for numbers silencing those who perceive the malaise, but are afraid of driving the offenders away, with the result that they remain in fellowship and spread the contagion of their evil practices, to God’s dishonor, and the weakening of the whole assembly.


1:14.  “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”


“... fables” is also translated legends, myths, fictions.  The Jewish false teachers were attempting to bring the believers into bondage to the myriad customs with which they had encumbered God’s pure Word, and in regard to which the Lord Himself angrily declared on another occasion, “Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!  for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers,” Luke 11:46. 


Were He on earth today His rebuke would be addressed to the leaders of many of the world’s religious systems, Roman Catholicism being one of the vilest, for its dangerous teaching is based on a corruption of Scripture rather than pure mythology, and is therefore the more deadly.


1:15.  “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”


This doesn’t mean that one who is pure doesn’t see the evil with which he is surrounded, but rather that instead of dwelling upon it, he obeys the injunction of Paul, ”Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,” Philippians 4:8.


Many believers make the mistake of thinking that as long as they don’t say or do anything evil, it doesn’t matter what they think.  It does, for a man is what he thinks, as it is written,  “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Proverbs 23:7; hence the need of cultivating the practice enjoined above in Philippians 4:8.  Man’s mind is not a vacuum.  He is always thinking - good or evil, and since we can’t think both simultaneously, we should be on constant guard against the intrusion of wrong thoughts, and dismiss them instantly.  This will take practice, but as the proverb declares “Practice makes perfect.”


“Unto the pure all things are pure” because the pure man will seek consciously to permit only what is pure to occupy his thoughts.  The impure man, on the other hand, will do just the opposite.  He will encourage impure thoughts, and eventually evil thinking will dominate his life.


1:16.  “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”


As were the Cretians so are the vast majority of those who constitute so-called Christian society today.  They too profess to know God, but their life-styles contradict their profession, and reveal that they are liars.  Only the spiritually blind will deny that underneath its flimsy vail of religious profession, our western society is a cesspool of evil, spewing its moral filth into all the nations, and provoking the indignation and anger of so-called heathen nations whose moral standards expose our moral corruption, and put us to shame.


“Abominable” in the present context means degraded, detestable, vile, rotten; while “reprobate” means disobedient, self-willed, obdurate, rebellious.  And if, as we must, accept the description of the Cretians as but the duplicate of our own vile condition prior to our salvation, then surely our terrible former state in the eyes of God demands that the sincerity of our gratitude for His salvation be attested by changed lives.

[Titus 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough