Titus 3:1-15

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2010-04-27 10:04.

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The apostle asked Titus to remind believers to be submissive “to rulers, to authorities [‘to rulers and to authorities,’ according to other manuscripts], to be obedient, to be prepared for every good work.” In this context, “every good work” would mean activity and conduct that rulers or governmental officials regarded as good. Believers were to conduct themselves in a law-abiding manner, conscientiously complying with all laws that did not interfere with their loyalty to God and Christ, showing respect for rulers or officials, obediently responding to their directives, and being prepared or ready and willing to do more than the required tasks. (3:1; compare Matthew 5:41; Romans 13:3.)

In their interactions with others, which would include rulers or officials, believers were not to blaspheme. In keeping with this admonition, they would not resort to abusive speech when faced with unreasonable demands or unpleasant tasks. While others might be disposed to fight with words, believers were not to quarrel but to be gentle, reasonable, yielding, or tolerant, and demonstrate themselves to be mild, considerate, or courteous “toward all men” or all fellow humans. (3:2)

Before coming to be reconciled to God as beloved children, believers had lived like persons who were alienated from him. They had been senseless, conducting themselves without using good judgment and harming themselves and others. Instead of being responsive to sound direction, reasonable requests, the prodding of their conscience, or God’s ways, they were disobedient and misled, blindly following a wayward course. They had been enslaved to various desires and passions, acting without restraint in pursuing what gave them pleasure and giving no thought to the hurtful consequences to themselves or others. Moral corruption and envy had dominated their lives. They were despicable or abhorrent in their behavior, manifesting hatred for others. Based on their former conduct, believers needed to be diligent in cooperating with the leading of God’s spirit and live as his obedient children. (3:3)

Although so very much was seriously wrong in the way humans conducted themselves, God took the initiative to provide the basis for them to be reconciled to him. He, as the Savior, manifested his kindness or graciousness and loving concern for and interest in humans. This was when he sent his Son to the earth and had him surrender his life for the world of mankind, providing the means for being forgiven of sins and delivered from the condemnation to which sin leads. (3:4)

God was under no obligation to any member of the human family to show this great kindness and love. He did not act, as Paul continued, on the basis of “works in righteousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal by holy spirit.” (3:5)

Sinful humans have no works or deeds that merit being the object of God’s love. They are not inherently righteous or upright but flawed, and their actions are likewise tainted. So when God took the initiative in providing the means for rescuing humans from their sinful state, he did so in expression of his mercy or compassion, taking pity on them in their helpless condition as slaves of sin. (3:5)

The “washing of regeneration” appears to denote water of baptism. Before presenting themselves for immersion, those who put their faith in Christ Jesus repent of their sins and petition God for forgiveness. So their baptism is a tangible expression of their repentance and the start of a new life as cleansed individuals. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, believers are baptized “into Christ,” being united to him as members of his body and sharing in his experiences as their head. Their baptism “into Christ,” therefore, is also a baptism “into his death.” Thus believers, at the time of their immersion, die to their former self and are raised to a newness of life. They are thus cleansed from their sinful past life as by a washing and are regenerated. (Romans 6:1-3; compare Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26, 27; 1 Peter 3:21.) With the holy spirit operating upon them, believers are renewed, guided and strengthened to live a newness of life that honors God and Christ. (3:5)

In his words to Nicodemus, Jesus Christ similarly associated the new birth with water and spirit, telling him, “Unless a person is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) This link of water and spirit had already been set forth in the prophetic writings. Through his prophet Ezekiel, God declared, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.” (Ezekiel 36:25-28, Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition])

Literal water does not effect the cleansing, but God’s action in forgiving sins does the purifying and then makes the forgiven ones new by causing his spirit to operate within them. In view of the close connection of God’s forgiveness to an individual’s immersion in water and the commencement of a new life, baptism may fittingly be designated as the “washing of regeneration.” (3:5)

“Through Jesus Christ our Savior,” God poured out his spirit richly, or in a superabundant way, upon believers. (Compare Acts 2:33.) The Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior, for he surrendered his life for the human family, making it possible for believers to be forgiven of sins and liberated from the condemnation to which sin leads. With the fullness of God’s spirit at work within them, believers are guided and strengthened to continue living a life consistent with their having been cleansed from the stain of sin. (3:6)

Upon being forgiven of their transgressions and granted the holy spirit, believers are justified or put right with God. Their justification is an expression of his gracious favor or unmerited kindness. As justified persons, believers are God’s children. Consequently, his gracious favor makes it possible for them, as his children, to become “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” “Eternal life” is the real life of an enduring relationship with God and Christ. Ultimately, this life is to be enjoyed in the sinless state for all eternity. For believers, the eternal life in all its fullness is a prospective possession and, therefore, a future inheritance. So they have become heirs on the basis of the certain fulfillment of their hope of eternal life. (3:7)

As set forth in the preceding verses, the “faithful,” trustworthy, or dependable word is that deliverance from sin and all the beneficent results to believers are expressions of God’s kindness, love, and mercy. Paul wanted Titus, in carrying out his commission on the island of Crete, to insist on the things he had mentioned regarding how believers should be conducting themselves. The object in view was that those who “believed in God” would keep their minds focused on good works, always endeavoring to live in a manner that honored God and Jesus Christ. This would have included every aspect of their life ― their attitude, speech, and activity. All such good works are “good and beneficial to men,” that is, they are deeds that benefit fellow humans and result in good. (3:8)

Titus, though, needed to avoid involvement in matters that would not benefit others. Among the things to be shunned were foolish “seekings,” searchings, or questionings, genealogies, strife, and fights or disputes about the law. Foolish questionings would be idle inquiries that produce controversy but yield nothing beneficial. (3:9; see the Notes section.)

The Jews in particular were prone to delve extensively into genealogies, which did nothing to promote faith. According to the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim 62b), the daughter of Hanina ben Teradion studied 300 laws from 300 teachers in one day (which is proably an exaggeration) but could not complete the “Book of Genealogies” (likely designating a commentary on Chronicles, specifically its many genealogical lists) in three years. Regarding the passage beginning with the words “And Azel had six sons” (1 Chronicles 8:38) and ending with “these were the sons of Azel” (1 Chronicles 9:44), the many different interpretations are referred to as being the loads of “four hundred camels.” Although doubtless to be regarded as hyperbole, the comments illustrate that preoccupation with genealogies would have been a time-consuming effort that gave rise to questions and debates. (3:9)

Foolish questionings and undue attention to genealogies tend to generate speculative views. The resulting widely different opinions give rise to disagreements, disputes, and strife, with individuals being adamant about the correctness of their views. Similarly, when the Mosaic law is used as a basis for formulating other commands and rules, inevitably individuals will disagree about the validity of such derived regulations. Whenever the arguing parties are determined to defend their views and persuade others, verbal fights erupt. All such fighting with words is unprofitable and vain, futile, or worthless. Neither those who engage in such battles nor those who witness them are drawn closer to God. (3:9)

If a man in the community of believers proved himself to be sectarian, causing division among believers by insisting on erroneous views, Titus was to admonish him, seeking to make clear to him the error of his ways. When the sectarian man refused to change after being admonished twice, Titus did not have to deal with him any further but was to reject him as disapproved. (3:10) In that case, as Paul continued, Titus would have known that the man was twisted (ekstrépho) and guilty of sin, “being self-condemned.” Such a man would have deliberately chosen his course and insisted upon it despite the efforts to correct him. Therefore, by his defiant course of action, he would have condemned himself. The Greek term ekstrépho denotes to turn aside or to turn out of the way and relates to a deviation from what is true, right, or proper. A departure from the right way is sin, a failure to act in harmony with God's will. (3:11)

Upon sending Artemas or Tychicus to him, Paul wanted Titus to do his best to come to him at Nicopolis. This likely was the Nicopolis of Epirus located in northwestern Greece, and it was in this city that the apostle planned to stay for the winter. (3:12)

Titus must have been aware of the particular service Paul had in mind respecting Zenas and Apollos. When sending them on their way, Titus was to make sure that they did not lack anything, or see to it that they were adequately supplied for the journey. Paul used the Greek word nomikós to identify Zenas. This may mean that Zenas had functioned as a scribe, a legal expert, or a man who was learned in the law. As a man well-acquainted with the Mosaic law, Zenas may either have been a Jew or a proselyte. Apollos, a Jewish believer from Alexandria, Egypt, benefited from the spiritual assistance of Aquila and Priscilla upon his arrival in Ephesus. An eloquent speaker, Apollos later did much in furthering the cause of Christ in Corinth. Some among the Corinthian believers, however, came to have a wrong view of men who ministered in their midst and, impressed by the eloquence of Apollos, they improperly identified themselves with him as their leader. (Acts 18:26-28; 19:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10-12; 3:6) Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (3:5-9) indicates that this development was not the fault of Apollos, and the apostle recognized him as his fellow worker with God. (3:13)

As far as believers (literally, “ours”) were concerned, Paul wanted them to learn devote themselves to “good works” to meet their essential needs and not to be unproductive. Believers should be engaged in honest labor so as to obtain the necessities of life. They were not to be idle but industrious. (3:14) The believers in Crete would thus reveal themselves to be unlike those Cretans who could be described as “idle bellies” or idle gluttons, according to the words of one of their own Cretan “prophets” or poets. (1:12)

The conclusion of the letter indicates that Paul intended its contents to be shared with believers on the island of Crete. He extended the greetings of all those then with him and asked Titus to greet those who “love us in the faith,” that is, all whose love proved to be grounded in the common faith in God and Christ that those sending the greetings and those being greeted shared. The prayerful expression the apostle added ends with the plural “you,” “The favor [be] with all of you.” For believers to experience gracious divine favor or unmerited kindness would include their continuing to benefit from the help and guidance of which God and Christ are the source. (3:15; see the Notes section.)


The Greek term for “strife” (in verse 9) is plural in numerous manuscripts and so refers to repeated disagreements. Other manuscripts, however, contain the singular word for “strife.”

In verse 15, a number of manuscripts identify the “favor” as being either “of the Lord” or “of God.”

“Amen” (so be it) ends the letter according to the reading of numerous manuscripts.