Titus 1

Paul addresses Titus in verse 4 but before doing so he points out the characteristic features of his apostleship and service in a series of short and pithy statements. It was "according to the faith of God's elect." Speaking in a general way we may say that the preposition "according to" indicates character. What characterized his apostleship was the faith, and also the truth which is "after" or "according to" godliness. There are all too many nowadays claiming to be ministers of Christ who wish nevertheless to minister "according to" the latest conclusions of science, falsely so called, or the latest reasonings of unbelief. Notice that "the faith" spoken of is not the faith of the world nor even the faith of Christendom, but of "God's elect." That unconverted ministers and preachers should deny and even ridicule the faith is very sad but not at all surprising. The faith was never theirs though they may have once given an intellectual adherence to it.

Observe too that the truth is said to be characterized by godliness. Here is a very good test which may be applied in either direction. Certain things are urged upon us as being the very truth of God. We may be hardly equal to the task of analyzing them, comparing them with Scripture and demonstrating their falsity, yet we have no difficulty in observing that the practical effect produced by accepting them as truth is the casting off of godliness. That is sufficient. These things are not the truth of God. Or, it may be, a certain course of action is urged upon us which would be quite profitable and seem sensible enough. But it is not according to the truth. Then we may be quite sure it is not godliness and is to be avoided.

Further, as verse 2 tells us, Paul's apostleship was in view of an immense blessing which in its fulness lay in the future. In reading the New Testament we meet pretty frequently with the expression, "eternal life," and if we carefully considered all the passages we should discover that its meaning is not easily exhausted: it carries within it profound depths of blessing.

Nothing is more certain in Scripture than that the believer in Christ has eternal life, and has it now. This side of things is specially stressed in the writings of the apostle John. We believers already have this life in Christ, and already we are introduced into the relationships, and made participators of the understanding and communion and joys and activities which are proper to that life. Still the fulness of eternal life is not yet arrived, as our verse indicates, and this view of it is in keeping with the first allusion that Scripture makes to it in Psalm 133: 3. The only other allusion in the Old Testament is in Daniel 12: 2, and in both these passages it refers to the blessing of the bright age which is coming, when the curse will be lifted from off creation and death be the exception rather than the rule as at present. When the earth is flooded with the light of the knowledge of the Lord the blessing of ever-lasting life will be enjoyed.

The Old Testament does not lift our thoughts from the earth as the New Testament does. The verse we are considering shows us that eternal life was in God's thoughts before the world began, and in keeping with that it will abide in all its fulness when this world has ceased to be. We live in hope of it, and our hope is sure because based upon the Word of God, who cannot lie.

If any find difficulty in reconciling John's assurance of the present possession of eternal life with Paul's hope of it in the future, they will do well to remember that we commonly use the word "life" in more senses than one. For instance a man refers to a person critically ill and says, "While there is life there is hope." By "life" he means the vital spark, the vital energy BY which we live. Another man who has been squandering a lot of money in the pursuit of pleasure remarks that he has been "seeing life." He is mistaken of course as to what really constitutes life, but he clearly uses the word as meaning those relationships and enjoyments that go to make up life practically-the life IN which we live.

We have eternal life now as truly and as much as we shall have it, if we are speaking of the former use of the word. But if we think of the latter use we can rejoice that we are going to know it in far fuller measure than we do today. Walking through a greenhouse we espied amongst other tropical plants a cactus which looked like a fairly straight cucumber covered with small spines and stuck upright in a pot. We recognized in it a dwarf specimen of the cactus we had seen by the score in Jamaica standing 20 feet high or perhaps more. The little dwarf was as much alive as the giant cactus. Its life was of precisely the same order. All the difference lay in the environment.

This may illustrate our point, for though we have eternal life the world is an icy place, and the enjoyments proper to that life are found, by the Holy Spirit given to us, in God's Word and amongst God's people and in God's service, which provide us with a kind of greenhouse in the midst of the cold world. We are in hope however of transplantation into the warm tropical regions to which eternal life belongs. In hope of that the Apostle lived and served, and so do we.

We must notice the word "promised" in verse 2. Eternal life was not merely purposed before the world existed but promised. To whom?-seeing that man as yet did not exist. At any rate we may safely say that when the Lord Jesus became Man to glorify God's name and redeem men it was under the promise that He should become the Fountain Head of eternal life to those given to Him, as is stated in John 17: 2.

If verse 2 of our chapter looks on into a coming eternity when the promise made in a past eternity shall be fulfilled, verse 3 speaks of the present in which God's word is being manifested through preaching; and the commandment authorizing that preaching has come forth from God our Saviour, consequently the result of that preaching when believed is salvation. This preaching or proclamation was entrusted in the first place to Paul. It would indeed be well if every one who today has a part in this great work were deeply impressed with its dignity and importance. Woe betide us if we make the preaching a platform for the manifestation of our own cleverness or importance! It is for the manifestation of the Word of God.

With verse 5 the main theme of the epistle begins. Paul had been to Crete and left before he had had time to give the infant churches instructions as to many things. He therefore left Titus behind that he might do it, and also appoint elders with his authority. Verses 6 to 9 follow, giving the characteristics that must be found in such.

These verses are not a mere repetition of what we have in 1 Timothy 3. Conditions in Crete differed from those at Ephesus. There were similar dangers from "unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" in both places, but the natural characteristics of the Cretian race were peculiarly bad, so much so that some prophet of their own, some heathen seer, had been moved to denounce them in strong terms as "always liars, evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons." Such was the old nature of the converted Cretians, and such it remained in them when converted; and alas! it was manifesting itself and hence Titus in verse 13 is instructed to administer to them a sharp rebuke.

A liar is evidently no lover of the truth. An evil wild beast (for that is what the word used really means) does not love restraint, especially the restraint of good, since insubjection is its very nature. A lazy glutton thinks of little save that which ministers to self, and self in its lowest desires. See, then, how completely the apostolic instructions meet this sad condition.

Those elder men whom Titus was to appoint as bishops were to be such as held fast the faithful word. They were to be lovers of the truth. Moreover they were to hold it fast as they had been taught; that is, they were to recognize the authority with which it had been originally given and to carefully respect that authority and be subject to it. Hence in addition to being themselves sober men they were to be able to minister sound doctrine with effect. The men branded by the Apostle as deceivers were ready to teach anything if only there were money in it, and this of course would be quite in keeping with the Cretian spirit, for to be able to acquire money easily is a prime necessity for the lazy glutton. On the other hand the bishop is to be a man neither given to wine nor to "filthy lucre," or "base gain." Marked himself then by godly features, the very opposite of those which were natural to the Cretians, he would be well qualified to exercise rule amongst them.

Before proceeding, notice that this scripture assumes that matters in the assembly are to be regulated by God. Had it been just a matter of human preference or choice Paul would have told Titus to stir up the Cretians to develop a church order and to establish church customs as they thought most suited to their island and its ways. He did nothing of the kind, but rather told him to "set in order the things that are wanting" since the divine order has been made known. The fact is that the divine order is extremely simple demanding nothing but lowliness and grace and spirituality-but that really is where the trouble lies, for men naturally love that which is ornate and showy and imposing.

Notice also that the men who were to be ordained as elders, in verse 5, are spoken of as bishops in verse 7. The word in the former verse is presbuteros from which we get the words presbyter, Presbyterian. The word in the latter verse is episcopos from which we get episcopal, Episcopalian. A presbyter is an elder and an episcopos or bishop is an overseer -for that is the simple meaning of the word-and originally they were but different terms for the same man!

Now the bishops were to be men of soberness and sound in the faith, as we have seen, but all believers are to be sound in the faith as verse 13 shows. That is the thing of first importance. If we are right ourselves-pure ourselves-then all things are pure to us for the inward holiness preserves from infection. On the contrary, the defiled and unbelieving defile all they touch.