Introduction to the Bible - 56 - Titus

The Epistle to Titus

by Louis Berkhof


 The contents of this Epistle may be divided into three parts:

 I. Instruction regarding the Appointment of Ministers, 1: 1-16. After  the opening salutation, 1-4, the apostle reminds Titus of his past  instruction to appoint presbyters, 5. He emphasizes the importance of  high moral character in an overseer, in order that such an  office-bearer may maintain the sound doctrine and may refute the  opponents that mislead others and, claiming to know God, deny Him with  their words, 6-16.

 II. Directions as to the Teaching of Titus, 2:1--3: 11. Paul would have  Titus urge all the different classes that were found in the Cretan  church, viz, the elder men and women, the younger women and men, and  the slaves, to regulate their life in harmony with the teachings of the  Gospel, since they were all trained by the saving grace of God to rise  above sin and to lead godly lives, 2:1-14. As regards their relation to  the outer world, Titus should teach believers to subject themselves to  the authorities, and to be gentle towards all men, remembering that God  had delivered them from the old heathen vices, in order that they  should set others an example of noble and useful lives, 3:1-8. He  himself must avoid foolish questionings and reject the heretics, who  refused to listen to his admonition, 9-11.

 III. Personal Details, 3:12-15. Instructing Titus to join him at  Nicopolis after Artemus or Tychicus has come to Crete, bringing with  him Zenos and Apollos, the writer ends his letter with a final  salutation.


 1. Like the other Pastoral Epistles this letter is also of a personal  nature. It was not directed to any individual church or to a group of  churches, but to a single person, one of Pauls spiritual sons and  co-laborers in the work of the Lord. At the same time it is not as  personal as II Timothy, but has distinctly a semi-private character. It  is perfectly evident from the Epistle itself (cf. 2:15) that its  teaching was also intended for the church in Crete to which Titus was  ministering.

 2. This letter is in every way very much like I Timothy, which is due  to the fact that the two were written about the same time and were  called forth by very similar situations. It is shorter than the earlier  Epistle, but covers almost the same ground. We do not find in it any  advance on the doctrinal teachings of the other letters of Paul; in  fact it contains very little doctrinal teaching, aside from the  comprehensive statements of the doctrine of grace in 2: 11-14 and  3:4-8. The former of these passages is a locus classicus. The main  interest of the Epistle is ecclesiastical and ethical, the government  of the church and the moral life of its members receiving due  consideration.


 Paul addressed the letter to "Titus mine own son after the common  faith," 1:4. We do not meet with Titus in the Acts of the Apostles,  which is all the more remarkable, since he was one of the most trusted  companions of Paul. For this reason some surmised that he is to be  identified with some one of the other co-laborers of Paul, as ~. i.  Timothy, Silas or Justus, Acts 18: 7. But neither of these satisfy the  conditions.

 He is first mentioned in Gal. 2:1, 3, where we learn that he was a  Greek, who was not compelled to submit to circumcision, lest Paul  should give his enemies a handle against himself. From Titus 1: 4 we  infer that he was one of the apostles converts, and Gal. 2: 3 informs  us that he accompanied Paul to the council of Jerusalem. According to  some the phrase ho sun emoi in this passage implies that he was also  with Paul, when he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians, but the  inference is rather unwarranted. He probably bore I Corinthians to its  destination, II Cor. 2:13, and after his return to Paul, was sent to  Corinth again to complete the collection for the saints in Judaea, II  Cor. 8:16 if. Most likely he was also the bearer of II Corinthians.  When next we hear of him, he is on the island of Crete in charge of the  church(es) that had been founded there. Titus 1: 4. 5. and is requested  to join Paul at Nicopolis, 3:12. Evidently he was with the apostle in  the early part of his second imprisonment, but soon left him for  Dalmatia, either at the behest, or against the desire of Paul. The  traditions regarding his later life are of doubtful value.

 If we compare I Tim. 4:12 with Titus 2:15, we get the impression that  Titus was older than his co-laborer at Ephesus. The timidity of the  latter did not characterize the former. While Timothy went to Corinth,  so it seems, with some hesitation, I Cor. 16:10, Titus did not flinch  from the delicate task of completing the collection for the saints in  Judaea, but undertook it of his own accord, II Cor. 8:16,

 17. He was full of enthusiasm for the Corinthians, was free from wrong  motives in his work among them, and followed in the footsteps of the  apostle, II Cor. 12:18.


 1. Occasion and Purpose. The occasion for writing this Epistle is found  in the desire of Paul that Titus should come to him in the near future,  and in the condition of the Cretan church(es), whose origin is lost in  obscurity. Probably the island was evangelized soon after the first  Pentecost by those Cretans that were converted at Jerusalem, Acts 2:  11. During the last part of his life Paul visited the island and made  provision for the external organization of the church(es) there. When  he left, he entrusted this important task to his spiritual son, Titus,  1:5. The church (es) consisted of both Jews and Gentiles, 1: 10,  ofdifferent ages and of various classes, 2:1-10. The Cretans did not  have a very good reputation, 1: 12, and some of them did not believe  their reputed character, even after they had turned to Christ.  Apparently the errors that had crept into the church(es) there were  very similar to those with which Timothy had to contend at Ephesus,  though probably the Judaeistic element was still more prominent in  them, 1: 10, 11, 14; 3: 9.

 The object of Paul in writing this letter is to summon Titus to come to  him, as soon as another has taken his place; to give him directions  regarding the ordination of presbyters in the different cities; to warn  him against the heretics on the island; and guide him in his teaching  and in his dealing with those that would not accept his word.

 2. Time and Place. Respecting the time when this Epistle was written  there is no unanimity. Those who believe in the genuineness of the  letter, and at the same time postulate but one Roman imprisonment, seek  a place for it in the life of Paul, as we know it from the Acts.  According to some it was written during the apostles first stay at  Corinth, from where, in that case, he must have made a trip to Crete;  others think it was composed at Ephesus, after Paul left Corinth and  had on the way visited Crete. But the word "continued" in Acts 18: 11  seems to preclude a trip from Corinth to Crete. Moreover both of these  theories leave Pauls acquaintance with Apollos, presupposed in this  letter, unexplained, 3:13. Still others would date the visit to Crete  and the composition of this letThr somewhere between the years 54-57,  when the apostle resided at Ephesus, but this hypothesis is also  burdened with insuperable objections. Cf. above p. 249. The Epistle  must have been composed in the interval between the first and the  second imprisonment of the apostle, and supposing the winter of 3:13 to  be the same as that of 11 Tim. 4: 21, probably in the early part of the  year 67. We have no means to determine, where the letter was written,  though something can be said in favor of Ephesus, cf. p. 639 above.


 The Church from the beginning accepted this Epistle as canonical. There  are passages in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Barnabas, Justin Martyr and  Theophilus that suggest literary dependence. Moreover the letter is  found in all the MSS. and in the old Latin and Syriac Versions; and is  referred to in the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria  and Tertullian quote it by name.

 The permanent value of the letter is in some respects quite similar to  that of I Timothy. It has historical significance in that it informs us  of the spread of Christianity on the island of Crete, a piece of  information that we could not gather from any other Biblical source.  Like I Timothy it emphasizes for all ages to come the necessity of  church organization and the special qualifications of the  officebearers. It is unique in placing prominently before us the  educative value of the grace of God for the life of every man, of male  and female, young and old, bond and free.