An Admonition to Obedience and Meekness. Titus 3, 1-3.

V.1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, v.2. to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. V.3. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. In addition to the admonitions which Titus, according to the directions of Paul, was to address to the persons in various stations in the congregations, the apostle here inserts some general exhortations for all Christians: Remind them to be subject to their rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. Not only the members of the congregations of Crete, but all Christians should keep in memory and recall the fact continually, that they owe allegiance and obedience to the government given them by God. In all matters which are not covered by an actual prohibition of God they are to submit themselves willingly, even if their personal feelings are not in agreement with the policies of the rulers. It makes no difference whether the national polity is republican or monarchical, whether the rulers profess Christianity or not, whether their policies are beneficial or not, the Christians in every country must submit, be obedient to them by the will of God, Rom. 13, 1. There is only one exception, namely, when the ordinances of the state oppose the plain will of God, Acts 4, 19; 5, 29. Even in a republic the feeling of obedience, of reverence, and the corresponding willingness to give concrete evidence of this feeling at all times must be self-evident with Christians. If, in this case, they do not believe that the men representing the government are working for the best interests of the entire country, they may voice their disapproval through the medium of speech or the press or the ballot-box; but as long as a government is in power, it must be supported by the Christians of the land. Their external acts thus agreeing with the disposition of their minds, they will be ready, as a matter of course, to every good work, in every relation which they sustain in life, not only to magistrates, but in general. As one commentator puts it: “A Christian should always be ready to do good as far as he is able. He should not need to be urged, or coaxed, or persuaded, but should be so ready always to do good that he will count it a privilege to have the opportunity to do it.” (Barnes.) Incidentally, the Christians will thereby escape the accusation as though they were an association opposed to all culture and characterized by hatred of all men.

The apostle wants the Christians to be active in all good works, to be an example to all men: To slander no one, not to be quarrelsome, (to be) humbly yielding, showing all meekness toward all men. It is not only a matter of Christian prudence, but of the express will of God that Christians speak blasphemously of no man nor of his convictions. One may well respect the convictions of other men without denying his own faith with so much as one word, one gesture. Deliberately to seek out unbelievers for the purpose of ridiculing many of the false opinions which they hold instead of attempting to gain them by patient persuasion, is the height of folly. In a case of deliberate and malicious perversion of the truth, of course, or of evident hypocrisy, one will adopt a tone that will fully express one’s righteous indignation at the blasphemous attitude of the opponent. But to be contentious, to seek quarrels, that is not the spirit that agrees with the example of Him who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, 1 Pet. 2, 23. Altogether, it is expected of Christians that they prefer to be humbly yielding in their attitude rather than aggressively challenging, that they show meekness toward all men. This is a virtue which is not shown so much toward those that are kind toward us as toward those from whom we may receive the greatest provocation. This meekness and humility may be learned only in the school of the Holy Ghost, with the example of Christ before one’s eyes without ceasing.

In urging this virtue, the apostle names seven points which characterize the unregenerate, from whom the believers have been separated through the grace of God: For also we once were foolish, disobedient, going astray, serving various desires and lusts, spending our days in malice and envy, abominable, hating one another. The picture which the apostle draws is not a pleasant one, but it is purposely presented in glaring colors, in order to show the grace of God all the more gloriously by contrast. Of us, before the mercy of the Lord wrought faith in our hearts, of all men by nature, it is true that they are foolish, that they do not use their senses properly in accordance with God’s will. There is not only a lack of spiritual knowledge in their hearts, no understanding of the things which serve for their salvation, but they have no idea, no comprehension of that which is good and true; they use their minds only for the purpose of enriching human wisdom, without the basis of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore they are also bound up in disobedience, they are in a condition of rebellion against God. Cp. Rom. 1, 32; 2, 12-15. The natural knowledge of God and the promptings of their conscience they did not heed, or they deliberately disregarded them. It follows that the unbelievers are going astray at all times, they cannot find the right way; no matter which way they turn, their errors encompass them. Thus they are enslaved by various desires and lusts. Cp. 2 Tim. 3, 6; Jas. 4, 1. Of the Spirit of God and His gentle leading, of the way of sanctification, they have no idea. The warning voice of their conscience they stifle. The lusts and desires of their flesh, the incitement toward unchastity, covetousness, false ambition, and other godless thoughts govern their hearts and minds altogether. They are always restless, never satisfied, their whole life is spent in malice and envy. They are full of eagerness to do harm to others, because they cannot bear to see others have any advantage over them. The entire aim and object of their life, in the final analysis, is selfishness and greed. Thus they are an abomination to the Lord and an object of contempt to those that have a better knowledge of the will of God. Not even among themselves, in their own class, are they able to keep peace, for they are filled with hatred toward one another. It is a terrible, a deplorable condition in which the unregenerate find themselves. And since that was the original condition of the Christians also, they will not thrust back the unbelievers by a malevolent attitude, but will, in every possible way, attempt to bring them the message of salvation in Christ Jesus.

The Washing of Regeneration and Its Wonderful Power. Titus 3, 4-8.

V.4. But after that the kindness and love of God, our Savior, toward man appeared, v.5. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, v.6. which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior; v.7. that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. V.8. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. This is another excellent example of the remarkable manner in which the apostle brings out the motive for a life of holiness. By reminding the Christians of the great contrast between their former lamentable condition and their present blessed state, he finds the strongest possible reason for a life of gratitude toward God: But when the kindness and benevolence of God, our Savior, appeared. God the Father is also in this passage expressly called "our Savior," a designation eminently fitting for Him whose love was manifested so wonderfully in the sending of Jesus Christ. John 3. 16, and in the fact that He was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, 2 Cor. 5, 19. This love of God as our Savior is brought out by two virtues which are here ascribed to Him. The kindness of God appeared. His warm-heartedness, favor, benignity, according to which His treatment of us, as Luther writes, is such as to prompt love in return. The other attribute is His benevolence, literally, His philanthropy, by which the Lord, in the Gospel, not only shows His kindness: but also offers to all men the full and free use of all the gifts of His heaven, His everlasting friendship and grace. Thus the unmerited, the free grace of God appeared to all men, was revealed and brought to the attention of men in Christ Jesus, with the incarnation of Christ and the unequivocal proclamation of the Gospel connected therewith, which He has brought in its full glory.

The consequences of this wonderful revelation and manifestation are named: Not on account of works (performed) in righteousness which we did, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior. With the revelation of the kindness and benevolence of God in Jesus Christ the wonderful work of salvation was brought about. It was done by God with the total exclusion of all merit on the part of man. The emphasis upon this fact is necessary as often as the subject of the grace of God is mentioned, for the pride of the human heart clings to every straw of its own righteousness. There are no works on the part of men which are able to earn eternal salvation for them. Even in the best works of man as he is constituted by nature there is nothing that could have merited the love of God in Christ Jesus. No matter whether such works make ever so fine a showing as a righteousness of life before men, they cannot be urged as possessing merit in the sight of God. Thus the mercy of God is revealed before us in the full beauty of its splendor. Only according to, for the sake of, His mercy did He save us. Salvation is represented by the apostle as a finished fact: salvation has been made, has been performed; there is nothing to be added: nothing to be corrected. The believers are in full possession of their salvation, even though they are not yet enjoying its blessings to their full extent. 7) And this salvation is transmitted to us, has been given to the believers, through the washing of regeneration. God uses a washing of water. Holy Baptism, as a means to transmit and seal to the believer the inestimable benefits of salvation. Through Baptism, regeneration is wrought in the heart of man; he is born anew to a wonderful spiritual life. At the same time, therefore, the water of Baptism also works a renewing of the heart and mind. Regeneration is a single act, but the renewing thus begun by the Holy Ghost continues throughout the life of the Christian. The new spiritual creature wrought or created in Baptism is renewed from day to day, 2 Cor. 4, 16; 1 Pet. 4, 1. Thus the water of Baptism, in itself simple water, is endowed, by the power of God and the Holy Spirit, with such wonderful properties that it actually becomes the bearer of the salvation of God to the heart of man.

With great emphasis the apostle stresses the fact that the work of the Holy Ghost in the heart of the believer continues from day to day when he says that the Holy Spirit is shed, poured out, upon us abundantly, richly. What the Lord had repeatedly promised in the Old Testament, Joel 2, 26-32; Zech. 12, 10; Is. 44, 3, was fulfilled in the time of the New Testament, beginning with the great Day of Pentecost. In Baptism especially, as one of the means of grace, the Holy Ghost comes to us with the fullness of His gifts of regeneration and sanctification. He impresses upon our hearts not an indistinct, blurred picture of our Redeemer, but one that gives us a clear idea and understanding of His vicarious satisfaction in its application to us. This sending and imparting of the Holy Ghost in Baptism is done through Jesus Christ, our Savior, the exalted Lord of His Church. John 14, 26; 15. 2 6: 16, 7. This fact, that the Savior, who gained redemption for us in its entirety, now also. in His state of exaltation, makes it His business to appropriate to us the gifts and graces of this salvation through the Holy Spirit, and that this rich imparting of His blessings is done even in Baptism, is full of comfort to us, and gives us great confidence in our faith. Jesus Christ, by His perfect redemption, has restored the original relation between God and man, and the fruit of this mediatorial activity of Christ is imparted to the believers in Baptism through the Word. Note: Vv. 4-6 contain a clear proof for the trinity of God, since it is God the Father who poured out upon us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

The work begun in Baptism, however, by no means exhausts the loving-kindness and benevolence of God toward us. His purpose rather is this: That, being justified through His grace, we may become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Regeneration and conversion are properly treated as synonyms; for in working in us the new spiritual birth, God has also given us the forgiveness of all our sins and imputed to us the full righteousness of Jesus Christ. 8) We are justified before God: He Himself has returned the verdict of "Not guilty” in our case. We are redeemed and declared justified, not only with reference to sin, but also with regard to the guilt and punishment of sin. Not, indeed, as though any works which we might have done or even our acceptance of the salvation in Christ made us worthy and gave us merit in the sight of God, but we are justified by His grace, by the grace of God in Christ. By receiving this grace through faith, which is wrought in us in Baptism, we enter into the proper relation to God once more, into that of children and heirs: Rom. 8, 17: 6, 15. 23. Eternal life, the life of eternal salvation in and with Christ, is open to us. It is ours according to hope, in hope; both its possession and enjoyment are certain, because they are guaranteed to us by God. As heirs of heaven all the goods and blessings of eternity are actually ours. Our incorruptible, undefiled inheritance is reserved for us in heaven. Here we enjoy only the first fruits of salvation in the midst of many miseries and tribulations; there the Lord will throw open to us the rich treasures of His boundless store and invite us to partake of them in undisturbed happiness, world without end. 9)

It is to this whole paragraph that Paul refers when he adds: Trustworthy is the word, and I want thee to insist upon these things strongly that they who have their belief centered in God may take care to lay the proper emphasis upon good works. This is fine and useful to men. The summary of the Gospel as Paul has included it in that one beautiful sentence is a word upon which a person may rely with absolute certainty. His purpose, however, is not merely to remind Titus of these beautiful truths, but also to encourage and stimulate him to make these same facts-the subject of his teaching. He should affirm and asseverate, speak from the firm conviction of his heart. For the Christians of all times, all the true believers, those whose faith actually rests in Christ, should show their appreciation of the blessings of salvation in their entire life, letting good works be the sphere in which they move and have their being. Believers take care to do this, they make it their business to be found engaged in good works. For the latter are like goods that have been entrusted to the Christians, to their stewardship, that they use them, that they exercise themselves in them. Such teaching, such counsels, are good and useful for the Christians. It is altogether acceptable in the sight of God if both the faith and the life of the Christians are duly referred to in public as well as private teaching and admonition. It is the most practical lesson in the world.

The Conduct of Titus toward False Teachers and Heretics. Titus 3, 9-11.

V.9. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the Law; for they are unprofitable and vain. V.10. A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject, v.11. knowing that he that is such is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Firm adherence to the full evangelical truth in both doctrine and admonition had been urged by the apostle in the last paragraph. He now warns Titus against the activity of the Judaizing teachers who were evidently present in the congregations also: But foolish quarrels and genealogies and controversy and contentions concerning the Law avoid, for they are useless and vain. It was the peculiarity of the teachers with Judaizing tendencies that they preferred to be engaged with such questions as were without organic connection with the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. They were working along the lines of men as we also know them, men that have a mania for discussing such questions as may be brought into connection with Scriptural doctrine, but are not revealed by God. Of course, the broaching of such questions was bound to result in quarrels, which mere usually carried on with the same degree of bitterness as also of foolishness. This is true especially of the endless genealogies of the Jews, in which they endeavor to supplement revelation with tradition and conjecture, and of other controversies and contentions connected with the individual teacher’s understanding of the Ceremonial Law. The number of sayings, expositions, additions which the Jewish lawyers made in the course of time was faithfully noted down by their pupils, and though all this is contradictory in countless instances, yet all of it has found defenders to this day. And there are hosts of teachers in the midst of the so-called Christian Church that have found stacks of similar vain and useless matters to engage their attention, instead of teaching the one thing needful. Paul has only one word as to the treatment of such people, namely, to avoid them. The uselessness and vanity of the matters argued by men of that type is such that employing oneself with questions of a similar nature will be a mere killing of time. They may profess to adhere to the fundamental truths of Scripture, but the methods employed by them are sure to result in the neglect and, finally, in the misrepresentation of the doctrine of faith. The best advice to this day is to let them severely alone.

The situation becomes graver, however, if dissension and offense have been brought about in the congregation: A heretical person avoid after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a one is corrupt and sins, being self condemned. Men there were, even in those days, that were not satisfied with discussing every manner of question only remotely connected with Christianity, but went beyond that point in trying to form factions by propagating errors which conflicted with the orthodoxy of sound apostolic doctrine. If there is such a person in a Christian congregation that holds and defends false doctrines, such as are contrary to the Christian religion, he must be made an object of admonition. If the first attempt to convince such a person results in failure, the effort should be repeated. The power of the Word of God is so great that it may well be possible to gain such a person for the truth again. But if all attempts to win such a person fail, then the glory of God and of the Church finally demand that the members of the congregation declare that the heretic no longer belongs to their communion. Formal excommunication in a case of this kind is not resorted to, since such a person has already publicly withdrawn from the fellowship of orthodox believers. 10) This form of procedure should be followed, since it is certain that such heretics are perverted, corrupted, subverted in their own mind. Incidentally, their conscience tells them that they are sinning, are doing wrong. Yet they continue in their anti-Biblical attitude, being self-condemned, their own conscience accusing them and pronouncing judgment upon them. If a congregation openly resolves upon a verdict of condemnation in the case of such a heretic, then there may be some hope of the shock's bringing him back to his right senses and thus of saving his soul.

Final Directions and Greetings. Titus 3, 12-15.

V.12. When I shall send Artemas unto thee or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me at Nicopolis; for I have determined there to winter. V.13. Bring Zenas, the lawyer, and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. V.14. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. V.15. All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. The letter proper has been concluded. Paul merely adds a few words, directing Titus to take care of certain matters. He informs him, first of all, that he intends to send either Artemas (or Artemidorus) or Tychicus, the latter being mentioned often in his letters, 2 Tim. 4, 12; Eph. 6, 21; Col. 4, 7, to relieve Titus in Crete. Either one of these two men Paul wanted to send to Crete as quickly as possible, for he wanted Titus to come as soon as he could possibly make it, to Nicopolis, a city of Epirus, on the Ambracian Gulf, a branch of the Ionian Sea, now the Gulf of Arat, on the southern boundary of Albania. It was not only the nearness of winter and the uncertainty of traveling which caused the apostle to write in such urgent terms, but also the fact that he longed for his younger companion and had need of his ministrations.

The men named in the nest sentence. Zenas and Apollo, were most probably the bearers of this letter. The first man, Zenas, was a lawyer, not according to the Jewish manner of speaking, but the Roman: he was practicing law in the Roman Empire, a fact which shows that the practice of law does not intrinsically interfere with sound Christianity. Apollos is probably the man whom we know from other New Testament writings. Acts 18, 24-28; 19, 1: 1 Cor. 1, 12; 16, 12. Both of these men could be of great value to Titus in his work. Paul writes concerning them; Help them forward on their journey with all diligence, in order that they may want nothing. The word used by the apostle describes the manner of receiving and taking care of travelers in a truly hospitable manner. They should not only be provided with all they were in need of while visiting on the island, but should also be given provisions and clothing for the continuation of their journey. Since this hospitality might easily exceed the slender means of Titus alone. Paul adds: But let also our people learn to practice good works for all real wants, that they be not unfruitful. Christians are always willing to learn and to make progress in all good works, in every form of charity, also that of true hospitality. Whenever and wherever a brother or sister is in need of help, this assistance should be forthcoming with all cheerfulness, as fruits of the faith which is active in love.

Paul is careful to mention that the brethren with him send their cordial salutations to the distant brother. The faith which unites the hearts of the Christians may well find expression also in such little formalities as show the tenderness of the love that lives in them. Titus, in turn, is to be the bearer of greetings to all that n-ere united with the apostle and with all other Christians in the faith. With the apostolic greeting, not only to Titus, but to all that might read or hear this letter, the apostle closes. The grace of God in Christ Jesus, with all the rights, privileges, blessings, and gifts that are connected therewith, is the most precious and most highly prized possession of the Christians, giving them true happiness here and eternal salvation yonder. 11)

Summary. The apostle gives directions as to the manner in which the Christians should be admonished to practice obedience to the government in the true spirit of meekness, on the basis of the washing of regeneration and its renewing power; the Judaizing teachers and the heretics are to be avoided; he concludes with a few directions concerning several brethren and with the apostolic greeting.