Titus 1 – Commentary

vv.2-3  “But this passage does more than speak of God’s eternal purpose; it also speaks of his method. It tells us that he sent his message in his own good time. That means to say that all history was a preparation for the coming of Jesus. We cannot teach any kind of knowledge to a man until he is fit to receive it. In all human knowledge we have to start at the beginning; so men had to be prepared for the coming of Jesus. All the history of the Old Testament and all the searchings of the Greek philosophers were preparations for that event. God’s Spirit was moving both amongst the Jews and amongst all other peoples so that they should be ready to receive his Son when he came. We must look on all history as God’s education of men.”[1]

v.10 “’There are many rebellious people’ is a general statement of the external danger facing the Cretan churches. The worst offenders were Jewish, but they were not the only ones. These false teachers, apparently Cretans by birth, are not easily identified with any specific heresy. Apparently they were gnosticizing Judaists who as professed Christians sought to infiltrate the churches with their misguided teaching. They seemingly sought to fasten onto Christianity various aspects of Judaism and to present the hybrid as a teaching containing higher philosophical insights.

“Three terms describe these ‘many’ false teachers: They are (1) ‘rebellious,’ refusing to subordinate themselves to any authority, rejecting the demands of the gospel on them; (2) ‘mere talkers,’ men fluent and impressive in speech that accomplishes nothing constructive; (3) ‘deceivers,’ men whose glib tongues exercise a fascination over the minds of their dupes and lead them astray. ‘Those of the circumcision group’ were the most active offenders.”[2]

v.12 “These Cretan false teachers were all the more dangerous because of the known nature of the people on whom they preyed. As evidence, Paul quoted a line from Epimenides (6th-5th century B.C.), who was held in honor on Crete as a poet, prophet, and religious reformer. The NIV rendering, ‘one of their own prophets,’ implies that Crete boasted a number of such prophets, a point not raised by Paul. The original, ‘A certain one of them, their own prophet,’ stresses that the quoted verdict came from one who had intimate knowledge of his own people and was esteemed by them as a ‘prophet.’ Paul was willing to accept this evaluation in order to underline the authority of his own judgment. The quotation establishes the picture without exposing Paul to the charge of being anti-Cretan. It put the Cretans on the horns of a dilemma. They must either admit the truthfulness of his verdict concerning them or deny the charge and brand their own prophet a liar.

“The triple charge–’Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’–is supported by other extrabiblical witnesses. The pagan moralists classified Cretans with Cilicians and Cappadocians as preeminent in wickedness. So notorious was the Cretan reputation for falsehood that the Greek word kretizo (‘to Crete-ize’) meant ‘to lie.’ ‘Evil brutes’ stigmatizes them as having sunk to the level of beasts, unrestrained in their brutality, always on a prowl for prey. ‘Lazy gluttons’ underlines their greed as idle sensualists who desired to be filled without exerting personal effort to earn an honest living.”[3]

v.13b “‘Therefore,’ or ‘for which cause,’ introduces the action demanded by this situation. Titus must continue to ‘rebuke them sharply,’ dealing pungently and incisively with the danger, like a surgeon cutting away cancerous tissue. ‘Rebuke,’ the verb rendered ‘refute’ in v. 9 above, may here be rendered ‘convict,’ effectively showing the error of the teaching that is being opposed. Generally, ‘them’ is taken as a direct reference to the false teachers. They would obviously be dealt with whenever they sought to gain a hearing in the church, but it seems clear that the action demanded would also include those church members who were known to be receptive to the claims of the false teachers. Primary reference to the endangered church members seems clear from the contemplated results of the action commanded.

“The positive result aimed at is ‘that they will be sound in the faith.’ The verb sound means ‘to be in good health, be healthy,’ while the present tense indicates that the apostolic concern is their continued spiritual health. ‘The faith’ denotes the truth embodied in the gospel they have personally accepted. Their personal spiritual health will be impaired if they feed on unhealthy doctrine.”[4]

vv.13-16  “When a man gets into this state of impurity, he may know God intellectually but his life is a denial of that knowledge Three things are singled out here about such a man.

“(i) He is repulsive. The word (bdeluktos) is the word particularly used of heathen idols and images. It is the word from which the noun bdelugma, an abomination, comes. There is something repulsive about a man with an obscene mind, who makes sniggering jests and is a master of the unclean innuendo.

“(ii) He is disobedient. Such a man cannot obey the will of God. His conscience is darkened. He has made himself such that he can hardly hear the voice of God, let alone obey it. A man like that cannot be anything else but an evil influence and is therefore unfit to be an instrument in the hand of God.

“(iii) That is just another way of saying that he has become useless to God and to his fellow-men. The word used for useless (adokimos) is interesting. It is used to describe a counterfeit coin which is below standard weight. It is used to describe a cowardly soldier who fails in the testing hour of battle. It is used of a rejected candidate for office, a man whom the citizens regarded as useless. It is used of a stone which the builders rejected. (If a stone had a flaw in it, it was marked with a capital A, for adokimos, and left aside, as being unfit to have any place in the building.) The ultimate test of life is usefulness, and the man whose influence is ever towards that which is unclean is of no use to God or to his fellow-men. Instead of helping God’s work in the world, he hinders it; and uselessness always invites disaster.”[5]


[1] The letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

[2] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992)

[3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992)

[4] Frank E. Gaebelein, Gen. Ed. Expositor’s Bible Commentary CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992)

[5] The letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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