Titus 3 Commentary

vv.1-2: “Paul said, ‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities.’ The Greek terms for ‘rulers and authorities’ (archais and exousiais) refer in this context to the secular, governmental authorities (cf. Luke 12:11). However, elsewhere in the New Testament, the meaning is expanded to include spiritual, supernatural powers (e.g., Eph 6:12). The instruction that Christians ‘be subject to’ (hypotassesthai) the civil government indicates that such authorities are part of God’s overall order for human society. Christians are not exempt from reasonable and appropriate obligations toward the governmental authorities (Rom 13:1–7; 1 Pet 2:13–17). Paul’s apparent concern for the Christian’s attitude toward the state may reflect the possibility that some Christians wrongly interpreted their allegiance to Christ as being contrary to any allegiance to the state. A proper Christian attitude toward the state requires the Christians ‘to be obedient’ (peitharchein). It is not likely that the Roman state was promoting emperor worship at this time; otherwise Paul surely would not have added this requirement. Biblical teaching is clear that blind, unquestioning obedience to the state in opposition to God’s law is not required (cf. Acts 5:29). Yet not only are Christians ‘to be subject’ (in attitude) and ‘to be obedient’ (in actions), but they are also ‘to be ready to do whatever is good.’ Literally, Christians are ‘to be ready for [or to do] every good work’ (pros pan ergon agathon etoimous einai). This extends the Christian’s responsibilities from a mere passive posture (obeying laws) to an active, positive involvement in society. This idea is a practical outworking of Jesus’ teaching concerning being ‘the salt of the earth … and the light of the world … that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’ (Matt 5:13–16).”[1]

vv.3-5: “The dynamic of the Christian life is twofold.  It comes first from the realization that converts to Christianity were once no better than their heathen neighbours. Christian goodness does not make a man proud; it makes him supremely grateful. When he looks at others, living the pagan life, he does not regard them with contempt; he says, as Whitefield said when he saw the criminal on the way to the gallows: ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’  It comes from the realization of what God has done for men in Jesus Christ. Perhaps no passage in the New Testament more summarily, and yet more fully, sets out the work of Christ for men than this. There are seven outstanding facts about that work here.

“(i) Jesus put us into a new relationship with God. Till he came, God was the King before whom men stood in awe, the Judge before whom men cringed in terror, the Potentate whom they could regard only with fear. Jesus came to tell men of the Father whose heart was open and whose hands were stretched out in love. He came to tell them not of the justice which would pursue them for ever but of the love which would never let them go.

“(ii) The love and grace of God are gifts which no man could ever earn; they can only be accepted in perfect trust and in awakened love. God offers his love to men simply out of the great goodness of his heart and the Christian thinks never of what he has earned but only of what God has given. The keynote of the Christian life must always be wondering and humble gratitude, never proud self-satisfaction. The whole process is due to two great qualities of God.

“It is due to his goodness. The word is chr?stot?s and means benignity. It means that spirit which is so kind that it is always eager to give whatever gift may be necessary Chr?stot?s is an all-embracing kindliness, which issues not only in warm feeling but also in generous action at all times.

“It is due to God’s love to men. The word is philanthr?pia, and it is defined as love of man as man. The Greeks thought much of this beautiful word. They used it for the good man’s kindliness to his equals, for a good king’s graciousness to his subjects, for a generous man’s active pity for those in any kind of distress, and specially for the compassion which made a man ransom a fellow-man when he had fallen into captivity.

“At the back of all this is no merit of man but only the benign kindliness and the universal love which are in the heart of God.”[2]

vv.8-11: “The second part of the passage warns against useless discussions. The Greek philosophers spent their time on their fine-spun problems. The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes spent endless hours discussing what could and could not be done on the Sabbath, and what was and was not unclean. It has been said that there is a danger that a man may think himself religious because he discusses religious questions. It is much easier to discuss theological questions than to be kind and considerate and helpful at home, or efficient and diligent and honest at work. There is no virtue in sitting discussing deep theological questions when the simple tasks of the Christian life are waiting to be done. Such discussion can be nothing other than an evasion of Christian duties.

“Paul was certain that the real task of the Christian lay in Christian action. That is not to say that there is no place for Christian discussion; but the discussion which does not end in action is very largely wasted time.”[3]

vv.10-11: “Jewish law required several private rebukes before bringing a person before the religious assembly for discipline; this procedure gave the offender ample opportunity to repent. One severe form of punishment against an unrepentant offender was exclusion from the religious community for a set time or until repentance ensued. Because Paul uses this penalty only in the most extreme circumstances, the divisiveness in view here must be serious; the person has already excluded himself from the life of the community.”[4]

v.14: “Paul’s last piece of advice is that the Christian people should practise good deeds, so that they themselves should be independent and also able to help others who are in need. The Christian workman works not only to have enough for himself but also to have something to give away.”[5]

[1] Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (2001). Vol. 34: 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (317–318). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] The letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (Tt 3:7). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

[3] 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.

Repentance. In the New Testament, this term does not merely mean “change of mind” (as some have gathered from the Greek term); it reflects the Old Testament and Jewish concept of “turning around” or “turning away” from sin. Jewish people were to repent whenever they sinned; the New Testament uses the term especially for the once-for-all turning a Gentile would undergo when converting to Judaism or any sinner would undergo when becoming a follower of Jesus.

[4] Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Tt 3:10). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[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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