1Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,
As usual, Paul has no reluctance in identifying himself as a slave of the Lord by choice or as a person chosen by God to serve Him as an apostle. Christ called him as an apostle not for his own desires for ministry but for the faith of those who would repent and follow Christ. God appointed Paul to be a vessel through whose preaching many would be saved. True saving faith has a proper understanding of the knowledge of Christ’s person, deity, and substitutionary death. Those who come to Christ know Who it is that they are following, on what basis, and why. They are also those who have repented unto godliness. True believers are born by the preaching of the Word of God as God draws them to Himself.
2in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
Saving faith brings with it the ability to know that we are saved (1 John 5:13). Those who indeed “work out their salvation” are those who will have no doubt that they are indeed changed from the inside out. They have hope, and hope does not disappoint because it is founded upon God’s ability to finish the work of salvation which He has begun. We can have absolute assurance that God will perfect our faith because He cannot lie. When He says that He will receive us as His children, He does just that. The only firm rock upon which salvation, church, or life can be built is the Rock of God and His Word, for they are immutable. God promised this salvation in the Old Testament, and in Paul’s day, it had now come to pass with the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Messiah.
3but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,
Jesus came not too early or too late but at just the right time. Though God hadn’t spoken for roughly 400 years before the advent of Christ, God’s timing was just right. John the Baptist came as Elijah calling for repentance from the wilderness and preparing the way for the Lord. All was right on schedule. The revelation of God’s spoken word and incarnate Word in Christ were most needed. Revealing Himself to Paul on the Damascus Road, Paul too saw Christ for Who He was and was given a proclamation to be entrusted with. Like a messenger of a king going throughout the land to share the king’s proclamation, Paul’s calling (and ours) is to herald a message of truth to all the world. Our job is not to change or modify the message but to deliver it. We are entrusted with the Word of God, and we must faithfully preach it and teach it.
4To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Titus is a spiritual son of Paul in that he has had the privilege of being mentored by Paul, serving alongside of him. Their bond is based upon their common faith in that they share a common confession and adherence to the Word of God. Paul then gives his common greeting of grace and peace to you from God and Christ. We all need more grace for each day and could use the transcendent peace of God. Both only come from God, the giver of all good gifts, and through Christ, our Savior, the One Who has made us desiring of these gifts in the first place.
5For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,
Paul assigned Titus a mission in Crete. His job was to bring order and structure to the believers there. His main duty in this was to appoint elders who would oversee and shepherd the flock, guiding it in truth and keeping it from deception. The first elders in these cities were clearly appointed with apostolic authority from Paul through Titus. It appears that the ideal progression of church leadership would always be to have godly men appoint other godly men who would appoint more godly men after them. Yet when the church becomes apostate by and large, faithful men become missionaries fighting for their lives.
Godly authority is not based upon a vote of good will but upon the characteristics that Paul is about to give to Titus. Of those who meet these qualifications, which should be more than just the elders, those who are spiritual are to determine by the Spirit’s leading who should be in charge of the flock as a shepherding and teaching elder. This is done through much prayer, through screening a man by way of the characteristics Paul is about to give, and by much wisdom which only a spiritually discerning person can have. When a person meets the qualifications and those who are spiritual agree that this person should be approached, they can then ask him to take on the role of elder. He should believe God is leading him that way as well.
Thus, the spiritual leader(s) of the flock appoint other spiritual leaders. This isn’t done by popular vote or just because someone signed a membership agreement or took a membership class. The spiritual must appoint (see also Acts 14:23) the spiritual, which is Paul’s command to Titus. If there are none spiritual, then none should be shepherding, and they should seek godly shepherds elsewhere. Note that not every man who is spiritual should take on the role of elder. God may not lead all to do so. Furthermore, elders must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). This is one skill that they must possess. Some godly men are not able to do this, and they ought not to be forced into a role for which God didn’t design them.
6namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
An elder is one who is above reproach. There is nothing in his life that can cause anyone to doubt or question his commitment to the Lord, his understanding of Scripture, or the purity of his life and heart. He is married to one wife, which literally says that he is a “one-woman man.” In other words, if he is married (note that Paul was single so single men can be elders), then he must be devoted to his wife singly. He cannot be lusting and certainly not be in any adulterous relationship. Christ says in Mark 10:11-12 that any divorce and remarriage is adultery (see also Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-11). Since the marriage bond is permanent even if man tries to separate spouses legally, a person who has remarried after a divorce is in perpetual adultery. Even if such a one repents, he is still not a one-woman man, for he has been joined to two by covenant before God. Lusting is adultery according to Christ, so a person who lusts is also not qualified to be this one-woman man. Marriage is a test of commitment, integrity, patience, and purity. Singleness is a test of purity as well. If the man cannot pass these requirements, he cannot be an elder.
Another crucial and often overlooked element is that the overseer must have children who believe. They must believe in Christ, having professed Christ as their Lord and Savior. Granted, children make their own decisions and are responsible, but the general rule with very few exceptions is that if a child is trained as he should go that he will not depart from it even when he grows old (Proverbs 22:6). Thus, God is looking for men to oversee His church who have children who follow after the Lord. A believing child may rebel, and the man must deal with that appropriately. But the issue is whether or not the children profess faith. Must the aspiring elder have children at all? If they do not have children, one should ask why since children are a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). If it was because they were unable, that is one thing. In such cases, there should be some evidence of spiritual children as Titus was to Paul. Yet, if a couple chooses to not have children for reasons that amount to selfishness, that should be a red flag. How a couple raises their children is highly indicative of their faith, commitment, Biblical maturity, and ability to disciple.
7For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,
The overseer again is above reproach. The idea is emphasized by Paul that an elder cannot have issues of character or family that will cause those under his care to disrespect him. He must be clean as a whistle. This does not mean that he may not have failed in the past in some things. It means that he does, however, have a track record of faithfulness for an extended period of time. He must understand that he is God’s steward. He is not a professional, a contractor, an orator, or a salesperson. He is a servant of the Most High God who will be accountable for how he cares for God’s people. God’s takes this position seriously, for those who are teachers will receive a stricter judgment (James 3:1). He is not self-interested in any way, seeking always the welfare of others over his own. He is not quick-tempered, easily angered, impatient, and judgmental. He is long-suffering with others, not looking to argue or fight, and always doing what he can to be at peace with all people. He is not addicted to wine, not controlled by any mind-altering substance, and only filled and controlled by the leading of the Spirit. When trouble comes, he turns to God, not any sort of worldly comfort. He is not pugnacious, seeking a fight, battle, or war. He is not out to compete for people, musicians, or money. He is interested only in the kingdom of God. He seeks to build relationships rather than steal market territory. He does not try to force his agenda down the throats of others or lead by power plays. He wants peace, community, communion, and unity, and he trusts God to bring it to pass. He is not interested in the things that warm the soul of the carnal man such as outward results, man-pleasing successes, and showboating. He understands that the work of an overseer is not about him but about God and pointing others to God. He understands that he is but a jar of clay and that the main event is Christ.
8but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
The overseer is one who enjoys the company and fellowship of others. He is not a CEO who isolates himself, but he is among the faithful teaching them the Word of God and praying with them. He is also one who opens his heart and home to the needy physically and spiritually. He loves what is good and hates what is evil. He is very set in his ways about God and honoring Him. His heart rejoices in the truth and when truth prevails. He is sensible, exercising good judgment and having the ability to exercise wisdom in a variety of situations. Sensible also carries the meaning of temperate or sane, implying that the overseer is well-balanced, disciplined, and of a sound mind and demeanor. He is just, fair, and honest, pursuing truth above status and sordid gain. He is devout, innocent, righteous, and holy in his conduct. He is self-controlled, which again emphasizes that he walks and lives in a position of faith, confidence in the Lord, and hope. He is not unstable or unsteady. He contends for the faith rather than with others.
9holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
He holds to sound doctrine with a vice grip. He teaches the faithful word and carries the baton of truth into his generation and the next. There is a set body of truth and teaching that must be fervently proclaimed and defended. The goal is to teach the whole counsel of God so well and sensibly that it encourages and challenges believers and clearly refutes those who have any other view. An overseer must have such a deep understanding of the Word in order to be able to do this.
10For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,
After giving the qualifications that are required for the position of overseer, Paul now contrasts what should be with what is not. If any of these characteristics are present, a person ought to be disqualified. It is common for people who desire church leadership to be rebellious in their own lives, letting their flesh have its way and compromising over and over again. Many are soft on doctrine, even creating new and false theologies that deceive others. Such men talk really well and have a great stage presence, but their content is empty because it is not founded in the Word and in many cases contrary to it. Too many churches are substituting speaking talent and appearances for truth. This is a direct violation of this directive from Paul. In Paul’s time, many of the deceivers happened to be Jews. In our time, the deception is everywhere.
11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.
What do we do about those who speak deception and carry the name of Jesus or Christian? We must silence them. We don’t do this maliciously, but by soundly declaring sound teaching that can clearly refute those who contradict (see v. 9). If we provide good enough teaching for Christians, most will not fall for the deceptions anyway. If they do, we need to be able to show them where they are deceived. Deception always causes division and hurt, upsetting families as one sheep goes astray. Deceivers operate for sordid gain, not for God’s purposes but for the wallet or resume’s purposes. Deceivers nearly always have their own desires in mind.
12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
13This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,
14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
One such deceiver was quoted as saying that all Cretans are liars, evil, and gluttonous. On this matter they were actually telling the truth. Paul wanted some of the Cretans, who were professing believers, to start to live like it. Thus, they had to be reproved and challenged to change from their current state of rebellion and deception. They had fallen for myths proclaimed by these Jews and other man-made laws and rules that lead people away from faith and grace rather than towards Christ. Deceivers, similar to the overseers, are revealed for their true selves by what they do. The overseers do good, and the deceivers do evil. It should be obvious, especially when contrasted to such “evil beasts” that an overseer is a man of God. He must be able to faithfully encourage the righteous and boldly challenge those who are in error. He must be willing to try to rescue the sheep who are following the wolves in sheeps’ clothing.
15To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.
Those who know God are pure in heart. They will see God (Matthew 5:8). Those who do not know God are impure in heart (Jeremiah 17:9). When we come to Christ, we see things in a new light, desiring the pure rather than the impure. The Spirit makes our conscience sensitive to sin and discerning of evil and error. To those who are lacking saving faith and in the case of believers who choose to lack faith and defile themselves, their mind and conscience become defiled. This means that they are unable to think right, their thoughts rule them rather than the Spirit, and they are no longer feeling the promptings of the Spirit when they sin. They can sin and not even care. They know they are wrong, but their mind is able to let them escape and not think reasonably on the topic. They are in great danger.
16They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
Many people profess to know God if you ask them. Deceivers often use God as their entryway to a person’s mind and heart. Yet the actions show what faith really exists, if any. Faith must have works of some kind at some point to some degree (James 2:17). Evil deeds deny Christ and are evidence that a person may not even know Christ (Matthew 7:16). They could also be evidence of a mind that is so far deceived that it cannot process truth. In either case, no good fruit can come from these lives because they are corrupt, disobedient, and rebellious.