Read the Passage: Titus 1
Authorship and Date – As with the book of 1 Timothy, the book of Titus was written by Paul after his first Roman imprisonment, which is described in the book of Acts, and before his second Roman imprisonment, which is described in the book of 2 Timothy. The book of Titus, then, was likely written between 62–66 AD. At the time of the writing of this epistle, Titus was serving as pastor of the church in Crete (cf. Titus 1:5). Like Timothy, Titus—who was a Gentile—was a ministry companion and protégé of Paul. Titus is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament: nine times in 2 Corinthians, twice in Galatians, once in 2 Timothy, and once by name in the book of Titus. Interestingly, Titus is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the book of Acts. Yet, in Gal. 2:1–3 we learn that Paul brought Titus before the Jerusalem Council (cf. Acts 15:12), as a living example of his Gentile ministry. Note that Paul was likely in Macedonia, perhaps in Corinth, when he wrote to Titus, and that Paul planned to later meet Titus in the city of Nicopolis (cf. Titus 3:12). While was Titus was later with Paul in Rome during his final imprisonment (cf. 2 Tim. 4:10), tradition holds that Titus returned to pastor the church in Crete, serving until a very old age, and being buried on Crete in the capital city of Candia.
Purposes and Theme – Paul’s purpose in writing this epistle was to instruct Titus in how to organize and to administrate the church in Crete, as well as to instruct the people of Crete in Christian living. As was the case with Timothy in Ephesus, so it seems that Titus needed to confront certain false teaching in Crete that may have impacted church leadership. From Paul’s instructions, it appears the false teachers in Crete were Judaizers. Main topics that Paul addresses in this brief letter include: proper church leadership, confronting false teaching, gender roles, salvation, general Christian living, and Christian citizenship. In this letter we also learn that Paul’s companions, Zenas and Apollos, were traveling to Crete; thus, this letter would have served as an introduction for them to the church.
Structure and Outline – The book of Titus is practical in its content and thus less structured than some of Paul’s more doctrinally-oriented letters. The intimacy and personal nature of this epistle shows Paul’s great confidence in Titus. This letter can be thematically outlined as follows:
- Introduction (1:1–4)
- Church Organization (1:5–16)
- Gender roles (2:1–10)
- Christian Living (2:11–3:11)
- Conclusion (3:12–15)
Greeting of Paul (1:1–4)
While Titus is not mentioned by name in the book of Acts, he was surely there, likely accompanying Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. He was a very competent minister and the only one other than Timothy whom Paul refers to in his writings as “my son” (Titus 1:4). Paul begins this epistle in a similar manner to the book of Ephesians, as he refers to the eternal plan of God for the salvation of mankind, which God “promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). This is a reference to an eternal promise from God the Father to God the Son, to give Him a bride who would worship Him for all eternity (cf. Isa. 42:5–9; John 6:37; Eph. 1:3–6). Theologians sometimes refer to this promise as the Covenant of Redemption. Observe Paul’s teaching that the way that God has chosen to unfold His majestic promise and to make known His infallible plan of redemption is “through preaching” (Titus 1:3).
Task of Titus (1:5–9)
Titus was in Crete, an island in the Aegean Sea that is 160 in length and 35 miles in width. Paul had visited Crete on his fourth missionary journey, as he traveled as a prisoner to Rome to appear before Caesar (cf. Acts 27:7–8). Note that the church in Crete may have been started by believers who were converted at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:11). In Acts 1:5–9 Paul instructs Titus in the characteristics of those who would serve as pastors of the churches in Crete. Although Paul’s list here is not as extensive as the list of traits he gave to Timothy, the list here at Titus 1:5–9 overlaps significantly with the list at 1 Tim. 3:1–7. It is important to note that this passage is not a list of qualifications that believers consult to see if they are eligible for church leadership; rather, it is a list of characteristics that describe Jesus, who is head of the Body of Christ, which church leaders ought to consult continually. Indeed, the goal of church leaders is to conform their lives to that of Jesus, so that they may be able to reflect Him to the church.
Presence of False Teachers (1:10–16)
In Titus 1:10–16 Paul exhorts Titus to confront the false teachers who had infected and affected the church in Crete. In referring to these heretics as “those of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10), it is clear these false teachers where Judaizers (cf. Acts 10:45; 11:2) who taught the necessity of keeping the Old Testament ceremonial laws as a part of the plan of salvation. While the Jerusalem Council had earlier ruled against this teaching (cf. Acts 15), these heretics persisted in the early church. Titus was to confront the Judaizers, for the doctrine of justification by faith alone was at stake (cf. Titus 2:11–15). At Titus 1:12 Paul quotes from a early Cretan writer named Epimenides to remind Titus about the general character of those who dwelt in Crete. Paul’s point here was not necessarily to say that Cretans were any worse sinners than others; rather, he was highlighting the susceptibility of Cretans to false doctrine.
- How do the Pastoral Epistles compare to one another? What verses from the book of Titus have been helpful to you in the past?
- To whom did God the Father make a promise “before time began” (Titus 1:2)? If God’s promises are revealed through preaching, what ought pastors to preach?
- Is the oral proclamation of the Word of God the most effective way to communicate the gospel? Are church leaders free to embrace other methodologies?
- If God has given pastors and teachers to the church (cf. Eph. 4:11–12), how was Titus to recognize these men in order to appoint them?
- Is it problematic that Paul authoritatively cites a pagan author in writing to Titus? To what degree can believers look to the world to find truth?