Or: Titus, Paul, Brotherhood, Manliness.
True manliness, as we will see in our study of this Epistle, includes gentleness and a longing for deep friendship. We see that in Paul, and are affirmed that we ought to be praying that for the men in our church, in our families, etc.
2 Cor 2:12-17 How important is fellowship to these two? So important, that seeking out fellowship from one who closely walks with Jesus interrupts the preaching schedule. This passage has long been a favorite of mine, revealing to us the depth of our own need for fellowship, and the freedoms we have to carry out God’s plans for our lives in tandem with taking the time to meet personal needs.
Paul was called to spread the Gospel, a door was opened for this ministry, but he left to go find Titus. If you study Paul’s life you notice that many so-called believers turned out to be false, prideful, malicious. Paul knew the pain of broken fellowship and he knew the joy of true fellowship, the only true friendship–united by the Spirit and living in obedience to the Word.
This passage answers so many of our fears and questions concerning “God’s will” for my life, and how we ought to walk in our callings, and when to walk through “open doors”. Too often we try to “read” situations to figure out if it is an open door. Paul knew not to walk alone. God brings comfort and encouragement and support into our lives through His children, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We err if we turn this passage, or the “open door theory” into law or licentiousness. More on this later.
Who Was Titus?
From Galatians we know that he was Greek (Galatians 2:3), and that he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the trip to Jerusalem. He attended that council that decided just how fellowship would be carried out between two peoples, Jews and Gentiles, though the former had been trained to exclude the latter.
From 2 Corinthians we know that Titus was trusted–sent with Paul’s letter rebuking the Corinthians’ sins. Titus did not merely deliver the letter but stayed to comfort, teach, guide, and watch the sanctification process take place. The Corinthians responded to this ministry with repentance and joy, accepting Titus and expressing heartfelt thanks for him.
Take some time to read through these passages: 2 Corinthians 7:5-16; 8:1-6 and 16-24; 12:14-19.
Chapter seven relates the experience with the letter and the repentance. But it opens with a reminder of the character of Titus. After stating just how difficult life has been for himself, Paul says “But God who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus…and also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you…”
All too often we tell God that we want comfort on certain terms–we want to have Him orchestrate events a certain way–or we want to literally hear Him with our ears–or we want a vision of what will come out of our circumstances–or we want provision for worldly comforts… And instead, God sends a part of His Body. He sends His hands and feet, a brother in Christ. Do not push away the “Titus” that God sends to comfort you, beloved. Fellowship is one of the sweetest blessings of this present age.
Chapter eight relates the experience of collecting money to help another church–the historical background to this would put us all to shame as we grumble over 10% given out of our paychecks. These people gave beyond their means. Beyond. With joy. Under no compulsion save the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts.
No excuses about “what if I don’t have enough for my summer vacation? Or my new wardrobe updates–did you see that coat, I want that new coat even though I have three already!” And certainly no “but I have payments on everything, and if I give–then I can’t pay for one of my many payments, they’ll take my boat, and my extra vehicle, and turn off my cable…woe is me.” This was an “oh, that church is persecuted, homeless, destitute, and hungry? Yes, I can spare a measure of this, or a coin, or a cloak…”
Through this experience, Titus was shown to be trustworthy and honorable and gentle and full of empathy. He served with his whole heart, thinking nothing of whether he would be paid, or written of, or acknowledged in any manner. Here Paul says “Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you…” Already Paul called him brother, and when we study Titus you’ll see that Titus was Paul’s “child in the faith.” Paul could evangelize, and disciple, and then consider his disciple a fellow worker–neither Paul nor Titus exuded any pride, but always a heart full of “thanks be to God who…”.
We know that after accompanying Paul to many places, Paul left Titus in Crete (hence this letter we’re studying). It is not known precisely when he went to Crete, the island in the Mediterranian Sea just below the Aegean Sea, but sometime after Paul’s release from prison, and prior to the writing of this Epistle. The letter ends with the call to readiness to come join Paul for the winter in Nicopolis. “Make every effort” because fellowship with true faithful believers is priceless, and necessary.
Big Picture of the Epistle
Overall this book, like the other Pastoral Epistles, does not thoroughly review the doctrines (teachings) but instructs in how to protect and pass on the doctrines of the faith, while showing us the need to know: How important is truth? The church, the pillar of truth, must have proper foundations. Pastoral epistles are different in tone than other epistles, why? Paul, nearing death, having established good doctrine–now is establishing how to preserve this doctrine, and how to see the church thrive in this doctrine, and adorn this doctrine. (cf the end of Romans 13!)
Titus is called upon to refute not just heresy, but also “irreverant” conversation, fruitless words, and meaningless words that are creeping into some churches. Today these would be churches where instead of a sermon with the Word of God read and preached you had more of a TED talk. These would be churches with political messages, or “how to” messages, or cultural messages that veer away from the Word and into opinions. Churches that think the Pastoral Epistles are outdated, and who need to seek the opinion of unbelieving seekers in order to plan their service and events.
What is Doctrine?
Stuffy old words meant for elders and pastors and teachers, but not for you? No beloved, it is a word that means “teaching.” And by the end of this study, if you join in whole heartedly, you will love this word, love the doctrines that have been handed down (see Jude 3-4), and will enjoy being “constantly nourished on the words of truth” as a disciple of Jesus (see 1 Timothy 4:1-8).
So while other epistles contain loads of doctrine–Paul writes the Pastoral Epistles knowing that Timothy and Titus already knew and loved the doctrines of the faith! So rather than laying down the same rails, Paul has a different intent. We see glimpses of the major doctrines, but the emphasis of the three Pastoral Epistles, and therefore of Titus, is our duty to guard the truth, and live out the truth. Being a church of disciples who adorns the doctrine!
John Stott breaks Titus into these subheadings, and I like them, they fit:
Doctrine and duty in the church
Doctrine and duty in the home
Doctrine and duty in the world
“Thus doctrine inspires duty, and duty adorns doctrine. Doctrine and duty are married; they must not be divorced.”John Stott. Guard the Truth. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996). 213.
Written between AD 60-63; near the end of Paul’s life (he was martyred around 64AD). Most likely after his first imprisonment, prior to a second imprisonment that ended in death. His focus is keenly on ending well with good structure in place to pass down the faith for generations to come–though we know Paul always had the view of “Jesus could come any moment! The time is at hand!” from Romans 13, for example.
Paul made use of church hymns and creeds–all earlier than the material he wrote; roughly 46% of Titus! Cool fact! Great for the study of apologetics, and wondering what did people believe directly after the resurrection and ascension. They believed these creeds/hymns/doxologies that are passed down, and that Paul writes down here, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.