Titus 3: The Christian and the State
E W Rogers, Oxford
The believer has been redeemed from all lawlessness, and he should be zealous of good works. He must, therefore, be subject both to the law of God and the law of man, however irksome he might find the Roman yoke. In our present times of labour unrest and strikes, these exhortations are specially relevant. Paul reminded the Romans of their duty in this regard, Rom. 13, and Peter likewise reminded the believers to whom he wrote, 1 Pet. 2. 13-17. There should be subjection, obedience, a readiness to participate in what is essentially good (beneficial to men), to speak evil of none. Believers should not be quarrelsome but yielding and meek towards all men. In verses 3-7 Paul joins himself with these Cretan believers, and speaks of (a) their former state, (b) the discovery that they made, (c) the relief which it brought to them, and (a) the hope which they now possessed.
(a) Their Former State. This is stated in verse 3. Paul uses an emphatic "we", a pronoun which included himself and Titus, the Jew and the Gentile, the old and the young. Godward they were disobedient; selfward they were deceived, and enslaved; and manward they were malicious and envious,
hateful and hating one another.
(b) The Discovery. This was the appearance of the kindness and the love of God to man, v. 4; it had been mentioned in 2. 11. Contrary to the thoughts of the heathen, God's attitude to man is one of benignity and philanthropy (see Acts 27. 3; 28. 2). He is "God our Saviour".
(c) The Relief Brought. "According to his mercy he saved us". Negatively it was not according to our works done in righteousness, for as Paul had insisted everywhere and in all his writings, by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified before God. But positively it was "according to his mercy" of which Paul had spoken in 1 Timothy 1. 16.
All three Persons of the Holy Trinity were engaged in this wonderful operation. It was God's love to man, for God is our Saviour. But He worked "through Jesus Christ our Saviour", v. 6, bringing about our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
The phrase "washing of regeneration" implies the removal of the former state and the commencement of a new one. Similarly the "renewing of the Holy Spirit" is another way of saying "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new", 2 Cor. 5. 17. The ideas in this verse are similar to that in John 3. 5, and that passage appears to revert to Ezekiel 36. 25-27 with which Nicodemus was expected to be well acquainted. Paul does not appear to be referring here to baptism when he speaks of the "washing of regeneration" (laver, R.v. marg,). The Holy Spirit was poured out, Acts 2. 33; Rom. 5. 5, on the day of Pentecost by the Lord Jesus, Tit. 3. 6.
(d) The Hope Received. This is stated in verse 7. Our present state is that we arc justified by His grace, a doctrine fully dealt with by Paul in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. Our future prospect is that we are "heirs according to the hope of eternal life". Many scriptures assure the believer that he is the present possessor of eternal life, but it is not yet manifest what we shall be. He hopes for its full manifestation in glory of which he is an heir.
Verse 8 appears to have in mind the contents of what has just preceded. Good works are to be maintained. This phrase "good works" is most comprehensive and embraces every aspect of life. The phrase "they which have believed in God" (some omit the word "in") alludes to their present attitude, not merely to a past event. They did believe and they continue so to do; God is the object of their faith.
If Titus teaches what Paul here enjoins, he will speak what is profitable, but he must avoid the various things named in verse 9, to which he has before alluded when writing to Timothy, 1 Tim. 1. 4; 6. 4, and which are unprofitable and pointless. Should anyone persist in a self-chosen idea or course he is to be admonished, and should he refuse the first admonition a second is to be administered. After that he is to be avoided, given the cold shoulder. This may not involve excommunication though it may go on to that. The offender is "perverted" (a medical term for dislocated), v. 11 r.v. The word "heretic" refers to one who has chosen an idea or course which is not commonly acceptable to the company. It had not then acquired its modern meaning.
Nothing is known of Artemas, v. 12. There are several references to Tychicus, Acts 20. 4; Eph. 6. 21; Col. 4. 7; 2 Tim. 4. 12. Nothing certain is known of Zenas. Whether or not he was a Roman lawyer is not known. Much is known of Apollos as The Acts and the Corinthian letters reveal. "Set forward on their journey", v. 13 R.v., is a word of frequent use in The Acts and Epistles, denoting that the persons journeying are furnished with all things requisite. In this other believers besides Titus may share; the whole weight should not fall on his shoulders. Paul's example. Acts 20. 35,, may be compared with this verse. Cases of urgent need will not be hard to find, whether they are among the Lord's servants or His people. This "practical Christianity" is a pleasing fruit (see 2 Pet. 1. 8; Phil. 1. 11; 4. 17; Col. 1. 10).
All who were with Paul at that time saluted Titus. Who and where they were is not clear. Paul had a specially warm place for the saints in Crete who were affectionate towards him; he could wish that all were. But to these he sends a special greeting. Whether "faith" in verse 15 is subjective or objective is not certain; the A.v. favours the latter; the R.v. the former. Even so, Paul finishes his letter with the comprehensive words "Grace be with you all". He will be no partisan, nor will he acknowledge any sectarianism (with which the word translated "heretic" has to do). His heart goes out towards them all.