For there are many unruly men, – the word rendered “unruly" signifies “not subject to rule," disorderly; see 1 Tim. 1. 9.
vain talkers and deceivers, – that is to say, speaking what is unprofitable and yet with a plausibility which tended to deceive the hearers.
specially they of the circumcision, – these were Judaizers That they are specially mentioned makes clear that they were not the only false teachers and troublers of the believers. There were subversive propagandists, who attempted to fascinate Christians by prescribing ritual observances which they regarded as of moral and religious value. The dangers resulting from the way in which those who wanted to make converts to Judaism, and the Gnostic teachers of the time, insinuated themselves into the churches, were a real and constant trouble. The same kind of thing exists at the present time, and it is necessary to make sure of the credentials of any who seek to find an entrance into an assembly as teachers.
whose mouths must be stopped; – the verb epistomizo signifies to bridle and is here used metaphorically of putting to silence. The word is not found elsewhere. A synonymous word, phrasso, is used in Rom. 3. 19; 2 Cor. 11. 10; Heb. 11. 33, and literally denotes to fence in.
men who overthrow houses, – in a papyrus writing of the 2nd century, B.C., this verb is used of the upsetting of a whole family by the evil conduct of one of its members, The word occurs elsewhere in John 2. 15 of the overthrowing of tables, and in 2 Tim. 2. 18 of the overthrowing of faith. The false teachers in Crete marred the churches by visiting the houses of the members with their subversive doctrines.
teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake – or, more closely to the original, “for the sake of base gain.” Money is not an evil in itself, but the use made of it for the purpose referred to is utterly dishonourable. Such methods are the effect of the most sordid motives. Cp. 1 Tim. 6. 5.
One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons. – This is a hexameter line from the Greek poet Epimenides, a native of Crete in the 6th century, B.C.; it is quoted by another poet, Callimachus, in his “Hymn to Zeus," and was a well-known saying among the ancients, facts which expose the gross notoriety of the people of the island. There came into use a verb, to Cretanize, as a euphemism for lying.
The phrase “idle gluttons" (lit., “slow bellies," as in the A.V.) stands for the grossest self-indulgence. That evil was just the kind of condition suited to the purpose of plausible religious tricksters.
This testimony is true.– the Apostle had evidently had difficult times in Crete himself and had witnessed the effects of these national traits among the believers.
For which cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, –the reference seems to be not only to the false teachers, but to those who were deceived by them. The faith here stands for the sum total of Christian doctrine, as in 1 Thess. 3. 10, where faith is to be understood, not of confidence in God, but of the doctrines of the faith. For the metaphor of soundness in this respect see 1 Tim. 1. 10. This good result, which normally is the effect of constant and careful instruction, can be brought about in certain circumstances, such as those mentioned here, only by reproof in the power of the Spirit of God.
not giving heed to Jewish fables, – instances of these are abundantly supplied in the Talmud, in which interpretations and notes have obscured the pure text of the original. For a description of those who were thus acting as teachers of the Law, see 3. 9 and 1 Tim. 1. 7.
and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.– such regulations consisted of ritualistic observances, regulations which served to establish the authority of the propagandists, tending to make them appear superior to others. Such external religion bears no resemblance to the really healthy growth and deepening of spiritual life. Mere ritualism is evidence of an unhealthy sentimentality. The life which the indwelling Holy Spirit would foster is only choked by such observances. The Apostle contrasts them here with “the truth," from which the advocates of such externals turn away. It is always a dangerous thing to substitute Church creeds for the Word of God, and it is necessary to be on one’s guard against the idea that it is the Church which has been and is, responsible for the doctrines of the faith, whereas these have been derived, not from Church Councils, nor from the corporate body of the Church at any time, but from the Holy Spirit’s operation in and through the individual writers of the Scriptures. Never were the doctrines of the faith promulgated by agreement among the writers as to what should be taught. The decisions made by the so-called Council at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15, were not received from the Church as such, but from the Apostles and elders who, whilst they belonged to the local church, are distinguished from it in verse 4. Moreover, what was decreed on that occasion formed only a very small part of the faith, the whole of which is given in the Word of God, and not by the Church in its corporate capacity.
To the pure all things are pure : – the meaning is not that all things are pure in the judgment of the pure, but that all things are pure for their use. All that God has provided for the maintenance of human life is in itself pure, and if the heart of the user has been purified through obeying the truth, such things can never have the effect of moral impurity. The “all things" does not of course include anything that is morally impure, for such could never be regarded as pure by a God-fearing believer. Romans 14 provides an extensive explanation of this statement; cp. Matt. 15. 11; Luke 11. 41; 1 Tim. 4. 4.
but to them that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; – the reason is that the inward defilement of the carnal mind carries infection to everything of which it makes use. Accordingly, those who are characterized by unbelief and corruptness of thought are bound to misuse even the things that God has provided, for they use them to gratify their own evil propensities. Erroneous teaching and moral impurity are often closely associated, and the opposite is likewise the case in regard to soundness in the faith and moral purity (cp. Acts 15. 9 and 1 Tim. 1.5; see also Rom. 1. 18-32).
but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. – the mind is the seat of reflective consciousness, the seat of the understanding, it represents the faculty of knowing. Conscience is the faculty which, unless defiled, hardened, and seared, enables men intuitively and without reflection to discern good and evil, commending the former and prompting to do it, condemning the latter and prompting to avoid it. Where these faculties are defiled there can be no purity.
They profess that they know God; – this refers, not to the Gnostics, but to those who prided themselves in their Judaism, and, so far as doctrine itself goes, their confession (for so the word might be rendered) was right, for God had made Himself known to them as the only true God. The Apostle speaks of the Gentiles as those “which know not God” (1 Thess. 4. 5).
but by their works they deny Him, – their manner of life gave the lie to their profession. So far as their conduct went, God was neither their Redeemer nor their Judge, and they owned no allegiance to Him and His Word. Cp. 2 Tim. 3. 5.
being abominable, – the word so rendered is found here only in the N.T. In the Septuagint of Prov. 17. 15 it is used of the men who pervert moral distinctions.
and disobedient, – disobedience to the Word of God and abominable living are associated.
and unto every good work reprobate. – the word adokimos lit. signifies “not standing the test.” It is used in the Septuagint of Isa. 1. 22 of silver which has become dross, a mind of which God cannot approve. In 2 Cor. 13. 5-7 it is used with reference to the great test as to whether Christ is in a person, and in 2 Tim. 3. 8 of those who are “reprobate concerning the faith," i.e., those whose moral sense is perverted and whose minds are beclouded with their own speculations. In the present passage it implies that mere professors, if put to the test in regard to any good work, can only be rejected, and rejection by God is the inevitable result. The word signifies “rejected” in Heb. 6. 8, of land that bears thorns and thistles.
Having dealt with the evil teachers and their errors, the Apostle now takes up the subject of the practical effects of the gospel and the doctrines of the faith in the lives of those who form the assemblies of the Lord’s people, and the need of such ministry as will definitely conduce to a consistent testimony by them all. Verses 1 to 10 give instruction in this respect; to aged men and women (vv. 2, 3), to the young women and young men (vv. 4-8), and to servants or rather bondservants (vv. 9, 10). Next follows an outline of the character of the teaching required, as having its source in the grace of God;
But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine: –This is set in contrast to the Jewish myths and the erroneous doctrines of the false teachers. The word rendered “sound," denotes whole, healthy; it is used frequently in the the Gospels with reference to making sick folk whole. Sound teaching produces spiritual health, and it is, of the utmost importance for teachers and preachers to see to it that what they minister is of this character. Only thus can practical godliness issue.
that aged men be temperate, grave, soberminded, sound in faith, in love, in patience : – this gives clear intimation of the importance of the influence of elderly men. Those who are referred to here are not the elders in the church in respect of the discharge of spiritual functions, but the men of ripe years in the assembly.
The word nephalios, rendered “temperate," literally denotes “not drunken.” It conveys partly the idea of watchfulness, but the meaning is that of freedom from excitability as well as from credulity. In 1. 8 the word is egkrates which signifies “exercising self-control.”
The word sophron, rendered “soberminded," literally denotes “of sound mind.” This is a preferable rendering to the A.V., “temperate.” In 2. 5 the A.V. alternative, “discreet," is nearer the mark.
The word rendered “sound" is the verb hugiaino, which denotes to be healthy (Eng., hygiene). It is used physically in Luke 15. 27 and rendered “safe and sound.” In Titus 1. 9 and 2. 1 it is used of doctrine. Here it is used of faith, as the next words show, not “the faith" (all three have the definite article, which must not be translated).
Faith, love, and patience are often associated; see 1 Tim. 6. 11. These qualities mark the truly sanctified life. Patience is the inevitable accompaniment of faith, and neither is of value apart from love.
that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanour, – the word rendered reverent has the broad meaning of “what is becoming," that which is suited to a sacred character (A.V., “as becometh holiness"). The word rendered “demeanour," which is found here only in the N.T., denotes a condition or deportment, and includes dress, conduct, and conversation, the outward being dependent upon the inwardness of mind and heart. There is a certain sacred dignity attached to this description, not the appearance of superiority but such demeanour as will exercise a Christlike influence over younger women. For ere long the younger will on their part, if they desire to be here for Christ, have the high and holy privilege of exercising a similar influence.
not slanderers – a better rendering than the A.V., “false accusers.” It has the broad meaning of being given to finding fault with others, and spreading criticisms and innuendos in the assembly. Sometimes old age tends to become censorious and intolerant, qualities which weaken spiritual influence in the development of Christian character. See also 2 Tim. 3. 3. Everywhere else this word diabolos denotes the devil.
nor enslaved to much wine, – a warning which doubtless reflects the general conditions of the Cretians.
teachers of that which is good; – this does not imply the practice of public instruction but the constant exercise of kind and wise counsel such as is helpful to a consistent Christian life, a life of faith and truth and love, which adorn the doctrine of-the faith.