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Bible Commentaries

Contending for the Faith

Titus 3

Verse 1

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates: The Cretians were by nature obstinate and intractable, and Titus is told to insist on obedience to the constituted authorities. They already had demonstrated a stubborn and factious spirit toward authority; therefore, it was needful for Paul to remind them of their duty to respect authority and render obedience.

Nero, emperor at the time of this writing, is remembered for his cruel persecution of Christians. Paul had just been released from prison, yet he showed a willingness to submit to the temporal powers, even to cruel rulers like Nero. Only when such rulers command something contrary to God’s will should the Christian refuse obedience (Acts 5:29). Peter required the same principle be followed in 1 Peter 2:13-16 as did Paul in writing to the Romans in Romans 13. Both followed the example set by Jesus when he complied with the civil authority by paying taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).

Paul used the words "principalities, powers, magistrates" to include all duly constituted authority. Jesus used the terms "powers" and "magistrates" together in Luke 12:11 to refer to the temporal authorities. Paul, however, uses the words "principalities" and "powers" as names or ranks of angels, both holy and evil (Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15).

The words here are used to refer to those who exercise civil rule or authority. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3, he tells why we should pray for rulers, but here the more basic principle of obedience is stressed.

to be ready unto every good work: While Christians are always to be ready to do good and benevolent works, this teaching no doubt refers to their obligation to the civil powers. The Christian should be ready to show obedience and cooperation in everything that does not conflict with his duty to God.

Verses 1-15


Clarke, Adam. Clarke’s Commentary. Vol. 2. New York: Abington Press, n.d.

Ellicott, John Charles. Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. Vol. VII. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959.

MacKnight, James, D.D. Apostolical Epistles. Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1954.

Vine. W.E., M.A. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.

White, Newport, D.D. The Expositor’s Greek New Testament. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1956.

Verse 2

To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

To speak evil of no man: Paul is still talking about temporal rulers. With a supreme ruler like Nero, who constantly subjected his subjects to such cruel and vicious treatment, it would be difficult not to have some evil things to say about him. Yet Paul urges Christians not to speak contemptuously of rulers. Christ teaches to "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you" (Matthew 5:44). Even in times of persecution and distress, Christians are not to give in to hatred and evil speaking toward their rulers but should be gentle and meek toward all.

to be no brawlers: This phrase means "not to be guilty of noisy contentions." The Cretians as a people were ready for rebellions and insurrections when they suspected their rulers of attempting to deprive them of their rights. Paul warns against any kind of resistance to the civil authorities, even when their rights are violated.

but gentle, shewing all meekness to all men: Instead of rebellion, Paul insists on a gentle forbearance when treated in an evil way. God’s will is for Christians to submit to human government in everything their consciences will allow; and if they are commanded to disobey God, the Christian’s refusal to obey man should be accompanied by meekness and gentleness. The verse, however, is inclusive of more than the rulers. The Christian should look with kindness and forbearance upon people in all conditions: the outcast, the weak, and even the vilest of sinners. It is the same spirit that Paul stressed in 1 Timothy 2:1.

Verse 3

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures: Paul reminds Christians that not long ago they were in the same condition as those in the world are now; therefore, they should not look upon unbelievers with a "holier than thou" attitude. Rather, they should be thankful for God’s kindness and mercy. Paul suggests that the Christian should not think that even rulers are beyond salvation: all of God’s people are living proof of the power of God’s grace. Christians were once themselves rebellious and disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures.

foolish: The word "foolish" means without understanding of spiritual things, ignorant of God’s nature, providence, and grace.

disobedient: This word means rebellious and obstinate, probably referring to their attitude toward authority.

deceived: Paul here refers to those wandering from the right way in their ignorance, those who, deceived by the lusts and pleasures of this world, are heading in the path of destruction.

serving divers lusts and pleasures: Paul continues to point out that even the Cretians once served the god of lust and pleasures, intent on the gratification of the desires of the flesh. "Divers lusts" refers to strong and irregular appetites of every kind. As they had been, such are those in civil authority to whom they must render obedience.

living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another: Once a pleasure-loving people, they had given in to all the passions and lusts of the flesh. They had cultivated a malignant spirit of envy and jealousy that ruled their lives until they were brought under the power of the gospel.

Verse 4

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,

But after that the kindness and love: The kindness of God, here contrasted with the unkindness of men, expresses the same beneficent feelings of God toward man as is expressed in John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:4-6. Ellicott says this in his commentary:

Another thought now wells up in the apostle’s heart: We were once like (they) are now, and would still be in that same condition, except for the kindness and love of God. We, indeed, have no ground for self exaltation, no excuses for haughty treatment of others, either in thought or in action. If we now live a holier and purer life than they, it is not because of our own works, but owing to the kindness and mercy of God. We must avoid all feelings of superiority and self-righteousness, but rather a feeling of sympathy and love toward those that are still where we once were (260).

God, our Saviour: Paul uses a similar expression in several other passages (1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:8-9). God is our Savior in that he is the planner and designer of the scheme of redemption.

Verse 5

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us: Paul affirms that the great change that had come about in these people was not the result of their own works nor was brought about by their own strength or goodness. It is utterly impossible for anyone, regardless of how devout, to live a completely righteous life on his own strength. Even Paul, who tried so hard, admitted he failed. No one can be saved on the merits of his own righteousness. Salvation is the result of God’s grace and love.

by the washing of regeneration: Paul further explains that while salvation is the gift of God’s grace, there is something man must do. Man’s part is to accept by faith God’s plan of redemption, and faith demands obedience. Jesus says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The washing of regeneration is, without a doubt, baptism. Baptism is called a washing in Acts 22:16, Ephesians 5:26, and Hebrews 10:22. In other words, baptism is the point at which the grace of God saves man from sin.

Expositor’s Greek New Testament explains how the word "washing" relates to baptism:

The Greek for "washing" here is loutron and can be translated "laver." It is called the "laver" of regeneration because it is the instrument used for the washing. As the priests of the old Testament would wash in the laver outside the tabernacle, before entering the holy place, so we are washed by baptism before we enter the saved state in the church. Baptism is the laver or the instrument of washing (White 198-199).

"Regeneration" comes from palingenesia and denotes the spiritual rebirth, the two operating powers being the word of truth (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23) and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-6) (Vine 949). The use of "washing of regeneration" here parallels Paul’s writing in Ephesians 5:26, where he uses the phrase "by the washing of water by the word."

Salvation has two phases: the initial phase and the daily or continual phase. In the initial phase, the Christian is born again by the washing of regeneration that saves him from his past sins and puts him into Christ.

renewing of the Holy Ghost: This phrase refers to the second phase in which the Christian is renewed daily by the Spirit who is given to him (2 Corinthians 4:16). The word "renewing" is from anakainosis, a renewal, as used in Romans 12:2. Vine says it is "’the renewing of your mind,’ i.e., the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God" (961). The "renewing of the Holy Spirit" stresses the continual operation of the indwelling Spirit of God in the development of Christian character. The renewing of the Holy Spirit is the same as in Ephesians 3:16, "to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man.

Verse 6

Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

Paul continues the thought of verse 5 by saying, "the Spirit is poured out upon us richly" (ASV) through the mediation of Jesus Christ. It was Christ who sent the Comforter when he ascended back to heaven (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7-8). At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was shed abundantly on the apostles in the baptismal measure and is abundantly given to the Christian in the indwelling measure.

It should be noted that in verses 4 through 6 Paul aptly weaves together the operation of each One in the Godhead in the saving of man. It was the love and mercy of God the Father that gave the plan of salvation; the atonement was made by Jesus; and the Holy Spirit was abundantly given to renew and strengthen the spiritual man daily for the development of his Christian character.

abundantly: "Abundantly" (plousios), an adverb meaning richly, is used to describe our entrance into the kingdom in 2 Peter 1:11 and the indwelling word of Christ in Colossians 3:16.

Verse 7

That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

being justified by his grace: Being set free from the guilt and consequence of our sins, we shall not suffer the eternal punishment. "Justified" means proclaimed innocent.

Here we see the plan of God’s grace in its completeness. God, the great architect of man’s salvation, saw man in his hopeless state. Because of his great mercy and grace, God gave Jesus as the atoning sacrifice. The Holy Spirit came to earth and guided the apostles in giving the gospel. When the gospel is preached, and man hears, believes, and obeys in baptism, he is saved by grace. The Holy Spirit then renews or strengthens him daily to live a dedicated life. But it is God’s grace that makes it all possible.

we should be made heirs: The purpose behind the whole plan is that we might be heirs of eternal life. An heir is a person who receives an inheritance. Paul shows that spiritual relationship in his letter to Rome where he explains that since we are God’s children we are "heirs of God, and joint heirs of Christ" (Romans 8:17). The inheritance for those heirs, Peter explains later, is one that is "incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4).

according to the hope of eternal life: Eternal life is still future though we may possess it now by hope. We are children of God now--we are heirs--but the glorious inheritance is still future. It is possible to enjoy it by hope because our hope is sure, being based on God’s promises. The promise of God is that the faithful will inherit "eternal life," an eternal existence that includes all the joys and blessings of heaven.

Verse 8

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

This is a faithful saying: This expression is used often by the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11). These statements, and the similar expression "these saying are faithful and true" (Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6), are designed to call attention to the importance of the truths presented. All scripture is trustworthy and true, but not all statements are of equal importance. Because of the powerful and important nature of these truths, Paul urges Titus to affirm them constantly. In other words, Titus was to stir up their minds by remembrance often, lest they forget the wondrous mercy and love that gave them a glorious inheritance.

they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works: Those who have received salvation by God’s grace and mercy should show their gratitude by being ready to do good works. They should manifest a willingness and a readiness to show kindness and charity toward others because of the mercy that God has shown to them.

"Careful" is from phrontizo, a verb that means to think or consider, or to be thoughtful. Christians need to be aware that we are God’s labor force. We have been saved to serve. We are debtors to all men, especially to those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Phrontizo suggests not only a willingness but a forwardness in performing these works. Paul uses the same word in writing to Philippi and commending the brethren for the way they had cared for his physical needs. "Wherein ye were careful (phroneo), but ye lacked opportunity" (Philippians 4:10). These brethren were attentive to his needs every time they had the opportunity. Generally, the meaning is that believers should be ready and watchful for an opportunity to perform useful and benevolent undertakings.

The word "careful" here should not be confused with the same word in the expression "Be careful for nothing" (Philippians 4:6). The word there is merimnao, meaning anxious.

These things are good and profitable unto men: Good works, charitable deeds, will set the child of God apart from his counterparts in the world who spend their time in useless and pointless things. Good deeds are profitable, he says, but endless striving about the law is useless. Christians should spend their time in things that are worthwhile and useful.

This last statement is a preface to the next verse.

Verse 9

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and striving about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

Paul now moves to some unprofitable things. The Jews liked to discuss genealogies and questions about the law of Moses, even though these matters had no bearing on the Christian life. To permit discussions of questions concerning the law would tend to renew those old feelings of the Jew being favored over the Gentile and could lead to a division in the congregation. Paul called the questions foolish because they brought no benefit to man, and he did not want that kind of teaching introduced into the church of Christ. Paul had written to Timothy already about the danger of such teaching (1 Timothy 1:4), and now he writes the same to Titus.

Ellicott has an enlightening commentary on this verse:

The striving about the law were points about the law of Moses about which the Jews had disputed among themselves. The great teachers among the Jews had points over which they differed in their interpretation. Each teacher had his following. This had caused contention among the Jews, and would do the same among Christians (262).

This situation is a warning to us today. Unless a topic is profitable to our salvation, it should not be discussed in the Lord’s church.

Verse 10

A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

A man that is an heretick: This word "heretic" appears only this one time in the New Testament. The words, "heresy" and "heresies," however, are found in Acts 24:14, 1 Corinthians 11:19, Galatians 5:20, and 2 Peter 2:1. Vine first defines "heresy" (hairesis) as "that which is chosen, hence an opinion; especially a self-willed opinion which is substituted for submission to the power of truth, and leads to division and formation of a sect or party" (557). Carrying the meaning of choice, the word denotes a person who chooses to follow erroneous opinions even at the expense of the unity of the church.

The second meaning of heresy denotes a sect. This secondary meaning is the result of the division caused by erroneous opinions being followed. A form of the word is used in Acts 5:17, Acts 15:5, and Acts 26:5. In each of these references, the word is translated "sect" and is used in a non-offensive way to refer to "the sect of the Pharisees." Luke says the Jews spoke of Christians as a sect (Acts 24:5; Acts 28:22).

The word for heretick is hairetikos and obviously refers to one who creates a sect or faction by teaching his opinions. The heretic in the church of Crete appears to have been someone dissatisfied with the doctrine taught by Titus; and he gathered around him others who were dissatisfied, thus creating a party within the body. Not only does he have some erroneous opinions, but he propagates them and creates contentions over them. He is the same kind of person who causes "divisions and offenses" in Romans 16:17. A comparison of 1 Corinthians 11:19 and 1 John 2:19 suggests that a heretic is more than a person who has an erroneous opinion, but he uses the opinions to create a separate group. He is a factious person creating a division in the church.

It should be noted that we may hold certain opinions to ourselves without being contentious about them and in no way be considered a heretic (see Romans 14:22).

after the first and second admonition reject: The Greek word rendered "reject" here is paraiteomai, meaning to beg off or refuse. It is translated "refuse" in 1 Timothy 4:7, "But refuse profane and old wives fables."

Paul is instructing the church to refuse or turn away from the fellow creating the faction. The congregation was no longer to extend fellowship to him as a faithful brother. Paul says these people are to be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17). He was to be admonished twice; then if he remained factious or continued to foster divisions, he was to be shunned or avoided.

Verse 11

Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

subverted: "Subverted" comes from the Greek word ekstrepho, which means to turn inside out or to change entirely. It is translated "perverted" in the Revised Version. Such a person has turned away from the truth, and there appears to be no hope of a restoration.

being condemned of himself: The opinion this person used to create division and strife in the church was of his own choice; therefore, he brought condemnation upon himself. Whatever his motive--money, power, or prestige--he committed heresy, which is a sin in the eyes of God.

Verse 12

When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.

When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus: Who Artemas was is very difficult to determine since he is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament. Tychicus, however, seems to have been greatly esteemed by the apostle. He is mentioned in Acts 20:4, Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:12, and here. Paul speaks of him as a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellowservant in the Lord.

This statement serves to remind Titus that his stay in Crete is only temporary. These men probably were sent to replace him, after which he was to return to the apostle’s side.

be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter: Several cities at this time were named Nicopolis, but most writers think Paul had chosen Nicopolis of Epirus. Nicopolis was built by Augustus in honor of his victory over Mark Antony and was known as the "City of Victory."

Paul says he had determined to winter there, indicating he was not in bonds since the place was of his own choosing. Nicopolis of Epirus was a warm climate and a commodious place to winter, no doubt important factors to the aging apostle.

Verse 13

Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.

Zenas is mentioned only this one time, so we cannot say who he was or what kind of lawyer he was. Some writers think he was a Roman jurist, but it seems more likely that this friend of Paul was an expert in the Law of Moses. Apollos, appearing many times in the New Testament records, was from Alexandria and had been a disciple of John the Baptist; but Priscilla and Aquila, the tentmakers and friends of the Apostle Paul, had taught him the way of the Lord (Acts 18:1-3). Apollos was an eloquent speaker and mighty in the scriptures (Acts 18:24).

Verse 14

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.

let ours also learn: The American Revised Version renders this passage "let our people also learn," implying that Paul expects Titus to train Christians in some very important work.

maintain good works: The Greek word for this expression is proistemi, also occurring in verse 8 of this chapter. The marginal reading in the Revised Version is to "profess honest occupations." It is noteworthy that in the thirteen chapters of these three epistles--1 and 2 Timothy and Titus--there are no fewer than eight special reminders to Christians to be careful to maintain good works, to be zealous unto good works, and to be ready unto good works. Paul seems to fear that the professed followers of Christ will fail in their performance of good and benevolent works.

In emphasizing this point in his writings, the great apostle shows he realizes two important factors about the Christian’s impact upon the world: the first is that the world does not care how much we know until they first know how much we care, and the second is that all that many in the world will ever know about Christianity is the good works they see in God’s people. Paul here teaches that Christians are to work with their hands at honest occupations to provide things necessary for this life to be able to give to others.

Passages that complement this one are 1 Timothy 2:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; and Titus 1:16; Titus 2:7; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:8.

Verse 15

All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

All that are with me: Since the names of those journeying with Paul are not mentioned, we infer that Titus knew them well.

Greet them that love us in the faith: In his customary way, Paul sends greetings to those whose love for him was based on their common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is similar to our saying "Greetings to all the faithful." A subscript, found in some copies, says, "To Titus, ordained the First Bishop of the church of Cretians, from Nicopolis of Macedonia." There is no authority for the subscript, and it cannot be proved that Titus was the first bishop of the church in Crete.

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Contending for the Faith reproduced by permission of Contending for the Faith Publications, 4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Titus 3". "Contending for the Faith". 1993-2022.