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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Titus 3

Verses 1-3


Titus 3:1. Principalities and powers.—The two words stand thus together to give fuller expression to the notion of authority. To obey magistrates.—R.V. “to be obedient.”

Titus 3:2. To be no brawlers.—R.V. “not to be contentious.” As in 1 Timothy 3:3. Gentle.—Such a man recognises that very often the summum jus is summa injuria, and therefore goes back from his legal rights. His opposite is Shylock.

Titus 3:3. Serving divers lusts and pleasures.—As in Titus 2:3 we saw the women needed to guard against the slavery of wine, so here various desires and pleasures are said to have had sway. Living in malice and envy.—Passing the life in the indulgence of what we could get, and envy of what we could not.


Christianity and the Civil Powers.

I. Christianity is on the side of law and order (Titus 3:1).—The Cretans were easily excited to rebellion, and the Jewish element in the island fostered any disposition to violence against Christianity. Hence Titus is urged to enforce on his people a ready obedience to magistrates, and to render cheerful help in maintaining the public peace. Christianity is ever on the side of law and order, and does more to prevent war and suppress rebellion than thousands of soldiers and policemen. The civil powers find powerful allies in all Christian Churches and institutions.

II. Christianity does not sanction the disparagement of civil officers.—“Speak evil of no man … be no brawlers” (Titus 3:2). Especially not to speak evil of dignitaries and magistrates. The civil officer is the embodiment and representative of law; and whatever his character may be otherwise, the law must be respected in him. The civil powers have often made great mistakes in harassing the Christian Church, and the only retaliation the Church has made has been to defend the rights and privileges of the magistracy. The warning against brawls was not only applicable to the Cretans, who were notoriously quarrelsome, but is directed against all who would disturb the peace of the Church or of the community by giving way to a petulant and fault-finding spirit.

III. Christianity teaches becoming behaviour towards all men.—“But gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:2). The Christian spirit is forbearing and kindly, not urging its rights to the uttermost, lest by doing so it should stir up wrath and bitterness. Instead of indulging a passionate severity, it disarms opposition by meekly enduring wrong. “Morning by morning,” writes Maclaren, “God’s great mercy of sunrise steals upon a darkened world in still, slow self-impartation; and the light which has a force that has carried it across gulfs of space that the imagination staggers in trying to conceive, yet falls so gently that it does not move the petals of the sleeping flowers, nor hurts the lids of an infant’s eyes, nor displaces a grain of dust. So should we live and work, clothing all our power in tenderness, doing our work in quietness, disturbing nothing but the darkness, and with silent increase of beneficent power filling and flooding the dark earth with healing beams.” If God is so kind and beneficent to all, we ought to be meek and gentle towards each other.

IV. Christianity enforces obedience to the civil powers by reminding us of our former lawless life (Titus 3:3).—The recollection of our own wild and reckless conduct in the past, and the forbearance often shown to us, should teach us to stand by those whose duty it is to maintain public order and decorum.


1. Christianity is the guardian and promoter of peace.

2. Civil authority is potent as it is imbued with the Christian spirit.

3. Sin is the cause of rebellion and disorder.


Titus 3:1. The Authority of Law.

I. Law is of God.

II. Authority is derived from God.

III. Obedience to law an essential preparation for good works.


1. Duty once learned may be and often is forgotten.

2. Duties of every-day life are most readily forgotten.

3. Christian ministers are required to remind their hearers of duty, as well as to proclaim privileges.

Titus 3:2-3. The Transforming Power of the Gospel.

I. What even Christians were.

1. They were distinguished by folly.

2. Disobedience.

3. Liability to deception.

4. Sensuality.

5. Passion.

6. Unloveliness.

7. Unbrotherliness.

II. What Christians become.

1. Their lives display humility of spirit.

2. Gentleness in action.

3. Truthfulness in word.—F. W.

Verses 4-7


Titus 3:4. After that the kindness.—The original word (χρηστότης) is a beautiful word for a beautiful grace, pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing there what would have been harsh and austere. Christ’s yoke is said to be easy (χρηστός), i.e. it has nothing galling in it. And love of God our Saviour toward man.—The R.V., by bringing “love toward man” into closer connection, has brought us nearer to “philanthropy”—St. Paul’s word. It was necessary to cleanse the word from its heathenish use and degeneracy of meaning before taking it into the New Testament. Only again there, Acts 28:2.

Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness which we have done.—R.V. “works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves.” They are works done in the spirit of a righteous man which are spoken of. But according to His mercy.—“If of grace [mercy], it is no more of works.” Our verse is a truly Pauline sentiment, and may say something for the authenticity of the letter. See Ezekiel 36:21 : “I had pity for Mine holy name.… I do not this for your sakes.” By the washing of regeneration.—R.V. margin, “through the laver.” Baptismal regeneration can only be found here by substituting the sign for the thing signified. [Note in this verse the use of the prepositions. “Not out of works,” “in righteousness,” according to His mercy,” “by means of the washing.”]

Titus 3:7. Being justified by His grace.—The pronoun leads Alford to say it is the grace of the Father. If St. Paul had been fastidious in his use of words we might think so. It seems better to admit, with Winer, that the usage is departed from in this case—the grace being, as usual, that of our Lord Jesus Christ.


The Programme of Salvation.

I. Salvation originates in the philanthropy of God (Titus 3:4).—There was nothing impelling God to save men but His own loving-kindness. His grace, flowing over in streams of beneficence, is the practical manifestation of that love. Love is its own perennial fount of blessing and the inspiration of the noblest acts. Life without love would be intolerably dreary. Love is unselfish, and must find outlets for its exercise, though it is lavished on unworthy objects. Life, the world, the universe, is all the richer for the revelation of the love of God.

II. Salvation is an act of unmerited mercy.—“Not by works of righteousness … but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5). As an old writer has said, “We neither did works of righteousness nor were saved by them, but His goodness did the whole.” Salvation is a manifestation to the soul of the Divine mercy. Faith, as our part in the personal realisation of salvation, is not mentioned, but is presupposed. The object of the apostle here is to describe the Divine side of the work, and to show that our salvation was brought about independent of all merit on our part. Every saved sinner can sing,—

“’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me.”

III. Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit.—“By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the HolyGhost; which He shed on us abundantly” (Titus 3:5-6). As the priests in the old tabernacle had to wash in the laver of cleansing before they could enter in the Holy Place to minister before the Lord, so the sinner must be cleansed in the laver of regeneration before he can enter upon the service of God, in which service the work of inward renewal is perpetually going on. The washing and the renewing are the work of the Holy Spirit, and the renewing is perfected by the abundant shedding forth of the Spirit’s influence. “I know my soul am as clean as cotton,” said an old Baptist negro, “’cause I was immersed when de tide was running over.”

IV Salvation entitles man to an inheritance of future blessedness.—“Made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). Being justified by Divine grace, we are constituted heirs of God, and the heirship inspires the hope of possessing the inheritance of eternal life, and entitles us to it. Eternal life is the grand realisation of the hope. Until we are saved we are without hope; but once possessing the blessed hope we have the strongest motive for leading a life of practical holiness, which is the prominent argument of the apostle in the paragraph.


1. Salvation is wholly a Divine work.

2. Salvation is realised by the agency of the Holy Spirit.

3. Salvation fits the soul for eternal glory.


Titus 3:4-7.—The Source of Salvation.

I.—Salvation is based on Divine mercy.

II. Is independent of human merit.

III. Is provided abundantly.

1. As an exhibition of abundant mercy.

2. As a remedy for great sin.

3. As a provision for all who will repent.

IV. Is everlasting.

1. Justification a ground of hope.

2. Eternal life the object of hope.—F. W.

Titus 3:5. Salvation.

I. The salvation effected for us.

1. In general, the deliverance from any evil.

2. In particular, salvation from sin. From its guilt, misery, power, and stain, and from the wrath of God.

3. It is a certain salvation. “He saved us.” The veracity of God ensures it; the experience of the believer exemplifies it.

II. The medium through which it flows.—Not through human goodness, but Divine mercy, both in its origin and course.

III. The agency by which it is imparted.—The cleansing and renewing power of the Holy Spirit.


1. Here we have cause for humility.

2. Gratitude.

3. Diligence.

Verse 8


Titus 3:8. Affirm constantly.—R.V. “confidently.” Not like a man who is only half convinced of the truth of what he states, nor like a man who is ashamed of what he says, though he may acknowledge its truthfulness. Might be careful to maintain good works.—To be interested to the point of anxiety in the maintenance of noble works.


Good Works—

I. Are in harmony with the genius of the gospel.—“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly.” The gratuitousness of God’s gift of salvation, the great theme of gospel revelation, is an ever-present and powerful motive to practical benevolence. The vain and unprofitable questions reprobated by the apostle do not incite to good works, but are a serious hindrance. The gospel is the only system that helps us to be good and do good. In some of the American lakes the boats are strangely hindered in their progress. They are drawn downwards, and the use of the oar is difficult, because of the magnetic power of deep mud concealed below the surface of the waters. So it is in the lives of men and the life of the world. Good works are vessels that cannot advance without difficulty over the waves of life, because of evil which, as mud, has slowly gathered. There must be purgation: new proclaimings and enforcing of the gospel must become as the powerful, cleansing flow of a great stream.

II. Must spring from an active faith.—“That they which have believed in God.” Faith enables us to see that God is good, approves of good, and will bless only what is good. We learn to credit all that God says as being true and faithful, and we become anxious and diligent to do what will please Him. We believe also that He will certainly punish every dereliction of duty. Faith is a power ever working in the direction of good.

III. Must be consistently and steadily maintained.—“Be careful to maintain good works.” “Good works,” says Luther, “do not make a Christian; but one must be a Christian to do good works. The tree bringeth forth the fruit, not the fruit the tree. None is made a Christian by works, but by Christ; and being in Christ, he brings forth fruit for Him.” Do all the good you can (1 Timothy 6:17-19), in all the ways you can (1 Corinthians 15:58), to all the people you can (Matthew 5:44-45), at all the times you can (Proverbs 3:27-28), as long as you can (Ecclesiastes 9:10); do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

IV. Are beneficial to ourselves and to others.—“These things are good [to ourselves] and profitable unto men [to others].” A good deed has a reflex influence. Like mercy, it is twice blessed; it blesses him who gives and him who takes. It adds to the volume of the beneficent force that is working out the regeneration of the world. We cannot bless others without being blessed ourselves.

Lessons.The gospel is the ministrant of universal good.

2. To do good we must first be good.

3. Good works have no merit, but no one is a Christian without, them.

Verses 9-11


Titus 3:9. Avoid.—As in 2 Timothy 2:16. “The meaning seems to come from a number of persons falling back from an object of fear or loathing and standing at a distance round it” (Alford).

Titus 3:10. A man that is an heretick.—R.V. “heretical”; margin, “factious.” It does not appear from this as if the right of private judgment were the same thing as to be a heretic. He is the heretic who disseminates his private opinions for the specific purpose of raising dissension. After the first and second admonition.—The admonition is a reprimand including both blame and exhortation. We may remind ourselves of our Master’s words:

(1) “Tell him his fault between thee and him alone”;
(2) “Take with thee one or two more”;
(3) “Tell it to the Church.” These are the three steps before avoiding the impenitent brother. Reject.—R.V. “refuse”; margin, “avoid.” It was a procedure wholly as unwarranted as wicked when this was interpreted “torture him,” whether in body or mind.

Titus 3:11. Being condemned of himself.—R.V. “self-condemned.” Christ said to the Jews, “Think not that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth.” Such a sinner would be called high-handed in the Old Testament.


A Contumacious Spirit

I. Is mainly occupied with the discussion of useless questions (Titus 3:9).—The tendency of the contentious spirit is to dwell on the minute and trifling, and exalt them into undue importance. The method of investigation proceeds on a false basis. The disputatious man strives to make human traditions agree with the law, instead of judging all human theories by the light and authority of the law; it is a vain attempt to make God agree with man. It is a waste of time and power. It produces no moral good, but is the harbinger and active cause of much evil. It sows the seeds of future heresies.

II. Should be faithfully admonished, and then left to itself.—“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” (Titus 3:10). A heretic is a man of contumacious spirit, self-willed, and contending for his own theories, though they are opposed and contradictory to the universally received doctrines of the Church and the unmistakable revelations of the word of God. Such a man must be faithfully warned, not once, but twice; and if he refuses to be advised and continues recalcitrant, leave him to himself—have nothing more to do with him, either in admonition or intercourse. We cannot help a man who refuses the kindliest suggestions, and to be controlled by anything but his own wild, ungovernable temper.

III. Brings about its own punishment.—“Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself” (Titus 3:11). His perversity is his ruin. He cannot say no one has told him better. He wilfully sins against knowledge, and against the faithful warnings of those who have striven to bring him to a better mind. He is self-condemned, and his punishment is to be in perpetual restlessness and uncertainty. “There is,” says Pascal, “an intestine war in man between reason and the passions. He might enjoy some repose had he reason alone without passion, or passion alone without reason. But having both, he must needs live in a state of warfare, since he cannot maintain peace with one without being at war with the other. Hence he is always divided, and always at variance with himself.” The gospel is the cure of the contumacious; but even this will not avail unless it be believingly received.


1. A contentious spirit magnifies trifles.

2. There is much useless talk in the world.

3. Nothing can be done to rescue the man who rejects the gospel.


Titus 3:9. Some Hints to Preachers.

I. Fundamental truths are to be continually enforced.

II. Practical preaching is never out of season.

III. Christian duties are of universal application.

IV. Trivial questions are out of place in the pulpit.

1. It is possible to have repetition without sameness.

2. Belief that does not change the life is useless.

3. The law is to be obeyed in spirit rather than in letter.

Titus 3:10-11. The Treatment of Heresy.

I. Heresy is not an unsound opinion, but an unsound life.

II. Is to be dealt with firmly, but gently.

1. Firmly, by admonition.

2. Gently, by repeated admonitions.

III. Hardened heretics are to be rejected.

1. But this only applies to exclusion from Christian fellowship.

2. It is no warrant for persecution.

3. Excluded heretics are to be deemed objects of pity.—F. W.

Verses 12-15


Titus 3:13. Zenas the lawyer.—Otherwise unknown. Either a Jew learned in the Scriptures, or a juris consultus. Perhaps the “lawyer” may show what he was before conversion, like Matthew “the publican.”

Titus 3:14. Let ours also.—R.V. “our people.” Good works.—Not for salvation (see Titus 3:5), but for necessary wants.

Titus 3:15. Them that love us.—That are dear to us as we are to them.


Concluding Counsels

I. Indicate an absorbing interest in the welfare of the Church (Titus 3:12-13).—Artemas or Tychicus is to succeed Titus in Crete, so that he may join Paul at Nicopolis, the city of victory, so called from the great historic battle of Actium, and in which city Paul is arranging to spend the winter. He summons Titus to his side to help him in the work, or to give him directions as to extending missionary operations and breaking up new ground. Zenas and Apollos are to be supplied with all the means necessary for their journey and the exigencies of their work. Paul forgets himself in his absorbing devotion to the work of God. The cause of Christ must be supreme, and everything else subsidiary and made helpful to its support and diffusion.

II. Emphasis is laid on the necessity of maintaining good works (Titus 3:14).—Active benevolence is a fruit of grace. Thus early in Church history it is discovered and enforced that true religion is intensely practical, and recommends itself by the life and conduct it produces. The needs of the Church and of the world afford unceasing opportunities for doing good. Our benevolent acts may be abused, but that is no reason for ceasing to be generous. “I would rather,” said a Christian philanthropist,” relieve two undeserving objects than that one deserving person should escape my notice.” Mark Antony, when depressed and at the ebb of fortune, declared he had lost all, except what he had given away.

III. Finally express the best Christian wishes (Titus 3:15).—Christian greeting is special and personal—“All that are with me salute thee”; and it is general and all-inclusive—“them that love us in the faith”; and in both cases it is genuine and sincere. The best Christian wishes are summed up in the benediction of grace to all—“Grace be with you all.” The heathen salutation was “health.” There is a life of the flesh and there is a life of the spirit—a truer, more real, and higher life; above and beyond all, the apostle wished them this, not health or happiness, but grace—the wealth of the gospel compressed into one great benediction.


1. The best Christian worker is the happiest.

2. Christianity is a system of active benevolence.

3. The Christian minister finds among his people constant themes for prayer.


Titus 3:12-14. A Good Man’s Personal Concerns.

I. Personal selection of agents.

II. Personal desire for companionship.

III. Personal consideration for absent friends.

IV. Personal solicitude for the spiritual prosperity of others.

Titus 3:15. A Closing Salutation

I. Indicates the strength of Christian friendship.

II. Is crowned by a solemn benediction.F. W.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Titus 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.