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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Titus 1


For what end Titus was left in Crete. How they that are to be chosen ministers, ought to be qualified. The mouths of evil teachers are to be stopped: and what manner of men they are.

[Date uncertain.]

IN the inscription of this epistle, St. Paul asserted his apostleship, not with a view to raise himself in the estimationof Titus, but to make the false teachers in Crete, and all in every age who shall read this letter, sensible that every thing he ordered Titus to inculcate was of divine authority, Titus 1:1-2.—And by calling Titus his genuine son by the common faith, he insinuated to the Cretans, not only that he had been converted by his instrumentality, but that he was a teacher of the same grace, and of the same holydispositions, with himself, and as such he gave him his apostolical benediction, Titus 1:3-4.—Next, he puts Titus in mind that he had left him in Crete, to ordain elders in every city where churches had been planted, Titus 1:5.—And to direct him in that important business, he described to him the character and qualifications necessary in bishops and deacons, that ordaining to these offices none but persons of that description, they might be able both to instruct the people, and to confute gainsayers, Titus 1:6-9.—especially those of the circumcision in Crete, whose character the apostle explained, Titus 1:10.—and whose mouths he told him it was necessary to stop, because they subverted whole families, by teaching the efficacy of the Jewish sacrifices and purifications to obtain pardon for sinners, Titus 1:11.—Wherefore, the apostle ordered Titus sharply to reprove both the teachers and the people who held such doctrines, and to charge them to give heed no longer to Jewish fables and precepts of men, calculated to support that pernicious error; particularly the precepts concerning meats and sacrifices, taught by men who turned away the truth, when it offered itself to them, Titus 1:13-14.—Withal, to give the faithful an abhorrence of such teachers, the apostle observed, that both their understanding and their conscience were polluted, Titus 1:15.—They professed to know God, but in works they denied him, Titus 1:16.

TITUS.] This may be called "An epistle to the Cretans," as well as to Titus; for the apostle meant not only to instruct Titus, but also to furnish him with a rule to lay before the Cretans, to which he might appeal, when ever unworthy and unqualified persons attempted to intrude into the episcopal or ministerial office. Titus was a Greek. St. Paul took him with him to Jerusalem, to the great council held there in the year 49. And as Titus was of Gentile parents, St. Paul would not suffer him to be circumcised, that he might not abridge the liberty of the Gentile converts. Some years after this, St. Paul dispatched him to Corinth, to bring him an account of the state of that church, and afterwards sent him thither again, to hasten the collection for the poor Christians in Judea. After this, we hear no more of him till he is mentioned in this epistle, as having been with St. Paul in Crete. This epistle, according to Dr. Lardner,was written toward the end of the year 56, while St. Paul was in Macedonia, or near it. But Michaelis and others think it was more probably written in St. Paul's last progress through the Asiatic churches, between his first and second imprisonment at Rome; though they are not able to determine the precise year. Titus had been left at Crete, to settle the church which St. Paul had probably established there in his first journey to Rome, and afterwards: Acts 27:8. Titus 1:5. The churches in Crete had not hitherto any bishops and ordained ministers; Titus was to appoint them; but he was to be upon his guard against some of the circumcision, who aspired to ecclesiastical offices. The island of Crete was the parent of Roman and Greek idolatry; and the Cretans so far excelled other nations in inventing gods, that they were called the LIARS. They were also distinguished for unnaturalvices, and a spirit of sedition. The Cretan converts to Christianity were of course obliged to forsake idolatry, and the worship of images; but as the Cretans were Egyptians by descent, and had long intermixed the whims of Egyptian philosophy with Judaism, no church was in greater danger of adopting the absurd and heathen genealogies of the Eones: hence St. Paul warns them against all these errors, but particularly against those of the Judaizing teachers, who endeavoured to corrupt the purity of the gospel.

Verse 1

Titus 1:1. Paul, a servant of God, This is the only epistle of St. Paul, wherein he begins with calling himself a servant, or slave, devoted for ever to the service of God. According to the flesh, would be rendered more properly, for the faith; that is to say, for promoting the faith of Christians; who, under the Messiah, are the elect people of God, as the Jews were under the Mosaic dispensation. Dr. Heylin well expresses the meaning of the passage,—To preach the faith of God's elect, and make known the truth, as it promotes piety.

Verse 2

Titus 1:2. Before the world began Προ χρονων αιωνιων, before the secular ages; or before the giving of the law of Moses. God had promised the gospel, in an obscure manner, to the patriarchs before Abraham; but to him it was promised more explicitly. Now that promise to Abraham, was before the secular times—the jubilees under the law, and, consequently, before the distinction of the world into Jews and Gentiles. But what the God, who cannot lie or break his word, had promised so long before to Abraham, the law of Moses, which intervened, could not disannul. See Romans 16:25.Galatians 3:17; Galatians 3:17.

Verse 3

Titus 1:3. In due times In his own proper times. See 1 Timothy 2:6. Galatians 4:4.Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:7. In this the apostle might probably allude to the prophesies, and particularly to the celebrated prophesy of Daniel concerning the seventy weeks; Daniel 9:24. Instead of commandment, some read appointment. Dr. Benson upon the 4th verse, observing that the words mercy and the Lord are omitted in some manuscripts, makes this remark, which deserves much attention: "It is not very material," says he, "as to the sense, whether these words be left out or retained; and indeed, I have found this observation to hold good concerning most of the various readings: that is, it is of little or no moment, as to the sense and connection, whether you receive or reject them."

Verse 5

Titus 1:5.— Before he proceeds to the principal design of this epistle, the apostle briefly reminds Titus of his leaving him in Crete, to settle the churches which he had planted there, and to ordain elders in every city, to be bishops over the several churches. After this he describes the characters of such as he was to ordain; namely, that they should be men of integrity, and of an unspotted reputation; and particularly such as understood the liberty of the Gentile Christians; and that would oppose the Judaizers; who were bad men, and very industrious in making proselytes, Titus 1:5-16. It is well known that the word πολις, rendered city, frequently signifies a country town only, and sometimes a village. Crete had formerly been famous for having a hundred cities; but Pliny, who wrote not long after the sending of this epistle to Titus, found only forty cities there, and the bare memory of sixty more; and most of these forty called cities, were little better than villages. Strabo says, that Crete had many cities, but only three of any great note.

Verse 6

Titus 1:6. Having faithful children Having believing children. This is mentioned with great propriety; for if a man were not careful to instruct his children in the principles of Christianity, there would be great reason to doubt whether he were heartyinthebeliefof it himself; and if a man had only unbelieving children in his house, that is to say, such as were so obstinate that they could not be brought to embrace Christianity, byany of the arguments which could be laid before them, in that age of miracles, it would be a great discouragement, and in some circumstances a great hindrance to him, from pursuing the duties of a Christian elder, or bishop; and those evils into which such obstinate infidel children might fall, would very probably bring a reproach upon the family, which might in a degree hurt the character of him who presided in it. See 2 Timothy 2:24; 2Ti 2:26 and 1Ti 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:16.

Verse 7

Titus 1:7. Not self-willed 'Αυθαδη : pleased with himself, and despising others; supercilious, haughty, insolent,surly. This vice, in our ordinary conversation, is directly opposed to affability or courtesy.

Verse 8

Titus 1:8. Sober Prudent, as the word may be rendered. The following word temperate includes all sobriety.

Verse 10

Titus 1:10. For there are many unruly, &c.— St. Paul had his eye from the beginning of the epistle all along, upon the persons whom he describes in this and the following verses. This close and excellent writer never loses sight of his subject; but he proceeds so gradually to speak plainly, that we may lose sight of it, if we do not attend very carefully. See 1 Timothy 1:6-7.

Verse 12

Titus 1:12. One of themselves—a prophet of their own Epimenides, whose words St. Paul here quotes, is said by Diogenes Laertius to have been a great favourite of the gods; but Aristotle says, he never foretold any future event: which is a plain argument, that the word prophet is sometimes used in a very large sense. Indeed, the words poet and prophet were often used promiscuously by the Greeks and Romans; perhaps, because their poets pretended to be inspired, and were by some believed to be so: see Acts 17:28. From this, as well as other places, it appears, that St. Paul had been well read in the Greek poets; probably in his younger days he was brought up in the schools of Tarsus, before he went to Jerusalem, to sit at the feet of Gamaliel: and even after he was an inspired apostle, he did not think that he acted out of character, when, as apostle of the Gentiles, he quoted their poets. Perhaps it might have been, in some points of view, more proper to have translated the Greek verse before us in such a manner, that it might have read as a verse in English:

"False Cretans! savage beasts, with bellies slow."
The poet here seems to suggest a remarkable contrast, to shew what a mixture there was of fierceness and luxury in the character of the Cretans. Savage beasts are generallyactive and nimble; but these men, while they had the fury of lions and tygers, indulged themselves so much in the most sordid idleness and intemperance, that they grew all belly as it were, and like to a breed of swine common in the Eastern countries, which were oftenso burdened with fat, that they could hardly move. As for their proneness to falsehood, it is well known, that the word Κρητιζειν, "to talk like a Cretan," was a proverb for lying; as the word Κορινθιαζειν, "to live like a Corinthian," was for a luxurious and debauched life; and it is remarkable, that Polybius scarcely ever mentions the Cretans without some severe censure. Bishop Warburton accounts for the origin of this character of the Cretans in the following manner: "I supposed the view was enlarged, and the Cretans were called liars upon more accounts in St. Paul's time; but the rise of this proverb seems to have been this: while the other Greeks, in their lesser mysteries, concealed the origin of the gods, who were dead mortals raised to divine honour, for public benefits done to their country, or to mankind; the Cretans proclaimed this to all the world, by shewing the tomb of

Jupiter himself, and boasting that 'the father of gods and men' was a native of that country. This so exasperated all Greece against them, that they called them eternal liars. Thus Lucan, lib. 8 and so Callimachus, with a variety of other authors. The reason why they wereso exasperated at the Cretans for publishing this, seems to have been the affront it gave to the worshippers of idols, or the publishing what the politic protectors of the mysteries would have kept secret."

Verse 13

Titus 1:13. Sharply 'Αποτομως ;—with a cutting severity. The word is an allusion to a surgeon's cutting away the dead flesh, and that even to the quick. We are to observe, that the apostle speaks here of reproving vice, not error. Timothy is exhorted to rebuke with all long-suffering; 2Ti 4:2 and we may remark, that there is a degree of long-suffering and gentleness, very consistent with all that severity which faithfulness requires: which is not that of boisterous passion, ill-nature, and scurrility, but of meek, though resolute zeal for God, and friendship to the offender; which yet will not be silenced by trifling excuses, nor fail seriously to represent the fatal consequences which may attend the evil reproved.

Verse 15

Titus 1:15. Unto the pure all things are pure "I know these Judaizing teachers value themselves highly upon the distinctions of food, which they inculcate as of so great importance to purity: but they are much mistaken. Unto Christians who are pure and upright; all sorts of meat are clean and pure; but unto those who are polluted with vice, and who, though they understand the liberty of Christians, are unfaithful,— απιστοις,— and would impose upon Christians the rituals of the Jewish law;—unto such, I say, nothing is clean and pure; but even their understanding and conscience are defiled, which ought to be their guide and director."

Verse 16

Titus 1:16. They profess that they know God, This was their grand pretence for Christianity, and opposing St. Paul; namely, that they best understood the revelation of the mind and will of God in the gospel, as well as under the law; but at the same time pride, and covetousness, and other vices, animated and influenced them. See Romans 2:17; Romans 2:29; Romans 3:10-19. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Jude, 4. 16. The word reprobate, in this verse, means disapproved and condemned when brought to the standard of God's word, though they are among the first to judge and condemn others.

Inferences.—Never let it be forgotten by any who call themselves Christians, that the faith of God's people is the acknowledgment of the truth, which is according to godliness. Never let the great design of Christianity be lost in an eager contention for any of its appendages, or any of its parts. Yet, alas, how often has it, in particular instances, been wounded almost to death, in a furious attempt to rescue it, and that, sometimes perhaps, from only an imaginary danger.

That we may be more sensible of its vital influence, let us ever retain the hope of that eternal life which it proposes, as the great end of all our pursuits; even of that life which God that cannot lie hath promised to all his faithful saints. Let us rejoice to think that so immense a superstructure has so firm, so divine a foundation; and let us never give it up for any thing that a flattering world, always ready to engage, and slow to perform, can promise.

Let us ever be very thankful for the provision which God hath made for the manifestation of his word, through preaching, and for his goodness in raising up faithful pastors to his church, overseers in every age, who have been blameless, sober, just, holy, and temperate. Such may all be that appear under that sacred character; able, by their doctrine to instruct, by their reasoning to convince, by their practice to edify; ever solicitous, that they may not neglect their pastoral services, that they may not lord it proudly over their brethren, that they may not be transported by furious passions, or misguided by rash conclusions, or perverted by low interests, and the greediness of filthy lucre; but that they may approve themselves the faithful stewards of God, and promote the good order of his house; and, so far as their influence can reach, the happiness of every member of his family.

In order to this, let them look well to their own houses, that nothing may be wanting on their part to make their children tractable, faithful, and sober. And let the children of ministers consider the obligations which they are under to cultivate a teachable spirit, and to maintain the strictest decency in their whole deportment; as remembering the superior advantages they may be supposed to enjoy for religious improvement, and how much a minister's reputation and usefulness depend upon the regularity of his family.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle opens the epistle with his usual address.

1. He sets forth his own divine commission and apostleship. This epistle comes from Paul, who counts it his highest honour to be called a servant of God in the gospel of his dear son, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent to bear the glad tidings of his salvation to Gentile lands, according to the faith of God's elect; that is to say, the faith of all genuine Christians, who have accepted the offers of grace, and yielded to the calls of God in the preaching of his gospel or otherwise, and enjoy the living power of faith in Christ: or, as some very eminent commentators have explained it, the faith of Christians in the general, they being all an elect generation, 1Pe 2:9 and St. Paul being an apostle in reference to them all; to those to whom he was a savour of death, as well as to those to whom he was a savour of life: 2 Corinthians 2:16. He was accordingly sent to call all these, within his sphere, to the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; and which, having heartily embraced himself, he now with delight published to others, in hope of eternal life, which all who continue to live godly in Christ Jesus are sure to attain unto; because God, that cannot lie, hath promised it unto them in Christ Jesus, before the world began, or, as it should be translated, before the secular ages of the Jews (see the annotations); but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me, according to the commandment of God our Saviour, who hath authorized and enabled me to discharge the important trust. Note; (1.) The highest dignity is to be the servant of the living God. (2.) They who are ministers of God, must be indefatigable in preaching. Dumb dogs that cannot, or will not bark, are not of the great Shepherd's appointment.

2. He wishes Titus the best of blessings. To Titus, mine own son after the common faith, my spiritual child, begotten in the gospel, be grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. Note; All believers have one common faith, and are united to the same Jesus.

2nd, St. Paul,
1. Reminds him of the end for which he was left in Crete. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, directing the Cretan Christians concerning the proper discipline, worship, and conduct, to be observed by them; and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee, such as shall be found duly qualified for the ministerial work.

2. He describes the character of those whom he should ordain. If any be blameless, having a good report of those who know him best; the husband of one wife, no polygamist; having faithful children brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not accused of riot, or unruly, dissolute and refractory, but kept under due restraint, neither a disgrace to themselves nor their parents. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God, appointed to that high charge in his holy family, and therefore of a character irreproachable; not self-willed, of a rash and obstinate temper; not soon angry, and firing at every provocation; not given to wine, addicted to drunkenness, or fond of the glass; no striker, violent in his passions; not given to filthy lucre, a mercenary wretch, who serves for hire, but one who serves out of zeal for Christ and the souls of men. He must be also a lover of hospitality, entertaining poor strangers, and Christians driven from their homes by the fury of persecution; a lover of good men, without prejudice or exception; sober, grave and prudent in his carriage and deportment; just, and upright in his conversation; holy in all his conduct; temperate in his desires and appetites; holding fast the faithful word, maintaining the purity of the gospel, and dispensing it with all fidelity, as he hath been taught by us; that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and comfort the true members of Christ's church, and to convince the gainsayers of their errors. For such spiritual wisdom is necessary because there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, in Crete as well as in other churches, who, though professing Christianity, walk disorderly, and with their heretical tenets draw away disciples after them; especially they of the circumcision, who are the great corrupters of the faith, urging circumcision and the observance of the Mosaical institutions as necessary to salvation; whose mouths must be stopped, not by force, but by sound truth and scriptural arguments to detect their fallacies and silence their cavils; who subvert whole houses, insinuating themselves into the families of professors, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake, adapting their teaching to the palates of their hearers, in order to insinuate into their confidence, and enrich themselves at their expence.

3rdly, The national character of the Cretans was very bad, therefore they would need sharp rebuke.
1. The apostle quotes one of their own writers. One of themselves, even a prophet, or poet, of their own, Epimenides, said, the Cretans are always liars, peculiarly addicted to this sin; evil beasts, ravenous, gluttonous, and insatiate in their appetites; slow bellies, luxurious and indolent; and this witness is true, it is their just character. Wherefore,

2. Rebuke them sharply; such scandalous deeds required severe and cutting remonstrances, that, their sins and danger being set before them, they may be sound in the faith, warned by these rebukes of others to be more watchful, or recovered from such grievous backsliding; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, the ridiculous legends and vain traditions of those Judaizing teachers, that turn from the truth, apostates themselves, and labouring to pervert the faith of others, and to adulterate the blessed gospel of grace, by enforcing upon the conscience the abrogated rites of the Mosaical law. Unto the pure all things are pure, and no ceremonial uncleanness is contracted by the touch or taste of things forbidden by the Levitical institutions: but unto them that are defiled, by the reigning impurity of their hearts and lives, and unbelieving, destitute of faith in Jesus, there is nothing pure, all they do and say is abominable in the sight of God; but even their mind and conscience is defiled, and, when the fountain is thus polluted, every stream which flows from it must needs be foul. They profess indeed that they know God, and make great boasts of their wisdom; but in works they deny him, and act as infidels, being abominable in their spirit and conduct, disobedient to all God's holy laws as well as enemies to his gospel, and, in short, unto every good work reprobate, unfit and unable for, as well as disinclined to, the practice of them. Note; (1.) Stubborn sinners call for severe rebuke. Lenity, where the knife is required, is real cruelty to the patient. (2.) The best preservative against the wiles of deceivers, is being sound in the faith. They who are firmly grounded on Christ, will not easily be shaken. (3.) They who are destitute of right principles, must necessarily err in all their conduct: every thing they do, even what is in itself right, as to the matter and deed itself, becomes sin to them, because it proceeds from wrong principles, and is directed to wrong ends. (4.) It is not sounding professions, but holy lives, which characterize real Christians. Non magna loquimur, sed vivimus, "We speak not, but live, great things."

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Titus 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.