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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Titus 3


Titus is yet further directed by Paul, both concerning the things he should teach, and not teach: he is willed also to reject obstinate heretics: which done, he appointeth him both time and place, wherein he should come unto him; and so concludeth.

BECAUSE the Judaizers affirmed, that no obedience was due from the worshippers of the true God to magistrates who were idolaters, and because, by that doctrine, they made not only manyJewish, but Gentile professors, bad subjects, and exposed them to be punished as evil doers, (see Romans 13:0.) the apostle commanded Titus to inculcate frequently on the Cretans, to obey the magistrates under whose protection they lived, although they were idolaters, Titus 3:1.—and not to speak evil of any one, on account of his nationor religion, or on any other account, except in necessary defence of truth and religion, Titus 3:2.—Because, said the apostle, even we ofthe Jewish nation, who now believe the gospel, were formerly in behaviour as bad as the heathens; being foolish, disobedient, &c. Titus 3:3.—and through the unmerited mercyof God have been delivered from our former sinful state, by the bath of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, Titus 3:4-6.—that being rescued from ignorance and wickedness by grace, we might become heirs of eternal life, Titus 3:7.—Next the apostle ordered Titus strongly to affirm, that every one who hath believed on God, is bound to practise good works, Titus 3:8.—Also he commanded him in his discourses, to avoid the foolish questions and genealogies which the false teachers insisted on, Titus 3:9.—and to admonish heretical teachers, both concerning their doctrine and their practice: and after a first and second admonition, if they did not amend, to cast them out of the church, Titus 3:11.—Withal, because the Cretans were disposed to be idle, Titus was to enjoin them to follow some honest occupation, whereby they might both maintain themselves, and do works of charity to the afflicted, Titus 3:14.—The apostle concluded his epistle with salutations; and with a benediction to all in Crete, who acknowledged his apostolical authority, Titus 3:15.

Verse 1

Titus 3:1.— The Jews were of a very seditious, rebellious spiritabout the time when this epistle was written; and it was with great reluctance that they obeyed any civil governors, but those of their own nation. The Judaizing Christians were too apt to imitate them, and to retain this factious spirit; which they would have infused into the GentileChristians, and have taught them to have had as sovereign a contempt for men of other religions, as they had themselves. In opposition to which, Titus was to teach the Christians to pay the most strict obedience to their civil governors, and to be of a benign spirit to all men; even to men of different nations, sects, and religion: and to enforce this, St. Paul is thought to have urged his own example, Titus 3:3. He had been formerly as furious a persecutor of the Christians, and as bigotted a Jew, as any of the unbelieving Jews or Judaizing Christians could be; but since he had through grace embraced Christianity in its life and power, his charity was enlarged, and he saw the reasonableness, the necessity of loving, and doing good to all men, of whatever faith or profession. Titus was to be perpetually inculcating upon the Christians this temper and behaviour, as infinitely preferable to a regard for Jewish genealogies, traditions, and ceremonies: and he was not only to teach this himself, but was also informed, that such of the Jewish Christians as made factions by propagating their impositions, were heretics; and as such the Christians were to regard them, and to hold no familiar society with them. See 1 Timothy 2:1-4.Romans 13:1; Romans 13:1; Romans 13:7.

Verse 2

Titus 3:2. To speak evil, &c.— Calumniate no man; not even your Pagan or Jewish neighbour, says good Dr. Barrow, however enormous in their lives, or cruel in their behaviour to you.

Verse 3

Titus 3:3. For we ourselves also That St. Paul, like many other authors, frequently speaks of himself in the first person plural, is well known to all who have attended to his phraseology, and to the course of these annotations. Nor is there any reason in the world, why St. Paul should exclude himself from the number of those, who were by nature sinners; on the contrary, he is at all times ready to avow the dark and sinful state he was in, before his conversion by the grace of Christ. We may observe, that the words rendered lusts and pleasures, not only signify grosser vices, but an intense criminal desire after any thing: in which view theymore strongly mark out St. Paul's character before his conversion. He had been guilty of following his own pleasure or inclination, and gratifying his intense desires in persecuting Christians, for which he reckoned himself as the greatest of sinners before his conversion, and the least of all saints after his conversion.

Verse 4

Titus 3:4. God our Saviour It is observable, that God the Father is here called our Saviour; to intimate that it was his paternal love to us, which engaged him to appoint his Son to redeem us, and to perform for us all those important offices, by which he accomplishes the salvation of the faithful.

Verse 5

Titus 3:5. Not by works of righteousness, &c.— "For it was not by any works of righteousness which we ourselves had done; for any acts of obedience, whether to ceremonial or moral precepts, by which we had made ourselves worthy of his favourable regard; but according to his own mercy, that he saved us from condemnation and ruin, by the washing of regeneration, and therenewing of the Holy Spirit; which, by its purifying influence, operates to turn to God all that will yield to be saved by grace, and brings them into the number of his children, and afterwards advances the happy work in all that persevere in cleaving to him, by improving them more and more in the divine life and image."

Verses 6-7

Titus 3:6-7. Which he shed on us abundantly, &c.— "Even by that Spirit which he poured out upon us richly and abundantly, in his various gifts and graces, by Jesus Christ our Saviour, by virtue of whose intercession it has been imparted to the children of men; that being justified by his grace, we might become heirs of the most valuable blessings, according tothe hope of eternal life, which as the gift of that grace he has exhibited to our believing views, as the great and noble object of our pursuit."

Verse 8

Titus 3:8. This is a faithful saying, &c.— "But though believers are put into a state of justification, merely by grace, or through the divine favour, this is a matter of certain truth and great importance; and, concerning these things, I order that you strenuously insist upon it, that they who have believed in God, as he has revealed himself in the gospel of his Son, should be very careful to stand up for good works:"—that is, all those actions which embrace or include our duty towards God, our neighbour, and ourselves. These good and excellent works the Christians were to maintain and stand up for; to defend them, as it were, from whatever might tend to make themselves remiss in the performance of them. Nothing can more exactly suit the connection: the Judaizers made no account of good works; they represented them as of little or no moment, compared with believing, as they said, about Jewish fables, or the endless genealogies, or generations of the Eons; the perpetuity of the Mosaic law, and its being obligatory upon the Gentiles, as well as Jewish Christians. (See Titus 3:9.) Hence the apostle, in contradiction to such vain and unprofitable jargon, enjoins Titus, ch. Titus 2:1, &c. to teach things which became sound doctrine; namely, that all persons should practise good works; (see also Titus 3:14.) And here again he strongly inculcates the same important truths. It deserves great regard, that St. Paul accounted this a matter of the utmost moment; and ordered Titus not to urge good works now and then, or as a thing by the bye; but to be constantly, or with all his might, affirming, that Christians ought to maintain good works. See on ch. Titus 2:14. Good works are here represented as amiable and excellent in themselves, and greatly useful and profitable unto mankind; so they are called καλα εργα, beautiful works. These, therefore, are things which the ministers of Christ are to affirm constantly, or strenuously.

Verse 10

Titus 3:10. A man that is an heretic, &c.— The word Αιρεσις, from the verb αιρεω, to choose, signifies a form or mode of religious worship, discipline or opinion, which any one chooses, follows, and professes; or, the persons who follow such form or mode. See Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5; Acts 24:5; Acts 26:5; Acts 28:22. This word seems to be used by St. Peter in the sense of electing, espousing, or defending some fundamental error, concerning Christian doctrine, whether of faith or practice. 2 Peter 2:1. "I define heresy, says Dr. Waterland, not merely a mistake of judgment, though in fundamentals, but espousing such erroneous judgment: either teaching or disseminating it, or openly supporting or assisting those who do." Hence αιρετικος, a heretic, is a man who chooses and espouses some fundamental error concerning the Christian doctrine; "Not every one that mistakes in judgment,—though in matters of great importance, in points fundamental;—but he who openly espouses such fundamental errors, I take to be a heretic, says Dr. Waterland, in the true and full scripture notion of the word;"—a definition, very agreeable to thatexcellent saying of St. Austin, Errare possum, haereticus esse nolo, "I may err, but I am not willing to be a heretic." St. Paul orders Timothy, after the first and second admonition, to reject such a person, that is, to declare him unfit to be any longer looked upon as a member of the church, and to treat him as such—to refuse all kind of notice or concern in respect to him; knowing that he who is such, that is, continues such after two admonitions, is now without excuse;—αυτοκατακριτος ;— and, as it were, passessentenceupon himself; either as voluntarily cutting himself off from the church by an open revolt, or, as rendering himself incapable of the privileges and blessings belonging to it, by renouncing its faith: which, in a just construction, is judging or declaring himself unworthy of the blessings tendered. See Waterland's "Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity," p. 114-120. Dr. Benson observes well, that St. Paul does not say to Timothy, "After the first andsecond admonition, imprison the heretic; seize him with artful, sly, insinuating examinations; or put him to the torture to make him confess; and then, if he will not recant, roast him in a slow and lingering fire, as a heretic convict:" such rules never proceeded from the apostles of our Lord, but from the synagogue of Satan; who themselves answer to the apostolic description of heretics, while many of those whom they condemn as heretics, have the marks of being the faithful followers of Christ, and members of his true church. "Exciting the rage of the populace, or awakening the zeal of the civil magistrate; inflicting bodily pains and penalties, confiscating possessions, or using men's names and persons ill, because of their thinking for themselves, or choosing to worship God according to their own consciences,—has never yet been found the way to enlighten men's understandings, or to make them better Christians, or honester men."

Verse 12

Titus 3:12.— The apostle proceeds to order Titus to come to him, when the person should arrive, whom he would send to release him; and in the mean time to send Zenas and Apollos to him; but, as full of the grand subject of the epistle, he bids Titus put the Gentile Christians in Crete upon providing what was proper for their journey, as a proof of the influence which true Christianity had upon them; and which was to be shewn, not by idle notions, or empty ceremonies, but by works substantially beneficial and good, Tit 3:12 to the end. There were towns in several countries, of the name of Nicopolis; but this was most probably in Epirus. It was called Nicopolis, or "the city of victory," because it was built in memory of the victory which Augustus obtained over Anthony at Actium. It appears from the last clause of this verse, that St. Paul was now at liberty; and from all circumstances it seems most probable that this epistle was written between his first and second imprisonment.

Verse 13

Titus 3:13. Bring Zenas, &c.— St. Paul, most likely, knew that Zenas and Apollos were to pass through, or touch upon the island; and therefore he ordered Titus, σπουδαιως προπεμψαι, to conduct them along with all care; or to furnish them with provisions, to help them to proceed comfortably in their journey. See 3 John 1:6. As the word Νομικος is the word made use of, Mat 22:35 and as Zenas is here mentioned with Apollos, it seems more probable that he was a Jewish, than a Roman lawyer.

Verse 14

Titus 3:14. And let our's also learn, &c.— "Let our brethren learn (as I said Titus 3:8.) to be foremost in the practice of good works upon needful occasions; particularly to assist such Christian brethren as travel about to preach the pure gospel of Christ; that they may not be unfruitful, and act as if they had learned nothing but barren speculations from that religion,which is so well calculated to inspire and animate every sentiment of benevolence and beneficence."

Verse 15

Titus 3:15. Grace be with you all. Amen. This salutation shews, that though the epistle was directed and sent to Titus, it was intended for the benefit of all the true Christians in Crete.

Inferences.—The remembrance of the irregularities with which we ourselves were once chargeable, and of that sinful and miserable state in which we once were, should make us candid to others, and silence our severe censures against them, ch. Titus 3:2. Let the kindness, the infinite philanthropy of God, be daily celebrated and adored by us; of GOD, who saves the faithful by his own rich and overflowing mercy; who hath justified us by his free grace in Christ, and thereby made us heirs, according to the hope of eternal life. Nor let us ever forget how much we are indebted to the regenerating and renewing influences of the Holy Ghost, shed abroad upon us richly by Jesus Christ our Saviour. May it wash and purify our souls more and more from every stain of sin, and inspire us with a pious ardour to honour our profession by a holy life! having professed out belief in God, may we carefully practice all the graces and virtues of the Christian character; for those things are indeed good and profitable to men;—guarding at the same time against all those airy curiosities, and abstruse speculations, which on the contrary are unprofitable and vain.

How greatly is it to be wished, that all the churches of Christ were delivered from such factious members and teachers, as would depart from the infallible rule of truth laid down in the word of God, and subvert the faith once delivered to the saints;—introducing, instead of it, the doctrines of men, and teaching things which tend to alienate the minds of Christians from the gospel, and from each other, in order to set up their own authority, and promote a private secular interest! we ought undoubtedly to be cautious how we pass such a censure on particular persons, without clear and evident proof; but when such proof arises, and the persons in question appear to be the turbulent and pernicious heretics that St. Paul describes, Tit 3:10 it were to be wished that they might always meet with the treatment which he recommends. They ought first to be plainly and seriously admonished; and if repeated admonitions are rejected, it is the duty of the wiser and sounder parts of Christian churches to expel them; that so they may be less capable of doing mischief, and that the gangrene of such pernicious principles may not spread, to the disgrace and ruin of the churches to which they belong.

But, let us ever remember, this is all the remedy which the sacred scriptures suggest or furnish out to us: and they who, to the solemn censure of disturbed and injured churches, add any corporal severities, or civil penalties whatsoever,—or take up weapons which Christ has never put into their hands, may very probably do more mischief in the church and in the world, than the most erroneous of those against whom they would arm their terrors.

[ See Calmet, Benson, Michaelis, Lardner, Grotius, Hammond, Doddridge, Bentley, Lightfoot, Raphelius, Wetstein, Parkhurst, Spanheim, Erasmus, Beza, Bishop Pocock, Elsner, Plutarch, Morris, Wolfius, Suicer, Locke, Bishop Sherlock, Barrow, Taylor, L'Enfant, Craddock, and Heylin.]

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle proceeds,

1. To direct Titus respecting the obedience which he must inculcate as due to the civil magistrate. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, under whatever government they live; to obey magistrates with loyalty and willing submission; to be ready to every good work, rendering to all degrees of men the duty owing to them: to speak evil of or calumniate no man, not reviling the magistrates, nor raising any slanderous report of any human being; to be no brawlers, disturbing the peace of society, turbulent and quarrelsome; but gentle in temper and manners, shewing all meekness unto all men, however perverse or provoking their conduct may be toward us.

2. He suggests the most cogent reasons to enforce his exhortation.
[1.] The consideration of their former sinful state: and the more deeply we are sensible of our own vileness, the more we shall feel ourselves obliged to bear with others. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, as our opposers now are, ignorant of divine truth, and under the darkness of our fallen minds; disobedient in spirit and practice, refusing to hear and obey the dictates of God's word; deceived, and wandering out of the way, under the influence of a corrupted heart, and the wiles of Satan; serving divers lusts and pleasures: perfect slaves to our sensual appetites, the basest of all servitude; living in malice and envy; possessed and governed by these diabolical passions; regarding others, who were most prosperous in the world, with a malignant eye; and pleased with any miseries which befel them; hateful to God because of these abominations; and hating one another, with implacable resentment. What a fearful description! yet in this glass may every enlightened sinner discover his own features by nature, and own the humbling resemblance; for as face answereth face, so does the heart of one natural man to another.

[2.] The kindness and love of God to them in their miserable estate, should engage them to shew the like pity and compassion toward others. But after that, vile as we were, the kindness and love of God our Saviour, notwithstanding, toward man appeared, most illustriously displayed in his glorious gospel; not by works of righteousness which we had done, for all our works were the very reverse, and merited only wrath to the uttermost; but according to his mercy, in the most astonishing manner extended to the miserable and the desperate, he hath saved us freely, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, who is the glorious agent of the divine change wrought in regeneration; cleansing our souls from the power of corruption, quickening us to a life of grace and holiness, maintaining and carrying it on in the faithful unto the perfect day; which Holy Ghost he shed on us abundantly, both in his gifts and graces, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, the purchaser of every blessing for his faithful people, and the dispenser of this Spirit unto them; that being justified by his grace, and through faith of the operation of God brought into a state of pardon and reconciliation, we should be made heirs of glory according to the hope of eternal life, which he hath given us in that adored Redeemer, who hath obtained a complete salvation for every faithful saint, not only from all the miseries of sin, but unto all the blessedness of eternity. Note; (1.) The salvation of the sinner is entirely of grace; pardon, holiness, and hope of life eternal, are all the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Saviour, and will be all realized to every persevering believer. (2.) Though we are justified freely, not for any righteousness of our own, but of God's mere favour; yet do we from that moment become different men, and new creatures, by the Spirit of our God renewed in our minds, and pressing after the glory which is prepared for the righteous.

2nd, The apostle,
1. Inculcates the doctrine which Titus must preach. This is a faithful saying, all that I have above declared of the duties incumbent on believers, the misery from which they have been redeemed, and the amazing grace of which they have been made partakers, is to be steadfastly believed and embraced: and these things I will that thou affirm constantly; often insisting upon them in the course of thy ministry, to the end, that they which have believed in God, to the present salvation of their souls, might be careful to maintain good works; to excel and lead the way to others (προιστασθαι ), with all diligence and zeal improving every opportunity which offers to be useful. These things are good and profitable unto men; the doctrines here enforced, have the most immediate tendency to advance the benefit of mankind, and promote their present and eternal good. Note; The doctrine of justification by grace through faith, is so far from destroying the obligation of good works, that it is the only real and effectual principle which can make us careful to maintain them.

2. He cautions him what to shun. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, which the Judaizing teachers affect, to the great prejudice of Christianity; for they are unprofitable and vain; tending to no one useful purpose, but sowing discord in the church, and corrupting the simplicity of the gospel.

3. A man that is an heretic, who openly professes and maintains doctrines subversive of the fundamental articles of faith, after the first and second admonition reject; if he continue obstinate in his errors, remove him from your communion, and acknowledge him no longer as a brother: knowing that he that is such, is subverted, apostate from Christ, the only foundation; and sinneth wilfully, being condemned of himself; openly broaching his sentiments, departing from the confession of the true faith, which he formerly made, and avowedly separating himself from the church of God. Note; They who refuse to be reclaimed from important errors by repeated admonition, must be cut off from the body of the visible church by excommunication.

3rdly, We have,
1. Some particular directions given to Titus.
2. We have a sacred command. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful, but adorn the profession which they make, diligent in their several employments, and liberal according to their ability, in the maintenance of their ministers, or in assisting any of their brethren who may need their support.

3. He concludes with salutations and his apostolic benediction. All that are with me, salute thee affectionately. Greet them that love us in the faith, and are one in sentiment and heart with us. Grace be with you all, in its most abundant fruits and richest manifestations, Amen! So prays your faithful friend.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Titus 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.