Mar 24 2019

88. THE EPISTLE TO TITUS part 1

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The Epistle of St. Paul to Titus

(Part 1)

 

Introduction

Titus was a great disciple and aid of St. Paul (Gal. 2:1).  He converted to Christianity at St. Paul’s hands, nearly fourteen years after his enlightenment; he was then about thirty years old.  Titus served with St. Paul, accomp-anying him on his journeys (2 Cor. 2:13, 7:6, 13, 8:6, 12:18 and 2Tim. 4:10).  Furthermore, he was with St. Paul during the latter’s meeting with the apostles’ assembly in Jerusalem (Acts 15 and Gal. 2:1); there, St. Paul was dispatched to evangelize the Gentiles.  Being a Greek, likely from Antioch, Syria, Titus’ presence with St. Paul was a testimony to God’s work among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:3)1  Titus accompanied St. Paul to the southern Greek island of Crete2, where he continued to serve, after Paul’s departure, and eventually became the island’s bishop.

St. Paul sent Titus this letter as a follow up on the tasks he had assigned him; Paul also describes in the letter the process for choosing the elders to serve the budding church, as well as the prerequisites for their ordainment (he did the same in his first letter to Timothy – both letters were likely written within the same time frame).  Paul also warns against those who resist sound teaching, and provides instructions to the older women who guide the younger ones (deaconesses).  Finally, Paul addresses the youth, and exhorts Titus to set an example for them relying on the grace of God; he encourages him to preach and admonish with all authority (possibly, Titus and Timothy were about the same age).  The epistle, of course, includes a number of basic spiritual principles pertaining to the faith, doctrine and service.

Elements of the epistle:

1- Introduction and purpose of St. Paul’s mission (1:1-4)

2- Rules for choosing the church’s leaders (1:5-9)

3- Confronting and admonishing opponents (1:10-16)

4- Instructions for the church’s congregation:

a-  elderly men (2:1 & 2),

b- elderly and young women (2:3-5)

c-  youth and bondservants (2:6-10)

5- The saving grace constitutes the under-pinnings of instruction (2:11-15)

6- Dealing with the State (3:1 & 2)

7- Our salvation through grace, the second birth, and the renewal of the Holy Spirit – deeds are a testimony to the Faith (3:3-8)

8- Dealing with heretics (3:9-11)

9- Observations and tasks (3:12-14)

10- Concluding salutations (3:15)

 

Chapter 1

1- Introduction and purpose of St. Paul’s mission (1:1-4)

St. Paul starts his letter by introducing himself as “Paul, a bondservant of God.”3 This unique introduction is not found in any of his other epistles; hence, “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,” (Rom. 1:1), “an apostle of Jesus Christ,” (2Cor. 1:1, Eph.1:1, Col. 1:1, 1Tim. 1:1, 2Tim. 1:1) and (with Timothy) “bondservants of Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 1:1). Here, he links “bondservant of God” to “apostle of Jesus Christ.”

St. Paul specifies the purpose of his mission from the Lord, namely, calling the chosen (according to God’s predestination)4 to believe on the Savior, and to develop knowledge, based on experience, of the Divine Truth5 and to submit to it. Such knowledge and submission would be crowned with eternal life(6), according to the truthful promise of God, Who is infallible(7). God revealed to us this promise, made before the beginning of time, in the fullness of time, through His incarnate Word. Paul became an apostle preaching the salvation of this Word, according to God’s command and calling. Similarly, the Word of God had commanded and called all the other disciples and apostles (Acts 9:15 and 22:21).

Having expounded the purpose of his mission, St. Paul addresses his message to Titus, whom he calls, “a true son in our common faith”(1:4).  Titus was Paul’s spiritual son; hence, unlike biological parenthood, they were not bonded by hereditary factors, rather, by a common doctrine, and a common faith in one Savior.  In his 2nd. epistle to the Corinthians Paul had referred to Titus as “Titus my brother” (2Cor. 2:13) and “Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you.” (2Cor. 8:23).  In the present epistle, Paul reveals his great appreciation for Titus and his service.  He thus writes in the beginning, having arrived at Troas and not found Titus whom he had sent to Corinth to visit the Church, remedy its schisms, and collect donations to the saints: “I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother.” (2Cor. 2:13).  That was because he had expected a report from Titus about his mission.  Paul continues: “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus [later], and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you … And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all … And his affections are greater for you as he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him.” (2Cor. 7:6-15).  He then prays for him, as in most of his other epistles, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.” (1:4).  Hence, the apostles were simply the tools through whom God executed His work.  St. Paul had also said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1Cor. 15:10).  Grace is the power of believers and servants.  Mercy covers and corrects their mistakes, and the peace of God keeps them steadfast when confronted with trials.

2- Rules for choosing the church’s leaders (1:5-9)

From the Book of Acts we learn that some of the Jews, who had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, were Cretans (Acts 2:11).  They had witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit, believed, were baptized, and returned to evangelize in their country.  More than thirty years after that event, St. Paul returned to Crete, following his release from his first imprisonment.  He visited the Cretan Church, met with believers, organized the service taking all the necessary steps, then left Titus(8“to set in order the things that are lacking”(1:5). Among those things lacking was the appointment of elders and presbyters in every city as Paul had commanded him.

St. Paul emphasized the details pertaining to choice of elders (in this context, “elders” refers to priests and bishops – not senior members of the laity).  He reiterates to Titus all the rules that he had mentioned previously in his first epistle to Timothy (1Tim. 3:1-7 and 5:22).  The first rule is that the person be “blameless”(9) so that his conduct not reflect negatively on his service or his church(10).  The second rule is that the person be husband to one wife (1Tim. 3:2)(11); this reinforces his chastity, his veneration of holy matrimony, and the fact that he had not divorced his wife and married another – which would lower his esteem (it is also not befitting, after his ordainment, that he re-marry, in the event of his wife’s death.) Furthermore, he should have demonstrably raised his children properly within the fold of the church: they should be believers, practicing the Faith in their conduct, not given up to the unruliness and lewdness of the world, and in full control of their behavior(12). In this way, their service becomes advantageous, rather than dis-advantageous, to the church.    (To be contd.)

Footnotes:

  1. It is said that Titus was the nephew of Crete’s governor. It is also believed that he was St. Luke’s brother. Hence, when St. Luke authored the Book of Acts, he used the plural sense in reference to himself, Titus and their other companions. Titus evangelized the Genoese who venerate him along with St. Mark. He led a celibate life up till the age of 94. Eastern and western Churches commemor-ate him on Aug. 25th and Jan. 4th, respectively.
  2. Crete is the largest and southernmost of the Greek islands. It is roughly 260 kilometres long and 56 kilometres at its widest point. It used to be a training centre for the Roman military and a significant pagan enclave.
  3. St. James also used this title at the beginning of his message: “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (James 1:1).
  4. “… And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed …” (Acts 13:48), “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:29 & 30) “… and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14).
  5. Truth is the word and thoughts of God “Your word is truth” (John 17:17), and “the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). Truth is also the Person of Christ “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Christ bears witness to the truth (John 18:37).
  6. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
  7. “… let God be true but every man a liar …” (Rom. 3:4)
  8. The clause “I left you in Crete” may be taken to mean that Titus was Paul’s companion on the ship arriving from Rome, after Paul’s first imprisonment, to follow up on the evangelizing missions. Continuing this interpretation, they then left the ship together in Crete, where most ships used to dock. After Paul’s visitation to the Cretan Church, he gave instructions to Titus, and left him to continue the work. On the other hand, some commentators believe that the clause “I left you in Crete” meant that Paul had dispatched Titus to Crete, as the apostles had dispatched him to Dalmatia during Paul’s second imprisonment (2Tim. 4:10).
  9. This may have a negative connotation but, naturally, the intent is that the person would set the example of a life of virtue and godliness, while practicing the Faith through love.
  10. “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.” (2Cor. 6:3)
  11. This is according to Divine provision since the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:27, 2:18, 21 & 22, Mat. 19:4 & 6, 1Cor. 7:2)
  12. We must not forget how the poor conduct of Eli’s sons brought ruin upon their father and their service.

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