The Epistle of St. Paul to Titus
1- Introduction and purpose of St. Paul’s mission (1:1-4): Published in the previous letter.
2- Rules for choosing the church’s leaders (1:5-9): continued from the previous letter.
The same conditions apply, even more so, to the choice of bishops, given their supervisory role (the word “bishop” is derived from the Greek “episkopos” which literally means “overseer.”) The bishop ordains and oversees the priests. Sometimes, though, “bishop” and “priest” are synonymous (see 1 Tim. 3:1-8 and Titus 1:6-9); this is in the sense that a “bishop” may not necessarily be a rank different from that of a priest – rather, a priest having a supervisory role as in the literal meaning of the word, “bishop”. Whenever the need arose to found new churches, the bishop would choose the serving priest (after consulting the parish council.) The bishop would then ordain the priest, instruct him, and supervise him as he performs his duties, managed by the grace. Since the bishop is considered “a steward of God,” it is incumbent on him to be free of all character flaws that reflect carnal prominence: hence, superiority complex (haughtiness, transcend_ing the truth, and having a loose tongue quick to abuse), addiction to alcohol (consuming alcohol should not be his habit – not necessarily drunkenness – since drunkards do not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10.)) A bishop should also not be violent or quick tempered, hence, he should not verbally or physically abuse anyone impulsively – which behavior would have dire consequences. Furthermore, like his Master, a bishop should be “a lover of what is good,” and be “hospitable” to visitors from other cities, ensuring they have adequate accommod_ations. Finally, a bishop should be “sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,” psycho_logically, emotionally and physically, while adhering to the faithful word, according to the teaching handed down from the Master to the saints. This would enable him not only to deliver effective sermons in accordance with the correct teachings of the Bible, but also to admonish unruly mockers and opponents.
3- Confronting and admonishing opponents (1:10-16):
It is a fact that the church congregation harbored insubordinate members with warped ideas. They spread idle talk and deceived many, “especially those of the circumcision.” Those deceivers included both Jews who continued to resist the message, and Jews who had believed but were wavering between the two sides, thus spreading divisions. Those needed a response, and their “mouths must be stopped” with the word of truth – in other words, with correct biblical teaching. They should thus dis_continue their lies and heresies, since their behavior ruins entire households, which, in turn, accept and spread such false teachings “for the sake of dishonest gain.” Attributing such traits to Cretans is neither strange nor baseless – since one of their seers1 once made a sweeping statement about his nation, saying, “Cretans are always liars, evil savages, and insatiable bellies.” Thus, according to one of their own, Cretans had the combined attributes of lies, savagery, gluttony and laziness.
The apostle capitalizes on this message and supports it. He thus does not attribute to the Cretans leniency and a gentle calling; rather, they needed severe admonishment to awaken them from their stray wanderings, to adopt the path of the true Faith, to ignore the false Jewish teachings which did not acknowledge Christ’s salvation, and to ignore commandments issued by godless people who distorted the truth and spread false whimsical teachings 2.
The Christian biblical principle is: “Everything is clean to the pure. But to the impure and unbelievers nothing is clean – rather, even their minds and consciences have become defiled.“(15)3 The basic principle is: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Tim. 4:4,5) The believer, whose heart, mind, and conscience are pure, sees everyone and everything as pure. On the other hand, defiled minds and consciences of unbelievers are reflected in their perception of the entire existence; hence, they see uncleanness in everything, and they assume the worst in everyone. While they and their ilk boast that they, and they alone, “know God,” their deeds, thoughts and conduct are “abominable, disobedient,” they contradict their own words and, practically, they deny God. It is impossible to deceive God the way they deceive people; thus God, who sees the hearts, rejects them because of their cheating and warped hearts, regardless of what they do or say.
4- Instructions for the church’s congregation (1:1-4):
A- Elderly men (2:1,2): Having addressed the views opposing Christianity’s ubiquitous current, St. Paul re-directs his message to Titus concerning his role, namely, to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” Sound doctrine is the darkness-dispelling light that sweeps away super_stitions and anything challenging the Christian truth.
He subsequently directs his instructions at believers, starting with the “older men.” These are the senior citizens – the family’s foundation. He demands that they be “sober, reverent,” exercising self-control; put differently, they should not yield to any form of addiction – especially alcohol – since this is potentially conducive to drunkenness and consequent loss of consciousness and dignity, both within the person’s family (his small-scale church) and within the general church (the believers’ assembly). His maintenance of self-respect, his freedom from carnal desires, and his commitment to a godly life, will lead to a dignified person: compelling respect, and influencing those around him. Furthermore, he would be “temperate,” hence, immune to impulsive emotions or decisions, demonstrat_ing patience, tolerance, and endurance for trials and hardships. Finally, his loving heart would embrace the weak given all their shortcomings, while leading a spiritual life that is “sound in faith,” practicing sincere love through truth and deeds, rather than simply through word of mouth.
B- Elderly and young women (2:3-5): St. Paul then writes about women, both old and young. He thus demands the “older women” (whether married or widowed) to ensure that they lead lives of holiness, free from the pitfalls associated with this age bracket, characterized by much free time. Hence, they should refrain from idle babbling, not be “slanderers,” and not gossip about others – which is especially true for exciting news, whether true or false. There is also the risk of their sliding into addiction – either tobacco or alcohol – or into irreverent behavior; another undesirable prevailing phenomenon in this day and age is the addiction to watching the screen – fixed and mobile.
Conversely, older faithful women are cognizant of their duty to set an example for the younger ones, hence, to be “teachers of good things,” servants and deaconesses in the church, devoted to the word of God. In this way, they can “admonish the young women” who are married about good behavior at home, and “to love their husbands, to love their children,” leading them in a life of godliness since childhood. Young women should also be wise and discreet, following the example of their elders, adorning themselves with chastity and self- control, careful in their relationships with others, mindful of their homes, residing therein most of the time, and not leaving their homes to wander aimlessly with friends from one shop to another. Finally, they should be “obedient to their own husbands,” (in other words, giving them due priority), as they would unto the Lord (Eph. 5:22 and Col. 3:18), without striving for first place. Peace would thus prevail and the unbelieving Cretans would not mock them, thus blaspheming the name of God, and perverting “the Word of God,” Whose name they bear. (James 2:7)
C- Youth and bondservants (2:6-10):
(To be contd.)
- The seer Epimenides, who lived in the sixth century B.C. had declared that Cretans were systematic liars – hence, the now-obsolete word “cretism” meaning liar. ↩
- This is what had happened in Ephesus with Timothy: “… forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Tim. 4:3) ↩
- According to the Divine saying, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.” (Mark 7:15-20) Also, what St. Paul told the Romans: “… there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” (Rom. 14:14) ↩