1-3 | Paul’s Salutation
4 | Greetings to Titus
5-9 | Paul’s instructions to Titus: finish the work and appoint qualified elders
10-16 | Urge all men to be “sound in the faith”
Paul is writing to give instructions to Titus just as he did to Timothy. He refers to Titus as his child/son in the faith just as he did for Timothy (Titus 1:4; I Timothy 1:2; II Timothy 1:2). Paul had sent Titus to Crete with instruction to finish the work of establishing churches there and to appoint qualified elders over the churches.
Paul gives similar qualifications for elders to Titus as he did to Timothy.
|Elder Qualifications to Timothy
I Timothy 3:1-7
|Elder Qualifications to Titus
Evidently there were some of the Jews who were trying to discredit the believers in Crete, and in particular the men. One such false prophet described the Cretan men as “always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Paul affirms the testimony and urges Titus to “reprove them severely, so that they may be sound in the faith.”
Now the questions of what testimony is true is important to note. There are two options: 1) that there were false Jewish prophets slandering the Cretans, 2) that the Cretans were really like the descriptions given by these divisive Jewish prophets. In either case, both the false Jewish prophets and the Cretan men should be reproved severely. Why?
The Believer’s Bible Commentary1 offers the following regarding the Cretans.
Titus had unpromising raw materials to work with—enough to discourage any missionary! But Paul did not write the people off or counsel Titus to abandon them. Through the gospel there is hope for the worst of men. So Paul advises his assistant to rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound or healthy in the Christian faith. Some day these men might be not only exemplary believers, but also godly elders in the local churches. This passage overflows with encouragement for Christian workers in difficult fields of the world (and what field is not difficult?). Beyond the grossness, denseness, and unresponsiveness of the people, there is always the vision of their becoming gracious, pure, and fruitful saints.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary2 offers the following regarding the false Jewish prophets and those who listen to them.
The false teachers fit the Cretan stereotype. Thus their negative influence must be remedied, if at all possible, by salvaging the false teachers themselves. Titus was to rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound (“healthy”; cf. I Timothy 1:10; I Timothy 6:3-4) in the faith. The ultimate goal of discipline should be to recover the one who is in error (Galatians 6:1; II Thessalonians 3:14-15). In the present case Paul hoped that Titus’ severe rebuke would be enough to bring the errorists around so that they would cease paying attention to Jewish myths and to the commands of those who reject the truth.
Galatians 6:1 NASB Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
II Thessalonians 3:14-15 NASB If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Even though Titus was to “reprove severely,” he was also to do it with gentleness and with a view to restoration and not total excommunication and expulsion. Dictionary.com defines reprove as “to criticize or correct, especially gently.”3 So even though Titus was to reprove severely, there was to be gentleness in his manner. They all could have the potential of becoming sound in the faith and leaders in their churches. Anyone can change given the opportunity.
Lord God, we pray that Your Spirit will help us to recognize the false teachers and their teachings in the world so that we might encourage them to come to a true faith in You and the message of Your Word. Help us also to do it in a loving and gentle manner so that they might be restored to a right relationship with You. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 – MacDonald, William, and Arthur Farstad. Believer’s Bible Commentary: An Exposition of the Sacred Scriptures. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers; e-Sword, 1995.
2 – Walvoord, John, and Roy Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old & New Testament. Victor Books; e-Sword, 1983.
3 – “reprove.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 12 Aug. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/reprove>.