Paul addresses Titus in verse 4 but before doing so he points out
the characteristic features of his apostleship and service in a series
of short and pithy statements. It was "according to the faith of God's
elect." Speaking in a general way we may say that the preposition
"according to" indicates character. What characterized his apostleship
was the faith, and also the truth which is "after" or "according to"
godliness. There are all too many nowadays claiming to be ministers of
Christ who wish nevertheless to minister "according to" the latest
conclusions of science, falsely so called, or the latest reasonings of
unbelief. Notice that "the faith" spoken of is not the faith of the
world nor even the faith of Christendom, but of "God's elect." That
unconverted ministers and preachers should deny and even ridicule the
faith is very sad but not at all surprising. The faith was never theirs
though they may have once given an intellectual adherence to it.
Observe too that the truth is said to be characterized by godliness.
Here is a very good test which may be applied in either direction.
Certain things are urged upon us as being the very truth of God. We may
be hardly equal to the task of analyzing them, comparing them with
Scripture and demonstrating their falsity, yet we have no difficulty in
observing that the practical effect produced by accepting them as truth
is the casting off of godliness. That is sufficient. These things are
not the truth of God. Or, it may be, a certain course of action is
urged upon us which would be quite profitable and seem sensible enough.
But it is not according to the truth. Then we may be quite sure it is
not godliness and is to be avoided.
Further, as verse 2 tells us, Paul's apostleship was in view of an
immense blessing which in its fulness lay in the future. In reading the
New Testament we meet pretty frequently with the expression, "eternal
life," and if we carefully considered all the passages we should
discover that its meaning is not easily exhausted: it carries within it
profound depths of blessing.
Nothing is more certain in Scripture than that the believer in Christ
has eternal life, and has it
side of things is specially stressed in the writings of the apostle
John. We believers already have this life in Christ, and already we are
introduced into the relationships, and made participators of the
understanding and communion and joys and activities which are proper to
that life. Still the fulness of eternal life is not yet arrived, as our
verse indicates, and this view of it is in keeping with the first
allusion that Scripture makes to it in Psalm 133: 3. The only other
allusion in the Old Testament is in Daniel 12: 2, and in both these
passages it refers to the blessing of the bright age which is coming,
when the curse will be lifted from off creation and death be the
exception rather than the rule as at present. When the earth is flooded
with the light of the knowledge of the Lord the blessing of
ever-lasting life will be enjoyed.
The Old Testament does not lift our thoughts from the earth as the
New Testament does. The verse we are considering shows us that eternal
life was in God's thoughts before the world began, and in keeping with
that it will abide in all its fulness when this world has ceased to be.
We live in hope of it, and our hope is sure because based upon the Word
of God, who cannot lie.
If any find difficulty in reconciling John's assurance of the
present possession of eternal life with Paul's hope of it in the
future, they will do well to remember that we commonly use the word
"life" in more senses than one. For instance a man refers to a person
critically ill and says, "While there is life there is hope." By "life"
he means the vital spark, the vital energy BY which we live. Another
man who has been squandering a lot of money in the pursuit of pleasure
remarks that he has been "seeing life." He is mistaken of course as to
what really constitutes life, but he clearly uses the word as meaning
those relationships and enjoyments that go to make up life
practically-the life IN which we live.
We have eternal life now as truly and as much as we shall have it,
if we are speaking of the former use of the word. But if we think of
the latter use we can rejoice that we are going to know it in far
fuller measure than we do today. Walking through a greenhouse we espied
amongst other tropical plants a cactus which looked like a fairly
straight cucumber covered with small spines and stuck upright in a pot.
We recognized in it a dwarf specimen of the cactus we had seen by the
score in Jamaica standing 20 feet high or perhaps more. The little
dwarf was as much alive as the giant cactus. Its life was of precisely
the same order. All the difference lay in the environment.
This may illustrate our point, for though we have eternal life the
world is an icy place, and the enjoyments proper to that life are
found, by the Holy Spirit given to us, in God's Word and amongst God's
people and in God's service, which provide us with a kind of greenhouse
in the midst of the cold world. We are in hope however of
transplantation into the warm tropical regions to which eternal life
belongs. In hope of that the Apostle lived and served, and so do we.
We must notice the word "promised" in verse 2. Eternal life was not
merely purposed before the world existed but promised. To whom?-seeing
that man as yet did not exist. At any rate we may safely say that when
the Lord Jesus became Man to glorify God's name and redeem men it was
under the promise that He should become the Fountain Head of eternal
life to those given to Him, as is stated in John 17: 2.
If verse 2 of our chapter looks on into a coming eternity when the
promise made in a past eternity shall be fulfilled, verse 3 speaks of
the present in which God's word is being manifested through preaching;
and the commandment authorizing that preaching has come forth from God
our Saviour, consequently the result of that preaching when believed is
preaching or proclamation was entrusted in the first place to Paul. It
would indeed be well if every one who today has a part in this great
work were deeply impressed with its dignity and importance. Woe betide
us if we make the preaching a platform for the manifestation of our own
cleverness or importance! It is for the manifestation of the Word of
With verse 5 the main theme of the epistle begins. Paul had been to
Crete and left before he had had time to give the infant churches
instructions as to many things. He therefore left Titus behind that he
might do it, and also appoint elders with his authority. Verses 6 to 9
follow, giving the characteristics that must be found in such.
These verses are not a mere repetition of what we have in 1 Timothy
3. Conditions in Crete differed from those at Ephesus. There were
similar dangers from "unruly and vain talkers and deceivers" in both
places, but the natural characteristics of the Cretian race were
peculiarly bad, so much so that some prophet of their own, some heathen
seer, had been moved to denounce them in strong terms as "always liars,
evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons." Such was the old nature of the
converted Cretians, and such it remained in them when converted; and
alas! it was manifesting itself and hence Titus in verse 13 is
instructed to administer to them a sharp rebuke.
A liar is evidently no lover of the truth. An evil
wild beast (for
that is what the word used really means) does not love restraint,
especially the restraint of good, since insubjection is its very
A lazy glutton thinks of little save that which
ministers to self, and self in its lowest desires. See, then, how
completely the apostolic instructions meet this sad condition.
Those elder men whom Titus was to appoint as bishops were to be such
as held fast the faithful word. They were to be lovers of the truth.
Moreover they were to hold it fast as they had been taught; that is,
they were to recognize the authority with which it had been originally
given and to carefully respect that authority and be subject to it.
Hence in addition to being themselves sober men they were to be able to
minister sound doctrine with effect. The men branded by the Apostle as
deceivers were ready to teach anything if only there were money in it,
and this of course would be quite in keeping with the Cretian spirit,
for to be able to acquire money easily is a prime necessity for the
lazy glutton. On the other hand the bishop is to be a man neither given
to wine nor to "filthy lucre," or "base gain." Marked himself then by
godly features, the very opposite of those which were natural to the
Cretians, he would be well qualified to exercise rule amongst them.
Before proceeding, notice that this scripture assumes that matters
in the assembly are to be regulated by God. Had it been just a matter
of human preference or choice Paul would have told Titus to stir up the
Cretians to develop a church order and to establish church customs as
they thought most suited to their island and its ways. He did nothing
of the kind, but rather told him to "set in order the things that are
wanting" since the divine order has been made known. The fact is that
the divine order is extremely simple demanding nothing but lowliness
and grace and spirituality-but that really is where the trouble lies,
for men naturally love that which is ornate and showy and imposing.
Notice also that the men who were to be ordained as elders, in verse
5, are spoken of as bishops in verse 7. The word in the former verse is
presbuteros from which we get the words presbyter, Presbyterian. The word in the latter verse is
episcopos from which we get episcopal, Episcopalian. A presbyter is an elder and an
bishop is an overseer -for that is the simple meaning of the word-and
originally they were but different terms for the same man!
Now the bishops were to be men of soberness and sound in the faith,
as we have seen, but all believers are to be sound in the faith as
verse 13 shows. That is the thing of first importance. If we are right
ourselves-pure ourselves-then all things are pure to us for the inward
holiness preserves from infection. On the contrary, the defiled and
unbelieving defile all they touch.