Titus 1These verses contain the apostle's salutation, and the first part of this chapter;
in which observe, 1. The person saluting, described by his name, Paul; by his general office, a servant of God; by his special office, an apostle of Jesus Christ; by the end of his office, to preach the faith, and thereby to promote the faith of God's elect, and to bring persons to the acknowledgment of the doctrine of the gospel, which is truth according to godliness.
Learn hence, That the great design and end of preaching the gospel, is, to produce faith in the heart, and holiness or godliness in the life, of those that sit under it; not that common, notional, and intellectual faith, which is ofttimes found in unholy persons: but that lively faith, which is elsewhere called the faith of the operation of God, and here, the faith of God's elect; even such a faith as is the parent and principle of obedience.
Observe, 2. The apostle declares a farther end of his office, namely, to raise Christians up to a lively hope and expectation of that eternal life, which that God, who cannot lie, hath promised before the world began.
But how could God then promise, when there was none to promise to?
Ans. The promise was made to Christ, and in him to all his members: for there was a federal transaction betwixt the Father and the Son from all eternity; the Son promised to give his soul an offering for sin, and the Father engaged that he should see his seed, and the travail of his soul.
Observe, 3. How God, who promised us in Christ eternal life before all time, did accompolish and make good that word in the fulness of time.
Verse 3. He hath in due time manifested his word through preaching; that is, What God so long ago purposed in himself, and promised to his Son, he hath in the fittest appointed season made manifest by the preaching of the gospel, which is committed to me by the appointment of God and Christ.
Learn hence, That the doctrine of salvation is much more clearly revealed to us that live under the gospel, than it was to the fathers of the Old Testament. Life and immortality, that is, the clearer knowledge and more full assurance of eternal life, is now brought about by the preaching of the gospel.
Observe, 4. The person saluted, Titus, described by his relation. St. Paul's son in the faith; he begat him by his ministry unto God, was the instrument of his conversion unto Christianity; his son after the common faith.
Where note, That the church has but one faith common to all Christians, it has one common object of faith, Christ crucified; it has one common end of faith, eternal salvation; this is the end of every believer's faith and hope.
Observe lastly, The salutation itself: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour; that is, all spiritual, temporal, and eternal blessings, I most heartily wish unto you, from God the Father, and Jesus Christ our worthy Mediator.
Learn hence, That whatever spiritual grace or temporal blessings we now receive from God, is from him not barely as a Creator, but as a Father, a gracious Father in Christ, in whom he pours forth the immensity of his love upon us, and through whom he conveys all kind of blessings unto us.
Observe here, 1. The erection of a power in the person of Titus: I left thee in Crete to ordain elders; "I, who am an apostle of Christ, and have received a commission from him thus to do, I left thee, thee who wert so dear to me, so useful to me; yet for the church's service did I deny myself, and part with thee.
Behold here, a blessed pattern of our ministerial imitation. St. Paul did, and could most cheerfully, sacrifice all his private advantages, the tenderest and inmost of his affections, to the benefit of the church, and the interest of religion; let us go and do likewise.
Observe, 2. The end of this institution, or the use and exercise of this power: to order, and to ordain, to correct and constitute;
1. To set in order things that are wanting; the ship of the church is never so well rigged, but something is wanting that might be added; whilst the tabernacle of God sojourns here below, some pin or other will be lacking in it.
2. To ordain elders in every city, such as might govern and teach, and administer to God in holy things; wherever a church is planted, there is an absolute necessity of a settled ministry, and a succession of ministers, without which it is impossible that religion should either prosper or long continue: and care must be taken that such ministers be duly qualified, and regularly ordained. I left thee in Crete to ordain elders.
Observe, 3. The limitation of these acts, according to the apostle's prescription, As I had appointed thee. Titus must do nothing but according to commission, and by special direction.
Where note, That the ordering and governing of the church was not left arbitrary, no, not to Titus himself; but whatever he did, was done by apostolical direction: For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest ordain elders in every city, as I appointed thee.
Here St. Paul gave Titus, as he had before done Timothy, the character of such persons as were to be admitted into the sacred function. The character is twofold, positive and negative; he shows them both what they should be, and what they should not be.
The positive characters of a bishop, yea, of every one that administers to God in holy things, are these: he must be
blameless, free from scandal, not blameworthy; a minister's life should be so bright and shining, that all persons who behold it may admire it, and guide their lives by the direction and example of it.
The husband of one wife, that is at once, the apostle's command doth not forbid successive marriages: for this he elsewhere allows: see the note on 1Tim 3:2. Nor does the command oblige him to marry at all, but it establishes the lawfulness of a bishop's marriage, if he sees reason for it, no doubt, by these words, the husband of one wife, St. Paul proposes a greater degree of chastity to church governors than to other persons.
Having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly; Titus must not only look at the person he is to ordain, but to the family and household of the person ordained, that they be well governed; because the honour of religion, and the reputation of the church suffers exceedingly, when any of the bishop's family, his children especially, are riotous and unruly; besides, the world will pronounce them unfit to govern the church of God, that cannot command their own families.
As the steward of God; the steward is an appointed and deputed officer, he acts by commission, and distributes his Lord's allowance according to his Lord's command, and is accountable for all he does; and as he is over the inferior servants, so must he be a pattern and precedent for them; a steward must be both wise and faithful.
A lover of hospitality, sober, temperate. Mark, Of hospitality, not of luxury and sensuality; as he commends hospitality, so he regulates it too, a lover of hospitality, yet sober and temperate; riotous housekeeping is not hospitality in St. Paul's account, but the liberal and free relieving of such as are in necessities and straits.
Holding fast the faithful word, as he hath been taught; he must be a person well instructed, well settled and confirmed in the faith, of ability to defend the faith, and to stop the mouth of gainsayers;--
just, holy, and a lover of good men, a person of strict holiness and piety towards God, of exact righteousness and justice towards men, and a sincere lover of all good men. These are positive characters required in a bishop.
The negatives follow, and they are five:
not self-willed, not so adhering to his own resolutions, that nothing can force him from them; he that is of an inflexible will, had need be of an infallible judgment;
not soon angry, and subject to passion; for he stands in God's place, and ought to resemble God in long-suffering and patience:
not given to wine, that is, too much wine, no inordinate lover of it; no sitter at wine, either in his own house or elsewhere:
no striker, either with the hand or with the tongue:
not given to filthy lucre, seeking to get wealth by sordid ways and means; the sin of covetousness is not so base in any man as in a minister; many are unjustly charged with it, but where it is really found it is a sordid sin.
How unfit is he to administer in holy things to God, who prefers the world before God! By making a god of the world, we make an idol of God.
A reason is here subjoined by our apostle, why Titus should take such special care to fill the church with able guides, namely, because there was a multitude of false teachers dispersed abroad, and scattered up and down everywhere, particularly the judaizing doctors, those of the circumcision, mentioned Acts 15:1 who would make Christianity nothing more that a supplement to the law of Moses. These he tells Titus must have their mouths stopped, not by force, for Titus had no power of the sword, but by confutation; he must take care to ordain such as might silence them, though not satisfy them. For mark the efficacy of error, and the power of seduction, they subvert whole houses, they make proselytes without number.
Learn hence, That such is the strength of error, and the weakness and unsteadiness of many Christians, that whole households may be subverted by the most gross deceivers. If the apostle's converts were thus easily and universally misled, no wonder if ours be so.
The next argument St. Paul makes use of to excite Titus to take great care how he behaved himself at Crete, and what bishops he left there, is drawn from the quality and nature of the people in that island of Crete, where God's providence and the apostle's care had placed him: he tells him, that one of their own prophets, or poets, Epimenides, had given this character of them, that the Cretians were a lazy and a lying people, ready enough to be misled by the false teachers, particularly the judaizing doctors, who imposed circumcision and other ceremonial rites upon them, which were now old fables, but tended to pervert men from the truth; therefore he charges Titus to reprove sharply and cuttingly, that they may be sound in faith. The word is a metaphor taken from surgeons, who cut out dead flesh to the quick, but it is in order to healing; cutting words have done great cures: many a diseased, festered soul has been made sound, both in faith and manners, by severe reprehension.
Learn hence, That although, generally speaking, we ought to temper our reproofs with much gentleness and meekness, yet there is a time when we must reprove sharply, that men may be sound in the faith. We may, we must, speak cutting words, when kind words will not do.
Here our apostle intimates what those Jewish traditions and fables were, which those judaizing doctors and false teachers would intrude and impose upon persons at that time, namely, pretences that men were defiled by eating things unclean, by not observing their days, and keeping other ceremonial rites: but says the apostle, To the pure all things are pure; that is, to believers who are sanctified by the Christian faith,and purified from sin and guilt, all meats, and days, and things of this nature, are clean and lawful, and may without sin be used, every creature being sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
Here note, The honourable title which a gracious and merciful God puts upon good men, notwithstanding they have much impurity and sin inhering in them, and many sinful weaknesses and infirmities cleaving to them, yet God calls them pure; Unto the pure, &c. They are now initially so, and shall ere long be perfectly so.
Note, 2. A privilege purchased for them by the blood of Christ, and that is the lawful liberty and use of meats, &c. under the gospel, which were prohibited by, and forbidden under, the ceremonial law: Unto the pure, all things are now pure.
Mark, he doth not say, to the defiled all things are unclean, but, nothing is pure; they pollute all they touch. To an unsanctified man nothing is sanctified; whatever he does is unclean, either in the matter, in the manner, or in the end, of his doing it; and the reason follows, because their mind and conscience are defiled. No wonder the streams are polluted, when the fountains are poisoned. The mind and conscience are defiled, partly by blindness, partly by stupidity and senselessness.
Behold here the dismal character of many hypocritical persons in the Jewish church. They professed the knowledge of God, the true God, but in their works, in their actions, they denied him, and so became abominable both to God and man, disobedient to the law, and averse to every good work.
Here learn, 1. That hypocrites are generally great professors, they profess great knowledge of God, and great zeal for him.
2. That to deny God is a very heinous sin, and an abominable wickedness;
There is a twofold denial of God,
first, in words expressly and openly; secondly, in practice, closely and consequentially.
They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. There may be at once a professing of God, and a denial of him: many a man's practice speaks aloud, that there is no God, when he makes a fair confession and profession of him with his mouth and tongue.
Learn, 3. That no sorts of persons are so odious to God, and abominable in his sight, as those who make a profession of his holy name and truth, but walk contrary in their lives to their profession.
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