Titus 3Observe here, that in those early days of Christianity, great scandal was brought upon religion by the undutiful carriage of servants and subjects towards their masters and magistrates; and this upon a false notion of Christian liberty, advanced and propagated by the false apostles, judaizing teachers, and gnostic libertines; whereupon he requires Titus to put Christians in mind of their duty in that particular, and to inculcate it earnestly upon them, that the Christian religion might not be slandered upon this account. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers.
Learn hence, that the duty of subjection to governors and governments, and of obedience to magistrates and rulers, is of very great importance, and ought to be enforced and frequently inculcated upon the people by the ministers of God; because by nature all men desire liberty, and to cast off the yoke of God. Every one would rule and govern, although the duty of subjection be much the easier duty.
2. From St. Paul's pressing Titus to preach up the doctrine of obedience and subjection to governors and government, learn, That there is no such way and method to bring the world to live regularly under government, like planting the gospel among them, and making them subject to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Calumny and evil-speaking has been a reigning vice in all ages, and a greater guilt is contracted by it than men apprehend; every man ought to be as just to his neighbour's reputation as his own:
if what we report of another we know to be false, it is downright lying;
if what we report of others we believe to be false, it is slander;
if what evil we report of others be really true, and we know it to be so, yet it is defamation, and contrary to that charity and goodness which Christianity requires;
for to divulge the faults of others, though they be really guilty of them, without necessity, is certainly a sin, and included in this apostolic prohibition: to think and speak evil of others, is not only a bad thing, but a sign of a bad man; and in many cases it is as great charity to conceal an evil we hear of our neighbour, as it is to relieve him in his distress.
The next exhortation is, to be no brawlers; in the original, no fighters; that is, neither with tongue nor hand, but meek and gentle, putting up a double wrong, rather than revenge a single injury, using all meekness towards all men. Meekness pacifies wrath, and conquers animosity to a wonder, making him tame and gentle, who by opposition is furious and implacable: the hardest flint is sooner broken upon a pillow or cushion that gently yieldeth, than upon a bar of iron that furiously resisteth.
Here we have a very weighty reason laid down by our apostle, why Christians should be found in the practice of the forementioned virtues of equity and lenity, of patience and charity, of meekness and long-suffering, one towards another; namely, because before their conversion they themselves lived in the practice of the fore-mentioned vices, as well as others: We ourselves also were foolish, disobedient, &c., that is, the servants of sin, and slaves to our lusts, suffering wrath to rest in our bosoms, till it boiled up to revenge: having formerly therefore been such ourselves, we ought to pity rather than spurn at those that are so still.
No argument will more effectually incline and dispose us to pity the miscarriages of others, than the consideration, that we ourselves are prone unto, and have heretofore been guilty of, the same or the like provocations ourselves.
As if our apostle had said, though in our heathenish and unconverted state we were as bad and vile as any, yet no sooner did the loving-kindness of God to fallen man appear, by the illumination of the gospel, and the communication of his grace, not for any good works or deserts of ours, but of his mere mercy and free goodness, he saved us from that state of sin and misery by regeneration, signified and sealed in baptism, and by renewing of the Holy Ghost, which Holy Spirit was poured forth in an extraordinary measure upon us (according to promise) after Christ's resurrection.
Here observe, How every person in the Trinity acts distinctly in the work of our salvation;
1. The fontal cause, the spring and source of our happiness, lies in the kindness and love of God the Father.
2. The meritorious and procuring cause of the application of this love, is Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption and mediation.
3. The immediate and efficient cause of the communication of that love of God the Father, procured through the mediation of Christ the Son, is the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.
That is, which Holy Spirit was in its gifts and graces plentifully poured forth upon us, and dwelleth in us, not essentially, but energetically, illuminating, guiding, strengthening, and confirming of us: and the end of God herein is, That being justified by his grace, that is, by faith in his Son, we should be made heirs of eternal life, according to the hope which the promises of God have given us thereof.
Learn hence, 1. That all the grace which is so plentiful poured forth upon believers, is by the means and mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Learn, 2. That justification being a sinner's absolution from guilt and punishment by the satisfaction of Christ the Redeemer, is yet an act of special grace and free favour in God, That being justified by his grace.
Learn, 3. That it is the blessed privilege of all justified persons, that they are now heirs to, and shall ere long be possessors of, eternal life; they shall ere long have in hand, what they now possess in hope: Being justified by grace, we are heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Our apostle having in the foregoing verses spoken of justification by grace without works of righteousness, doth here immediately give a strict and solemn charge to Titus, to press the necessity of good works upon those who did believe and embrace the gospel, on purpose to prevent all mistake and abuse of the doctrine of justification by faith, and free grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ; intimating, that they who are justified by the faith of the gospel, should be so far from thinking themselves hereby excused from good works, that they ought upon that account to be the more careful to maintain and practise them, because, by the very profession of the Christian faith and religion, they have solemnly engaged themselves so to do.
Observe here, 1. That the great design of Christianity, and the end of God in the revelation of the gospel, was to reform the lives and manners of men, and to oblige all persons both to be good and to do good.
Learn, 2. From the apostle's vehement asseveration, This is a faithful saying, and his solemn charge, These things I will that thou affirm constantly, that there have been persons in all ages, who have exalted the virtue of faith, if not intentionally, yet indiscreetly, to the prejudice and neglect of a good life.
As if by a mere speculative belief and profession of Christianity, men were discharged from the practice of moral duties. God grant that the decried morality of some persons may be an integral part of my religion.
Learn, 3. That though good works are not necessary before justification to bring us into a justified state, yet they are necessary after justification, in order to our continuance in that state; Not by works of righteousness which we have done, that is, before faith; but he doth not exclude the works of righteousness in the least, that they should hereafter do by virtue of the new nature given to them, from being conditions of their future happiness. As morality doth not make faith useless, so neither doth faith bring any excuse for immorality.
Learn, 4. That it is not sufficient that believers do good works, but they must maintain good works: the words signify they must be patterns and precedents, they must be eminent and excelling in good works: and let their faith be never so excellent, if they do not add to their faith virtue, it is but fancy, a strong faith built upon a weak foundation.
We have the same charge given to Timothy. 1Tim 1:4 See the Note upon it. And learn hence, That disputes about matters which only serve to beget strife and contention, and tend little to our edification in faith and holiness, are vain talk and unprofitable disputes, to be declined and avoided by all wise and serious Christians. Avoid foolish questions, for they are unprofitable and vain.
As if the apostle had said, Avoid and shun, and refuse communion with, him that doth obstinately persist in dangerous errors and heresies, and accordingly let him be excommunicated.
Learn hence, 1. Who is an heretic in the apostle's sense; even he who is preverted from the true faith, and holds opinions which subvert the foundations of it; and one who is condemned in his own conscience, and sins against his own convictions: for the apostle here bids Titus not to inform him of his fault, which shows him that the crime lay not in his head, in his understanding, but in his will and affections: for no man who acts according to his judgment and conscience, how erroneous soever, is self-condemned in that action.
Learn, 2. That even heretics themselves ought to be tenderly and lovingly dealt with, so long as there is any hope that they may be gained or won.
Learn, 3. That the charity of the church, in her censure of excomminication, aims rather at the cutting off errors than of persons.
Our apostle having finished all such common precepts as respected the whole church in Crete, he now passeth to such private affairs as did more particularly respect the person of Titus and himself.
First, he desires Titus to come to him to Nicopolis from Crete, but not before he had sent thither Artemas of Tychicus to officiate in his place. Wonderful care of the holy apostle! and a mighty concern for the welfare of the churches! St. Paul very well knew how fatal and dangerous it might be to the churches to be left destitute of their spiritual guides, though for a very small time. St. Paul knew the malice of the devil, the subtility of seducers, and the weakness of Christians' faith, too well, to give all or any of them advantages of doing mischief on the absence of Titus from them.
Here we have a second private affair which is given in charge to Titus, namely, that he help forward on their journey Zenas and Apollos, both apostolic men, the former an expounder of the law of Moses, the other an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures; both these cleaved to St. Paul, and therefore were worthily to be respected by Titus, whom the apostle therefore bids him be kind and courteous to, and help them forward with their journey.
Learn thence, That Christianity is no enemy to, but a great promoter of, all offices of humanity and civil courtesy towards all persons, towards strangers particularly, towards good men especially.
Observe next, St. Paul desires Titus to take care that those servants of God be so supplied, that they lack nothing; such as are engaged in the Lord's work must be carefully provided for, and care taken that they lack nothing.
Let ours, that is, either,
1. Those of our order, the ministers of the gospel, or
2. those that are our converts, such as are Christians,
let them study to excel in good works, be diligent in the labours of their calling, that they may have wherewith to supply the necessities of others, to the intent that they may not appear unfruitful.
Learn hence, That as Christianity is no barren and fruitless profession, but all persons professing religion ought to take care that good works may accompany their faith; so the ministers of Christ in special ought to be careful herein, and by no means to bind that duty upon others, which they do not practise themselves; they must by charity and good works second their doctrine, and so win persons to a love of religion.
All that are with me salute thee.--By these words St. Paul gives Titus to understand, that all the Christians that were then with him did embrace him with an endearing and loving affection, and would have their mindfulness of him witnessed by a kind and familiar salutation. These salutations had more in them than humanity, civility, and common courtesy; they were attestations of a truly Christian love and brotherly affection of one member of Christ towards another, for grace's sake.
Greet them that love us in the faith--That is, as Christians, as brethern, and fellow-members in Christ, Verus Amicus qui vere & in Deo diligit. Grace binds man to man in the strongest and most indissoluble bonds and ties.
Grace be with you all. Amen.--This is the salutation of St. Paul, always written with his own hand, in all his epistles, although the epistles themselves were writ by others; he did it to prevent counterfeits, that no spurious writings might be obtruded upon the church: and whereas he says, Grace be with you all, it plainly intimates, that although this epistle be written by name to Titus, that yet it was intended for the benefit and advantage of the whole church.
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