The book of Titus is one of three Pastoral Epistles written by the apostle Paul. This personal letter contains ministerial training and help for the entire Church.
Some sources say the name Titus means “honorable.” The apostle Paul clearly shows he appreciated this special son in the faith by the way he addresses him in this very personal and to-the-point letter.
Titus was of gentile heritage and remained uncircumcised, as can be seen from Galatians 2:1-3. This passage shows Titus accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, and other passages show he assisted Paul on some of his journeys (2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 8:6, 16).
The letter to Titus shows the concerns both men had for the challenges the members of the Church of God faced. They shared a trusted relationship with each other based upon their calling and belief in God and Titus’ desire to do things in an honorable and godly way.
Titus was in Crete when he received the letter, and he would later move to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10) where the members would benefit from all that he had learned and experienced under Paul’s instruction.
An outline of Titus
The New Bible Dictionary outlines the epistle of Titus this way:
- Chapter 1:1-4: Paul’s greeting to Titus.
- Chapter 1:5-9: The kind of men Titus must appoint as elders.
- Chapter 1:10-16: The Cretan false teachers.
- Chapter 2:1-10: Christian behavior.
- Chapter 2:11 through 3:7: Christian teaching.
- Chapter 3:8-15: Closing admonitions to Titus.
Another way to summarize the book looks at Paul’s instructions to Titus to:
- Set in order the things that were lacking (1:5).
- Ordain elders in every city (1:5).
- Teach sound doctrine (2:1).
- Avoid unprofitable discussion (3:9).
- Duly assert his authority (3:10).
A personal letter
As is the case with Paul’s Pastoral Epistles to his other son in the faith, Timothy, in this letter Paul is personal and encouraging. (The three Pastoral Epistles are addressed specifically to a minister, while most of Paul’s other letters are addressed to church congregations.) Paul reaffirms his absolute confidence in God’s promise of eternal life, because God cannot lie (1:2). Paul then gives Titus the commission to “set in order the things that are lacking” in Crete (1:5).
Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every city and explains what to look for in a ministerial candidate. All who are to be ordained must meet the qualifications described in 1:6-9 (see also 1 Timothy 3:1-7).
After describing the moral and ethical standards required of a minister, Paul encourages all to be sound in doctrine—an important issue at all times for the Church. The elders are to encourage the members by showing them where false teachers are wrong.
Paul quotes a poet from Crete who said the Cretans were known as habitual liars and extremely self-serving (1:12). Because of this, Paul tells Titus to deal firmly with those who were insubordinate, as verses 13-16 show.
So chapter 1 makes it clear that the Church, its ministry and members must live by the ethical codes that follow throughout this letter.
Instructions for the Church
The Pastoral Epistles contain teaching specifically for the ministry and for the ministry to share with the Church. Paul guides both Titus and Timothy to recognize the need for proper behavior by all.
Paul teaches Titus that he must set the example, living rightly, speaking soundly and avoiding pointless arguments that lead to strife and no good conclusions.In Titus chapter 2 Paul addresses the actions of members in different categories: older men, older women, young women, young men and bondservants. And Paul teaches Titus that he must set the example, living rightly, speaking soundly and avoiding pointless arguments that lead to strife and no good conclusions.
Before he finishes chapter 2, Paul emphasizes Christ’s return and salvation being offered to all men. Good works and righteous behavior are required from all. Paul tells Titus to use ministerial authority to exhort or rebuke when needed.
Actions speak louder than words
Chapter 3 is a good study in relationships. Paul reminds Titus that this life is a learning experience as we relate to others, including those in authority. We must be patient and understanding with all. Verses 3-5 remind us of the kindness, love and mercy God extends to us when we repent of our sins and are baptized so we may receive the Holy Spirit.
Dissension over doctrines was rampant in many areas, and Paul tells Titus to hold fast the truth as he had learned it from Paul. Verses 9-11 teach that we cannot suffer contention forever. Disruption and seemingly willful division do not belong in the Church of God.
The bottom line
All must face the challenges of being true followers of Christ and deal with the problems as they emerge. All must learn to apply the principles taught by God’s law.
Being faithful to God, who has promised eternal life and who cannot lie, is the right approach all must adhere to.
Paul’s instruction to Titus describes the way faithful ministers must behave, showing genuine care and a heart for the flock that they have the privilege of serving.