STUDIES IN TITUS
“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught…” (Titus 1:7ff)
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. (Titus 3:9-15)
St. Paul begins the third chapter with encouragement
“to be ready for every good work” and concludes with an appeal to the people to “learn to maintain good works….”
Included in the exercise of good works is avoiding speaking evil of anyone. It is instead a fruit of faith—a good work—to manifest peace, gentleness, and humility to all. Such godly works were not part of their pre-conversion life.
Note that the apostle includes himself in the indictment of their former attitude when he says to the Christians in Crete that “we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived…hateful and hating one another” (vv. 2-3).
That former attitude had been overcome by the power of God in the gospel. Having been justified by grace, they had been made “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (v. 7). Because they were surrounded by hateful people, the Christians in Crete “should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (v. 8).
The temptation is to push back against the enemy in the manner he has pushed us. The antidote to such a retrograde attitude is to remember the goodness and the grace of God by which we ourselves have been rescued from sin and death.
This enlivens Christ-believers to glorify the Lord Jesus in their responses to the world around them. Further, the grace of God fills them with a desire to act and speak in such a manner that may bring others to the Savior.
Christ-believers are a positive influence when they remember from whence they themselves have been rescued, and when they remember who it is that has called them out of “misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice” (as Luther puts it in the sixth petition).
But the Lord has also called us to wisdom and to a life of discernment. Not only is the manner of speaking important, but the contents are important as well.
Discussions that do not witness to the love of God, the mercy of Christ, and the power of the gospel are unprofitable and useless. They do not edify and build up the faith of individuals and the body of Christ.
The apostle teaches that false teachers overtly attack the truth or try to undermine it through “foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law” (v. 9). Apparently Judaizers were trying to return Christians to the ceremonial aspects of the law from which they had been freed in Christ.
In any disagreement over doctrine little is gained by argument or logic. We will counter with the Word of Truth, knowing that the Spirit is the great Convincer, and His Word has power to turn hearts!
But we are to be alert to the intrusion of error. We will admonish and instruct, but when false doctrine is being held to, we will not listen to the errorists, identify with them, or give them a pulpit for their propaganda. Such false teachers are to be rejected so that the truth of God is preserved among us, as well as for the preservation of our own faith.
A further purpose is to demonstrate to the heretic the seriousness of his departure from the Good Shepherd.
St. Paul concludes the letter to Titus with various expressions which extol the beauty of fellowship in the Lord. Fellowship in the Lord manifests itself in mutual love and care for the welfare of others, even as it offers brotherly admonition so that each—as the Lord gives ability and opportunity—will “learn to maintain good works.”
Paul closes as he began, “Grace be with you all. Amen.”