Lesson 13: Introducing the Book of Titus

Book of TITUS

 Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome again! This is lesson #13. In this lesson we would like to introduce the book of Titus. This book was written by the same apostle, i.e. the apostle Paul, which wrote I-Timothy, i.e. the book we just completed and also, of course, the book of II-Timothy, (that we are still looking forward to). You recognize, I trust, for us to cover the book of Titus here (at this point in time) is not in the order these books occur in the New Testament. The usual order is to cover I & II-Timothy before covering Titus. However, we are departing from that order in this study for a good reason: that reason is (we have said before), it is evident that the book of II-Timothy was the last letter that Paul wrote. Thus, the chronological order is either I-Timothy or Titus, whichever came first (we cannot be absolutely sure on this) and then finally near the end of Paul's life (only a few month or possibly a year or two at the very most, after Paul wrote I-Timothy and Titus) came the book of II-Timothy. We will deal with those final details in a little more depth when we get to that book of Second Timothy. However, it is evident, that very much like I-Timothy, the book of Titus was written after Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment and before he was returned to that Roman jail the second time. Which undoubtedly means these two books (i.e. Titus and I-Timothy) should be dated somewhere between AD 63 and AD 65-66, at the latest.
     You will recall, I trust, in introducing this study back in lesson #1, we discussed both Timothy and Titus as Paul's preacher companions in travel during what we usually term Paul's missionary journeys. Just as Paul had besought (or encouraged) Timothy to go to Ephesus; Paul also besought and encouraged Titus to work in Crete. In this book of Titus (1:5), we find these words from the apostle to this preacher we're considering named: Titus, (Paul said:) "For this cause left I thee in Crete..." If I understand those words correctly, it implies that Paul had been in, i.e. visited, this island called Crete and had then departed Crete leaving this preacher (named Titus) there in Crete, just as Timothy was left (or sent, this is not exactly clear) to Ephesus.
     As we have said, Crete was  an island (possibly 150 miles long and averaging maybe 25 miles wide). The island of Crete is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Crete lays in what I would call the mouth of the Aegean Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean. The Aegean Sea is that body of water between Asia Minor and Greece (or Achaia) using the ancient name for it. Scattered through this island, at the time of Paul, were several cities, I would assume. I'm not sure which city (or cities) it was where Paul left Titus. Possibly the capital city or one of the larger cities in that island, I would suspect. However, keep THIS distinction clearly in mind: Timothy was in a very large city, one of the largest in the Roman empire, i.e. the city of Ephesus. Whereas, Titus on the other hand was in a small country called: Crete (under Roman control, of course) and the cities were much, much smaller, (and whereas) Timothy was dealing with one large metropolitan congregation it would appear, Titus on the other hand was dealing with several small congregations (at least more than one) located in small cities or villages. Now, you need to turn the tape player off, at least hit "pause" just a minute and take the time (right, now) to turn to your maps and observe the location of Crete in relation to Rome, in relation to Ephesus, in relation to Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, (etc.). Actually, the western end of the island of Crete is almost directly south of Corinth by about 150-200 miles. The eastern end of Crete is perhaps just about that same distance (150-200 miles) south of Ephesus. As a matter of fact, if you were to draw lines connecting these places it would form a square, at least a rough looking square. Now, please take time out (right here) and do a little geography refresher.
     When you have done that, then, let's review just a minute. Where have we run across this place before? I'm talking about Crete! Going back in the book of Acts, can you remember anything about Crete? Back in something like the year of AD 60, after Paul had spent two years in that Caesarean jail and after Paul had appealed to Caesar, it was during the time when Paul was being escorted to Rome from Caesarea by that centurion named Julius (Acts 27:1), by ship: that they sailed by this island and anchored in a harbor either at or near Fair Havens and also close to the city of Lasea (Acts 27:8), which is just about mid-island on the south side of Crete. They anchored there in the late fall or early winter and one day whenever the winds were blowing right, or at least satisfactory to the task of moving the ship, the ship captain tried to move his ship from that harbor westward to another harbor closer to the west end of the island, a better place to winter for some reason, a harbor called: Phoinix (or city # 46 on your old Acts-Map-Worksheet, if you still have that). It was during this moving maneuver, i.e. as they were trying to get the sails up a little and stay close to shore; that the wind suddenly changed. This change in wind was so sudden, they didn't make the harbor of Phoinix and the ship was swept out to sea, and I trust you remember the rest of that story, (that Acts ch. 27). Incidentally, if I might interrupt just a moment, if you still have your map in your hand; let me make a point, right here. The city of Phoinix (in the Bible I have) is spelled P-H-0-I-N-I-X. In your Bible, these names may be slightly different, e.g. I just checked this in an ASV and this city in Crete (I'm talking about Acts 27:12) is spelled there P-H-0-E-N-I-X. And you'll find other variations. As a matter of fact, several people have written to me to tell me it is misspelled in the ACTS Course. However, the problem here, as we have said, is that spellings vary. Different translations and different publishers spell it differently. So, don't let that up-set you. You will find many examples of this, especially in writings that have been translated and re-translated such as these writings. As a matter of fact, not only has the spelling changed over the years; some place names have changed completely...and to complicate things even more, some place names have changed (over the years) more than once. So, as I said, don't let the spelling up-set you. Some modern versions try to use modern place names whereas others retain the ancient names, you see. There's usually always some explanation when you try to track these things down. Well, if you'll excuse this little excursion (here); we'll get back to Titus, O.K.?
     Then, by way of review, what do you remember about Titus? This preacher was a Gentile. (Back in lesson # 1), we said Titus was mentioned first by Luke (in Acts ch. 15). Now, it might interest you (if you'll check that reference, Acts 15:2), Titus was not mentioned there by name. That reference merely says, "certain others of them...," i.e. went up with Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. However, we learn later that Titus was in that group (we learn this in Gal. 2:3, Paul in making reference back to this occasion, said: "Titus, who was with me..." so and so); thus, finally identifying this young man as part of their company (on that occasion back in Acts 15:2). Verse 5, there in Acts ch. 15, identifies a sect of the Pharisees, i.e. what we usually term the Judaeizers, as teaching: "it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses," i.e. for Christians to be saved (now, connecting it back to Acts 15:1). This was sometime (I don't know how long); but, sometime after the Gentiles were grafted in at the household of Cornelius, so-to-speak. Now, some commentators try to connect Gal. 2:3 with the trip Paul and Barnabas made in  Acts 11:30. I'm inclined to think that is wrong. The so-called conference (Acts ch. 15) dealt with circumcision, when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem. This is verified more than once in the chapter and coincides with the disputing (etc.)- What the Judaeizers were teaching was not even true of Jews, let alone the Gentiles, if you go back to Peter's vision on the roof-top of Simon the tanner's house at Joppa by the seaside. And, if you have a little trouble deciphering that principle from Acts ch. 10, i.e. if Peter's vision there on the roof-top leaves you a little muddled; may I suggest you re-read Acts 15:7-8-9-10-11, where Peter himself restates this, Luke quoting Peter's own words. Neither the Gentiles (nor anyone for that matter) was/are required to be circumcised nor to keep the law of Moses to be saved...it couldn't be said plainer. Titus was not circumcised (Gal. 2:3). However, Titus, then a young man at Antioch (likely a native of Antioch), apparently got caught-up in the crossfire of this Judeaizing conflict, if I might call it that. He, I would infer, just wanted to do what was right. But, there was so much smoke in the air generated by this Judaeizing doctrinal conflict; that he apparently didn't know what to do or what was right. This is the terrible by-product of doctrinal error, it's so difficult to correct when you deal with honest truth seeking people who are being bombarded by conflicting views. It is very confusing to them usually at a time when they are not grounded enough to easily sort it out for themselves. The elders at Antioch (I would guess, trying to resolve this with the very least put-down to the Judaeizers) sent a delegation to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles and elders. Paul and Barnabas were the leaders of the group that was sent which (as I have said) included Titus, the young man who was evidently at the very center of this conflict. The apostles and elders at Jerusalem said that Paul and Barnabas were absolutely right and they went on further to say that the Judeaizers were just flat wrong and went so far as to write a letter to convey this message, as well as, to send a couple men from the Jerusalem congregation to tell them the samething by mouth. So, it would appear that from that time forward, Titus was constantly involved in preaching, teaching and associated with the apostle Paul, possibly in a little more remote way than Timothy. And, I think it's a pretty safe bet (let's say, a safe guess) that Titus was taught and baptized by Paul. Early-on in the book of Titus (1:4), Paul addressed Titus as: "mine own son after the common faith..." This is usually interpreted to mean Titus was converted at the hands of Paul. It is quite evident that Titus delivered Paul's letter to the Corinthians (the letter we call Second Corinthins). I am inclined to think he delivered what we call the letter of First Corinthians also. This preacher, Titus, worked with the Corinthian congregation for some span of time under rather trying circumstances, i.e. in the face of real doctrinal problems, this is evident from the book of Second Corinthians. There is a lot written between the lines in II-Cor. ch. 7-8-9 if you'll take the time to read that slow and digest it in relation to Titus. The timing of the work that Titus had begun in Corinth (II-Cor. 8:6) and the letter mentioned in II-Cor. 7:6-9 would mean that Titus came to Corinth from Ephesus, i.e. where Paul was located a year earlier, I'm talking about one year before the book of II-Corinthians was written. In the Corinthian doctrinal conflict as we have called it, Titus seems to have won out, i.e. he had a positive influence toward getting things corrected in the Corinth congregation. Thus, what is said about Titus seems to be less than what we know about Timothy; nevertheless, what is said with reference to Titus, his preaching experience and his obedience coming from a Gentile background seems to build a strong resume that would commend him for handling the work in Crete. He may have had a little tougher personality than Timothy, this is subjective of course. What I'm saying is: the work in Crete (i.e. the churches there) it is evident had some serious doctrinal problems and beyond that there was the really knotty problem that involved morality.
With that much said, let's back up a moment and think about background. We do not know who established this Cretan church(s). Some Cretes are mentioned as being present on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). That's a possibility, somewhat like the church in Rome. Who were the first members and just when and where it first began is not said. Also, if we date this book about AD 65 (give or take a year or two), it was then more than 30 years after the time of Jesus' resurrection from the dead and after the church was established on Pentecost. Thus, there were three decades of time or a generation of possibilities. It is not likely the Cretan churches were established by the apostle Paul or his associates. We can't rule that out; but, it would be hard to find a time during Paul’s missionary journeys unless these were new churches which again is not likely.
Now, in the moments we have left; what do we know about the problems in the Cretan churches? It would seem to me they were infested with false teachers very much as the problem at Ephesus that we just covered with which Timothy was grappling. These false teachers Paul describes as "vain talkers and deceivers." Beyond that, Paul identifies them as being "they of the circumcision," (1:10) which means they were Jews or what we might guess was really some more of the Judaeizing sect(s) that we have covered before. This was certainly nothing new to Titus. That corresponds to the "giving heed to Jewish fables" etc., (down in v.14). However, the nature of the Cretan people seems to have been more easy going, and I sense less ambitious and less moral in some respects than the Ephesians with which Timothy was abiding. Paul quotes some of the Cretan poets as saying the Cretans were "always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies," (that's in 1:12), and Paul said, it's true and thus encouraged Titus to "rebuke them sharply." We'll get to more detail (here) as we get into our textual study.
Remember, as we close this introduction, that this was written to a preacher, a gospel preacher. As has already been said, this is about as close to a preacher school as you can find in the New Testament. Paul covers elder qualification and again this is covered from the standpoint of a gospel preacher. This was not written to pastors, or elders and therefore the term pastoral epistle as commonly used by our denominational friends and neighbors is a wrong designation. In ch. 2, the apostle covers the different social groups very much like the letter he wrote to Timothy, i.e. the older men, younger men, older women, younger women and slaves or servants. Also, the apostle does a quickie restatement of the gospel in ch. 3, that may remind you a little of the Colossian letter. As he closed, Paul gave them another of his "faithful saying." In the final closing, he had some personal instruction for Titus. I suggest you do a quickie reading of the whole book before our next lesson (it's only 46 v.). See what you can harvest! I'll be with you in lesson #14; until then, have a good day.


 

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