1 Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
1 Paulus servus Dei, Apostolus autem Iesu Christi, secundum fidem electorum Dei et agnitionem veritatis ejus, quæ secundum pietatem est,
2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
2 In spe (vel, propter spem) vitæ æternæ, quam promisit is, qui mentiri non potest, Deus, ante tempora secularia;
3 But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me, according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
3 Manifestavit autem propriis temporibus sermonem suum (vel, per sermonem) in prædicatione, quæ mihi commissa est secundum ordinationem Servatoris nostri Dei:
4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.
4 Tito germano filio, secundum communem fidem, gratia, misericordia, pax a Deo Patre et Domino Iesu Christo Servatore nostro.
1. A servant of God.
This extended and laborious commendation of his apostleship shows that Paul had in view the whole Church, and not Titus alone; for his apostleship was not disputed by Titus, and Paul is in the habit of proclaiming the titles of his calling, in order to maintain his authority. Accordingly, just as he perceives those to whom he writes to be disposed, he deals largely or sparingly in those ornaments. Here his design was, to bring into subjection those who had haughtily rebelled; and for this reason he extols his apostleship in lofty terms. He, therefore, writes this Epistle, not that it may be read in solitude by Titus in his closet, but that it may be openly published.
An Apostle of Jesus Christ.
First, he calls himself “a servant of God,” and next adds the particular kind of his ministry, namely, that he is “an Apostle of Christ;” for there are various ranks among the servants of God. Thus he descends from the general description to the particular class. We ought also to keep in remembrance what I have said elsewhere, that the word servant means something else than ordinary subjection, (on account of which all believers are called “servants of God,”) and denotes a minister who has received a particular office. In this sense the prophets were formerly distinguished by this title, and Christ himself is the chief of the prophets: “Behold my servant, I have chosen him.” (Isa. 42:1.) Thus David, with a view to his royal dignity, calls himself “a servant of God.” Perhaps, also, it is on account of the Jews that he designates himself “a servant of God;” for they were wont to lower his authority by alleging the law against him. He, therefore, wishes to be accounted an Apostle of Christ in such a manner that he may likewise glory in being a servant of the eternal God. Thus he shows not only that those two titles are quite consistent with each other, but that they are joined by a bond which cannot be dissolved.
According to the faith of the elect of God.
If any one doubt about his apostleship, he procures credit for it by a very strong reason, connecting it with the salvation “of the elect of God.” As if he had said, “There is a mutual agreement between my apostleship and the faith of the elect of God; and, therefore, it will not be rejected by any man who is not a reprobate and opposed to the true faith.”
By “the elect” he means not only those who were at that time alive, but all that had been from the beginning of the world; for he declares that he teaches no doctrine which does not agree with the faith of Abraham and of all the fathers. So, then, if any person in the present day wishes to be accounted a successor of Paul, he must prove that he is the minister of the same doctrine. But these words contain also an implied contrast, that the gospel may suffer no damage from the unbelief and obstinacy of many; for at that time, as well as in the present day, weak minds were greatly disturbed by this scandal, that the greater part of those who boasted of the title of the Church rejected the pure doctrine of Christ. For this reason Paul shows that, though all indiscriminately boast of the name of God, there are many of that multitude who are reprobates; as he elsewhere (Rom. 9:7) affirms, that not all who are descended from Abraham according to the flesh, are the lawful children of Abraham.
And the knowledge of that truth.
I consider the copulative and to be here equivalent to that is; so that the passage might run thus: “according to the faith of the elect of God, that is, the knowledge of that truth which is according to godliness.” This clause explains what is the nature of that “faith” which he has mentioned, though it is not a full definition of it, but a description framed so as to apply to the present context. For the purpose of maintaining that his apostleship is free from all imposture and error, he solemnly declares that it contains nothing but known and ascertained truth, by which men are instructed in the pure worship of God. But as every word has its own weight, it is highly proper to enter into a detailed explanation.
First, when “faith” is called “knowledge,” it is distinguished not only from opinion, but from that shapeless faith which the Papists have contrived; for they have forged an implicit faith destitute of all light of the understanding. But when Paul describes it to be a quality which essentially belongs to faith—to know the truth, he plainly shews that there is no faith without knowledge.
The word truth expresses still more clearly the certainty which is demanded by the nature of faith; for faith is not satisfied with probable arguments, but holds what is true. Besides, he does not speak of every kind of truth, but of the heavenly doctrine, which is contrasted with the vanity of the human understanding. As God has revealed himself to us by means of that truth, so it is alone worthy of the honour of being called “the truth”—a name which is bestowed on it in many parts of Scripture. “And the Spirit will lead you into all truth.” (John 16:13.) “Thy word is the truth.” (John 17:17.) “Who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 3:1.) “Having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of the Son of God.” (Col. 1:5.) “He wisheth all to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4.) “The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15.) In a word, that truth is the right and sincere knowledge of God, which frees us from all error and falsehood. So much the more ought it to be valued by us, since nothing is more wretched than to wander like cattle during our whole life.
Which is according to godliness.
This clause especially limits “the truth” of which he had spoken, but at the same time commends the doctrine of Paul from the fruit and end of it, because it has no other object than that God should be worshipped in a right manner, and that pure religion should flourish among men. In this manner he defends his doctrine from every suspicion of vain curiosity, as he did before Felix, (Acts 24:10,) and afterwards before Agrippa, (Acts 26:1;) for, since all questions which do not tend to edification ought justly to be suspected and even hated by good men, the only lawful commendation of doctrine is this, that it instructs us to fear God and to bow before him with reverence. And hence we are also informed, that the greater progress any one has made in godliness, he is so much the better disciple of Christ; and that he ought to be reckoned a true theologian who edifies consciences in the fear of God.
2. In the hope (or, on account of the hope) of eternal life.
This undoubtedly denotes the cause; for that is the force of the Greek preposition ἐπί, upon; and therefore it may be translated, “On account of the hope,” or “On the hope.” True religion and the practice of godliness—begin with meditation or the heavenly life; and in like manner, when Paul (Col. 1:5) praises the faith and love of the Colossians, he makes the cause and foundation of them to be “the hope laid up in heaven.” The Sadducees and all who confine our hope to this world, whatever they may pretend, can do nothing else than produce contempt of God, while they reduce men to the condition of cattle. Accordingly, it ought always to be the aim of a good teacher, to turn away the eyes of men from the world, that they may look up to heaven. I readily acknowledge that we ought to value the glory of God more highly than our salvation; but we are not now discussing the question which of these two ought to be first in order. All that I say is—that men never seek God in a right manner till they have confidence to approach to him; and, therefore, that we never apply our mind to godliness till we have been instructed about the hope of the heavenly life.
Which God promised before the times of ages.
As Augustine translated the words, πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων to mean—not “the times of ages” but “eternal times,” he gives himself great uneasiness about “the eternity of times,” till at length he explains “eternal times” as denoting those which go beyond all antiquity. As to the meaning, he and Jerome and other commentators agree, that God determined, before the creation of the world, to give that salvation which he hath now manifested by the gospel. Thus Paul would have used the word promise incorrectly instead of decree; for before men existed there was no one to whom he could promise.
For this reason, while I do not reject this exposition, yet when I take a close survey of the whole matter, I am constrained to adopt a different interpretation—that eternal life was promised to men many ages ago, and not only to those who lived at that time, but also for our own age. It was not for the benefit of Abraham alone, but with a view to all who should live after him, that God said, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18.) Nor is this inconsistent with what he says, in another sense, (2 Tim. 1:9) that salvation was given to men “before the times of ages.” The meaning of the word is still the same in both passages; for, since the Greek word αἰών denotes an uninterrupted succession of time from the beginning to the end of the world, Paul declares, in that passage, that salvation was given or decreed for the elect of God before times began to flow. But because in this passage he treats of the promise, he does not include all ages, so as to lead us back beyond the creation of the world, but shews that many ages have elapsed since salvation was promised.
If any person prefer to view “the times of ages” as a concise expression for the ages themselves, he is at liberty to do so. But because salvation was given by the eternal election of God before it was promised, the act of giving salvation is put in that passage (2 Tim. 1:9) before all ages, and therefore we must supply the word all. But here it means nothing more than that the promise is more ancient than a long course of ages, because it began immediately after the creation of the world. In the same sense he shews that the gospel, which was to have been proclaimed when Christ rose from the dead, had been promised in the Scriptures by the prophets; for there is a wide difference between the promise which was formerly given to the fathers and the present exhibition of grace.
Who cannot lie.
This expression (ἀψευδής) is added for glorifying God, and still more for confirming our faith. And, indeed, whenever the subject treated of is our salvation, we ought to recollect that it is founded on the word of Him who can neither deceive nor lie. Moreover, the only proof of the whole of religion is—the unchangeable truth of God.
3. But hath manifested.
There was indeed some manifestation of this kind, when God in ancient times spake by his prophets; but because Christ publicly displayed by his coming those things which they had obscurely predicted, and the Gentiles were afterwards admitted into the fellowship of the covenant, in this sense Paul says that what had formerly been exhibited in part “hath now been manifested.”
In his own times.
This has the same meaning as “the fulness of times.” (Gal. 4:4.) He reminds us that the time when it pleased the Lord to do this—must have been the most seasonable time for doing it; and he mentions this for the purpose of meeting the rashness of men, who have always the hardihood to inquire why it was not sooner, or why it is to-day rather than to-morrow. In order therefore that our curiosity may not exceed proper bounds, he shews that the “times” are placed in the hand, and at the disposal, of God, in such a manner that we ought to think that he does everything in the proper order and at the most seasonable time.
Or, by his word; for it is not uncommon with Greek writers to supply the preposition by. Or, he calls Christ the Word; if it be not thought preferable to supply something for the sake of completing the sentence. Were it not that the second exposition is a little forced, in other respects I should give it the preference. Thus John says, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what our hands have handled of the Word of life; and the life was manifested.” (1 John 1:1, 2.) I, therefore, prefer what is a simple meaning, that God hath manifested the word concerning the life by the preaching of the gospel.
The preaching, of which he speaks, is the gospel proclaimed, as the chief thing which we hear in it is—that Christ is given to us, and that in him there is life.
Which hath been committed to me.
Because all are not indiscriminately fit for so important an office, and no man ought to thrust himself into it, he asserts his calling, according to his custom. Here we ought to learn—what we have often remarked on other occasions—that the honour is not due to any man, till he has proved that God has ordained him; for even the ministers of Satan proudly boast that God has called them, but there is no truth in their words. Now Paul states nothing but what is known and proved, when he mentions his calling.
Besides, from this passage we learn for what purpose they were made apostles. It was for the sake of publishing the gospel, as he says elsewhere, “Woe to me if I preach not the gospel, for a dispensation is committed unto me.” (1 Cor. 9:16, 17.) Accordingly, they who enact dumb show, in the midst of idleness and luxury, are excessively impudent in boasting that they are the successors of the apostles.
Of God our Saviour.
He applies the same epithet to the Father and to Christ, so that each of them is our Saviour, but for a different reason; for the Father is called our Saviour, because he redeemed us by the death of his Son, that he might make us heirs of eternal life; and the Son, because he shed his blood as the pledge and the price of our salvation. Thus the Son hath brought salvation to us from the Father, and the Father hath bestowed it through the Son.
4. To Titus, my own son, according to the common faith.
Hence it is evident in what sense a minister of the word is said to beget spiritually those whom he brings to the obedience of Christ, that is, so that he himself is also begotten. Paul declares himself to be the father of Titus, with respect to his faith; but immediately adds, that this faith is common to both, so that both of them alike have the same Father in heaven. Accordingly, God does not diminish his own prerogative, when he pronounces those to be spiritual fathers along with himself, by whose ministry he regenerates whom he chooses; for of themselves they do nothing, but only by the efficacy of the Spirit. As to the remainder of the verse, the exposition of it will be found in the Commentaries on the former Epistles, and especially on the First Epistle to Timothy.
5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
5 Hujus rei gratia reliqui te in Creta, ut, quæ desunt, pergas corrigere, et constituas oppidatim presbyteros, quemadmodum tibi ordinavi:
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children, not accused of riot, or unruly.
6 Si quis est a crimine immunis, unius uxoris vir, liberos habens fideles, non infames ob lasciviam, non immorigeros.
5. For this reason I left thee in Crete.
This preface clearly proves, that Titus is not so much admonished on his own account as recommended to others, that no one may hinder him. Paul testifies that he has appointed him in his own room; and on that account all should acknowledge and receive him with reverence as the Apostle’s deputy. The apostles had no fixed place assigned to them, but were charged to spread the gospel through the whole world; and for this reason, when they left one city or district to go to another, they were wont to place fit men as their substitutes, to complete the work which they had begun. Thus Paul affirms that he founded the church of the Corinthians, but that there were other workmen,1 who must build on his foundation, that is, carry forward the building.
This, indeed, belongs to all pastors; for the churches will always stand in need of increase and progress, as long as the world shall endure. But in addition to the ordinary office of pastors, the care of organizing the church was committed to Titus. Till the churches have been already organized, and reduced to some order, pastors were not usually appointed over them. But Titus held some additional charge, which consisted in giving a form to churches that had not yet been properly arranged, and in appointing a fixed kind of government accompanied by discipline. Having laid the foundation, Paul departed; and then it became the duty of Titus to carry the work higher, that the building might have fair proportions.
This is what he calls correcting those things which are still wanting. The building of the Church is not a work so easy that it can be brought all at once to perfection. How long Paul was in Crete—is uncertain; but he had spent some time there, and had faithfully devoted his labours to erect the kingdom of Christ. He did not lack the most consummate skill that can be found in man; he was unwearied in toil; and yet he acknowledged that he left the work rough and incomplete. Hence we see the difficulty; and, indeed, we find, by experience, in the present day, that it is not the labour of one or two years to restore fallen churches to a tolerable condition. Accordingly, those who have made diligent progress for many years—must still be attentive to correct many things.
Here it is highly proper to observe the modesty of Paul who willingly permits another person to complete the work which he had begun. And, indeed, although Titus is greatly inferior to him, he does not refuse to have him for (ἐπανορθωτήν) a “corrector,” to give the finishing hand to his work. Such ought to be the dispositions of godly teachers; not that everyone should labour to make everything bend to his own ambitious views, but that they should strive to assist each other, and that, when any one has laboured more successfully, he should be congratulated and not envied by all the rest.
And yet we must not imagine that Paul intended that Titus should correct those things which he had left undone, either through ignorance, or forgetfulness, or carelessness, but those things which he could not finish on account of the shortness of the time. In short, he enjoined Titus to make that correction which he would himself have made, if he had remained longer in Crete; not by varying—not by changing anything, but by adding what was wanting; because the difficulty of such a work does not allow every part of it to be done in a single day.
And appoint presbyters in each city.
In the spiritual building this nearly comes next to doctrine, that pastors be ordained, to take charge of governing the Church; and therefore Paul mentions it here in preference to everything else. It is a point which ought to be carefully observed, that churches cannot safely remain without the ministry of pastors, and that consequently, wherever there is a considerable body of people, a pastor should be appointed over it. And yet he does not say that each town shall have a pastor, so that no place shall have more than one; but he means that no towns shall be destitute of pastors.
Presbyters or elders.
It is well known, that it was not on account of age, that they received this appellation; for sometimes those who were still young—such as Timothy—were admitted to this rank. But in all languages it has been customary to apply this honourable designation to all rulers. Although we may conclude, from 1 Tim. 5:17, that there were two classes of presbyters, the context will immediately show, that here none other than teachers are meant, that is, those who were ordained to teach; for immediately afterwards, he will call the same persons “bishops.”
But it may be thought that he gives too much power to Titus, when he bids him appoint ministers for all the churches. That would be almost royal power. Besides, this method takes away from each church the right of choosing, and from the College of Pastors the power of judging; and thus the sacred administration of the Church would be almost wholly profaned. The answer is easy. He does not give permission to Titus, that he alone may do everything in this matter, and may place over the churches those whom he thinks fit to appoint to be bishops; but only bids him preside, as moderator, at the elections, which is quite necessary. This mode of expression is very common. In the same manner, a consul, or regent, or dictator is said to have created consuls, on account of having presided over the public assembly in electing them.
Thus also Luke relates that Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every church. (Acts 14:23.) Not that they alone, in an authoritative manner, appointed pastors which the churches had neither approved nor known; but that they ordained fit men, who had been chosen or desired by the people. From this passage we do indeed learn, that there was not at that time such equality among the ministers of Christ but that some one had authority and deliberative voice above others; but this has nothing to do with the tyrannical and profane custom which prevails in Popery as to Collations. The apostles had a widely different mode of procedure.
6. If any one is blameless.
In order that no one may be angry with Titus, as if he were too rigorous or severe in rejecting any, Paul takes the whole blame to himself;1 for he declares that he has expressly commanded, that no one may be admitted, unless he be such a person as is here described. Accordingly, as he testified, a little before, that he had invested Titus with authority to preside in the appointment of pastors, that others might allow to him that right; so he now relates the injunction which he had given, lest the severity of Titus should be exposed to the ill-will of the ignorant, or the slanders of wicked men.
As this passage presents to us a lively portrait of a lawful bishop, we ought to observe it carefully; but, on the other hand, as almost everything that is here contained has been explained by me in the Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy, it will be enough at present to touch on it slightly. When he says, that a bishop must be ἀνέγκλητος, blameless, he does not mean one who is exempt from every vice, (for no such person could at any time be found,) but one who is marked by no disgrace that would lessen his authority. He means, therefore, that he shall be a man of unblemished reputation.
The husband of one wife.
The reason why this rule is laid down—has been explained by us in the Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy. Polygamy was so common among the Jews, that the wicked custom had nearly passed into a law. If any man had married two wives before he made a profession of Christianity, it would have been cruel to compel him to divorce one of them; and therefore the apostles endured what was in itself faulty, because they could not correct it. Besides, they who had involved themselves by marrying more than one wife at a time, even though they had been prepared to testify their repentance by retaining but one wife, had, nevertheless, given a sign of their incontinence, which might have been a brand on their good name. The meaning is the same as if Paul had enjoined them to elect those who had lived chastely in marriage—had been satisfied with having a single wife, and had forbidden those who had manifested the power of lust by marrying many wives. At the same time, he who, having become an unmarried man by the death of his wife, marries another, ought, nevertheless, to be accounted “the husband of one wife;” for the apostle does not say, that they shall choose him who has been, but him who is, “the husband of one wife.”
Having believing children.
Seeing that it is required that a pastor shall have prudence and gravity, it is proper that those qualities should be exhibited in his family; for how shall that man who cannot rule his own house—be able to govern the church! Besides, not only must the bishop himself be free from reproach, but his whole family ought to be a sort of mirror of chaste and honourable discipline; and, therefore, in the First Epistle to Timothy, he not less strictly enjoins their wives what they ought to be.
First, he demands that the children shall be “believers;” whence it is obvious that they have been educated in the sound doctrine of godliness, and in the fear of the Lord. Secondly, that they shall not be devoted to luxury, that they may be known to have been educated to temperance and frugality. Thirdly, that they shall not be disobedient; for he who cannot obtain from his children any reverence or subjection—will hardly be able to restrain the people by the bridle of discipline.
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
7 Oportet enim episcopum esse a crimine immunem, tanquam Dei œconomum, non præfractum, non iracundum, non vinosum, non percussorem, non turpiter lucro deditum;
8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
8 Sed hospitalem, studiosum benignitatis, temperantem, justum, sanctum, moderatum,
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
9 Tenacem fidelis sermonis, qui secundum doctrinam est, ut potens sit et exhortari per doctrinam sanam, et contradicentes convincere.
7. For a bishop ought to be blameless, as a governor of the house of God.
He again repeats, that they who aspire to the office of a bishop ought to retain an unspotted reputation; and he confirms it by this argument, that, because the Church is the house of God, every person who is appointed to govern it—is constituted, as it were, governor of the house of God. Now, he would be ill spoken of among men, who should take a scandalous and infamous person, and make him his steward; and therefore it would be far more base and intolerable to appoint such persons to be rulers of the household of God. The Latin word dispensator (steward or manager)—employed in the old translation, and retained by Erasmus—does not at all express Paul’s meaning; for, in order that greater care may be exercised in the election, he adorns the office of a bishop with this honourable eulogy, that it is a government of the house of God, as he says to Timothy, “That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to conduct thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15.)
This passage plainly shows that there is no distinction between a presbyter and a bishop; for he now calls indiscriminately, by the latter name, those whom he formerly called presbyters; and farther, in conducting this very argument, he employs both names in the same sense, without any distinction; as Jerome has remarked, both in his Commentary on this passage, and in his Epistle to Evagrius. And hence we may perceive how much greater deference has been paid to the opinions of men than ought to have been paid to them; for the language of the Holy Spirit has been set aside, and the custom introduced by the arbitrary will of man has prevailed. For my own part, I do not find fault with the custom which has existed from the very beginning of the Church, that each assembly of bishops shall have one moderator; but that the name of office which God has given to all, shall be conveyed to one alone, and that all the rest shall be deprived of it, is both unreasonable and absurd. Besides, to pervert the language of the Holy Spirit—in such a manner that the same words shall have a different meaning from what he intended—is excessive and profane hardihood.
With good reason does he condemn this vice in a bishop, whose duty it is not only to receive kindly those who come to him of their own accord, but also to allure those who withdraw themselves, that he may conduct all in like manner to Christ. Now, αὐθάδεια (as Plato says in one of his Epistles to Dion) τῆς ἐρημίας ἐστὶ ξύνοικος, that is, “self-will is closely allied to solitude;” for society and friendship cannot be cherished, when every man pleases himself to such an extent as to refuse to yield and accommodate himself to others. And, indeed, every (αὐθάδης) “self-willed” person, as soon as an occasion presents itself, will instantly become a fanatic.
8. But hospitable, devoted to kindness.
Hence it is evident how destructive is that plague which tears the Church by quarrels. With this vice he contrasts, first, docility, and next, gentleness and modesty towards all; for a bishop will never teach well, who is not also ready to learn. Augustine praises highly a saying of Cyprian: “Let him be as patient to learn as skillful to teach.” Besides, bishops often need advice and warnings. If they refuse to be admonished, if they reject good advices, they will immediately fall headlong to the grievous injury of the Church. The remedy against these evils, therefore, is, that they be not wise to themselves.
I have chosen to translate φιλάγαθον devoted to kindness, rather than with Erasmus, “a lover of good things;” for this virtue, accompanied by hospitality, appears to be contrasted by Paul with covetousness and niggardliness. He calls that man just, who lives among men without doing harm to any one. Holiness has reference to God; for even Plato draws this distinction between the two words.
9. Holding fast the faithful word.
This is the chief gift in a bishop, who is elected principally for the sake of teaching; for the Church cannot be governed in any other way than by the word. “The faithful word” is the appellation which he gives to that doctrine which is pure, and which has proceeded from the mouth of God. He wishes that a bishop should hold it fast, so as not only to be well instructed in it, but to be constant in maintaining it. There are some fickle persons who easily suffer themselves to be carried away to various kinds of doctrine; while others are cast down by fear, or moved by any occurrence to forsake the defence of the truth. Paul, therefore, enjoins that those persons shall be chosen who, having cordially embraced the truth of God, and holding it firmly, never allow it to be wrested from them, or can be torn from it. And, indeed, nothing is more dangerous than that fickleness of which I have spoken, when a pastor does not stedfastly adhere to that doctrine of which he ought to be the unshaken defender. In short, in a pastor there is demanded not only learning, but such zeal for pure doctrine as never to depart from it.
But what is meant by according to instruction or doctrine?
The meaning is, that it is useful for the edification of the Church; for Paul is not wont to give the name of “doctrine” to anything that is learned and known without promoting any advancement of godliness; but, on the contrary, he condemns as vain and unprofitable all the speculations which yield no advantage, however ingenious they may be in other respects. Thus, “He that teacheth, let him do it in doctrine;” that is, let him labour to do good to the hearers. (Rom. 12:7.) In short, the first thing required in a pastor is, that he be well instructed in the knowledge of sound doctrine; the second is, that, with unwavering firmness of courage, he hold by the confession of it to the last; and the third is, that he make his manner of teaching tend to edification, and do not, through motives of ambition, fly about through the subtleties of frivolous curiosity, but seek only the solid advantage of the Church.
That he may be able.
The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both; for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able both to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth. This twofold use of Scripture Paul describes when he says, That he may be able to exhort and to convince adversaries. And hence let us learn, first, what is the true knowledge of a bishop, and, next, to what purpose it ought to be applied. That bishop is truly wise, who holds the right faith; and he makes a proper use of his knowledge, when he applies it to the edification of the people.
This is remarkable applause bestowed on the word of God, when it is pronounced to be sufficient, not only for governing the teachable, but for subduing the obstinacy of enemies. And, indeed, the power of truth revealed by the Lord is such that it easily vanquishes all falsehoods. Let the Popish bishops now go and boast of being the successors of the apostles, seeing that the greater part of them are so ignorant of all doctrine, as to reckon ignorance to be no small part of their dignity.
10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
10 Sunt enim multi immorigeri et vaniloqui et mentium seductores, maximè qui sunt ex Circumcisione,
11 Whose mouths must be stopped; who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.
11 Quibus oportet obturare os, qui totas domos subvertunt, docentes quæ non oportet, turpis lucri gratia.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
12 Dixit quidam ex ipsis, proprius eorum propheta, Cretenses semper mendaces, malæ bestiæ, ventres pigri.
10. For there are many unruly.
After having laid down a general rule, which ought to be everywhere observed, in order that Titus may be more attentive to adhere to it, he holds out to him the urgent necessity which ought to excite him more than all things else. He warns him that he has to deal with many obstinate and incorrigible persons, that many are puffed up with vanity and idle talk, that many are deceivers; and that therefore they ought to choose, on the other hand, such leaders as are qualified and well prepared to oppose them. For, if the children of this world, when dangers arise, increase their solicitude and watchfulness, it would be disgraceful for us, when Satan is using his utmost efforts, to remain careless and inactive, as if we were in a state of peace.
Unruly, Instead of (inobedientes) disobedient, which is the rendering in the old translation for ἀνυπότακτοι, Erasmus translates it (intractabiles) incorrigible. He means those who cannot endure to be brought to obey, and who throw off the yoke of subjection. He gives the appellation of vain talkers, not only to the authors of false doctrines, but to those who, addicted to ambitious display, occupy themselves with nothing but useless subtleties. Ματαιολογία (vain talking) is contrasted with useful and solid doctrine, and therefore includes all trivial and frivolous speculations, which contain nothing but empty bombast, because they contribute nothing to piety and the fear of God. And such is all the scholastic theology that is found, in the present day, in Popery. Yet he calls the same persons deceivers of minds. It may be thought preferable to view this as relating to a different class of persons; but, for my own part, I think that it means the same class; for the teachers of such trifles entice and fascinate the minds of men, so as no longer to receive sound doctrine.
Chiefly they who are of the circumcision.
He says that they are chiefly of the Jews; for it is highly requisite that such plagues shall be known by all. We ought not to listen to those who plead that we should spare the reputation of this or that individual, when the matter in question is the great danger of the whole Church. And so much the greater danger was to be apprehended from that nation, because it claimed superiority above others on account of the sacredness of its lineage. This is therefore the reason why Paul reproves the Jews more sharply, in order to take from them the power of doing injury.
11. Whose mouth must be stopped.
A good pastor ought therefore to be on the watch, so as not to give silent permission to wicked and dangerous doctrines to make gradual progress, or to allow wicked men an opportunity of spreading them. But it may be asked, “How is it possible for a bishop to constrain obstinate and self-willed men to be silent? For such persons, even though they are vanquished in argument, still do not hold their peace; and it frequently happens that, the more manifestly they are refuted and vanquished, they become the more insolent; for not only is their malice strengthened and inflamed, but they give themselves up to indolence.” I reply, when they have been smitten down by the sword of God’s word, and overwhelmed by the force of the truth, the Church may command them to be silent; and if they persevere, they may at least be banished from the society of believers, so that they shall have no opportunity of doing harm. Yet by “shutting the mouth” Paul simply means—“to refute their vain talking, even though they should not cease to make a noise; for he who is convicted by the word of God, however, he may chatter, has nothing to say.
Who overturn whole houses.
If the faith of one individual were in danger of being overturned, (for we are speaking of the perdition of a single soul redeemed by the blood of Christ) the pastor should immediately gird himself for the combat; how much less tolerable is it to see whole houses overturned?
Teaching things which they ought not.
The manner in which they were overturned is described in these words. Hence we may infer how dangerous it is to make even the smallest departure from sound doctrine; for he does not say that the doctrines, by which they overturned the faith of many, were openly wicked; but we may understand by this designation every kind of corruptions, when there is a turning aside from the desire of edification. Thus it is in reality, that, amidst so great weakness of the flesh, we are exceedingly prone to fall; and hence it arises, that Satan easily and speedily destroys, by his ministers, what godly teachers had reared with great and long-continued toil.
He next points out the source of the evil, a desire of dishonest gain; by which he reminds us how destructive a plague avarice is in teachers; for, as soon as they give themselves up to the pursuit of gain, they must labour to obtain the favour and countenance of men. This is quickly followed by the corruption of pure doctrine.
12. One of themselves, a prophet of their own.
I have no doubt that he who is here spoken of is Epimenides, who was a native of Crete; for, when the Apostle says that this author was “one of themselves,” and was “a prophet of their own,” he undoubtedly means that he belonged to the nation of the Cretans. Why he calls him a Prophet—is doubtful. Some think that the reason is, that the book from which Paul borrowed this passage bears the title Περὶ Χρησμῶν, “concerning oracles.” Others are of opinion that Paul speaks ironically, by saying that they have such a Prophet—a Prophet worthy of a nation which refuses to listen to the servants of God. But as poets are sometimes called by the Greeks (προφῆται) “prophets,” and as the Latin authors call them Vates, I consider it to denote simply a teacher.
The reason why they were so-called appears to have been, that they were always reckoned to be (γένος θεῖον καὶ ἐνθουσιαστικόν) “a divine race and moved by divine inspiration.” Thus also Adimantus, in the Second Book of Plato’s treatise Περὶ Πολιτείας, after having called the poets (υἵους θεῶν) “sons of the gods,” adds, that they also became their prophets. For this reason I think that Paul accommodates his style to the ordinary practice. Nor is it of any importance to inquire on what occasion Epimenides calls his countrymen liars, namely, because they boast of having the sepulchre of Jupiter; but seeing that the poet takes it from an ancient and well-known report, the Apostle quotes it as a proverbial saying.
From this passage we may infer that those persons are superstitious, who do not venture to borrow anything from heathen authors. All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose? But on this subject the reader may consult Basil’s discourse1 πρὸς τοὺς νέους, ὅπως ἂν ἐξ ἑλλ. κ. τ. λ.
13 This witness is true: wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
13 Testimonium hoc est verum. Quamobrem argue eos severè, ut sani sint in fide,
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
14 Neque attendant Judaicis fabulis, et præceptis hominum aversantium veritatem.
15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
15 Omnia quidem pura puris; inquinatis autem et infidelibus nihil purum, sed inquinatæ sunt eorum mens et conscientia.
16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
16 Deum profitentur se nosse, operibus verò negant, quum sint abominabiles, inobsequentes, et ad omne opus bonum reprobi.
13. This testimony is true.
How worthless soever the witness may have been,1 yet the truth which has been spoken by him is acknowledged by Paul. The inhabitants of Crete, of whom he speaks with such sharpness, were undoubtedly very wicked. The Apostle, who is wont to reprove mildly those who deserved to be treated with extreme severity, would never have spoken so harshly of the Cretans, if he had not been moved by very strong reasons. What term more reproachful than these opprobrious epithets can be imagined; that they were “lazy, devoted to the belly, destitute of truth, evil beasts?” Nor are these vices charged against one or a few persons, but he condemns the whole nation.
It was truly a wonderful purpose of God, that he called a nation so depraved, and so infamous on account of its vices, to be among the first who should partake of the gospel; but his goodness is not less worthy of admiration, in having bestowed heavenly grace on those who did not even deserve to live in this world. In that country so corrupt, as if in the midst of hell, the Church of Christ held a position, and did not cease to be extended, though it was infected by the corruption of the evils which prevailed there; for here Paul not only reproves those who were strangers to the faith, but expressly reproves those who had made a profession of Christianity. Perceiving that these vices so hateful have already taken root, and are spreading far and wide, he does not spare the reputation of the whole nation, that he may attempt the care of those whom there was some hope of healing.
Wherefore rebuke them sharply.
Of that circumspection and prudence with which a bishop ought to be endowed, it is not the least part, that he regulate his manner of teaching by the dispositions and conduct of men. We must not deal with obstinate and unruly persons in the same manner as with those who are meek and teachable; for, in instructing the latter, we ought to use such mildness as is suitable to their teachable disposition, while the stubbornness of the former must be severely corrected, and (as the saying is) for a bad knot there must be a bad wedge. The reason why Titus ought to be more sharp and severe in rebuking them has been already stated, namely, that they are “evil beasts.”
That they may be sound in the faith.
Whether the “soundness” or “healthfulness” is here contrasted with the diseases which he has mentioned, or whether he simply commands them to remain in the sound faith, is uncertain. I prefer the latter view. As they already are exceedingly vicious, and may easily be corrupted more and more, he wishes them to be more closely and strictly kept within the pure faith.
14. And may not listen to Jewish fables.
He now shews in what “sound faith” consists—when it is not corrupted by any “fables.” But in guarding against the danger he prescribes this remedy—not to give ear to them; for God wishes us to be so attentive to his word, that there shall be no entrance for trifles. And, indeed, when the truth of God has once gained admission, all that can be brought against it will be so tasteless, that it will not attract our minds. If, therefore, we wish to preserve the faith uncontaminated, let us learn carefully to restrain our senses, so that they may not give themselves up to strange contrivances; for, as soon as any person shall begin to listen to fables, he will lose the purity of faith.
All trivial inventions he calls “fables,” or, as we would say, “trifles;” for what he immediately adds, about “the commandments of men,” has the same meaning. And he calls those men enemies of the truth who, not satisfied with the pure doctrine of Christ, mix up with them their own fooleries; for all that men of themselves contrive ought to be accounted “fabulous.”
He attributes this vice chiefly to the Jews, because, under the pretence of the divine law, they introduced superstitious ceremonies. The Gentiles, being aware that they had been wretchedly deceived during their whole life, more easily renounced their former course of life; while the Jews, having been educated in the true religion, obstinately defended the ceremonies to which they had been accustomed, and could not be convinced that the Law had been abrogated. In this manner they disturbed all churches, because, as soon as the gospel began to make its appearance anywhere, they did not cease to corrupt its purity by mixing it with their leaven. Accordingly, Paul not only forbids them, in general terms, to degenerate from sound doctrine, but points out, as with the finger, the present evil which needed to be remedied, that they may be on their guard against it.
15. To the pure all things indeed are pure.
He glances at one class of fabulous opinions; for the choice of the kinds of food, (such as was temporarily enjoined by Moses,) together with purifications and washings, were insisted on as being still necessary, and they even made holiness to consist almost wholly in these minute observances. How dangerous to the Church this was, we have already explained. First, a snare of bondage was laid on the consciences; and next, ignorant persons, bound by this superstition, had a veil drawn over their eyes, which hindered them from advancing in the pure knowledge of Christ. If any of the Gentiles refused to submit to this yoke, because he had not been accustomed to it, the Jews vehemently contended for it, as if it had been the chief article of religion. Not without good reason, therefore, does Paul firmly oppose such corrupters of the gospel. In this passage, indeed, he not only refutes their error, but wittily laughs at their folly, in labouring anxiously, without any advantage, about abstaining from certain kinds of food and things of that nature.
In the first clause of this verse he upholds Christian liberty, by asserting, that to believers nothing is unclean; but at the same time he indirectly censures the false apostles who set no value on inward purity, which alone is esteemed by God. He, therefore, rebukes their ignorance, in not understanding that Christians are pure without the ceremonies enjoined by the Law; and next he chastises their hypocrisy, in disregarding uprightness of heart, and occupying themselves with useless exercises. But as the subject now in hand is not the health of the body, but peace of conscience, he means nothing else than that the distinction of the kinds of food, which was in force under the Law, has now been abolished. For the same reason it is evident, that they do wrong, who impose religious scruples on consciences in this matter; for this is not a doctrine intended for a single age, but an eternal oracle of the Holy Spirit, which cannot lawfully be set aside by any new law. Accordingly, this must be true till the end of the world, that there is no kind of food which is unlawful in the sight of God; and, therefore, this passage is fitly and appropriately quoted in opposition to the tyrannical law of the Pope, which forbids the eating of flesh on certain days.
And yet I am not unacquainted with the sophistical arguments which they employ. They affirm, that they do not forbid the eating of flesh, because they allege that it is unclean, (for they acknowledge that all kinds of food are in themselves clean and pure,) but that abstinence from flesh is enjoined on another ground, that it has a tendency to tame the lust of the flesh; as if the Lord had forbidden to eat swine’s flesh, because he judged swine to be unclean. Even under the Law the fathers reckoned that everything which God created is in itself pure and clean; but they held that they were unclean for this reason, that the use of them was unlawful, because God had forbidden it. All things are, therefore, pronounced by the Apostle to be pure, with no other meaning than that the use of all things is free, as regards the conscience. Thus, if any law binds the consciences to any necessity of abstaining from certain kinds of food, it wickedly takes away from believers that liberty which God had given them.
But to the polluted and unbelieving nothing is pure.
This is the second clause, in which he ridicules the vain and useless precautions of such instructors. He says that they gain nothing by guarding against uncleanness in certain kinds of food, because they cannot touch anything that is clean to them. Why so? Because they are “polluted,” and, therefore, by their only touching those things which were otherwise pure, they become “polluted.”
To the “polluted” he adds the “unbelieving,” not as being a different class of persons; but the addition is made for the sake of explanation. Because there is no purity in the sight of God but that of faith, it follows that all unbelievers are unclean. By no laws or rules, therefore, will they obtain that cleanness which they desire to have; because, being themselves “polluted,” they will find nothing in the world that is clean to them.
But their mind and conscience are polluted.
He shows the fountain from which flows all the filth which is spread over the whole life of man; for, unless the heart be well purified, although men consider works to have great splendour, and a sweet smell, yet with God they will excite disgust by their abominable smell and by their filthiness. “The Lord looketh on the heart,” (1 Sam. 16:7,) and “his eyes are on the truth.” (Jer. 5:3.) Whence it arises, that those things which are lofty before men are abomination before God.
The mind denotes the understanding, and the conscience relates rather to the affections of the heart. But here two things ought to be observed; first, that man is esteemed by God, not on account of outward works, but on account of the sincere desire of the heart; and, secondly, that the filth of infidelity is so great, that it pollutes not only the man, but everything that he touches. On this subject let the reader consult Hag. 2:11–14. In like manner Paul teaches that “all things are sanctified by the word,” (1 Tim. 4:5,) because men use nothing in a pure manner till they receive it by faith from the hand of God.
16. They profess that they know God.
He treats those persons as they deserve; for hypocrites, who give their whole attention to minute observances, despise fearlessly what constitutes the chief part of the Christian life. The consequence is, that they display their vanity, while contempt of God is manifested in open crimes. And this is what Paul means; that they who wish to be seen abstaining from one kind of food—indulge in wantonness and rebellion, as if they had shaken off the yoke; that their conduct is disgraceful and full of wickedness, and that not a spark of virtue is visible in their whole life.
For they are abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.
When he calls them (βδελυκτούς)1 abominable, he seems to allude to their pretended holiness, to which they gave their earnest attention. But Paul declares that they gain no advantage, for they do not cease to be profane and detestable. With good reason does he accuse them of disobedience; for nothing can be more haughty than hypocrites, who exert themselves so laboriously about ceremonies, in order that they may have it in their power to despise with impunity the chief requirements of the law. We may appropriately interpret the word (ἀδόκιμοι) reprobate, in an active signification; as if he had said, that they who wish to be thought so sagacious instructors in trifles—are destitute of judgment and understanding as to good works.
John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon