Paul's Epistle to Titus, Part 4: The Mercy of God and Justification in Christ

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The Epistles of Paul – Titus, Part 4: The Mercy of God and Justification in Christ

The opening remarks to the podcast have been published separately under the title Dating the Passover.

In the last portion of this commentary on Titus, we had made a few brief remarks on the closing verses of Titus chapter 2, and promised to elaborate on a few things when we resumed. So to begin this evening, we shall repeat those verses, beginning from Titus 2:11 where Paul wrote:

11 For the delivering favor of Yahweh [א interpolates “the Savior”; the text follows A, C, D, and the MT which varies slightly] has been displayed to all men, 12 teaching us that, rejecting impiety and the lusts of this Society, discreetly and righteously and piously we should live in this present age,

Paul’s words seem to take it for granted that men should understand the favor of Yahweh once they hear the message of the Gospel. But the lesson to be learned is not merely a personal lesson in admonitions to do or not to do certain things. Christ would not have had to die on the Cross for that, and it is unlikely that His enemies would have even killed Him for that. Rather, the message of the Gospel is much deeper than that: in large part it is a historic lesson, that the children of Israel were alienated from Yahweh their God for their sins, and they were oppressed and ruled over by the enemies of God and man because of their alienation. But they were reconciled to God in Christ when He died on their behalf, which made their reconciliation possible according to His law. All of the nations to which Paul had brought the Gospel were descended from those ancient Israelites who had been alienated from Yahweh their God, and who have to learn the lesson which Paul describes.

This is evident in other places in Paul’s writings, such as Galatians chapter 3 where Paul had told them that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ”, and, for example, in Ephesians chapter 2 where he wrote “8 For in favor you are being preserved through faith and this, Yahweh's gift, is not of yourselves, 9 not from works, lest anyone would boast, 10 for His work we are, having been established among the number of Christ Yahshua for good works, which Yahweh before prepared in order that we would walk in them. 11 On which account you must remember that at one time you, the Nations in the flesh, who are the so-called 'uncircumcised' by the so-called 'circumcised' made by hand in the flesh, 12 because you had at that time been apart from Christ, having been alienated from the civic life of Israel, and strangers of the covenants of the promise, not having hope and in the Society without Yahweh; 13 but now you among the number of Yahshua Christ, who at one time being far away, have become near by the blood of the Christ.”

Paul referred to the Ephesians as having been alienated and as being “the Nations in the flesh” because they descended from the ancient Israelites, who were promised to become many nations. Therefore favor, or grace, is granted to them because the children of Israel had violated the Old Covenant, which alienated them from Yahweh. For that same reason Paul told the Corinthians, who were also descended from the ancient Israelites, “How that Yahweh was within Christ reconciling the Society to Himself, not accounting their offenses to them, and placing in us the word of that reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Grace was promised to Israel long after they were taken away by the Assyrians, and in the same place where the New Covenant is prophesied, we read in Jeremiah chapter 31 that “1 At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. [Speaking of the past, this refers to the Assyrian deportations and captivity of Israel.] 3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 4 Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.” Then further on in that same chapter, after the promise of a New Covenant, at a time when the children of Israel were liable to the penalty of death under the law, Yahweh promised that the sun, moon and stars would fail before Israel ceased from being a nation. He then released them from the penalties of the law by dying in their place. That is the grace, or favor, of the Gospel.

Reading the accounts in the books of Joshua and Judges, the ancient Israelites had embraced the Canaanites, and accepted the ways of the Canaanite gods, which were fornication and sodomy, child sacrifice and all sorts of other abominations, for which they were alienated from Yahweh their God – who despised all of those things. But because the ancient Israelites failed to exterminate the Canaanites, there were always Canaanites among them, and they were warned that those Canaanites among them would be as thorns to them and pricks in their eyes. Later in history there were Canaanites among the Greeks and Romans as well, even long before the Edomites had infiltrated Judaea. For that reason, many of those same abominations were found in the pagan societies of the Greeks and Romans. In Romans chapter 1, Paul had spoken of the Sodomy and other abominations among the pagans of Rome in his own time. Those are the things which Paul referred to where he wrote of “rejecting impiety and the lusts of this Society” here in Titus. In Romans chapter 7, after describing how Christ had died in order to free Israel from the judgments of the law, Paul went on to describe the battle that rages within man as he attempts to overcome the lusts of the world, as his fleshly nature is at war with his spiritual nature. But a moral society may provide far fewer opportunities for such temptation.

The Gospel message was to separate the wheat from the tares, the Israelites from the Canaanites. The sheep of Christ’s pasture would hear His voice. So Paul referred to Titus as “a purely bred child according to common belief”, because Titus heard the Gospel and evidently exhibited a nature which sought to conform to Christ. And where Paul says that “the delivering favor of Yahweh has been displayed to all men”, we must perceive that he uses the term men as he himself employed it in Romans chapter 5, or in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, of the sons of Adam, which cannot include the males of other races. Then here in verse 13 we see Paul explain the meaning of the Gospel for the children of Israel, who upon hearing it should live piously in the expectation of which Paul speaks:

13 expecting the blessed hope and manifestation of the honor of the Great Yahweh, even our Savior Yahshua Christ, 14 who gave Himself over in behalf of us, in order that He would redeem us from all lawlessness, and may purify for Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

If the Gospel is to separate the wheat from the tares, then once the people of Yahweh come to obedience in Christ the tares become manifest and must be cast aside. In this manner Yahweh purified His people as Christianity spread through Europe. Where Paul said that Yahweh, or Christ, “gave Himself over in behalf of us, in order that He would redeem us from all lawlessness”, he again connects his readers – or in this case, Titus – to the ancient children of Israel.

Redemption is promised to the children of Israel exclusively in the prophets of the Old Testament. First Yahweh redeemed the children of Israel out of Egypt, but later they sold themselves into sin. So we read in Isaiah chapter 52 “3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.” That redemption without money is found in Christ. But the problems which the children of Israel had were found long before the time of Isaiah, and David cries out as early as the 25th Psalm and says “22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles”, and again in Psalm 44: “26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies' sake.”

However in the prophet Isaiah, while the last of the children of Israel are being taken off into the Assyrian captivity, in the Provenance of Yahweh their redemption is already being spoken of as an accomplished fact. So we read in Isaiah chapter 41: “13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. 14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Then again, among other places, in chapter 44: “6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Then in Isaiah chapter 48: “17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” Throughout Isaiah there are many other prophecies of this redemption, and the redemption is always for the children of Israel exclusively.

Then in Isaiah chapter 53 we read a prophecy of Christ and it says in part “5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” These words were spoken to and about the children of Israel exclusively. Therefore it is absurd to think that the redemption which is in Christ could possibly have been intended for any other people, for whom it was never promised. God does not change. So a few verses later, in Isaiah chapter 54, it says “5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6 For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.” The opening verses of Romans chapter 7 should be cross-referenced to this passage of Isaiah 54.

Yahweh said of the children of Israel being taken into Assyrian captivity, at the very time when the prophet Amos had written, “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” (Amos 9:9). Therefore, speaking of redemption from lawlessness and the purification of a peculiar people, as Paul explained it here, he must have been following these prophecies concerning those same children of Israel that he described as being redeemed and reconciled to Yahweh in Christ. Then, of course, as we saw in the opening chapter of this epistle, Paul is expecting Titus to bring this same message to the Christians of Crete. So we see also here, in his last statement of this chapter:

15 You speak [A has “teach”] these things and exhort and prove with all authority. Let no one hold you in contempt.

In the first century, at the time of Paul and Titus, the New Testament was only relevant with an understanding of the historical context and the words of the prophets of the Old Testament. Today it should be understood in that same manner, although for most people the historical context and the words of the prophets are enigmas, and are not even a consideration.

With this, we shall commence with Titus chapter 3:

3 1 Remind them to be subject to powers in authority, to be obedient, to be ready for any good work, 2 to blaspheme no one, to be disinclined to fight, reasonable, exhibiting all gentleness towards all men.

Since Christ is King, there would seem to be a discrepancy here with the Gospel, however this also must be understood within the context of the history of the children of Israel and the words of the prophets.

To be subject to powers in authority: as we shall see, the apostles exhorted men to recognize and be subject to earthly authorities, which we shall discuss at length. However where Paul wrote “to be obedient, to be ready for any good work”, we may interpret that as a call to obedience in Christ and a willingness to express love for one’s brethren in action, and not merely in word. Where Paul wrote “to be disinclined to fight”, he does not demand that men not fight, as even Christ had said in the gospel that “he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one”, indicating that there certainly would be times when men must fight. Rather, men should be generally peaceful and not quick to fight, for which Paul added the exhortations to be reasonable and gentle.

The Majority Text has the opening of the first verse in this chapter to read “Remind them to be subject to powers and authorities”, so the King James Version has “principalities and powers”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), and Claromontanus (D), but may be read “Remind them to be subject to powers, to authorities...” This admonition also must be understood within the context of Old Testament history and the prophecies concerning the children of Israel. Paul is not saying that worldly authorities are godly, or even good, but rather it is apparent that the children of Israel imposed the governments of men upon themselves, and now had to suffer them.

As Paul had explained at greater length in Romans chapter 13, “1 Every soul must be subject to more powerful authorities. Since there is no authority except from Yahweh, then those who are, by Yahweh are they appointed. 2 Consequently, one opposing the authority has opposed the ordinance of Yahweh, and they who are in opposition will themselves receive judgment.” The children of Israel, put off in punishment, were to suffer a predetermined period under the authority of world empires, which is evident, for example, in Daniel chapters 2 and 7. Yahweh God had ordained this period of punishment as early as Leviticus chapter 26, Numbers chapter 24 and Deuteronomy chapter 28, and those who opposed it were actually in opposition to God. For this reason, Christ had said, as it is recorded in three of the Gospel accounts, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.” As Yahweh also said when the remnant of Judah was being taken into Babylonian captivity, those who refused to server the king of Babylon would die, in Jeremiah chapter 27. He decreed their punishment and they would have to live with it and not resist. Likewise, the apostles must have understood that the period of punishment decreed for Israel in the Old Testament was not completed, so the children of Israel would have to remain subject to the earthly governments of man until it was completed.

However the apostles set another example, where they only obeyed the worldly authorities to the point where submission would cause them to transgress the Word of God. When that point comes, men must choose to obey God and not men. So Paul said in that same place in Romans that “rulers are not a terror to good work, but to evil. Now do you desire to not be fearful of the authority? Practice good, and you will have approval from it”, but where the apostles were commanded not to preach the Gospel by the rulers in Jerusalem, they responded and said “We ought to obey God rather than men”, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 5.

For this reason we read a similar warning in the first epistle of Peter where he wrote: “3:13 You must be obedient to every authority created by mankind on account of the Prince, whether to kings as if being superior, 14 or to governors as if being sent by Him for the punishment of evil-doers but for the praise of those doing good. 15 Because thusly is the will of Yahweh: doing good to muzzle the ignorance of foolish men, 16 as free men yet not as if having freedom for a cover for evil, but as servants of Yahweh.” However, in anticipation of tribulation, a little further on he said “4:15 For not any among you must suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler in the matters of others, 16 but if as a Christian, you must not be ashamed, but you must honor Yahweh by this name, 17 because the time of judgment is to begin for the house of Yahweh. But if first for us, what is the end for those who are disobedient to the good message of Yahweh?”

Men at one time had Yahweh for their king, and rejected Him in favor of worldly governments. Now Yahweh God uses the worldly governments to try or to punish unjust men. Christians must recognize this pattern of Scripture, the pattern of history, and act to do good within these boundaries, awaiting the time when Christ is once again their King. So Paul says in verse 3 of this chapter:

3 For we also at one time without understanding were [D has “and” rather than “were”] disobedient, being deceived, enslaved in lusts and various pleasures, existing in evil and envy, abhorrent, hating one another,

The verb for existing, which is διάγω, means in this context to pass or spend one’s life, spending lives in evil and envy. Here Paul is describing some of the same sins he had described amongst the Romans who had turned their backs on God and for that reason had gone off into Sodomy and other corrupt practices, and the worship of the creature rather than of the Creator. All of the children of Israel had done this same thing when they rejected Yahweh their God over three thousand years ago, and demanded earthly kings. Such apostasy is inescapable under the governments of man, and this is the same thing which has once again happened in this modern, so-called “post Christian” age.

4 but when the kindness and benevolence of Yahweh our Savior appeared, 5 not from works of those in righteousness, things which we have done, but according to that mercy of His, He has preserved us through a bath of rebirth and renewal of [D has “through”] the Holy Spirit, 6 which He poured out upon us richly through Yahshua Christ our Savior, 7 in order that being justified in that favor we would become heirs in accordance with the hope of eternal life.

It is apparent in the words of the prophets, that the law and justification by the law created an environment of materialism, in which men competed with one another and oppressed one another. So we read in Zechariah chapter 7: “8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, 9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” In Hosea chapter 12 we read an admonition to Ephraim, where it is evident that judgment was being bought and sold rather than being justly executed: “6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually. 7 He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.” There are similar examples in Amos chapter 4 and Micah chapter 2, where it says “1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. 2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.” So it also says in Habakkuk, where it is again evident that judgment is sold for a price: “3 Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. 4 Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.” For fifteen hundred years, the children of Israel could not find justification under the law, and therefore they must learn that there can only be justification in Christ.

The Greek word παλιγγενεσία (Strong’s # 3824) is rebirth here. It appears elsewhere in the New Testament only in Matthew 19:28 and it literally means “a being born again, new birth...”, according to Liddell & Scott. But Paul is not suggesting that each individual undergo some ritual in order to be somehow “born again”. In fact, the words ἄνωθεν, found in John chapter 3 and Galatians chapter 4, and ἄναγεννάω, found in 1 Peter chapter 1, mean from above and born from above respectively, and they are almost always mistranslated and misunderstood as meaning born again. Rather, here Paul is suggesting that the children of Israel received a collective rebirth, not from any doings of their own, but from what Christ had done for them all, from what Yahweh had “poured out upon us richly through Yahshua Christ our Savior”, and there is nothing for man to add to that as Christ Himself had pronounced, “It is finished!”

So here Paul makes a direct refutation of the cleansings and rituals of men, even if they were the “works of those in righteousness”, referring to things that were done under the ordinances of the law. In turn, he exhorts Christians to accept the cleansing of the Spirit which comes through an understanding and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ, which was dispensed to the children of Israel by the mercy of God. With the Gospel, men must realize that they can only be justified by Christ, and that they can never be justified by the works of their own hands. As Paul had written in Galatians chapter 3, “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God”, and in Romans chapter 3 “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight”, referring to the rituals and ceremonies of the law. Even David had written in supplication to Yahweh and said “for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”

The Old Testament dispensation challenged men to justify themselves by the works of the law and they failed repeatedly. Speaking of both Adam and Christ in Romans chapter 5, Paul said that “19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Then he said “20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” In other words, Yahweh knew that the law would not keep men from sin, but it was imposed so that the sin itself would be made manifest and understood. Christians should therefore willingly depart from sin, knowing that man cannot justify himself, and turn to Christ for that justification.

John baptized in water, and Christ said He would baptize through the Holy Spirit. Paul realized that the baptism of the Spirit was through the Word of the Gospel, and at Ephesians 5:25-27 he wrote: “... just as Christ has also loved the assembly, and had surrendered Himself for it, in order that He would consecrate it, cleansing it in the bath of the water in the Word, that He may present it to Himself in honor, the assembly not having a blemish or a wrinkle or any of such things, but that it would be holy and blameless.” So we see that a cleansing in “the bath of the water of the Word” is the way to be cleansed, and not in some ritual bath with actual water, something which the Judaizers continued to promote among Christians.

Peter writes in agreement at 1 Peter 3:21 where he said: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward Yahweh,) by the resurrection of Yahshua Christ,” so late in his ministry Peter himself denied that the baptism of Christ is in water. Because so many Identity Christians are cluttered with denominational baggage, we continually have contention on this issue. Hopefully here in Titus we have been able to once again establish that with Christ, baptism is through the Word, and the sanctification of Israel is in the Truth and in the Holy Spirit.

There are other men of contention who debate the fact that the Spirit of God is instilled within the Adamic man as a matter of his birth. These pretenders imagine that somehow men receive the Spirit only when they are “good” and “accept Jesus” and become “born again”. However it says in the Wisdom of Solomon that “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.” There is nothing in the Old Testament about needing to be baptized in water or born again to make the statement true. And as Paul himself explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the man of the Resurrection is “is sown a natural body” and “is raised a spiritual body”. Speaking collectively of the children of Israel, the Word of Yahweh said in Isaiah chapter 49: “5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.” Even the spirits of those who sinned and died before the flood of Noah were never extinguished, as Peter tells us that Christ during His three days in the earth proclaimed the Gospel “to those spirits in prison, who at one time had been disobedient”. They could not have known Christ or “believed in Jesus” nor were they baptized or born again before they died in the flood, but their living consciences in the spirit had heard Christ preach the Gospel well over three thousand years after their fleshly bodies had perished. So it should be evident, that the spirit of man is an integral part of his being, and is derived from that same seed from which comes the fleshly man. The spirit of God can reside with men, but for God to reside with men, men must be obedient to God. So Christ said, in John chapter 14: “23… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

One more aspect of this passage must be discussed, where Paul says in verse 7: “that being justified in that favor we would become heirs in accordance with the hope of eternal life.” Note that there is nothing for man himself to do to become an heir of eternal life, but to be justified by the favor of Yahweh, a favor which was prophesied only for the children of Israel. Paul is not advocating works salvation, that one must do anything to earn or to deserve eternal life. Rather, Paul is professing that the children of Israel received it collectively, where he said that “according to that mercy of His, He has preserved us through a bath of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 which He poured out upon us richly through Yahshua Christ our Savior”. Those who were to receive grace and the gift of eternal life were already heirs to the promises, as Paul wrote in Hebrews chapter 6: “17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath”. Saying that while discussing Yahshua Christ and the New Covenant, Paul illustrates that the heirs of that covenant were selected before the confirmation of the covenant by the sacrifice which was made by Yahshua Christ. For this reason he also told the Romans at 15:8: “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers”. As Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 3, “But if you are Christ's, then of the offspring of Abraham you are heirs according to promise.” This frequently misunderstood verse is a type of conditional sentence which expresses a factual implication. If you are Christ's, you are also Abraham's seed. Paul had written in Romans chapter 4 that “16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed”.

For the collective sins of Israel all twelve tribes were put off by Yahweh in captivity, and alienated from their God like a wife who is divorced by a husband. Their sinfulness had gotten to the point where they had broken the covenant, and Yahweh considered it void, for which we may compare Jeremiah chapter 31 and Zechariah chapter 11. Referring to the penalty of death under the law which all of Israel was subject to, we read in Hosea chapter 13 that “1 When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.” Of course, the tribe of Ephraim still physically survived and are continually mentioned, but they were dead in the eyes of God because they were subject to the penalty of death. When they were under the penalty of death, they were not heirs to the promise of eternal life. When Christ died in their place, redeeming them from death, they became heirs of the promise of eternal life. This is the only manner in which one may become an heir to eternal life: to be an Israelite put away by Yahweh and redeemed by Christ. So later in that chapter of Hosea we see for Ephraim a promise of life where it says “14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”

There is a very similar prophecy wrapped around a prophecy of Christ which is found in Isaiah chapter 28, concerning the remnant of Judah in Jerusalem: “15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. 17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” So even if the children of Israel wanted to die in their sin, they would nevertheless live in Christ. They became heirs to eternal life even though they made a covenant with death, and did nothing to earn that life. As Paul said in his first epistle to the Corinthians: “19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

The only aspect of Christianity which is universal is the promise of salvation for the children of Israel. With all of the promises of redemption for Israel from death, of the cleansing of sins, of the salvation in Christ, there are no stated exceptions. The mercy which Yahweh has for the children of Israel is expressed in the closing verses of the prophet Micah, where the Word of Yahweh says “18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. 19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. 20 Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” This is the mercy of God and the justification in Christ.

So the mercy which was promised to Abraham included a forgiving of all of the sins of the children of Israel, without exception, according to the prophet Micah. One does not even have to hear the Gospel and believe in Jesus order to find the mercy of God, as Paul made quite clear in Romans chapter 11, where he spoke comparing Israelites dispersed and Israelites in Judaea and he said “30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”

There are plenty of passages in the Gospel, and in the words of Christ, which warn men to do good lest they suffer in hell fire, which in the Greek is usually the fire of γέεννα, or Gehenna, a place near Jerusalem where the trash and dead animal carcasses were burned outside the city gates. Originally it was the land of Hinnom, the origin of the word γέεννα, the “valley of Hinnom” of the Old Testament where the children of Israel practicing pagan idolatry had sacrificed their children. With this it is evident that suffering in hell fire refers to trials suffered in this life due to the consequences of sin. So when a living man accepts the Gospel of Christ, being repentant he may be forgiven here and now, and keeping the law he may be saved from such trials. But that is a meaning of salvation which is temporal and apart from the promise of eternal life. It says in the law, in Leviticus chapter 18 that “5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD”, so the keeping of the law guaranteed the children of Israel their temporal lives, but that alone did not give them eternal life.

Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to take the fornicator who was described in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and put him out of their assembly, “5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” So the fornicator, being cast out of the assembly of Christians, would suffer in the flesh in this world, but he would nevertheless be granted mercy and justified by Christ in the spirit.

It is the mercy of Yahweh God by which “all Israel shall be saved”, as Paul attested in Romans chapter 11, and by which we read a similar promise in Isaiah chapter 45, where we also see that all Israel will ultimately be obedient to God: “17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

Yahweh has declared that it is righteous for Him to have mercy upon all of Israel, for Him to forgive all of their sins, for Him to ransom them all from the power of the grave, and that is the justification in Christ. With this in mind, Paul continues:

8 Trustworthy is this saying, and concerning these things I wish for you to maintain strongly that those trusting in Yahweh should take care to prefer good works. These things are good and advantageous to men.

Paul of Tarsus and the apostle James may have taught things somewhat differently, but they were not in conflict with one another, an error which is frequently asserted. Here we see that Paul certainly agreed with James where the elder apostle had written, in chapter 2 of his epistle, that “17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”, and he goes on to describe in part the substance of those works, which is doing good for one’s brethren in their times of need. An extreme example of such works is found in the Gospel, recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, where a certain young man professed to keep the commandments, and asking what he lacked Christ responded and said “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). In comparison, Zacchaeus the tax collector volunteered to give half of his wealth, and he was also justified.

But even without any good works, the promises of redemption from death and eternal life for Israel are not nullified, as Paul had explained in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, “11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” This fire is evidently the fiery trials of which Peter speaks, and the hell fire of Gehenna, the trials of this life mentioned by Christ. All of Israel shall be saved, but as the prophet Daniel had said, “at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” We may imagine that everlasting contempt may be salvation without reward.

9 Now you must avoid foolish inquiries and genealogies and strifes and quarrels relating to law, for they are unprofitable and vain.

At roughly this same time Paul wrote the epistle known to us as 1 Timothy, and said in its opening verses: “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

Genealogies were very important throughout Scripture. Even in the Gospel of Christ, His genealogies were recorded by the apostles, although they were reckoned in different ways, and therefore the concept of genealogy itself cannot be readily dismissed. Furthermore, Paul himself had said, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 26: “6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” Tribes being reckoned genetically, and not by belief, the idea of physical descent remains just as important in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. Many other Scriptures also prove this to be true.

But here Paul speaks of foolish inquiries and genealogies, and endless genealogies, not of the concept of genealogy itself. The genealogies of the anceint Israelites were lost in the captivities. To comprehend Paul’s admonitions, it must be recognized that Paul is writing to Greeks, men schooled in Greek thought and literature, who were bringing the Gospel of Christ to mainly Hellenized people that had their own literature and myth. Reading the surviving Greek literature such as Homer, Hesiod, and the many other Greek poets, as well as the otherwise respectable historians such as Strabo, Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, who often repeated mythical fables, only then can one understand the Greek concepts of their own genealogy, and Paul’s admonitions here.

Paul is certainly not condemning the likes of Esdras, and the Levitical record keepers of ancient Israel, but rather he is condemning works such as the Theogony of Hesiod, which accounts for the races of men in various genealogies where those races are said to have descended from various pagan gods and goddesses such as Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Demeter, Gaia, Heracles, etc. They also claimed that men descended from the Titans, or giants of ancient times. These accounts are all reminiscent of the events described in Genesis chapter 6. The “gods” would descend from heaven, or from Mount Olympus, and rape the daughters of men. But the mythical Greek versions were quite intricately fabricated, and they were repeated by poet and historian alike. So these are also included in Paul’s words where he said that such things were “unprofitable and vain.”

Imagine Titus preaching to the Cretans about their inheritance in the seed of Abraham, and the Cretans responding that according to their own poets, they descended from the rape of Europa by Zeus, for example. The myth makes historical sense because the Cretans descended from the Phoenicians, and Europa was the daughter of Phoenix, but it is nevertheless a vain genealogy.

As for “contentions and strivings about the law”, reading this one must distinguish between “contentions and strivings” and the law itself. Paul had written in Romans chapter 7 that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” It is evident in the Gospel that the Pharisees and Sadducees were constantly attempting to trap Christ Himself in contentions about the law, and with their own convoluted interpretations they could not understand the forthright simplicity of His answers. So it is evident that Paul is warning Titus not to be mired down in the same deceit which we find expressed in the Talmud, which is indeed a reflection of thought in Judaism in the centuries following the fall of Jerusalem. The entire Talmud is full of “contentions and strivings about the law”, where corrupted and perverted men imagine that they can reason better than God.

10 You must entreat a sectarian man with one or two warnings, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and errs, being self-condemned.

A man who refuses to subject himself to God or to be corrected by Scripture is a sectarian man. Yet today we may argue endlessly over certain subjects of Scripture, mostly because modern world-views are so skewed after two thousand years of such heresies.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul wrote “19 For there must also be sects among you, in order that those approved will become evident among you.” So evidently he considered the sectarian man as not being approved. Christians must suffer heresies, but they are not expected to tolerate the heretics. And while there may be minor disagreements among members of the body of Christ, there are certainly areas where they should not tolerate disagreement.

In our opinion, the lines should be drawn between scatterers and gatherers, but of course, those who consistently transgress the commandments of Christ must also be excluded.

12 When I send Artemas or Tuchikos to you, you must make haste to come to me in Nikopolis, for there I have decided to winter.

Writing this, Paul is in the Troad, if he has not yet passed into Makedonia, and he is still uncertain as to whether he is going to send either Artemas or Tychicus with this letter to Titus in Crete. Artemas is not mentioned before or again, while Tychicus was a constant companion of Paul’s and evidently delivered several other epistles for him later on, while he was a prisoner in Rome, including those which were written to the Ephesians and the Colossians.

As we have often discussed here, especially in our commentary on 2 Corinthians, Titus had obeyed Paul’s request, but rather than meet him in Nicopolis he caught up with him in Makedonia, which Paul later explains writing his second epistle to the Corinthians, in chapter 7. Accompanying Paul to Nicopolis, they are joined by Timothy as Paul had also written his first epistle to that apostle around the time he wrote the letter to Titus, and both men spent at least a good part of the winter there with Paul. The epistle now known as 2 Corinthians was written, and Titus delivers it ahead of Paul’s planned visit to Corinth. Timothy then accompanies Paul on to the Troad where many of his companions meet, where the epistle to the Romans is written, and where they depart for Jerusalem. It is most likely the Spring of 57 AD, and Paul is arrested a short time later.

13 You must earnestly send forth Zenas the lawyer and Apollos that nothing would be wanting with them.

The Greek verb λείπω (3007), to be wanting here, is found in a rare use of the word by Paul. The verb usually means “to leave”, but Liddell & Scott also explain (λείπω, A., II.) that in the intransitive the verb was used to mean “to be gone, to be wanting, cease, be missing, Latin deficio...”. So also in our modern English idiom, to be wanting is to be deficient, and that is the manner in which Paul uses it here.

The Greek verb προπέμπω (Strong’s # 4311) may be rendered here either as “send forth”, as the text has, or “bring”, as the King James Version has it. We may only assume that Paul wanted Titus to bring the men to him. But perhaps this is the cause of the problems in Crete, as Paul had just mentioned sectarian men, and here he seems to be wanting to help Zenas and Apollos. A few months before this epistle to Titus was written, when Paul had written his first epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus, Apollos was highly extolled by Paul. Zenas is not mentioned anywhere else. After this epistle, neither man was mentioned again, however it seems likely that the two had a disagreement which unsettled the assemblies of Crete, and Paul wanted to attempt amends. We would even go so far as to speculate that Zenas, being a lawyer, was the cause of the troubles as Paul had also just warned about “contentions and strivings about the law”.

14 Now they must also learn to manage our good works for necessary purposes, in order that they would not be unfruitful.

And Paul’s statement here supports our interpretation, and it appears likely that there was contention between Apollos and Zenas as to the nature of good Christian works. Perhaps Zenas was a Judaizer, being a lawyer, as Paul had addressed Judaizers earlier in this epistle.

15 All of those with me greet you. Greet those loving us in the faith. Favor is with you all.

The Codex Claromontanus (D) has “The favor of the Prince is with you all”; the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Coislinianus (H), Vaticanus Graecus 206 (048), and the Majority Text.

The Codex Coislinianus (H) and the Majority Text append ἀμήν, or truly, to the end of this verse. The text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D), and Vaticanus Graecus 206 (048).

This concludes our presentation and commentary on Paul’s Epistle to Titus.

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