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This introductory course is designed to provide key insights into the book of Titus by pulling together a number of key resources: overview videos from Fast Facts and The Bible Project, helpful contextual information from The ESV Study Bible, commentary recommendations from The Gospel Coalition, a single sermon that sums up the book from beginning to end by Mark Dever, and much more. By watching, listening to, and reading these resources, you’ll be better prepared to read, study, teach, or preach the book of Titus.
In form and content, Titus is readily identifiable as a NT epistle, with sections devoted to salutation, instruction, paraenesis (a body of moral exhortations), and closing. Like 1 and 2 Timothy, this is sometimes called a “Pastoral Epistle” because it is addressed to someone who had pastoral leadership responsibilities, in this case with regard to a number of local churches in Crete. Paul gives directions pertaining to a pastor’s work in a local congregation.
The distinctive rhetorical or stylistic feature of the letter is its concentration. In order to pack in all of the instruction that he can in a letter that is short by NT epistolary standards, Paul writes in a curt and businesslike manner. The authoritative and directive stance of the writer to his recipient is evident throughout. Most of Paul’s advice is phrased in the imperative mood, producing a tone of urgency.
The theme of Titus is the inseparable link between faith and practice, belief and behavior. This truth is the basis for its critique of false teaching as well as its instruction in Christian living and qualifications for church leaders.
Titus 1:1; 2:1, 11–14; 3:4–7
Titus 2:5, 8, 10
Titus 2:1–10, 14; 3:1–2, 8, 14
Titus 1:10–16; 3:9–11
Titus 2:11–14; 3:3–7
Paul had recently completed a journey to Crete, resulting in the establishment of new churches. In order to see that these churches were properly established (as was Paul’s typical pattern, see Acts 14:21–23), Paul left Titus in Crete. The existence of false teachers (Titus 1:10–16) amid the fledgling churches heightens the intensity of the situation.
The false teachers appear to be the particular occasion for the writing of the letter. Discussion of the false teachers frames the heart of the letter (see Outline). Furthermore, the description of elders (Titus 1:5–9) as well as the descriptions of proper Christian living (Titus 2:1–10; 3:1–3) appear to be worded for intentional contrast with these opponents. The content of the false teaching is not made explicit (as in 1 Timothy). There appears to be a significant Jewish element to the teaching since the opponents arise from “the circumcision party” (Titus 1:10), and are interested in “Jewish myths” (Titus 1:14) and perhaps ritual purity (Titus 1:15). Paul’s primary concern, however, is with the practical effect of the false teaching. In spite of their concern for ritual purity, the adherents of the false teaching did not live lives of godliness flowing out of the gospel but instead lived in a way that proved they did not know God (Titus 1:16).
This false teaching, which in some way allowed for ungodliness, would have found a welcome home in Crete, which was proverbial in the ancient world for immorality. But Paul expected the gospel, even in Crete, to produce real godliness in everyday life.
In dealing with the false teaching, Paul also provides Titus a portrait of a healthy church. He describes proper leadership (Titus 1:5–9), proper handling of error (Titus 1:10–16; 3:9–11), proper Christian living (esp. important for new believers in an immoral milieu; Titus 2:1–10; 3:1–2), and the gospel as the source of godliness (Titus 2:11–14; 3:3–7).
Titus is to direct God’s people in the light of Christ’s work.
The following recommendations are from D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey. 7th ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013.