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.
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).
Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information on how to cite this material, see permissions information here.