Book of Titus


Authorship, date, and background

See the introduction to 1 Timothy for the question of authorship and date. Titus and 1 and 2 Timothy constitute the Pastoral Letters written toward the end of Paul's life. The letter to Titus was written between that of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy. Paul, together with Titus, ministered to the people of Crete. When he finished his ministry, he left Titus behind to solidify the work by establishing a church and correcting the errors which abounded among the converts. He intended to send Artemas or Tychicus to Crete. Upon the arrival of one or the other in Crete to replace Titus, Paul wanted Titus then to meet him at Nicopolis where he expected to spend the winter.

At the time Paul wrote to Titus, the gospel at Crete had not yet produced mature believers. The church was not properly organized and its members lived irregular lives. The older women were gossipy and overindulged in wine; the men were lazy and careless; the young women were not working hard enough and they were apt to neglect their families and be flirtatious. The Cretans failed to relate the gospel of grace to an earthly life of good works, something Paul was careful to maintain and insist on. Apparently the Cretans had a bad reputation, for Paul quoted one of their own who said: "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies." And Paul affirmed, "this witness is true" (1:12, 13).

Titus, to whom this letter was addressed, was a long-time companion of Paul. He is named in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Timothy, but not in the Acts of the Apostles. He was a Gentile who was not circumcised and whom Paul refused to have circumcised since, in this instance, it would have been a concession to legalism which Paul was fighting. Titus was an ideal pastor and one to whom Paul could entrust the difficult mission among the Cretans.

Characteristics and content

Paul calls Titus one "mine own son after the common faith" (1:4). Paul instructs him to Nicopolis to spend the winter with him (3:12). He says he left him in Crete to strengthen each of its churches and "to appoint elders in every city" (1:5). Paul has great confidence in Titus. The letter has been called "a model and manual for a pastor," for Paul counsels Titus on how to work out the problems of a difficult pastorate. Titus is more doctrinal than 1 Timothy. Two passages stand out particularly: 2:11-14 and 3:4-7. In them Paul speaks about the deity of Jesus Christ; his vicarious substitutionary atonement; the universality of salvation for all who receive Christ; salvation by faith without works; the coming of the Holy Spirit; sanctification; and God, who is the God of love and of grace. Especially important is Paul's reference to the return of Jesus to earth from heaven. Paul's emphasis on sound doctrine (that is, being strong in the true faith) indicates that there was a body of truth generally regarded as foundational to the Christian faith and that deviations from that norm are to be regarded seriously and disapproved vigorously (see 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2).