While Paul finishes up his first letter to Timothy, he begins to set his sights on encouraging another young pastor named Titus.
Here’s important information I found in Fee and Stuarts Book, “How to Read the Bible Book by Book:”
Content: instructions to Titus for setting in order the church(es) on Crete, including the appointment of qualified elders and the instruction of various social groups, set against the backdrop of some false teachers
Author: the apostle Paul (although doubted by many)
Date: ca. a.d. 62–63, apparently from Macedonia at about the same time as 1 Timothy (see 3:12; Nicopolis is on the Adriatic coast of Macedonia)
Occasion: Paul had left Titus on Crete to finish setting the churches in order, while he and Timothy (apparently) went on to Ephesus, where they met a very distressing situation (see 1 Timothy). But Paul had to go on to Macedonia (1 Tim 1:3; cf. Phil 2:19–24); perhaps the Holy Spirit reminded him while writing 1 Timothy that some similar problems had emerged in Crete, so he addressed the churches through a letter to Titus
Emphases: God’s people must be and do good—this is especially true of church leaders; the gospel of grace stands over against false teachings based on the Jewish law
Titus 1:12-13 (NLT) 12 Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.” 13 This is true. So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith.
I’m not sure if anyone has ever called you a Cretan, but just so we’re clear, it’s not a compliment. In the scripture above we find Paul referencing the words of the Prophet Epimenides of Knossos regarding the character of the people of Crete. What’s interesting is not just the words of the prophet, but the affirmation by Paul when he says, “This is true.” Then the instructions to Titus is very clear, “So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith.” I think you could say that Titus has his work cut out for him.
But not only is Titus tasked with straightening out the Cretans, he’s also tasked with confronting the false teachers.
We learn a lot of about these false teachers when we read through this first chapter. Here’s some of the traits Paul uses to describe them:
- They are many (v. 10)
- They are rebellious (v. 10)
- They engage in useless talk (v. 10)
- They deceive others (v. 10)
- They insist on circumcision for salvation (v. 10)
- They are turning whole families away from the truth (v.11)
- They’re greedy (v. 11)
Paul summarized the problem with the false teachers in Titus 1:15-16 (NLT) 15 Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.
These sound like harsh words, which they are, but they’re also words of warning. As I was reading I couldn’t help but think back on the words of Paul to Timothy…
1 Timothy 1:5-7 (NLT) 5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.
Our challenge today is to be filled with love and guide our hearts and conscience from corruption. Let us not fall prey to just talking the talk today, but let us walk the walk.