Titus 3: “One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out!”

“I’m warning you…” These are the words of a teacher trying to maintain control in the classroom. These are words I heard quite often, followed by “…Mr. Spangenberg.”

…Before I Count To Three

It didn’t take much for me to cause havoc in the classroom, especially when I knew I had two strikes before I would get kicked out. I remember once when my third grade teacher said strike one, and I went into my best umpire voice… “Steeerrrikkkee One!”

Parent’s of little ones, let me let you in on a little secret. Counting to three only gives kids two more seconds to misbehave. In fact, a while ago I heard a mother in the grocery store say, “If I get to five…” Five? Now that’s a gift! That means I literally have 4 seconds, maybe even more if they count slow, to do whatever I want. As long as I don’t get to five, I’m good! The parents that really crack me up are the ones who start resorting to fractions: 2 – 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 – 2 3/4… Three! Get to three already!

You gotta know, my parents never counted. I remember wondering if they were just confused about what number came first, cause I never heard even the number “one” before my sentence was handed down. And my parents were judge, jury, and executioner!

In the final section of his letter to Titus, Paul tries to communicate one more time to avoid the godless chatter of the false teachers.

Titus 3:9-11 (NLT) Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. 10 If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. 11 For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.

As I read this part of the chapter I couldn’t help but think about the millions of unsaved people dying everyday while pastors and theologians debate about topics like predestination and eternal security. Think about it, in a time when we should be doing everything we can to share the gospel, we tend to make it more and more difficult for people to hear. I agree with Paul, “these things are useless and a waste of time.”

Then Paul gives the instructions to give two warnings before strike three. Paul concludes with the wisdom that people who are willing to fight and quarrel over “spiritual pedigrees” or “Jewish laws” have turned away from the truth.

In a day and age when truth is relative and there’s no such thing as absolute, we as the church need to be the voice for truth in the world. Don’t forget what we read in 1 Timothy 3:15b (NLT) This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. We need to affirm that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

As we wrap up, I thought it would be helpful to have some additional scripture to encourage those who have turned away from the truth.

  • John 17:3 (NLT) And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
  • John 17:17 (NLT) 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
  • John 18:37 (NLT) 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
  • John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.


Titus 2: “Teach, Teach, Teach”

In this section, 2:1-10, Paul turns his attention from the issues of church leadership and false teachers to the various groups within the church. His goal is for them to be aware of the moral obligation they have to the people in their particular age group and community.

Here’s the breakdown of each group:

  • (v. 2) Older Men
  • (v. 3) Older Women
  • (v. 6) Young Men
  • (v. 9) Slaves

The theme in Paul’s instructions is not only what each group is to do, but the responsibility for Titus to “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching.” Yes we can learn from Paul depending on the category we fall into, but the important contextual takeaway is that Paul is writing regarding what he wants a young pastor to learn.

Here’s the takeaways of each group:

  • (v. 2) Older Men
    • exercise self-control
    • to be worthy of respect
    • to live wisely
    • Must have sound faith
    • Be filled with love and patience
  • (v. 3) Older Women
    • live in a way that honors God
    • Must not slander others
    • Be heavy drinkers
    • Teach others what is good
    • Must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children
    • Live wisely
    • Be pure
    • Work in their homes
    • Do good
    • Be submissive to their husbands
  • (v. 6) Young Men
    • Live wisely

What’s interesting in the category of “Young Men” is Paul’s instructions not to young men, but to Titus himself.

  • And you yourself (Titus) must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized.
  • (v. 9) Slaves 
    • Must always obey their masters
    • Do their best to please them (their masters)
    • They must not talk back
    • Must not steal
    • Must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good

I know this may seem redundant to read, but we can learn a lot about the culture and community when we read this with a first century perspective.

Closing Statement

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was quoted as saying, “I fear that Christians who stand with only one leg upon earth, also stand with only one leg in heaven.” Bonhoeffer is concerned for Christians who disengaged from the world and don’t take responsibility to bear witness for Christ in the world they actually live in.

The InterVarsity Press Commentary pointed out an interesting suggestion regarding the passage above: The language of this text, especially verses 11-14, is majestic and somewhat allusive. Content, tone and form suggest the passage was probably originally constructed for a baptismal service. Its use of terms that were widely popular made it applicable in this context in which Paul seeks contact with the outsider. But despite these points of contact, the theological basis for the new life that Paul establishes places this life into an entirely different category.

In a few short weeks we will be celebrating our Church Picnic and Baptismal Service. When I think about texts to use, this one will for sure be up there on my list.

Re-read (v. 11-14) from the perspective of baptism and allow that to challenge the way you choose to live today.

Titus 1: “Introduction”

While Paul finishes up his first letter to Timothy, he begins to set his sights on encouraging another young pastor named Titus.

Orienting Information:

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)

Recipient(s): Titus, a Gentile and sometime traveling companion of Paul (see Gal 2:1–3; 2 Cor 7:6–16; 8:6, 16–24; 12:17–18); and the churches on Crete (Titus 3:15, “you all”)

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

You Cretan!

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.

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) 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. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 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.