Titus: Fine Counsel to ‘Keep Healthy in the Faith’
ALL truly dedicated Christians know that to please their Creator Jehovah God they must be sound, balanced, strong, “healthy in the faith.” Therefore, they are concerned that the teaching they receive from their overseers be “healthful teaching.” Fittingly, in his letter to Titus the apostle Paul expresses concern that Titus and other overseers teach what is healthful and that those to whom they minister be “healthy in the faith.”—Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 6.
When did the apostle Paul write this letter to Titus? Most likely it was written by Paul between his first and second imprisonments, namely, between 61 and 64 C.E. Like his letters to Timothy, Paul’s letter to Titus relates to activity not mentioned in the book of Acts. Paul’s second letter to Timothy, written while he was in prison or under house arrest, indicates that Paul had been released for a time from an earlier imprisonment and that this was His second imprisonment. So it must have been during this time of freedom that Titus accompanied him in preaching to the Cretans. When Paul found it necessary to leave Crete, he commissioned Titus to take care of ‘unfinished business’ that remained, not least of which was refuting the Judaizers among those associated with Cretan congregations.
The fact that Paul gave this commission to Titus indicates that he had great confidence in him, even as can be seen also from his letters to others. Thus he wrote the Corinthians that, if “there is any question about Titus, he is a sharer with me and a fellow worker for your interests.” Yes, Titus had the same unselfish disposition that Paul had.—2 Cor. 7:6; 8:6, 16, 17, 23.
Paul’s letter to Titus has much in common with the first letter to Timothy. Among other things, in both letters Paul gives explicit instructions as to the qualifications of overseers and how Christian women should conduct themselves. However, it seems that Titus was not as intimate with Paul as was Timothy, for the letter to Titus has a minimum of personal references whereas Paul’s letters to Timothy abound in personal references both to himself and to Timothy.
We also detect a slightly different tone in Paul’s letter to Titus as compared to that in his letters to Timothy. This is no doubt due to the kind of people with whom Titus had to work. Paul quotes a Cretan prophet who charges his own people with being liars, lazy, injurious and gluttons. In fact, in some places at that time to call someone a Cretan was to call him a liar. Clearly Christians coming out of such an environment would have a more difficult time in making over their personalities. Thus we find that while the qualifications Paul lists for overseers are much the same in each letter, Titus additionally is told that overseers must be self-controlled and able “to reprove those who contradict.” Farther on, Titus is exhorted to be “reproving them with severity,” and to keep “exhorting and reproving with full authority.” As for a man who “promotes a sect,” that is, causes divisions, Titus was to “reject him after a first and a second admonition.”—Titus 1:9, 13; 2:15; 3:10.
In comparing Paul’s relations with Timothy and with Titus, some have wondered why Paul handled the matter of circumcision so differently in the two cases. Acts 16:3 tells that Paul had Timothy circumcised. But in Galatians 2:3 Paul states: “Not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek.” What is the explanation?
Since it was known that Timothy had a Jewish mother, people might expect him to have been circumcised. Circumcision would be of great value in making him acceptable to the Jews. But with Titus it was more a matter of principle. He was a Greek; both of his parents doubtless were non-Jews. Moreover, Paul stresses that not even Titus was “compelled” to be circumcised. This suggests that there had been pressure on the part of the Judaizing Christians to have Titus circumcised. No doubt to make his point as strong as possible, Paul took the uncircumcised Titus along to the meeting in Jerusalem, where, after much disputing, the apostles and other older men ruled that Gentile Christians did not need to get circumcised or keep all the requirements of the Law.
Looking to the spiritual health of all in the congregation, Paul discusses the conduct of various groups within it. In particular he desires the older men to be “healthy in faith, in love, in endurance.” They must also be “moderate in habits, serious, sound in mind.” This is indeed wise counsel; some older men do tend to take lightly matters that should be taken seriously. Younger men are also to be “sound in mind.”—Titus 2:2, 6.
Of course, older Christian women as well as younger ones should also be “healthy in the faith.” To that end, what is required of them? “Let the aged women be reverent in behavior, not slanderous, neither enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of what is good; that they may recall the young women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” How timely such advice is for our day, when strong emphasis on ‘liberation’ for women is yielding such bad fruits as skyrocketing desertion by mothers of their families and a great increase in crime among women!—Titus 2:3-5.
Then Paul counsels Titus to exhort slaves to cooperate fully with their masters and to be honest, so that their conduct does not reflect unfavorably on their Christian religion but, instead, recommends it. That is counsel that quite fittingly applies to all employees today.
All who would be “healthy in the faith” must surely heed Paul’s further admonition to “repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion.” It is also required of us that we be in subjection to worldly governments, “to be ready for every good work, to speak injuriously of no one.” How fitting the latter counsel is! For fallen human nature is so prone to speak injuriously or evil of others, especially if they have offended us. Far from being belligerent we want to be reasonable and display mildness to all, even though persons about us are extremely selfish. But God’s holy spirit and his love for humankind, as seen by the gift of his Son, have delivered us from the ways of the world and have given us the hope of everlasting life.—Titus 2:12; 3:1, 2, 4-8.
Truly there is much fine counsel in Paul’s letter to Titus for all in the Christian congregation; counsel for all elders that they may put forth “healthful teaching” and for all believers that they may be “healthy in the faith.”