Titus: Building a Church that Honors God

The “Pastoral Epistles” offer a window into the first century church, as well as a great architectural diagram of how the body was to be built from the foundation up. This study includes some word studies at the end that leaders in the local church context may well find helpful!

The Epistle of Paul to Titus

The Author of the Letter:

  1. Name: Paul = “little”; Shaul (Hebrew name) = “asked”
  1. Place of Birth: Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia in southeastern Asia Minor (Acts 22:3).
  1. Occupation, role, or title: A tentmaker by trade, his livelihood (Acts 18:3; 20:34; 1Cor. 4:12); once a zealous persecutor of the primitive church (Acts 8:1-3); after his conversion, the most effective missionary of early Christianity and, as traditional author of 14 NT epistles, the church’s first theologian.
  1. Place of Death: Rome (Eusebius, Church History, Bk. 2, Ch. 25).
  1. Important facts about the person’s life: Paul was born of Jewish parents in Tarsus, capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, probably about 5 CE. He inherited Roman citizenship from his father, a status that would prove of great use to Paul during his ministry. His early years were spent in Tarsus where he probably acquired the trade of tent making (or perhaps leatherworking). As a young man, Paul—then still called “Saul”—went to Jerusalem, where he studied under the famous Jewish sage Gamaliel and became exceedingly “zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3) and the things of the law. For Paul, this included persecuting the nascent Christian church, both in Jerusalem and in far-flung cities (Acts 26:9-11). Indeed, he first appeared in the early Messianic record as one witnessing and consenting to the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58ff). However, after his dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) Paul became as zealous for the cause of Christ as he had once been in opposition to it.

After a three-year sojourn in Arabia (probably southern Jordan, then held by Arabs) and then visiting both Damascus and Jerusalem again (Gal. 1:15ff), Paul apparently returned for a few years to his native Tarsus. From there, Barnabas called Paul to help with the burgeoning work in Antioch where they labored together for a year or more (Acts 11:25-26). The Antioch church ordained the two as missionaries, and Paul then undertook a series of three missionary journeys, between about 45 and 58 CE.

  • The first journey (45-47 CE; Acts 13:4—14:28) took Paul and Barnabas through the island of Cyprus, then the southeastern part of Asia Minor, planting communities of believers.
  • On the second journey (51-54 CE; Acts 15:40—18:22) Silas and Timothy accompanied the Apostle west across Asia Minor and into Europe, as far as Corinth in Greece.
  • The third journey (54-58 CE; Acts 18:23—21:15), covering much of the same territory, included over two years at Ephesus, and its return leg constituted Paul’s final journey to Jerusalem.

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (circa 61 CE) following a riot in the Temple and later appeared before the successive Roman governors Felix and—after two years in prison—Festus, in Caesarea Maritima. Appealing his case to the emperor (Acts 25:10-12), Paul was sent to Rome and, after being shipwrecked (probably on the island of Malta), arrived there probably in the first half of the year 62 CE (Acts 28:16). The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, preaching while under house arrest and awaiting trial. (Some have conjectured, based primarily on material in 2 Timothy 4, that Paul was initially acquitted in Rome, then engaged in further missionary activity, and finally underwent a second imprisonment; some also presume these events to have been recounted in a lost epilogue to the Luke-Acts narrative.) Church tradition says that Paul was beheaded in Rome sometime during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE).

The Recipient of the Letter  (The Church Planter – Titus)

The mission church planter Titus probably came to Jesus during the preaching and teaching ministry of Paul (Titus 1:4), and became his disciple shortly after. Titus accompanied Paul to Jerusalem in 50 CE for the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:2; Gal. 2:1-3) and became an example of the stand the early church had on the Gentile need for circumcision (Paul was not required to circumcise Titus, as he was a Gentile). Titus took direction from Paul and was sent by the Apostle to Corinth as a representative (see 2 Corinthians 7 and 8). He carried Paul’s letter (2 Corinthians) to the church. Later, Paul left Titus in Crete to establish churches, and probably later replaced him on that field with Artemas (or Tychichus) when he called Titus to winter with Paul in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). From Nicopolis, Titus was apparently assigned work in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia, see 2 Tim. 4:10). Church tradition records that Titus eventually returned to Crete and died there man years later.

The Purpose of the Letter (the situation that caused Paul to write):

A few years before the death of the Apostle Paul, he wrote to a younger church planter about the establishment of solid, well rooted, God honoring churches in Crete. Titus took directions from Paul as his sending agent (as stated above). He handled difficult assignments for Paul in the matter of disobedience in a rebellious church at Corinth as part of his training to plant churches (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:6-7, 13-15; 8:6, 16-17). Paul was delighted with the sensitivity and strength of his disciple.

A careful reading of the text of the Epistle to Titus reveals the message of the Gospel had already begun to take root in Crete, but the saved had not yet been organized into strong local churches. The letter probably personally encouraged the church planter, but more importantly added an authoritative boost to his stature when rather sharp exchanges became necessary.

Another key to the purpose was found in Paul’s comments about Titus’ approach. Titus was told to “speak evil of no man” (3:2) and deal with the lost in meekness. Some Cretans may have assailed Titus for lacking sharpness in the beginning, but these words from Paul would help set them at ease. It was not necessary to argue endlessly, but it was necessary to defend the flock and stop some of the subversive speech of the traveling speakers who were trying to pull Gentiles into keeping the Torah (Law) of Moses.

Six Key Principles in the Letter:

The letter outlines six major principles to establishing well-grounded and God-pleasing churches:

  1. Everything rises or falls on the quality of the leadership of the congregation, choose wisely! (1:5-9)
  1. The leaders must remember the church is a teaching organization, and the parameters of the teaching must be maintained and defended for the flock to be healthy, protect them! (1:10-16)
  1. The group becomes a true church when the members are equipped and begin to function in their relationships to each other and to the world, train them! (2:1-10)
  1. The church is formed by God’s grace, and maintained by careful obedience to the Father’s commands lived out in expectation of the Lord’s return, keep working! (2:11-15)
  1. The Cretan church should be characterized by a gracious spirit toward the world and its leaders – a humility bathed in the memory of their own former sojourn, be gracious! (3:1-7)
  1. Though they are gracious, they must not ignore the creeping influence of error and contention, be careful! (3:8-11).

For further study: An Outline of the Epistle of Paul to Titus

I. The greeting: The senior missionary to a new church planter – guidelines for the establishment of order in the church (1:1-4)

II. Step One: Identify the leadership and apply responsibility! (1:5-16).

A. Establishing leadership: Choose leaders wisely (1:5-9)

B. Establishing the parameters of the teaching: protect the truth (1:10-16)

III. Step Two: Instruct people to get busy about their God-given work! (2:1-15)

  1. The tasks defined: it’s all about relationships (1-10)
  • The Church Planter (1, cp. 2:15) In order to establish the work, teach!
  • The Older Men (2): temperate, sensible, discreet, unerring faith, loving spirit, patient deportment.
  • The Older Women (3): reverent behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine, teachers of the right behaviors.
  • Younger Women (4-5): love husband and children, discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, subject to their husbands to protect their home reputation.
  • The Younger Men (6-8): discreet, (and by example of Titus himself in vv. 7-8) maintain a consistent pattern of good work in every area, in the teachings, pure, sensible, uncorrupted, sound and careful speech, leaving nothing for his adversaries to claim.
  • The Servants (9-10): pleasing to master, not contradicting, not stealing, but showing the best of the teaching of our Savior.
  • The Principle for ALL (11-15). Walk in grace circumspectly, and be aware of the cost to our Master for us. Do what pleases Him, as is your purpose!

IV. Step Three: Remind people to establish a Credible Public Testimony (3:1-11)

A. In relation to Authorities in the World: be obedient (1).

B. In relation to the Unsaved in the Community: be considerate and understanding – you were like them before (2-7).

C. In relation to those who stir up the Church: stress the truth and avoid divisive nonsense (8-11).

V. Personal Greetings and Messages (3:12-15).

Other Notes: The Measure of A Great Church

Key Principle: How did Paul measure this church? He measured it by the congregation’s adherence to carefully presented standards.

Older Men: (means “senior male” as in age not office of “elder” term as used in 1:5)

1)      Sober: (NIV) temperate; adjective meaning to not “wine controlled”, came to be used as a word for “clear headed”; possessing all the faculties at all times.

2)      Grave: (NIV) worthy of respect; seriousness of purpose and dignified such that he commands respect.

3)      Temperate: (NIV) “self-controlled”; possessing self-mastery.

4)      Sound in faith, “sound” is derived from a building term for a solid foundation. The word has a Greek article, suggesting the meaning “their faith”. The term faith may mean “doctrine” but here it appears to be their personal faith in the Lord Jesus.

5)      charity (NIV) “love”; The word is for relational love, as opposed to a vindictive spirit or bitterness.

6)      patience: endurance”; The word is a military term that denotes brave persistence and strength of character.

Older Women:

1)      In behavior as becometh holiness: (NIV) “be reverent in the way they live”; literally a cultic term for the interior and exterior of a temple to be suitable for holy uses.

2)      Not false accusers: (NIV) “not slanderers”; the word is elsewhere translated gossip.

3)      Not given to much wine: (NIV) “not addicted to much wine”; the grammar suggests that #2 and #3 are linked. Was the problem at the wine bar? Was the problem loose speech after too much to drink?

4)      Teachers of good things: the word is derived from the personal counsel of a tutor.

5)      Teach the younger women to be sober: (literally “to return one to her senses”). The term for “teach” is different than the one used above, it was sometimes used in the Greek world as an athletic word for training that happens over a long and arduous process. The term “younger women” is the term NEW or FRESH and may mean either the newly married (less likely) or the NEW WOMEN IN JESUS. The training of the new women in the church was not the responsibility of the Elders, nor of Titus, but of the older women!

Younger Women: (Those newer to the faith)

1)      Love their husbands: (literally) “devoted to their husbands”.

2)      Love their children: (literally) “devoted to their children”.

3)      Be discreet: (NIV) “self controlled”

4)      Chaste: (NIV) “pure”

5)      Keepers at home: (The KJV follows the text as “oikourous” or “home guard”, the NIV uses a different text that contains the word “oikourgous” which means “to be busy at home”. The NIV thought the second choice made more sense with Paul’s other admonitions as 1 Tim. 5:13,14 – to avoid idleness).

6)      Good: (NIV) “kind”; the selfless demands placed on a wife an mother can cause her to cultivate a harsh and irritable spirit. Servanthood is contrary to human nature and Roman culture, so this training was valuable!

7)      Obedient to their own husbands: (NIV) “to be subject to their husbands” is apparently to be read in middle voice, “subjecting themselves to in a voluntary way”. Though she was equal in salvation (Gal. 3:28), yet she placed herself in subjection. The subjection was directly linked to the testimony of the home and of the Word of God!

Young men

(and by example of Titus himself in vv. 7-8): (word IS for young men). Titus was told to “exhort” (literally “to come beside and show how”) to be sober minded: (NIV) “self-controlled” as the teaching to younger women. Obviously the greatest need of the young Cretan men was to stay their impetuous nature and cultivate restraint.

Titus (Church planter, then Pastor)

(By example – commands of vv. 7-8 to him!) Show a pattern of good works: (NIV) “set for them an example” is literally “holding yourself beside them as an example”of a teacher of the Word.

1)      Doctrine: showing uncorruptness: highest quality in teaching!

2)      Gravity: teaching with a motive of integrity in all things.

3)      Sincerity: teaching with outward dignity and seriousness.

4)      Sound speech: his words were to be, when tested, found consistently reliable. There was an expectation that his words were opposed by some, but after testing, his word should have been consistent, and morally pure.


1)      Obedient to masters (Greek – despotes): is literally “to attempt to please”.

2)      Not contradicting: (Greek – “antilego”) is literally “not talking back to, or against  them”.

3)      Not purloining: (NIV) stealing.

4)      Showing in all fidelity: literally, “demonstrating good faith” – showing the best of the teaching of our Savior.

A congregation that focused on their relationship to the Lord by keeping these carefully presented standards was a great church!