Here is the preface to the epistle, showing,
I. The writer. Paul, a Gentile name taken by the apostle of the Gentiles, Acts 13:9, 46, 47. Ministers will accommodate even smaller matters, so that they may be any furthering of acceptance in their work. When the Jews rejected the gospel, and the Gentiles received it, we read no more of this apostle by his Jewish name Saul, but by his Roman one, Paul. A servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Here he is described by his relation and office: A servant of God, not in the general sense only, as a man and a Christian, but especially as a minister, serving God in the gospel of his Son, Rom. 1:9. This is a high honour; it is the glory of angels that they are ministering spirits, and sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. 1:14. Paul is described more especially as a chief minister, an apostle of Jesus Christ; one who had seen the Lord, and was immediately called and commissioned by him, and had his doctrine from him. Observe, The highest officers in the church are but servants. (Much divinity and devotion are comprehended in the inscriptions of the epistles.) The apostles of Jesus Christ, who were employed to spread and propagate his religion, were therein also the servants of God; they did not set up any thing inconsistent with the truths and duties of natural religion. Christianity, which they preached, was in order to clear and enforce those natural principles, as well as to advance them, and to superadd what was fit and necessary in man’s degenerate and revolted state: therefore the apostles of Jesus Christ were the servants of God, according to the faith of God’s elect. Their doctrine agreed with the faith of all the elect from the beginning of the world, and was for propagating and promoting the same. Observe, There are elect of God (1 Pet. 1:2), and in these the Holy Spirit works precious divine faith, proper to those who are chosen to eternal life (2 Thess. 2:13, 14): God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, whereunto he called you by our gospel. Faith is the first principle of sanctification. And the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness. The gospel is truth; the great, sure, and saving truth (Col. 1:5), the word of the truth of the gospel. Divine faith rests not on fallible reasonings and probable opinions, but on the infallible word, the truth itself, which is after godliness, of a godly nature and tendency, pure, and purifying the heart of the believer. By this mark judge of doctrines and of spirits—whether they be of God or not; what is impure, and prejudicial to true piety and practical religion, cannot be of divine original. All gospel truth is after godliness, teaching and nourishing reverence and fear of God, and obedience to him; it is truth not only to be known, but acknowledged; it must be held forth in word and practice, Phil. 2:15, 16. With the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, Rom. 10:10. Such as retain the truth in unrighteousness neither know nor believe as they ought. To bring to this knowledge and faith, and to the acknowledging and professing of the truth which is after godliness, is the great end of the gospel ministry, even of the highest degree and order in it; their teachings should have this chief aim, to beget faith and confirm in it. In (orfor) hope of eternal life, Titus 1:2. This is the further intent of the gospel, to beget hope as well as faith; to take off the mind and heart from the world, and to raise them to heaven and the things above. The faith and godliness of Christians lead to eternal life, and give hope and well-grounded expectation of it; for God, that cannot lie, hath promised it. It is the honour of God that he cannot lie or deceive: and this is the comfort of believers, whose treasure is laid up in his faithful promises. But how is he said to promise before the world began? Answer, By promise some understand his decree: he purposed it in his eternal counsels, which were as it were his promise in embryo: or rather, say some, pro chronon aionion is before ancient times, or many years ago, referring to the promise darkly delivered, Gen. 3:15. Here is the stability and antiquity of the promise of eternal life to the saints. God, who cannot lie, hath promised before the world began, that is, many ages since. How excellent then is the gospel, which was the matter of divine promise so early! how much to be esteemed by us, and what thanks due for our privilege beyond those before us! Blessed are your eyes, for they see, etc. No wonder if the contempt of it be punished severely, since he has not only promised it of old, but (Titus 1:3) has in due times manifested his word through preaching; that is, made that his promise, so darkly delivered of old, in due time (the proper season before appointed) more plain by preaching; that which some called foolishness of preaching has been thus honoured. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, by the word preached. Which is committed unto me. The ministry is a trust; none taketh this honour, but he who is thereunto appointed; and whoso is appointed and called must preach the word. 1 Cor. 9:16; Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel. Nonpreaching ministers are none of the apostle’s successors. According to the commandment of God our Saviour. Preaching is a work appointed by a God as a Saviour. See a proof here of Christ’s deity, for by him was the gospel committed to Paul when he was converted (Acts 9:15, 17; 22:10, 14, 15), and again when Christ appeared to him, Acts 22:17-21. He therefore is this Saviour; not but that the whole Timothy concur therein: the Father saves by the Son through the Spirit, and all concur in sending ministers. Let none rest therefore in men’s calling, without God’s; he furnishes, inclines, authorizes, and gives opportunity for the work.
II. The person written to, who is described, 1. By his name, Titus, a Gentile Greek, yet called both to the faith and ministry. Observe, the grace of God is free and powerful. What worthiness or preparation was there in one of heathen stock and education? 2. By his spiritual relation to the apostle: My own (or my genuine) son, not by natural generation, but by supernatural regeneration. I have begotten you through the gospel, said he to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 4:15. Ministers are spiritual fathers to those whom they are the means of converting, and will tenderly affect and care for them, and must be answerably regarded by them. “My own son after the common faith, that faith which is common to all the regenerate, and which thou hast in truth, and expressest to the life.” This might be said to distinguish Titus from hypocrites and false teachers, and to recommend him to the regard of the Cretans, as being among them a lively image of the apostle himself, in faith, and life, and heavenly doctrine. To this Titus, deservedly so dear to the apostle, is,
III. The salutation and prayer, wishing all blessings to him: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. Here are, 1. The blessings wished: Grace, mercy, and peace. Grace, the free favour of God, and acceptance with him. Mercy, the fruits of that favour, in pardon of sins, and freedom from all miseries by it, both here and hereafter. And peace, the positive effect and fruit of mercy. Peace with God through Christ who is our peace, and with the creatures and ourselves; outward and inward peace, comprehending all good whatsoever, that makes for our happiness in time and to eternity. Observe, Grace is the fountain of all blessings. Mercy, and peace, and all good, spring out of this. Get into God’s favour, and all must be well; for, 2. These are the persons from whom blessings are wished: From God the Father, the fountain of all good. Every blessing, every comfort, comes to us from God as a Father; he is the Father of all by creation, but of the good by adoption and regeneration. And the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, as the way and means of procurement and conveyance. All is from the Father by the Son, who is Lord by nature, heir of all things, and our Lord, Redeemer, and head, ordering and ruling his members. All are put under him; we hold of him, as in capite, and owe subjection and obedience to him, who is also Jesus and Christ, the anointed Saviour, and especially our Saviour, who believe in him, delivering us from sin and hell, and bringing us to heaven and happiness.
Thus far is the preface to the epistle; then follows the entrance into the matter, by signifying the end of Titus’s being left in Crete.