The apostle here gives Titus directions about ordination, showing whom he should ordain, and whom not.
I. Of those whom he should ordain. He points out their qualifications and virtues; such as respect their life and manners, and such as relate to their doctrine: the former in the Titus 1:6, 7, 8, and the latter in the Titus 1:9.
1. Their qualifications respecting their life and manners are,
(1.) More general: If any be blameless; not absolutely without fault, so none are, for there is none that liveth and sinneth not; nor altogether unblamed, this is rare and difficult. Christ himself and his apostles were blamed, though not worthy of it. In Christ thee was certainly nothing blamable; and his apostles were not such as their enemies charged them to be. But the meaning is, He must be one who lies not under an ill character; but rather must have good report, even from those that are without; not grossly or scandalously guilty, so as would bring reproach upon the holy function; he must not be such a one.
(2.) More particularly.
[1.] There is his relative character. In his own person, he must be of conjugal chastity: The husband of one wife. The church of Rome says the husband of no wife, but from the beginning it was not so; marriage is an ordinance from which no profession nor calling is a bar. 1 Cor. 9:5; Have I not power, says Paul, to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles? Forbidding to marry is one of the erroneous doctrines of the antichristian church, 1 Tim. 4:3. Not that ministers must be married; this is not meant; but the husband of one wife may be either not having divorced his wife and married another (as was too common among those of the circumcision, even for slight causes), or the husband of one wife, that is, at one and the same time, no bigamist; not that he might not be married to more than one wife successively, but, being married, he must have but one wife at once, not two or more, according to the too common sinful practice of those times, by a perverse imitation of the patriarchs, from which evil custom our Lord taught a reformation. Polygamy is scandalous in any, as also having a harlot or concubine with his lawful wife; such sin, or any wanton libidinous demeanour, must be very remote from such as would enter into so sacred a function. And, as to his children, having faithful children, obedient and good, brought up in the true Christian faith, and living according to it, at least as far as the endeavours of the parents can avail. It is for the honour of ministers that their children be faithful and pious, and such as become their religion. Not accused of riot, nor unruly, not justly so accused, as having given ground and occasion for it, for otherwise the most innocent may be falsely so charged; they must look to it therefore that there be no colour for such censure. Children so faithful, and obedient, and temperate, will be a good sign of faithfulness and diligence in the parent who has so educated and instructed them; and, from his faithfulness in the less, there may be encouragement to commit to him the greater, the rule and government of the church of God. The ground of this qualification is shown from the nature of his office (Titus 1:7): For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God. Those before termed presbyters, or elders, are in this verse styled bishops; and such they were, having no ordinary fixed and standing officers above them. Titus’s business here, it is plain, was but occasional, and his stay short, as was before noted. Having ordained elders, and settled in their due form, he went and left all (for aught that appears in scripture) in the hands of those elders whom the apostle here calls bishops and stewards of God. We read not in the sacred writings of any successor he had in Crete; but to those elders or bishops was committed the full charge of feeding, ruling, and watching over their flock; they wanted not any powers necessary for carrying on religion and the ministry of it among them, and committing it down to succeeding ages. Now, being such bishops and overseers of the flock, who were to be examples to them, and God’s stewards to take care of the affairs of his house, to provide for and dispense to them things needful, there is great reason that their character should be clear and good, that they should be blameless. How else could it be but that religion must suffer, their work be hindered, and souls prejudiced and endangered, whom they were set to save? These are the relative qualifications with the ground of them.
[2.] The more absolute ones are expressed, First, Negatively, showing what an elder or bishop must not be: Not self-willed. The prohibition is of large extent, excluding self-opinion, or overweening conceit of parts and abilities, and abounding in one’s own sense,—self-love, and self-seeking, making self the centre of all,—also self-confidence and trust, and self-pleasing, little regarding or setting by others,—being proud, stubborn, froward, inflexible, set on one’s own will and way, or churlish as Nabal: such is the sense expositors have affixed to the term. A great honour it is to a minister not to be thus affected, to be ready to ask and to take advice, to be ready to defer as much as reasonably may be to the mind and will of others, becoming all things to all men, that they may gain some. Not soon angry, me orgilon, not one of a hasty angry temper, soon and easily provoked and inflamed. How unfit are those to govern a church who cannot govern themselves, or their own turbulent and unruly passions! The minister must be meek and gentle, and patient towards all men. Not given to wine; thee is no greater reproach on a minister than to be a wine-bibber, one who loves it, and gives himself undue liberty this way who continues at the wine or strong drink till it inflames him. Seasonable and moderate use of this, as of the other good creatures of God, is not unlawful. Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities, said Paul to Timothy, 1 Tim. 5:23. But excess therein is shameful in all, especially in a minister. Wine takes away the heart, turns the man into a brute: here most proper is that exhortation of the apostle (Eph. 5:18), Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Here is no exceeding, but in the former too easily there may: take heed therefore of going too near the brink. No striker, in any quarrelsome or contentious manner, not injuriously nor out of revenge, with cruelty or unnecessary roughness. Not given to filthy lucre; not greedy of it (as 1 Tim. 3:3), whereby is not meant refusing a just return for their labours, in order to their necessary support and comfort; but not making gain their first or chief end, not entering into the ministry nor managing it with base worldly views. Nothing is more unbecoming a minister, who is to direct his own and others’ eyes to another world, than to be too intent upon this. It is called filthy lucre, from its defiling the soul that inordinately affects or greedily looks after it, as if it were any otherwise desirable than for the good and lawful uses of it. Thus of the negative part of the bishop’s character. But, Secondly, Positively: he must be (Titus 1:8) a lover of hospitality, as an evidence that he is not given to filthy lucre, but is willing to use what he has to the best purposes, not laying up for himself, so as to hinder charitable laying out for the good of others; receiving and entertaining strangers (as the word imports), a great and necessary office of love, especially in those times of affliction and distress, when Christians were made to fly and wander for safety from persecution and enemies, or in travelling to and fro where there were not such public houses for reception as in our days, nor, it may be, had many poor saints sufficiency of their own for such uses—then to receive and entertain them was good and pleasing to God. And such a spirit and practice, according to ability and occasion, are very becoming such as should be examples of good works. A lover of good men, or of good things; ministers should be exemplary in both; this will evince their open piety, and likeness to God and their Master Jesus Christ: Do good to all, but especially to those of the household of faith, those who are the excellent of the earth, in whom should be all our delight. Sober, or prudent, as the word signifies; a needful grace in a minister both for his ministerial and personal carriage and management. He should be a wise steward, and one who is not rash, or foolish, or heady; but who can govern well his passions and affections. Just in things belonging to civil life, and moral righteousness, and equity in dealings, giving to all their due. Holy, in what concerns religion; one who reverences and worships God, and is of a spiritual and heavenly conversation. Temperate; it comes from a word that signifies strength, and denotes one who has power over his appetite and affections, or, in things lawful, can, for good ends, restrain and hold them in. Nothing is more becoming a minister than such things as these, sobriety, temperance, justice, and holiness—sober in respect of himself, just and righteous towards all men, and holy towards God. And thus of the qualifications respecting the minister’s life and manners, relative and absolute, negative and positive, what he must not, and what he must, be and do.
2. As to doctrine,
(1.) Here is his duty: Holding fast the faithful word, as he has been taught, keeping close to the doctrine of Christ, the word of his grace, adhering thereto according to the instructions he has received—holding it fast in his own belief and profession, and in teaching others. Observe, [1.] The word of God, revealed in the scripture, is a true and infallible word; the word of him that is the amen, the true and faithful witness, and whose Spirit guided the penmen of it. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. [2.] Ministers must hold fast, and hold forth, the faithful word in their teaching and life. I have kept the faith, was Paul’s comfort (2 Tim. 4:7), and not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God; there was his faithfulness, Acts 20:27.
(2.) Here is the end: That he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers, to persuade and draw others to the true faith, and to convince the contrary-minded. How should he do this if he himself were uncertain or unsteady, not holding fast that faithful word and sound doctrine which should be the matter of this teaching, and the means and ground of convincing those that oppose the truth? We see here summarily the great work of the ministry—to exhort those who are willing to know and do their duty, and to convince those that contradict, both which are to be done by sound doctrine, that is, in a rational instructive way, by scripture-arguments and testimonies, which are the infallible words of truth, what all may and should rest and be satisfied in and determined by. And thus of the qualifications of the elders whom Titus was to ordain.
II. The apostle’s directory shows whom he should reject or avoid—men of another character, the mention of whom is brought in as a reason of the care he had recommended about the qualifications of ministers, why they should be such, and only such, as he had described. The reasons he takes both from bad teachers and hearers among them, Titus 1:10-16.
1. From bad teachers. (1.) Those false teachers are described. They were unruly, headstrong and ambitious of power, refractory and untractable (as some render it), and such as would not bear nor submit themselves to the discipline and necessary order in the church, impatient of good government and of sound doctrine. And vain talkers and deceivers, conceiting themselves to be wise, but really foolish, and thence great talkers, falling into errors and mistakes, and fond of them, and studious and industrious to draw others into the same. Many such there were, especially those of the circumcision, converts as they pretended, at least, from the Jews, who yet were for mingling Judaism and Christianity together, and so making a corrupt medley. These were the false teachers. (2.) Here is the apostle’s direction how to deal with them (Titus 1:11): Their mouths must be stopped; not by outward force (Titus had no such power, nor was this the gospel method), but by confutation and conviction, showing them their error, not giving place to them even for an hour. In case of obstinacy indeed, breaking the peace of the church, and corrupting other churches, censures are to have place, the last means for recovering the faulty and preventing the hurt of many. Observe, Faithful ministers must oppose seducers in good time, that, their folly being made manifest, they may proceed no further. (3.) The reasons are given for this. [1.] From the pernicious effects of their errors: They subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not (namely, the necessity of circumcision, and of keeping the law of Moses, etc.), so subverting the gospel and the souls of men; not some few only, but whole families. It was unjustly charged on the apostles that they turned the world upside down; but justly on these false teachers that they drew many from the true faith to their ruin: the mouths of such should be stopped, especially considering, [2.] Their base end in what they do: For filthy lucre’s sake, serving a worldly interest under pretence of religion. Love of money is the root of all evil. Most fit it is that such should be resisted, confuted, and put to shame, by sound doctrine, and reasons from the scriptures. Thus of the grounds respecting the bad teachers.
III. In reference to their people or hearers, who are described from ancient testimony given of them.
1. Here is the witness (Titus 1:12): One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, that is, one of the Cretans, not of the Jews, Epimenides a Greek poet, likely to know and unlikely to slander them. A prophet of their own; so their poets were accounted, writers of divine oracles; these often witnessed against the vices of the people: Aratus, Epimenides, and others among the Greeks; Horace, Juvenal, and Persius, among the Latins: much smartness did they use against divers vices.
2. Here is the matter of his testimony: Kretes aei pseustai, kaka theria, gasteres argai—The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. Even to a proverb, they were infamous for falsehood and lying; kretizein, to play the Cretan, or to lie, is the same; and they were compared to evil beasts for their sly hurtfulness and savage nature, and called slow bellies for their laziness and sensuality, more inclined to eat than to work and live by some honest employment. Observe, Such scandalous vices as were the reproach of heathens should be far from Christians: falsehood and lying, invidious craft and cruelty, all beastly and sensual practices, with idleness and sloth, are sins condemned by the light of nature. For these were the Cretans taxed by their own poets.
3. Here is the verification of this by the apostle himself: Titus 1:13. This witness is true, The apostle saw too much ground for that character. The temper of some nations is more inclined to some vices than others. The Cretans were too generally such as here described, slothful and ill-natured, false and perfidious, as the apostle himself vouches. And thence,
4. He instructs Titus how to deal with them: Wherefore rebuke them sharply. When Paul wrote to Timothy he bade him instruct with meekness; but now, when he writes to Titus, he bids him rebuke them sharply. The reason of the difference may be taken from the different temper of Timothy and Titus; the former might have more keenness in his disposition, and be apt to be warm in reproving, whom therefore he bids to rebuke with meekness; and the latter might be one of more mildness, therefore he quickens him, and bids him rebuke sharply. Or rather it was from the difference of the case and people: Timothy had a more polite people to deal with, and therefore he must rebuke them with meekness; and Titus had to do with those who were more rough and uncultivated, and therefore he must rebuke them sharply; their corruptions were many and gross, and committed without shame or modesty, and therefore should be dealt with accordingly. There must in reproving be a distinguishing between sins and sins; some are more gross and heinous in their nature, or in the manner of their commission, with openness and boldness, to the greater dishonour of God and danger and hurt to men: and between sinners and sinners; some are of a more tender and tractable temper, apter to be wrought on by gentleness, and to be sunk and discouraged by too much roughness and severity; others are more hardy and stubborn, and need more cutting language to beget in them remorse and shame. Wisdom therefore is requisite to temper and manage reproofs aright, as may be most likely to do good. Jude 1:22, 23, Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire. The Cretans’ sins and corruptions were many, great, and habitual; therefore they must be rebuked sharply. But that such direction might not be misconstrued,
5. Here is the end of it noted: That they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:14), not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth; that is, that they may be and show themselves truly and effectually changed from such evil tempers and manners as those Cretans in their natural state lived in, and may not adhere to nor regard (as some who were converted might be too ready to do) the Jewish traditions and the superstitions of the Pharisees, which would be apt to make them disrelish the gospel, and the sound and wholesome truths of it. Observe, (1.) The sharpest reproofs must aim at the good of the reproved: they must not be of malice, nor hatred, nor ill-will, but of love; not to gratify pride, passion, nor any evil affection in the reprover, but to reclaim and reform the erroneous and the guilty. (2.) Soundness in the faith is most desirable and necessary. This is the soul’s health and vigour, pleasing to God, comfortable to the Christian, and what makes ready to be cheerful and constant in duty. (3.) A special means to soundness in the faith is to turn away the ear from fables and the fancies of men (1 Tim. 1:4): Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, that minister questions rather than godly edifying, which is in faith. So 1 Tim. 4:7; Refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather to godliness. Fancies and devices of men in the worship of God are contrary to truth and piety. Jewish ceremonies and rites, that were at first divine appointments, the substance having come and their season and use being over, are now but unwarranted commands of men, which not only stand not with, but turn from, the truth, the pure gospel truth and spiritual worship, set up by Christ instead of that bodily service under the law. (4.) A fearful judgment it is to be turned away from the truth, to leave Christ for Moses, the spiritual worship of the gospel for the carnal ordinances of the law, or the true divine institutions and precepts for human inventions and appointments. Who hath bewitched you (said Paul to the Galatians, Gal. 3:1, 3) that you should not obey the truth? Having begun in the Spirit, are you made perfect by the flesh? Thus having shown the end of sharply reproving the corrupt and vicious Cretans, that they might be sound in the faith, and not heed Jewish fables and commands of men,
6. He gives the reasons of this, from the liberty we have by the gospel from legal observances, and the evil and mischief of a Jewish spirit under the Christian dispensation in the Titus 1:15, 16. To good Christians that are sound in the faith and thereby purified all things are pure. Meats and drinks, and such things as were forbidden under the law (the observances of which some still maintain), in these there is now no such distinction, all are pure (lawful and free in their use), but to those that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; things lawful and good they abuse and turn to sin; they suck poison out of that from which others draw sweetness; their mind and conscience, those leading faculties, being defiled, a taint is communicated to all they do. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, Prov. 15:8. And Prov. 21:4; The ploughing of the wicked is sin, not in itself, but as done by him; the carnality of the mind and heart mars all the labour of the hand.
Objection. But are not these judaizers (as you call them) men who profess religion, and speak well of God, and Christ, and righteousness of life, and should they be so severely taxed? Answer, They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate, Titus 1:16. There are many who in word and tongue profess to know God, and yet in their lives and conversations deny and reject him; their practice is a contradiction to their profession. They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness, Ezek. 33:31. Being abominable, and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. The apostle, instructing Titus to rebuke sharply, does himself rebuke sharply; he gives them very hard words, yet doubtless no harder than their case warranted and their need required. Being abominable—bdelyktoi, deserving that God and good men should turn away their eyes from them as nauseous and offensive. And disobedient—apeitheis, unpersuadable and unbelieving. They might do divers things; but it was not the obedience of faith, nor what was commanded, or short of the command. To every good work reprobate, without skill or judgment to do any thing aright. See the miserable condition of hypocrites, such as have a form of godliness, but without the power; yet let us not be so ready to fix this charge on others as careful that it agree not to ourselves, that there be not in us an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God; but that we be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God, Phil. 1:10, 11.