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Paul is the author of Titus. In Titus 1:1, he introduces himself: “From Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness.” It is believed that Paul wrote this epistle sometime after his Roman imprisonment (AD 62) but before his final imprisonment where he was put to death (AD 66/67). Therefore, the approximate date of his writing Titus is probably between AD 62-66. The place of the writing is unknown, but many believe Paul wrote it from Macedonia.1 Paul probably wrote the book of Titus around the same time he wrote 1 Timothy. Since the 1700s, the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus have been known as the pastoral epistles because they are written primarily to individual pastors (Timothy and Titus) about how to run the churches they were overseeing.2


As mentioned, Titus is the primary recipient of the letter. He was a non-Jewish Greek who probably accepted Christ during one of Paul’s missionary journeys. Therefore, Paul calls him a “genuine son in a common faith” (1:4) which is similar to what he called Timothy (1 Tim 1:2). Like Timothy, Titus commonly traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and ministered with him. When there was a battle raging over Gentile believers having to be circumcised like Jews, Paul brought Titus to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, as an example of a Gentile believer who was not circumcised. Galatians 2:3-5 says this:

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek. Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

Titus later became Paul’s trouble-shooter. When immorality and false teaching was happening in Corinth, Paul sent Titus there to minister to them (2 Cor 7:5-8). After Titus returned with good news of their repentance, Paul sent him back to help the Corinthians prepare an offering for suffering Christians in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:6, 16-17). No doubt, Titus was very good relationally, as the Corinthians were a very difficult ministry. Some in the church were criticizing Paul (2 Cor 10:10), probably declaring that he was not an apostle (2 Cor 9:2), and practicing all types of sexual immorality (1 Cor 5:1, 6:15-20). Apparently, since Titus had done such a good job in Corinth, Paul left him in Crete which was also a difficult ministry (Tit 1:5). Cretans had a reputation for being unruly and dishonest. Paul quotes one of their philosophers, Epimenides, to emphasize their dishonest and unruly culture. Titus 1:12-13 says,

A certain one of them, in fact, one of their own prophets, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Such testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith

Because of the Cretans’ reputation, the Greeks developed the word “cretize” which was a synonym for lying.3 The Cretan’s most famous lie was probably the claim that Zeus was buried on their island. Obviously, since pagans believed he was immortal, the claim was quite incredulous.4 In addition, the Cretans were known for their impatience and quarrels with all authorities. “Polybius, the Greek historian, said of them that they were constantly involved in ‘insurrections, murders and internecine wars.”5 This is probably why in Titus 3:1, Paul instructs Titus to teach them “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” As Christians, they were to learn how to be good citizens.

The Cretan church was probably established by Jewish Cretans who heard the gospel at Pentecost. In Acts 2:11, it says, “both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!” These believing Cretans eventually returned to their country and probably planted churches. Crete is an island southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s about 160 miles long and 35 miles wide.6 At some point, most likely after Paul’s first imprisonment, he stopped there with Titus to evangelize the lost and encourage the believers.7 Eventually, Paul left Titus in Crete to set things in order. Titus 1:5 says, “The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Though the letter was written primarily to Titus, it was also to be read to all the congregations in Crete. At the end of the letter in Titus 3:15, Paul sends greetings to all the believers there: “Everyone with me greets you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.”


In the letter, Paul has many purposes. (1) First, he wanted to warn Titus and the Cretans of the many false teachers in the church that needed to be silenced. Apparently, there were Jewish teachers teaching Jewish myths and obedience to the Mosaic law, probably including the need for Gentiles to be circumcised in order to be saved. He alludes to the teachers and their teachings throughout the letter. Titus 1:10-11 and 3:9 says,

For there are many rebellious people, idle talkers, and deceivers, especially those with Jewish connections [also translated “circumcision party” in the ESV], who must be silenced because they mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught.

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty

(2) Secondly, in part because of these false teachers, Paul wanted Titus to set up elders in the Cretan churches (Tit 1:5-10). Titus 1:5 says, “The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Setting elders in each church would be crucial for building up the local believers and protecting them from false teaching and division (Tit 1:9, 3:10).

(3) Third, Paul emphasizes the importance of salvation throughout the letter, that believers are saved by grace through faith. In fact, the word “savior” is only used twelve times in the New Testament, and six of those are in Titus.8 Three times “savior” is used of God and three times of Jesus. 9 Paul wanted to emphasize to the Cretans that they were saved by God’s grace and not their works. This was probably to contradict the Jewish false teachers who were teaching salvation through obedience to the Old Testament law. Titus 3:4-7 is one of the clearest texts in all of Scripture on the believer’s salvation. It says,

But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

(4) Fourth, Paul emphasizes the need for sound doctrine throughout the letter, in part because of all the false teaching (1:4, 9, 13; 2:1, 2, 7, 8, 10; 3:15).10 He says this about a potential elder in Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.” Titus 2:1 and 7-8 say this:

But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching… In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.

Daniel Akin, the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Sound teaching may be the heart of Titus. The phrase occurs four times in the New Testament, all in the pastorals, with two of those in Titus. Literally it is ‘healthy teaching.’”11 (5) Fifth, Paul wanted to emphasize that the Cretans were not saved simply from their sins but specifically to good works which are a fruit of sound teaching. Good works are mentioned six times throughout the book (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). Titus 2:14 says this about Christ, “He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” Titus 3:8 says, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works…” Good works are not an end in themselves; it seems that the good works are meant to be evangelistic—drawing unbelievers to Christ (cf. Matt 5:16). In Titus 2:10, Paul told slaves to obey their masters “in order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” He also told wives to submit to their husbands “so that the message of God may not be discredited” (2:5). This is very similar to what Peter said in his letter. First Peter 2:12 says, “maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears.” No doubt, they will glorify God when he comes instead of crouching in fear because they accepted Christ because of the believers’ faith manifested through love around them (cf. Gal 5:6). The need to perform good works was especially important for the Cretans to hear because of their unruly and dishonest culture (Tit 1:12-13).

By studying the letter of Titus, may the Lord equip us and inspire us to good works which benefit all people, including leading the lost to Christ. Lord, let it be so! Amen!

Copyright © 2023 Gregory Brown

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1 Carson, D. A.; Carson, D. A.; Moo, Douglas J.; Moo, Douglas J. Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

2 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2069). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


4 John F. MacArthur Jr., Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 61.

5 William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, 3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 290.

6 Barton, Bruce, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman. 2001. Life Application New Testament Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale.

7 Barton, Bruce, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman. 2001. Life Application New Testament Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale.

8 Platt, David, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

9 Platt, David, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

10 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

11 Platt, David, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference.

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