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Titus 1:1-4

1. Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

1. Paulus servus Dei apostolus autem Iesu Christi secundum fidem electorum Dei et agnitionem veritatis quae secundum pietatem est

2. In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

2. in spem vitae aeternae quam promisit qui non mentitur Deus ante tempora saecularia

3. But hath in due time manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;

3. manifestavit autem temporibus suis verbum suum in praedicatione quae credita est mihi secundum praeceptum salvatoris nostri Dei

4. To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

4. Tito dilecto filio secundum communem fidem gratia et pax a Deo Patre et Christo Iesu salvatore nostro

1. A servant of God This extended and laborious commendation of his apostleship shows that Paul had in view the whole Church, and not Titus alone; for his apostleship was not disputed by Titus, and Paul is in the habit of proclaiming the titles of his calling, in order to maintain his authority. Accordingly, just as he perceives those to whom he writes to be disposed, he deals largely or sparingly in those ornaments. Here his design was, to bring into subjection those who had haughtily rebelled; and for this reason he extols his apostleship in lofty terms. He therefore writes this Epistle, not that it may be read in solitude by Titus in his closet, but that it may be openly published.

An Apostle of Jesus Christ First, he calls himself “a servant of God,” and next adds the particular kind of his ministry, namely, that he is “an Apostle of Christ;” for there are various ranks among the servants of God. Thus he descends from the general description to the particular class. We ought also to keep in remembrance what I have said elsewhere, that the word servant means something else than ordinary subjection, (on account of which all believers are called “servants of God,”) and denotes a minister who has received a particular office. In this sense the prophets were formerly distinguished by this title, and Christ himself is the chief of the prophets:

“Behold my servant, I have chosen him.” (Isaiah 42:1.)

Thus David, with a view to his royal dignity calls himself “a servant of God.” Perhaps, also, it is on account of the Jews that he designates himself “a servant of God;” for they were wont to lower his authority by alleging the law against him. He therefore wishes to be accounted an Apostle of Christ in such a manner that he may likewise glory in being a servant of the eternal God. Thus he shows not only that those two titles are quite consistent with each other, but that they are joined by a bond which cannot be dissolved.

According to the faith of the elect of God 209209     “If faith be the fruit of election, the prescience of faith does not influence the electing act of God. It is called ‘the faith of God’s elect,’ Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, (Titus 1:1,) that is, settled in this office to bring the elect of God to faith. If men be chosen by God upon the foresight of faith, or not chosen till they have faith, they are not so much God’s elect as God is their elect: they choose God by faith, before God chooseth them by love. It had not been the faith of God’s elect, that is, of those already chosen, but the faith of those that were to be chosen by God afterwards. Election is the cause of faith, and not faith the cause of election. Fire is the cause of heat, and not heat of fire; the sun is the cause of day, and not the day the cause of the rising of the sun. Men are not chosen because they believe, but they believe because they are chosen. The Apostle did ill else to appropriate that to the elect, which they had no more interest in by virtue of their election than the veriest reprobate in the world. If the foresight of what works might be done by his creatures was the motive of his choosing them why did he not choose the devils to redemption, who could have done him better service, by the strength of their nature, than the whole mass of Adam’s posterity? Well, then, there is no possible way to lay the original foundation of this act of election and preterition in anything but the absolute sovereignty of God.” — Charnock. If any one doubt about his apostleship, he procures credit for it by a very strong reason, connecting it with the salvation “of the elect of God.” As if he had said, “There is a mutual agreement between my apostleship and the faith of the elect of God; and, therefore, it will not be rejected by any man who is not a reprobate and opposed to the true faith.”

By “the elect” he means not only those who were at that time alive, but all that had been from the beginning of the world; for he declares that he teaches no doctrine which does not agree with the faith of Abraham and of all the fathers. So, then, if any person in the present day wishes to be accounted a successor of Paul, he must prove that he is the minister of the same doctrine. But these words contain also an implied contrast, that the gospel may suffer no damage from the unbelief and obstinacy of many; for at that time, as well as in the present day, weak minds were greatly disturbed by this scandal, that the greater part of those who boasted of the title of the Church rejected the pure doctrine of Christ. For this reason Paul shows that, though all indiscriminately boast of the name of God, there are many of that multitude who are reprobates; as he elsewhere (Romans 9:7) affirms, that not all who are descended from Abraham according to the flesh, are the lawful children of Abraham.

And the knowledge of that truth I consider the copulative and to be here equivalent to that is; so that the passage might run thus: “according to the faith of the elect of God, that is, the knowledge of that truth which is according to godliness.” This clause explains what is the nature of that “faith” which he has mentioned, though it is not a full definition of it, but a description framed so as to apply to the present context. For the purpose of maintaining that his apostleship is free from all imposture and error, he solemnly declares that it contains nothing but known and ascertained truth, by which men are instructed in the pure worship of God. But as every word has its own weight, it is highly proper to enter into a detailed explanation.

First, when “faith” is called “knowledge,” it is distinguished not only from opinion, but from that shapeless faith which the Papists have contrived; for they have forged an implicit faith destitute of all light of the understanding. But when Paul describes it to be a quality which essentially belongs to faith — to know the truth, he plainly shews that there is no faith without knowledge.

The word truth expresses still more clearly the certainty which is demanded by the nature of faith; for faith is not satisfied with probable arguments, but holds what is true. Besides, he does not speak of every kind of truth, but of the heavenly doctrine, which is contrasted with the vanity of the human understanding. As God has revealed himself to us by means of that truth, so it is alone worthy of the honor of being called “the truth” — a name which is bestowed on it in many parts of Scripture.

“And the Spirit will lead you into all truth.” (John 16:13.)

“Thy word is the truth.” (John 17:17.)

“Who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth?”
(Galatians 3:l.)

“Having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of the Son of God.” (Colossians 1:5.)

“He wisheth all to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 2:4.)

“The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
(1 Timothy 3 15.)

In a word, that truth is the right and sincere knowledge of God, which frees us from all error and falsehood. So much the more ought it to be valued by us, since nothing is more wretched than to wander like cattle during our whole life.

Which is according to godliness. This clause especially limits “the truth” of which he had spoken, but at the same time commends the doctrine of Paul from the fruit and end of it, because it has no other object than that God should be worshipped in a right manner, and that pure religion should flourish among men. In this manner he defends his doctrine from every suspicion of vain curiosity, as he did before Felix, (Acts 24:10,) and afterwards before Agrippa, (Acts 26:1;) for, since all questions which do not tend to edification ought justly to be suspected and even hated by good men, the only lawful commendation of doctrine is this, that it instructs us to fear God and to bow before him with reverence. And hence we are also informed, that the greater progress any one has made in godliness, he is so much the better disciple of Christ; and that he ought to be reckoned a true theologian who edifies consciences in the fear of God.

2. In the hope (or, on account of the hope) of eternal life This undoubtedly denotes the cause; for that is the force of the Greek preposition ἐπί; and therefore it may be translated, “On account of the hope,” or “On the hope.” True religion and the practice of godliness — begin with meditation on the heavenly life; and in like manner, when Paul (Colossians 1:5) praises the faith and love of the Colossians, he makes the cause and foundation of them to be “the hope laid up in heaven.” The Sadducees and all who confine our hope to this world, whatever they may pretend, can do nothing else than produce contempt of God, while they reduce men to the condition of cattle. Accordingly, it ought always to be the aim of a good teacher, to turn away the eyes of men from the world, that they may look up to heaven. I readily acknowledge that we ought to value the glory of God more highly than our salvation; but we are not now discussing the question which of these two ought to be first in order. All that I say is — that men never seek God in a right manner till they have confidence to approach to him; and, therefore, that we never apply our mind to godliness till we have been instructed about the hope of the heavenly life. 210210     “Thus he shews that it will never be possible for men to dedicate themselves entirely to the service of God, if they do not think more about God than about all things else. In short, there is no living root, no faith no religion, till we have been led to heaven, that is, till we know that God has not created us to keep us here in an earthly life with brute beasts, but that he has adopted us to be his heritage, and reckons us to be his children. If, therefore, we do not look up to heaven, it is impossible that we shall have true devotion to surrender ourselves to God, or that there shall be any faith or Christianity in us. And that is the reason why — among all who, in the present day, are accounted Christians, and give themselves out to be such — there are very few who have this true mark, which Paul has here given to all the children of God. It is because all are occupied with the present life, and are so firmly bound to it, that they cannot rise higher. Now perceiving this vice to be so common, so much the more ought we to guard against it, and break the force of that which we cannot altogether destroy, till we come into close fellowship with God, which will only be, when the hope of eternal life shall be actually and sincerely formed in our hearts.”—Fr. Ser.

Which God promised before the times of ages. As Augustine translated the words, Πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων to mean — not “the times of ages” but “eternal times,” he gives himself great uneasiness about “the eternity of times,” till at length he explains “eternal times” as denoting those which go beyond all antiquity. As to the meaning, he and Jerome and other commentators agree, that God determined, before the creation of the world, to give that salvation which he hath now manifested by the gospel. Thus Paul would have used the word promise incorrectly instead of decree; for before men existed there was no one to whom he could promise.

For this reason, while I do not reject this exposition, yet when I take a close survey of the whole matter, I am constrained to adopt a different interpretation — that eternal life was promised to men many ages ago, and not only to those who lived at that time, but also for our own age. It was not for the benefit of Abraham alone, but with a view to all who should live after him, that God said,

“In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18.)

Nor is this inconsistent with what he says, in another sense, (2 Timothy 1:9) that salvation was given to men “before the times of ages.” The meaning of the word is still the same in both passages; for, since the Greek word αἰών, denotes an uninterrupted succession of time from the beginning to the end of the world, Paul declares, in that passage, that salvation was given or decreed for the elect of God before times began to flow. But because in this passage he treats of the promise, he does not include all ages, so as to lead us back beyond the creation of the world, but shews that many ages 211211     “Beaucoup de centeines d’ans.” — “Many centuries of years.” have elapsed since salvation was promised.

If any person prefer to view “the times of ages” as a concise expression for the ages themselves, he is at liberty to do so. But because salvation was given by the eternal election of God before it was promised, the act of giving salvation is put in that passage (2 Timothy 1:9) before all ages, and therefore we must supply the word all. But here it means nothing more than that the promise is more ancient than a long course of ages, because it began immediately after the creation of the world. In the same sense he shews that the gospel, which was to have been proclaimed when Christ rose from the dead, had been promised in the Scriptures by the prophets; for there is a wide difference between the promise which was formerly given to the fathers and the present exhibition of grace.

Who cannot lie. This expression ἀψευδής is added for glorifying God, and still more for confirming our faith. And, indeed, whenever the subject treated of is our salvation, we ought to recollect that it is founded on the word of Him who can neither deceive nor lie. Moreover, the only proof of the whole of religion is — the unchangeable truth of God. 212212     “What a strange sort of men are these, that will endure to be so exposed, so scorned, so trampled upon, as they that bear the Christian name commonly are? What is the reason of it? What account will a reasonable man give, why he will so expose himself? I will tell you the reason. ‘Therefore we labor and suffer reproach, because we hope in God, in the living God, and we are pretty well persuaded we shall not finally be losers. We shall not have an ill bargain of it at last.’ As the same Apostle, when he writes himself ‘an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ’ seems to allow that he was to doom himself to all the sufferings and calamities that the enemies of the Christian cause could load him with and lay upon him, for his assuming to himself such names of ‘an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ.’ But why should Paul, — that wise and prudent man, that learned man, that man of so considerable reputation among his own countrymen — why should he come to be written among the Apostles and servants of Jesus Christ? Why, saith he, it is in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, hath promised. (Titus 1:1, 2.) I avow myself an Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ upon this inducement, and for this reason; and so I mean to continue unto the end. It is the hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, hath promised to me. He whose nature doth not allow him to deceive to whom it is impossible to lie, I firmly and securely hope in him; and, therefore, I will readily dispose myself to encounter all the difficulties and hardships which the service of Jesus Christ can lay me open to.” — Howe.

3. But hath manifested There was indeed some manifestation of this kind, when God in ancient times spake by his prophets; but because Christ publicly, displayed by his coming those thing which they had obscurely predicted, and the Gentiles were afterwards admitted into the fellowship of the covenant, in this sense Paul says that what had formerly been exhibited in part “hath now been manifested.”

In his own times This has the same meaning as “the fullness of times.” (Galatians 4:4.) He reminds us that the time when it pleased the Lord to do this — must have been the most seasonable time for doing it; and he mentions this for the purpose of meeting the rashness of men, who have always the hardihood to inquire why it was not sooner, or why it is to-day rather than to-morrow. In order therefore that our curiosity may not exceed proper bounds, he shews that the “times” are placed in the hand, and at the disposal, of God, in such a manner that we ought to think that he does everything in the proper order and at the most seasonable time.

His word. Or, by his word; for it is not uncommon with Greek writers to supply the preposition by. Or, he calls Christ the Word; if it be not thought preferable to supply something for the sake of completing the sentence. Were it not that the second exposition is a little forced, in other respects I should give it the preference. Thus John says,

“What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what our hands have handled of the Word of life; and the life was manifested.” (1 John 1:1, 2.)

I therefore prefer what is a simple meaning, that God hath manifested the word concerning the life by the preaching of the gospel.

The preaching, of which he speaks, is the gospel proclaimed, as the chief thing which we hear in it is — that Christ is given to us, and that in him there is life.

Which hath been committed to me. Because all are not indiscriminately fit for so important an office, and no man ought to thrust himself into it, he asserts his calling, according to his custom. Here we ought to learn — what we have often remarked on other occasions — that the honor is not due to any man, till he has proved that God has ordained him, for even the ministers of Satan proudly boast that God has called them, but there is no truth in their words. Now Paul states nothing but what is known and proved, when he mentions his calling.

Besides, from this passage we learn for what purpose they were made apostles. It was for the sake of publishing the gospel, as he says elsewhere,

“Woe to me if I preach not the gospel, for a dispensation is committed unto me.” (1 Corinthians 9:16, 17.)

Accordingly, they who enact dumb show, in the midst of idleness and luxury, are excessively impudent in boasting that they are the successors of the apostles.

Of God our Savior He applies the same epithet to the Father and to Christ, so that each of them is our Savior, but for a different reason; for the Father is called our Savior, because he redeemed us by the death of his Son, that he might make us heirs of eternal life; and the Son, because he shed his blood as the pledge and the price of our salvation. Thus the Son hath brought salvation to us from the Father, and the Father hath bestowed it through the Son.

4 To Titus, my own son, according to the common faith. Hence it is evident in what sense a minister of the word is said to beget spiritually those whom he brings to the obedience of Christ, that is, so that he himself is also begotten. Paul declares himself to be the father of Titus, with respect to his faith; but immediately adds, that this faith is common to both, so that both of them alike have the same Father in heaven. Accordingly, God does not diminish his own prerogative, when he pronounces those to be spiritual fathers along with himself, by whose ministry he regenerates whom he chooses; for of themselves they do nothing, but only by the efficacy of the Spirit. As to the remainder of the verse, the exposition of it will be found in the Commentaries on the former Epistles, and especially on the First Epistle to Timothy. 213213     See p. 21.


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