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Titus 1:5-6

5. For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

5. Huius rei gratia reliqui to Cretae ut ea quae desunt corrigas et constituas per civitates presbyteros sicut ego tibi disposui

6. If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

6. Si quis sine crimine est unius uxoris vir filios habens fideles non in accusatione luxuriae aut non subditos

5. For this reason I left thee in Crete This preface clearly proves, that Titus is not so much admonished on his own account as recommended to others, that no one may hinder him. Paul testifies that he has appointed him in his own room; and on that account all should acknowledge and receive him with reverence as the Apostle’s deputy. The apostles had no fixed place assigned to them, but were charged to spread the gospel through the whole world; and for this reason, when they left one city or district to go to another, they were wont to place fit men as their substitutes, to complete the work which they had begun. Thus Paul affirms that he founded the church of the Corinthians, but that there were other workmen, 214214     “Mais que les autres estoyent macons ou charpentiers.” — “But that the others were masons and carpenters.” who must build on his foundation, that is, carry forward the building.

This, indeed, belongs to all pastors; for the churches will always stand in need of increase and progress, as long as the world shall endure. But in addition to the ordinary office of pastors, the care of organizing the church was committed to Titus. Till the churches have been already organized, and reduced to some order, pastors were not usually appointed over them. But Titus held some additional charge, which consisted in giving a form to churches that had not yet been properly arranged, and in appointing a fixed kind of government accompanied by discipline. Having laid the foundation, Paul departed; and then it became the duty of Titus to carry the work higher, that the building might have fair proportions.

This is what he calls correcting those things which are still wanting. The building of the Church is not a work so easy that it can be brought all at once to perfection. How long Paul was in Crete — is uncertain; but he had spent some time there, and had faithfully devoted his labors to erect the kingdom of Christ. He did not lack the most consummate skill that can be found in man; he was unwearied in toil; and yet he acknowledged that he left the work rough and incomplete. Hence we see the difficulty; and, indeed, we find, by experience, in the present day, that it is not the labor of one or two years to restore fallen. churches to a tolerable condition. Accordingly, those who have made diligent progress for many years — must still be attentive to correct many things. 215215     “Those who are guided by ambition would wish to be thought clever people on the first day; they would wish to enjoy such reputation as to have it thought that they discharged their duty so faithfully that nothing more could be desired. On the contrary, when we have labored during our whole life to edify the Church of God, still we shall not succeed to the full extent. Let us therefore know that we must not presume so far on our industry or our virtues, that he who is endued with more abundant graces can suddenly have edified the Church of God to perfection; but we must assist each other. He who is farthest advanced must know that he cannot do everything, and must bend his shoulders and ask assistance from those whom God has appointed, and must be well pleased that others make progress, provided that all aim at serving God and advancing the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we look well to ourselves, there will always be reason to grieve, because we are very far from having performed our duty. And those who make themselves believe this or that, and say, ‘Here is a church so well reformed that nothing more is needed’ — are mistaken; for if they knew what reformation is, they would beware of thinking that there was no room for finding fault. Whatever pains we take in arranging matters, and bringing them into order, there are indeed many things which, when once begun, will follow in a regular train; but as to reaching perfection, we are very far from it.”—Fr. Ser.

Here it is highly proper to observe the modesty of Paul who willingly permits another person to complete the work which he had begun. And, indeed, although Titus is greatly inferior to him, he does not refuse to have him for ἐπανορθωτήν a “corrector,” to give the finishing hand to his work. Such ought to be the dispositions of godly teachers; not that every one should labor to make everything bend to his own ambitious views, but that they should strive to assist each other, and that, when any one has labored more successfully, he should be congratulated and not envied by all the rest.

And yet we must not imagine that Paul intended that Titus should correct those things which he had left undone, either through ignorance, or forgetfulness, or carelessness, but those things which he could not finish on account of the shortness of the time. In short, he enjoined Titus to make that correction which he would himself have made, if he had remained longer in Crete; not by varying — not by changing anything, but by adding what was wanting; because the difficulty of such a work does not allow every part of it to be done in a single day.

And appoint presbyters in each city 216216     “Κατὰ πόλιν, Not ‘in every city,’ but ‘in each city or town,’ (literally, ‘city by city,’) of all those which had Christian congregations. Of such there might be several in this ‘hundred-citied isle;’ though the name πόλις was often given to towns; and there is reason to think that not a few of the Cretan cities were no better.” — Bloomfield In the spiritual building this nearly comes next to doctrine, that pastors be ordained, to take charge of governing the Church; and therefore Paul mentions it here in preference to everything else. It is a point which ought to be carefully observed, that churches cannot safely remain without the ministry of pastors, and that consequently, wherever there is a considerable body of people, a pastor should be appointed over it. And yet he does not say that each town shall have a pastor, so that no place shall have more than one; but he means that no towns shall be destitute of pastors

Presbyters or elders. It is well known, that it was not on account of age, that they received this appellation; for sometimes those who were still young — such as Timothy — were admitted to this rank. But in all languages it has been customary to apply this honorable designation to all rulers. Although we may conclude, from 1 Timothy 5:17, that there were two classes of presbyters, the context will immediately show, that here none other than teachers are meant, that is, those who were ordained to teach; for immediately afterwards, he will call the same persons “bishops.”

But it may be thought that he gives too much power to Titus, when he bids him appoint ministers for all the churches. That would be almost royal power. Besides, this method takes away from each church the right of choosing, and from the College of Pastors the power of judging; and thus the sacred administration of the Church would be almost wholly profaned. The answer is easy. He does not give permission to Titus, that he alone may do everything in this matter, and may place over the churches those whom he thinks fit to appoint to be bishops; but only bids him preside, as moderator, at the elections, which is quite necessary. This mode of expression is very common. In the same manner, a consul, or regent, or dictator is said to have created consuls, on account of having presided over the public assembly in electing them. Thus also Luke relates that Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every church. (Acts 14:23.) Not that they alone, in an authoritative manner, appointed pastors which the churches had neither approved nor known; but that they ordained fit men, who had been chosen or desired by the people. From this passage we do indeed learn, that there was not at that time such equality among the ministers of Christ but that some one had authority and deliberative voice above others; but this has nothing to do with the tyrannical and profane custom which prevails in Popery as to Collations. The apostles had a widely different mode of procedure.

6. If any one is blameless In order that no one may be angry with Titus, as if he were too rigorous or severe in rejecting any, Paul takes the whole blame to himself; 217217     “Prend sur soy toute l’envie, voulant qu’on luy impute tout ce que The fera en cest endroit.” — “Takes all the blame on himself, wishing that to him may be imputed all that Titus shall do in this matter.” for he declares that he has expressly commanded, that no one may be admitted, unless he be such a person as is here described. Accordingly, as he testified, a little before, that he had invested Titus with authority to preside in the appointment of pastors, that others might allow to him that right; so he now relates the injunction which he had given, lest the severity of Titus should be exposed to the illwill of the ignorant, or the slanders of wicked men.

As this passage presents to us a lively portrait of a lawful bishop, we ought to observe it carefully; but, on the other hand, as almost everything that is here contained has been explained by me in the Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy, it will be enough at present to touch on it slightly. When he says, that a bishop must be ἀνέγκληος, blameless, he does not mean one who is exempt from every vice, (for no such person could at any time be found,) but one who is marked by no disgrace that would lessen his authority. He means, therefore, that he shall be a man of unblemished reputation. 218218     “It is true, that the servants of God will never be without blame; as he even says, that they cannot avoid walking amidst disgrace and reproach. It is true, that Paul lived so virtuously that no fault could be found with him, and that too, before he came to the faith of Jesus Christ; so that he lived without reproach, and was a mirror and a jewel of holiness. Indeed he know not what he did, for hitherto he had not been directed by the Spirit of God; but he led a life so good that it was not liable to any reproach. And yet he tells us that he was pointed at with the finger, was mocked at, was reproached, was even accursed among believers, whose ingratitude was such that in his absence he was reviled and loaded with many slanders. So it is with the servants of God. But when Paul demands that they shall be without crime, he means that we should inquire and ascertain if the life of a man be pure and without blame, and if he continues to conduct himself in that manner. Although we cannot shut the mouths of all slanderers, that they shall not revile us, yet we must be without crime; for it is said, that we shall be reviled as evil-doers, but we shall be pure and innocent. And in what way? Before God we shall have this testimony, that he approves of us, and that all the talk against us is a lie.”—Fr. Ser.

The husband of one wife The reason why this rule is laid down — has been explained by us in the Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy. 219219     See p. 76. Polygamy was so common among the Jews, that the wicked custom had nearly passed into a law. If any man had married two wives before he made a profession of Christianity, it would have been cruel to compel him to divorce one of them; and therefore the apostles endured what was in itself faulty, because they could not correct it. Besides, they who had involved themselves by marrying more than one wife at a time, even though they had been prepared to testify their repentance by retaining but one wife, had, nevertheless, given a sign of their incontinence, which might have been a brand on their good name. The meaning is the same as if Paul had enjoined them to elect those who had lived chastely in marriage — had been satisfied with having a single wife, and had forbidden those who had manifested the power of lust by marrying many wives. At the same time, he who, having become an unmarried man by the death of his wife, marries another, ought, nevertheless, to be accounted “the husband of one wife;” for the apostle does not say, that they shall choose him who has been, but him who is, “the husband of one wife.”

Having believing children Seeing that it is required that a pastor shall have prudence and gravity, it is proper that those qualities should be exhibited in his family; for how shall that man who cannot rule his own house — be able to govern the church! Besides, not only must the bishop himself be free from reproach, but his whole family ought to be a sort of mirror of chaste and honorable discipline; and, therefore, in the First Epistle to Timothy, he not less strictly enjoins their wives what they ought to be. 220220     See p. 87.

First, he demands that the children shall be “believers;” whence it is obvious that they have been educated in the sound doctrine of godliness, and in the fear of the Lord. Secondly, that they shall not be devoted to luxury, that they may be known to have been educated to temperance and frugality. Thirdly, that they shall not be disobedient; for he who cannot obtain from his children any reverence or subjection — will hardly be able to restrain the people by the bridle of discipline.


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