Titus 1:13-16

13. This witness is true: wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,

13 testimonium hoc verum est quam ob causam increpa illos dure ut sani sint in fide

14. Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

14 non intendentes iudaicis fabulis et mandatis hominum aversantium se a veritate

15. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

15 omnia munda mundis coinquinatis autem et infidelibus nihil mundum sed inquinatae sunt eorum et mens et conscientia

16. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

16 confitentur se nosse Deum factis autem negant cum sunt abominati et incredibiles et ad omne opus bonum reprobi

13. This testimony is true.1 How worthiness soever the witness may have been,2 yet the truth which has been spoken by him is acknowledged by Paul. The inhabitants of Crete, of whom he speaks with such sharpness were undoubtedly very wicked. The Apostle, who is wont to reprove mildly those who deserved to be treated with extreme severity, would never have spoken so harshly of the Cretans, if he had not been moved by very strong reasons. What term more reproachful than these opprobrious epithets can be imagined; that they were "lazy, devoted to the belly, destitute of truth, evil beasts?" Nor are these vices charged against one or a few persons, but he condemns the whole nation.

It was truly a wonderful purpose of God, that he called a nation so depraved, and so infamous on account of its vices, to be among the first who should partake of the gospel; but his goodness is not less worthy of admiration, in having bestowed heavenly grace on those who did not even deserve to live in this world.3 In that country so corrupt, as if in the midst of hell, the Church of Christ held a position, and did not cease to be extended, though it was infected by the corruption of the evils which prevailed there; for here Paul not only reproves those who were strangers to the faith, but expressly reproves those who had made a profession of Christianity. Perceiving that these vices so hateful have already taken root, and are spreading far and wide, he does not spare the reputation of the whole nation, that he may attempt the care of those whom there was some hope of healing.

Wherefore rebuke them sharply. Of that circumspection and prudence with which a bishop ought to be endowed, it is not the least part, that he regulate his manner of teaching by the dispositions and conduct of men. We must not deal with obstinate and unruly persons in the same manner as with those who are meek and teachable; for, in instructing the latter, we ought to use such mildness as is suitable to their teachable disposition, while the stubbornness of the former must be severely corrected, and (as the saying is) for a bad knot there must be a bad wedge.4 The reason why Titus ought to be more sharp and severe in rebuking them has been already stated, namely, that they are "evil beasts."

That they may be sound in the faith. Whether the "soundness" or "healthfulness" is here contrasted with the diseases which he has mentioned, or whether he simply commands them to remain in the sound faith, is uncertain. I prefer the latter view. As they already are exceedingly vicious, and may easily be corrupted more and more, he wishes them to be more closely and strictly kept within the pure faith.5

14. And may not listen to Jewish fables. He now shews in what "sound faith" consists -- when it is not corrupted by any "fables." But in guarding against the danger he prescribes this remedy -- not to give ear to them; for God wishes us to be so attentive to his word, that there shall be no entrance for trifles. And, indeed, when the truth of God has once gained admission all that can be brought against it will be so tasteless, that it will not attract our minds. If, therefore, we wish to preserve the faith uncontaminated, let us learn carefully to restrain our senses, so that they may not give themselves up to strange contrivances; for, as soon as any person shall begin to listen to fables, he will lose the purity of faith.

All trivial inventions he calls "fables," or, as we would say, "trifles;" for what he immediately adds, about "the commandments of men," has the same meaning. And he calls those men enemies of the truth who, not satisfied with the pure doctrine of Christ, mix up with them their own fooleries; for all that men of themselves contrive ought to be accounted "fabulous."

He attributes this vice chiefly to the Jews, because, under the presence of the divine lew, they introduced superstitious ceremonies. The Gentiles, being aware that they had been wretchedly deceived during their whole life, more easily renounced their former course of life; while the Jews, having been educated in the true religion, obstinately defended the ceremonies to which they had been accustomed, and could not be convinced that the Law had been abrogated. In this manner they disturbed all churches, because, as soon as the gospel began to make its appearance anywhere, they did not cease to corrupt its purity by mixing it with their leaven. Accordingly, Paul not only forbids them, in general terms, to degenerate from sound doctrine, but points out, as with the finger, the present evil which needed to be remedied, that they may be on their guard against it.

15. To the pure all things indeed are pure. He glances at one class of fabulous opinions; for the choice of the kinds of food, (such as was temporarily enjoined by Moses,) together with purifications and washings, were insisted on as being still necessary, and they even made holiness to consist almost wholly in these minute observances. How dangerous to the Church this was, we have already explained. First, a snare of bondage was laid on the consciences; and next, ignorant persons, bound by this superstition, had a veil drawn over their eyes, which hindered them from advancing in the pure knowledge of Christ. If any of the Gentiles refused to submit to this yoke, because he had not been accustomed to it, the Jews vehemently contended for it, as if it had been the chief article of religions. Not without good reason, therefore, does Paul firmly oppose such corrupters of the gospel. In this passage, indeed, he not only refutes their error, but wittily laughs at their folly, in laboring anxiously, any advantage, about abstaining from certain kinds of food and things of that nature

In the first clause of this verse he upholds Christian liberty, by asserting, that to believers nothing is unclean; but at the same time he indirectly censures the false apostles who set no value on inward purity, which alone is esteemed by God. He therefore rebukes their ignorance, in not understanding that Christians are pure without the ceremonies enjoined by the Law; and next he chastises their hypocrisy, in disregarding uprightness of heart, and occupying themselves with useless exercises. But as the subject now in hand is not the health of the body, but peace of conscience, he means nothing else than that the distinction of the kinds of food, which was in force under the Law, has now been abolished. For the same reason it is evident, that they do wrong, who impose religious scruples on consciences in this matter; for this is not a doctrine intended for a single age, but an eternal oracle of the Holy Spirit, which cannot lawfully be set aside by any new law.

Accordingly, this must be true till the end of the world, that there is no kind of food which is unlawful in the sight of God; and, therefore, this passage is fitly and appropriately quoted in opposition to the tyrannical law of the Pope, which forbids the eating of flesh on certain days. And yet I am not unacquainted with the sophistical arguments which they employ. They affirm, that they do not forbid the eating of flesh, because they allege that it is unclean, (for they acknowledge that all kinds of food are in themselves clean and pure,) but that abstinence from flesh is enjoined on another ground, that it has a tendency to tame the lust of the flesh; as if the Lord had forbidden to eat swine's flesh, because he judged swine to be unclean. Even under the Law the fathers reckoned that everything which God created is in itself pure and clean; but they held that they were unclean for this reason, that the use of them was unlawful, because God had forbidden it. All things are, therefore, pronounced by the Apostle to be pure, with no other meaning than that the use of all things is free, as regards the conscience. Thus, if any law binds the consciences to any necessity of abstaining from certain kinds of food, it wickedly takes away from believers that liberty Which God had given them.

But to the polluted and unbelieving nothing is pure. This is the second clause, in which he ridicules the vain and useless precautions of such instructors. He says that they gain nothing by guarding against uncleanness in certain kinds of food, because they cannot touch anything that is clean to them. Why so? Because they are "polluted," and, therefore, by their only touching those things which were otherwise pure, they become "polluted."

To the "polluted" he adds the "unbelieving,"6 not as being a different class of persons; but the addition is made for the sake of explanation. Because there is no purity in the sight of God but that of faith, it follows that all unbelievers are unclean. By no laws or rules, therefore, will they obtain that cleanness which they desire to have; because, being themselves "polluted," they will find nothing in the world that is clean to them.7

But their mind and conscience are polluted. He shows the fountain from which flows all the filth which is spread over the whole life of man; for, unless the heart be well purified, although men consider works to have great splendor, and a sweet smell, yet with God they will excite disgust by their abominable smell and by their filthiness.

"The Lord looketh on the heart," (1 Samuel 16:7,)


"his eyes are on the truth." (Jeremiah 5:3.)

Whence it arises, that those things which are lofty before men are abomination before God.

The mind denotes the understanding, and the conscience relates rather to the affections of the heart. But here two things ought to be observed; first, that man is esteemed by God, not on account of outward works, but on account of the sincere desire of the heart and, secondly, that the filth of infidelity is so great, that it pollutes not only the man, but everything that he touches. On this subject let the reader consult Haggai 2:11-14. In like manner Paul teaches that

"all things are sanctified by the word," (1 Timothy 4:5,)

because men use nothing in a pure manner till they receive it by faith from the hand of God.

16. They profess that they know God. He treats those persons as they deserve; for hypocrites, who give their whole attention to minute observances, despise fearlessly what constitutes the chief part of time Christian life. The consequence is, that they display their vanity, while contempt of God is manifested in open crimes. And this is what Paul means; that they who wish to be seen abstaining from one kind of food -- indulge in wantonness and rebellion, as if they had shaken of the yoke; that their conduct is disgraceful and full of wickedness, and that not a spark of virtue is visible in their whole life.

For they are abominable, disobedient, and to every good work reprobate. When he calls them, bdeluktou>v 8 abominable, he seems to allude to their pretended holiness, to which they gave their earnest attention. But Paul declares that they gain no advantage, for they do not cease to be profane and detestable. With good reason does he accuse them of disobedience; for nothing can be more haughty than hypocrites, who exert themselves so laboriously about ceremonies, in order that they may have it in their power to despise with impunity the chief requirements of the law. We may appropriately interpret the word ajdo>kimoi reprobate in an active signification; as if he had said, that they who wish to be thought so sagacious instructors in trifles -- are destitute of judgment and understanding as to good works.

1 "The general character of the Cretans, noticed in Paul's Epistle to Titus, is confirmed by the testimony of antiquity. The Apostle, writing to Titus, who had been left in Crete to regulate the affairs of the Christian Church in that island, complains of many disorderly men there, -- 'many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, who subvert whole houses, (or families,) teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake, (Titus 1:10, 11); and he quotes the following verse from 'one of themselves, a prophet of their own,' namely, Epimenides, who was a Cretan poet, and whose writings were by the ancients termed crhsmoi< or 'oracles,'

Krh~tes ajei< yeu~stai, kaka< qhri>a, gaste>rev ajrgai>..

The general import of which passage is, that 'the Cretans were a false people, and united in their character the ferocity of the wild beast with the luxury of the domesticated one.' The circumstance of Paul's styling Epimenides 'a prophet' is sufficiently explained by the fact of the words Poet and Prophet being often used promiscuously by the Greeks and Romans,-probably because their poets pretended to be inspired, and were by some believed to be so. The Apostle adds, that the testimony of Epimenides is but too true, 'this witness is true.' How true the first part of it is, with respect to their deceit and lying, the following facts will attest. From the time of Homer, the island of Crete was regarded as the scene of fiction. Many authors affirm that, as a people, its inhabitants were infamous for their violation of truth; and at length their falsehood became so notorious, that Krhti>zein to Cretise, or imitate the Cretans, was a proverbial expression among the ancients for lying."-Horne's Introduction.

2 "Combien que l'autheur soit profane et de nulle authorite." "Although the author is a heathen and of no authority."

3 "De vivre en ce monde."

4 "A un mauvais noeud il faut un mauvais coin."

5 "We have to observe that here, in a single word, Paul declares to us by what means men may defend themselves. It is, by keeping the purity of faith. If, then, we do not turn aside from the simple doctrine of the gospel, but wish to be governed according to the will of God; if we are not carried away by our volatile passions, and do not walk according to our groveling appetites; in short, if we are good scholars of our God, and reckon it enough to have received the doctrine which he teaches us; if that be the case, we shall be fortified against all evil. It is true, the devil will seek to poison the whole world with his venom, and will spread his filth everywhere, so that the world will be full of so many corruptions that every place shall be infected by them. But however that may be, we must not turn aside from time simplicity of our faith, and must always seek to be instructed simply by our God. When we follow this course, though the devil may contrive all that he can, still we shall be fortified against all evil."--Fr. Ser.

6 "The Apostle joins "defiled" and "unbelieving," to intimate that, without a true belief, nothing is clean. The understanding and the conscience are polluted. Both the man and his doings are impure."- Hervey.

7 "It is a dreadful condemnation pronounced on men, when it is said that nothing is clean to them-that all is polluted and defied, till God has renewed them. So far are we from being able to bring anything that is acceptable to him, that we can neither eat nor drink, nor put on our clothes, nor walk a single step, without corruption, and, what is more, by dwelling in the world we infect all the creatures. And this is the reason why they must call for vengeance at the last day against all unbelievers and reprobates. We have, therefore, good reason to be dissatisfied with ourselves and to be ashamed, when we see that they become hateful on our account and that we are so polluted as to have infected every thing that God had appropriated to our use, and even that there is nothing in us but all corruption -- nothing but a God cursed and disowned. When we are thus humbled, let us know, on the other hand, the inestimable blessing which God bestows on us, when he brings us back to himself, and, after having cleansed us, causes us to use all his blessings and bounties: with purity of heart and when we are assured that it is lawful for us to eat and drink, provided that we do so with all sobriety, and in a reasonable manner."- Fr. Ser.

8 "1. They are said to be bdeluktoi>, abominable, or shamefully addicted to all manner of evil. The word in time original, denotes the heinousness of those practices in which they allow themselves; and is derived from a word that signifies to send forth an offensive smell. For all sentiments of right and good are not so totally lost and obliterated among mankind, but that there are some things which even pagans would detest. 2. They are said to be also ajpeiqei>v, disobedient, which expression imports perseverance and obstinacy in an evil course. They will by no means-by no importunity-by no arguments whatever, be dissuaded from practices so unjustifiable and detestable in their own nature. They are resolved to run on, whatever it costs them-to continue in sin, and in the profession of religion at the same time, which is the greatest absurdity imaginable. 3. They are said, lastly, to be pro<v pa~n e]rgon ajgaqo<n ajdo>kimoi, reprobate to every good work; which signifies a disinclination to everything that is good, to everything that is worthy of praise. 'The word may be taken, as it is observed, either actively or passively, and so may signify not only to be disappointed by others, but to disapprove themselves; in which latter sense we must, at present, principally understand the phrase. They disapprove all that which claims their approbation and esteem; and are disaffected to all that good which the religion they profess would oblige them to the practice of. The expression, therefore, does not so much signify their omission of what is good, as their disinclination to it; but it further denotes that, if they do anything at all in religion, it is what they neither delight in, nor can endure. 'Every good work' is an expression of such latitude, that it may comprehend all the works of piety, mercy, and common justice. And so it is fit we should understand it in this place. Whatever they do of this kind, their hearts are averse to it, and they bear a disaffected mind to it all. And such as here described, persons may be found to be, notwithstanding their profession."-Howe.