Titus: A Pastoral Charge
This little epistle, because of its modest size and inconspicuous position in the New Testament canon, perhaps tends to be passed over without much notice, much like the Minor Prophets, in the course of the typical person's Holy Bible reading. Its few verses, although extremely valuable, are seldom utilized in theological debate, for the exposition of Christian belief or for the benefit of personal memorization.
But being as it is a Pauline epistle and containing such a rich mixture of doctrine and exhortation as does the rest of Scripture, it is well-deserving of our careful and reverent study. It holds the last position of the three "Pastoral Epistles" in our Holy Bibles, coming after the two letters to St. Timothy, although appearing second in time, having been written by St. Paul between his first and second letters to St. Timothy. Its close proximity in point of time to the Timothy epistles also accounts for their similarity of content.
Though he is not mentioned in the book of Acts, Titus seems to have been one of the most trusted and highly respected members of the little band of St. Paul's friends and disciples. He was a Gentile by birth and had entered the Christian faith without passing through the portal of Judaism.1 He accompanied the Apostle on his journey to the Council of Jerusalem, possibly as living evidence of the principle which was upheld there: the emancipation of Gentile believers from the yoke of Mosaism.2 We can see the exceptional amount of trust St. Paul had placed in Titus in the frequent missions he sent him on to Corinth, to help settle the turbulence disturbing that church, as well as to supervise their collection of alms for the poor.3 It was Titus himself who bore St. Paul's second letter to Corinth. We also sense the strength of the bond that united St. Paul to the younger evangelist in the restless anxiety he felt when Titus failed to meet him as expected in Troas.4
The last mission St. Paul entrusted to the young evangelist was the overseeing of the church in Crete, a small island off the coast of Greece that forms the southern border of the Aegean Sea. It is probable that the first tidings of the faith had been carried to the island by those Cretan Jews who had heard the thrilling words of St. Peter at Pentecost.5 The Holy Bible records no apostolic activity to have occurred to support the faith of the island since Pentecost; and so their lack of exposure to fresh faith and preaching from visiting evangelists, their insufficiency of theological knowledge, and the inherent defects of the Cretan character,6 were factors that put the believers at a severe disadvantage.7 Therefore after St. Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment, he took Titus with him to visit the island.8
The pressing duties of his apostleship seem to have compelled St. Paul to leave the island before all ecclesiastical matters had been set in order; and so he leaves the responsibility to Titus to finish "what was lacking."9 The duties the Apostle charged him with, which closely parallel those which St. Timothy was assigned in Ephesus, can be divided under three main heads:10 (1) to supervise the Cretan church, particularly in the appointment of "elders" or "bishops" in every city;11 (2) to uphold sound doctrine, especially in combating Judaic aberrations; and (3) to exhort the people to excel in good works.
1 Gal. 2:3
2 Gal. 2:1,2
3 2 Cor. 8,9. See H.G. Bishop Youssef's Bible study, www.suscopts.org
4 2 Cor. 2:13
5 Acts 2:11
6 Titus 1:12
7 Farrar, The Life and Epistles of St Paul
8 HG Bishop Youssef
9 Titus 1:5
10 HG Bishop Youssef
11 The two titles are used by Paul interchangeably (cf. 1:5 and 1:7), an indication of the extreme antiquity of the epistle, as well as a proof of its genuineness. Elder (presbyteros) signified the dignity and reverence attached to the position; bishop (episkopos) signified its responsibilities and duties. See Conybeare & Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul.