Introduction to Titus
Author, Date, and Recipient
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to his coworker Titus. The letter was probably written in the mid-60s a.d. between Paul’s first imprisonment (Acts 28) and his second imprisonment, which is not mentioned in Acts.
The letter’s theme is the unbreakable link between faith and practice, belief and behavior. This truth is the basis for Paul’s criticism of false teaching, his instruction in Christian living, and standards he sets for church leaders.
Paul had recently completed a journey to Crete. He had left Titus there to teach the new church (see Acts 14:21–23).
False teachers were already a problem in the church (Titus 1:10–16), and the letter focuses primarily on that issue. The description of elders (1:5–9) and of proper Christian living (2:1–10; 3:1–3) appear to be worded for intentional contrast with these false teachers. The content of the false teaching is not fully explained (as in 1 Timothy). There appears to be a significant Jewish element to the teaching. The opponents come from “the circumcision party” (Titus 1:10). They are interested in “Jewish myths” (1:14) and perhaps ritual purity (1:15). Paul’s primary concern, however, is with the practical effect of the false teaching. They taught ritual purity, but they lived in a way that proved they did not know God (1:16).
This false teaching would have been welcome in Crete, which was known in the ancient world for immorality. But Paul expected the gospel to produce real godliness in everyday life, even in Crete.
In dealing with the false teaching, Paul also provides Titus with a portrait of a healthy church. He describes proper leadership (1:5–9), proper handling of error (1:10–16; 3:9–11), proper Christian living (especially important for new believers in an immoral setting; 2:1–10; 3:1–2), and the gospel as the source of godliness (2:11–14; 3:3–7).
- The gospel produces godliness in the lives of believers. There is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior (1:1; 2:1, 11–14; 3:4–7).
- One’s deeds will either prove or disprove one’s claim to know God (1:16).
- It is vitally important to have godly men serving as elders/pastors (1:5–9).
- True Christian living will draw others to the gospel (2:5, 8, 10).
- Good works have an important place in the lives of believers (2:1–10, 14; 3:1–2, 8, 14).
- It is important to deal clearly and firmly with doctrinal and moral error in the church (1:10–16; 3:9–11).
- The gospel is the basis for Christian ethics (2:11–14; 3:3–7).
- Opening (1:1–4)
- The Occasion: The Need for Proper Leadership (1:5–9)
- The Problem: False Teachers (1:10–16)
- Christian Living in Contrast to the False Teachers (2:1–3:8)
- The Problem Restated: False Teachers (3:9–11)
- Closing Encouragement (3:12–15)
The Setting of Titus
c. a.d. 62–64
Paul likely wrote Titus during a fourth missionary journey not recorded in the book of Acts. Writing from an unknown location, he instructed Titus in how to lead the churches on the island of Crete. The churches there had apparently been founded by Paul.