by Rev. Julian Duckworth
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are often grouped together as the Pastoral Epistles, written, as is generally believed, by Paul to individuals about religious beliefs and standards of behaviour to be kept personally and within the Christian church community.
Titus is the third of the three pastoral letters. Some scholars believe that Timothy and Titus are one and the same person because they are never mentioned as two men being there together accompanying Paul. Their names also have similar meanings: honourable, honoured by God. But 2 Timothy 4:9 has Paul commanding Timothy to come to him, because Titus has gone to Dalmatia.
Titus is mentioned in other of Paul’s books and in the book of Acts. He came from Crete and spent much of his life there, and the first chapter of Titus mentions Crete and the nature of the Cretans. Early tradition within Christianity holds that Titus was the first bishop of Crete and the Cretan Christian communities.
The basic themes of Titus are about being stewards of God (ch 1); the need for sound doctrine or teaching so that people hearing it will be well in faith, charity and patience (ch 2); and giving social service and example to others (ch 3).
Several verses stand out as memorable in Titus: “To the pure all things are pure, but to the impure and unbelieving is nothing pure” (1:15); “In all things show yourself a pattern of good works, and in doctrine show incorruptibility, sincerity and sound speech, so that he who is contrary may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” (2:7-8) and “Avoid foolish questions for they are unprofitable and vain.” (3:9)
The pattern in Titus is helpful. There are three clearly different chapters, being a steward of God, being clear about what is true, and being kind, loving and supportive to your fellow men and women. So we acknowledge God and align with him; we learn about God and transform aspects of our own nature and life, and we do what is good and serve those with whom we live.
A spiritual angle on the book of Titus and its contents, in terms of ourselves, might be seen to be that we need to be our own ‘bishop’ to our own inner communities, to keep them loving, understanding and doing what is from God so that our whole life is kept integrated in spiritual practice. This is an ongoing need for us.
Another spiritual idea in Titus is to let go of our worries about aspects of us which are rebellious or opposed to God and to spiritual things. Let them be for they will certainly be there in some shape or other. Let them go their own way, to weaken and wither away. Concentrate on God’s good. This is mentioned in Titus in terms of ‘other people’ who will never come on board: “Someone who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject them, knowing that he who is like this is overturned, and does evil, for of himself he is condemned.” But it is also true in terms of our own management of our inner thoughts and emotions.
These three Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus all emphasise the place of goodness in our spiritual lives. They echo Jesus’ words about fruitfulness, “I have chosen you that you bear much fruit and that your fruit shall endure” (John 15:16) and “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16)