Titus 3:1

(1) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers.--Very careful and searching have been the Apostle's charges to Titus respecting the teachers of the Church, their doctrine and their life; very particular have been his directions, his warnings, and exhortations to men and women of different ages on the subject of their home life. But, with the exception of a slight digression in the case of a slave to a Pagan master, his words had been written with a reference generally to Christian life among Christians. But there was then a great life outside the little Christian world; how were the people of Christ to regulate their behaviour in their dealings with the vast Pagan world outside? St. Paul goes to the root of the matter at once when he says, "Put them in mind," &c. Very needful in Crete was such a reminder respecting obedience. The island had, when St. Paul wrote to Titus, been some century and a quarter under Roman rule. Their previous government had been democratic; and historians, like Polybius, who have written of Crete, have dwelt particularly on the turbulent and factious spirit which animated their people; added to which, the many Jews who we know formed a very large part of the Christian Church there, always impatient of a foreign yoke, would in such an atmosphere of excitement be especially eager to assert their right to be free from the hated rule of Rome.

The Greek words translated "principalities and powers" are better rendered here by "rulers and authorities," as the word "principalities" is used occasionally in the English version for an "order of angels." The terms include all constituted governors and officials, Roman and otherwise, in the island.

To obey magistrates.--Taken absolutely, to obey the temporal power. Our Lord's words were the model for all teaching in this division of Christian ethics One great teacher after the other, in the same spirit, in varied language, urges upon the people of Christ a reverence and submission to all legally constituted authority in the state. This devoted Christian loyalty, no bitter opposition in after years to their tenets could chill, no cruel persecution of individuals lessen. Augustine, writes Professor Reynolds, could boast that when Julian asked Christians to sacrifice and offer incense to the gods they, at all hazards, sternly refused; but when he summoned them to fight for the empire they rushed to the front. "They distinguished between their Eternal Lord and their earthly ruler, and yet they yielded obedience to their earthly ruler for the sake of their Eternal Lord." Least of any should we expect St. Paul to write such words, so loyal and faithful to Rome. He had found, indeed, little cause in his chequered, troubled life to be grateful personally to the Empire; with ears too ready had Rome ever listened to the cruel "informations" laid against him by his implacable Jewish enemies; she had imprisoned him, fettered him, hindered his work, and threatened his life; and when he was writing these deathless words of his, urging upon his devoted flock a loyalty changeless and true, for him the supreme vengeance of Rome was close at hand.

To be ready to every good work.--Ready cheerfully to aid all lawful authority, municipal and otherwise, in their public works undertaken for city or state. The flock of Titus must remember that the true Christian ought to be known as a good citizen and a devoted patriot.

Verse 1. - In subjection for subject, A.V.; rulers for principalities. A.V.; to authorities for and powers, A.V. and T.R.; to be obedient for to obey magistrates, A.V.; unto for to, A.V. Put them in mind (ὑπομίμνησκε); as 2 Timothy 2:14. To rulers, to authorities. Many uncials, which the R.T. follows, omit the καὶ, but it seems necessary to the sense. The change from "principalities and powers" to" rulers" and "authorities" does not seem desirable. Ἀρχάι and ἐξουσίαι is a favorite juxtaposition el' St. Paul's (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:10, 15). It occurs also in 1 Peter 3:22. In all the above examples the words, it is true, apply to the angelic hosts, but the words are elsewhere applied separately to human government, and in Luke 20:20, they are applied together to the authority of the Roman governor. To be obedient (πειθαρχεῖν); only here and in Acts 5:29, 32; Acts 27:21. It follows here its classical use, "to obey a superior," well expressed in the Authorized Version "to obey magistrates." The simple "to be obedient" of the Revised Version does not express the sense. To be ready unto every good work. St. Paul is still speaking with especial reference to magistrates and the civil power. Christians were to show themselves good citizens, always ready for any duty to which they were called. Christianity was not to be an excuse for shirking duties, or refusing obedience where it was due. The only limit is expressed by the word "good." They were to give tribute to whom tribute was due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor; but, if ordered to do evil, then they must resist, and obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19). (See the similar limitation in Titus 2:10, note, and compare, for the whole verse, the very similar passage, Romans 13:1-7.)

3:1-7 Spiritual privileges do not make void or weaken, but confirm civil duties. Mere good words and good meanings are not enough without good works. They were not to be quarrelsome, but to show meekness on all occasions, not toward friends only, but to all men, though with wisdom, Jas 3:13. And let this text teach us how wrong it is for a Christian to be churlish to the worst, weakest, and most abject. The servants of sin have many masters, their lusts hurry them different ways; pride commands one thing, covetousness another. Thus they are hateful, deserving to be hated. It is the misery of sinners, that they hate one another; and it is the duty and happiness of saints to love one another. And we are delivered out of our miserable condition, only by the mercy and free grace of God, the merit and sufferings of Christ, and the working of his Spirit. God the Father is God our Saviour. He is the fountain from which the Holy Spirit flows, to teach, regenerate, and save his fallen creatures; and this blessing comes to mankind through Christ. The spring and rise of it, is the kindness and love of God to man. Love and grace have, through the Spirit, great power to change and turn the heart to God. Works must be in the saved, but are not among the causes of their salvation. A new principle of grace and holiness is wrought, which sways, and governs, and makes the man a new creature. Most pretend they would have heaven at last, yet they care not for holiness now; they would have the end without the beginning. Here is the outward sign and seal thereof in baptism, called therefore the washing of regeneration. The work is inward and spiritual; this is outwardly signified and sealed in this ordinance. Slight not this outward sign and seal; yet rest not in the outward washing, but look to the answer of a good conscience, without which the outward washing will avail nothing. The worker therein is the Spirit of God; it is the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Through him we mortify sin, perform duty, walk in God's ways; all the working of the Divine life in us, and the fruits of righteousness without, are through this blessed and holy Spirit. The Spirit and his saving gifts and graces, come through Christ, as a Saviour, whose undertaking and work are to bring to grace and glory. Justification, in the gospel sense, is the free forgiveness of a sinner; accepting him as righteous through the righteousness of Christ received by faith. God, in justifying a sinner in the way of the gospel, is gracious to him, yet just to himself and his law. As forgiveness is through a perfect righteousness, and satisfaction is made to justice by Christ, it cannot be merited by the sinner himself. Eternal life is set before us in the promise; the Spirit works faith in us, and hope of that life; faith and hope bring it near, and fill with joy in expectation of it.Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers,.... Not angels, good or bad, which are sometimes so called, but men in high places; the higher powers ordained of God, as the apostle elsewhere calls them; and which the Apostle Peter distinguishes into the king as supreme, and into governors under him: the Roman emperor and senate, the consuls, and proconsuls, deputies and governors of provinces and islands, are here meant; particularly such who were appointed over the island of Crete. Now the reasons why the apostle exhorts Titus to put in remembrance those that were under his care, to yield a cheerful subjection to their superiors, were, because the Jews, from whom the Christians were not distinguished by the Romans, were reckoned a turbulent and seditious people; which character they obtained, partly through the principles of the Scribes and Pharisees, which they at least privately entertained, as not to give tribute to Caesar, or be under any Heathen yoke; and partly through the insurrections that had been made by Judas of Galilee, and Theudas, and others; and besides, there were many Jews in the island of Crete, and the Cretians themselves were prone to mutiny and rebellion: to which may be added, that the false teachers, and judaizing preachers, that had got among them, despised dominion, and were not afraid to speak evil of dignities, according to the characters which both Peter and Jude give of them, and taught the saints to abuse their Christian liberty, and use it for a cloak of maliciousness, to the great scandal of the Christian religion.

To obey magistrates; inferior ones; in all things that are according to the laws of God, and right reason, that do not contradict what God has commanded, or break in upon the rights and dictates of conscience; in all things of a civil nature, and which are for the good of society, and do not affect religion, and the worship of God: hence it follows,

to be ready to every good work; which may be taken in a limited and restrained sense, and design every good work enjoined by the civil magistrate; and all right and lawful obedience that belongs to him, as giving to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, tribute, custom, fear, and honour to whom they are due; and which should be done readily and cheerfully: or it may be understood more comprehensively of good works in general, which wicked men are reprobate to, and unfit for; and which they that are sanctified are meet for, and ready to; though this may not only intend their capacity, fitness, and qualifications, for the performance of good works, but their alacrity, promptitude, and forwardness unto them.

Titus 2:15
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