1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Tt 1:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
in the hope of eternal life, (1:2a)
Paul’s third responsibility in fulfilling his commitment to God’s mission was to bring biblical encouragement to believers, based on their divinely guaranteed hope of eternal life, of one day being glorified, wholly perfected in Christ’s own righteousness. That is the marvelous encouragement of hope about which every minister of God can assure God’s people and, in fact, all of God’s people can assure one another. Later in this letter he speaks of our “blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (2:13) and still later of our “being justified by His grace [that] we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (3:7).
Paul is not speaking of a wistful desire for something that is possible but uncertain. The hope of eternal life is the believer’s deepest longing for that which is affirmed and unalterably guaranteed by God’s own Word. Jesus will raise up His own on the last day, and no one who belongs to God will fall short of that promise (see John 6:37–40). The “Holy Spirit of promise” not only seals us in Jesus Christ but also is “given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13–14, emphasis added; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22). “For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan,” Paul reminded Corinthian believers, “being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by [eternal] life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge” (2 Cor. 5:4–5, emphasis added).
Eternal life is the pervading reality of salvation, and the hope of that life gives believers encouragement in a multitude of ways. It is an encouragement to holiness. “Beloved, now we are children of God,” John says, “and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).
The hope of eternal life gives encouragement for service. We are assured that “if any man builds upon the foundation [Jesus Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, … he shall receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3:12, 14). By far the greatest reward will be to hear our Master say, “Well done, good and faithful slave” (Matt. 25:21). Every believer should be able to say with Paul, “I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.… I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12, 14). The “prize” when we are called up is Christlikeness (1 John 3:2–3), and while we are on the earth it is the “goal” that we strive for (1 John 2:6).
The hope of eternal life also gives encouragement to endure whatever suffering we may experience for the sake of Christ. Again, every believer should be able to sincerely say with Paul, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, … that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:8, 10–11). We know “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.… And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:18, 23, emphasis added). Whomever God has chosen He will justify, and whomever He justifies He will glorify and make into the image of His Son (vv. 29–30). This glorious, eternal hope transcends all temporary pain.
Committed to God’s Message
which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, (1:2b–3a)
That contemplation of the content of gospel ministry leads Paul to a third foundational principle of ministry, namely, uncompromising commitment to God’s message, to divinely revealed Scripture. That commitment is an obvious corollary of the first two. Understanding of God’s sovereign mastery and mission comes exclusively through Scripture. We know about His chosen people, about His requirement of faith for salvation, about knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, and about the hope of eternal life only through His gracious revelation. And we know certain profound realities regarding the eternal plan of redemption of sinners because God inspired men to write down those realities.
That God … cannot lie is self-evident as well as scripturally attested. The prophet Samuel reminded the disobedient King Saul that God, “the Glory of Israel, will not lie” (1 Sam. 15:29). Because God is the source and measure of all truth, it is, by definition, “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Just as “whenever [the devil] speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44), so it is that, whenever God speaks the truth, He speaks from His own nature, because He is the Father of truth.
The God of truth promised long ages ago that those whom He has chosen, those who come to faith in Him through His truth that leads to godliness, have the certain hope of eternal life. Long ages ago does not refer to ancient human history. It actually means “before time began.” God reiterated His plan of salvation and eternal life to such godly men as Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets, but the original promise was made and ratified in eternity past. Our gracious God “called us with a holy calling … in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His [eternal] will” (Eph. 1:4–5). His eternal will was manifested in His “eternal covenant [through] Jesus our Lord” (Heb. 13:20).
The plan of redemption for sinners did not come after men fell but before man was even created. The Father showed His perfect love to the Son (cf. John 17:23–24, 26) by promising Him a redeemed humanity who would serve and glorify Him forever. The Son’s role was to be the sacrifice for the sins of the elect so that they could be redeemed and brought to glory. Before God provided the marvelous promise of forgiveness and heaven to sinful mankind, He had given a promise to His beloved Son. That is the promise of which Jesus reminded the Father in His prayer on our behalf: “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). A year or so earlier, Jesus affirmed that promise of the gift of redeemed souls when He publicly proclaimed: “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.… For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:37, 40). One glorious day in eternity future, when our Lord Jesus has received the full promise of the Father to Him and all the saved are glorified and made like Jesus to serve and praise Him forever, the Son, in a gesture of divine love, will give everything back to the Father. Paul records that future moment: “When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
It is astonishing to consider that those who are redeemed are caught up in this magnificent eternal covenant that two members of the Godhead have made with each other in order to demonstrate the infinite scope of their love for each other. At the proper time, that is, when the Bible was being written, that eternal covenant, together with its related truths, was manifested, even His Word. The only source of this monumental truth, the one true message about God, the only effective way of finding Him, the only way of pleasing Him, and the only hope of being forever with Him are manifested in His Word.
One wonders, therefore, how a preacher or teacher who names the name of Christ can proclaim anything other than God’s own Word. Whatever truth we need for evangelism is found in His Word. That Word is the only seed that gives eternal life (1 Pet. 1:23). Whatever truth we need to edify believers is found in His Word (cf. 1 Pet. 2:1–2). All of the truth we are to teach is found in His Word (John 17:17; Acts 20:32). Those absolute truths and all others related to spiritual life are found there and nowhere else.
2–3 The NIV rendering suggests that believers’ faith and knowledge “rest on [epi; NASB, in] the hope of eternal life.” The Greek preposition epi can have this force (e.g., Ro 4:18; 8:20; 1 Co 9:10); alternatively, it may convey purpose (Gal 5:13; Eph 2:10; 1 Th 4:7; 2 Ti 2:14). If so, Paul here adds an additional goal of his apostolic ministry: not only faith and knowledge, but also hope, with epi rather than kata being used for stylistic variation (so Marshall, 124, who takes “hope” as “a further qualification of Paul’s apostleship,” and Mounce, 380). Either rendition coheres well with other NT and Pauline teaching (Ro 4:18; 8:24–25; 1 Co 9:10; 13:13; Gal 5:5; 1 Th 1:3; 5:8; Heb 11:1; 1 Pe 1:21).
This hope is for “eternal life” (3:7; 1 Ti 1:16; 6:12; cf. 1 Ti 4:8; 2 Ti 1:1; cf. Quinn, Letter to Titus, 291–303), a Pauline (Ro 2:7; 5:21; 6:22–23; Gal 6:8; cf. Ac 13:46, 48) as well as Johannine concept firmly grounded in Jewish thought and Jesus’ teaching (Mt 19:16, 29; 25:46 et al.). This life “is not only everlasting but also shares the qualities of the life of God himself, its indestructibility and its joy” (Marshall, 125). It is anchored in the promise of the “not-lying God” (apseudēs, GK 950; NIV, “does not lie”; Ro 3:4; Heb 6:18; 1 Jn 1:10; 5:10; contrast 1 Ti 1:10 and Tit 1:12) made (lit.) “before eternal times” (chronos, GK 5989; NIV, “before the beginning of time”; NASB, “long ages ago” [the NIV’s rendering is to be preferred over the NASB’s]; cf. Ro 16:25; 2 Ti 1:9).
3 While issued in eternity past, the “word” (logos, GK 3364) of God’s promise was “manifested” (phaneroō, GK 5746; NIV, “brought to light”; elsewhere in the PE only in 1 Ti 3:16; 2 Ti 1:10; cf. Ro 3:21; Col 1:26; 4:4) in history at God’s own “appointed season” (chronos, GK 5989; cf. 1 Ti 2:6; 6:15; see also Ac 1:7; Ro 5:6; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10). The medium of God’s revelation was Paul’s “preaching” of the gospel (kērygma, GK 3060; cf. 2 Ti 4:17; Paul as a herald, kēryx, GK 3061; 1 Ti 2:7; 2 Ti 1:11), which the apostle regarded as a sacred stewardship (passive of pisteuō, GK 4409, “entrusted”; cf. 1 Ti 1:11; 1 Th 2:4; note the emphatic egō; lit., “which I was entrusted with”).
Paul’s gospel proclamation took place by the “command [epitagē, GK 2198; cf. 2:15] of God our Savior” (see comments at 1 Ti 1:1). By identifying God, and then Jesus, as “Savior,” Paul establishes a general framework for the epistle (the pattern recurs in 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6), in which Jesus is presented as both functionally equivalent with God and as the fulfillment of God’s salvific promises (cf. Johnson, 218–19; Quinn, Letter to Titus, 304–15).
1:1b–3 / Ordinarily Paul qualifies his apostleship by some note as to its source (e.g., “by the will of God”); here, as in 2 Timothy, he feels constrained to say something about its purpose. Paul was chosen for (“according to,” kjv) the faith of God’s elect. The word “according to” does not mean that his apostleship was regulated by their faith in some way or that it was in keeping with orthodoxy. Rather it connotes goal or purpose (BAGD, II, 4) and could be translated “with a view to.” His apostleship existed for the faith of God’s elect, which probably refers to their coming to trust Christ, not to their advancing in or better understanding the faith. The designation God’s elect (cf. Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10) is another typical instance of Paul’s referring to believers as the people of God by using ot language (e.g., Ps. 105:43; Isa. 65:9, 15; cf. his use of “saints”). In Paul’s view those who have put their trust (faith) in Christ are therefore the true continuation of the ancient people of God. Such a designation is surely intended for the ears of those who are in churches where the errors have a decidedly Jewish cast to them (see esp. 1:10, 14; 3:8–9).
His apostleship is also “with a view to their coming to know the truth” (niv, for … the knowledge of the truth). In the pe the truth regularly recurs as a designation of the gospel (see disc. on 1 Tim. 2:4); here it refers to the cognitive side of faith (cf. esp. 1 Tim. 4:3, “those who are believers and have come to know the truth”). In this case the truth is further defined as (literally) “which is according to godliness” (eusebeia, see disc. in 1 Tim. 2:2 and 3:16). As with the preceding occurrence, this “according to” can mean either “in keeping with” or “with a view to” (hence the niv, that leads to godliness). This is not an easy decision. The latter would make both prepositions have basically the same meaning and would see godliness as the true aim of the gospel, the truth. As attractive as that is, the grammar (with the definite article functioning as a relative pronoun so that the phrase specifically qualifies the truth) favors the former. Thus the truth that God’s elect have come to know is that which accords with true godliness, probably with emphasis here on its visible manifestation in godly behavior.
The next phrase (lit. “on” or “for the hope of eternal life”) is also very difficult, both as to its meaning and what it modifies. Many (e.g., Kelly, D-C) see it as further defining Paul’s apostleship, which was to promote faith, knowledge of the truth, and hope. The niv sees it (probably correctly) as modifying faith and knowledge (hence the repetition of these words in the translation). But rather than faith and knowledgeresting onthe hope of eternal life, as their eschatological basis (cf. BAGD), this phrase is better understood as sequential to them—as their ultimate goal.
This life, Paul now adds, was promised us by God. With this clause he turns our attention momentarily away from his apostleship and its purpose to the source of all things—both the gospel and his apostleship—God himself. The point in his saying this is probably similar to 1 Timothy 6:14–16, to reinforce the certainty of the future. The hope of eternal life is predicated on the twin facts that the God who promised it does not lie, an idea not pressed elsewhere in Paul but found in Numbers 23:19 (cf. Heb. 6:18) and that he promised us this life (cf. 1 Tim. 4:8; 2 Tim. 1:1) before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season (meaning now) has brought it to light. The phrase before the beginning of time (lit., “before eternal times”) is sometimes interpreted as referring to the ot promises (cf. rsv, “ages ago”). But as in 1 Corinthians 2:7–10 (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4), Paul’s point is that what believers are now experiencing belongs to the eternal counsels of God and has been hidden in God until revealed by the Spirit in the present Age through the work of Christ (cf. Rom. 16:25–26; Col 1:25–26).
The clause and at his appointed season (cf. 1 Tim. 2:6) he brought his word (i.e., the message of the gospel, as elsewhere in pe; 2 Tim. 2:9, 15; 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:5) to light expresses the present fulfillment of the promise mentioned in verse 2. Thus God promised life, and now, at his appointed season, he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me. If that does not make a nicely balanced set of ideas, the thought is clear enough. Paul simply brings his sentence back to its point of origin, his apostleship. The revelation of the promised life has actually taken place in Paul’s proclamation of God’s word, as attested by the Cretans’ faith (v. 1). As always for Paul, such preaching, hence his apostleship itself, is not of his own choosing but is a sacred trust (see 1 Tim. 1:11; cf. 2 Tim. 1:11; 1 Cor. 9:17; Gal. 2:7). And all of this, finally, is by the command of God our Savior (see disc. on 1 Tim. 1:1). Paul’s preaching, like his apostleship, is in keeping with God’s command, his divine injunction on Paul’s life.
1:2. This faith and knowledge, life and understanding, were resting on the hope of eternal life. It takes some rethinking for English-speaking people to think of hope as anything other than wishing. For instance, we hope it will snow on Christmas, or we hope a friend will call—desires that may or may not occur. But hope in the New Testament is an established certainty because it issues from the promise of God.
Our hope is eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. Unlike the promises we make, many of which are broken or forgotten, God’s promises remain immutable. God does not lie. Just as God brought forth the world by the spoken word, so he confirms the future by a word of promise. Whatever God says, must happen, since he designs reality. His spoken word cannot be contradicted in actuality. If it could, he would be dethroned. But that is impossible. God by his very nature remains reliable and trustworthy. What he says, must be.
1:3. Paul’s phrasing in this verse shows the reader the parallel course between Christ and the apostle, using matching terminology to describe their missions. Christ came at the “fullness of time.” He was the living Word who brought light to the world. Similarly, the timing of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles was determined by God for a precise moment in history: at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me (Paul) by the command of God our Savior.
This does not diminish the work of Christ and his fulfillment of God’s promise to all people. Instead, it marks Christ as the beginning point of the promise’s attainment. The work which Jesus began extends to the present and to all those entrusted to preach the gospel. Christ Jesus accomplished salvation for those who believe. Preaching continues the offering of the promise to all people until his return.
2. Now all that has been said so far—Paul’s service and apostleship in the interest of the faith of God’s elect and of their acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness—rests on the hope of life everlasting, which the never-lying God promised before times everlasting. This hope is an earnest yearning, confident expectation, and patient waiting for “life everlasting,” salvation in its fullest development (cf. John 17:24; Rom. 8:25). It was this salvation which the God who cannot lie (1 Sam. 15:29; Heb. 6:18; cf. 2 Tim. 2:13; contrast Titus 1:12) “promised before times everlasting.”
Just as God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus “before times everlasting” (2 Tim. 1:9), so also everlasting life was promised “before times everlasting.” Before the ages began to roll along in their never-ending course, that is, “before the world began” (A.V.), hence “from eternity,” the grace was given and the life was promised. When God decides to call into being a people for his own possession, the fulfilment of this decree is so certain that the grace which they will receive can be spoken of as having been already given, just as the life is described as having been already promised. Besides, strictly speaking, the text does not say, “God promised to them,” but simply, “God promised.” Nevertheless, the context (see verse 1) definitely implies that it is for the benefit of the elect out of Jews and Gentiles that this promise is made. That in the covenant of redemption from eternity such a promise (of the Father to the Son in the interest of all the elect) was actually made is clearly implied in the fact that believers are viewed as “given” to Christ by the Father, in order that they may inherit life everlasting in its most glorious manifestation (John 17:6, 9, 24; cf. also Ps. 89:3, based on 2 Sam. 7:12–14; cf. Heb. 1:5). Note especially John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, in order that they may gaze on my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovest me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
This “before the foundation of the world” doctrine, the exact phraseology, is not only Johannine but also definitely Pauline. Note Eph. 1:4, “He elected us for himself in him (i.e., in Christ) before the foundation of the world.”
Thus interpreted, Titus 1:2 is entirely in harmony with Pauline thinking, which regularly traces the salvation of believers to its origin in God’s redemptive plan from eternity (besides 2 Tim. 1:9 and Eph. 1:4 see also Rom. 8:29, 30; 1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 2:13; and see N.T.C. on 1 Thess. 1:4).
Verse 3 is really a parenthesis:—but in due season he revealed his word by (that) proclamation which by order of God our Savior was entrusted to me—.
From eternity God promised life everlasting, but “in due season” (here used as in 1 Tim. 2:6; 6:15; see footnotes and 105; cf. also Gal. 4:4) he revealed it. Strictly speaking, however, it was not life everlasting itself in its glorious heavenly phase that was revealed to earth-dwellers (how could it be?), but the word of God with respect to it. Hence, the change from “life everlasting” in verse 2, to “his word” in verse 3. In the form of (or: by means of) the good news which Paul proclaimed and which by order of “God our Savior” (see on 1 Tim. 1:1) had been entrusted to him (see on 1 Tim. 1:11–13), this word or message of God with respect to Christ and his gracious gift had now been made manifest.
This parenthetical statement is in complete harmony with Paul’s teaching throughout. That teaching may be summarized as follows:
Full salvation in Christ for both Jew and Gentile, considered as equals, a salvation viewed as based solely upon Christ’s merits appropriated by faith, was:
- objectively given and promised from eternity (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:2);
- hidden—i.e., the message with reference to it was hidden—in preceding ages and from the eyes of former generations (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:5, 6, 9; Col. 1:26a); hidden, namely, in the sense that it was not fully proclaimed, nor fully realized, nor fully understood by the men of the old dispensation, though it had been foreshadowed (Gen. 3:15; 12:3; cf. Gal. 3:8; Is. 60; 61; Joel 2:28, 29; Amos 9:11, 12; Micah 4:12; Mal. 1:11; also Ps. 72:8–11, 17; 87);
- now fully manifested—i.e., the message with reference to it was fully manifested—by means of universal gospel-proclamation (see on 2 Tim. 1:10, 11; cf. Rom. 16:26; Eph. 3:3–9; Col. 1:26b–29). For “proclamation” or “preaching” (literally “heralding,” “kerugma”) see on 2 Tim. 4:2.
The glorious fact that the proclamation of the good news concerning life everlasting had actually been entrusted to one so unworthy as Paul, a fact which caused the heart of the apostle to overflow with gratitude, accounts for this interruption in the steady flow of the sentence.
1:2 Paul’s commission in connection with the gospel has a third great emphasis. It was not only concerned with: (1) evangelism—furthering the faith of God’s elect, past tense; and (2) education—furthering their knowledge of the truth, present tense; but also (3) expectation—in hope of eternal life, future tense.
The NT speaks of eternal life as both a present possession and a future hope. The word hope does not imply uncertainty. The moment we trust Christ as Savior we have eternal life as a present possession (John 5:24) and become heirs to all the benefits of His redemptive work, but we will not experience the practical enjoyment of all of them until we reach our eternal home. We hope in the sense that we are looking forward to eternal life in its final form when we will receive our glorified bodies and be forever free from sin, sickness, sorrow, suffering, and death (Phil. 3:20, 21; Tit. 3:7).
The hope is sure because it was promised by God. Nothing is as sure as the word of God, who cannot lie, who cannot be deceived, and who would not deceive. There is no risk in believing what He says. In fact nothing is more reasonable than for the creature to believe his Creator.
God promised eternal life before time began. This may be understood in two ways. First, God determined in past eternity to give eternal life to all who would believe on the Lord Jesus, and what He determined was the same as a promise. Or it may mean that all the blessings of salvation were contained in germ form in the promise of the Messiah found in Genesis 3:15. This was before the ages of time or dispensations began to unfold.
1:3 In due time God made known this glorious program of eternal life which He had decided on in past ages. He had not fully revealed it in OT times. Believers then had a very hazy idea of life after death. But the vagueness disappeared with the coming of the Savior. He “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). And the good news was broadcast by Paul and the other apostles in fulfillment of the commandment of God our Savior, that is, in obedience to the Great Commission.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1996). Titus (pp. 9–12). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Köstenberger, A. (2006). Titus. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 604–605). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (pp. 168–169). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 341). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 4, pp. 340–343). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 2132–2133). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.