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The Epistle to Titus

Titus was also one of the closest disciples of the Apostle Paul. The epistle to him is not long, but nonetheless joins the ranks of pastoral epistles. There are many parallels between it and similar instructions that we find in the Epistle to Timothy. This is understandable, as the Apostle Paul consecrated both Timothy and Titus bishops, to be his assistants and his successors. We read this in the Epistle to Titus: "Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness."

But what is this "God’s elect?" Does this mean that the Lord chooses who must be saved and does not choose others? It appears that the Lord does not treat everyone the same: He chooses some, but not others. How can this be? Becoming one of God’s elect depends entirely on God’s omniscience: man remains free, but the Lord knows in advance and foresees, in a way inconceivable to us, what path he will take. And if he chooses the righteous path, he becomes one of "God’s elect." This is why the Mother of God appeared to St. Sergius and said to him (of course, he was stunned by this appearance of the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven): "Fear not, thou elect of God!" Not because this was some marked chosen one, but because the Mother of God knew St. Sergius and therefore called him thus.

"According to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." This means that the truth which is after godliness is the hope of inheriting eternal life. And that hope relies on what the Lord promised, and God cannot lie: what He said will be. "But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour; to Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour." As a father does a son, he teaches him peace and the blessing of the One God, and then abruptly turns to the matter at hand: "For this cause left I thee in Crete" ‒ at that time, the Apostle left Timothy in Ephesus. Timothy was the Bishop of Ephesus, where he suffered, while Titus was Bishop of Crete. "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." As in the Epistle to Timothy, the Apostle maintains: how can one who cannot rule his own home rule the Church? "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre." This is reminiscent of parallel instructions to the Apostle Timothy. "But a lover of hospitality (that is, one who welcomes strangers and indulges them), a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." Of course, if one were to accept priestly or episcopal service and not know Christian teaching as well as he should, how can he convince those who are lost, and instruct those in need of instruction? “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake." Remember what we just read in the Epistle to Titus: "One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This is a rather severe assessment, no? But hence arises a famous paradox, which is used as a logical fallacy to demonstrate that a formal logical conclusion can lead to different conclusion that negates the first. That which is here said by one prophet applies to the prophet himself, who is famous as having developed the paradox. Here is the paradox: Epimenides, himself a Cretan, says that all Cretans are liars. And, since he is a Cretan, he too is a liar. Since he is a liar, then he spoke an untruth, and that means that Cretans are not liars. Since they are not liars, then that means he spoke the truth, which means they are liars. And since he is a Cretan, then he is a liar, and so it goes. There is an exit from this formal logical loop. The exit, of course, takes the form of an old proverb: "There is an exception to every rule!" Epimenides said, "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons0," and the Apostles Paul adds, "This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure."

He who is pure in soul and heart can speak on any topics, even those, it would seem, which are seductive and impure, and yet remain pure. "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." Whoever is defiled sees impurity everywhere. Whoever is pure sees purely, but whoever is impure sees the vile in everything. "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."

The Apostle speaks of his time here, but we in our own time see the very same thing. Many people who speak of God say many pious, elegant words, but deny Him in their works. For when words are not supported by works, but rather the works part ways with the words, then it becomes clear – this man has no true, firm conviction in Christ. If he had it, then he would be faithful to that truth. This is that about which we already spoke: in the last times especially, there will be many people having an appearance of piety. They will profess that they know God, they will speak holy words, but by their works they will deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Amen.

Translated from the original Russian by Rdr. Gregory Levitsky
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese

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