The Book of Titus - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
To the pure all things are pure; but to them that are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure:
These words closely follow a reference to "Jewish fables, and commandments of men," and this fact helps us to understand them. The whole system of living by tradition was unutterably evil; and our Lord Himself and His Apostles protested against it. Such traditions constantly led men to a burdensome life, in that they made actions to be sins which were no sins, and left the truly sinful things of the inner life untouched. It is so even today. Man-made regulations as to what men may do or not do, are the greatest enemies to real spiritual life that it is possible to conceive. These words, then, touch the true deep note about life. The "all things" refers to everything which is non-moral; such as appetite and food, desire and marriage, exchange and commerce, weariness and recreation, and so on through all the varied realm of life. To the pure all these things are pure, and they will be maintained in purity. To the impure, every one of them may be made the vehicle and occasion of impurity. No traditions, no commandments of men, no rules and regulations, can save the ordinary things of human life from positive obscenity, if the man handling them is himself an impure man. On the other hand, the man who is pure may enter into them all; and not only will he not be defiled by them, but will not defile them; he will hold them in pureness. To all of which the words of Jesus testify, that not what goeth into a man defileth, but that which cometh out of him.
That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Here are two ideas which flash with a surprising brilliance. The first is that the doctrine of God our Saviour can be adorned; and the second is that those who are spoken of as able to do it are slaves. Perhaps we shall understand the first better, if we begin with the second. The word servants here is distinctly the word for slaves, and it may well be conceived that the conditions of slaves in Crete, where Titus was labouring, were of the worst. Paul had already said that the testimony of one of their own prophets was true that the Cretans were liars, evil beasts, gluttons. Slavery in a society of such must have been a terrible thing. Among these slaves there were some who were saints, and these were declared able in the very life of slavery, to "adorn the doctrine." Moreover, the Apostle had declared how they would do it. It would be done by subjection to their masters; by seeking to be well-pleasing, by not gainsaying; by honesty, by faithfulness; in short, by such action in difficult circumstances as to win from their very masters a recognition of their goodness. Thus we see how "the doctrine of God our Saviour" may "be adorned." It is adorned when its effects on life and character are expressed in conduct. To be true and gentle and faithful in circumstances that are hard and unfair, and even unjust, is only possible in the power of some great spiritual conviction; and the value of such spiritual conviction is revealed in such conduct.
They which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works.
The alternative reading suggested in the Revised Version, "careful to profess honest occupations," helps us to understand what was in the mind of the Apostle when he wrote these words. The whole chapter reveals the kind of world in the midst of which these Cretan Christians were living. It was characterized by insubordination to authority, by laziness, by disaffection and contention, and by every form of evil excess. Moreover, it was intellectually a world of wrangling and disputes over all sorts of things. In the midst of such conditions the Christians stood fundamentally as those who believed God. To believe God is to believe His Word, His revelation of the true order of life. Those who stood on that belief could testify to the power of it in no better way than that of good works, that is, by following a quiet and diligent life of devotion to duty, in callings which in themselves were honest. And that is always so. There is no more powerful force for rebuking all evil things, whether of conduct or of opinion, than that of the quiet, strong, persistent life of man or woman who goes on from day to day doing the duties of the day well, cheerfully, and with joy. It is not easy; and that is recognized in the very verb employed. They are "to be careful"; that is, they are to make it a study, to take thought about it. It is not easy, but it is worth-while.