Lesson 5 of 6
In Progress

Theological Themes in Titus

Good Works

In its three chapters, the letter to Titus mentions good works seven times. 

  1. Opponents of Titus are so base as to be “unfit for any good work” (1:16).
  2. Titus himself is to be “a model of good works” (2:7).
  3. The community Jesus forms is “zealous for good deeds” (2:14).
  4. Believers are to be good citizens, living with gentleness and courtesy, and “ready for every good work” (3:1).
  5. God offered salvation solely according to God’s mercy and “not because of any works of righteousness” (3:5).
  6. Titus is to insist on certain behaviors related to household structure “so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (3:8). 
  7. People should learn to “devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs” (3:14).

Salvation is God’s gift alone and good works are at the center of life in the Christian movement. The household structure exists to multiply them. Outsiders will see the kindness and generosity with which Christians live and think well of the Christian community. Moreover, certain needs are urgent; Christians can serve the neighbor by being ready to help in times of crisis.  


Four major christological titles appear in the Pastoral Epistles: “Christ,” “Lord,” “Savior,” and “Mediator.” The title “Son of God,” used often in the seven undisputed letters of Paul, does not appear. There is an implicit affirmation of Christ’s preexistence and incarnation (Titus 2:11; see also 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10); his true humanity is maintained (see 1 Timothy 2:5; 6:13; 2 Timothy 2:8); and his death is acknowledged (Titus 2:14; see also 1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Timothy 2:11). He has been exalted to heaven and reigns in the present era (see 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:10; 2:12). Finally, he will appear at the end of time (see 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:8), when he will judge both the living and the dead (see 2 Timothy 1:18; 4:1, 8).

Life in the World

Like 1 Timothy, the Letter to Titus looks out upon the world as the place in which the Christian is at home. In this letter there is a stress on having compassion for those in need (3:2, 8, 14) and extending courtesy toward all people (3:2), not just Christians.

At the same time, the letter to Titus is clear that something greater is yet to come. Lives that are “self-controlled, upright, and godly” (2:12) represent an interim ethic “while we wait” for the ultimate revealing of Jesus Christ. Hope sustains the believer in this time between the grace of God having appeared in Christ (2:11) and a fuller intimacy with Christ to come (2:13). 

Baptismal Regeneration

At 3:5 the writer speaks of baptismal regeneration in one of the most eloquent passages on baptism in the New Testament. He speaks of baptism as a “washing” (in the translations of the KJV, RSV, and NIV, reflecting the Greek word loutron most accurately; but the NRSV has “water”)–a “[washing] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”