Learning to Do Good Works

“Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (v. 14).

- Titus 3:12–14

We resume our study of Paul’s epistle to Titus today in 3:12 where the apostle begins to conclude his letter. Even though this epistle is Scripture inspired by God the Holy Spirit, it remains a personal letter with instructions that have a particular relevance to its original recipient and which may be hard for us to apply to our own situation. But such details are important for helping us piece together the history of the apostolic church, and the list of names we find in Titus 3:12–13 is useful for the historical data it provides.

It seems that the apostle did not intend for Titus to spend his entire life on Crete, for he purposed to send another worker to relieve Titus so that he could join Paul at Nicopolis. At the time Paul wrote to Titus in the mid-60s AD, he had not yet decided whether to send Artemas or Tychicus (v. 12), but it is reasonable to assume he settled on Artemas because 2 Timothy 4:10–12 places Titus in Dalmatia and Tychicus in Ephesus at the end of the apostle’s life. Scripture says nothing else about Artemas, but we do know that Tychicus was a faithful minister and beloved Christian brother of Paul’s from Asia (Acts 20:4; Col. 4:7).

Paul mentions Zenas and Apollos as those whom Titus should “speed…on their way,” making sure “that they lack nothing” (Titus 3:13). Zenas the lawyer is otherwise unknown, but commentators believe he was likely a specialist in Roman law, not Jewish law. Apollos is likely the same gifted teacher we read about in Acts 18:24–19:1. These two men seem to have been Paul’s couriers who brought his letter to Titus on Crete, and whom Titus was to give supplies like money and food in order to send them on to their next ministry assignment.

Provision of support for ministers is but one of many good works that believers are charged with (1 Tim. 5:17–18), and Paul takes one more opportunity to commend Christian service in Titus 3:14 before he ends his letter. Of note here is the priority Paul puts on helping in cases of “urgent need,” which occasions are not those for which we should passively wait. John Chrysostom comments that believers should actively “seek out those who need their assistance” (ACCNT 9, p. 307).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry writes, “Christianity is not a fruitless profession. It is not enough that they be harmless, but they must be productive, doing good, as well as eschewing evil.” Believers should be known as the most productive people of all, those who look for opportunities to do good everyday and not those who simply wait for needs to show up. Are you about the business of looking for needs you can meet in the ordinary course of your day?

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 15:7–11
Proverbs 31:8–9
1 Corinthians 16:5–11
3 John 5–8

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