Not to be contentious for to be no brawlers, A.V.; to be for but, A.V.; toward for unto, A.V. To speak evil of no man ( μηδένα βλασφημεῖν ) . Probably especially pointed in the first place at a natural tendency of oppressed Christians to speak evil of their rulers ( 2 Peter 2:10 ; Jud 10), but extended into a general precept which might be especially needful for the rough and turbulent Cretans. Not to be contentious ( ἀμάχους εἴναι ); as 1 Timothy 3:3 , note. To be gentle ( ἐπιεικεῖς ); coupled, as here, with ἀμάχους in 1 Timothy 3:3 . Showing ( ἐνδεικνυμένους ); a word of frequent occurrence in St. Paul's vocabulary ( Romans 2:15 ; Romans 9:17 .22; Ephesians 2:7 , etc.; see above, Titus 2:10 , note). Meekness ( πραότητα ); another Pauline word ( 1 Corinthians 4:21 ; 2 Corinthians 10:1 ; Galatians 5:23 , etc.; 1 Timothy 6:11 ; 2 Timothy 2:25 ). The precept is given its widest extension by the double addition of "all" and "to all men." The roughness, or want of courtesy, of others is no excuse for the want of meekness in those who are the disciples of him who was meek and lowly in heart ( Matthew 11:29 ). All men, whatever their station, the highest or the lowest, are to receive meek and gentle treatment from the Christian.
Mercy begetting mercy.
The practical lessons of the gospel were not exhausted in the preceding chapter, nor the motives which urge believers to godliness. The call to holiness in the last chapter was based upon the holy character of God's saving grace and the purpose of Christ's redeeming love. In these verses the grace and love of God are still the basis of the exhortation, but it takes its peculiar coloring from the thought of what we were ourselves. Tenderness, indulgence, and meekness toward our fellow-men are the duties to which these verses call us; and it is supposed that those fellow-men may be rough and evil-minded toward us, and provoking in their ways, and perhaps obstinate in evil-doing. The natural heart might be ready to speak evil of them, to contend fiercely with them, utterly to reject them as reprobates, to thrust them beyond the pale of hope and kindness. But stay! What were you yourselves when the kindness and love of God first appeared unto you? Were you walking in righteousness? Were your works the things which attracted God's love toward you? Nay! you were living in that folly which you now condemn in others; you were children of disobedience then as truly as they are now; you were deceived by sin then as they are now; you were the slaves of your own lusts then even as they are now; you lived in malice and envy then, both hateful and hating one another. But God's mercy found you out; God's love threw a veil over your sins; he provided a fountain to wash away your guilt; he sent his Holy Spirit to create in you a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within you; he justified you by his grace; he made you his heirs, and gave you the hope of eternal life. And will not you have mercy upon your fellow-men? Will not you, for whom the Divine gentleness and patience has done so much, be gentle and patient too? Will not you, humble in the remembrance of your own sins, and abashed at the thought of your own unworthiness, deal meekly and kindly even with unruly and sinful men, and cherish the hope that God's boundless grace may at last reach them, even as it reached you? Thus the doctrine of God's mercy toward men begets mercy from man to man, and the doctrine of grace is the strongest conceivable motive to charity.
The right deportment of Christians toward all men.
It is described first negatively, then positively.
I. THEY MUST NOT BE REVILERS . "To speak evil of no man."
1. What evils spring from the wrong use of the tongue! "It is an unruly evil" ( James 3:8 ).
2. If the evil we speak of others is false, we are slanderers; if it is true, we sin against charity. It usually betokens a malignant spirit.
3. It is to forget the example of Christ— "who, when he was reviled, reviled not again;" and the precepts of Christ, who taught us "to love our enemies." Let Christians, therefore, guard their tongues, and let their words be few and well-ordered.
II. THEY MUST NOT BE CONTENTIOUS . "No brawlers."
1. Such a disposition mars the influence of Christian people.
2. It is inconsistent with the spirit of him who did not strive, nor was his voice heard in the streets.
3. It leads to unseemly retaliations from the world, to the dishonor of Christ.
III. THEY MUST BE FORBEARING . "But gentle." It suggests the idea of giving way, of taking wrong rather than of revenging the injuries we receive.
IV. THEY MUST BE MEEK TO ALL MEN . "Showing all meekness to all men."
1. Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit. ( Galatians 5:22 .)
2. It is precious in God ' s sight. ( 1 Peter 3:4 .)
3. It is a characteristic of true wisdom. ( James 3:17 .)
5. It is specially needed in our conduct toward our fellow-men ( James 3:13 ); in our efforts to restore the erring ( Galatians 6:1 ) and to instruct opposers ( 2 Timothy 2:24 , 2 Timothy 2:25 ).—T.C.
Subjection to the state.
Society has reached no ideal perfection in government, nor has God himself laid down any outward form as an ideal. All nations are justified in variety of choice. There has been government by judges, and governments monarchical, republican, autocratic, and constitutional. All that we need to notice is that society needs to be governed. Lawlessness always ends in anarchy, misery, and desolation.
I. LEARN SUBJECTION TO THE STATE . This is beautiful. Restraint is better than the liberty of licentiousness. Compare a river that keeps its bounds to one that overflows its banks. Men are justified in resisting tyrannies, whether of autocrats or mobs; but they must not forget that all well-ordered societies exist only by subjection.
II. LEARN SELF - CONQUEST IN YOURSELVES . Controlling the tongue, avoiding all bitterness and "brawling," and showing that there is a magistracy of the heart as well as a magistracy of the state.— W.M.S.
"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers," etc. "Very careful," says Dean Spence, "and searching have been the apostle's charges to Titus respecting the teachers of the Church, their doctrine and their life; very particular have been his directions, his warnings and exhortations, to men and women of different ages, on the subject of their home life. But with the exception of a slight digression, in the case of a slave to a pagan master, his words had been written with a reference generally to Christian life among Christians. But there was then a great life outside the little Christian world: how were the people of Christ to regulate their behavior in their dealings with the vast pagan world outside? Patti goes to the root of the matter at once when he says, 'Put them in mind,' etc." We have here duty in a threefold relation—in relation to civil government, in relation to general society, and in relation to moral self. Here is duty—
I. IN RELATION TO CIVIL GOVERNMENT . "Put them in mind to be subject [in subjection] to principalities [rulers] and powers [authorities], to obey magistrates [to be obedient]." It is here implied, and fully taught elsewhere ( Romans 13:1-7 ), that civil government is of Divine appointment. "There is no power but of God," says Paul. That the principle of civil government is Divine is not only revealed but implied in the very constitution of society.
1. Man ' s social tendencies indicate it. Some men are royal in their instincts and powers, and are evidently made to rule. Others are servile, cringing in tendency, feeble in faculty, and made to obey. There is a vast gradation of instinct and power in human society, and it is an eternal principle in God's government that the lesser shall serve the greater.
2. Man ' s social exigencies indicate it. Every community, to be kept in order, must have a recognized head—one who shall be allowed to rule, either by his own will or the organized will of the whole. Hence man, in his most savage state, has some recognized chief. The principle of civil government is, therefore, manifestly of Divine appointment. We may rest assured that, civil government being of Divine appointment, it is for good and good only. Indeed, we learn that Paul's idea of a civil ruler is that he is a "minister of God to thee for good." But what is good? The answer in which all will agree is this— obedience to the Divine will. What is the standard of virtue? Not the decree of an autocrat, not public sentiment, even when organized into constitutional law; but the will of God. "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." The civil government, therefore, that does not harmonize with his will, as revealed by Christ the infallible Logos, is not the government of which Paul speaks. Taking Christ as the Revealer of God's will, we may infer that the infringement of human rights is not in accordance with the will of God, and therefore not good. Also that the promotion of injustice, impurity, and error is not according to the will of God, and therefore not good. The Bible never teaches, nor does moral philosophy, that we are bound to obey laws that are not righteous, to honor persons that are not honorworthy. If we are commanded to honor the king, the precept implies that the king ' s character is worthy of his office ; Some kings it is religious to despise and loathe. If we are commanded to honor our parents, the language implies that our parents are honorworthy. Some parents display attributes of character suited to awaken the utmost hatred and contempt. In like manner we are commanded to be subject to the higher powers, and the injunction implies that what these higher powers enact is right. The obligation of obedience is ever dependent upon the righteousness of the command.
II. IN RELATION TO GENERAL SOCIETY . There are three duties here indicated which every man owes to his fellows.
1. Usefulness. "Be ready to every good work." The law of universal benevolence which we see in nature, our own instincts and faculties, as well as the written Word, teach us that man was made to serve his brother; the grand end of each is to promote the happiness of others. No man fulfills his mission or realizes his destiny who is not an altruist, who is not ever actuated by regard for the happiness of others. Altruism is God's social law and is binding on every one; disregard to it is the source of all social disorders and miseries. "The soul of the truly benevolent man does not seem to reside much in its own body. Its life, to a great extent, is a mere reflex of the lives of others. It migrates into their bodies, and, identifying its existence with their existence, finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures, in extinguishing or solacing their pains."
2. Charitableness. "To speak evil of no man." "This," says a modern author, "imports more than to speak evil in the ordinary sense: it is to act the part of a reviler or slanderer; and when used of conduct from one man towards another, always betokens the exercise of a very bitter and malignant spirit. Titus was to charge the Christians of Crete to give no exhibition towards any one of such a spirit, nor to show a quarrelsome disposition, but, on the contrary, to cultivate a mild, placable, and gentle temper." There are evils of some sort or other attaching to all men, and in some men they are of the most hideous and heinous character. To ignore them, if possible, would be wrong; to feel them is natural to the pure, and to denounce them is right. But to speak of them before others, to parade them before the eyes of others, argues a base and malignant nature. Should occasion require us to speak of them, it should be in the saddest tones of tenderness, and even with compassionate indignation.
3. Courteousness. "To be no brawlers [not to be contentious], but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men." How much there is in society, how much in every department of life—mercantile, mechanical, and mental—one meets with to annoy and irritate, especially those fated with an irascible nature. Still, amidst the strongest provocations, courtesy is our duty, yes, and our dignity too.
III. IN RELATION TO OUR MORAL SELF . The apostle urges the duty of forbearance to what was wrong in government and society, by reminding them of the wrong in their own past lives. "We ourselves also were sometimes foolish "—we had no proper understanding of the true. "Disobedient"—indisposed to do what is right. "Deceived"—swerving from the true mode of life. "Serving divers lusts and pleasures"—slaves of impure passions, reveling in the sensual and the gross. "Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" —we once spent our days in the atmosphere of hate and malign passions. It is a duty which every man owes to himself to remember all the wrong of his past life—remember it:
1. That he may be charitable towards others.
2. That he may be stimulated to efforts of self-improvement.
3. That he may adore the forbearance of God in his past dealings.
4. That he may devoutly appreciate the morally redemptive agency of Christ.
5. That he may realize the necessity of seeking the moral restoration of others. Two things may be inferred from Paul's language concerning the past moral condition of himself and others.
CONCLUSION . Let us find out our duty and follow it, through storm as well as sunshine, even unto death. "After all," says Canon Kingsley, "what is speculation to practice? What does God require of us but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with him? The longer I live this seems to me more important, and all other questions less so. If we can but live the simple, right life, do the work that's nearest, though it's dull at whiles, helping, when we meet them, lame dogs over stiles." In the realization of our duty is our strength, our nobleness, our heaven. "Yet do thy work: it shall succeed. In thine or in another's day; And if denied the victor's raced, Thou shalt not lack the toilet's pay. "Then faint not, falter not, nor plead Thy weakness: truth itself is strong; The lion's strength, the eagle's speed, Are not alone vouchsafed to wrong." (Whittier.) D.T.