13 Zenan legis peritum et Apollo sollicite praemitte ut nihil illis desit
14. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
14 discant autem et nostri bonis operibus praeesse ad usus necessarios ut non sint infructuosi
15. All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
15 salutant to qui mecum sunt omnes saluta qui nos amant in fide gratia Dei cum omnibus vobis amen
It was written to Titus, ordained the first bishop of the church of the Cretians, from Nicopolis of Macedonia.
Ad Titum, qui primus Cretensium Ecclesiae ordinatus fuit Episcopus, scripsit ex Nicopoli Macedoniae.
10. Avoid an heretical man. This is property added; because there will be no end of quarrels and dispute, if we wish to conquer obstinate men by argument; for they will never want words, and they will derive fresh courage from impudence, so that they will never grow weary of fighting. Thus, after having given orders to Titus as to the form of doctrine which he should lay down, he now forbids him to waste much time in debating with heretics, because battle would lead to battle and dispute to dispute. Such is the cunning of Satan, that, by the impudent talkativeness of such men, he entangles good and faithful pastors, so as to draw them away from diligence in teaching. We must therefore beware lest we become engaged in quarrelsome disputes; for we shall never have leisure to devote our labors to the Lord’s flock, and contentious men will never cease to annoy us.
When he commands him to avoid such persons, it is as if he said that he must not toil hard to satisfy them, and even that there is nothing better than to cut off the handle for fighting which they are eager to find. This is a highly necessary admonition; for even they who would willingly take no part in strifes of words are sometimes drawn by shame into controversy, because they think that it would be shameful cowardice to quit the field. Besides, there is no temper, however mild, that is not liable to be provoked by the fierce taunts of enemies, because they look upon it as intolerable that those men should attack the truth, (as they are accustomed to do,) and that none should reply. Nor are there wanting men who are either of a combative disposition, or excessively hot-tempered, who are eager for battle. On the contrary, Paul does not wish that the servant of Christ should be much and long employed in debating with heretics.
We must now see what he means by the word heretic. There is a common and well-known distinction between a heretic and a schismatic. But here, in my opinion, Paul disregards that distinction: for, by the term “heretic” he describes not only those who cherish and defend an erroneous or perverse doctrine, but in general all who do not yield assent to the sound doctrine which he laid down a little before. Thus under this name he includes all ambitious, unruly, contentious parsons, who, led away by sinful passions, disturb the peace of the Church, and raise disputings. In short, every person who, by his overweening pride, breaks up the unity of the Church, is pronounced by Paul to be “heretic.”
But we must exercise moderation, so as not instantly to declare every man to be a “heretic” who does not agree with our opinion. There are some matters on which Christians may differ from each other, without being divided into sects. Paul himself commands that they shall not be so divided, when he bids them keep their harmony unbroken, and wait for the revelation of God. (<500316>Philippians 3:16.) But whenever the obstinacy of any person grows to such an extent, that, led by selfish motives, he either separates from the body, or draws away some of the flock, or interrupts the course of sound doctrine, in such a case we must boldly resist.
In a word, a heresy or sect and the unity of the Church — are things totally opposite to each other. Since the unity of the Church is dear to God, and ought to be held by us in the highest estimation, we ought to entertain the strongest abhorrence of heresy. Accordingly, the name of sect or heresy, though philosophers and statesmen reckon it to be honorable, is justly accounted infamous among Christians. We now understand who are meant by Paul, when he bids us dismiss and avoid heretics. But at the same time we ought to observe what immediately follows, —
After the first and second admonition; for neither shall we have a right to pronounce a man to be a heretic, nor shall we be at liberty to reject him, till we have first endeavored to bring him back to sound views. fc54 He does not mean any “admonition,” whatever, or that of a private individual, but an “admonition” given by a minister, with the public authority of the Church; for the meaning of the Apostle’s words is as if he had said, that heretics must be rebuked with solemn and severe censure.
They who infer from this passage, that the supporters of wicked doctrines must be restrained by excommunication alone, and that no rigorous measures beyond this must be used against them, do not argue conclusively. There is a difference between the duties of a bishop and those of a magistrate. Writing to Titus, Paul does not treat of the office of a magistrate, but points out what belongs to a bishop. fc55 Yet moderation is always best, that, instead of being restrained by force and violence, they may be corrected by the discipline of the Church, if there be any ground to believe that they can be cured.
11. Knowing that he who is such is ruined. He declares that man to be “ruined,” as to whom there is no hope of repentance, because, if our labor could bring back any man to the right path, it should by no means be withheld. The metaphor is taken from a building, which is not merely decayed in some part, but completely demolished, so that it is incapable of being repaired.
He next points out the sign of this ruin — an evil conscience, when he says, that they who do not yield to admonitions are condemned by themselves; for, since they obstinately reject the truth, it is certain that they sin willfully and of their own accord, and therefore it would be of no advantage to admonish them.
At the same time, we learn from Paul’s words that we must not rashly or at random pronounce any man to be a heretic; for he says, “Knowing that he who is such is ruined.” Let the bishop therefore beware lest, by indulging his passionate temper, he treat with excessive harshness, as a heretic, one whom he does not yet know to be such.
13. Zenas a lawyer. It is uncertain whether “Zenas”, was a Doctor of the Civil Law or of the Law of Moses; but as we may learn from Paul’s words that he was a poor man and needed the help of others, it is probable that he belonged to the same rank with Apollo, that is, an expounder of the Law of God among the Jews. It more frequently happens that such persons are in want of the necessaries of life than those who conduct causes in civil courts. I have said that Zenas’s poverty may be inferred from the words of Paul, because the expression, conduct him, means here to supply him with the means of accomplishing his journey, as is evident from what follows.
14. And let ours also learn to excel in good works. fc56 That the Cretans, on whom he lays this burden, may not complain of being loaded with the expense, he reminds them that they must not be unfruitful, and that therefore they must be warmly exhorted to be zealous in good works. But of this mode of expression we have already spoken. Whether, therefore, he enjoins them to excel in good works, or to assign the highest rank to good works, he means that it is useful for them to have an opportunity afforded for exercising liberality, that they may not “be unfruitful” on this ground, that there is no opportunity, or that it is not demanded by necessity. What follows has been already explained in the other Epistles.