Paul’s Letters to Titus and Philemon

Discovery for Students

Paul’s Letters to Titus and Philemon


Titus 1:1 through 3:15 and Philemon 1:1-25

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12)


The Book of Titus was written by Paul around A.D. 64, between his first and second imprisonments in Rome. Titus and the two epistles to Timothy were letters of instruction for these two new overseers of churches. They were also the last of Paul’s writings in the Scriptures.

Titus was a Greek man who became a believer and then was carefully mentored by Paul. He accompanied Paul on some of his journeys and traveled as a messenger for Paul on occasion. Eventually, Titus was given the responsibility of overseeing the churches on the small island of Crete.

Crete had significant pagan influences because it was a training ground for Roman soldiers. The people of Crete were known for their laziness, gluttony, and lying. To combat these cultural influences, the churches needed to be founded on sound principles, including that of a disciplined life.

Many Jews lived in Crete. Some of the Christians there probably witnessed the Day of Pentecost more than thirty years before this letter was written (Acts 2:11). There were, however, other Jews who tried to put unreasonable requirements on the Christians of these fledgling churches by forcing them to observe points of the old Law that had been fulfilled in Christ, as well as hundreds of Jewish traditions that had been created independent of the Law. In this epistle, Paul challenged the younger man to uphold sound doctrine in order to withstand these harmful influences.

The Book of Philemon was a letter from Paul to his close, personal friend, Philemon. It was writ-ten about A.D. 60, during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. Onesimus, a runaway slave belonging to Philemon, had become a convert through Paul’s ministry in Rome.

Paul wrote petitioning Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to receive him as a brother. Paul felt compelled to return the slave to his rightful owner under the Roman law. Yet, Paul asked Philemon to consider a higher law, that of Christian love and brotherhood, and to extend mercy to his slave.

Though this letter was to Philemon, it was also addressed to the elders and the church, which is thought to have been the Colossian church. Thus, not only did the subject of the letter pertain to an individual circumstance, but also to the principle of equality of individuals within the church.


  1. In Titus 1, Paul outlined to Titus the qualifications needed for leaders in the church. It was not enough to possess an intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures; leaders in the church needed to be people of integrity, character, and service. List and describe the attributes necessary for church leaders (verses 6-9). Are these to be exemplified by pastors and preachers only? Explain your answer.
  2. In Titus 1:10-16, Paul warned Titus that there would be false teachers who would try to deceive the brethren. Some, for their own selfish ambitions, would try to force these Christians to follow rituals of the old Law. There are voices today, too, that would attempt to lead us astray. How can we know for sure what is truth and what is error?
  3. Sound doctrine is much more than a creed — it is a way of life. Our lives are epistles to others. We can be either a spiritual encouragement or discouragement to those around us. Paul was concerned that those in the body of Christ be an influence for good to others in the church. He admonished those who had experience to be mentors and teachers to those who were younger. Why do you think the senior saints are of great value in our church? See Titus 2:2-8. What are some of the things we can learn from them? Why is it important for a person of any age to be a good example?
  4. We know good deeds will not take us to Heaven. We read, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). Yet, verse 8 tells us that we should “be careful to maintain good works.” How do these two statements fit together?
  5. Paul was an Apostle and instructor of many churches. In his letter to his friend, Philemon, he had the authority to demand that Philemon forgive and restore his slave. Why do you think Paul, rather than commanding, pled with Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him as a brother?
  6. Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus, who had been Philemon’s personal property before he ran away — an act which was punishable by death under Roman law. Philemon was asked not only to forgive him, but to receive him as a brother. We may be asked to forgive someone who has done us a great wrong. Is it always easy to forgive? What should we do if we find it difficult to forgive?
  7. In Paul’s day, the Roman, Greek, and Jewish cultures had strict levels of position within society. Slaves were demeaned and women had few rights. However, the Gospel restores human dignity. As Christians, we are to treat all people with honor and respect. What are ways we can show respect to people who are different from ourselves? What are ways we may show a lack of respect without intending to do so?


Paul’s letters to Titus and Philemon now serve as admonitions to us. Let us take heed and use these words as encouragement in our Christian walks.