Why did Paul circumcise Timothy but not Titus?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Timothy and Titus were treated differently because their circumstances were entirely dissimilar.


The Bible says in Acts 16:1-3: “[1] Then came he [the Apostle Paul] to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: [2] Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. [3] Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.”

Timothy was a young man, a Jew through his mother’s lineage (his father was Greek). In order not to be a stumblingblock to the unsaved Jews to whom they would preach for the rest of their ministries, Paul took Timothy and physically circumcised him. Timothy could not be discredited.


Titus, a full-blooded Greek, did not need to be physically circumcised. Galatians chapter 2 reports: “[1] Then fourteen years after I [Paul] went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. [2] And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. [3] But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:…” This is significant in light of the context, Galatians chapter 2 (parallel is Acts chapter 15). The issue here is whether or not Paul’s Gentile converts needed physical circumcision for salvation (deliverance from Hell), justification (imputed righteousness).

Acts 15:1-5: “[1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. [2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

You may read all of Acts chapter 15 as well as the Book of Galatians in its entirety. We understand that, in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, we do not have to join a special religion, Judaism, to fellowship with the God of the Bible. In time past, this was not true. Exodus 12:48 said that male Gentiles had to be physically circumcised if they wanted communion with Israel’s God. It was on this basis that Acts 15:1 and Acts 15:5 were contended as true. Up until Paul’s ministry, the Law of Moses was the operating system whereby someone followed JEHOVAH God. However, in the mystery program, we are not under the Mosaic Law. This is the overall theme of the Book of Galatians, and it is why Paul wrote what he did in Galatians chapter 2. God’s grace not only saves us through faith, it also keeps us saved forever. Our performance in religion does not give us eternal life, and neither does our eternal depend on us to keep it.

We close by quoting verses that are self-explanatory. God is not looking for us to perform religious rites and ceremonies. He is looking for us to place our faith in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

In this the Dispensation of Grace, the Holy Spirit does not lead anyone to labor under a performance-based acceptance system (legalism). Galatians 5:18 says, “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 3:1-3: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Can we do anything to enhance what the Holy Spirit did when He placed us into the Body of Christ, uniting us forever with the God of creation? Nothing! We just rest by faith in what HE did!

Righteous does not come by physical circumcision, or any other type of commandment-keeping. Galatians 5:1-5: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”

Galatians 6:12-15: “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Today, in our Dispensation, there is no spiritual advantage to physical circumcision (Jew), and no spiritual disadvantage to physical uncircumcision (Gentile). (This was not true in time past, as Ephesians 2:11-12 shows. In the “but now,” Paul’s ministry, we see that the ground is level at the foot of the cross—verses 13-18. Jew and Gentile have equal access to God today through Jesus Christ.)

Now, Romans 3:19-28: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Reading Romans 4:1-5: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Finally, God’s Grace, not the Law, shows us how to live because it was God’s Grace that gave us eternal life. Turning to Titus 2:11-14: “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; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

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Also see:
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?
» How did the Law kill Paul?