"And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful." (Titus 3:14, KJV)
The English Standard Version has chosen to translate the Greek word προιστημι (pro-is’-tay-mee) with the English word devote. Pροιστημι is used 8 times in the Greek New Testament.
The KJV and the NKJV translate this Greek Word as "maintain." The NASB translates προιστημι as engage while the NIV and ESV translate it as devote. The RSV translates it as "apply."
Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1969) defines maintain as 1: to keep in an existing state, preserve from failure or decline; 2: to sustain against opposition or danger, uphold or defend; 3: to continue or persevere in, carry on, keep up, 4: to support or proivd for, bear the exspense; 5: to affirm in or as if in argument, assent.
The Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament (page 665) shows that προιστημι appears again in KJV text in:
Romans 12:8 - "...he that ruleth with diligence..."
I Thessalonians 5:12 - "...and are over you in the Lord..."
I Timothy 3:4 - "One that ruleth well his own house..."
5: - "...if a man know not how to rule his..."
12 - "...ruling their children and their own..."
5:17 - "Let the elders that rule well be..."
Titus 3:8 - "...be careful to maintain good works..."
14 - "...learn to maintain good works..."
New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (page 539) says this word means: 1: to set or place before, 2: to be over, to superintend, preside over, rule, to be a protector or guardian, to give aid, to care for or give attention to."
The New International Dictionary of New Testament of Theology (Vol 1, page 197) tells us that προιστημι is only used by the Apostle Paul in his writings, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles. The NIDNT also gives us the idea that it is a New Testament principle that believers are not to be without fruit. Hence, Paul's emphasis to Titus to cause the believers in Crete to always be learning how to maintain good works that lead to fruitfulness.
Marshall in The Pastoral Epistles states that the Cretians are to learn through practice, hence they are to begin to do something that they will "continue to maintain, or not let decline."
Therefore our word as a verb is a present, middle infinitive. The main verb in verse 14 is "learn." The people of God are given a command to learn. In this verse God's people are to learn three things; 1) to devote themselves to good works; 2) to help cases of urgent need; 3) to be fruitful for God's glory.
Our word "maintain" therefore means that the people of God are to be actively learning how to continue in doing good works. Hence the meaning "maintain." This action or activity is to be done by each one of God's people on an on-going basis.