THE CHURCH’S CALL TO EXCELLENCE, Part 4

Practical Living, Titus 2:1—10

Some commentators, like Charles Erdman, view chapter 2 of Titus as its climax.  In all, Paul covers three main topics in this short letter:  choosing qualified Church leaders (elders), preserving and promoting sound doctrine, and consistent Christian living.  Sound doctrine is of no value if it remains on the top shelf, out of reach of the average Christian.  The goal of effective ministry is taking doctrine off the top shelf and making it accessible to all; it is showing believers how to put sound doctrine to work in their every day lives.   Good Church leaders are men who have the ability to refute false doctrine and  teach sound doctrine so that the lives of believers will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

Any Church that does not teach sound doctrine can hardly be called a Church; a club perhaps, but certainly not a Church.  What passes for a “church” these days often bears little resemblance to the Church as it is revealed in the New Testament.   To see what a “Church” looks like, we need look no further than Acts 2:42—

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

This is the Church as it appears in the New Testament:  an organized group of people learning the apostle’s doctrine, fellowshipping with each other, breaking bread together and praying with one another.  Many “churches” are good at fellowshipping and eating together, but woefully inefficient at teaching sound doctrine and even praying together.  The common notion nowadays is that Bible teaching is boring and prayer is something that can be done at home.

In chapter 1, Paul explained that Titus was to ordain elders who were able to both teach sound doctrine as well as refute false teachers.  The ideal Church, then, is the Church that has elders who are able to do both of these things.  Modern Churches believe the Pastor is the only one responsible for this; according to Paul modern Churches are wrong.

1.  What to teach, 2:1

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.

Right on the heels of discussing the corruption of the Cretans and giving the qualifications for elders, Paul now urges Titus to call his people to high standards of Christian living, lest anybody think it is only an elder who is called to a high standard of life.

The very first word of the verse, “you,” pits Titus against the false teachers.  It is in the emphatic position, meaning that it is up to Titus, the “head elder in charge,” to show the difference between true and false doctrine.  But how is he to do this?  Paul does not say explicitly, but implicitly he used the word “teach,” which means to “orally communicate.”  Titus is called to teach “appropriate sound doctrine.”  Literally, this means he was to teach “what is fitting” or “proper to.”   “Sound doctrine” is teaching that promotes spiritual health and decent and honorable conduct consistent with what has been taught.  In other words, correct doctrine must result in correct behavior.

Doctrine in terms of dogma is important, but that is placing it on the top shelf.   Paul has mind teaching the people proper ethical consequences  which must always result from understanding the truth of Christianity.

2.  Who to teach, 2:2—6

This group of verses establishes what is expected in terms of conduct from various kinds of people.  The Gospel must change not only the way a person thinks, but also the way a person lives.  The transforming power of the Gospel is what made the Church of Jesus Christ so visible and grow so fast in the days following its inception.   T.R. Glover has made this enigmatic statement as to why the Christian church became so invincible and was able to stand strong against the onslaughts of the mighty Roman Empire:

The Christian out-lived the pagan, out-died him, and out-thought him.

That is a profound observation; the Christian is called to live differently—to live better—than an unbeliever.  In every aspect of life, the Christian is to excel beyond the highest stands set by the world.   Here’s how Christians are supposed to be different:

  • [A]  Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  (verse 2)

“Older men” does not mean “elders,” but exactly means exactly what it says:  older men; older in terms of chronological age.  To this group, Paul lists four distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Temperate.  This is an adjective suggesting that a mature Christian man be forever “clear headed.”   He should never be drunk and his mind should never be clouded in any way.  Though most often applied to wine, the idea of being temperate applies to all indulgences of life.
  2. Worthy of respect.  This interesting word is translated “grave” in the KJV and suggests that a mature man needs to be serious, possessing a kind of personal dignity that leads others, even strangers, to respect him.
  3. Self controlled.  This word can also mean “sensible,” and means that a mature Christian man should be able to control his emotions and his passions and exercise sound judgment regardless of the circumstances.
  4. Sound in faith, in love and endurance.  This wonderful phrase means “not morbid,” a quality suggesting soundness in mind and heart.  A Christian man who is mature is a man who is dependable; he is not up one minute and down the next and he is a man of patience; a man who does not lose hope but is always encouraging.

By no means does Paul intend to suggest that mature Christian men ought to live as stoics, a way of life in complete opposition to the life of freedom Christ has called us all to.  Being “sound in faith, in love and endurance” is a positive virtue that lifts other people up.  No stoic could ever accomplish this.

  • [B]  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  (verse 3)

Likewise Paul expected “older women” to exhibit the same kind of mature behavior that “older men” exhibited.   The basic quality for “older women” is that they be “reverent in the way they live.”  The word “reverent” literally means “to demean oneself as a priestess in discharge of her duties.”  As Paul used it, he wanted mature women to live life marked be a dedication and commitment to godliness; they are to conduct themselves as though they were serving in God’s temple.

To such women, all aspects of life are sacred.  Because of this, they will not be “slanderers” nor will they be “addicted to much wine.”  Further, mature women are to “teach what is good,” by both example and by word.  Given the context of Pauline theology, this teaching is not done in the Church, but at home.

  • [C]  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  (verses 4, 5)

It was not Titus’ responsibility to teach or train the younger woman of the Church; that was the job of the mature women, who, by their character and position, were the only ones qualified to do so.  Paul proceeds to list seven characteristics he thought were important in a godly young Christian woman:

  1. To love their husbands and children.  Love of family is one virtue celebrated by both the unsaved and the saved.   Literally, a young wife must be “devoted to her husband” and “devoted to her children.”  Such love forms the very bedrock of a stable Christian community.
  2. To be self controlled and pure.  Of course, self-control is a trait all Christians regardless of their age and sex should cultivate.  “Pure” does not just mean pure in the sense of intimate relations, but it also means “emotionally pure,” pure in heart, pure in mind, and pure in conduct.
  3. To be busy at home.   Does this mean that Christian wives should not work?  Not necessarily, but it does mean that the primary duty of a Christian wife is involves the home.  She is the “queen of the home” and as such, it really is her domain.  She may be busy elsewhere, but her main area of responsibility must be the home and her family.
  4. To be kind.   Many commentators see a connection between a wife being kind and running a household.  This may be so; no husband or child enjoys being in the presence of an irritable, nagging wife or mother.  However, the word probably carries with it such notable traits as being kind to others and of an understand nature.  Surely these qualities are to be desired both in wives and husbands alike.
  5. To be subject to their husbands.  In the KJV it reads “obedient to their own husbands.”  This is not a very encouraging translation, and both the NIV and the KJV miss the point of what Paul is saying, which is simply that a wife should respond to her own husband.  The concept of “response” works two ways:  first, the husband is to be the leader of the home—not the dictator, but merely the one who is ultimately held responsible for the state of the family; second, his wife is to support him willingly by responding to his lead.  She is not to be some kind of sheep to be bossed around, but rather, her husband being a Christian, will have a relationship with her based on the relationship Christ has with the Church.  A fuller treatment of this can be seen in Ephesians 5:22—24.

Paul concludes this section on young women by stating the reason for their proper behavior:  to uphold the Word of God (verse 5b).  The thought here is stunning in its implications for our society today.  If Christian wives strayed from the timeless teachings of Scripture and instead adopted the role their society assigned to them, the Bible would be maligned and criticized and marginalized by unbelievers, which is exactly what we see happening today.

In a very real sense, Christian women have a greater responsibility than Christian men in terms of protecting the Word of God from mockery.

  • [D]  Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  (verse 6)

Though very brief, the admonition to be given to the young(er) men of the congregations on Crete is all-inclusive.  The first clause of verse 7 properly belong with the statement of verse 6, making the correct reading—

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything.

Young men are to subject every area of their existence to the teachings of the Gospel; all their ambitions, their opinions, their ideals, and their goals must be brought into alignment with the teachings of Christ and the revelation of His will.  They must learn to master themselves.  In fact, the verb translated “be self-controlled” is from the word used for one of the qualities of an elder; so young men are to practice the some of the same virtues as an elder of the Church!

Verses 7 and 8  almost form a break in Paul’s thought as they apply, not to a group of people, but to young Titus himself.  Being a young man, Titus would naturally be called upon to set a sterling example to other young men in his care—

[S]et them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Titus was called to “hold himself out as an example” to other young men.  He was to set the example in his good works, which refers to his day-to-day conduct; by teaching with integrity and seriousness—a two pronged approach which suggests being truthful in his handling of doctrine and treating God’s revelation with the respect it deserves.   Preaching and teaching the Word of God is a sacred obligation few are called to perform, but those who do need to be reminded often of the weighty responsibility that comes with the task.

Further, Titus’s speech was to be “sound” so that it could not be “condemned.”  It is clear that Paul was as concerned with Titus’s preaching as he was with his conduct:  the two ought to go hand-in-hand.  J.B. Phillips—

Your speech should be unaffected and logical, so that your opponent may feel ashamed at finding nothing in which to pick holes.

Titus was expected to be an expert apologist for the Gospel while on Crete.  This is quite astonishing considering there were no seminaries in that day!

  • [E]  Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.  (verses 9, 10)

Lastly, Paul deals with slaves.  It is an inescapable reality of the ancient world that slavery was the accepted norm, and so Christianity, while never outwardly condemning it, sought to deal with it for the benefit of God’s glory.

In the churches on Crete, and elsewhere, there seemed to be a mixture of slaves and free men and women, as well as those who were wealthy and those where not.  One’s station in life was irrelevant when it came to living in such a way as to glorify God.  A slave could just as easily glorify God in his life as the master of that slave.   There may been a variety of stations in life, but one Gospel suited all stations.

For a full discussion on Christian slaves and their responsibilities, see 1 Timothy 6:1, 2.  In these two verses, Paul makes no distinction between slaves who had Christian masters and those who did not.

The basic duty of a Christian slave, irrespective of their master’s spiritual state, was “to be subject” to them; they were to voluntarily place themselves in submission to their master’s wishes, much like a wife voluntarily submits to her husband.  Note, however, nowhere does Paul equate slavery with marriage; what needs to be noted is the voluntary nature of submission.   A parallel is found in Colossians 3:22—24—

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

It seems Paul has in mind the slave fulfilling his normal duties to the best of his abilities, nothing illegal or unethical, and in doing so, their masters will be “pleased.”  This includes not talking back to their masters or disputing their commands.   In other words, a slave should work as a faithful employee, doing what he is told with a good attitude to the very best of his ability.

Furthermore, the slave must be dependable and trustworthy because he is honest to a fault.

But the real reason for such good behavior may sound surprising because we often use this reason in a general sense for being a “good Christian.”  The idea is to make the Gospel attractive to others.  It is within the context of being an obedient submissive slave that Paul wrote that.  However, given what Paul has written throughout this group of verses, it is safe to say that if we as Christian men and women, old and young, adhered to his admonitions, our lives would be living advertisements for the efficacy of the Gospel.  It is the presence of Jesus in a marriage, or in any kind of relationship for that matter, that makes everything better.  He elevates believers to a higher plane that the unsaved should desire to reach in their own lives.

The ideal Church, then, is populated by members striving for that kind of excellence.

 

(c)  2009 WitzEnd
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