I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Practicing What You Preach
I recently read this true story from an unknown author. He says this:
"Years ago, the communist government in China commissioned an author to write a biography of Hudson Taylor with the purpose of distorting the facts and presenting him in a bad light. They wanted to discredit the name of this consecrated missionary of the gospel. As the author was doing his research, he was increasingly impressed by Taylor's saintly character and godly life, and he found it extremely difficult to carry out his assigned task with a clear conscience. Eventually, at the risk of losing his life, he laid aside his pen, renounced his atheism, and received Jesus as his personal Savior. Whether we realize it or not, our example leaves an impression on others."
That is exactly the apostle Paul's point in Titus 2:1-10. The apostle has left his young spiritual son Titus in Crete so that he might set things in order in the new church there that Paul had started when he was preaching the gospel. He just got finished telling Titus how to choose qualified elders and deacons to lead the church and then had warned the young man and the leadership about false teachers that were trying to preach a works-based gospel rather than salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Now Paul turns back to Titus, and tells him that he is to instruct the people of Crete according to sound doctrine so that the enemies of Christ will have nothing bad to say about God's people and that the followers of Christ will make the doctrines of God our Savior appealing to those who would look at their lives and possibly be saved themselves. Paul had previously mentioned the importance of teaching sound doctrine. And if we look at another pastoral epistle, in I Timothy 1:10 the apostle lists various sinful practices which are incompatible with sound teachings.
Before we go on, it might be helpful if we define the word 'doctrine' here. For that I will turn to the website patheos.com. It tells us there that:
"Doctrine is essentially something that is taught and can be a principle or principles and even a creed of principles presented for acceptance or belief by someone or by a group of people. Doctrine is basically a system of beliefs and may denote both the act of teaching and that which is learned. For Christians, it is a set of accepted beliefs and it is the set of true beliefs that define the parameters of that belief system like the sinlessness of Christ, His divinity, His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross and so on. Christians believe these things to be true and there is no negotiating them or watering these beliefs down into something that is more palatable for those who may not believe them. The essentials of the Christian faith are doctrines that are the unchangeable teachings of God taught through His Word, the Bible."
In both I Timothy and Titus the apostle explains sound doctrine as both a teaching and a way of life, which stands in stark contrast to sinful teaching and sinful living. In other words, we are to practice what we preach.
Gotquestions.org tells us that:
Biblical doctrine helps us understand the will of God for our lives. It teaches us the nature and the character of God (Psalm 90:2; 97:2; John 4:24), the path of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9–10), instruction for the church (1 Corinthians 14:26; Titus 2:1–10), and God’s standard of holiness for our lives.
In this book we are studying, Titus is charged by Paul to teach sound doctrine, as it was to be applied to the various people who would hear his teaching. They include older men, older women and then younger women and younger men. Finally, he talks to slaves.
One major result of living according to sound doctrine is what Dee Bowman refers to as an 'apologetic lifestyle.' By this he doesn’t mean you are sorry. It is from the Greek word apologia. It means 'a defense.' And it refers to you being ready to give an answer; you are willing to stand up for God’s Word. But not just verbally or in writing. But by your very life as well.
Starting in verse 2 Paul begins to get specific about what a sound doctrinal life looks like.
I. Living Soundly as an Older Man (2)
He starts by giving a picture of sound and godly living by older men. Paul used the term for older men when talking about himself in Philemon 9 when he was over 60. It refers to those of advanced age. This is a different word than Paul used when talking about the elders earlier.
Older men are to be temperate. This is also one of the qualities of a person seeking the office of elder or deacon. It is the Greek nephalios. This can mean "temperate in the use of alcohol." And then, with a broader meaning, it refers to being “sober, clear-headed, self-controlled.” In this context, nephalios refers to being free from all forms of excess or life-dominating patterns through the control of the Spirit who lives in you (Eph. 5:18).
Older men are also to be 'dignified.' The word here is 'semnos.' It means worthy of respect, honorable and, of course, dignified. It is living in such a way that invites the respect of others.
A man who is older also should be 'sensible.' This is also translated self-controlled and can be rendered as temperate as well. This is sophron, used in 1:8 where it was translated “sensible.” It means “of sound mind, sane, sensible, thoughtful,” or “self-controlled, sober-minded.” Since “temperate” as listed above contains the idea of self-control, perhaps the focus here is on “soundness of mind in thought and judgment.”
Finally, an older man should be sound in faith, in love and in perseverance. The word 'sound' can mean “to be in good health physically', or it can be spiritually sound and healthy.” As we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we should also grow in our understanding of our faith and the practice of it. Just as church leaders were to hold to sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), older men were to affirm biblical teaching, and live according to it.
"Sound in love." is exemplified most clearly by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. It is the Greek term agape, which means a love focused on others, rather than on one's self.
Going further in the passage, sound in perseverance can also be translated sound in patience. It can mean steadfastness or endurance. This is the type of patience that comes from bearing up under the many trials of a long life. You learn that God is in control and the trials won't last forever. One learns to wait upon the Lord and to trust Him for His deliverance, either now or in heaven.
II. Living Soundly as Older and Younger Women (3-5)
The apostle then goes from older men to older women. These women were usually already married, had raised children, and had ample experience to pass on to younger women. This experience was important, given the immoral culture in which the younger women of Crete were immersed (Titus 1:12).
He begins by saying that they, like the men, are to be reverent, or dignified. Once again, this is the idea of worthy of respect and honorable.
Another trait is that they are not to be malicious gossips, or slanderers. Slandering involves speaking badly of others, which includes all forms of gossip. Paul mentions slander, or gossip, more than a dozen times in his writings.
The next trait that Paul gives older for older women is not to be "slaves to much wine." This parallels the qualifications of elders in Titus 1:5–9. Drinking alcohol was not itself condemned, and people commonly drank fermented drink in this time. What is forbidden is being controlled by it. The Greek phrase here is either translated as "slaves" to wine, or "addicted to" wine. It is the same Greek word translated "servant" in Titus 1:1, referring to Paul as a servant of God.
Finally, like the older men and elders, older women were to "teach what is good." This is different from men; however, in that their teaching has a uniqueness, seen in verses 4–5, by the fact that they focus on helping younger women. This is the idea of an older woman being a mentor of the younger woman and teaching them to live soundly in their faith by what they say as well as by their own lives that they lead.
And what do they teach them? They teach that the main focus of younger women was to be their immediate family. This was in contrast with the wild living of Crete's non-believers.
We may get the idea that radical feminism is a modern phenomenon. It isn't. For those who don't know, radical feminism is a philosophy emphasizing the patriarchal roots of inequality between men and women, or, more specifically, the social domination of women by men. Radical feminism views patriarchy as dividing societal rights, privileges, and power primarily along the lines of sex, and as a result, there is the oppression of women and the privileging of men.
This type of feminism opposes the existing political and social organizations in general because they are inherently tied to the male domination of society.
While it wasn't called this, the ideas of radical feminism were an integral part of ancient Babylon and Assyrian mythology as well as Greek gnosticism, which flourished throughout the Roman Empire during New Testament times.
Of course, this type of thinking can lead to the destruction of the family unit which is the backbone of any society and is essential for rearing children in a stable environment. In contrast to this, Paul says the older women are to be teaching what is good:
"So that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure workers at home, kind, subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (4-5).
The loving of your husband and children is, like the other virtues, to be unconditional love which is based upon God's will and not the husband's or the children's worthiness. The Greek term is phileo which emphasizes affection.
The young woman is also to be sensible. This is sophron again which, according to the Greek dictionary, means:
- of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses
- curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.
They also are to be pure or chaste. This is not only in act, but also in look, in speech, in thought, and even in dress.
The command to be 'workers or keepers at home is keeping a godly home with excellence. It is having a focus on building a good home for your husband and children.
At the same time, they are to be kind and subject to their own husbands. Scripture teaches that all Christians are subject to one another (Ephesians 5:21). And there is an order of submission which keeps things from becoming chaotic. The Lord is a God of order. And He has made the husband the spiritual head of the home as Christ is the head of the church. The husband is himself subject to Jesus Christ and must do his best to be faithful to the Word of God and lead his family to do the same. Further, he is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. He is to be willing to die for his wife, if necessary, as Jesus did for His church, and is to love her as he would his own body (Ephesians 5:28).
The main reason that Paul gives for the wife being subject to her husband is "so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (5). Once again, the world is watching us and is seeing the Christian faith by the way we act. God wants those who see us to be attracted to His Son by the way we act and not repelled from following Him.
III. Living Soundly as Young Men (6-8)
Younger men also must be urged to live soundly by being sensible. Again, we have the Greek word sophron here which means “of sound mind, sane, sensible, thoughtful,” or “self-controlled, sober-minded.”
It seems that Paul is talking to Titus specifically here. Being a young man himself, Titus is to be an example in all things of good deeds. The apostle then goes on to reiterate, in verse 7, some instructions already given to others such as purity in doctrine and being dignified. They are for young and old alike. All of God's people are to set an example for doing that which is good.
They are to be sound in speech meaning one's daily conversation. Our lives should be above reproach so that those opponents of the Christian faith are silenced and put to shame because they have nothing bad to say about us. And through this we also make the power of Christ believable to all those who might be looking at us and may be influenced by our example to follow our Lord themselves.
IV. Living Soundly as Slaves (9-10)
In verses 9 and 10 Paul turns to Christian slaves. In our present society, where slavery has been abolished, we still have the employee and employer relationship. These teachings here would apply to the employees.
Paul tells Titus to:
"Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." (9-10).
Interestingly in the ancient world, Christians shocked the larger culture by mixing slaves and masters in the social setting of the church service. This meant that a slave might go to church and be an elder over his own master.
And it was the Christian understanding that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28) that has led to the abolition of slavery in most of the world today.
Some may wonder why Paul didn't seem to condemn slavery then.
However, in the time of the Roman Empire of Paul's day, slavery was an integral part of the society. No-one is sure how many slaves existed in the Roman Empire. Even after Rome had passed its days of greatness, it is thought that 25% of all people in Rome were slaves. A rich man might own as many as 500 slaves and an emperor usually had more than 20,000 at his disposal.
So, in order to abolish it in that era would call for a complete upheaval of that society. If Paul had led a movement to end slavery, that movement would have been put down severely by Rome. After all, Christians were only a very small and insignificant portion of Roman society at the time. Because of this, the gospel might have been stomped out before it had a chance to take hold. It was Paul's main goal to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and he knew that through this, people would change. Then society would ultimately change as well.
Therefore, Paul counseled slaves to be good ones; to live soundly before a watching world. To do this, servants had to know and do their duty to their earthly masters so they might please their heavenly master. In serving their earthly master according to Christ's will, the Lord Himself is served and the servant will one day be rewarded by Him.
That the servant is to be well-pleasing reflects a person who is successfully performing the will of the master. Further, the servant is not to be argumentative. Instead of opposing his or her master, the bondservant is to comply, and seek the good of both the master and their household. Today it would be seeking to comply with your boss and seeking the good of the business that you're working for.
Because of this, the slave must never steal but to demonstrate faithfulness. They must give their master no reason to lose faith in them but to trust them in every way. They must have noble motives and their actions are to demonstrate this. What does Paul say is the reason for this? He says:
"So that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect." (10).
We need to bring honor and glory to our Master in heaven and not bring Him shame.
I like what the website biblereference.com has to say about this section of Titus. They tell us:
"The life-goal of a bondservant is to make the teachings of God appealing, by living them out. An ancient bondservant had no direct influence over his or her master, but through godly behavior, they could influence their master to come to faith in Christ."
As we come to the end of this lesson I am reminded of the great reformer, Martin Luther.
A brief, simple, but expressive eulogy was pronounced by this great man upon a pastor who had died at Zwickau in 1522 named Nicholas Haussmann. This is what Luther said about him:
"What we preach, he lived."
It is my prayer that when the Lord looks at each of us that He will be pleased with you and me because of the godly example that we consistently set as we live our lives before a watching world. May we never bring our God shame. But when people look at us may they be able to say, as Luther did many years ago,
"What we preach, he, or she lived."
And may God be able to say about us:
"This is my child in whom I am well-pleased!"
For, in the end, that is truly all that really matters!
© 2021 Jeff Shirley