This article is part of an on-going study. The writer’s intention is to look at each phrase and statement in the letter and to glean a simple understanding of what Paul was writing to Titus about. There will not be a lengthy introduction to each article so it would be advantageous to read the previous articles either in the printed edition of the magazine or online via www.preciousseed.org.
Paul is writing to Titus to instruct people who have just become Christians on the island of Crete. We have already learned in chapter 1 some of the characteristics of the people of Crete, 1. 12. Their national tendencies were not very admirable, but God saved them and he is now teaching them how to live as Christians. Earlier in the Epistle, Paul has outlined for Titus how to deal with the false teachers who would come among God’s people, seek to deceive them and divert them from living lives that are pleasing to God.
This chapter addresses issues relating to domestic life and is mainly about how Christians conduct themselves at home and at work. Paul addresses the different groups of believers about the part they play and then he deals with the reasons why believers should act in this way. The chapter has been divided as follows:
Adorning the doctrine, vv. 1-10. This is a phrase that is found in verse 10 explaining how a Christian bondservant should behave. Good Christian conduct adds value to the truth of the gospel.
Expounding the doctrine, vv. 11-15. This section deals with why Christian behaviour should be different from that of people who do not have their sins forgiven. We will deal with this section in the next article. It is important to understand the doctrine of Christian life – the why, as well as the practice – the how.
Looking at the first eight verses of the chapter we can see what Titus is expected to teach the people who had been saved in Crete. First, he addresses the older men and the older women, vv. 1-3. Then, the emphasis changes slightly, as Paul tells Titus that he must teach the older woman to train the young woman, vv. 4-5. The penultimate subsection of this part of the chapter is where Titus is told not only to encourage the younger men but to be an example to them, vv. 6-8. In the next article we will look at the relationship between servants and their masters in the final section, vv. 9-10.
It is wonderful to see how the Spirit of God highlights the practical wisdom of God in this passage. Titus has to learn to be wise. It would not be appropriate for him to teach the younger women about the issues that are dealt with in this chapter so he will teach the older woman to train the younger. Also, it may not go down well if Titus was to try to teach the younger men about things that he wasn’t actually practising himself, so he is instructed to be an example to them.
Let’s look at some of the detail:
Titus is being reminded that he is to be different from the false teachers who Paul has warned him about in the previous chapter. His responsibility as a teacher is not only to teach theory or doctrine but also to speak about the type of character that healthy teaching produces in a believer’s life. When teaching, Titus should not be worried about repeating himself, as there are some things that need to be taught consistently. Peter, in his second epistle, goes back over old ground, as he reminds his readers of things that they were already aware of. Repetitive teaching should not be boring, but essential truths should be taught consistently with freshness.
These are men older in years as opposed to men who are recognized as elders. There are six things that older men must be. The first three deal with self-control and the second three deal with spiritual health.
Sober – this word has to do with abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its uncontrolled use. While scripture doesn’t give a blanket ban on drinking alcohol, it is clear that drunkenness is prohibited, 1 Cor. 6. 10, and abstinence is to be preferred if we want to serve God well, Lev. 10. 9, Prov. 20. 1. The wider application is that older men should exercise self-control at all times.
Grave – the word in the KJV is sadly associated with death and gloom, but the real idea is that older men should be men of dignity, have gravitas and a demeanour that causes others to respect them. This does not mean that they are not to be joyful and happy.
Temperate – this is another word to describe self-control. It’s about having your wits about you, as it describes a person who knows how to control their desires and impulses.
Where the first word of the three, sober, describes self-control over external influences, the third word, temperate, seems to describe being in control of your personal impulses and desires.
Sound in faith, in charity and in patience – this triplet highlights the spiritual health of older men. This word ‘sound’ comes up time and time again in Paul’s writings. The word that we would use in our modern vocabulary is ‘hygiene’. It means to be healthy and well. Paul is teaching Titus here that the older men have to be spiritually healthy in three areas – faith, love and patience. As they are mature believers their faith in God should be healthy, their love for God and His people should be healthy and they should endure life and its dilemmas with a patient, cheerful and hopeful attitude. Some teach that because the definite article is in front of each of these words that ‘the faith’ is describing the word of God. This may well be so but the outcome of having a healthy acquaintance with scripture will also be great trust in God and dependence upon Him.
The advice for the older women is similar to what was given to the older men. In other words, they should also behave in ways that are becoming for people who are holy, i.e., believers. Their lifestyle should reflect the fact that they are saved. This will be seen in what they talk about – no gossip or slander. It will be reflected in how self-controlled they are – again, the issue of drink and its effect is introduced. They will also be known to be teachers of good things, both by what they say and how they live. How vital it is to have godly older women in our local assemblies who display these characteristics! Only this type of woman has the moral right to train the young women.
It looks like the older women in a local assembly have a full-time job on their hands. How important it is for this training process to take place. To a large degree, modern society has succeeded in undermining the God-given role of a woman (see 1 Timothy 5. 10 and 5. 14 for the details; other passages deal with this topic as well), but this passage teaches that we need to train each generation to know their roles and fulfil them for the glory of God, for the good of our families and for the benefit of local assemblies. You will notice that the issues that the older women have to teach and train about are all either private or domestic. This is not a passage that instructs older women to preach or teach in public but to train in the domestic and private sphere. I think it is an area that has often been neglected. The key issues are around self-control, affection for husbands and children, wise and sensible living, moral purity, the protection of the home (not guarding the physical property but creating a safe atmosphere and haven from the dangers and influences of society), a lifestyle known for its goodness and submissiveness to one’s husband (promoting the order that God has created for the good of the family). Many of these issues are dealt with in other passages which it would be wise to read, cp. 1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 3.
Paul ends this little section with the rider – ‘that the word of God be not blasphemed’. He uses a similar expression in 1 Timothy chapter 6 verse 1 when discussing servants and their relationship to their masters. The point is that there is just the danger that we could bring God and His word into disrepute by how we behave. We may claim to be believers and state that God’s word has changed our lives but if that isn’t reflected in the way we live then we cause God’s word to be evil spoken of. God’s reputation is at stake and our lives can either cast it in a good light or a bad light.
By now you must be beginning to see the common thread running through all of these verses. God expects all of His people to live wisely. It should be known that Christians are wise, discreet, sensible and good people. The young men are to be encouraged to live like this as well. But, Titus, don’t expect them just to listen to your sermons!
Be an example to the younger men and teach them the truth, vv. 8-9.
Edgar A. Guest’s poem says:
‘I’d rather see a sermon,
than hear one any day,
I’d rather one should walk with me, than merely tell the way.
The eyes a better pupil
and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing,
But example’s always clear’
This is exactly what Paul is teaching Titus. He is saying, in effect, in every area where you want the young men to learn from you, show yourself a pattern or a good example. Do good works of every kind – good works that are spiritual, relating to God and His people, as well as practical. When it comes to your teaching ‘play with a straight bat’ – let them see you are serious; show them that you have a high regard for truth, you have integrity. You understand the seriousness of the matters that you are dealing with. Make sure what you say is for their good; it is for their spiritual health. Your words should be above reproach and above criticism. The effect is that those who oppose you will shrink away in shame because they have nothing bad that they can say about you.
These are great words of advice and well worth considering if we want to be effective in working with and teaching young men. They are, however, principles that will work when teaching any age group of believers. In many local assemblies there will be older men, older women, young men and young women. This passage should assist us in knowing how to deal with each group in an appropriate way.
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