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The Practicce of the Truth of the Gospel: The Message of Titus (2)

M C Davis, Leeds

The Charge to Encourage Godly Christian Character (2.1-15)

By contrast with the false teachers mentioned in ch.1, Paul now exhorted Titus to teach only what was conducive to sound, or wholesome, doctrine and character. The theme of ch.2 is godly character consistent with the truth of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ, and it divides into two sections.

First, in vv.1-10 Paul outlines the kind of character and conduct to be expected of Christian believers according to their various ages, gender, and situation in life. Believers are classified as older men or older women, younger women or younger men, with no middle age mentioned. Since Titus seems to be counted among the younger men, by inference from vv.6-8, perhaps the approximate dividing line may have been thought of as about fifty years of age, although this may seem a somewhat high figure for a younger man. At all events, there are several common characteristics enjoined upon all groups of believers. These include seriousness of demeanour, self-control, holiness of life, sound doctrine, perseverance in the faith, patience under trial, discretion, transparent sincerity, honesty, and Christian love. Special features emphasised in connection with different age groups include, in relation to older women, that they teach the younger Christian women sound family virtues, such as loving their husbands and children, making their homes the centre of their lives and activities, and obeying their own husbands. Such instruction could be given privately or in special informal meetings convened for the purpose. Yes, we do need "mothers in Israel" at all times to help the younger and vulnerable sisters.

Titus as a younger man was to exhibit exemplary conduct to all the believers. If he failed in this duty, the enemies of the gospel and sound doctrine would be able to speak evil against him, and so damage the corporate testimony. Those saints who were slaves were to be careful to be obedient to their masters, even under provocation, and not answer them back, but remain loyal to them. Employees today should also be careful not to steal their employer’s time or materials, nor should they be too quick to stand up for what they perceive as their rights, even when, as often is the case nowadays, they are granted some. In this way they would by their good behaviour make the Christian faith attractive to those who watched them. We should in every way exemplify the beauty of the doctrine which we profess to believe.

Secondly, in vv.11-15 Paul exhorts character and conduct appropriate to those who have been saved from their sins by the sacrificial grace of God shown to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Here Christ is spoken of as God’s grace personified, indeed incarnate in perfect Manhood. This grace teaches all believers to develop features of godliness appropriate to the truth we profess. The irresistible argument of God’s grace for godly conduct after conversion is this: if Christ needed to give Himself up to die on the cross to save us from our sins, then it is just unthinkable that we should, now that we have been saved, wish to continue in sinful ways. We owe it to Christ to be different from what we were before. Also, the imminent and blessed hope of the glorious second coming of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ should act as a powerful incentive to sanctification and a life of positive good works. Here we must note the correct translation of the description of Jesus Christ as "the great God and our Saviour", which rendering further strengthens the evidence for His full and absolute Deity. Also, now that we are saved by God’s grace in Christ, we are no longer our own. We are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. So we belong to God as His special possession, His heavenly people, and should be eager to please Him with good works towards all around us, for which there are such ample opportunities, the need being so great. Finally, Paul told Titus to exercise his God-given delegated authority to achieve these ends in his ministry, and not to allow anyone to despise him or his divine commission. These matters were urgent and necessary for the sake of the Lord’s testimonies in Crete.

The Charge to Promote Changed Conduct and Good Works (3.1-15)

Here, in vv.1-3, Paul instructs Titus to encourage good citizenship, not rebellious or subversive behaviour, nor sinful relationships as in our unconverted days. Our resultant lives of godly order will speak loudly to the officers of state concerning the genuineness of our Christian faith. By nature we are not meek, gentle, or submissive to all authority. Once we could be rightly described as "hateful, and hating one another", but now it should be so different. Verses 4-7 explain how this transformation comes about in believers. The power to live a changed life comes from God alone, His love for mankind, His grace, and mercy, which poured out His Holy Spirit at Pentecost to cleanse us morally and give us new birth through the Word of God. The change is not due to ourselves, nor to any good works that we have done, but to Christ’s finished work of salvation on Calvary. We are made right with God by His grace alone and have now become heirs of God in Christ, anticipating the full enjoyment of eternal life and fellowship with God at the Rapture of the Church.

But a changed life must constantly involve good works, a productive life full of blessing to others. For, although we were certainly not saved by good works, we were saved to pursue and maintain a life of good works. If we are constantly led by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit and controlled by His power, this will become a reality in our lives today. If we are so led, we will avoid all unprofitable questions about the Old Testament ceremonial law and genealogies, such as the false teachers loved to introduce, and encourage positive good behaviour instead. We are to avoid heretics, who introduce views which cause divisions in the assembly and have an agenda which is different from that of the rest of the company of saints. They usually try to draw some of the more gullible saints away after themselves, and can destroy the unity of the assembly if they are left to continue their subversive work unchecked. Such heretics should be warned twice to cease their activities, but, if they refuse to obey these warnings, they should be rejected from the fellowship. This is necessary to preserve the assembly’s testimony from complete disaster.

On a personal note, in v.12 Paul requested that, when he sends either Artemas or Tychicus to relieve Titus of his duties in Crete, Titus make every effort to come to the apostle at Nicopolis in Epirus, north-western Greece, because he intended to spend the coming winter there. Paul also asked Titus to give practical assistance to two other of his co-workers, Zenas the lawyer and Apollos, who were evidently visiting Crete about that time. Here, then, we have an insight into the workings of the early apostolic band of itinerant preachers. Also, this exercise of giving to the Lord’s servants is an example of a good work in which believers should constantly engage.

Concluding Challenge

A summary of the truth presented in this letter is contained in v.14, which has been paraphrased as follows: "For our people should not have unproductive lives. They must learn to do good by helping others who have urgent needs" (New Living Translation). Our faith should be constantly fruitful in good works which exhibit Christ-likeness in our characters. If the main theme of the letter to Titus is the practical outworking of the truth of the gospel of God’s grace in the daily lives of believers, are we all individually really living the truth as we should be? Is our assembly a living witness to the power of God in the gospel to transform lives? This is a lifetime’s responsibility and challenge, but God has supplied us with both the power and incentives to fulfil our Christian calling. How are we responding currently? Remember the words of the hymn, "There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do". May each of us ask the Lord who gave Himself for us at such infinite cost, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" And He will surely show us.



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