Titus 2 | “Healthy Doctrine, Healthy Life”


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Healthy Doctrine Leads to Healthy Life

Paul’s primary concern in this letter is to say that right doctrine leads to right behavior. He says in 1:1 that he’s an apostle “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge in the truth, which accords with godliness.” A true knowledge of Christ will lead to Christlikeness.

Chapter 2 begins a section (2:1-3:8) where Paul describes what Christian living should look like. This section is made up of two parallel units, 2:1-15 and 3:1-8. Each section describes right Christian behavior (2:1-10, 3:1-3), roots this behavior in the gospel (2:11-14, 3:4-7), and then closes with a charge to Titus to teach these things with authority (2:15, 3:8).

In chapter 2, we see Paul’s instructions for Titus (v. 1), Paul’s instructions to groups in the church (vv. 2-10), and Paul’s motivating reason for why these instructions should be obeyed (vv. 11-15).

Paul’s Instructions for Titus

First, we see Paul’s instructions for Titus (v. 1). Paul draws a contrast between the false teachers and Titus. He’s saying, “They’re doing this, but you must do this…” What’s the main thing that Titus must do that the false teachers aren’t doing? “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

Paul tells Titus to tell these churches what kind of life corresponds to “sound doctrine.” He doesn’t say, “Teach sound doctrine.” He already said that in 1:9. He says to teach “what accords with sound doctrine.” In other words, Titus must teach the churches what kind of life the gospel creates.

What is “sound doctrine”? The word “sound” is a word from the medical field meaning “healthy.” “Sound doctrine” is teaching that is true, good, right, and in accord with the gospel. It’s “healthy” because it promotes life among Christians and churches. “Unsound” or “unhealthy” teaching makes Christians and churches sick, weak, diseased, and dead.

In all the behaviors that he discusses in these two chapters, we must remember verse 1, that they’re rooted in “sound doctrine,” not cultural ideas or Paul’s personal preferences. The things we should and shouldn’t do as Christians are not rooted in the first century way of life or in one man’s opinion. Our behaviors are rooted in, must be in “accord” with, must be consistent with, and must reflect “sound doctrine.”

This is why all Christians should study theology. If you don’t know what “sound doctrine” is, you won’t be able to live according to it. If you don’t know what the Bible says, your life will be governed by your ideas about God and about how you should live. For example, if you don’t see the necessity of the local church on the pages of the New Testament, you won’t feel any need to be connected to one.

What we believe shapes how we live. If what we believe isn’t “sound,” isn’t firmly rooted in Scripture, then an unhealthy and ultimately deadly spiritual life will be the result.

Pray that “sound doctrine” will be preached and taught at PHBC. Pray that God would give you a desire to grow in your understanding of his word. Give yourself to reading the Bible regularly. Read good books that will help you understand and apply the truths of the Bible.

Paul’s Instructions to Groups in the Church

In verses 2-10, Paul begins giving his instructions about how “sound doctrine” should shape different groups within the church. He addresses old men and women, young men and women, and bondservants.

Older Men

The Bible doesn’t tell us what age “older” and “younger” is. I think we understand if we’re “older” or “younger.” The first thing he says to “older men” is that they’re to be “be sober-minded” (v. 2). Being “sober-minded” means being “clear-headed.” A “sober-minded” man views himself, the world, and God through the clear lens of Scripture.

Next he says that they’re to be “dignified.” Older men aren’t to be flashy and showy and crude. They’re to have a decorum and honor about them. They should carry themselves, not with pride, but with distinction. Their age should win them the respect of others. Proverbs 16:31, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”

Old age brings dignity because it brings wisdom and understanding. There are things that those older than us know that we don’t know. They’ve learned lessons that we haven’t learned. In a culture that glorifies youth, we need to remember that God says that old people have a wisdom and a glory that young people don’t have.

“Self-control” is similar to being “dignified.” A dignified man is a self-controlled man. He must also be “sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” You can have the previous three things and not be a Christian. But a Christian must have the next three: faith, love, and steadfastness.

An older man must be “healthy” in faith, love, and steadfastness. A healthy faith stays strong even as the body and mind weakens (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We often pray for people’s physical needs at the end of their lives, but we should also pray for their spiritual needs. Getting old and coming to the precipice of eternity, preparing to meet the God who made us, can bring fear and anxiety. We must pray for faith to finish well. May 2 Timothy 4:6-7 be said at each of our funerals. Older brothers and sisters, pray for grace to end your race with strong and healthy faith, love, and steadfastness.

Older Women

The next group Paul address is “older women” (v. 3). He says that they’re to “be reverent in behavior.” The word “reverent” refers to behavior appropriate in a temple setting. Have you ever visited a famous cathedral? There’s an appropriate way to act when you go inside. There’s not foolishness or silliness. An older woman’s behavior, or demeanor, must reveal that she belongs to God. Her life makes it clear that she understands the holiness of God because she’s walked with him for a long time.

Next Paul says that older women must not be “slanderers.” The word for “slanderer” is diabolous, the word for Satan. This makes sense because slandering someone is lying about them, tearing them down in unfair and untrue ways.

They also must “not be slaves to much wine.” Heavy drinking was considered a virtue in Crete. Our culture is also addicted to alcohol. “Slaves” is the key word. She must not be owned by it. She must be able to live without it. She must not drink away her pain and fears.

Women Teaching Women

On the contrary, they’re to “teach what is good” (v. 3) and “train the young women” (v. 4). Women can and should have a teaching ministry in the church. Paul says clearly that older women should be teaching younger women. This isn’t referring to an official teaching position in the church. The picture is of the older women, who’re experienced in life, marriage, and raising kids, taking the younger women in the congregation under their wing and helping them.

Older women, ask God to show you a young lady in our church for you to start meeting with regularly for prayer and encouragement and teaching. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you – you reach out to them. Give them a call and ask them how they’re doing. Everyone is busy, so find ways to invite young ladies into the normal routines of your life. Become someone’s “spiritual mother.” Our culture ignores and sidelines older people, but the Bible says that they’re vital for church health. Don’t hoard your knowledge. Pass it on to younger women who need the advice of someone with greater experience.

Younger women, be willing to receive the help of an older woman. Be teachable. Don’t assume that you don’t need anyone else’s help. That’s spiritual suicide. Older women can’t teach younger women who don’t want to be taught.

Older and younger women shouldn’t wait for someone to reach out. Be bold and courageous and prayerfully and humbly take some risk and initiative. This is a needed ministry in our church, and it cannot be done by men.

“Working at Home”

What are the older women to teach the younger women? Verses 4-5 tell us. The six qualities listed all relate to a woman’s attitude and her conduct toward her household. First, they’re to teach them to “love their husbands and children” (v. 4b). God’s prioritizing of the family couldn’t be clearer.

Next, in verse 5, he says to teach them to “be self-controlled” and “pure.” These are related to one another. The terms carry the nuance of sexual fidelity and chastity.

Then he says that they must be trained in “working at home.” This can be translated “to be good managers of the household.” Paul gives similar counsel to young widows in 1 Timothy 5:14, “I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.”

This instruction doesn’t rule out working outside the home. Proverbs 31 says that “an excellent wife…considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard…She perceives that her merchandise is profitable….She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle…She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant” (vv. 16, 18-19, 24). And none of this takes her away from managing her household. Verse 27, “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” And in all this, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her” (v. 28).

The instruction that older women are to give to younger women is that women are responsible for the domestic oversight of the home. They’re the managers, or directors, administrators, or supervisors of the home. This is not a demotion! Are the administrators of colleges and universities or Fortune 500 companies incompetent people? No, only the most skilled and wise and diligent people are called upon to manage organizations. And is there any more important organization than the family? Caring for young souls and creating spaces of warmth and peace and organizing a home that will bless others in Jesus’s name is more important than managing a business or a school.

I know that this is hard teaching. Many ladies have struggled with it. Suzy and I have struggled with it. We’ve wrestled with how it applies to our situation. There’s no blueprint for how this must look for everyone. Different families will look different. The way that wives balance work outside the home with work inside the home is left open to each family.

In a culture that chafes at the notion that God designed men and women with different roles, we have the opportunity to show the world a better and more beautiful way. We have the opportunity to create homes where kids and parents are deeply connected, homes of peace and productivity instead of chaos and consumption.

Husbands, are you willing to do whatever you have to do to make it possible for your wife to live out these instructions? Wives, is your chief desire to build a career or a home? Single men, are you looking for a wife with biblical convictions about the home? Are you willing and able to provide for a wife and children? Single women, are you looking for a husband with biblical convictions about the home? Are you wanting to build a career or a home?

The way wives and mothers carry out their responsibilities at home will say something about the gospel (v. 5). The ordering of our homes serves to promote the gospel. Disorder can revile it. These are serious matters that are worth having hard conversations about.

The Good Gift of Inter-Generational Relationships

Paul goes on to say that the older women should teach the younger women to be “kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (v. 5). “Their own” indicates that the submission is not of one gender to another, but of the wife to her husband. Notably, Paul never says that a husband can or should demand submission. He always instructs the wife to give it (cf. Eph. 5:25ff).

God knows that younger women will struggle through these things. He also knows that older women used to be younger women who struggled with these things. The questions and concerns and fears that young ladies have aren’t new. Older ladies had them too. In God’s goodness and wisdom, he gives ladies help right here in the text. He says that “older women should teach and train younger women” (vv. 3-4).

One of God’s good gifts to the church is inter-generational relationships. The church needs younger and older. The gospel is what creates and unites the church, not social similarities. It’s natural to connect with people in your own stage of life. But the gospel supernaturally leads you to connect with people who aren’t just like you. The church is called a family for a reason. We’re all different, yet we’re one, and we need each other.

Younger Men

The next group Paul address are the “young men” (v. 6). His instruction for them is simple: “be self-controlled.” Young men, control yourselves! Your words, habits, work, sexual desires, and time management need to be under control.

Verses 7-8 are connected to verse 6. Titus is to teach the young men by word and example. His example is meant to spread to the younger men in the church. So it is with the example of our elders. We’re far from perfect, but our life and doctrine should have an attractiveness to them that makes others want to follow them.

Slaves, or Bondservants

The next group of people Paul tells Titus to address are “slaves,” or “bondservants.” The fact that Paul even talks directly to slaves was radically counter-cultural. In his day, any discussions about household management focused on how masters should treat their slaves. The slaves weren’t given the time of day in contemporary discussions about work. But Paul gave them the time of day. He saw them as ethically responsible persons who were just as much members of the church as were their masters.

Slavery in Paul’s day wasn’t like slavery in the American South. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it wasn’t necessarily evil either. These slaves, unlike slaves in the American South, had rights and privileges. They could worship, marry, save money, and even purchase their freedom. Slavery in the Roman Empire wasn’t based on skin color.

Adorning the Gospel at Work

Because Roman slavery was not like American slavery, it’s fair to think of this text in terms of the employee/employer relationship. In this light, Paul says that employees should “submit” to their employers “in everything,” unless of course it contradicts the Word of God. They’re to be “well-pleasing.” Christian employees should want to please their employers. They’re not to be “argumentative.” Christian employees don’t argue with their superiors. They don’t always have to be right or have the last word. They work with humility. They’re also “not pilfering (or stealing).” Christian employees don’t steal from their companies. Rather, they “show all good faith.” Christian employees prove by their behavior at work that they’re totally trustworthy.

Why is this important? Why should we work this way? The end of verse 10 tells us. “So that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Paul links the behavior of employees with the reputation of the gospel. The way we work should make the gospel as attractive as possible for those we work with.

Listen to how John Piper explains this in his book Don’t Waste Your Life, “The way we do our work ‘adorns’ the doctrine of God. In other words, our work is not the beautiful woman but the necklace. The beautiful woman is the gospel – ‘the doctrine of our God and Savior.’ So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the gospel we profess before unbelievers. Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians. The whole point of the text breaks down if there is nothing for our work to ‘adorn.’ Thinking that our work will glorify God when people do not know we are Christians is like admiring an effective ad on TV that never mentions the product. People may be impressed but won’t know what to buy.”

The way you work will make the gospel you share look good when you do share it. Don’t cut corners. Don’t grumble and complain about your boss. Do be on time. Do your work with excellence. Do seek the good of the company and not just yourself. Do seek to serve your fellow employees. Work in such a way that people take notice and wonder why.

Paul’s Motivating Reason for Why These Instructions Should be Obeyed

In verses 2-10, Paul has addressed different groups within the church: old men and women, young men and women, and bondservants, or slaves. Then in verses 11-14 he gives us the reason why we should follow these instructions. He grounds the Christian life in the work of God through Jesus Christ.

Verse 11a, “For the grace of God has appeared.” Christians should live as Paul instructs because of the grace of God. This grace is for all people (v. 11b). Some have understood this to mean that all people are saved, or what’s called “universalism.” But the Scriptures teach elsewhere that not everyone will be saved (e.g. Rev. 20:11-15). This phrase is better understood to mean that God offers salvation to all people.

Verse 12 says that God’s grace doesn’t just save us from sin. It’s also like a teacher that trains us to live a new way. It “teaches us to say ‘no’” (NIV) to ungodly and worldly things. A person who’s received the grace of God has a new desire and ability to refuse, or renounce, things that aren’t pleasing to God.

Verse 13 says that those who’ve received the grace of God are waiting patiently for the return of Christ. “Waiting” characterizes our lives as Christians. What are we waiting for? Not retirement, not a promotion, not a better house, not marriage. We wait for the “blessed hope.” The glorious return of Christ.

Verse 14 says that the new life that God’s grace creates is rooted in an expectation of Jesus’s return and Jesus’ atonement. Jesus’ death “redeemed”, or set us free, from “all lawlessness.” Jesus’ death paid the debt that our sins owed (Col. 2:15). But Jesus’ death also “purifies,” or cleanses, us. It’s not enough for our sin to be removed. We must also be made pure or righteous in order to enter God’s presence.

When we put our trust in Christ, we’re declared righteous before God in Christ. Then the righteousness of God begins to work its way out in our lives. God makes us pure and begins a process of purifying us.

God owns those he saves. They’re “a people for his own possession.” Coming under the ownership of a good King compels us to passionately give our lives for the good of others. His grace compels us to do as much good to as many people as we can (v. 14).

What are some examples of good things we can do? We can babysit so couples can have a date night, work with excellence and joy, visit homebound members of the church, cook dinner for a friend swamped with work, share the gospel with an unbeliever, go on a mission trip to serve and encourage long-term missionaries, pray for your lost friends and family members, give faithfully to your local church, open your home to someone in need, text a friend an encouraging word or Scripture passage, pray through the membership directory, take food to those who’re sick or grieving or new parents, read a good Christian book with a brother or sister in Christ, help pay the tuition of a college or seminary student so they can avoid debt, visit the sick in the hospital, volunteer at a pregnancy center, talk and pray with a friend who’s going through a tough time, move overseas to live amongst an unreached people group, wash the dishes or do the laundry for your spouse.

The grace of God sets us free from living for ourselves. His grace makes us want to live for the good of others.

In Titus chapter 2, we’ve seen Paul’s instructions for Titus (v. 1), Paul’s instructions to groups in the church (vv. 2-10), and Paul’s motivating reason for why these instructions should be obeyed (vv. 11-15). Paul’s primary concern in this letter is to say that right doctrine leads to right behavior. Healthy doctrine creates a healthy life lived of the joy of others.

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