Questions: How do we know what makes for sound doctrine? How should we protect the word of God? Why should we obey those over us? How can we shame our enemies? What does God want from us? What will He give us? What is our responsibility?
“Read More” to pursue answers from Titus.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
When I first saw this verse, I was hoping he might finally define what he means by “sound doctrine.” But he doesn’t go there — or does he?
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
It appears he is defining “sound doctrine” operationally, in terms of what it produces, e.g., reflective and benevolent old men. Similarly:
The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
The bar for female elders is even higher, since they need to be his proxies to teach younger women:
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
A touchy subject — no wonder Paul has Titus delegate it to other women! What fascinates me about this is that the rationale is that he doesn’t want people to speak ill of God’s teaching.
I suppose one could read this cynically, as Paul reinforcing cultural stereotypes in order to maintain good PR. However, I actually see this as consistent with the larger message of character, and that fact that God is a God of order and social stability. Of course the gospel is revolutionary, but it is fueled by inner transformation as we live humble and godly lives, not one where we act out our resentment and anger on a public stage.
After all that, the advice to us young guys is decidedly anti-climatic:
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
Perhaps because Titus himself is one of them, so he doesn’t need Paul’s advice about what problems they face. In fact, that is probably the group most likely to benefit from Titus’ direct example:
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine [shewing] uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
This to me is the heart of teaching — or rather, training: communicating through your life, rather than just your words. Though words are part of it:
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
There are two ways to make someone ashamed: one is to tell them their (they’re) bad, the other is to show them your (you’re) good.
Again we see Paul’s focus on having a good public reputation. Which leads directly to one of the more awkward commands in Scripture:
[Exhort] servants to be obedient unto their own masters, [and] to please [them] well in all [things]; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Critics love to point to this as evidence that the Bible condones slavery (ignoring the historical fact that it was almost entirely Christians who ended slavery and the slave trade in England and America). However, it seems clear from the context that Paul isn’t focused on the character of slavery, but rather the character of the slaves. As with wives above, he wants slaves to not merely pursue godliness for its own sake, but also to bring glory to God and His gospel. Why?
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
And what is the message He wants all men to see?
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Bam! There it is right there. It would be easy (and popular, at least among them) for Paul to present a gospel that encourages wives and slaves to pursue self-fulfillment — and older men and women to lead lives of self-indulgence.
But Paul’s raising a higher standard, calling us all to die to ourselves, in order that we may live with Christ:
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Scandalous! And on what basis dare Jesus ask so much of us?
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
It is because He gave His all that he can justly ask of us our all. More, all He asks us to give up is our sinfulness and impurity, in order that He may fill us with His desire to do good.
Okay, I’ll accept that Jesus has the right to ask so much of us. But it is still shocking that Titus is authorized to make similarly strong claims:
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
My flesh rises up at the thought of some mere man telling me to submit to authority and purify myself. Yet, he is merely speaking what Christ Himself would say to me. Am I willing to accept the truth of God’s message, or would I rather justify myself by focusing on the imperfections of the messenger?
God, I thank that you that Timothy — and countless other men and women throughout the ages — have heeded your call to live godly lives, and pass on the Message of your glory and your grace. Father, I cry out for you to redeem me from iniquity, and purify my heart, that I may be zealous for your good works. Make me sober-minded in my pursuit of you, that I may bring glory to your name. The name of our blessed Saviour, in which I pray, Amen.