Paul wrote this letter to Titus, who was one of his co-workers in the gospel. And Paul had left Titus in Crete to straighten out some things in the churches there. And in this letter, Paul instructed Titus on the things he needed to do and to teach on Crete.
In verse 1 of today’s passage, Paul instructs Titus to teach the people what is in accord with sound doctrine. There’s that word ‘sound’ again, which has cropped up several times in these pastoral letters. As I’ve said before, the word can also be translated ‘healthy’. And sound doctrine, or healthy doctrine, is doctrine which is good for us. What the trouble-makers taught was unhealthy doctrine. It was like poison, because it was bad for the people and it was ruining whole households. But Titus and the elders were to teach healthy doctrine, which is doctrine which is good for those who hear and believe it and which will produce spiritual health in them.
But not only was Titus to teach sound or healthy doctrine, but he was to teach what was ‘in accord with’ sound or healthy doctrine. And that’s what verses 2 to 10 are about, where Paul instructs Titus on what should be taught to older men and to older women and to younger women and to younger men and to slaves. Paul was dividing up the congregation into these different groups and saying to Titus this is what they need to be taught.
But before we get to that, I want to turn our attention first to verses 11 to 15 where Paul summarises the good news of Jesus Christ and the purpose of his death on the cross. And I want to take those verses first because verses 11 to 15 contain the sound doctrine which we all need to know and believe. We all need to know and believe what Christ has done for sinners and what the purpose of his death on the cross was. We all need to know and believe these things about Christ. And then, once we’ve gone over the sound doctrine, contained in verses 11 to 15, we’ll turn back to verses 2 to 10, because verses 2 to 10 contain the teaching which accords with that sound doctrine. So, in verses 11 to 15 we have the sound doctrine; and in verses 2 to 10 we have the teaching which arises from it. Or you might like to think of it this way: verses 11 to 15 are about what we need to know and believe about Christ; and verses 2 to 10 are about what we’re to do.
Verses 11 to 15
Let’s turn to verses 11 to 15 first of all. The word ‘For’ at the beginning of verse 11 confirms for us that what follows in verses 11 to 15 is related to the previous verses. So, the reason Titus is to teach what is contained in verses 2 to 10 is because of what we read in verses 11 to 15 about Christ.
And Paul tells us that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. A better translation is that the grace of God that brings salvation to all men, or to all kinds of men, has appeared. The word ‘grace’ refers to God’s kindness to sinners. So, God’s grace, his kindness, has appeared. It’s become visible in the world. But how can grace become visible? How can kindness be seen? Kindness is not an object you can see, but it’s an attribute or a quality or a virtue within someone. So, how can it become visible? Well, kindness in a person is seen when that person does something kind. And God’s kindness, his grace towards sinners, became visible when he did something. What did he do? He sent his only Begotten Son into the world as one of us to save sinners from the condemnation we deserve for all that we have done wrong. God’s grace appeared in the person of his Son who paid for our sins with his life and who was raised from the dead to give us everlasting life.
And the appearance of God’s grace in the person his Son has an ongoing effect in the lives of God’s people, because it now teaches us something. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and to worldly passions. And it teaches us to live self-controlled and upright and godly lives in this present age. So, before we believed in Christ, it was normal for us to live an ungodly or godless life and to live as if God did not exist. And, before we believed in Christ, we were controlled by the same sinful desires that control everyone else who belongs to the unbelieving world. But now that we believe in Christ, who gave up his life to save us, God helps us to say ‘no’ to these things. And he helps us to live a different kind of life. He helps us to be self-controlled, so that we’re not controlled by sinful desires. And he helps us to be upright, so that we do what is right in the sight of God and not what is wrong. And he helps us to live a godly life, which is a life pleasing to God. As a result of what Christ has done for us, believers receive the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit works in us to remind us of God’s will and to help us to resist temptation and to do God’s will in our daily lives.
And all the while, we’re waiting for something. What are we waiting for? We’re waiting for our blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour. And our great God and Saviour is Jesus Christ who has already appeared on the earth and who will appear on the earth a second time. When he appeared the first time, he appeared in weakness and humility, because he had come to suffer and die. But he will appear a second time. And his second appearance will be very different, because it will be a glorious appearing. He will appear with glory and in power. And, when he appears like that, it will be to punish his enemies and to bring his people into the new heavens and earth. And so, Paul calls it a ‘blessed hope’, a happy hope, because when Christ comes again, he will bring his people into that new and better world to come, where there will be no more sorrow or sadness or sickness or death, but perfect peace and rest and joy. For those who do not believe, Christ’s appearing will mean condemnation and eternal punishment. And so, for them, his appearing is something to dread. But for those who believe, Christ’s appearing is our blessed hope. We’re looking forward to it. We’re longing for it. Because he will come to bring us into glory.
And so, that’s our blessed hope. But although Paul has mentioned our blessed hope which lies in the future, he comes back in verse 14 to what Christ has done for us in the past and to the effect it should have in our lives in the present. So, what has Christ done for us in the past? In the past, he gave himself for us. That is, he gave up his life for us. He died for us. Although the guards were sent to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest the Lord Jesus, and though the Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross, no one took his life, because he freely gave up his life for us and for our salvation. His death was an act of love on his part, in which he freely gave up his life for his people.
And he gave up his life to redeem us from all wickedness. I think I’ve explained before that the word ‘redeem’ means ‘to ransom’. In Bible times, prisoners of war might be released on the payment of a ransom. So, imagine you were a king and some your best soldiers had been taken captive by the enemies. You would presumably want them back. And so, you would enter into negotiations with the enemy and come to terms with them and agree a ransom price in order to set free your best men. Or slaves in the ancient world could also be set free on payment of a ransom. In fact, if the slave was able to save up enough money, he was allowed to pay for his own release.
Well, by nature we are slaves to sin. That is, by birth we’re slaves to wickedness. Sin is our master and it bosses us around, telling us to do this and to do that. People like to think they’re free to do whatever they like, but by nature we’re not free. We’re born in chains and those chains are the chains of sin. But Christ the Saviour gave up his life on the cross to pay the ransom price to set us free from sin and wickedness so that, for those who believe, sin is no longer our master. Having paid the ransom price, the Lord Jesus unlocks the chains of sin around us so that we’re set free.
And that’s not all. Christ gave up his life for us, not only to redeem us from all wickedness, but also to purify for himself a people that are his very own. So, Christ has become our Master. We now belong to him. By nature, sin was our master. But Christ has set us free from sin and we now belong to him. And he has purified us in the sense that he has cleansed us from our guilt.
And that’s not all. Christ gave up his life for us, not only to redeem us from all wickedness, but also to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Do you see that at the end of verse 14? That’s the purpose of his death on the cross. At least, it’s one of the purposes of his death on the cross. People talk about doing a good deed every day. If they do a good deed every day, that’s enough. But Christ did not give up his life for us on the cross to make us the kind of people who are satisfied with one good deed every day. He gave up his life for us on the cross to make us the kind people who are eager to do good. Once we’ve done one good deed, we’re looking for another good deed to do. He gave up his life for us on the cross to make us the kind of people who are always looking for good things to do.
Now, none of us is like this perfectly. We’re not yet perfect and therefore we still sin and fall short. We’ll only be perfect when Christ comes again, because, when he comes again, he will glorify us in his presence and he will remove sin from us entirely. But for now, while we wait for the glorious appearing of our Saviour, God gives us his gracious help to live like this more and more.
And Paul ends the chapter by telling Titus that these are the things you should teach. Teach the people these things. Teach them that God’s grace has appeared in the person of his Son. Teach them that God’s grace teaches them to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly desires and to live self-controlled and upright and godly lives while they wait for Christ to come again. Teach them that Christ gave up his life for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are his very own, who are eager to do what is good. Sin was once our master, but now Christ is our master. And his will for us is that we should do what is good. Teach these things. Encourage the people to believe and do this. Rebuke those who disobey. Don’t let anyone despise you. Teach these things.
Verses 2 to 10
That’s the sound doctrine Titus should teach. That’s what you’re to believe. But what are you to do? That’s what verses 2 to 10 are about.
According to Paul in verse 2, Titus should teach the older men in the congregation to be temperate and to be worthy of respect and to be self-controlled and to be sound in faith, love and endurance. The word translated ‘temperate’ means sober. And so, they must not drink to excess. But the word can also mean sober-minded. And therefore, it means being sensible and wise. The older men should also be ‘worthy of respect’, which means they should behave in a dignified way so that people will look up to them and will want to follow their example. They should also be ‘self-controlled’ which means they will keep control of what they do and say. And their lives should be characterised by faith in Christ and love for others and a willingness to endure all things so that they persevere in the faith.
And, according to verse 3, Titus should teach the older women to be ‘reverent in the way they live’. And so, their whole life should be marked by a reverence or godly fear for God, which means they will seek to honour God in all they do and say. And so, they should not be slanderers and they should not be addicted to much wine. Were the older women in Crete, sitting around all day, drinking and gossipping? Titus was to teach them that this is not the way for God’s people to behave. Instead they must teach the younger women.
What does Paul want the older women to teach the younger women? Well, it’s very practical, isn’t it. And it’s very down-to-earth. He wants them to teach the younger women ‘what is good’. That is, he wants them to teach the younger women to do what is good. So, teach them to love their husbands and children and to be self-controlled and to be pure and to be busy at home and to be kind and to be subject to their husbands. It’s all about what they should be. Be a loving wife and mother. Be self-controlled. Be pure and faithful to your husband. Be busy at home, instead of being idle and lazy. Be kind, not selfish. Be submissive to your husband.
According to verse 6, Titus should teach the younger men to be ‘self-controlled’. It seems there’s only one thing the young men need to know. But, as one of the commentators says, perhaps that’s all that is required, because the most important thing for the young men is for them to keep a tight reign on their words and deeds and their thoughts and desires. Young men can be impulsive and thoughtless and foolish. So, teach them to control themselves.
But that’s not really the only thing Paul says about the young men, because he wants Titus to set them ‘an example by doing what is good.’ So, be a kind of mentor for the younger men so that they will see how you live and will want to copy you. And Paul also tells Titus to show ‘integrity’ and ‘seriousness’ in his teaching and ‘soundness of speech that cannot be condemned’. Paul refers to those who oppose Titus. Perhaps he’s thinking of the trouble-makers in Crete. Well, Titus should teach in such a way that those who oppose him will be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about him. So, give them no ammunition. Watch what you say and do so they can’t find fault with you.
So, this is what should be taught to the older men and women and to the younger women and men. And by addressing older men and women and younger women and men, Paul is thinking about the family, isn’t he? He’s thinking about the family and how believers should treat the other members of their family at home. But in verses 9 and 10, he’s addressing what we might call the workplace. You see, although he refers to slaves, we’re not to think of slaves in America who were often regarded as being less than human and who were forced to work for nothing and their lives were miserable. We’re not to think of that kind of slavery. Slaves in Romans times were often treated well and they were given important and skilled jobs to do. For instance, they worked as doctors and teachers and managers. So, if you were sick, the doctor who treated you may have been a slave. Your children might be taught by a slave. Your household might be managed by a slave. So, male and female slaves did the kind of work we do. And so, don’t let the reference to slaves distract you, because, in a sense, Paul was addressing men and women who, like most of us, have to work for other people. And what should Titus teach those who have to work for other people? He should teach them to be subject to their boss and to try to please their boss and not to talk back to them and not to steal from them and they should show that they can be fully trusted.
Paul is addressing life at home and life at work. And what he says to Titus applies to most of us. You might be an older man. You might be an older woman. You might be a younger woman who is married with children. Or you might be a younger woman who will may someday be married with children. You might be a younger man. You know which one you are; and therefore you know what God’s will for you is in the home. And, while you’re not a slave or servant, you may have to work for someone else. And if that’s you, then you know what God’s will for you is in the workplace.
And here’s the thing. This is why Christ gave up his life for you. He gave up his life for you to redeem you from all wickedness and to purify for himself a person that is his very own, eager to do what is good in the home and in the workplace.
There’s a Dutch theologian called Herman Bavinck who taught that grace restores nature. What did he mean? Well, the family and work are part of the natural world which God created. For instance, the Bible begins with a marriage between Adam and Eve. And Adam and Eve produced a family. And before the Fall, God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. So, the family is part of God’s good creation and so is work. And God has given us these things for our good.
But God’s good creation has been spoiled by sin. Ever since Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and sin came into the world, the people in every family do not love each other the way they should. And instead of being a source of joy for us, work can be hard and difficult and frustrating. And instead of working hard, we can be lazy and insubordinate and difficult and dishonest. God has given us the family for our good. He’s given us work for our good. But we have spoiled these good things by our sin.
But grace restores nature, because Christ graciously gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own and who are eager to do good at home and in the workplace and wherever else we are. He gives us his Spirit to renew our sinful human nature, which has been spoiled by sin. And the Holy Spirit helps us to fight against every sinful inclination; and he helps us to do God’s will wherever we find ourselves. And that means he helps each member of the family to love the others the way we should; and he helps people in the workplace to do their work the way that they should.
When we’re converted to faith in Christ and when we receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Saviour does not remove us from our family and he does not remove us from the workplace. He doesn’t lift us out of the natural world to place us into a kind of supernatural world without families or work. He doesn’t take us out of creation. But he keeps us where we are and he graciously helps us to do good right where we are and to honour him in our daily lives. So, that’s God’s will for you. To do good in the home and in the workplace and wherever else he has placed you.
And one final thing before we finish. Did you notice what Paul said at the end of verse 5 and at the end of verse 10? Young women are to do good ‘so that no one will malign the word of God’. And slaves are to do good so that ‘in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.’ He’s saying that how we live may influence what other people think of the message of Christianity. If we do not do good, they may malign the word of God. But if we do good, they may find the teaching about God attractive. Paul is really saying what the Lord Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about letting our light shine before men that they may see what? That they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven. So, when you live well, people will see it. And who knows? They might end up worshipping God for themselves.