Series Theme: Meditating in Titus
This Page: Chapter 2 of Titus
Meditations in Titus: 11: Teach older men
Titus 2:1,2 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
Having dealt with a negative side of ministry – refuting false teachers and dealing with those who are flagrant in living unrighteously – Paul moves on to instruct Titus in the positive side of the ministry, bring guidance to the different groups within the church. To whoever Titus teaches, ensure that it “ is in accord with sound doctrine”, i.e. make sure it lines up with the teaching of the Gospel and that conveyed by the apostles which is always in accord with God's word. Everything that we are and do is to be in line with God's word, which is why it is vital that we teach it, that we study it and think about it. As he said to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17) In a day of free thinking we must never lose sight of this. God's word is our anchor and our guidance. Hold onto it, just as he said in chapter 1.
He goes on to refer to four groups in the church and the first group is the older men of the congregation. It is clear from the things he says about them that he expects older men to have learned from life, to have gained wisdom and that experience and wisdom will temper who they now are. Young men have a tendency to be just reactive to life and to do crazy things. The words that follow suggest that older men will have learnt and will no longer be like that. Let's look at each of the six things he speaks about. We'll deal with the first three in this study and then the second three in the next.
1. Temperate. This word simply means restrained and self-controlled. When we think of it in respect of drink, we think of someone who is restrained in their drinking habits, who limits the amount they drink. This is someone who has learned what true pleasure is about. Excesses of anything causes negative consequences. Excess drinking causes drunkenness and so on. Excess eating produces obesity and health problems, and so on. The wise older man has learned these things and is restrained.
2. Worthy of respect. Such a person has earned respect, not demanded it and they have done it by being an example of a gracious and righteous Christian. This man's maturity is worth emulating. My wife had an elderly uncle. We went to his ninetieth birthday party. He was a widower, having looked after his bedridden wife for ten years until she passed away, and he spent much of his like looking after the elderly in his congregation!!! (He is not a minister as such). He lead a weekly Bible Study and once a term went and took the assembly at a local primary school. At his birthday they brought out a cake and somebody called out, “Speech” Speech!” He stood up and in ten minutes shared his testimony, presented the Gospel simply and ended with a funny story that basically reminded everyone you are either going to heaven or hell (for the sake of the number of unsaved people there) and then sat down. He was one of the most gracious men I have ever met. At the end of the party I thought, “Lord, for the first time in my life I have found someone I would truly like to emulate. Lord, please let me be like that right into old age.”
3. Self-controlled. This sounds obvious, as you might think that with the first one, this naturally followed on, but I have noticed something in life, and that is that often in their latter years, elderly people lose restraint and just blurt out what they think. In their younger days they maintained a veneer of respectability and righteousness but sadly, deep down there were still aspects of their character that had not been taken to the Cross, just submerged under ‘what ought to be'. I remember one elderly lady who had been the pillar of the church, a well known speaker at ladies groups and yet I had always felt there had been an element of restraint about her that was not quite natural. Sure enough in old age she went into a Care Home and became known as a loud mouth who said outrageous things (and this wasn't dementia). How sad. Self control is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23) and goes beyond mere restraint. There is an aspect about it that speaks of a person who has been trained by God, disciplined so that they maintain order in their life and they are not swept about by opinions or emotions. This person is an unmovable pillar in the congregation and helps bring stability to it by their example. We'll see more of this in the second group of three characteristics.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 12: Teach older men (2)
Titus 2:1,2 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
We have seen Paul moving on to instruct Titus how to teach different groups in the church and he started with the older men and lays out six character issues and we considered the first three – being temperate, being worthy of respect and being self-controlled. Now let's move straight on to the second group of three.
4. Sound in faith. Now many of these things sound so obvious that our temptation may be to skim over them but if we do that it will be to our detriment. Note that this doesn't say ‘the faith'. ‘The faith' would suggest the whole of their belief system, referring back to having right doctrine but it just simply says “sound in faith.” Usually when you hear someone ask, “Are they sound?” (a somewhat old fashioned way of speaking these days) it usually meant in terms of their belief and behaviour so when it speaks of ‘sound in faith' it is fair to suggest that Paul is speaking about a fundamental characteristic that he expects of them to have as Christians – to be faith-people.
We must not take this for granted because I believe one of the most common failures of modern day Christians is that we have so often ceased to be faith-people. Let's examine this. Faith is believing in the unseen (Heb 11:1) and faith comes from hearing God speak (Rom 10:17) and indeed without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Faith is specifically responding to the word from God which may be the written word or the word that comes directly by His Spirit. So how often, we may ask, do we modern Christians find ourselves ‘responding' to God? We may think we are Spirit empowered but unless we are also Spirit-led we will be falling down on this fourth description given by Paul for Titus to check out. The problem is that so often we listen to the enemy and, especially when we start to get older, think, “All this faith activity is really for younger people. I'm too tired, too inform to be used by God these days.” I see it in elderly Christians around me. When we respond to the Spirit's nudging to go and welcome a newcomer, or to do a kind act, or to speak an encouraging word, we are moving in faith, we are faith people. So implies Paul, don't let these older people rest on their laurels, there's plenty for them to do.
My favourite set of verses in this context comes at the end of Psalm 92: “ The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." (Psa 92:12-15) In old age still bearing fruit, still testifying to the goodness of the Lord. How wonderful. Go for it!
5. (Sound) in love. Real love always expresses itself. That's why God can't help speaking to us, can't help doing good for us. Again, in older age the temptation is to withdraw and feel inadequate in the face of all the vigorous young things in the church but the older person can still be a major bringer of love to the congregation. Indeed in the busy day in which we live, people can so easily lose sight of this fundamental characteristic of the church and of the believer, this characteristic which, “is patient… is kind… does not envy…. does not boast… is not proud….is not rude… is not self-seeking…. is not easily angered…. keeps no record of wrongs….does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth…. always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Cor 13:4-7) It is love that produces care, compassion and acceptance . In a busy, pressurised world, it is so easy to lose these things but the older person, hopefully not so busy and stressed, can make sure that this cement which binds the whole building together is well and truly there. I belong to a church with some wonderful loving and caring elderly people and they create the environment for all else to flow.
6. (Sound) in endurance. Life is often a battle and no less so in older age. In fact when the lies of the enemy are whispered – you are too old to be of any use, your day is past, get out of the limelight, let younger people take over – the temptation is strong to give up. Yes, there is wisdom in bringing on the next generation but a word to the current sixties and seventies: one of my sons once said to me with what I thought was uncharacteristic wisdom, ‘You know, dad, our generation just isn't half as well taught as yours was.' That had me thinking. That may not be true of everyone but when I look back I realise that the seventies, eighties and nineties of the last century were full of excellent leaders, excellent teachers and we were well taught and coming through the periods of the charismatic movement and later the Toronto blessing, we were also receivers of the experience of the Spirit in a major way.
Today we have learning and experience which should not be ignored or frittered away. Bring on the young people, the young leaders, the young worship leaders, by all means, but older men, hold on, persevere in the face of so many negatives of this world and the difficulties of older age – endure! We need your wisdom, we need your experience, we need your example. We need to see your restraint (temperance), we need your example that wins respect, we need to see your self-discipline (control), we need to see the example of your life of faith, and your life filled with love, and we need you to endure, to keep on with head held high until the day the Lord calls you away from us. You are valuable, we need you. Please rise up and be all these things.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 13: Teach older women
Titus 2:3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Paul moves on in his instructions to Titus from speaking about the older men to now speaking about the older women. Be aware that when a teacher brings a teaching it is to enable a new behaviour or attitude to be formed in the lives of the believers and often he has in mind failures or vulnerabilities that need correcting or addressing in his listeners. Sometimes it is natural tendencies that need addressing. In this simple verse Paul comes up with a general principle, two negatives to be avoided and then a lifestyle to be followed, and they are all specifics for older women.
His starting point is the principle: “ teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live.” That is the general principle and he will touch on two specific potential problems afterwards that would stop this principle operating in the lives of older Christian women. The key word is obviously ‘reverent' which simply means a life, showing, or characterized by reverence. ‘Reverence' in turn means to honour, respect, and maintain a right attitude towards God. Thus Paul is saying teach these ladies to live lives that clearly revere and honour God. In other words, to put it yet another way, live distinctly different lives from the unbelievers around them. That, essentially, is what ‘holy' means, to be divinely distinct and different. And of course we are called to live holy lives. Reverent lives? God-focused lives, godly lives.
Perhaps in what he says about the older women Paul is aware that later in life, the running of homes (and today career jobs) start to take a back place, being left to others, and so there is more time available to the older woman to be more leisurely in the way she spends her time, and leisure and pleasure are the things that can make us (unwisely and foolishly) thinks life is easy and we don't need God. When Israel entered the promised land they were warned against this tendency once they settled down. When life is easier, and for these women, in some ways at least it was, then there is a tendency to lower our guard and be tempted into ungodliness. No, maintain reverent lives, Paul teaches.
Left and right brain theorists point out that the side of the brain given over to communication is more developed in women than it is in men. Whether you believe God made it like that or it evolved like that, the point is that there is truth here. A survey of young children noted that in a group of five year olds, the girls spoke as many as four times as many words as the boys in one day. This should not be surprising because when a mother is bringing up children words are her primary means of communication with her family. It is often laughingly said, that when two men get together they talk about football, and when two women get together they talk about other women.
Now that may be an over-characterization but again there is some truth there. So when elderly ladies get together over a cocktail or a coffee or a tea, what do they do? Talk about people. It may be family, it may be friends, it may be acquaintances or even merely about neighbours. And therein is the danger; the truth is so easily lost. Whether it is passing on news or speculating about possibilities, it is so easy to move away from the truth and that is what is called slander. Do we now see why the first of the two specific negatives is to teach against the older women being slanderers?
But, and Paul I believe continues to make the same assumption that elderly women have more time on their hands, what do you do when you sit around with friends. And what do you do to show hospitality? Offer a drink and if the chat goes on for any length of time, that drink turns into two or more. Today the options are much wider than in Paul's day. Today we have at least half a dozen sorts of coffee to offer, or ordinary tea, green tea or fruit teas. In some circles it is considered the done thing to offer a sherry before lunch or maybe a cocktail. Drinks can soon add up and if it is true today then it was probably more true in Paul's day and hence his second warning, to teach the older ladies not to become addicted to wine. It was a vulnerability in the culture then and can be so today. Meeting with a couple of friends in a local wine bar to chat and pass the time seems so innocuous but habits can form so easily that become harmful to physical and spiritual; health.
Then we find at the end of the verse some possibly surprising words: “but to teach what is good.” When we move on into the next verse, as we will in the next meditation, we see that teaching is in respect of the younger women. This teaching is a challenge. Have you the older Christian lady learnt through experience and time so that you have something to pass on to the next generation? Do you see the need the next generation has of your experience? Are you willing to give them that counsel? Will you be there for them? I suggest that when Paul says, “what is good” that is not only god in respect of caring for your family, but also what is wise and prudent as a Christian.
I observe there are many Christians in older age, in the present generation, who are now sufficiently well off they can spend much time traveling. Go on a cruise and you will find people there who are on their ninth or tenth cruise. Go to Tenerife and you will find ex-pats there who winter there and some of them are Christians. This doesn't do much for the church at home where there are young women who need your wisdom and experience and input. I am not normally someone who motivates by guilt but being part of this fairly affluent older generation I can't help wondering if when we get to heaven the Lord will ask us why we squandered our latter years so there is no fruit to show. What will our answer be? The calling is to be aware of His goodness to us and pass on what you have learned. May that be so.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 14: Teach younger women
Titus 2:4,5 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
We now come to the third group who need specific teaching in the local church, the younger women, but there is a difference here. It is not Titus who should be teaching them but the older women. Why not Titus? Because he's not a woman, not a wife and not a mother. The best he could hope to do would be to speak theory, but the older ladies come with a wealth of knowledge and experience from having been homemakers, from having been wives, and from having been mothers, and having gone through the trials and tribulations that such roles entail. I am saddened whenever I come across a couple who have chosen not to have children because they will come to the end of their lives having missed out on so much, and so much of that will be the things that change and sanctify us.
Now when you start looking in detail at this teaching from Paul, he says the older women should ‘train' the younger women. That is not merely passing on information, it is being alongside to bring about change in behaviour. When you ‘train' someone you teach them to do something practically and you cannot be any more practical than when you are raising a family. There are six things these younger women are to be trained to do.
1. To love their husbands and children. The basis of a marriage is love and we may think that is natural but why is it that we have so many divorces today? The answer has got to be because the couple allowed love to grow cold. To hold a marriage together and to create an environment in which to raise children requires effort to maintain love because love has a sacrificial element to it and also a practical element to it. When children are having a tantrum it is the mother's love that hangs in there and sees past it and is still just there for them. In older people if someone threw a tantrum you would walk away and leave them to it and possibly the relationship might end, but when you are committed to someone, as the mother is, as the wife has said she will be, then you hang in there and are not deterred by glitches along the way.
2. To be self-controlled. The mother carries all the daily pressures of the marriage and of bringing up the children. Traditionally the man was the breadwinner and she was the homemaker. He could escape the drudgery of being there with the children all the time, being up in the night with the latest baby, and so on, by going out to work. She is there performing what can be the most fulfilling vocation in the world – but which can at times be hard and stressful. Self wants to rise up and scream out, ‘”Let me out of here!” but if she is to be there for them all, then she needs self-control to hang in there and be a rock for her young family. How tragic many modern families are who have not learned this.
3. And (to be) pure. We have already said that the wife-mother is the creator of the home environment to which the husband returns at the end of the day and the children live in. It is an environment where they should experience love and feel secure, where they are cared for and provided for. Observe the difference in two people, one who has had a loving family life and the other who had either a hostile family life or none at all. They are different people and so much of the difference is because of their experience of life in (or out of) a family. We often think purity is only in respect of sexual matters but I suggest that it should include anything that might pollute life, bad attitudes, poor moral standards, playing with the occult, so many things that can pollute the little minds she cares for and disturbs the environment she is creating.
4. To be busy at home. I suspect that many of these words must be alien to many modern young women who have been deceived into believing that fulfilment can only come through a career. No wonder we have so many shallow or fragmented family situations. Our materialism has lead us to believe we can only live off two incomes. Perhaps the greatest picture of an industrious women is that amazing chapter 31 of Proverbs (or at least verses 10-31) This woman makes most career women look mere beginners when it comes to achievement. She is amazing! And her family is blessed – because of her! The call to be busy challenges idleness. We may think we have labour saving devices and need to do less but that misses the point. She is industrious and she is fulfilled and her family is blessed. How many children just get the dregs or leftovers of their tired mother's life today?
5. To be kind. Look ‘kind' up in a dictionary and you find such words as ‘ sympathetic, friendly, gentle, tenderhearted, generous, cordial, loving; affectionate.' It's not a word we use much today but it covers who whole spectrum of good attitudes and good behaviour and speaks of the nature of the wife-mother and of the environment at home that she creates.
6. Subject to their husbands. Don't confuse this with being servile. I have encountered wives in Jewish culture and in Indian culture, wives who are indeed subject to their husbands but who rule their home. They are the power house of the home and although they respect and honour the husband and give him pride of place in the family (which builds and changes him for good), they all know who is the power in the home! The woman of wisdom recognizes her husband's need of esteem and recognizes she can be the prime provider of that for him but her wisdom also makes her a queen in this place.
But then Paul finishes with a reason for all this: “ so that no one will malign the word of God.” In the community the family is so often identified through the wife. She (traditionally at least) is the one who is around and she is the one the other wives, and therefore other members of the community, will speak about. She is the one who so often, in the eyes of the community at least, conveys the integrity of the family. The way she lives, the way she is a wife, and the way she is a mother will either add to her testimony as a believer or detract from it. Paul says these things so that she will not detract from her testimony.
As I have said, I have a feeling that of any meditation, this particular one will feel alien to the modern young women, which is sad because it indicates that we have lost something of the wonder of God's design for families, in the name of freedom and fulfilment. We are realising more and more that so called freedom in respect of sex is destroying the realities of having real relationships and experiencing real love. One of these days we will wake up to the poverty of modern family life in comparison to the possibilities of God's design for it. We have often said in respect of Christian leaders that the order needs to be God, first, family second and the ministry third. For wives we might slightly change that to God first, family second and career third. To abandon that order means poverty of ‘life'. Please ponder on that.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 15: Teach younger men
Titus 2:6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled
When we come to the fourth group in the local church, the younger men, the instruction as to what to teach them appears at first sight to be surprisingly short – encourage them to be self controlled. Note encourage not tell or instruct. That is a much more gentle word and almost implies, ‘win them over to become self-controlled'. The truth is that young men are likely to be the group with the greatest natural resistance. Young men are full of energy and think the world is theirs. They want to do things, achieve things. They think, because they are full of energy, that they are the people of the day, those who know best because they do not exhibit the lethargy that sometimes comes with more mature years. They are get up and go people. Titus' problem will not be in motivating the new believer young men but controlling them and maintaining order. Hence this instruction.
But actually Paul's instruction to Titus about the young men does not stop there: “ In everything set them an example by doing what is good . ” (v.7a) Titus is probably a relatively young person himself and so there is likely to be a measure of kinship between him and the other younger men. They, naturally, may well look to him as a role model and so Paul wants them to follow in his footsteps, hence his instruction to be an example for them to follow. To say “doing what is good” means do what God has given you to be and that will be good. Let me give some examples.
Although in these studies I have only ever given one example of a man I wanted to emulate – my wife's elderly uncle – when I look back to my younger years I realise that there have been many Christian leaders who have stirred and challenged me. Without naming names I remember one leader who was full of gentleness and yet authority. He was a good example to follow. I remember a number of men whose commitment to the word of God and to holy living challenged me. Further examples to follow. I remember a couple of gentle, servant hearted, pastoral people who came and stayed with us on occasion and loved me and my wife just as we were and changed us by their loving acceptance. What examples to follow! And so many more. We can be examples to the next generation but it does mean that we ourselves have got to stand out in our faith and commitment and our love and goodness.
But this is it, Titus, if you are going to stand out for these young men they have got to be able to see someone they look at and realise is different from others, a man who stands out from the world but in such a way that they will think, “I want to be like that.” This is uniquely so for this group. The women will not identify with Titus and the elderly men should have learnt it all anyway and so not need an example, but these young men are uniquely placed to identify with this young leader.
So Paul instructs him, “In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.” (v.7b) Integrity is about public honesty and being ethically unquestionable. Seriousness speaks of clarity of purpose. Be someone, Paul says, who is a straight as a die and who is seen to be all out in his goals for God. Let these young men be challenged to keep up with you and stand out from the world that lacks these things. They will see you as a leader bringing teaching to the church, so do it in this manner.
Indeed ensure that you have, “soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” (v.8a). In other words be careful what you say. If your words are to be ‘sound' that means they are right and acceptable and not controversial. Ensure that you give no cause for criticism in what you say. Now we have linked these words to the young men because they follow directly on and form part of what Paul started saying about Titus being an example to them but there will be more to it than that: “ so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Not only will you win over the young men to follow your example but if you act and speak in this manner you will disarm those who would seek to criticize you – and be quite clear in your mind, there will always be those looking to criticize Christian leaders! This may be the young men themselves because they are always critical of hypocrisy and are quick to point out the failings of the next generation, but it may also be others as well. Whoever there is there, who may take the opportunity to criticize you and your ministry – do all you can to ensure they have no grounds to do that.
We often say that the man of God should seek to please God first and foremost (and of course he will if he lives in this manner) but the Christian leader has a whole group of people to win over to God (the congregation) as well as being concerned for all those onlookers outside the church who look in and are ever ready to criticize. He needs all the grace he can receive as well as the encouragement of other senior leaders and the love of his people to walk this often difficult path.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 16: Teach Slaves
Titus 2:9,10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
People often, not giving much thought to it, criticise the New Testament for its position on slavery. Paul instructs very clearly that slaves must accept their position – “ Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything.” (v.9a) Living in the enlightened day that we live in (even though slavery is still rife in the world) we think people such as Jesus or Paul should have spoken out against slavery. Instead Paul instructs slaves in respect of their masters, “try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted.” (v.9b,10a) which sounds even more compliant. So let's consider this more broadly.
First, the matter of abolishing slavery. The history of the abolishing of slavery shows that key politicians in both England and the USA took a long time, and lots and lots of campaigning to bring about the changes in the law. In Jesus' day the law was that of Rome . To have campaigned against slavery would have meant campaigning against Rome which was probably an impossibility at that time. There is a sense, perhaps, where God knew that the right time to act against slavery (which was common in every society) would not be for many hundreds of years. Also the calling of both Jesus and Paul was to reveal the Gospel to the world and any specific campaigning ‘project' would have detracted from that.
Second, the reality of slavery in Jewish society bears comment. Observe the Law and you will find that a) Israelites were not to be sold as slaves ( Lev 25:39-43), b) when they were, they were the equivalent of servants and they were to be cared for and indeed protected (e.g. Ex 23:12, Ex 21:20 Lev 19:20), c) although they could own slaves who were foreigners (Lev 25:44,45) they were still to treat them well (Ex 22:21 Also 23:9)
Third, a different sort of freedom. While the law did require the releasing of slaves after a certain period, much of the time a slave could be chaffing to be free and therefore have bad or negative attitudes towards their owners. Paul's teaching brought a completely different outlook to the life of the slave: use your position to become one of influence. Yes, that it what he is saying. When he speaks of trying “ to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted,” he is saying change the attitude of the owner towards you so that you can become a person of influence in the master's business.
Joseph in the Old Testament was a classic example of this when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. We read “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned , the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate .” (Gen 39:2-6) That is amazing. Joseph became his manager. Later, after Potiphar's wife had tried to seduce him and then accuse him and he was thrown into prison we further find, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison , and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Gen 39:20-23) Again how amazing is that!
But there is a final reason for becoming this sort of person: “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” If the slave owner knows that this slave is a Christian and sees that they are the best workers it should act as a means of softening their heart towards the Gospel.
Although we may not think this teaching applies in the West today, it may be that we find ourselves locked into circumstances with work that we wish we could be freed from. While we may pray for the Lord's help in change the circumstances or changing the job, while we are waiting Paul's teaching must surely apply equally to us. Maybe we need to ponder on that.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 17: The Working of Grace
Titus 2:11,12 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
The word ‘For' is a link word and links what we have here with what Paul has just said previously. He concluded his teaching about Christian slaves' behaviour with, “so that… they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (v.10b) This verse was to be the effect of the good way slaves lived and worked so we have behaviour and effect in the previous verses. Now we have two corresponding things in our two verses above.
First there is the implication that the Gospel has become well known. Here Paul describes the Gospel as “the grace of God that brings salvation.” We know about and can have salvation because a) God has brought about the basis of it – Jesus dying on the Cross for us – but also b) because God has made it known now through the apostles and it has become well known, even if not accepted, by all. So slave owners will know about the Gospel, about the existence of this new group of believers called Christians, and so if they hear that their slave has become one, he will automatically have certain expectations, and the slave is to live up to them for the sake of the Gospel.
Second, this grace has certain outworkings, and those are things that we have just referred to when we spoke of the expectations of slave masters of their Christian slaves. Those outworkings, we will go on to see, are both present and future outworkings, although we will only consider the present outworkings in this particular study.
Paul says that God's grace that brings us salvation, as an outworking of it, “teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Let's examine these things.
One the one hand there are the negative things we are to now reject from our lives.. We are to reject “ungodliness and worldly passions ”. ‘Ungodly' simply means ‘contrary to God'. We are to reject from our lives anything that runs contrary to God's character and will. ‘Worldly passions' are desires that are self-centred and self-pleasing and which are so often expressions of sin. The apostle John taught, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world— (a) the cravings of sinful man, (b) the lust of his eyes and (c) the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2:15,16) That spells it out well.
First of all, desires or cravings that flow out of the godless and self-centred heart. Second, the things this godless and self-centred hearts sees and then wants – this is covetousness and idolatry. Third, boasting or pride, self-centred boosting of ego. This is the godless self-centred life that is to be rejected now we have received the grace of God. It is a life of excesses (of food, sex, alcohol and drugs), and a life of lack of restraint morally and ethically, and a life of self-promotion .(pride, boasting, vanity in owning ‘things', or gaining status etc.), perhaps summed up as a seeking after pleasure, possessions and power.
On the other hand, the other side of the coin if you like, there are the positive things that are to be characteristics of our lives now that we are ‘in Christ': “ self-controlled, upright and godly lives” .
The work of God's grace brings us away from the self-centred and godless lives that we once had and leads us into lives of relationship with the Lord. This is the will of God, the purpose of Jesus as he administers God's kingdom, and the working of the Holy Spirit as He brings it about. This should be seen in each and every one of us, whatever our station in life (slave or not) as the working of God in us that can be seen by those around us and which, hopefully points them towards Him.
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 18: A Waiting People
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good
We need to look at these verses collectively. We wonder why Paul wrote these three things in this order. It may be the outworking of a mind that just dictates as he thinks it out. Perhaps a more logical or at least more chronological approach might have been the latter part about what Jesus has done to redeem us, then the first part which might be summarised as the sanctifying work of God's grace in our ongoing lives, and only then the second part about waiting for Jesus who will return. Putting it like that hopefully clarifies what is here. But let's take it in the order that Paul wrote it.
We've considered the sanctifying work of God's grace in the previous meditation and to understand the overall picture we should pick up words we missed previously, “in this present age.” That sanctifying work is what is going on in us today and for the rest of our lives on earth. It is a work that takes us from godless, unrighteous, self-centred lives to godly, righteous, Jesus-focused lives.
This grace has come to us through the working of Jesus on the Cross, but now he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father, overseeing the working out of the End Times, but they are limited and so one day he will return in glory to wind up the present age. That is what is yet to come.
But having mentioned Jesus in such a context Paul can't help but spell out who Jesus is and what he has done. He “ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” This is another of those compact summaries of doctrine that we find in Titus.
The starting point is that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us .” Jesus left heaven and came and lived on earth with the express goal of giving his own life as a sacrifice for sin. We were lost, far away from God, separated from Him by our sin, prey to Satan and consigned to hell. But Jesus came and bought us back, paying the price, with his own life, of our sin and the punishment it deserves. In other words he stepped in and took our punishment so that we could be set free from guilt and condemnation, free to live new lives.
But there is the emphasis that Paul has been making and goes right back to what he had been saying about slaves living good lives as a demonstration of the Gospel: Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness.” Our lives were wicked and that's why they needed punishing according to justice, but once the punishment had been paid, those lives needed setting free from the habit of wickedness. The new lives are to be characterized by the absence of wickedness!
This work of Jesus delivering us from wickedness, Paul sums up as “to purify for himself a people that are his very own.” The act of removing that wickedness is an act of purifying us, of cleansing us. He separates us out of the rest of the world and we become a distinctive people (free from wickedness), his people. He bought us and therefore we belong to him. He owns us. Now don't see that in any negative way. It's not like a slave master owns slaves. It simply means that now we are his possession we are precious to him and he will provide all we need and will protect us. He is jealous over us, the Scripture says.
That is his side of it, what he has done and what he feels about us, but from our side of it, now we have been delivered out of that past darkness we now find we are a people who are “eager to do what is good.” That takes us back to the beginning of these verses, the sanctifying work that goes on in us. We no longer want to do what it wrong and as we seek to do good, his Holy Spirit empowers and enables us to do it. We came to Christ out of desperation, recognising our hopeless and helpless state and when we found he had died to set us free from guilt and condemnation, we came to the Father in repentance and He forgive us, cleansed us and empowered us with His own Holy Spirit. As new people, so blessed and loved, we want to having nothing to do with those things of the old life and so we reject “ ungodliness and worldly passions,” and instead “ live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”
This is all in the present age but our lives are of limited duration and so we wait out our time before we either go to heaven or Jesus returns to collect us. It is a very positive waiting time as we are being changed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). In this present age we are God's workmanship living out His plans for us (Eph 2:10), seeking first His kingdom (Matt 6:33) and sharing in all Jesus is doing as he works out his plans and purposes before he eventually returns to wind it all up. Is it like waiting at a bus stop for a bus to turn up? No way! It is not a passive standing around. It is living out a fulfilled life of love and goodness and purpose that glorifies the Father and the Son and brings us great joy. Hallelujah!
|Return to Contents||
Meditations in Titus: 19: Aspects of Ministry
Titus 2:15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you
We have noted previously Titus has within it a number of succinct passages or verses that powerfully summarise different doctrines. In our verse above we have a number of aspects of Christian leadership, things which we would hope we would find in the ministry of any local church leader. There are five things to note.
First of all there is teaching. That is what Paul has been putting before Titus for so much of this letter so far, things that Titus needs to teach within the church. The truth is that when we come to Christ most of us have very little knowledge of the New Testament teachings so we understand little of what has happened to us and little of what we can expect and little of what we should be working for. Making up these deficiencies is the role of the teacher in the church and, I believe, all leaders are called to be such teachers.
Second there is encouragement. Encouragement is all about building up people's self esteem ‘in Christ'. Building up self esteem on its own only tends towards building pride and self-centredness. Self-esteem in Christ is knowing who we are in him and realising the wonder of who he has made us to be. Encouragement reminds us that we are loved and accepted by God. It points out to us what He has done for us and in us and it helps us face a meaningful and purposeful future.
Third there is rebuking. For most of us this is an aspect of ministry we would rather ignore but when Paul wrote to Timothy he said, “ All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking , correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Tim 3:16) I have emphasised three words, Rebuking points out that something is wrong. Wrong attitudes and wrong behaviour need pointing out and identifying as displeasing to God. Correcting shows us what is the alternative that God wants for us, while training is about how to go about changing from one to the other.
Fourth there is authority. The authority that a leader has should come from two sources. First there is his calling. He has been called to be God's representative. He is not there to do his own bidding but God's. He is not there to provide for himself but for the flock of God. He's been called to oversee them, to guard them, protect them and provide for them just as The Good Shepherd does, for they are his representatives. This is not a casual or light thing. Second there is God's will as revealed in His word. We can say with authority, this is right and this is wrong – because God's word says so. When the leader comes to present the word of God to the flock in preaching or teaching, he is not there full of ‘maybe' or ‘perhaps' but of a certainty that is there in God's word. Next to basic food or drink, the Bible is The most important material thing that we have. It is the revelation of God and when we realise the significance of what that means, we will be leaders who come with an authority that was observed in Jesus (see Mt 7:28,29 and Mk 1:22-27)
Fifth there is good reputation. This has already come up in Titus in a variety of way, for example, “an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless.” (Titus 1:7) in respect of leaders, and, “so that no one will malign the word of God,” (2:5 - women) and, “they have nothing bad to say about us ,” (2:8 - Titus himself) and, “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (2:10 - slaves) about others. Each of these examples are about behaving in such a way as to create a good reputation so that the work of God's word and Spirit is not hindered in any way by us. It is true of all of us but especially so of leaders.
Thus we find in these five things, things that we should find in all spiritual leaders. These are basics, fundamentals that are essential in the church if we are to be the people of God, expressing Jesus and demonstrating God's love and grace. May it be that we can see them wherever we are part of the church.