Friday, September 9, 2011

Titus 2: What Christianity Looks Like In Practical Terms

Paul's letter to Titus gives believers practical instructions for daily living. It shows us what Christianity should look like every day. The instructions are even broken down for the different age/sex groups within a local church!

Titus was putting the finishing touches on some young churches on the island of Crete, under Paul's apostolic authority. His job was to put the churches in order (Titus 1:5), which implies that there IS a correct order for the people of God in local churches. Jesus bought the church with his blood (Eph 5:25; Acts 20:28) and is the Head of the church (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18); therefore he alone can define how the church should look.

So after instructing Titus to appoint qualified elders in the churches, and confronting the enemies of the gospel that had already begun to rise up in the congregations, Paul turned to practical instructions for the believers. The main point is that gospel truth produces a changed life: godliness is the fruit of right teaching. The gospel impacts all true believers, down to the very fine points of daily living. Let's briefly look at Paul's inspired instructions.

1. Older Men (2:2). Paul paints a picture for the older men in the church; they should have a dignity about them as seasoned men of God. They walk in self-control, and are full of faith. Older men also model true Christian love. The kids should want to run up to them! The idea is not grumpy old men, but loving old men who endure and finish strong.

2. Older Women (2:3-4a). Paul has instructions about their character (not drunkards or gossips, but reverent, worshipful ladies) and their teaching. That's right; older women in the church are specifically instructed to teach! Their students are the young ladies. The idea is not a classroom, but informal teaching. Paul uses the word "train," which is a "highly unusual" word in the original language, and carries the idea of bringing "someone to his or her senses" (G.Fee). Apparently, these young ladies are out of control, and Paul wants the older women in the church to bring them to their senses!

3. Young Ladies (2:4b-5). Paul gives the most instructions to the young ladies. Perhaps this was because of the specific situation on Crete, but all young Christian ladies should see this as a wake-up call; young women have an important role before a watching world. They can shine strongly as a witness, or bring reproach to the gospel and the local church. Paul instructs the young ladies to:
  • Love their husbands and children.Chrysostom said that all of these instructions to the young women flow out of love for their husband. The world wants to drive a wedge between a women's heart and her family, but God wants her clinging closely to her husband and children.
  • Be self-contolled; pure. The Lord desires that young women display sexual purity. A young Christian lady must realize and daily remember that her husband is her only sexual outlet, and that she must watch out for anything that would pull her from him (heart attachments to other men; novels, movies, websites or fantasies that bring a drifting from her husband; dressing for other men; ETC).
  • Be working at home; homemakers. This one is especially controversial in our culture, but a theological reason is given rather than a cultural one (v5b). This does not prohibit a Christian woman from any work outside the home (the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 ran her own business selling her homemade products, and even made her own decisions in selling real estate); however, it does mean that her priority is her home. If outside work hinders her from putting the needs of her husband and children first, she has strayed from the Lord's command.
  • Be kind. Do not underestimate this simple command. A young woman in the church is to show general goodness and kindness (this is given in the context of the home! - be kind in your words and actions to your husband and children). A woman can even make kindness her gospel mission to her neighborhood, bringing food to neighbors, hosting a women's neighborhood Bible study, providing for people's needs, etc, in the name of Jesus.
  • Be submissive to their own husbands. Another controversial instruction! But just as Jesus Christ, though equal to the Father in substance and deity, willingly submitted himself to the Father, so are wives called to look past the faults of their husbands and submit to them in everything as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22-24). They are willingly submitting to their equal for the glory of God.
Paul says that by doing these things, a young Christian lady is protecting the ministry of her local church ("that the word of God may not be reviled") before outsiders. Young Christian woman, is your home life reinforcing your local church's preached gospel, or taking away from it?

4. Young men (2:6). Though the young ladies of Crete received many instructions, the young men only receive one! They are to be self-controlled. Imagine a young Christian man walking in self-control in every area of his life! What a blessing he would be to his family, local church and world!

5. Church leaders (2:7-8). Having addressed the young men in the church, Paul now gives specific instructions for Titus himself, who may also be a young man. Church leaders are to be models of good works. But Paul also tells them how their preaching should look! " your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us" (7b-8, ESV). In a day when young preachers are more and more prone to sexually explicit and coarse language, these instructions are much needed!

6. Slaves (2:9-10). Paul does not condone slavery. But as he is giving instructions to the different groups within the local churches, he cannot refuse to address those who find themselves as slaves within that culture. The gospel must affect their lives too! So he instructs them to be submissive and faithful to their masters, not always talking back and never stealing. In our culture we could loosely apply these principles to employees showing respect and godliness at work, and before their boss.

Paul closes all these instructions with these words: "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" (v10). Though this is spoken specifically to the slaves, it seems to function as a summary for all the groups he has addressed. Our lives should decorate the truth we believe. When Christians sin we bring shame to the church and to the name of Jesus. Our lives should rather back up the gospel we are preaching.

One final word. These instructions are not given to us so that we can focus on the rules and try hard to obey them. In our own strength we can never keep these teachings, and the focus of the believer is never to be on rules! Immediately after these instructions Paul gives a large dose of gospel doctrine (v11-14). It is by focusing on Christ crucified and risen that we are empowered by the God of grace to walk in godliness! This is not dead religion, but joyful union with the living Christ!

May we be captivated by Jesus and his gospel, and walk in godliness that adorns our teaching. May Jesus set his churches in order, for his glory!

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