Assembled for a purpose

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Titus 2:1-15


We sing, we pray, and then we listen to a sermon and go to sleep. Of course there are reasons why we go to sleep – and as someone with a busy job and two young children I find the silence and lack of distraction as tempting as the next parent.  But I know that should not be.  I know that my pastor believes that God is about to speak, and before my eyes close, so do I.


The gap between that standard and the reality most of us experience each week is terrifying, and even in churches where the Bible is faithfully opened and explained, there is a lifelessness and dullness about the whole process.  That is, obviously, not right.  This passage from Titus explains why it is not right, and what those of us who teach or preach should be doing about it.

1. Healthy doctrine

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.  Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.  Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.  Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in 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.  Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,  not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.


For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.


The engine which drives the passage is verses 11-14, which is one sentence, but the issue which is deals with runs through the passage.  In v1, Paul says Titus is to teach what accords with sound doctrine, and the word sound[1]there is a medical term, meaning ‘healthy’ or ‘fit’.  The word reappears later the passage in v2, where older men are to be sound in faith, and Titus is to be a model of sound speech (v8).  Paul is concerned that this church is a healthy one, and he had earlier explained that there was a problem in Crete of false teaching, the kind of teaching which would make a church ill (1:10-16).  The answer will be good dose of sound doctrine (v1), the doctrine of God our Saviour (v10).

Verses 11-14 are clearly the heart of this antidote, starting with the giveaway clue, For, and they contain three particular elements.  First, the subject which governs whole section is God’s grace: God’s grace has appeared; brought salvation; trains us how to live (v12) and how to wait (v13).  God’s grace is the centre of sound doctrine, the doctrine of God our Saviour.  So the second element is that the way God’s grace operates is through the work of a Saviour.  Notice how the word reappears: in v10 doctrine of God our Saviour; in v11 God’s grace has brought salvation; and in v13 we are waiting for the appearing of the glory our great God and Saviour.  Thirdly, how has this saviour done this? In v14: he gave himself for us to redeem us. God’s grace is focussed on the person and work of Lord Jesus Christ; that is focussed on his work as Saviour, and in turn that salvation is focussed on the cross.  That is, v1 sound doctrine, and Titus is to, teach (v1), and declare, exhort and rebuke (v15) on these matters

But although salvation is focussedon the cross, and the cross is the irreplaceable heartbeat of it, that is not all there is to say.  Notice first the sequence: in v11 Jesus has appeared, bringing salvation, but in v13 Jesus will appear as our Saviour, which is our blessed hope.  And in vv 9-10, it is the converted slaves’ transformed and obedient lives here and now[2] which are to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.  This passage gives the famous three tenses of salvation – we have been saved, by the cross, we are working out our salvation, by our obedience, and we shall be saved when Jesus returns, when he applies his cross work to us as we stand before God and we are saved from his fury.

Notice secondly the purpose of this salvation in v14. Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  God’s plan works two ways:  it redeems us from something, and it purifies us for something. Paul uses very careful language at this point, because it links up with a major theme in this section.  He does not say that the cross redeems us from sin, or wrath, or judgement, or death (all of which are true, and which Paul says elsewhere).  He says the cross redeems us from lawlessness, which is a life of non-obedience to God, and that the cross was to purify us for good works, which is a life which does obey God.  That is the theme of this section: God’s saving grace has appeared, to produce good works.


Look at the life change outlined in vv11-12. God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation but with immediate effect.  What happens to that non-obedience, the lawlessness? Salvation  train(s) us to renounce ungodliness and worldliness, which is a life without God, focussed on this world, and salvation trains us to live self controlled, upright and godly lives, which  is a life that has right priorities with regard to myself, for I am self controlled, with regard to the sinful world, for I am upright, and with regard to God, for I am godly. Is this salvation by good works?  Not at all, because we are do all this in the present age while we are waiting for salvation (v13).  But salvation undoubtedly produces good works.

This is the main road through Titus[3].and Paul stresses it because of the nature of the false teaching in Crete. Later, in 3:4-7, Paul makes the point by forceful repetition: But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  The repetition of the mere word is surrounded by repetition of the concept, and it is because some perversion of the gospel of God’s good grace is alive in the churches.  The false teachers are disobedient, unfit for any good work (1:16).  By contrast, the doctrine of God our Saviour is not that God’s grace saves us, full stop, but rather that God’s grace saves us, not works, so that we can do good works.

It is very striking that Paul does not say to Titus, ‘There is lots of false teaching around, so make sure you teach sound doctrine, declare, exhort and rebuke on that’  He almost says that, and if we are not careful we can think he does, but what he actually says in  2:1 is not ‘teach sound doctrine’, but teach what accords with sound doctrine. What is it that accords with sound doctrine?  The changed lives of vv 2 -9.  Titus was not just to teach truth, but to teach how it applies, quite specifically.  That is the healthy antidote to error.  Paul resumes the concern in v15, and uses same Greek word[4] to say declare these things, that is, the patterns of new life that accord with sound doctrine, exhort people to live like this, and rebuke those who have teaching that says you don’t need to change your life.

So what is Titus to teach?  Paul outlines matters for five groups of people: older men, older women, younger women, younger men (including Titus himself), and a special note for those of both sexes and any age who are slaves.  We need to note a couple of things about each one, and then one issue that hold it all together.

The older men are to be exemplary Christians, showing the kind of lives that Paul tells Timothy should mark out Christian leaders;  but these are definitely not ‘elders’,  and he uses a different word here. But notice that Paul doesn’t quite say what normally does.  The matter is not faith, hope and love, but faith hope and steadfastness.  Perhaps we might wonder if those senior Christians who have been involved for a long period on the battle with false teaching are beginning to be worn down.  The older women are to be reverent, which is a word normally found referring to people and articles found in a temple.  They are to behave like priestesses, like women who love being in God’s presence.  They’re not to gossip or get drunk, and it is striking again that the issue of alcohol comes up frequently in New Testament as a problem in the churches.  The Mediterranean was a place for binge dinking then as now, and perhaps it is another reminder that we should be more forthright in addressing alcohol related issues in the churches.  Older women to teach younger women, and here they must be careful. In all likelihood they were married to non-Christians, so relationships at home were critical, and Paul wants them to remember that the purpose  of their attitudes is that word of God is not condemned (v5).  Some themes are beginning to emerge in this list.  In v8, there must be sound speech that cannot be condemned; in v10, their lives must adorn the doctrine of God and Saviour.  The argument is still that the gospel (word, speech, doctrine) leads to a changed life, but the focus at this point is on the watching non-Christian world.  Younger men to be self controlled.  Is that a particular problem with younger men? No, because the older men (v2) and younger women (v5) need to remember this too.  But the focus here is on Titus, who is himself a younger man, a model of those good works which flow out from the gospel.  He is to behave as a teacher with integrity, dignity and sound speech, in sharp contrast to the fable teachers, so that opponents will be silenced.  Those of us who are pastors or elders should take this to heart:  our public image is already low, and the watching non-Christian world already thinks we are hypocrites over sex and money, trivial and shallow.  Shame on us if we give credence to those prejudices.  Slaves,  again, are to demonstrate a lifestyle that commends the gospel

Titus 2 is critical for us as we begin to think about the reason we meet as a church, and how various elements fit together.   It is not unusual to find pastors who think doctrine matters, and this passage deals with the Cross (soteriology); the Lord Jesus as God (Christology); his appearing in the end times (eschatology) and the nature of Christian ministry (ecclesiology).  But Paul teaches us, or rather encourages us, exhorts us, and rebukes us, if we think that all we need to do is teach doctrine.  Some love to say, ‘I am a bible teacher’, but Paul would argue that that is not true if all we do is to teach unapplied doctrine.

Remember  v1.  Titus is not just to teach doctrine, but to teach what accords with sound doctrine, the good works that flow out of gospel.  If you put this book aside at the end of this section believing that Jesus is your Saviour because he died on cross for you (that is, I have taught you doctrine) but you have not felt rebuked because you frequently get drunk after work on Fridays, I have not taught you Titus 2.   Some might object that I have at least taught the doctrine o fvv 11-14, but in reality I have failed.  Verses 11-14 tell me to make plain to you how to change your life, and v1 tells me that if I don’t do that I haven’t taught you properly, and haven’t taught you Titus 2 properly.

So churches should ensure that we help people in our study groups to apply what they have learned, and not rest satisfied if they have understood a new concept.  Of course understanding a new concept is critical, but unless we have taught them how to see how issues in new life, then they have not understood it and we have not taught it.  We should ensure that our evangelism course show how salvation is not just from an old life, but for a new life;  not by good works but for good works, and unless we teach and expect that, then we have not taught grace or salvation.

[1] hugiainein

[2] In the present age (v12).

[3] See 1:1; 3:1,8,14.

[4] Lalein

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