Titus 2:1-10 – Teach Sound Doctrine

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Titus 2:1

  1. In contrast to the deceivers who both teach wrongly and live wrongly, Paul now wants Titus to preach sound doctrine and live the sound life instead.
    1. The fact that sound doctrine is also followed by instructions on how to live means that the Christian faith is not just an opinion to be believed but a whole life to be lived. As we strive to understand the Christian faith and increase our knowledge, we also need to strive to live the life that the Bible shows us.
  2. The word “sound” appears in the New Testament only in the similar letters to Timothy and Titus. The word roughly means to be “in good health”, “well” and to be “unspoiled”.
    1. Paul wants Titus’ teaching to be sound and unadulterated, leading to people’s well-being and good health.
  3. The fact that there is a “sound doctrine” means that a preacher cannot make up his own statements, teachings or messages and then claim that they are the word of God. A preacher must adhere to the message and doctrine found in the Bible, as summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, among other places. Paul warns against preaching a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:8).

Titus 2:2

  1. It is important to remember that Paul is writing his instructions to a local situation with specific problems. One cannot unquestioningly and thoughtlessly embrace all the instructions Paul gives, one must understand the underlying principles and embrace them, otherwise the theology can become very strange. Very many of Paul’s instructions in his letters are based on his response to a concrete problem that existed in the place in question. When we read Paul’s letters, it is helpful to try to figure out what the problem was in the particular locality to which Paul is writing. For example, if Paul writes that “the church leader should not be violent,” then this is likely because there were indeed church members in Crete who were prone to violence. If Paul writes that “Jewish myths” are not to be dealt with, it is probably because there were church members who did just that.
    1. It is also important to understand the underlying principles. For example, Paul writes that one should not abuse wine, and if one reads this carelessly, then one can get the idea that it is fine to abuse beer, since Paul only mentions wine. But if one understands the underlying principles, then one understands that Paul is addressing “the abuse of alcohol in all its forms” and the reason why Paul mentions wine is because there was a specific problem with the local abuse of wine in Crete at that time. If one understands the local situation with the specific problems, then it is easier to transfer the underlying principles into today’s time and thus respond to today’s problems.
    2. Another example of how foolish it can be to read Paul’s instructions carelessly, is that one can get the impression that Paul thought it was okay to have slavery, because he instructs the Christian slaves that they are to submit to their masters in everything. More on this in the explanation of verse 9.
  2. “Older men” in this context in Mediterranean culture are men from the age of 60.
  3. Older men should not withdraw from the work of the church and let the younger ones take over, but they should set an example of how to live and demonstrate a healthy faith.
  4. Older men should behave in a “healthy”, “dignified” and “restrained” manner and should thus act as a guarantor that unhealthy misconceptions do not creep into the congregation. Elders, after a long life with the Lord, know what is healthy and what is not. When some new “spiritual fly” comes along, the older men should be restrained and not rashly jump at it if it is unhealthy.
  5. Older men should be healthy “in love”, i.e. they should show other members of the congregation the care they need. Sometimes love requires that we also rebuke or guide someone right who may have gone wrong.
  6. Older men should be sound “in patience”, i.e. the elderly should show the other members of the congregation that “faith endures”. Those who are younger need to see in their elders that there is something good to strive for. The older men should also be persistent in prayer, because they know from experience that God answers prayer, even if it sometimes takes a long time.

Titus 2:3

  1. Celsus, a famous critic of Christianity in the 100s, argued that the Christian faith “only appealed to gullible women, slaves, children and the stupid” (Origen: Contra Celsus, Book 3, Chapter 44).
    1. The message that Paul preached rightly appealed to those whom society considered less worthy, namely women, children and slaves.
  2. Unfortunately, alcohol and gossip often go hand in hand. It seems that the church in Crete had some problems with women drinking wine and gossiping. This is by no means a problem that only women can have, men also tend to get together, drink beer and gossip, but Paul is specifically addressing this appeal to the older women because there was probably a problem in Crete that the older women were drinking too much wine and gossiping. Anyone who wants to live the Christian life should avoid abusing alcohol and talking badly about other people.
  3. Instead of getting together and “talking bad” about other people, the older women should instead be “teachers of what is good” and in other words get together to “talk good”. Older women have a responsibility to pass on the Gospel message to the younger generations.

Titus 2:4-5

  1. Paul did not instruct Titus to personally teach and instruct the young women, but instead Paul wanted the older women to teach the younger women. Perhaps Paul had Titus’ best interests in mind and did not want him to fall prey to any temptation.
  2. In the culture of Crete, most women were occupied with taking care of the home and children, so Paul instructs them to do this well. Although the Christian life offers great freedoms in comparison to the prevailing Roman culture, Paul does not urge either the women or the slaves to rebel and take advantage of their freedom in Christ, but rather wants them to remain submissive.
  3. Does this mean that all women in all times and in all cultures must submit to their husbands? In my personal judgment based on Bible words such as “Here is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) and 1 Cor 8:1-13, it is my understanding that all Christians are equal, but that in certain situations and contexts one should not use one’s Christian freedom but instead submit to one another in order not to lead other people down the path.
    1. For example, Christians may eat meat sacrificed to idols, because all food is pure, but if someone with a weak conscience has a problem with us eating meat sacrificed to idols, then we should refrain for their sake and thus not take advantage of the Christian freedom we have (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
    2. The purpose of submission in this case is so that “the word of God will not be blasphemed”. Long before anyone encounters the Christian message, they have probably already seen how Christians live, and it is therefore very important that there is nothing in the Christian’s life to complain about, because then they will not listen to the Christian message either. If those who did not belong to the congregation saw that as soon as a woman became a Christian, they took advantage of their newfound Christian freedom to stop submitting and instead rebel against their husbands, then there would probably be great calabash on the island and the husbands would force their wives not to become Christians.

Titus 2:6

  1. Paul gives the same instructions to the younger men that he gave to the younger women. The only difference is that Paul did not want Titus himself to teach the younger women, but to leave this to the older women.
  2. The only further instruction Paul gives specifically to the younger men is that they “in everything exercise good judgment”. The younger men are not to be rash and impulsive, flying here and there between projects, but should be thoughtful, restrained and show good judgment.

Titus 2:7-8

  • Again, Paul shows that sound doctrine and sound living go together. You can’t just preach correctly and then live a profligate life. If a Christian leader lives an unhealthy life, it will firstly lead to the members of the congregation not trusting the leader and therefore finding it difficult to grow in their faith, and secondly to people outside the congregation not wanting to become Christians because they see that it leads to hypocrisy because the leader preaches one way but lives in a completely different way.

Titus 2:9-10

  1. In the Roman Empire of the time, slavery was a brutal reality.
    1. The population of the Roman Empire consisted of up to one third slaves.
    2. Most became slaves because they had committed a crime or been taken as prisoners of war in one of Rome’s successful wars.
    3. A Roman slave owner had the right to whip, kill or sell his slave.
    4. Some slaves suffered in miserable conditions without even having their own name, while others were able to have a reasonably good life.
    5. Most slaves were ordinary labourers, working in agriculture, while some lucky slaves were trained as physicists, architects, cooks, shop workers, hairdressers, artists, prophets, teachers, poets, philosophers, etc. As a result, some slaves were able to earn quite a bit of money from their work and were able to obtain administrative positions. Some slaves even gained power over other slaves and, to some extent, over free ones.
  2. Neither the Old nor the New Testament opposes slavery as an institution, but there are clear restrictions on how slaves may be treated (Exodus 21:1-32).
    1. According to Leviticus 25:39-43, an Israelite may not own another Israelite as a slave for more than 6 years because all the children of Israel are “slaves of God“.
    2. Paul uses a similar reasoning when he writes in his letter to Rome that all Christians are slaves of God (Rom 6:22) and further in his letter to the Galatians: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. If you have been baptized into Christ, you have also put on Christ. Now no one is Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26-28).
      1. In the letter to Philemon, Paul shows how this was done in practice.
    3. So, according to Paul, a Christian cannot really own another Christian as a slave because all Christians are slaves of God. However, if a Christian does own slaves, he does not have to release his slaves automatically, because it is better for everyone to remain in the situation they are in (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).
  3. In Colossians 3:22-4:1, Paul gives exhortations to slaves and to slave owners: slaves must obey their masters in everything with a sincere heart, because it is really the Lord they serve.  Slave owners are to treat their slaves “justly and reasonably,” arguing that “you know that you also have a master in heaven.
    1. So Paul does not explicitly oppose slavery as such, but in the letter to Philemon he emphasizes that slave and master are “beloved brothers” in Christ, thus making it virtually impossible for a Christian slave owner to own other Christians.
      1. In an empire built on slavery, this message is radical and totally transformative! It is difficult to underestimate the enormous impact of the Gospel message on all the slaves of the Roman Empire. For these oppressed people, the message of Jesus was indeed good news!
  4. Paul taught in Galatians, among other places, that “Here is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. You are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) A fundamental aspect of the Christian faith is that all the walls that exist between different social groups and genders are torn down when one becomes a Christian. In the church there is equality because we are all brothers and sisters. However, Paul urges everyone to remain in “the position” they were in when they became a Christian because “the time is short” (1 Cor 7:17-24). The first Christians lived in the belief that Jesus would soon return and the important thing was not to revolutionise society but to spread the gospel message so that as many as possible could be saved. Paul did not directly address social injustice, but social injustice was indirectly addressed as more and more people became Christians and began to behave lovingly towards each other.
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