Text: Titus 2
When Shawn Tayler married Theresa Warr, the wedding took place in a stately home, and no doubt the whole thing was a splendid and memorable occasion: guests, music, rings, wedding cake, speeches. But what is it that Shawn had most set his heart on? To be able to walk down the aisle. What most bridegrooms would take for granted was for him a much-prized goal. Why? Because just a few weeks earlier an horrific motor cycle accident left him with a back broken in three places.
It is a characteristic of human nature that it often takes a crisis to make us appreciate the true value of ordinary things. Titus ch. 2 is full of ordinary things: sound doctrine, temperance, respect, reverence, purity, busyness, kindness, integrity, seriousness, and the ability to say “No”. There is little here to give you palpitations or loss of sleep due to over-excitement. But let’s not wait for a crisis before we just how much our heavenly Father values, and we should value, godly living in our everyday lives. Let’s take a closer look.
Paul talks first about the older men, v2 – They should be moderate in their use of pleasures, honourable, self-controlled, trusting of God and loving towards others, and waiting patiently for the fulfilment of their Christian hope. If you are an older man, how far does this describe you?
Next, the older women, v3f – Paul wants them to ‘practice the presence of God’, to curb their Cretan tendency to indulge in idle gossip and too much drinking, but rather to use their time positively, teaching the younger women. If you are an older woman, what opportunities do you have for discipling younger women? Intergenerational caring and sharing is a beautiful thing.
Then Paul speaks about the younger women themselves, v4f. They are to love their husbands and children, they are to be self-controlled and pure, they are to work hard at home-making, and they are to put their own husbands first. None of this can be taken for granted, especially in our modern age when families break down with alarming frequency and home-making and the care of children often takes second place to careers. Now, I don’t think that this passage teaches a stay-at-home stereotype for all women, or that it prohibits wives being also professional women. However, if you are a younger woman, have accepted the vocation of marriage, and have a husband and children, the question is this: have you made up your mind to make them your number one priority?
Turning now to the younger men, v6, Paul sums up his ambition for them in one word: self-control. Did you notice how frequently self-control is mentioned in this passage? Paul recognises that self-control is a challenge for many of us, and yet it’s one of the great keys to living effectively for God.
Many of us are deeply grateful to God for the ministry of John Stott, now in his mid-eighties. We appreciate the faithfulness, wisdom, and clarity of his preaching and writing. But what about the man himself? One of his study assistants wrote, “People ask me, ‘What is John Stott’s secret?’…The three things I always mention are a prayerful spirit, absolute humility, and rigorous self-discipline.”
However, it’s possible that we-in pursuit of self-control-focus our eyes on larger-than-life goals. I like the wise words of Joni Eareckson Tada: ‘We take on three jobs at church. We memorize not only verses, but chapters. We sell the TV or get up at 4:00 every morning for devotions. . . . But it may be that we’ve overlooked more immediate and obvious things. We’ve passed over things like a clean room, or being on time, or curbing our tongue.’
Paul now speaks directly to Titus, v7f. As a young man himself, Titus must set an example to the other young men; and in his teaching he must have integrity, dignity, and soundness of speech. The wife of a Christian minister who had recently died addressed a convention of 150 Christian men, mainly preachers. She told them, “I always said I’d rather hear my husband preach than any man I knew, because I knew that at home he lived what he preached, and I wasn’t sure about some of you guys.” You can imagine that 150 men sat there thinking, Boy, I wish my wife felt that way about me. If you have any kind of teaching ministry in the church, do you practice what you preach; do you model the message? Don’t be a saint in the Bible study group, but a devil to live with.
Finally, Paul talks about slaves, v9f. Slavery was, of course, endemic in the ancient world, and Paul here takes its existence for granted. He sees the possibility for slaves to commend the gospel by their honesty and trustworthiness, a possibility which is of course equally applicable to us today. There are thousands who would never rob a bank or mug an old lady, who would nevertheless steal from their employers by extended breaks, shoddy work, fiddling expenses, or by sheer wastefulness of expensive resources. If you are in any kind of employment, paid or unpaid, are you known as an honest, trustworthy, and conscientious worker?
If this practical teaching all seems rather ordinary, unattractive even, the passage itself offers two great reasons why we should want to commit ourselves to godly living.
First, the success of the gospel requires us to live godly lives. We seek to behave Christianly, v5 ‘so that no one will malign the word of God,’ v8 ‘so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us,’ v10; ‘so that in every way we will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’.
Australian cricketers are known for their forthright approach to the game. Things may have gone too far when one of their star batters, Matthew Heydon, was accused of swearing at a child as he ran onto the pitch to open the innings at a recent match. While the Aussie opener insists that he did not swear at the child, it is claimed that no fewer than three witnesses head Heydon tell the young boy to ****.’ But the thing that caught my eye was the way it was reported in the newspapers: “Matthew Heydon, a practicing Christian…”.
The world is watching us, and the reputation of Jesus and his gospel are at stake. Each of us is a living advertisement of what Christianity is. If you are known as a Christian at home, at work, in the classroom, amongst your friends, on the sportsfield, then it’s as though you are wearing a sandwich-board which says, ‘this is what it means to be a Christian.’ You may be the only Christian some of your friends and colleagues know. Does your behaviour adorn the gospel, or bring it into disrepute?
Secondly, the doctrine of God’s grace requires us to live godly lives. The God of truth and righteousness has established an unbreakable bond between right doctrine (orthodoxy) and right behaviour (orthopraxy). In the Bible, every doctrine has its practical ‘therefore’, and every practical instruction has its doctrinal ‘because’. In the very first verse of this letter to Titus, Paul refers to ‘the truth that leads to godliness.’ By way of contrast, in ch 1:11 Paul speaks of those who are ‘ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach’.
Accordingly, at the beginning of Ch 2 Paul turns to Titus and says, ‘As for you, you must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.’ And, in vv11ff, he tells us what some of that sound doctrine is (a) “Our great God and Saviour” – this is the doctrine of Christ’s deity; (b) “the grace of God…has appeared” – this is the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation; (c) “who gave himself for us to redeem us” – this is the doctrine of Christ’s saving work; (d) “the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” – this is the doctrine of Christ’s glorious return. And why has God done all this? What, according to this passage, is the purpose of all this exalted doctrine? It is to inform us of God’s intention ‘…to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that his very own, eager to do what is good.’
Let us no think it an ordinary thing to seek to behave in ways that are pleasing to our heavenly Father. If we have any appreciation of the grace so richly given us in Jesus Christ, if we have any compassion for a needy world, then for his sake and the gospel’s let us count it a joy and a privilege to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly pleasures, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.