III. Virtues and Ethics for God’s People (Titus 2:1-15)
III. Virtues and Ethics for God’s People (2:1-15)
Paul transitions to discuss what God’s people should look like. Good character leads to good conduct. For Paul, this is how kingdom disciple-making is done and is the primary task of the church. We need a transformed and transferred faith, and this occurs as we all shape and sanctify each other in the church under healthy teaching from God’s Word (i.e., sound doctrine). It is as if we pass the faith baton on to each other in an Olympic relay.
2:1-2 In 2:2-8, Paul gives Titus some clear examples regarding how various people should live as Christ-followers: he covers older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. Older men, for instance, should be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. Such senior kingdom men serve as authentic models and spiritual mentors for young Christian men who are confronted by a very different kind of “manhood” on exhibit in the surrounding culture.
2:3-5 In a similar way, older women among God’s people should model Christian virtues to the younger women in the congregation. Where can a young Christian wife find holy women to disciple her to live faithfully and build up her family? According to Paul, she ought to find such kingdom women in the church. By aligning their lives with God’s principles for a kingdom wife (2:4-5; see also Eph 5:22-24, 33), young women will not only experience God’s blessing but also prevent God’s word from being slandered (2:5). When wives and mothers abandon the priority of the home, they bring shame and dishonor to the authority, truthfulness, and power of God’s Word. They also call into question the seriousness of their spiritual commitment.
2:6-8 There are many qualities Paul could have encouraged in young men. But he sums up godliness for this group by telling Titus to exhort them to be self-controlled in everything. If young men today need any advice, surely that is it. In a culture that encourages men to indulge their every desire, self-control is a radical message. Paul urges Titus to be an example of good works (actions that glorify God and benefit others) and to engage in sound teaching so that young men have a worthy example to follow and so those who oppose the faith won’t have anything bad to say about God’s people (2:7-8). Gender-based discipleship should be a major part of every local church’s ministry.
2:9-10 Paul also tells slaves to obey their masters (2:9). Scripture condemns most of what we know of slavery (especially American antebellum slavery). For example, human beings are not to be kidnapped and sold (Exod 21:16); slaves are not to be abused (Exod 21:26-27); and fugitive slaves are not to be returned to their masters (Deut 23:15-16). But given the unrighteous institution of slavery as it existed in the Roman Empire, Paul tells Christian slaves how to live with a heavenly perspective.
How does this teaching affect us today? Paul’s principles for slaves ought to be applied by believers in their workplaces. When employers think of their Christians employees, they ought to consider them to be well-pleasing, not given to talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness. Does that describe your approach to your daily nine-to-five?
We often segregate ourselves and mix only with people who are like us in age, interests, or even socio-economic level. But such divisions are out of place in the New Testament church. Paul wants Titus to have all of God’s people mixing and mingling: the older with the younger, the free with the slaves. Otherwise, how can we learn from each other about loving and serving Christ and others better?
2:11-14 In light of what Paul wrote in 2:1-10, all people are within the hopeful reach of God’s salvation (2:11). No one is beyond God’s rescue, no matter who he or she is or what’s been done. In fact, the “worst” people in society are exactly those whom God seeks for his rescue project. The grace of God has appeared (2:11)—that is, it has emerged out of the shadows of the law (see John 1:15-17). Grace is not just a doctrine; it’s a person. And grace has a name: Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior, who says to all, “Come to me” (2:13). Grace grows us in godliness and increases our victory over sin.
Jesus gave himself on the cross to redeem us from all lawlessness (2:14). In other words, through his death, Jesus paid the price to free us from slavery to sin. So, how should redeemed people live? Though they wait for the return of Jesus (2:13), they wait actively and not passively. God’s grace teaches and empowers us to deny godlessness and embrace the godly way (2:12). Only by adopting a godly perspective and being eager to do good works (2:14) can believers see the power of heaven at work in their earthly lives. Good works are the divinely approved acts that benefit people and bring glory to God.
God’s grace is personified in the person and work of Jesus Christ and is the basis and foundation for both justification and sanctification, since it enables the good works we are commanded to do.
2:15 Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Paul gave Titus some serious marching orders. The work of ministry is not for the faint of heart. It is to be exercised with loving but firm kingdom authority.