About ten years ago the White Horse Inn interviewed pastors at a conference. The pastors were asked to explain a few basic Christian doctrines: What is the gospel? What is justification? What is sanctification? Their answers were consistently depressing.
The typical rebuttal goes something like this: People are tired of hearing divisive doctrine. What they really need is something relevant and instructive about loving others. Rick Warren said it like this:
The first Reformation was about doctrine; the second one needs to be about behavior. We need a reformation not of creeds but deeds.
The Apostle Paul rolled over in his grave when he heard that!
On the island of Crete, false teachers had upset whole families (1:11) bringing chaos into the home. They professed to know God but denied him by their works (1:16). This introduced confusion about how Christians were to live.
So Paul exhorted Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (2:1). The threat of false teachers can only be squelched by the increase in sound teachers.
The curious thing about this is that we don’t have to discard deeds in order to uphold creeds. As Paul explains in this chapter: When sound teaching increases so does sound living.
The Word of God, soundly taught, teaches us to live godly lives. God’s Word powerfully changes the character of those who understand it rightly (Heb. 4:12).
Read Titus 2:1-10
We are by nature born with the inclination to do the opposite of what these traits require. Let’s play a bit of “would you rather” this morning to consider how these characteristics relate to you.
The more we understand of sound teaching the more we will practice sound living.
Characteristics of Christians Who Are Older (1-3)
Verse 1 is the ground for the ethical instruction. It is reinforced in vv.5, 8, 10, and 11-15. Therefore, none of this is culturally limited. It doesn’t reflect cultural norms so much as biblical norms “written on the conscience” of all.
Paul assumes Titus is teaching the Word of God which will result in transformed lives. He doesn’t instruct Titus to teach how each of these groups can become the people he describes. But this is the result he expects when people sit under sound preaching.
The older men are worthy of honor. The older women teach the younger women by example, training them to be godly wives and mothers. Younger men are to mature following the example of Titus. And, finally, servants will also be changed. No one despises their role trying to usurp authority they do not have.
Older Men: Would you rather live closed off from others, avoiding accountability, and unhealthy in your spiritual life or live a life that is sober, honorable, self-controlled, and sound in faith, love, and steadfastness?
The tendency is to grow more stubborn in the way you think and act. There is a selfish desire to do things when and how you want to do them without any consideration for others. The problem might not be how you are living, but who you are modeling it for.
Older Women: Would you rather gossip with peers over a bottle of wine rather than mentor younger women?
I’m not asking what you know you are supposed to want to do, but what you tend to desire. Older women, much like the older men, can either set the trend of godly character, or they can fade into the background doing little more than wagging their fingers.
The culture has been attacking biblical values since Word of God was written. One of the primary means God uses to train up the church is through the willingness of older generations to lead the younger generations.
Sound doctrine promotes sound character. This implies that those who lead possess both.
Training involves instruction and example. This implies consistency and patient application of the teaching to our hearts. Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
Are there opportunities to put this into practice at this church? Can you find people older/younger than you who will partner with you for this purpose? That is exactly how Jesus spent his three years of ministry. He trained up a few men. If you were born before the 70s, these are the responsibilities you’ve been given.
From older men and women, Paul transitions to…
Characteristics of Christians Who Are Younger (4-8)
Younger Women: Would you rather forsake your role as a wife and mother in pursuit of a career? The feminist movement has taken a radical stance against “sexist” instructions like these. Staying at home is viewed as weak.
When we trust the state with the task of taking care of our children eight hours a day, we’ve given up far more than we can ever hope to recover at the dinner table. Keep in mind, this goes beyond the instruction they receive, and includes the example that is set for them by their teachers and peers.
Younger Men: Would you rather live recklessly without boundaries than learn self-control? You are the spiritual leaders of your home.
Focusing on the younger men brought Titus himself to Paul’s mind. Titus was to be an example for the young men to follow.
Leaders/Teachers: Would you rather keep your teaching separate from your life so you don’t have to model integrity and good works? You are to model good works for others, but the bulk of the instruction is regarding your teaching.
How do you address the weighty matters of the Word? Is there an acknowledgment of how serious and important this information is? Do you devote the necessary time and effort into preparing to teach?
Baxter Whatever you do, let the people see that you are in good earnest… You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them.
MLJ I confess freely, I cannot understand a jocular evangelist… Go back and read the lives of the men whom God has used in the mightiest manner, and you will invariably find that they were serious men, sober men, men with the fear of the Lord in them.
John Piper, Paul Washer, R.C. Sproul.
I like to keep my life and doctrine separate from each other. I can study all day and night. I can take a difficult doctrine and spend 20hrs developing a way to explain it to others. That is not such a bad thing in and of itself. But the problem arises when it’s time to put that doctrine into practice.
I can teach about the love of God while harboring hatred/indifference for my neighbor. This passage challenges my natural routine and calls me to live a life of service to others. Again, that’s easy to say, but will I follow through and practice it? Will I speak with confidence now and forget what I said by tomorrow?
What about you? How will you ensure the conviction you feel now will lead to true repentance?
Understanding sound teaching involves standing under its teaching in obedience.
The last group Paul instructs is…
Characteristics of Christian Slaves (9-10)
Slavery is never affirmed in Scripture. In fact, since the gospel instructs everyone, there are significant implications for Christian masters and slaves that had to be considered. Here Paul only addresses the slaves, but in other places he addresses the masters as well. All parties were to honor God in how they treated one another.
Although the institution of slavery is no longer applicable, much of the instruction here is just as relevant for the relationship between employer/employee.
Slaves/Employees: Would you rather fume in anger towards your boss with an argumentative attitude than consider how your work ethic might adorn the doctrine of God?
It can be a lot easier to think of our work life as separate from our Christianity. But the reformed faith has always promoted a robust theology of vocation. Your work is your calling. Worship through your work.
What characteristics in this passage are lacking in you? How might the Holy Spirit be at work in your heart? What mindset and affections does God want to change in your life? If you aren’t sure how to answer that question, ask your spouse to answer it for you (or children/parents).
We know it’s true that the more you understand of sound teaching the more you will practice sound living. God doesn’t change your mind without changing your will.
That’s just as true of our sanctification as it is for our justification. Your understanding is always and only partial in this life. But you will never be capable of changing something that you have not been convinced is important by sound doctrine.
Therefore, we can only assume that a lack in transformation of character constitutes a lack of faith in the Transformer.
On the other hand, when you come to Christ and cling to him, letting go of your idolatry of reputation, he molds you into the person he desires you to be. That means…
- Older men begin to exemplify sound faith, love, and steadfastness.
- Older women seek opportunities to train up the next generation rather than point out their failures and wag their fingers.
- Younger women begin to love their husbands and children more than their careers.
- Younger men learn to be self-controlled rather than being driven by their passions.
- Teachers no longer teach in a way that is shallow and disconnected from their lifestyle.
- Employees seek to adorn the doctrine of God with a submissive and well-pleasing demeanor.
Jesus Christ teaches you by his word and Spirit, reconciles you to himself by his substitutionary sacrifice, and governs you by his Church.
Paul has given instruction to Titus regarding…
- Characteristics of Christians Who Are Older (1-3)
- Characteristics of Christians Who Are Younger (4-8)
- Characteristics of Christian Slaves (9-10)
Ask yourself these questions: Am I growing in godliness? Has my character matured?
We need to keep 2:11-14 in mind. The rest of the chapter provides the theological basis for the ethical instruction we’ve just read.
We are liable to read this passage from a moralistic perspective if we read it in isolation. We look at our moral failure and think we’re going to really try hard this time to apply the passage to our lives so we will change.
But when we realize it is the grace of God that brought salvation which trains us, we look outside of ourselves to Christ and let him complete what he has begun. Jesus doesn’t let us remain as we are. He enters into our hearts and changes our desires. Just know that he works at different speeds and depths in all of us.
The more we understand of sound teaching the more we will practice sound living.
If we’re ever going to see a reformation of deeds, it must begin with a recovery of our creeds.