A Pattern for Sound Teaching
In the first chapter of Titus' letter, Paul describes the important tasks that this young preacher must attend to so that he can set in order what had not been done while Paul was there working with him. The Apostle encouraged Titus to establish leaders (elders/bishops/pastors) in churches located in each city on the island of Crete. Titus was also instructed to silence and refute the teachings of various false teachers troubling the church where he served.
Paul shows Titus that the proper and effective response to false teaching is the presentation of sound teaching and in the following section the Apostle gives him an example or pattern of sound teaching that Titus can confidently follow.
Example of Sound Doctrine — 2:1-10
Paul begins by giving Titus an example of sound and very practical teaching that addresses the proper attitude to cultivate in order to have peace and respect among all the members in the church.
1But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
6Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
9Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
- Titus 2:1-10
In this very compact section Paul addresses every demographic in the church of that era:
- Older men - should be dignified and dependable in the knowledge of the Word, attitude (loving) and not easily moved (flighty).
- Older women - should be respectful of God and their husbands, careful with their speech and conduct, and wise in their advice.
- Married women - should be godly, devoted to husbands, home and family. They should also be examples of purity, humility and industry at home (not lazy).
- Young men - whether married or single should be sensible (serious minded - not impulsive or ruled by their emotions).
- Titus himself (ministers) - should provide an example of spiritual maturity with good deeds and good teaching delivered in a humble and dignified manner. He should not give opponents (unbelievers, enemies, doubters) any opportunity to condemn his teaching or attitude. Titus' manner of living should, in actuality, cause his enemies embarrassment for having attacked him in the first place.
- Slaves - slaves who were believers had a responsibility to render a good witness of their sincere faith since they were not in a position to engage their masters in a conversation with the purpose of teaching or trying to convert them. Much like a woman married to a non-believer, their witness was to be made through actions rather than words (I Peter 3:1). This would include service done in sincerity with a positive attitude. Also, they should strive to be trustworthy and reliable so that their service would confirm and highlight their faith, not detract from it.
This type of teaching did not deal with theological issues, religious mysteries or debatable topics. It was simple, even mundane, because it spoke to normal people about their conduct as Christians in every day life. However, Paul uses this type of instruction as an example of what he calls "sound" teaching. This sound or "healthy" training makes for sound or healthy members of the church.
A Pattern for Sound Doctrine — 2:11-15
Paul gives Titus an example of healthy teaching that addresses the practical needs of every church that Titus served. The Apostle then moves on from an example of sound teaching to the pattern or basic blueprint upon which all teaching needs to be based or measured against. In verses 11-15 he will summarize the essence of the gospel so that Titus can be reminded of the core ideas that will provide guidance for whatever he teaches in the future.
I am a supporter of 'pattern theology' (the idea that God's word provides various patterns or blueprints that we can use to do Bible things in Bible ways, or use to arrive at reliable conclusions drawn from the direct teachings, examples or inferences contained in various parts of God's word - O.T./N.T.).
In these verses Paul provides Titus with the pattern for the basic doctrine that sound elders and preachers are to teach which will produce strong Christians and growing churches. For example, the New Testament pattern for Christian theology is contained in the teaching concerning God's grace. Here, Paul describes five features regarding grace that serve as the framework for all other teachings concerning our salvation as well as our life in Christ. Five important concepts about God's grace that need to be taught so that the church will be sound in the basic doctrine it espouses and teaches.
1. The appearance of God's grace
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
- Titus 2:11
The preaching of the good news, as it was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets and fully proclaimed by Christ and His Apostles. Before, men were in darkness, slaves to ignorance and tossed about by every myth and philosophy imagined. Now, however, the truth about life, sin, death, salvation, man, creation and the God who rules over it all has been revealed and been made plain for all to see.
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.
- Romans 16:25
Now we not only know who God is but we also know how He is; not a vindictive, petulant warrior or aloof creator but a loving, merciful God who is gracious and kind to sinners. Therefore, the appearance of grace removes me from the realm of ignorance once and for all. I don't have to figure everything out by sheer intellectual might, God has revealed the basic mystery of life to me through the gospel. The light that I have must be the light of grace (which reveals all of these things and more to me) or I am still in the darkness.
2. The instruction of God's Grace
instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
- Titus 2:12
Grace not only reveals who and how God is, it also instructs me concerning who and how I need to live as a Christian. The Gnostics followed the path of total denial or the one of total indulgence in order to live in the way that would set them free from the evil of the material world. Grace, however, teaches me how to live as a spiritual being in a material world. Yes, we have to deny some things like ungodliness (disbelief, paganism, etc.) and sinful desires (disobedience to God, a focus on self-gratification, etc.), but there are many things we legitimately have access to which are pleasurable. We can, for example, indulge in things that are wholesome, good and conducive to joy and thanksgiving which are provided by God expressly for our happiness and pleasure (e.g. marriage and family). The gospel, therefore, provides me with the instruction I need to alter my ways that will enable me to live the Christian life in a fulfilling and joyful manner. My teaching, therefore, needs to reflect what grace teaches because grace teaches me what God wants me to know and do for my ultimate happiness (eternal life with God in heaven - Philippians 3:14-15).
3. The expectation of grace
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
- Titus 2:13
Paul also writes:
We do not want you to be uninformed brethren about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
- I Thessalonians 4:13
The world of unbelievers has many ideas about death, many stories about seeing a white light or other experiences surrounding death and what may come after it, if anything at all. They make movies and speculate night and day about what happens after death - but they have no hope! The gospel as seen in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ brings us hope in the face of death. As a Christian, I fully expect to live after I die! There is no wavering on this point. I am a follower of Jesus because of this one hope: the promise of eternal life. Grace motivates me to look beyond this life, to make decisions based on an eternal perspective, to live joyfully in a world filled with death because I know that death is not the master over me. Jesus Christ is master over me and over my death. My hope is based on grace and nothing else; not my work, intelligence, not even my affiliation. This is what needs to be taught: that those who are under the grace of God in Christ have a true hope of heaven.
4. The purpose of God's grace
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
- Titus 2:14
Question: For what reason has the mystery of the gospel been revealed to us? For what reason have we been instructed in the ways of godly living? For what reason does God allow us a glimpse into the eternal future that is grace's hope? Why has grace been established as the fundamental tenet of my religion?
Answer: That God, through grace might save us from being destroyed forever in hell. That He might restore us as a holy people with whom He would have a relationship. That He might, through us, bless others with His kindness. These are some of the reasons why we focus our teaching on God's grace which has been revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and proclaimed through the gospel.
In the beginning (Genesis) it was love that created us through Jesus Christ that we might have a blessed relationship with God and one another (Colossians 1:16). Now, it is love working through God's grace that recreates us in Jesus Christ so that we can, once again, have a blessed relationship with God and also with one another (I Peter 1:3). My teaching, motivated by God's grace, needs to reflect hope, salvation and love; not issues, personalities and worldly systems for success.
5. The authority of God's grace
These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
- Titus 2:15
Paul tells Titus that the teaching about grace needs to include the authority of God's grace with man. This is the pattern for the relationship between man and God. We are commissioned to preach grace and shouldn't make excuses for this. In Titus' situation, he may have been younger in years that those who opposed him with their false ideas, and this may have been used against him to undermine his credibility. The sophisticated, the philosophers, the scoffers, the legalists - all seem to find higher platforms for their messages, but they are not authorized by God. The preaching of God's grace revealed to man is the great commission and will always be needed and supported by God. If this is your message, don't be afraid! Don't apologize! My teaching needs to reflect grace without fear of men's opinion. In the end it will not be man or his opinion that judges me, but the God of grace who will judge my life and teaching as a preacher!
In the balance of the book Paul describes how the grace of God manifests itself in peoples' lives because sound teaching produces sound Christians!
The Fruit of Sound Doctrine (based on grace) — 3:1-11
A. Sound Christians are model citizens
1Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
- Titus 3:1-2
B. Sound Christians are highly motivated to live righteously
3For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
- Titus 3:3-8
- By their past (not to repeat it).
- By their salvation (to draw strength from it).
- By their actions (gain positive reinforcement from them).
C. Sound Christians reject unsound teaching
9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning. 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.
- Titus 3:9-11
Sound teachers are not afraid to point out and reject those people and teachings that are contrary to grace. Many times we argue over procedure and personal issues, instead of the real issues that needs to be debated.
Personal Concerns and Final Greeting — 3:12-15
Paul finishes the letter with personal requests and instructions:
When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to winter there.
- Titus 3:12
The Apostle is moving his workers from place to place sending either Tychicus or Artemas to replace Titus in Crete so that they can meet up in the port city of Nicopolis. Paul was probably needing Titus' help for a work there for which we have no further details.
13Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. 14Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.
- Titus 3:13-14
We have no information on Zenas (a Greek name), a lawyer (Old Testament Law, not civil law) who had been converted and was now being sent along with Apollos (Acts 18:2, I Corinthians 16:12) who had been taught by Aquila and Priscilla. These were now Paul's assistants preparing to go on a mission of which we have no further information. Paul instructs Titus to equip them with all they might need (i.e. money, clothing, food, equipment, contacts, etc.) for both their journey and mission. These resources were gathered from church members, much like we do today when sending a campaign group or missionary out to a field of work. Paul notes that this mission furnishes an opportunity for the Christians in Crete to do a good work and produce spiritual fruit. His point is that they can take the initiative to do this and thus demonstrate their zeal in a concrete way. The exercise of giving will do them spiritual good as well as provide a profitable learning exercise.
All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
- Titus 3:15
Paul sends greetings to Titus on behalf of all those who are with him traveling through Macedonia on their way to Nicopolis. He also sends greetings to the brethren at Crete. His blessing is brief but all encompassing. Paul uses the term "grace" here as a compact word that contains all the blessings of the Christian's faith (forgiveness, peace, joy, eternal life with God, etc.). There can be no greater blessing to bestow on anyone no matter the time or place.
1. Sound leaders teaching sound doctrine produce sound (healthy) churches.
Churches that are dwindling, divided or discouraged are usually having problems with sound leaders or sound teaching. Sound teaching is the lifeblood of the church. Sound leadership should provide an example, a direction and motivation for the church. When either of these are lacking the result is easily seen in the assembly (poor attendance, lack of giving, low service, low enthusiasm, etc.).
2. Sound doctrine is measured by God's grace.
If your teaching content or style contradicts or does not conform to the gospel of grace, it will not produce genuine spiritual fruit. For example, "legalism" produces fruit but does so through pride, fear and guilt. Only teaching that stems from the concept of God's grace produces a desire in the believer's heart to be righteous and that desire is satisfied through faith in Christ. Grace not only creates a felt desire in the Christian to be righteous, it also enables the believer to actually become righteous by faith in Christ apart from any kind of works.
To God be the glory in Christ Jesus, the Lord and Savior of all. Amen!