As you know, it takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but it can be lost in a single foolish action. Once lost, it is a long, difficult process to recover it again.
Over the past couple of decades, the reputation of the Christian church in America has been tainted repeatedly by public scandals: Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and most recently, Ted Haggard, not to mention all of the scandals involving Roman Catholic priests. The American public does not distinguish between evangelicals and Catholics. They think that all Christians are hypocrites and this gives them an excuse to reject Jesus Christ.
Many unbelievers justify themselves by thinking, “I may have my faults, but at least I’m not a child molester. At least I’m not bilking the poor out of their money so that I can live in luxury. At least I don’t pretend to be religious like those hypocrites do!” And so the enemy damages the reputation of the gospel.
As we saw last week, we who know Christ are called the body and the bride of Christ. As His body, we are to beautify our lives with godliness, so as to attract others to our Savior. As His bride, we should be growing fewer wrinkles over time as we grow in godliness, not more wrinkles (Eph. 5:26-27). Titus 2:1-10 tells us that,
We who know God as Savior should beautify our lives
so as to attract people to our Savior.
Because of the tainted reputation of the church in America, we’ve got a major job on our hands! It won’t be a quick fix, but we must devote ourselves to the task of lifting up the reputation of our God and Savior by living such holy lives that “the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (2:8). We must live in such a manner before the watching world that we “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect” (2:10).
Last week, we saw that sound doctrine is the foundation for godly living (2:1, 7, 10). We also saw how older men, older women, and younger women are to beautify their lives so as to attract people to our Savior (2:2-5). In our text today, Paul shows how younger men, exemplified in Titus (2:6-8) and slaves (2:9-10) are to beautify their lives so as to attract people to our Savior.
In 2:6, Paul sums up the character qualities for young men in one word, “sensible.” Then (2:7-8), he turns the focus to Titus, who was probably a relatively young man, showing how he must be an example of godliness to others.
Grammatically, the phrase “in all things” could go either with the preceding or following, but stylistically, it probably goes with verse 6 (Gordon Fee, New International Biblical Commentary, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus [Hendrickson Publishers], p. 188). “Sensible” is a word that Paul has used repeatedly in this letter: elders (1:8); older men (2:2); older women (2:4, “encourage” = “make sensible”); and, younger women (2:5). He will use it again with reference to all believers (2:12). As we have seen, it means to be self-controlled, to have control over one’s passions, or to use sound judgment. It is a single word that captures the main quality that young men need if they are to be godly.
Marla and I read the book, Over the Edge, which chronicles all of the deaths that have occurred in the Grand Canyon. It’s really a fascinating book! The authors conclude that the most vulnerable group at the Grand Canyon is young men, who think that they’re invincible. To prove their bravado, they do foolish things, but the extreme conditions in the Canyon often take their toll. These young men are not sensible.
When I was younger, I used to wonder what David meant when he prayed (Ps. 25:7), “Do not remember the sins of my youth….” Now that I’m older, I understand. The sins of my youth were all of the foolish things that I said and did out of youthful pride. Thankfully, none of them resulted in my premature death, but that is only due to God’s grace! Maybe our youthful propensity to be insensible is why Peter wrote (1 Pet. 5:5), “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” So, through Paul the Holy Spirit urges young men to be sensible in all things.
Paul turns from the younger men directly to Titus, who was probably in his thirties. I began as a pastor at age 30, with very little experience and a lot of fear and trembling at the task of shepherding God’s flock. There is no age limit given in Scripture for elders, but the title itself suggests that they should have a few miles on their odometers. Charles Spurgeon began as a pastor at 17, two years after he was saved! Somehow he managed to set an example of godliness and sound doctrine even in his youth, but I would not recommend that any 17-year-old follow his example! Paul lists four areas where Titus is to be an example:
This stands in stark contrast to the false teachers that Paul exposed (1:16), who “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” We are not saved by our good deeds, but we are saved unto good deeds. Many Christians rightly memorize Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But they should also add verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Good deeds are deeds done in obedience to God’s Word, out of love for Him and others. They include everything from listening to someone who needs to talk, prayer, or other “spiritual” activities, to very practical things, such as preparing a meal for a family or visiting shut-ins. While church leaders must keep their focus on prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-4), they also must not neglect practical good deeds.
The Greek word for “pure” is used only here in the New Testament. It means “not corrupted.” (a related word means, “immortal, imperishable”). It focuses on Titus’ teaching, which was not to be corrupted with false doctrine that would “spoil” and thus not nourish his hearers. Pure doctrine and sound (healthy) doctrine are one and the same.
Purity in doctrine assumes that there is an objective, knowable standard for pure doctrine. The leaders of the emerging church movement promote the postmodern idea that we cannot know or be certain about propositional truth. They make statements like, “By their fruits, not by their theology, you shall know them” (cited by Scot McKnight, “Five Streams of the Emerging Church,” in Christianity Today [Feb., 2007], online at christianitytoday.com/ct/ 2007/february/ [Feb., 2007], online at christianitytoday.com/ct/ 2007/february/11.35.html). They say, “how a person lives is more important than what a person believes” (ibid.). They deny that sound or pure doctrine is the foundation for godly living (ibid.).
I would agree with these emerging church leaders that dead orthodoxy, which beats people over the head with correct theology, but fails to love them, is useless. But in their reaction against such ungodly behavior, they cut the nerve of biblical truth and authority. What good is truth if we can’t know it and identify it when we see it? How can we be obedient to the truth if we can’t know it? So we have to hold on to pure or sound doctrine.
This probably is connected with the need for purity in doctrine, emphasizing how pure doctrine is to be communicated. Titus is to teach God’s pure truth in such a manner as to command respect for the Word and submission to its authority. While there is a proper place for a limited use of humor in the pulpit, we should never make light of the Bible or use it as the basis for a stand-up comedy routine. I once listened to a tape of a preacher who kept his congregation roaring with laughter. It was entertaining in that sense. But, by the end of the sermon, the overall effect was to make a big joke out of the Bible. Paul says that those who preach must communicate the seriousness of these eternal truths.
This broadens the spectrum from Titus’ teaching to his everyday speech. As Paul says (Eph. 4:29), “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” A few verses later (Eph. 5:3-4) he adds, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” Other verses command us to put off angry or bitter words, yelling, cursing, gossip, and slander.
Thus younger church leaders must set an example of good deeds, be pure in doctrine, dignified in how they teach it, and be examples of sound speech that is above reproach.
The result of Titus living as such a godly example is not that his critics will vanish. He will still face opposition. The enemy of our souls will see to that! We don’t know whether Paul had a specific opponent in mind here (the Greek word is singular), the ringleader of the false teachers, or if he is generalizing. But his idea is that when opponents of the gospel attack the character of a Christian leader, they should not even have a shred of substance to their accusations, so that others will see through their false charges.
There is an application here for every Christian. If you take a stand for Jesus Christ, you will become the object of attack against your character and your beliefs. Ungodly people are threatened by those who proclaim or exemplify God’s holy standards for living. We see this all the time in our local paper. Unbelievers attack biblical Christians, accusing us of being “Christo-fascists” who are trying to impose our morality, Taliban-style, on our country. So expect to be attacked if you speak out for Christ.
But, also, make sure that there is nothing in your life that would bring shame to the gospel if it came to light. If you secretly go to homosexual bars, do not tell people you are a Christian! If you have a secret mistress, do not profess to be a pro-family evangelical Christian! If you are addicted to pornography on the internet, don’t give the impression that you are a godly family man! It is through these kinds of hypocrites that the enemy has plenty of bad things to say about Christians, and worse, about our Savior.
So Paul first says that younger men should live sensibly, setting a godly example, so that others will be attracted to our Savior.
For sake of time, I can only skim over the biblical view of slavery. While it was a legally recognized institution in the Old Testament, there were safeguards to protect slaves and means to emancipate them. In New Testament times, slavery was a longstanding and widespread institution in the Roman Empire. Often entire populations that had been defeated in battle became the slaves of the victors. By the first century, it has been estimated that up to one-third of the population of Rome were slaves.
The New Testament does not attack slavery as an institution, but it does reorder the relationship between slaves and masters, making all equal as brothers in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Paul commands masters to treat their slaves humanely, with justice and fairness, remembering that they, too, have a Master in heaven (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; Philemon 16-17). He commands slaves to be obedient and render good service as slaves of Christ (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25). In our text, Paul gives five ways that slaves were to relate to their masters (whether Christian or pagan masters), and then the result of such behavior. While the parallel between slavery and being a modern employee is not exact (in spite of what you may think!), every Christian employee should exhibit these character qualities.
“In everything” should be qualified by “everything that does not require disobedience to God.” For example, a Christian employee should not lie or engage in dishonest accounting practices to please an employer. But as long as it does not involve disobedience to God, a Christian should be subject to his employer.
As Paul states (Col. 3:22-24), “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do you work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” The words, “from the heart” and “heartily” show that attitude, not just grudging compliance, is required. If those words applied to slaves who were often under cruel, abusive masters, surely they apply to employees today who may have unreasonable, hard-to-please bosses.
We live in a society that feeds our sense of being victims. If we’re being treated unfairly, we will hear, “You don’t have to take that! Stand up for your rights! Threaten to sue that turkey of a boss! Organize a labor union and fight back!” But, to those who were true victims, to slaves who were often mistreated and abused, Paul says, “be subject to your masters in everything.”
As an employee, Scripture would permit you to go through proper channels to seek to get a difficult situation corrected. You may decide to take another job. But, before you tell off the boss and stomp out the door, remember that the testimony of Christ is at stake. Have you demonstrated submission to your boss? If not, to leave that job would be to dodge the lesson that God wants to teach you.
This refers to an attitude of cheerful service. The first one that we should seek to please on the job is the Lord. But, also, we should seek to please our employer. While there is nothing wrong with trying to do a good job in order to get a promotion or raise, our ultimate objective always should be to please Jesus Christ.
Some slaves may have been tempted to slack off or not to be so diligent to please a Christian master, thinking, “we’re all brothers in Christ.” But in 1 Timothy 6:2, Paul says that if slaves had believing masters, they should “serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved.” Sometimes Christians who work for Christians rationalize that they can witness or fellowship with other believers on company time, and that the boss won’t mind. That is only true if the boss has told you that it’s okay. If not, you need to work hard while you’re on the job and do your witnessing or fellowshipping after hours.
They are not to talk back or “mouth off” to an employer or run him down behind his back, which would not demonstrate submission. If there is a proper forum at work to air grievances or offer constructive suggestions for improving working conditions, a Christian employee may do so (although he should always use wisdom and tact). But it is always wrong to oppose the boss or hassle him. Cheerful compliance without arguing should be a Christian employee’s normal response.
Pilfer means to misappropriate or embezzle money or goods for one’s own use. Slaves were often entrusted with managing a family’s funds or with purchasing supplies for the household. It would be easy to rationalize, “I’m living in poverty and they are living in luxury. They won’t miss a little bit if I use it for myself.” As an employee, it is easy to use the same kind of rationale for taking things from the company, especially if it is a large company or the government. But it is wrong.
“Showing all good faith” means, demonstrating that you are a dependable, faithful worker. Your boss should know that if he gives you something to do, it will get done on time. He should know that you keep your word. You don’t pad expense accounts. You don’t goof off when you’re supposed to be working. You seek to help your boss and company succeed.
If a slave behaved as Paul sets forth here, he would have stood out from the crowd. Most slaves resented their lot in life and fought back with a sulky attitude, an insolent tongue, petty thievery, or trying to get by with as little work as possible. The same is true of many workers today. But Christian workers should be obviously different. If they are, an obvious result will follow:
“Adorn” comes from a Greek word from which we get our word cosmetics. It means to arrange in an orderly manner so as to enhance beauty or attractiveness. Paul means that Christians should order their lives with godly behavior so that the world will be attracted to our Savior. Our main motive should be to honor and glorify Him.
This means that you need to think about your behavior and attitude, especially on the job. How will it make others think about the Savior that you profess to follow? Your life must be the foundation for any verbal witness. If your life is not an example of godliness, as Paul spells out here, don’t let anyone know that you are a Christian! If you do, you will dishonor the name of Christ and give excuses to unbelievers to continue in their sins.
While you do need a consistently godly life to beautify the gospel, you don’t have to be perfect. If that were the requirement, none of us could ever be a witness! But when you fail, you need to confess your sin and ask forgiveness of those you have wronged. That also shows the reality of the gospel in your life, and it can be a powerful witness.
An evangelist preached a strong message on the text, “You shall not steal.” The next morning, he got on a bus and gave the driver a dollar bill for his fare. Counting his change, he discovered that he had received a dime too much. He could have thought, “No big deal,” and pocketed the dime. But instead, he went to the driver and said, “You gave me a dime too much.”
The driver said, “Yes, I know. I did it on purpose to see what you would do. Last night I was in your audience and heard your sermon. I’ve always been suspicious of Christians. So when I recognized you this morning, I thought, ‘If he practices what he preaches, I’ll go hear him again tonight. But if he keeps the dime, I’ll know he’s a fake.’” The man did go back to the meetings and was wonderfully saved. A ten-cent testimony won him to the Lord (from “Our Daily Bread,” Fall, 1978).
God wants you to beautify your life by godly behavior so as to attract others to the Savior. God’s beauty program starts when you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. If you haven’t started yet, why not now?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2007, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation