Instruction Concerning Various Groups (Titus 2:1-10)
A General Instruction to Titus
2:1 But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching.
In this section, 2:1-10, the apostle moves from the issues of church leadership and false teachers to the various groups within the church and their moral obligations before the world in which they live. He is concerned that they show the beauty of the truth about Jesus Christ in order to have a positive impact on an unbelieving world (cf. 2:5, 8, 10). Biblical truth or sound Christian doctrine (2:1) is designed to not only bring us into an intimate relationship with God, but it is to equip us, as stewards of His grace, to represent Him as His ambassadors in a fallen world. We sometimes hear, “He’s so heavenly minded that he is no earthly good.” The thrust of this statement is that people who are focused on spiritual matters have their head so much in the clouds that they are useless when it comes to the needs and realities of this life. But if that’s the case, then they haven’t really focused on spiritual matters in a biblical way. Indeed, just the opposite is true if the truth has truly gripped their hearts.
In the months before his execution by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “I fear that Christians who stand with only one leg upon earth, also stand with only one leg in heaven.” His concern was for Christians who had disengaged themselves from the world, who could stand by and watch atrocities committed as if the Christian message or individual Christian responsibility had no bearing whatsoever upon earthly affairs.
The fact of the matter is that the Christian faith intends full engagement in the world. Certainly the origin of this new life is otherworldly. Certainly Christian values are not those of the world. Certainly Christian hope takes us beyond this world. But it is in this world that God has called Christians to live, and it is this world’s inhabitants that Christians must reach with the gospel. Engagement of this kind requires Christian credibility and participation in the life of the world.84
If our lifestyle fails to reflect the character of God, then we neutralize our testimony. Because of this the rest of this epistle shows that the gospel or sound doctrine places moral obligations on all believers regardless of their age or station in life. “The Christian’s duty and usefulness lie exactly in, not outside of, the circumstances under which his life is lived.”85
The opening statement of chapter 2, “But as for you,” is somewhat emphatic in the Greek text and sets forth a contrast between Titus and his responsibilities and the beliefs and behavior of the false teachers. They were so engrossed in sickly doctrines that they were already having negative results on the moral conduct of the Christians at Crete, especially in the realm of the home. This contrast highlights the important responsibility God has given us to carefully communicate His Word in view of the many false teachers who stand opposed to the truth.
“Communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching” is literally, “speak what is fitting to sound teaching.” Titus was to “rebuke sharply” the opponents, but he is to “communicate” or “speak” to the people. The words, “the behavior that goes with,” translate the verb prepo, “be fitting, be suitable to something.” That something is sound teaching. Sound or healthy teaching is teaching that is in accord with the message of the Savior. This message gives eternal life, but it is also designed to produce behavior that corresponds to the Savior’s purpose for coming into the world as evidenced in His person, life, and work on the cross. He came to die for the penalty of sin and to give eternal life as a free gift, but He also came to overcome Satan’s rule and sin’s reign in the lives of those who put their trust in Him (cf. Rom. 5:17, 6:1ff; Heb. 2:14-15; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 John 3:5). The point is that a sinful lifestyle is not only evil, but it stands in opposition to the person and work of Christ. The apostle will address this again later in this chapter in 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (NASB). Writing on 1 Timothy 1:10 and the term “sound teaching” as it is used in the pastoral epistles, Fee writes:
In these Epistles, the metaphor of healthy teaching becomes a thoroughgoing polemic against the diseased false teachers. But the concern of the metaphor is not with the content of doctrine; rather, it is with behavior. Healthy teaching leads to proper Christian behavior, love and good works; the diseased teaching of the heretics leads to controversies, arrogance, abusiveness, and strife (6:4).86
Thus, there are two fundamental truths that emerge in this section. First, it is the message of the Lord Jesus and the new life we have in Him that becomes the foundation for a Christian’s behavior or lifestyle in this fallen world. True changes, those that take place from within, simply do not occur without an intimate relationship with God through faith in the truth of the message of Christ. Second, that message of the Savior should lead, as it is appropriated by faith, to a life that is consistent with Christian doctrine. Anything else is contradictory to the message as Paul exclaims in Romans 6.
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain (continue, abide) in sin so that grace may increase? 6:2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in new life (Rom. 6:1-4).
Instructions for Older Men
2:2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in endurance.
This verse is directed toward the senior men in the congregation. Though not mentioned here, these are those who should naturally model Christian truth to the younger men, but being a good example will depend on their moral character. “Older” is the term presbuteros, “old man, aged man.”
… Philo, On the Creation 105, cites Hippocrates as referring to the sixth of seven periods of a man’s life, ages fifty to fifty-six; Philo himself uses it to refer to a man over sixty in On the Special Laws 2.33.87
It is not surprising that the qualities listed here are some of those previously listed for the office of elder (1:6-9) and that these senior men, because of their maturity, would normally be the ones chosen for the office of elder. Of course, age is never a guarantee of spiritual and emotional maturity. True spiritual maturity comes through growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, but older men should be models of maturity and involved in mentoring other men in the Lord.
Four qualities are singled out. They are to be:
1. “Temperate.” This is one of the qualities for the office of elder (1 Tim. 3:2) as well as deacon (1 Tim. 3:11). It is the Greek nephalios, “temperate in the use of alcohol,” and then, with a broader meaning, “sober, clear-headed, self-controlled.” In this context, nephalios refers to being free from all forms of excess or life-dominating patterns through the control of the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This is seen in contrast to the “lazy gluttons,” a term used to describe the false teachers.
2. “Dignified.” As used of people, this term, the Greek semnos, means “worthy of respect, honorable, noble, dignified.” Hiebert describes it as “revealing a personal dignity and seriousness of purpose that invite honor and respect.”88
3. “Self-controlled.” This is sophron, used in 1:8 where it was translated “sensible.” It means “of sound mind, sane, sensible, thoughtful,” or “self-controlled, sober-minded.” Since “temperate” as listed above contains the idea of self-control, perhaps the focus here is on “soundness of mind in thought and judgment.” This word is a favorite of Paul in the Pastoral Epistles. It is used of elders (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8), of the younger women (Tit. 2:5) and the verb form, sophroneo, is used of younger men (Tit. 2:6). So here is a spiritual quality that should be a part of the life of all Christians, one that is easily recognizable. May we not forget however that biblically there are hidden resources that are to form the foundation and motivation for such a life. This is now addressed in the next qualities listed.
4. “Sound in faith, in love, and in endurance” could well be translated “being sound in…” “Sound” is a present participle (hugiainantas) of the verb hugiaino, “to be in good health, be physically or spiritually sound, healthy.” By switching from the use of an adjective to the participle,89 the apostle could have in mind not only other needed qualities, but those that form the means or cause and motivation for the previous virtues. For a similar emphasis, compare 1 Thessalonians 1:3, “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope” (NIV).
Here in Titus 2:2, each noun has the article and refers to their faith, their love, and their endurance.90 Though the faith sometimes refers to the body of revealed truth, especially when faith has the article as it does here, that is doubtful in this case because of the linkage with love and endurance. Here it is personal and focuses on their faith through their relationship with God through the Spirit and the Word. Love may focus on both the vertical (love for God) and the horizontal relationship Christians are to have to others. Endurance looks at staying power over the long run in a Christian’s relationship with both God and people.
Instructions for Older and Younger Women
2:3 Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. 2:4 In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 2:5 to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.
While the instruction here is directed to the older women, the apostle moved naturally to instructions for the younger women as well in verses 4-5. This is because the instructions there are to occur through a mentoring ministry of the older women.
“Likewise” (hosautos, an adverb of manner, “in like manner, just so, likewise,” cf. vss. 3 and 6) focuses on the fact the same kind of behavior is expected for all age groups in the body of Christ, older men and women and younger women and men. The godly behavior of the older women becomes the model and foundation for a ministry to the younger women, but before delving into the exposition, it is important to note that this instruction is directed toward the home and the domestic responsibilities or roles of these younger women.
Though we aren’t told this directly, in view of the fact that the false teachers were overturning whole families (1:11), it would appear the false teachers were teaching things that were undermining God’s roles for husbands and wives, particularly for the women. This is not new and the battle rages today as never before. There was a time in this country when “It was taken for granted that a dignified and competent wife and mother, devoted to her home and family, was a highly desirable constant in American culture”91 but this is no longer the case. Home economics used to be an important major or part of the college curriculum for women, but no more.
The battle for home ec was over almost before it began, and soon the deconstruction of this discipline was complete. Somewhere in mothballs there may be a beautifully preserved specimen of a home economics department, but at this sitting I don’t recall running into one person with this major since my own entry into the world of higher education in 1971. A woman in our congregation who teaches home ec told me recently that her professional association changed its name from National Association of Home Economics Teachers to the National Association of Consumer Education. “It no longer has the word ‘home’ in it!” she lamented.
The demise of home economics is indicative of a sea change in the thought patterns and habits of women standing at the edge of adult life today. Although elementary education, Christian education, nursing, and even home economics are still studied, these degrees are often chosen for their professional, and domestic, value. Women make academic decisions about course work and majors with little thought of the value of specific areas of knowledge for running a home, raising a family, or educating children. Instead, the marketability of the degree is primary. Not surprisingly in a culture that disparages motherhood, we see a decline of conscious preparation for this task by women making academic, financial, and career decisions.92
Quite contrary to the way the world has gone regarding the home, the biblical mandate calls us to make the Christian home a vital part of our calling and witness to the world. At the center of this is the role God has ordained for women as wives and mothers. There is no higher or more glorious calling or need in our society than this, but our world has not only demeaned it, but to a large degree, rejected it. Too often today young Christian women are almost ashamed to admit that their primary goal in life is to be a godly wife and mother with any idea of a career outside the home as secondary. So, let’s see what Paul has to say!
Instructions for Older Women (2:3)
2:3 Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good.
“Behavior” is a word (katastema) found only here in the New Testament. It describes a manner of life that expresses inner character.93 “Holy” is a very interesting word. It is hieroprepeis, a word derived from heiros, “consecrate, sacred place, temple,” and prepo, “to be fitting, suitable.” Thus, hieroprepeis carries the idea of “fitting that which is sacred, reverent.” Outside the New Testament, this word was used to characterize the conduct of priestesses. Paul’s use of this rare word may be stressing the principle that all of life is a sacred duty. This is spelled out in two negatives and one positive.
1. “Not slandering” is the plural of diabolos, “slanderous.” It is the word used for the devil (ho diabolos, “the slanderer, the devil”) because he is the slanderer and the one who promotes it in the world.
2. “Not slaves to excessive drinking” is literally, “to much wine, not enslaved.” Slanderous talk and drunkenness were among the vices commonly associated with many older women in Greco-Roman society.94 It was evidently a problem at Crete.
3. By contrast, the older women were to be “teaching what is good.” This word, kalodidaskalos from kalos, “good, excellent,” and didaskalos, “a teacher,” is found only here in Greek literature, but it focuses on the important responsibility older women have as models in the Christian community. In the training of younger women, the scope of the teaching is found in verses 4-5.
Instructions for Younger Women (2:4-5)
2:4 In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 2:5 to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.
Literally, “in order or so that they will train the younger women.”95 “Train” is sophronizo, “to bring to one’s senses” and then “to advise, encourage, urge”96 (cf. sophron, “self-controlled, sensible,” in 1:8; 2:1, 5). The choice of this word rather than others for teaching, training, etc., suggests that Paul was concerned about the erroneous and foolish concepts that some of the younger women may have heard from the false teachers. “Younger women” is the feminine form of neos, “new, young.” Paul may have in view the newly married, but certainly the much younger wives.
Proverbs 14:1 proposes a vital maxim for the home. It reads, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” The apostle was concerned that these younger women have God’s ordained perspective or biblical wisdom regarding the home and their roles since this is so important to the well being of the Christian family (husbands, wives, and children alike), on society as a whole, and on the testimony of the Christian community to the world.
But this was and is not a matter of cultural norms or practices, but of biblical wisdom or God’s ordained plan. Some of what is said here fits with cultural practices, but this is not the basis for the duties called for in this passage. This is clear in other passages where more detail is given on the Christian home and the roles and duties of both husbands and wives (cf. Eph. 5:23f). The duties described are based on God’s creative purposes and order as is evident in 1 Timothy 2:13-15 and 1 Corinthians 11:8-10. Seven duties are now described. The first six can be divided into three pair.
Pair Number 1: “To love their husbands” is philandros, which carries the idea of “devoted to their husbands.” A right relationship between a husband and wife is the first responsibility and priority in the home for this relationship is foundational to the parents’ ability to properly love and care for their children. The home is where life makes up its mind for it is in the home that children develop a proper view of men and women, of love, marriage, respect for others, and even of God’s love as they see it modeled in their parents. Thus, Paul quickly moves to the second part of the pair, “to love their children.” This is philoteknos, which also means loving their children in the sense of being devoted to their care and nurture.
Anthusa lived from c. 330 to 374 A.D. in Antioch. Widowed at the age of 20, she is remembered for her influence in the life of her son, John Chrysostom, one of the greatest preachers and leaders of the 4th-century church. Her contemporaries tell us Anthusa was cultured, attractive, and from a wealthy family. Yet she chose to not remarry after her husband’s death, deciding instead to devote herself to rearing her two children, John and his sister.
John later wrote that his mother not only taught her children to know and love the teachings of the Bible, but also that her very life was a model of biblical teaching. A student of law, rhetoric and the Scriptures, John was ordained by Bishop Meletius and later became bishop of Constantinople. A zealous missionary himself, he inspired numerous others to serve as missionaries. And he always emphasized that a crucial factor to effective evangelism is for Christians to be living examples of Christ-centeredness. Surely he learned something of this from his mother Anthusa.97
“The Christian wife who sets an example of love sends a powerful message that is understandable even to those outside the church.”98
Pair Number 2: “To be self-controlled (see 2:2) and pure” forms a second pair of qualities that may at first seem to digress from the focus on the home, but these two qualities are basic to a woman’s capacity to be devoted to husband and children alike. In this context of love for the husband, “self-controlled and pure” may mean “virtuous and chaste.”99 Self-control is a quality needed by all Christians in all areas of life, but in this context, the focus is more a self-control that promotes sexual purity as is suggested by the addition of the term “pure” (hagnos, “free from defilement, morally pure, innocent, chaste”). Naturally, “pure” means purity in the sex life (faithful to their husbands), but also purity of heart and mind since this is the root of all behavior.
Pair Number 3: “Fulfilling their duties at home” and “kind” form the third pair with the second adjective describing the way a loving wife and mother carries out her duties at home—“with kindness”—in a way that is “good” or “fit, capable and beneficial to others.” “Fulfilling their duties” translates oikourgos from oikos, “house, household, family” plus ergon, “work, task, employment, enterprise” or “a deed, work.” Thus, oikourgos means “working at home, being domestic, fulfilling duties at home.” The translations of the KJV, “keepers at home,” or of the NASB, “workers at home”, must not give the impression that Paul means the home is her prison or that she is only a housekeeper.
The KJV rendering “keepers at home” (oikourous) is based on a slightly different text and has less textual support than the rare term (oikourgous) behind the rendering above. The latter is the more stimulating concept and agrees with Paul’s condemnation of idleness in 1 Timothy 5:13, 14. The devoted wife and mother finds her absorbing interest in the innumerable duties of the home.100
Perhaps no passage gives us a better picture of the domesticity that God has in mind than the “excellent wife” portrayed in Proverbs 31:10-31. We should note that the picture given in Proverbs 31 is of a woman whose ministry extends beyond her own household, though the home is the center and focus of her life and takes precedence over all else.
As mentioned, to the quality of domesticity, the apostle adds the term “kind.” “Kind” is the adjective agathos, which means “good, fit, capable, useful.” This Greek word looks at the concept of goodness from the standpoint of what is useful or profitable and is often the term chosen when moral and intrinsic goodness is in view. Several translations (ASV, NASV, NIV, NET) have rendered it as “kind” here in Titus 2:5, while the KJV and NKJV render it simply as “good.” Regardless, Heibert is on track when he clarifies the meaning of “kind” in this passage:
These demand unsparing self-giving and may subject her to the temptation to be irritable and harsh in her demands on members of her household. She must therefore cultivate the virtue of being “kind,” i.e., benevolent, heartily doing what is good and beneficial to others, especially those of her household.101
The Seventh and Final Duty: Paul concludes his instructions to the younger wives with, “being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.” The apostle does not give the detail that he does in Ephesians 5 on the Christian home where he also describes the duties of the husband. Here he was undoubtedly dealing with certain problems that existed in Crete and was providing Titus with the apostolic authority he might need to establish these principles. It should be assumed that Titus would elaborate and expand on the brief skeleton given here with the details found in others New Testament passages.
“Being subject” is a grammatical construction (present adverbial participle) which may point to a condition or manner of life that is foundational to a wife’s ability to carry out her domestic role within the home. Further, “being subject” is in the middle voice which carries the idea of “subject yourselves.” This indicates that submission is to be a voluntary response of the wife’s heart that flows out of her greater submission to God’s ordained plan for the home. Nowhere are husbands told to demand this submission. Rather he is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. Indeed, he is to love and care for her as if she were his own body, nourishing and cherishing her as such (Eph. 5:25-31). In the New Testament, headship is not a dictatorship or being the boss. Rather, if done biblically (see Luke 22:24-30), it is a loving leadership that takes on the disposition of being a servant and one that assumes responsibility for the relationship.
The requirement to love her husband does not eliminate her duty to yield to his headship. In declaring the spiritual equality of the woman before God (Gal 3:28), Christianity immeasurably elevated her status but did not thereby abolish her functional position as the complement and support of her husband as the head of the home.102
Then, we should note that this submission is to her “own husband.” “Own” is idios, “private, one’s own, peculiar to oneself.” It refers to what is private in contrast to what is public or that belongs to another. It focuses on the special relationship and private bond that is to exist between a husband and a wife and reminds us of why marital infidelity is so contrary to marriage. A man and his wife are to become as one.
…This term “your own” shows that the relationship of leadership and submission between a woman and her husband should be different from the relationship of leadership and submission which she may have with men in general. Husbands and wives have responsibilities to each other in marriage that they do not have to other men and women.103
Finally, Paul concludes these seven spiritual duties with a purpose clause, “so that the message of God may not be discredited.” “The message of God” is literally “the Word (logos, “of God’s divine revelation through Christ and His messengers”104) of God.” The purpose clause undoubtedly applies to all seven duties since all would impact the testimony of a Christian woman before the world. “Discredited” is blasphemeo, “to blaspheme, defame, slander, speak lightly of.” The apostle is deeply concerned that our lives as Christians never discredit the truths of the word of God to the world. Rather, our lifestyle must be consistent with the eternal and holy principles of Scripture (cf. vss. 8 and 10).
If Christian wives ignored these demands and flouted the role their culture demanded of good wives, the gospel would be maligned, criticized, and discredited by non-Christians. Christianity would be judged especially by the impact that it had on the women. It therefore was the duty of the women to protect God’s revelation from profanation by living discreet and wholesome lives. For Christians, no life style is justified that hinders “the word of God,” the message of God’s salvation in Christ.105 (emphasis mine)
Maybe I have misread them, but this and similar statements in other conservative commentaries disturb me.106 Hiebert is a godly and skilled expositor, but his wording here makes it appear that a Christian woman’s lifestyle, at least as it pertains to the home and her relationship to her husband, is dependent on the roles demanded by the culture or society. I doubt that he intended this, but part of his statement here could be taken by some to teach that the principles the apostle is advocating here are culturally-based when this is simply not true. Instead, Paul’s directives here are biblically-based principles and are based on God’s ordained design for the home regardless of the accepted norms of a culture. As a result of the present day distortions of feminism and what is now the politically-correct view of the roles of men and women, the woman who highly prizes being domestic and voluntarily submits herself to her husband’s leadership is looked down upon and even ridiculed.
Sadly, much of today’s world scorns the principles of this passage as demeaning and destructive to a woman’s sense of self-worth and personal achievement. As a result, following the directives of this passage in our culture often brings disdain on the Christian community. Does this mean, then, that a Christian woman is now to put aside the principles of domesticity and submission to her husband in order to pursue a career in advertising or marketing or real estate or whatever, and reject these directives as part of her God-designed role as a wife and mother? This is not the time nor the place to debate the issues here, but God forbid that we misinterpret the purpose clause here to reflect such an idea. If that were the case, then the same could be said about Paul’s concerns in 2:8 and 10 (cf. 1 Pet. 2:12). For an excellent discussion of the roles of manhood and womanhood according to the Bible, I would highly recommend John Piper’s small but excellent book entitled What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1990).
Instructions for Younger Men and Titus
2:6 Encourage younger men likewise to be self-controlled, 2:7 showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity, 2:8 and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.
Turning to instructions for the younger men (neoterous, the comparative masculine plural of neos, “new, fresh, young”), the apostle again repeats the “likewise.” While the roles of Christian men and women vary, certain spiritual qualities are to be found in all believers alike. Further, Titus is commanded to “encourage” the younger men to self-controlled. “Encourage” is parakaleo, “to call on, entreat, appeal to” or “admonish, urge, exhort” or “comfort, encourage.” It may be prospective in the sense of an appeal to obey or respond to certain truths or principles or it may be retrospective in the sense of “be comforted, consoled, encouraged” in view of what has happened according to the context. Here, Titus is to urge the younger men to sober minded, self-controlled.
Whereas he was not to counsel the younger women personally for obvious reasons of impropriety, now he is to personally minister to the younger men. Further, the instructions for the younger men are summed up in one instruction—they are to be self-controlled, a quality previously stressed in 1:8; 2:2, 5. Here it is the verb form, sophroneo, “to be of sound mind” or “to be temperate, self-controlled.” “Since young men are inclined to be somewhat impetuous and unrestrained in conduct, their basic need is to be ‘self-controlled,’ cultivating balance and self-restraint in daily practice.”107 As previously mentioned, self-control for the believer is to be part of the fruit of the Spirit’s control as the believer submits to the enabling power of the Holy Spirit by faith (Gal. 5:16, 22-23).108
We should also note that the apostle blends his instructions to the younger men with instructions to Titus himself because the Christian teacher and leader is to be a model of good works in every sphere of life. This is similar to Paul’s exhortations to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity.” Because of the word order, the appeal here to Titus is rather emphatic, which stresses the importance of the need for modeling Christian character. Literally, “in every way showing or presenting yourself as an example.” Some would connect “in every way” with the “self-control,” but, as most translations take it, the emphasis seems to be on Titus’ responsibility as an example. Whether it refers to the self-control of the young men or to Titus, “in every way” shows how important it is for our relationship with the Savior to penetrate every sphere or area of our lives (Eph. 3:17). Christ is to be at home in our hearts by faith. “Showing yourself” represents a construction in the Greek text (an adverbial participle of continuous action) that defines the manner or means that is so important to the effectiveness of the appeal Titus or any leader may make to others for self-control. For Titus, however, the focus is on being an example of good works, a subject that is repeated in this book (see 2:14; 3:8, 14).
With the words, “in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized,” there is a further appeal to Titus, but one now directed toward the character of his teaching. Paul knew that without sound teaching you cannot have godly behavior and Spirit-produced good works. To demonstrate the relationship to the preceding focus on how Titus is to show or present himself, we can translate, “showing yourself … uncorrupt and serious in your teaching, and with a healthy message that is not open to rebuke (i.e., one that is beyond reproach).” Oh that we might grasp the reality of this emphasis in the body of Christ today! So often I see church leaders exhorting and preaching about good works and changed lifestyles but without a balanced diet of sound doctrine that teaches and promotes spiritual health by a walk in the Spirit and a life in the Word. As result, their exhortations often lead to gimmicks of manipulation and coercion in order to see things happen in their congregations. It is not without significance that many of Paul’s books first cover the foundations of doctrine and then move to the application or the outworking of that in the life (cf. Rom. 1-11 with 12ff and Eph. 1-3 with 4-6).
“Show integrity” is aphthoria, “incorruption” and so “soundness.” This word is found only here in the New Testament and is from phtheiro, “to destroy, corrupt.” The emphasis here could be on the purity of the content of teaching, but in view of the words that follow, “a sound message,” the emphasis is undoubtedly on his motives—teaching that is without the corrupting influence of the false teachers who were teaching for personal gain. “Dignity” is semnotes, “dignity, seriousness, reverence, respectfulness.” In semnotes the stress is on the manner in which the message is taught. “‘Seriousness’ points to his outward dignity, reflecting the high moral tone and serious manner appropriate to his sacred task.”109
Titus is also to communicate “a sound message that cannot be criticized.” “Sound” is hugies, “sound, whole, healthy.” “That cannot be criticized” is akatagnostos, “not open to just rebuke, irreprehensible.”110
Paul then sets forth the reason or purpose. It is “so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.” “To be at a loss” is from a verb, entrepo, which literally means, “to be put to shame.” But how can one teach or preach a message that will not be criticized by someone, especially false teachers? The reality is we can’t, but we can proclaim a message that is so true to the text of Scripture that it cannot be justly criticized. The result is that those who do will be ultimately put to shame or embarrassed because their arguments are rebuked by the plain truth of the message which refutes their false claims. “Every faithful teacher must at times declare doctrine to which some rebellious hearer may object, but such objection must prove unjustified upon faithful examination.”111
Instructions for Slaves
2:9 Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted and not talk back, 2:10 not to pilfer, but showing all good faith, in order to do credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.
Perhaps no place better demonstrates the New Testament’s different perspective on life than what it teaches regarding slaves. It teaches us that life, regardless of the circumstances, is to be lived in submission to God and for His eternal purposes. For the third time in this passage, we have a purpose clause (that, so that, in order to; cf. 2:5, 8, 10). Each of these connects the Christian’s behavior to biblical principles that transcend the circumstances of life and highlight his or her responsibility to be a witness as an ambassador for Christ.
Now, there are a couple of surprises here. First, we might be surprised to find what appears to be a sudden switch to slaves. Slaves, however were very often, if not normally, a part of the household as well as a very important part of the culture, thus they are naturally mentioned.
Second, we might also be surprised that the New Testament does not come right out and condemn slavery—a fact that has disturbed many and caused the Bible to be maligned and criticized as condoning or supporting slavery. A couple of years ago I heard a well-known television host comment during her show that the Bible promoted slavery and the Bible was wrong. Such statements demonstrate pain over the disgraceful slavery situation that once existed in this country, but they also demonstrate a misunderstanding of what the Bible, and especially the New Testament, actually teaches.
While the New Testament never condemns or teaches revolution against slavery, it also never condones it. Instead, it lays down principles for both slaves and slave owners that if followed would abolish slavery, as it actually did and has in much of the world. Also, we need to be reminded that the idea of the sacredness of human life and the dignity of all men was practically unknown in ancient society. By proclaiming the love of Christ and the worth of all men as created in the image of God, the evils of slavery became more and more evident.
No effect of early Christianity was more pronounced than the elevation of labor to a nobler plane than it has ever occupied under pagan influences. Nothing can possibly degrade labor more than a system of slavery; and wherever the gospel was accepted the foundations of slavery began to be undermined. While for good reasons there is little or nothing of express condemnation of slavery in the words of Jesus Christ, it is plain that a gospel which declares that God “hath made of one blood all nations” (Acts 17:26) and that there is before the Highest no distinction of “bond or free” (in the Church, Gal 3:28), works logically to the final extinction of slavery. Hence we are not surprised to find express denunciation of slavery in the teachings of the Fathers. Thus Clement of Alexandria declared that “no man is a slave by nature” (Paedagogos, iii. 12). This echoes the spirit of Christ as over against the universal teaching of paganism. And through strictly Christian influences, within two centuries after the death of our Lord, reforms looking to the abolition of slavery were inaugurated in Rome. That slavery in civilized states lingered in the world until the 19th century was no fault of the gospel of Christ; and, apart from the question of slavery, Christianity operated from the first in the societies in which it found acceptance to give a dignity to manual labor it had never before received. Chrysostom taught that labor is essentially noble and denounced idleness as a most serious sin (cf. Social Results of Christianity, p. 214). “Work with your hands” was the exhortation of Barnabas (Epistles, xix). Under such teaching, work cannot remain a badge of servility. It becomes a crown of honor to the worker. Those who toil with their hands become God’s freemen. In early Christian societies, again, we find the happiness of the working class promoted by certain forms of Christian charity. For instance, hospitals for the sick were established through the inspiration of Christian teaching. The first hospital is said by Mr. Lecky to have been founded in the 4th century by Fabiola, a Christian woman of Rome, as an avowed Christian act (History of European Morals, II, 85). Then, too, the new value that the Christian religion placed upon human life practically operated within the range of the early Christian church to the advantage of working people by protecting them from occupations or situations in which life or health were needlessly jeopardized.112
The same can be said for the 19th Century. In discussing Christian social responsibility, writing from his broad scholarship and his historical analysis, Earle E. Cairns demonstrates how the great 19th Century reformers in England (Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, and many others) were moved to initiate social reforms. This was brought about through their own spiritual regeneration as a result of the revivals of John Wesley and George Whitefield. This was especially true regarding the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.113
So why didn’t Jesus and Paul fight slavery and its many inequalities? Because in the New Testament Christ has called us to a greater task—the task of calling men from the slavery of sin into a relationship with God through the message of the Cross. Our primary task as Christians is not that of changing the world system to make it more moral or correct social wrongs, as important as that may be. Rather our primary task is to evangelize people, to make disciples and to teach them to obey all the things Jesus commanded. It also calls on us to recognize that man’s only real hope for complete justice is the return of Christ when the God of peace will crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20).
Being moral or changing social wrongs does not save people (give them eternal life) nor does it make us Christian people. Thus, this is not the focus of the gospel. Moral behavior and working to help injustices in our society should indeed be one of the products of being a Christian, but it neither gives us eternal life nor does it make us a Christian. In the final analysis, what does it matter if we make life more just and moral and comfortable for people if they end up eternally separated from God? Further, the thrust of Scripture is that ungodliness and all that entails is ultimately the product of unrighteousness or of not knowing God and the life He gives (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). The best way—and God’s way—to change society is to change men through personally trusting in Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Savior.
As we contemplate this issue and this passage, may we remember that:
Half of the population of the Roman Empire was slaves. Three fourths of the population of Athens was slaves. The life of a slave could be taken at the whim of the master. Over the centuries, Christianity abolished slavery, first in the ancient world and then later in the nineteenth century, largely through the efforts of the strong evangelical William Wilberforce. It didn’t happen overnight, and certainly there have been dedicated Christians who were slave owners. Nonetheless, the end of slavery, which has plagued mankind for thousand of years, has come primarily through the efforts of Christians.…
Christians don’t assert that the Christian religion abolished slavery overnight. If Christianity totally disallowed slavery, the gospel could not have spread as it did in the early Church. Once the gospel did spread, the seeds were sown for the eventual dissolution of slavery. Thus by reforming the heart, Christianity, in time, reformed the social order! Furthermore, as Latourette points out, “Christianity undercut slavery by giving dignity to work” (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. 1 [New York: Equinox books, 1971], 489).114
Thus, rather than attack slavery, Paul gave biblical principles to enable slaves to live their lives under God’s sovereign care and in a way that they could witness to the power of the gospel. For other passages on Paul’s instructions to slaves and masters, see also 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Ephesians 6:5-6; Colossians 3:22-4:1.
The Attitude Called For (2:9a)
2:9 Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted.
“Slaves” is doulos, the same term by which Paul identified himself in verse 1, “Paul, a slave of God.” Though sometimes translated “servant,” this word refers to one who was the property of another and not to one who simply served others as a freeman. As mentioned, slaves made up a large percentage of the population in the Roman world. We can see something of the nature of slavery in the Roman world from Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 6:1 where he speaks of those who are “under the yoke as slaves.” In other words, “the power of a master over his slave was almost absolute, much like that over his yoke-animals.”115
Men became slaves as prisoners of war, or as condemned men, or through debt, or through kidnapping, or as those sold into slavery by their parents, and many were simply born into slavery. In fact, slaves often had their own slaves.116
Among all these slaves there were some who had attained to a degree—sometimes a high degree—of culture. Not only the barber, the butler, and the cook but even the family-physician might be “under the yoke.”117
The instruction is that “slaves are to be in subjection to their own masters.” As a part of the legal system of the day, all slaves were already under the yoke of their masters. Naturally, then, the emphasis here is on the attitude behind a slave’s submission. To reflect the middle voice of the Greek text as with wives who were to voluntarily submit themselves to their husbands (2:5), we might render it, “slaves are to submit themselves to their own masters.” This lays stress on the voluntary mind-set that was to undergird a slave’s submission. But as explained in Colossians, behind such submission is a greater submission and service as slaves of Christ who live for the kingdom of the Savior (see Col. 3:21-24).
Though no such distinction is made and the exhortation is to all slaves, in 1 Timothy 6:1 the apostle distinguishes between slaves who had believing masters and those who did not. “Masters” here in Titus and in 1 Timothy 6:1 is despotes, “master, lord, owner.” “It denoted absolute ownership and uncontrolled power.”118
6:1 Those who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters as deserving of full respect. This will prevent the name of God and Christian teaching from being discredited. 6:2 But those who have believing masters must not show them less respect because they are brothers. Instead they are to serve all the more, because those who benefit from their service are believers and dearly loved (1 Tim. 6:1-2).
“In everything” focuses on the unlimited extent of the submission. The slave was under the total direction of the master from morning to evening for every aspect of life. We must not understand this as an absolute that overrules even God’s authority and holy principles for life. This is obvious from the final statement which calls on slaves to “do credit to the teaching (adorn the doctrine) of the Savior in everything.” If called on to lie, commit adultery, steal, murder, he must refuse, not belligerently but in such a way that it demonstrates his integrity which would naturally demonstrate his capacity to be faithful to his master.
A Christian servant in India was once sent by his master with a verbal message which he knew to be untrue. He refused to deliver it. Though his master was very angry at the time, he respected the servant all the more afterwards and knew that he could always trust him in his own matters.119
The Conduct Desired (2:9b-10a)
2:9b “…to do what is wanted and not talk back, 2:10a not to pilfer, but showing all good faith.
In order to see the literal construction and emphasis, we can translate as follows: “Slaves are to submit themselves to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, by not talking back, by not pilfering, but by contrast, demonstrating all good fidelity.” The three words, talking, pilfering, and demonstrating are all present participles which describe the manner or the means by which slaves can submit and please their masters. This literal translation will be followed in the explanation that follows.
“To be well-pleasing” focuses on the first goal and the character of their submission. “Well-pleasing” is the translation of euarestos, “well-pleasing, acceptable.” It carries the concept of giving satisfaction to their masters in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities as opposed to doing their work half-heartedly, being sullen, answering back, and stealing from their masters.
Thus, two negatives and one positive follow which concern the common faults and needs of slaves who, operating under difficult conditions, often sought human strategies to handle the things they often had to suffer and endure.
1. The first negative, “not talking back,” is the term used in 1:9 of those who oppose the gospel message. It’s the verb antilego, which not only meant “to talk back” or “contradict,” but could carry the idea of “to oppose, refuse.” This term can carry an overtone of active resistance, rebellion, and strife that seeks to thwart the master’s directives and purposes. Such may manifest itself in sarcastic comments, often said under the breath, and defiant contradictions that question the orders of their masters.
2. The second negative, “not pilfering,” points to another common tendency due to the conditions and opportunities slaves regularly faced. “Pilfering” is nosphizo, “to put aside for oneself, misappropriate.” Many slaves managed their master’s household affairs and goods. They often were sent to buy the goods and to dispense them to other slaves. But many times they were underpaid and treated unfairly. As a result, there was the tendency to embezzle and keep a little back for their own needs and wants. “Rather, the genuine faith of a Christian slave will be reflected in complete honesty and trustworthiness.”120
3. The positive contrast, “but showing all good faith or fidelity,” summarizes the positive behavior needed by slaves who were under the authority of their masters. “But” is a very strong conjunction of contrast (alla) that focuses on the difference that slaves must show (endeiknumi, “to demonstrate, show forth, prove, manifest”) to their masters. As used in this context of not talking back and not pilfering, “faith,” the Greek word pistis, is used here in the sense of “fidelity, faithfulness, reliability” a common meaning for this noun. By “all faithfulness or fidelity” the apostle means “the utmost, the maximum.”
The Motivation Critical to All (2:10b)
2:10b “… in order to do credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything”
This final statement of purpose (“in order,” hina, “in order that, that, so that”) points to the underlying purpose which should serve as the motivation that must grip the heart of not just slaves, but of any Christian if we are to function effectively in the world for Christ. And naturally, all of what is said in these verses apply to any Christian worker, employee, or servant who operates under the authority and in the service of others.
“To do credit” is kosmeo, “to put in order, adorn, arrange, decorate.” “This word was used of the arrangement of jewels in a manner to set off their full beauty.”121 In the plural form, the noun kosmos was used in classical Greek of ornaments worn on the body and came to have the idea of giving credit or honor “as in the tag of Sophocles: ‘Woman, to women silence brings credit’ (Ajax 293).”122 The idea then is that of making something attractive or doing credit to the object in view.
That object is “the teaching (or doctrine) of God our Savior.” With the words “our Savior,” the focus here is on the teaching that comes from God as our Savior—the gospel message which is the power of God unto salvation. This is a message of salvation, salvation not only from sin’s penalty, but also from its dominating power.
As a beautiful picture may be enhanced by an appropriate frame, so we (whether slaves, employees, or in other positions) make Christian teaching attractive if we exhibit its power and truth in our lives. It is the glory of the gospel which can so transform lives that even those of the lowest social order can adorn God’s truth.123
In this final purpose concerning the behavior of slaves, we also have what amounts to a key purpose for the whole section (1-10) and for all of us as believers in Christ. In seeking to function as ambassadors of Christ who proclaim the message of our Savior, we have an awesome responsibility to make the truth of Christ attractive by lives that truly reflect the saving power of the message. How sad it is when instead we dishonor the teaching of God our Savior by living in ways that fail to communicate the power of the message.
89 This participle may function as a dependent adverbial participle to an implied verb (dei, “ought”) that goes with the “to be” verb, the infinitive of eimi used earlier in the verse. The participle thus would express the means or cause of becoming temperate, etc.
90 This is the case of the article used as a possessive pronoun, a well established use of the Greek article where possession is implied from the context (Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1996], 215).
91 Tim Bayly, “Preparing for Motherhood,” Journal For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Vol. 4, Nos. 2-3, Libertyville, Ill, Winter 2000), 23. See the web site for The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at www.cbmw.org
95 The clause is introduced with hina followed by the present indicative in the verb train. Normally it is followed by the subjunctive mood. Whenever this occurs, there is always a manuscript problem with the subjunctive being attested in other manuscripts. For a discussion of this, see translators notes in the NET Bible at http://www.bible.org.
96 Walter Bauer, Wilbur F. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1979), electronic media.
106 Writing on verses 4-5, Gordan Fee writes, “Thus, very much in keeping with 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 5:9-15, Paul sets a standard, conditioned in part by the cultural norm of what was expected of a good wife, that the younger women’s place in Christ was to be found in the home” (Fee, 188). Towner writes, “There is no question that the behavior of the Christian wife taught here would have pleased the pagan critic. In fact, this lifestyle has the outsider in mind, as the purpose (so that) of verse 5 reveals. One of Paul’s concerns was to protect the Christian message (the word of God; compare Col 1:5; 1 Thess 2:13) from charges that it encouraged disrespectful or revolutionary behavior…” (Towner, 239).
108 For a study and more detail on the Spirit-Controlled Life, see Part 2 of The ABCs for Christian Growth: Laying the Foundation .