In Titus 1, we read that Titus was a fellow worker with Paul. He had been left in Crete by Paul to set about appointing elders in the churches there. Here in chapter 2, Paul writes to encourage Titus to promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. I love that. Wholesome teaching is one thing, living it out is something else. It’s easy to preach (and be preached at) about the need to be imitators of Christ and of God our Father. But it is another thing to take that and actually apply it in our lives. But actually applying our trust in Jesus in everyday life is an essential part of what it means to be a disciple. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, there were often those who “hung around”, but it was those who actually followed Jesus that were his disciples. One thinks of the rich young ruler. He heard Jesus’ teaching, but went away sad because he was unwilling to apply it – to put it into practice. As James puts it, faith without works is dead.
What Paul is doing is encouraging Titus to promote Christian living. I honestly believe that this is something that we must still be doing today. There are many who attend church, but whose lives and actions and way of speaking are very much the same as the world. (And let me be honest: that’s me in many ways. None of us is perfect, but we should all, I believe, be striving to be more Christlike in our everyday lives. As I learnt from Psalm 32:5-6 the other day, the Godly are simply those who confess their sin to God – not those who are perfect [none of us is that!].)
What I find interesting about Titus 2 is how Paul recognises that how being Christlike finds expression differently depending on your situation. Sure, there are commonalities. But an old man has different ways to live a life reflecting wholesome teaching than a young man, or an old woman, or a young woman, or a slave. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are to live a life that reflects what we know and have experienced of God.
And, of course, as we go through different stages of life, we experience different temptations with different magnitudes. Paul seems to assume that older people should have a capacity to model Christ-likeness to the younger. He explicitly tells older women to train the younger women. I’m sure that the older men would have done the same for the young men. (It’s telling that Paul doesn’t tell Titus to teach the younger women – let that be done by the older women. Was Paul trying to protect Titus here?)
Will our lists for young men, older men, older women, younger women or slaves be the same today as they were for the Cretans? I would imagine they would be very similar. But perhaps not identical. Our generations face many of the same – but also some different temptations – than those of previous eras. Titus 2 isn’t meant to be an exhaustive checklist for Christian living… it is Paul applying the principle to the day-to-day practical life of the Christians of Crete.
And I also notice that Paul encourages certain behaviour for the sake of the gospel being effective. So, wives are to be submissive to their husbands so that they don’t bring shame on the word of God. That is, their behaviour is not only to be derived from the facts of their freedom in Christ, but also to be informed by how society sees it. If wives weren’t submissive, society at that time would have scorned the Christian faith.
Similarly, Paul tells Titus to each the truth, and to let everything he does reflect the integrity and seriousness of his teaching. Why? SO that his teaching can’t be criticised, and so that those who oppose the gospel “will be ashamed, and have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus’ behaviour is fully in keeping with the gospel truth – but it also has an apologetical power.
And finally, slaves were to be always obedient, doing their best to please their masters, not stealing, not talking back, but showing themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Is Paul condoning slavery. No… he is merely saying that in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, we are to live a life that is in keeping with the wholesome teaching of our Lord Jesus. Result? People find the gospel of Jesus attractive in every way.
Why can Paul urge us to live like this? Because of God’s grace. We have been saved. And we’re called as followers of Jesus to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We are called to live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness and devotion to God. We wait with hope for the day when Jesus returns. He has freed us from sin, cleansed us and made us his own people at the cost of his life. He redeemed us to be like him – committed to doing good deeds. If that is what God has done for us – if we truly are Jesus people… then let us put our faith into practice – and live a life that is worthy of his calling.
Father, please help me to do exactly that. Help me to live a life that is in accordance with your truth as revealed in Jesus. Thank you for saving me – help me to live my life more and more in imitation of you.