TITUS, WEEK TWO: RIGHT LIVING IN THE CHURCH
The Bible is True…
Last week we started a short series on the NT Letter of Titus. As a refresher, Titus has been left on the Grecian island of Crete to establish leadership in the newly formed house churches and to correct false teaching. We focused on two things found in chapter 1à the importance of right doctrine in the church and the qualifications for a godly leadership. For a more detailed look at chapter 1, check out the transcript on our website, Byhaliaumc.org.
But I want to remind us that Sound Doctrine comes FROM God and is ABOUT God for the GLORY of God. Holy Scripture is the source and norm of sound doctrine. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 says this: 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God a may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Sound teaching…teaching on the nature and character of our triune God, his grace in offering salvation to all people through the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, is central not only to faith in God but also in godly living. The gospel is the basis for Christian ethics. Right doctrine informs right living, within the church and in the world.
This morning, as we read chapter 2, we are going to be exploring Paul’s instruction to Titus on how to teach godly living. [READ TITUS 2]
In contrast to false teaching and false teachers who profess to know God but deny him by their works, Paul is giving Titus instruction on proper Christian living within the Christian home. He does this by age, gender groups, and even household servants.
Why? First, we need to remember that the Christian movement began in the home. Long before there were brick-and-mortar edifices in which to gather for weekly worship, there were congregations meeting much more frequently in house churches. It could be argued that—as the home goes—so goes the church. Come to think of it, could we not argue the same point today?
We complain that when prayer was removed from the schools, it marked the beginning of the downfall of our school system. And then, when biblical teaching of any kind was removed from public schools, the decline continued deeper. But I would argue that when we took prayer and Bible reading from the homes and relegated such spiritual disciplines to a Sunday morning church event with paid clergy and tireless volunteers of Sunday School teachers, WE (Christians) caused the biblical illiteracy of our children and created a generation of morally bankrupt youth who do not know how to pray or even WHO to pray to!
I believe that is why it is vitally important that Byhalia UMC recapture what has been lost in our homes for the next generation. One way to do that is to offer a Christ-centered Early Learning Center for the children of our community. I think that is what God is calling us to do; and we have the physical facilities and land to do it! Some of us are regularly praying for God to raise up called leaders in this church to fulfill that vision. [More on that down the road.]
The early church in Crete was in homes, led by the elder of the household. A small number of families would meet in one household and among those Christian families would be a leader that Titus was challenged to “ordain” or “appoint.” It was vitally important that he be qualified (see 1:5-10) to teach sound doctrine. Why? Because right doctrine leads to right living.
Let’s look at these groups briefly. As we do, I want to ask those of you who might get easily offended at the seemingly sexist way in which Paul writes to please keep an open mind. We need to remember the time and culture in which this was written. But we also must be mindful that the biblical principles underlying Paul’s instructions are just a relevant today as they were nearly 2,000 years ago.
The first group Paul addresses is the older men. Why? Because these are the patriarchs. These are the people who are responsible for their households. These are the ones who have the greatest influence in society. If the enemy can morally destroy leaders of churches, businesses, and even our politics, then he can destroy our societies and nations.
Paul tells Titus to teach the older men to be temperate (sober-minded), worthy of respect (dignified), self-controlled (SOUND-minded), and sound (healthy) in faith, in love, and in endurance. Basically, Titus is to train older men to be respectable as Christians and vibrant in their faith. You see, the younger men are watching…imitating what they see their elders do. Wives and other women are also affected by the behavior of older men.
It’s hard to believe, but I think I may have passed over into that category of “older men.” I’m “grandfather age!” Sadly, I’m not a grandfather…☹…yet! Anyway, older men, can we talk? Let me ask you: what kind of legacy are you leaving behind? When your sons, daughters, and grandkids watch you, do they see a respectable Christian with a vibrant faith? Do they see a man actively teaching the younger men around you what real biblical manhood looks like?
Paul turns his attention to older women. Again, we see reverence, temperance when it comes to drinking, and abstention from making false or damaging statements about others. The instruction to older women is intertwined with that of younger women because part of the role of a Christian older woman was to train younger women in wise instruction and good judgment.
Here’s where some of you “might” want to throw rotten tomatoes at me or rip this page from your Bible. Can I ask you to see these instructions in light of context and look to the true biblical meaning? Paul is NOT saying here that women cannot work outside of the household. We know that some women of the Bible DID just that. Remember Lydia, the purple clothe maker? She was quite enterprising and successful? And Proverbs 31 (which Lu’s group will get to in the year 2024!) points to the attributes of an ideal woman and wife. In that text, the wife and mother also works outside the home.
What Paul IS saying…and what I believe STILL applies today…is that family comes first. God naturally made women to be more nurturing than men. It is my experience that women tend to be more domestic than men. [I enjoy doing the laundry by the way! I’m also told that if you have any indoor chores, Charley Weathers is your man!] Seriously, Paul is encouraging older women to live godly, reverent, sober, self-controlled lives SO THAT they may teach younger women how to fulfill their primary role in life. Godliness is more caught than taught. Our kids watch what we do…or NOT do.
The words “self-controlled” pops up again. It’s uses 4 times in this chapter and once in chapter one. When I was studying that word, I just KNEW Paul was using the same Greek word he used in his letter to Galatians when describing the fruit of the Spirit. That word, ἐγκράτεια (eng-krat’-i-ah), is a compound word which properly means dominion/mastery within. Self-mastery…self-restraint.
You’ve seen those child leashes, haven’t you? Parents will put their kid in a harness tethered to a leash so the child can only go so far; then the parent can pull them back toward them. Kids are not able to have free control over their lives. They need restraints. But as they grow, they learn more responsibility and ultimately come to have control over their lives. What we discover, however, is that humans cannot make healthy, godly, wise decisions when left to our own devices. We need guardrails…boundaries…to help keep us out of the moral and ethical ditches of life.
God’s Word is our leash…our guardrail. And the longer we walk with God…the longer we learn and apply His Word in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, the more we master our inner desires and behaviors. It’s really God mastering our lives when we let him!
Back to the word, self-controlled, used in Titus. The word is σώφρων (sophron), which means to be of sound mind…temperate…modest. It, too, is a compound wordàsound/safe with “inner outlook” which regulates outward behavior. It means being divinely balanced. For this reason, many translations use the word “self-controlled” because being divinely balanced is to be self-controlled. And this can truly only come from the inner presence of the Spirit.
Paul speaks of the importance for young women to be taught to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God. What is he saying? Are wives to be submissive to an authoritative, demanding brute, doing whatever he says? Absolutely not!
For help with this, let’s quickly turn over to Ephesians 5. Paul is giving detailed instructions for Christian living. He turns his attention to the household and says this of wives in verse 22ff : “submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
Jesus is God in flesh. He is the Second Person of the Triune God. He is preeminent co-creator of the universe. And yet he emptied himself and submitted to the will of the Father. That didn’t make Jesus LESS than God the Father. It made him exalted because of his obedience! Women, submitting to your husbands does not make you LESS than him. You are exalted within the home. Her children will rise and call her blessed!
Now notice what is says next about husbands: “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their lives as their own bodies.”
Husbands are to love like Jesus loves…sacrificially! Men, you are called to put your wives and children above the needs of yourself. Every day we are called to love our families and do all we can to provide a godly, Christ-centered presence in their lives. We are to protect them. We are to guard their integrity and purity. This takes a real man! We need to give our children someone to respect. We must give our wives someone to revere and submit to. I guarantee you that if we live a Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life, our wives will WANT to submit to our spiritual authority.
For far too long, men AND women of the church have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to leading godly, self-controlled lives. The result is a generation of children and youth who don’t know restraint, self-discipline, reverence, and godliness. Is it too late? Paul didn’t’ think so, and neither do I.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul was instructing his young son in the faith to teach sound doctrine for the very reason that the world was growing spiritually darker and darker. Listen to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 à 1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. Paul is NOT speaking about the world outside of Christianity in this passage. He’s talking about within the church! False teaching…weak teaching…incomplete teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ leads to weak Christians…weak teachers…false teachers.
One more area that Paul points to: household servants. Again, we can misread this text if we try to impose our tragic American historical experience of slavery onto this passage. It would have been common for servants to resent their 1st century Greco-Roman masters, even steal from them. Paul is saying that, for Christian households, a Christian servant must have a different mindset. They reflect not just themselves, but the Christ in them. To backtalk or steal from their masters would be unattractive to other would-be followers of Jesus. They would be no better than other non-Christian household servants. They would be true hypocrites.
When it comes right down to it, all these teachings are designed to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ the appealing life that it truly is. New life in Christ is fulfilling and joyful. But if we continue to life unrestrained, undisciplined lives without self-control, then we are not really ambassadors for a new life in Christ, are we?
CONCLUSION: I hope you see by the instructions Paul is giving to Titus, Christian households simply must be taught sound doctrine. So how do we go about that? Here are a few suggestions as we close out.
- Be a LEARNER. That’s what disciple means. Be a learner of Christ. Jesus, before leaving this earth, gave what is commonly called the Great Commission: Go and “make disciples” of all nations…Not only did he instruct his disciples to baptized them, but also to TEACH them to OBEY everything Jesus commanded. He told us to make learners! So, be a learner.
1 One great way to be a learner is to participate in Life Groups.
2 Another vital element is reading and meditating on God’s word. There simply is NO substitute. If we are supposed to obey everything the Lord teaches us, then we have to KNOW what he teaches!
- Be an IMITATOR. Find men and women of God and follow their example. Ask questions if you need clarification on how they live godly lives.
- Be a LEADER. Demonstrate and share godly values and virtues with others. Lead a group of brothers or sisters in the ways of Christ. One of my favorite verses about this comes from 2 Tim. 2:2à You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. Downline Ministry!
Friends, if we’re going to take back our schools for Jesus, we need to first take back our homes for Jesus. Right doctrine leads to right living in our Christian homes, which pours out to our communities. AMEN