Friday, June 27, 2008

Titus 2:11-14

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

V1 speaks of sound doctrine as the foundation for the application, which is found in v2-10. And v11-14 reveal why. The method for living the Christian life (v2-10) is sound doctrine (v1); the motive for living the Christian life (v2-10) is grace and glory (v11-14). Grace has appeared (v11), and glory will appear (v13). Grace and glory are the motive for living the Christian life, founded on the sound doctrine of God’s word (Luke 1:67-78).

In v11, Paul uses the phrase “all men,” but taken in context of instructions given to all kinds and classes of humans (slaves, masters, old men, young men, old women, young women), we can clearly see this phrase as referring to “all kinds of men.” When he speaks of the grace that brings salvation, Paul is speaking of an effectual, justifying and transforming grace, not some potential grace that offers a saving benefit only if we take hold of it. This grace that brings salvation actually justifies. But it doesn’t stop there. It transforms all kinds of men through sanctification, as v12 declares.

In v12, we learn that this grace teaches us; that’s further evidence that it’s an effectual, transforming grace. This is a grace that justifies and sanctifies us, that transforms and teaches us. What does it teach? Negatively, this grace teaches us to say, “No!” to ungodliness and worldly passions, to idolatry and immorality – the two great categories of sin that lead to destruction (Romans 1; Colossians 3). Grace teaches us to put off the old nature and put on Christ. Positively, this grace teaches us to live self-controlled (sober-minded, as we mentioned earlier), upright (holy and righteous), and godly (pious and reverent) lives “in this present age.” Calvin says, “We learn, first, that there is nothing that ought to render us more active or cheerful in doing good than the hope of the future resurrection; and, secondly, that believers ought always to have their eyes fixed on it, that they may not grow weary in the right course; for, if we do not wholly depend upon it, we shall continually be carried away to the vanities of the world.” We aren’t to wait until eternity to live this way; rather, we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ here and now. However we know that we won’t reach perfection in the “here and now,” so Paul adds another effectual benefit of this grace. Grace also teaches us hope, to look in hope for the glorious appearing, the second coming, of “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (v13). That’s how and when we’ll reach perfection. And notice the clear tribute to the deity of Jesus.

John Piper says of this passage, “The Christ who will come in glory is the Christ who came in grace. V14 describes just how that grace appeared – ‘[Christ] gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds.’ So when the grace of God appeared in history about 2,000 years ago, it appeared as a real man, who really died to redeem us from sin and to make us zealous, or passionate, for good deeds. This was the aim or purpose of the appearance of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. That same aim of grace is described in v12 as well: ‘The grace of God appeared training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.’ That is the same as saying (in v14) that Christ aimed to purify us and make us zealous for good deeds. So v12 and v14 are like a sandwich around v13. Both verses describe the aim and effect of God’s grace as it appeared in the first coming of Jesus Christ. The meat in the middle of the sandwich is our blessed hope (v13). What God’s grace has begun in our lives through the first coming of Christ His glory He will complete in our lives through the second coming of Christ. I think it would be fair to say on the basis of these four verses (v11–14) that the incentive and power to live a Christian life pleasing to God comes from two directions as it were: it comes from looking back with gratitude to the grace of God that appeared in Jesus Christ at His first coming when He purchased our redemption; and it comes from looking forward with hope to the glory of God that will appear at the second coming when He completes our redemption (Hebrews 9:27-28).”

V13 offers some words to consider regarding our hope – it’s a blessed, visible, glorious hope. Piper says, “We should eagerly await the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ because this is a ‘blessed’ hope. A blessed hope is the opposite of a cursed hope. So the first reason to be eager for this great day is that it will mean blessing and not cursing… Notice what Christ is called in this verse: ‘the great God and Savior!’ …Not judge… God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… It is the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” We ought to long for His appearing – it is our blessed, visible, glorious hope; and as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”

We mentioned that grace is a justifying grace – it brings salvation. We mentioned that grace is a sanctifying grace – it transforms and teaches right living. We mentioned that grace also teaches hope, causing us to look for the glorious appearing of Jesus. And finally, in v14, we learn that grace works. It’s effectual. It doesn’t fail, and the reason it works and never fails is because our great God and Savior is behind it. Jesus works! He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (v7; Ephesians 2:8-10); we see two aspects of Jesus’ work: to redeem (individual persons) and to purify (corporate body / congregation). Because Jesus works, because grace works, we work. We are saved, transformed, and taught to live rightly and hope for glory, so that we can do good works.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Titus 2:7-10

7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. 9Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

Paul elaborates on his words from yesterday in v7-8. Titus is to set them (older men, older women, young men, and young women) an example in everything, “by doing what is good.” So Titus teaches sound doctrine and applies it specifically to their lives; but that’s not all. He has to do what is good. His life has to reflect the truth he teaches. Calvin points out, “In the original Greek the style is here involved and obscure, and this creates ambiguity.” The jist of Paul’s language is that doctrine leads naturally into right behavior, and right behavior rightly reflects the soundness of the doctrine.

Furthermore, in his teaching, Titus must “show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned.” There are two views taken of these instructions. One view suggests that Paul is instructing Titus to live with integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech in his general character and personality, outside his vocation of preaching and teaching. That seems to fit with the context. However, the second view, that these instructions apply more to his specific role of teaching, seems worthy as well. It is precisely this:

Three elements of one’s teaching make it fruitful – integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech. Integrity refers to truth and honesty. You’re not making things up, but you can back up what you say with Scripture taken rightly in context. You don’t steal other people’s words, claiming them as your own, but you cite your sources. If you don’t know, find out. Lay out all the options, the historical stances, for understanding a given passage. That’s teaching with integrity. Teaching with seriousness does not mean you can’t make people laugh in your lesson. Rather, you need to bring to light a particular truth that matters in one’s life. Don’t finish your lesson and leave people wondering about the importance of the message. Finally, soundness of speech in teaching does not necessarily mean eloquence or elegance in word choice. It means clarity. Speak clearly, so that everyone can understand. Using a big word here and there is fine, but the overall message must be clearly understood; otherwise it was spoken in vain.

Look at the motive for Paul wanting Christians to exercise good behavior. It’s so that God’s word is honored (not maligned, v5), so that those who oppose Titus’ gospel message of application will be ashamed (v8), and so that no one can say anything bad about Paul’s instruction to Titus (v8). It is supposed that the motivation of v5, according to Calvin, “relates specifically to women who were married to unbelieving husbands, who might judge of the gospel from the wicked conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1).” By following Titus’ instructions in their behavior, these women could win over their unbelieving husbands without words.

Paul instructs Titus to teach slaves as well (v9-10). Slaves have a grand opportunity, with their submission and trustworthiness, to actually make “sound doctrine” attractive. Literally, Paul says that their behavior towards their masters, their superiors, is to be a behavior that will “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” What does that mean?

All of our response to God’s word, our efforts to apply God’s truth to our lives where we are, ought to be for the specific purpose of glorifying the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. In other words, the way we live will either beautify or desecrate the truth of God’s word in the eyes of the watching world. Our lives will either make sound doctrine compelling and sweet (attractive), contributing to the reality of its perceived truth, or our lives will detract and take away from the perceived truth of God’s word. Sadly, needless to say, Christianity as a whole, in our culture of divorce and hypocrisy, desecrates the beauty of God’s truth. But that ought not deter us, especially as young families, from striving to beautify “the teaching about God our Savior” (sound doctrine) by living in a submissive and trustworthy manner – as slaves, bondservants, of our Master, Jesus Christ.

Finally, to summarize, Paul is telling Titus to teach every congregation that they are to embrace sound doctrine, so that each one of them in every walk of life would be encouraged, having the truth applied to his or her specific situation, to the end of beautifying the truth of God. We ought to want the watching world to see our lives and glorify God, saying, “There goes a people in whom God is at work, and you can see that He is at work by the way that they live towards Him, towards one another, in their character, and in their vocation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Titus 2:2-6

2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

Paul tells Titus to teach older men and younger men, as well as older women, who will then be able to teach the younger women. Paul is implicitly telling these Cretan Christians that they’re lives are intertwined with one another. Their desire to grow in grace is not just for their own personal relationship with God; it has an impact on the well-being and the witness of the whole congregation.

First, Titus is to instruct the older men in matters of their physical character (they ought to be temperate, worthy of respect, or dignified, and self-controlled, or sensible); Calvin says, “In the life of old men, therefore, let there be displayed ‘a becoming gravity,’ which shall constrain the young to modesty.” Titus is also to instruct the older men in matters of their spiritual health (sound in faith – trusting Christ, sound in love – caring deeply and selflessly for others over themselves, and sound in endurance, or patience, or perseverance – steadily making progress in their walk with Christ and not backsliding). Calvin calls these – faith, love, and patience – the “sum of Christian perfection.” Titus is to preach sound doctrine to the older men, especially in relation to the application of these elements in their lives.

Second, Titus is to instruct the older women in similar matters regarding their inward beauty (to be reverent – especially in terms of modest dress, not to slander – gossip in over-talkativeness – or be a winebibber (Proverbs 23:20), and to teach). Carolyn Mahaney has written a fabulous book, so I’m told, called Feminine Appeal that addresses women, both young and old, using this text. Ligon Duncan says, “Their character is to evidence God’s transforming grace at work in their lives, and they’re to teach by their example, by their life, the young women of the congregation. They’re not only to be motivated in the Christian life because of God’s grace to them…out of gratitude to God; but they’re to be motivated to live the Christian life because there’s someone watching them, someone that they ought to encourage, someone younger than them who doesn’t know the ropes like they know them… [someone who] needs to be encouraged along the way in living the Christian life.”

Third, Titus is to instruct younger men simply to be self-controlled. Calvin says, “It is as if he had said, ‘Let them be well regulated and obedient to reason.’” Fourth, going back to the motive for the older women, they are to teach the younger women. It’s not enough for older women to live rightly; they must also teach younger women. It’s interesting to me that Paul doesn’t tell Titus to teach the younger women. They are off-limits, possibly though not likely for sexual reasons, but probably because young women lacked cultural respect. The older women, instructed by Titus, are to then teach the younger women “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands.” These instructions, chastity and avoiding imprudence, are not merely for the younger women, but are for all women, regardless of age. Because the older women have more experience, they are the instructors, generally speaking.

No doubt these teachings hit home with the Cretan Christians exactly where they were in their lives. The word of God is to be learned (sound doctrine) and applied directly to these areas of each Christian’s life. If we had to pick one common element, it might be sober-mindedness, something crucial to Paul in this letter (1 Timothy 5:1-2). “Self-controlled” is the same idea, and the verb form is found in v4, translated “train.” It means to “bring them to their senses.” Think about that in light of what we know of Cretans! It’s perfect instruction.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Titus 2:1

1You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

There are two things you don’t discuss with friends – politics and religion. They are divisive, and people get emotional about them; avoid those subjects at all costs. Right? You may have heard this phrase before: “Doctrine divides.” And you know it’s true. Doctrine – good, sound, biblical doctrine – does divide. It divides the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, believers from unbelievers, uniting those of common confession in an enduring bond that transforms relationships. The idea behind the popular phrase, however, is that “doctrine” is dangerous to relationships, so we ought to leave it out of conversations and life; all will surely get along much better without bringing up “doctrine” or “politics and religion.” Author Ian Ramsey said regarding doctrine, “Theology seems often to the outsider just so much word-spinning, air-borne discourse which never touches down except disastrously” [quoted by David Wells, No Place for Truth, pg. 97]. Today the Emerging, or Emergent, Church is all about Christian growth apart from preaching and teaching; they say fellowship and love is where growth comes from. But Paul disagrees with these assessments. He stresses again here the importance of sound doctrine. Truth is for life; sound doctrine is essential to healthy Christian living. Christian growth comes from the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine. Growing in the transforming knowledge of the gospel, God’s word in its fullness, is crucial to becoming like Christ.

Why the taboo of doctrine? One preacher said, “All doctrine does is reveal what was already present in the minds and hearts of the people involved. Sound doctrine exposes dangerous and damnable beliefs and practices. That’s why it is so actively opposed. Without sound doctrine many will hold to a false assurance of Christian profession. Doctrine shakes the foundation of our lives, laying bare what our lives and faith is built upon. Unfortunately, some identify doctrine as sectarianism – simply the peculiar dogmas that make one religious group or denomination different from another. That skirts over the heart-and-soul of biblical doctrine. Doctrine is the clear formulation, explanation, and application of the Word of God that “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). This does result in divisions; that is inevitable. But this is nothing new. It is precisely what our Lord declared concerning His own ministry: ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34-36).”

What is included under the heading of “sound doctrine”? All the phrase “sound doctrine” means is “healthy and vital teaching,” or “truth.” It is the set of beliefs that directs your behavior. Sound doctrine is essential for edification, for discipleship, for growth in grace. This is what Christianity is all about – having your heart formed, your mind transformed, and your will conformed to God’s. Once these elements fall into place through the teaching of sound doctrine, godly behavior, holiness, naturally follows. So “sound doctrine” includes the whole of God’s word, and that alone. “Sound doctrine” includes the milk and the meat of the gospel, the truth that Jesus saves sinners in its simplest form, and the truth of how we come to be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the Scriptures alone to the glory of God alone. “Sound doctrine” includes growing in general knowledge about God and His will, and it includes the methodology of how to apply that practical knowledge into everyday life. Patrick Fairbairn concludes fittingly, saying, “Christianity is primarily, indeed, a doctrine, but only that it may be in the true sense a life.” And so here in Titus 2:2-14, Paul will instruct Titus on how to teach “sound doctrine.” Paul lays the application first, in v2-10, and follows up with the “doctrinal” foundation for the application in v11-14.