After spending much of the first portion of his letter to Titus discussing some important guidelines for good church leadership, the Apostle Paul will next take some time to examine the needs of those who comprised a typical church fellowship of that era. In doing so, Paul will separate these individuals into five distinct groups.
First Paul will address the older men followed by the older women of a typical congregation. Next he will turn his attention to the younger women followed by the younger men. Finally, Paul will finish by addressing the responsibilities of Christian slaves within that culture.
But before Paul begins to address the individual needs associated with these groups, he first has a few words for Titus...
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1).
In contrast to the false teachers mentioned near the conclusion of chapter one, Paul had one simple message for Titus: "But you..." (HCSB). In other words, Titus was to clearly differentiate himself (and his teaching) from those on the Island of Crete who professed to know God but denied Him by their works (Titus 1:16).
In doing so, Titus would help establish a God-honoring alternative to such false teachers as well as those others within the Cretan community who were reputed to be nothing more than "...liars, wicked beasts, and lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). For Titus, the meaning behind this message was clear: "You speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine regardless of what these others are (or aren't) doing."
For instance, the false teachers of Crete were communicating nothing more but fables (Titus 1:14) but Titus was to set the right example by speaking that which was proper. While the false teachers of that area were promoting the "commands of people who reject the truth" (Titus 1:14 NET), Titus was responsible for communicating sound doctrine.
Even though these false teachers had demonstrated themselves to
be "...detestable, disobedient and
unfit for doing anything good" (Titus 1:16 NIV), Titus
responsible to set the kind of God-honoring example that
Paul will go on to expand upon this idea in the next few verses by identifying some of the characteristics found among the members of a faithful church congregation including...
Paul will begin unpacking these various elements for us next.
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience" (Titus 2:1-2).
Earlier in his epistle to Titus, Paul wrote, "(A bishop must be)... hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled" (Titus 1:8). In other words, a good church leader is someone who possesses a God-honoring attitude along with the ability to manage his behavior in a manner that is appropriate for every situation.
As it turns out, this is not only good advice for a bishop or overseer but also represents good advice for the individual members of a church fellowship as well. To illustrate this, Paul will begin by addressing the "older" men within a congregation, a general term that might include those male members of a church who were aged 50 years and older.
Of course, this particular age is sometimes associated with the proverbial "mid-life crisis," a period of time when some men begin to recognize the brevity of life and respond by attempting to reclaim a more youthful identity. While the caricature of an older man who seeks to recapture the life of his past may initially provide for some amusement, a man who feels as if he must recover his past instead of looking ahead to the future is really someone who is more to be pitied.
On the other hand, let's consider the example of a man who has reached the autumn or winter of life with the ability to look forward to an eternity with Christ. A man who has spent his time investing in God's agenda for eternity is someone who can face his advancing years with dignity, respect, and honor. To use Paul's terminology, such a man is one who is capable of being "...self-controlled, serious, (and) wise" (NCV).
Instead of attempting to reclaim a past that was supposedly better (or perhaps never was), a God-honoring senior man has an opportunity to share his life experiences for the benefit of the next generation. For instance, a man who came to Christ following a misspent adolescence can help the younger members of a congregation learn from his mistakes. A man who has walked with Jesus from his youth can likewise share the benefits associated with a lifetime of service to Him.
In both instances, a relationship with Christ can provide a man with a life and ministry that is both productive and relevant as he faces his later years.
"Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness" (Titus 2:2 ESV).
The oldest tool in the workshop of a craftsman is a tool that is often the most highly regarded. A decades-old tool that has reliably performed the job that it was built to do is a tool that a craftsman usually selects most often- and a good tool that has become scarred and worn through years of use only serves to reflect the degree of respect that the craftsman holds for that particular piece of equipment.
In fact, a craftsman may continue to reach for a familiar and reliable piece of equipment that has served him well over the years even when that tool has been superseded by newer and better equipment. However, an older tool that once served reliably but can no longer do so in the way it once did is is one that is more likely to be set aside in favor of some other implement.
This brief comparison serves to illustrate a subtle but all too real concern facing those who fall within the age group that Paul mentions here in Titus 1:2- men who have reached what is likely to be their "final quarter" of life here on earth. You see, the challenges that are often associated with the latter years of life may tend to overshadow what might be an even greater danger- a feeling of irrelevance and a sense that advancing age has robbed a man of a life that matters.
Much like the athlete who faces difficulty adjusting to life when age and declining skills have robbed him of the ability to compete, the inability to continue those youthful endeavors that once provided a sense of worth and purpose may sometimes generate an inner sense of irrelevance- and that internal feeling of insignificance may sometimes lead to external expressions that are often damaging or unhealthy.
When a man has based his sense of worth upon the things that he
was once able to accomplish in
his own strength, skill, or natural ability, an intrinsic feeling
of irrelevance may result
when he finds that he no longer possesses those attributes.
However, a man in Christ who is "...sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness" (ESV) is a man who possesses qualities of eternal value. Such a man will always possess a life that is relevant regardless of age or physical condition for he will always set forth a God-honoring standard in these areas and provide an example for others to follow.
"(Teach) the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed" (Titus 2:3-5).
Some years ago, a company was contracted to provide services for a community of residents aged 55 and older. In the course of completing this contracted work, the employees of the company had an opportunity to observe and interact with many of the residents within this retirement community on a regular basis.
Over time, the employees of the contractor began to form certain opinions based on their experience with the men and women who resided within the community. While many of the members of the community were cordial and pleasant, a surprisingly large number were much less so. In fact, some of the representatives employed by the company were taken aback by their experiences with those residents who were supposedly entering their "golden years."
For example, a number of residents seemed to possess a thinly veiled sense of resentment, an attitude that was expressed though antagonistic comments, sarcastic observations, and a subtle demeanor of contempt. Others seemed bitter and overly argumentative with spouses and other members of the community. A large number of residents simply filled their hours with gossip, mundane social events, or exceedingly frivolous forms of entertainment.
This led some employees of the contractor to observe, "These people are simply passing the time while they are waiting to die. They have spent their entire lives doing nothing of eternal significance and now have become bitter, angry people who are facing the end of their lives with little to show for it."
In contrast to such unfortunate examples, the passage quoted here from Titus 2:3-5 begins a section that offers a far better alternative. For instance, this passage begins with an important reminder along with two negative behaviors for older women (and others) to avoid: "Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking" (NET).
"Slander" refers to the intentional communication of a false statement that is designed to injure the reputation of another. Titus 2:3 helps remind us to avoid such behavior when presented with the opportunity. A cautionary warning regarding alcohol abuse then follows this admonition. Since alcohol often serves as a contributor to poor or inappropriate decisions, Paul counseled Titus to advise the women of the Cretan community to avoid such excesses as well.
"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. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, 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" (Titus 2:3-5 NET).
Following his admonitions regarding slander and alcohol abuse, the Apostle Paul then followed with a specific mission for the senior women of the Christian community on the Island of Crete. This mission involved the responsibility to lead by example in teaching the younger women of the church.
In detailing the individual responsibilities that comprised this responsibility, Paul touched upon seven specific areas where a Godly woman might have an opportunity to make a significant impact upon the next generation: "...encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands..." (HCSB).
These seven reminders can help serve as a guide to establishing the right kind of priorities, especially in the life of a busy 21st century woman. For instance, it may be possible for a savvy, capable, and talented woman to become so engaged in balancing the demands of everyday life that the foundational responsibility to love her husband and children somehow becomes a secondary priority.
The remaining admonitions of Titus 2:5 also provide us with a number of other qualities with "real life" applications as well. For instance, a woman of discretion (NKJV) understands that a private conversation with her husband should not become the property of her friends. A woman of purity (ESV) and kindness (HCSB) is a person who is naturally attractive, while a woman who demonstrates leadership in managing household affairs is someone who is always appreciated by a God-honoring man.
Finally, Paul's counsel that wives should be "...submissive to their own husbands" (ESV) is something that should be read in context with another of Paul's New Testament writings: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21 NIV). A wise couple will recognize each others strengths and weaknesses and submit (or defer) to each other in those areas where God has assigned a specific gift, role, or responsibility.
Taken together as a whole, a woman who exhibits these qualities is someone who will help to ensure that "...no one will malign the word of God" (NIV).
"Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded" (Titus 2:6).
In addition to the exhortation found here in Titus 2:6, the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes provides us with another piece of Godly wisdom for youth...
"Young man, it's wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it! Do all you want to; take in everything, but realize that you must account to God for everything you do. So banish grief and pain, but remember that youth, with a whole life before it, can make serious mistakes" (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 TLB).
One way to interpret and apply this passage is to understand it to mean that the period of youth is a time to "...follow your heart's desire" (GNB). For example, youth represents a time when a young man or woman might choose to participate in competitive athletics. It might be time to purchase, build, or customize a vehicle that might otherwise be impractical for an older person. It might be a time to explore the possibilities that are available to a musician. Or it might represent a time when a young man or woman might travel, volunteer, serve his or her country, or enjoy the social opportunities that come with higher education.
Rather than minimize or nullify the potential opportunities of youth, this portion of God's Word encourages young men and women to recognize and pursue them. In view of the brevity of life and the fact that the opportunities of youth are only available for a limited time, the Scriptures urge us to make the most of them.
But the Scriptures also make certain to provide an important reminder to consider in the pursuit of such opportunities: "...know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment" (Ecclesiastes 11:9 NIV). In other words, we should allow God's Word to establish the boundaries within which we find our enjoyment, pleasure, and vocation in life. This Old Testament message corresponds fittingly with Paul's New Testament counsel to "...guide the young men to live disciplined lives" (MSG) here in Titus 2:6.
But just as was noted earlier, this does not only represent good advice for youth- it represents good advice for everyone. As one commentary observes...
"Titus was to similarly encourage the young men to exercise self-control, a virtue in which many young men are deficient. (Yet) Paul used some form of the word here translated 'self-control" with each of the four groups of people... Various forms of the word are prominent in the Pastorals, indicating for all Christians the importance of moderation, sensibleness, and self-restraint." (1)
(1) Titus 2:6 Bible Knowledge Commentary pg. 764
(2) Portions of this study were adapted from Under The Sun: Studies in the Book Of Ecclesiastes
"in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you" (Titus 2:7-8).
Having reached the approximate halfway point in his message to Titus, Paul delivered one of the key messages of this epistle: "In everything set them an example by doing what is good" (NIV). So just as Paul once asked the church at Corinth to "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1), this counsel would help ensure that Titus would not be perceived as a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of leader.
A closer look at this passage reveals that Paul instructed Titus to lead by example in three key areas:
These characteristics were especially important in light of the opposition presented by the false teachers that Paul referenced earlier within this epistle. Since Paul was personally acquainted with those who misrepresented his teachings to suit their own agenda, (4) this advice to deliver "...a sound message that cannot be criticized" (NET) was something that surely formed a portion of his own practical experience.
This counsel also represented a complete reversal from a very different type of leadership model addressed by Paul within his letter to the church of Rome...
"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written" (Romans 2:21-24).
In the words of one commentary, "Far better, said the apostle, that they be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. They would not cease their attacks, of course, but they might at least be embarrassed by having to make up their own false accusations" (5)
(1) aphthoria Expository Dictionary of Bible Words edited by Stephen D. Renn pg. 525
(2) G4587 semnotes Thayer’s Greek Definitions
(3) G861 aphtharsia Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(4) See Romans 3:7-8 and Acts 25:7-8
(5) Titus 2:7-8 Bible Knowledge Commentary pg. 764
"Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:9-10).
Titus 2:9-10 begins a brief section that details the responsibilities of those within the Christian community on the Island of Crete who served as slaves. Before addressing the specific question of slavery and its relationship to Christian life and practice, lets first take a moment to consider the manner in which we might apply these Scriptures in a modern-day culture where slavery does not exist.
For instance, a passage such as Titus 2:9-10 is often validated by modern-day teachers in the following manner: "The master/slave relationship model that once existed in the days of the first century is no longer in place today. Since this relationship model no longer exists, we are now responsible to adapt the Biblical teaching on this subject and appropriate it in a manner that reflects the next closest relationship model in place today: the employer/employee relationship."
In other words, it is important to recognize that a general Biblical principle exists behind these Scriptures, a principle that extends beyond the specific type of relationship mentioned here. This principle tells us that Christians must honor God and respect those who serve as their employers. This principle (like all Biblical principles) is something that remains consistent and applicable within all societies, both ancient and modern.
However, this Biblical principle (again, like all Biblical principles) is something that may also be adapted to meet the needs of different societies and cultures. In this instance, the Biblical teaching on slaves and masters can be put to use in any working relationship, no matter what the time or place. (1) So this approach often represents a good way to interpret and apply Scriptures like the ones found here in Titus 2:9-10.
However, we should also recognize that such passages also present some difficult and formidable questions. For example, how could the Bible advise slaves to be "...under the authority of their masters, pleasing them in all things, without argument" (BBE) while serving in a relationship that we recognize today as immoral and wrong? This can be a challenging question for anyone who desires to be a thinking person of God and represent Christ well in the arena of ideas at school or at work.
We'll look at some important historical context in addressing this question next.
(1) Its important to note that "adapted" does not mean "changed" or "altered." "Adaptation" in this sense involves conforming one's behavior to a specific Biblical principle rather than modifying the principle to suit one's individual preference.
"Slaves are to be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness, so that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything" (Titus 2:9-10 HCSB).
When dealing with the Scriptural teachings on the subject of slavery, its important to begin with the recognition that people throughout most of human history have not viewed slavery as something that is evil, immoral, or wrong.
For instance, a great moral wrong (like slavery) may become
established as a cultural norm whenever a society chooses to
abandon the God of the Scriptures. Jesus once illustrated this
idea with the following observation: "You know that in
this world kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the
people beneath them" (Matthew 20:25 NLT).
In light of this, we can say that a society that truly recognized the God of the Scriptures and genuinely accepted the fact that every human being will be called to account for his or her conduct before a just, fair, and morally perfect Creator is not one that would engage in such behavior.
Jesus also made another statement that directly relates to this subject: "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34 NIV). With this in mind, it shouldn't surprise us to find an acceptance of physical enslavement among those who are spiritually enslaved as well.
These historical realities represent an important starting point for discussion on this subject, for the Roman Empire (which controlled the Island of Crete and most of the known world at the time of Paul's letter to Titus) accepted slavery as a legitimate sector of the national economy in the days of the first century.
For example, the Romans would often sell prisoners of war or
inhabitants of a conquered land area as slaves. Those who had
debt were sometimes forced into slavery as a means of survival as
Slaves within the Roman Empire were considered to be the property of their owners and were viewed no differently than we might view a hand tool, an appliance, or other such implement today. In fact, it is believed that approximately 60 million human beings served as slaves during this period and that this number may have comprised up to half the total population of the entire Roman Empire.
These realities represent the historical context for Paul's remarks within his letter to Titus. Although these verses may be interpreted as an expression of support for the concept of slavery by some, we'll see how these teachings actually served to undermine the master/slave model of working relationships next.
"Slaves must always obey their masters and do their best to please them. They must not talk back or steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way" (Titus 2:9-10 NLT).
The idea that one human being can be made to serve as the property of another human being is rightly viewed by most modern societies as a violation of basic human rights. It's also safe to say that most people today would probably (and correctly) agree that the concept of "slavery" is morally repugnant.
Yet the New Testament book of Ephesians tells us, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ" (Ephesians 6:5 NIV). Then there is Colossians 3:22 which also goes on to say, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord" (NIV).
While these passages may seem difficult to reconcile with the unjust practice of slavery, we should recognize an important reality: the fact that slavery exists does not necessarily indicate that God approves of it. For example, the Scriptures tell us that human beings are created in God's image (see Genesis 1:27) and slavery is clearly the wrong expression of that image.
The Scriptures also tell us that "We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same-we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28 TLB). This important New Testament concept is an idea that eventually served to undermine the master/slave model of interpersonal relationships.
You see, this passage might be compared to a series of small explosive devices that are often used to implode an obsolete office building, stadium, or other large architectural structure. For instance, when a property development firm seeks to demolish a large, outdated building, it generally does not do so with a single large explosion; instead, the structure is methodically destabilized by a series of controlled detonations that are designed to carefully (but thoroughly) bring the entire unit down with a minimum of collateral damage. (1)
In a similar manner, the revolutionary concept outlined within Galatians 3:28 (the idea that everyone is equal in Christ regardless of his or her social position) is one that slowly began to fracture the master/slave paradigm and paved the way for a new standard of business and interpersonal relationships.
We'll examine this impact of this teaching on the master/slave relationship model next.
(1) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eem7d58gjno for an impressive display of such implosion techniques from throughout the world
"Slaves are to be subject to their own masters in everything, to do what is wanted and not talk back, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, in order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything" (Titus 2:9-10 NET).
Slavery was an accepted way of life within the Roman Empire and as strange as it may sound to us today, there were also Christians who owned or served as slaves at that time. Yet instead of mounting a direct assault on the morally repulsive practice of slavery through the pages of the Scriptures, God instead chose to use a more subtle, but highly effective means of eradicating this practice.
First, the Scriptures directed Christian slaves to work for their owners just as if they were working for Christ and always give their best effort- even when their owners weren't watching (see Ephesians 6:5). Slave owners were then commanded to treat slaves in a God-honoring manner. Owners were not permitted to threaten their slaves (Ephesians 6:9) and were instructed to interact with slaves in a righteous and equitable manner according to Colossians 4:1: "Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven."
These instructions, along with Jesus' teaching to "...treat people the same way you want them to treat you" (Matthew 7:12 NASB) meant that all Christians -slave or free- now had an equal obligation to treat each other with mutual respect and dignity. Over time, these principles began to slowly undermine the slave/owner mentality that had once existed. As these values began to change people internally, they also began to influence an external move away from the old master/slave model of working relationships.
In addition, we should also consider a situation that might have faced a Christian master with a Christian slave in the days of the first century. If a master and slave both attended the same church, there was a chance that a slave might actually hold a position of spiritual authority over his master. The possibility that a master might look to his slave for spiritual guidance is one that must have exerted significant impact upon support for the practice of slavery as well.
So instead of furthering the idea of master/slave working relationships, the New Testament teaching on this subject actually had the opposite effect. The Biblical concept that slaves and masters were equal in God's sight laid the important groundwork that helped eliminate the once common practice of slavery and continues to do so today.
"Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and 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" (Titus 2:9-10 NIV).
Before moving on from the question of Biblical slavery and its relationship to Christian life and practice, we should stop to consider another, more controversial Biblical passage on this subject...
“And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have — from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property.
And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor” (Leviticus 25:44-46).
A thinking person might respond to these verses with a challenge to explain why God should not be considered to be unjust for allowing the ancient Israelites to take permanent slaves from among the people of the surrounding nations. This is a valid question and there are intelligent, just, and rational answers available for anyone who is genuinely willing to give these verses the attention they deserve.
To begin however, we must first lay some preliminary groundwork. You see, this question must be considered in context with the fact that the Israelites were instructed to kill (or at least dispossess) the members of such people groups (see Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Leviticus 18:26-28 also tells us that God did not instruct the people of Israel to undertake this course of action without cause...
“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (1)
When measured against the prospects of death or flight to a foreign nation where conditions were likely to be worse, indentured servitude to the people of God may have represented the best available option.
(1) This did not represent an impulsive or capricious act on God's part; in fact, Genesis 15:13-16 indicates that such abominations (including, but not limited to acts such as incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice) had been ongoing for many hundreds of years by the time Israel arrived to take possession of the land.XIII
"Tell slaves always to please their owners by obeying them in everything. Slaves must not talk back to their owners or steal from them. They must be completely honest and trustworthy. Then everyone will show great respect for what is taught about God our Savior" (Titus 2:9-10 CEV).
In allowing the people of ancient Israel to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations (Leviticus 25:44-46), we should also consider the larger context of God's promise to His people through the pages of the Scriptures...
“And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them” (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This passage underscores God's intent to appoint the people of Israel to a position of leadership among the surrounding nations. The book of Psalms reveals one particular advantage that derived from this appointment...
"He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, And they inherited the labor of the nations, That they might observe His statutes And keep His laws. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 105:44-45).
So the tangible example of God's blessing in providing the labor and possessions of the surrounding nations served as an extension of His promise to assign Israel to a position of authority and generate a sense of respect for His Word.
In one sense, this act of provision is reminiscent of Jesus' Parable of the Talents, wherein a valuable possession was taken from a steward who had failed to use that possession properly and given to another (see Matthew 25:14-30). In this instance, the former inhabitants and surrounding nations of Israel had failed to conduct themselves in a God-honoring manner and thus were dispossessed of their land in favor of the Israelites.
But in permitting the acquisition of slaves from among the surrounding nations, God also initiated a test for His people as well.
For instance, how would a man or woman of God respond when given absolute authority over another human being? Would he or she treat that person with justice, wisdom, and compassion? Or would he or she adopt the relationship model held by the surrounding nations of that time and view that person as nothing more than a commodity to be used and discarded- an attitude that was illustrated by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who said that a "...master and slave have nothing in common; a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave." (1)
(1) Nicomachean Ethics
"Servants are to be under the authority of their masters, pleasing them in all things, without argument; Not taking what is not theirs, but giving clear signs of their good faith, in all things doing credit to the teaching of God our Saviour. For the grace of God has come, giving salvation to all men" (Titus 2:9-10 BBE).
In allowing the nation of Israel to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations (Leviticus 25:44-46), God instructed His people to allow their own experience as slaves within the nation of Egypt to shape and influence their thinking regarding such relationships......
"You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you..." (Deuteronomy 15:15, see also Leviticus 19:34).
Nevertheless, the Law of Moses contained a number of protections that were designed to protect slaves from owners who were inclined to treat them in a less than God-honoring manner. For instance, while slaves of other nations had no rights (and were sometimes worked to a literal death), the Law ensured that an Israelite slave would be provided with one day of rest every week....
"but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you" (Deuteronomy 5:14).
In addition, the Old Testament Law prohibited (or assigned penalties for) practices that were routinely accepted within other nations during that time including...
Since the inhabitants of Canaan were about to be dispossessed of their land by the people of Israel, the choices left to those inhabitants were death, escape to an area beyond the Promised Land (along with the potential for capture and foreign enslavement) or the acceptance of a master/slave relationship with the people of Israel along with the protections afforded to them by Israel's God.
As mentioned earlier, an agreement to enter a master/slave relationship with the people of Israel may have represented the most attractive option available, especially when considering these alternatives.XV
"Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior" (Titus 2:9-10 ESV).
The Scriptures reveal certain aspects of human relational behavior such as polygamy, divorce, and slavery that were accommodated (though not preferred) by God in recognition of human sin. But the fact that God permitted and regulated such types of behavior does not necessarily imply that He approved of them.
Instead, God may have elected to allow the Old Testament-era Israelites to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations (Leviticus 25:44-46) in order to establish the potential for a positive end result. While this may initially seem to be counter-intuitive, there is both Biblical and practical support for such an approach.
For instance, the well-known Biblical personality Joseph once responded to a wrong that had been committed against him by saying, "...you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive..." (Genesis 50:20). So just as a skilled martial arts expert seeks to use an opponent's force against him, God may have employed a similar tactic in permitting and regulating the practice of slavery among the people of Old Testament Israel. (1)
You see, a foreign slave among the Hebrew people would become acquainted with the God of Israel, something that was otherwise unlikely to occur. He or she would be permitted to participate in Israel's religious observances (Exodus 12:43-44) and thus have an opportunity to find the salvation offered by the God of the Scriptures.
It was in this manner that something good (the knowledge of, and salvation offered by the one true God) might be derived from an immoral institution such as slavery. One commentator captures the thought like this...
"God’s self-disclosure and direction to his elect nation often accommodated existing cultural aspects. While such accommodation reflects God’s way of dealing with his creation, it does not necessarily imply his ideal will. Slavery is accepted in the Old Testament as part of the world in which Israel functioned. It is not abolished but regulated.
The legal codes for that regulation (Exod. 21; Lev. 25; Deut. 15) and the numerous texts that reflect Israel’s development in this domain indicate an increasing humanization of slavery in contrast to the rest of the ancient Near East. The Hebrew slave was more protected than those of other nationalities. The Old Testament raised the status of the slave from property to that of a human being who happened to be owned by another person..." (2)
(1) See http://www.traed.net/evil2.html for a more extensive discussion regarding the manner in which God may utilize evil in pursuit of a greater good.
(2) Elwell, W. A., & Elwell, W. A. (1996). In Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).
One question that inevitably arises in any substantive discussion of Christianity is this: "What about those who have never heard of Jesus? Are those people eternally lost?"
This question is often prompted by Jesus' statement in John 14:6 where we read, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Then there is Acts 4:12, a passage that tells us, "...there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" in speaking of Jesus.
Of course, there are others who seem determined to portray God in an unjust manner by phrasing this question in the form of objection: "What about the innocent <native, peasant, or indigenous person> living in <China, Africa, or some remote part of the world> who has never heard of Jesus? Why would a supposedly good God refuse to allow an innocent person to enter heaven?"
In addressing such questions, we can begin by observing that God never forbids an innocent person to enter heaven. A truly innocent person (in other words, a person who has never done anything wrong) is guiltless and therefore, never in danger of being denied entry into heaven. The real question is, "Are there any truly innocent people anywhere in the world?"
While it is possible for someone to be "innocent" in the sense of being unaware of wrongdoing, this does not necessarily mean that he or she is guiltless. For instance, a person who innocently (or unknowingly) takes something that he or she doesn't own still incurs guilt even if that person did not knowingly intend to take someone else's possession.
In this sense, there are no truly "innocent" people among those who possess the capacity to think, reason, and act. (1) In other words, everyone, everywhere has said or done something wrong at some point in life. This general concept can be illustrated by the old poetic adage, "To err is human." Those who are not poetically inclined may prefer the more common expression of this idea: "Nobody's perfect."
However, Titus 2:11 introduces another dynamic to this discussion for we read, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people" (ESV, emphasis added). We'll look at how this verse might be applied to the members of those people groups who have never heard of Jesus next.
(1) Infants and others who lack the genuine capacity to think, reason, and act represent a separate discussion that is outside the parameters of this study.
"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12 NET).
In addition to the passage quoted here in Titus 2:11, any question relating to the ultimate fate of those who have never heard of Jesus must account for some other Biblical passages that impact this discussion.
Revelation 5:9 provides us with one such example, for in referring to Jesus' sacrificial death we read, "...You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation." So this passage indicates that at least some representatives of every human people group will be present within heaven.
Jesus also remarked, "...I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11). In this context, "east and west" is analogous to "throughout the world." Therefore, any discussion regarding those who have never actually heard of Christ must also account for the fact that many people from across the globe will find a place in heaven.
How is this possible in light of Scriptures such as John 14:6 and Acts 4:12? Here's how one commentator addresses this question...
"...the Bible says in essence, “seek and you will find.” That is, those who seek the light they have through nature, which is not sufficient for salvation, will get the light they need for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Acts 10:35 adds, “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
God has many ways to get the truth about salvation through Christ to those who seek Him. He can send a missionary (Acts 10), or a Bible (Ps.119:130), give them a vision (Dan. 2:7), or send an angel (Rev. 14). But those who turn their back on the light they have (through nature) and find themselves lost in darkness, have no one to blame but themselves. For 'men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil' (John 3:19)." (1)
While this does not relieve God's people of the responsibility to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19), it does mean that God is not limited by human efforts to communicate the truth regarding salvation through Christ.
(1) When Critics Ask A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe Victor Books
"looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
Titus 2:13 provides us with perhaps the single most authoritative declaration regarding the nature of Christ in all the Scriptures. But before we examine that declaration, we should first stop to consider another important aspect of this verse that might be easily overlooked.
You see, 21st century technology has brought forth a number of advancements in the field of communications. For instance, high speed internet access has enabled churches, ministries, and others to communicate the message of the Scriptures to a global audience. University-level Biblical studies are widely (and sometimes freely) available to those who wish to dig deeper into God's Word.
The written and recorded works of some of the greatest theological minds ever assembled are now available to be reviewed on devices that are often small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag. Specialized areas of study such as theology, hermeneutics, and apologetics that were once available to a relative few are now accessible to a global audience. This audience would also include those who hold a particular interest in another specialized area of study: "end times" theology.
There are numerous web sites devoted to serving those who desire to interpret current events in light of the Scriptural teachings concerning the last days. While a number of these sites undoubtedly function in the role of a watchman who faithfully seeks to alert a larger community to a potential danger on the horizon, it is important to guard against the tendency to substitute the "what" for the "Who" when analyzing today's headlines and their potential association with the end times.
Titus 2:13 helps to center our thinking in this regard when it tells us "...we wait for the blessed hope--the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (NIV). While the Scriptures clearly indicate that a number of important signs will precede the end of the world as we know it, we should be careful not to become preoccupied with the potential onset of an apocalyptic event, the emergence of a particular form of government, the presence of an astronomical sign, or the appearance of a malevolent spiritual personage.
Instead, Titus 2:13 reminds us that we should continue to look to Jesus in regard to the future and not to someone or something else. In the words of Hebrews 12:2, we would be well served to continue "...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
"...we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed" (Titus 2:13 NLT).
As mentioned previously, Titus 2:13 provides us with perhaps the single most authoritative declaration regarding the nature of Christ in all the Scriptures: "...we wait for the blessed hope-- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (NIV).
This passage is significant for it tells us that Jesus is not simply a great teacher, a great leader, a great spiritual mentor, or a great social reformer; it tells us that Jesus is God. In speaking of Jesus, the New Testament book of Philippians also goes on to say that, "(He), being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped" (Philippians 2:6 NIV).
This concept from Philippians 2:6 might be more easily understood in terms of an athlete participating within a team sport. For instance, an athlete may sometimes be placed in a situation where another athlete with superior skills joins his or her team. The presence of such a rival often creates a situation where the first player must work and improve in order to hold on to a position with the team.
In contrast, Philippians 2:6 tells us that Jesus never had to
work to maintain His
position, so to speak. In other words, Jesus never considered
deity as something to be clutched, grasped, or held on to.
The New King James Version of this passage renders this idea in
manner: "(Jesus), being in the form of God, did not
robbery to be equal with God."
This is an important point for one does not need to rob something that he or she already possesses. In like manner, Jesus didn't consider it to be robbery to be equal with God for "He always had the nature of God..." (GNB).
Taken together, these verses from the Biblical books of Titus and Philippians reveal some important truths about Jesus. They tell us that Jesus is God in His very nature or essence. He is inherently, fundamentally, and intrinsically God. There was never a time when Jesus, the Son of God did not exist. There was never a time when Jesus started being God and there was never a time when Jesus stopped being God.
It is impossible to separate Jesus from deity. Therefore, Paul the Apostle rightfully addresses Him as "...our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (CEV). We'll continue this look at Jesus' deity next.XX
"waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:13 ESV).
In addition to the declaration of Jesus' deity found here within Titus 2:13, Paul's New Testament epistle to the Philippians provides us with another important insight regarding the nature and person of Christ: "...(Jesus) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness" (Philippians 2:7 NIV).
The original language used to author this passage from Philippians indicates that Jesus "emptied Himself " in this act of taking the nature of a servant. This does not mean that Jesus ever stopped being God at any time for Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity; instead, He willingly laid aside His rights and prerogatives as God in becoming a human being.
For instance, have you ever wondered how Jesus could say, "…the Father is greater than I" as He did in John 14:28? Or how about this statement from Jesus in Matthew 24:36: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Since no one is greater than God and God is all knowing, how then could Jesus say such things?
Well, we find the answer here in Philippians 2:7: Jesus never ceased to be God but willingly released His prerogative as God. For example, we're told that Jesus took on "...the form of a servant, by becoming like other humans, by having a human appearance" (GW). As the perfect human being, Jesus did everything that a perfect human should do, including such things as conversing with His heavenly Father in prayer, demonstrating obedience to God, and acknowledging God's supremacy.
The fact that Jesus voluntarily laid aside the rights and prerogatives of God did not make Him "less" God. You see, Jesus did not exchange the nature of God for the nature of humanity but added it. As Philippians 4:8 goes on to tell us, "...being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Remember that Jesus isn't simply a god, He is the God (John 1:1). Jesus was fully human and fully God (John 1:14) and He claimed to be God while here on earth (John 10:31-33). He has all authority (Matthew 28:18), He has the right to forgive sins (Luke 7:44-48) and will one day judge everyone (John 5:22).
But Jesus made another authoritative declaration in this regard as well. We'll look at that declaration (and examine the resulting hostility that it provoked) next.XXI
"looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:13-14)
Along with the acknowledgment of Jesus' divinity found in the passage quoted above, the New Testament Scriptures provide us with another important statement regarding this subject, this time from Jesus Himself as recorded within the Gospel of John...
"Then the Jews said to (Jesus), 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.' Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by" (John 8:57-59).
It is interesting to note the ongoing debate among modern-day scholars and others regarding Jesus and who He claimed to be. Yet we find no such debate among many of those religious leaders who interacted directly with Jesus. You see, Jesus' use of the term "I AM" here in John 8:58 represented a direct, unmistakable, and intentional claim to deity. It established a direct link to the Old Testament book of Exodus where God applied this very same title- "I AM" -to Himself in Exodus 3:14.
Unfortunately, this claim also appears to have been something that was completely beyond the realm of possibility for these religious leaders despite the miraculous evidence that Jesus provided. The fact that these religious leaders recognized this connection can be confirmed by the fact that these men subsequently attempted to kill Jesus in a misguided attempt to punish His alleged blasphemy in claiming to be God.
So there can be no doubt that these men realized that Jesus claimed to be God in making this statement. In fact, these leaders responded in a similar manner on a second occasion as found within the Gospel of John. In that instance, Jesus was told, "For a good work we do not stone you, but for blasphemy, for You being a man, make yourself God" (John 10:33).
The response of these "hostile witnesses" is quite instructive for the fact that these men reacted so violently to what Jesus said indicates that they completely understood Jesus' claim to be God in the flesh, the promised Messiah. But like many today, these men clearly understood Jesus' claim to deity but chose not to accept it.XXII
"Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you" (Titus 2:15).
To close out this section of his epistle, Paul authorized Titus to undertake a critical responsibility: "You must teach these things and encourage your people to do them, correcting them when necessary as one who has every right to do so" (TLB).
"Speaking these things" would pertain to the careful communication of God's Word to the members of the Christian community on the island of Crete. "Exhortation" involved an encouragement for others to implement the teachings of the Scriptures on a daily basis. Finally, Paul's use of the term "rebuke" meant that Titus was responsible to to reprimand, strongly warn, or restrain others in regard to these teachings if necessary. (1)
But Paul then chose to follow these directives with a somewhat curious edict of his own: "Do not let anyone despise you" (NIV). In reading through the different Biblical versions of Titus 2:15, it quickly becomes apparent that translators have taken a number of different approaches in seeking to accurately communicate the idea behind this statement.
For instance, here is a small sample that illustrates the manner in which various Biblical translations have sought to communicate the meaning behind Paul's directive to Titus in this verse...
Despite the different approaches used in translating this verse, one thing is readily apparent: Titus was personally responsible for ensuring that he earned the respect of others. If Titus was successful in carrying out this responsibility, he would help ensure that Jesus' teachings received the respect and attention they deserved. He would also help secure the right kind of recognition for the God he represented.
Of course, what was true for Titus is also true for anyone who
seeks to represent Jesus today. You see, people generally do not
upon the counsel of someone they do not respect. Paul's personal
to Titus in this verse implies that it is possible for us to earn
the respect of others- not for personal notoriety or recognition
ensure that God's Word is treated with the reverence it deserves.
We'll look at some strategies to earn such respect as found within another of Paul's New Testament letters next.
(1) "rebuke" King James DictionaryXXIII
"These are the things you should tell people. Encourage them, and when they are wrong, correct them. You have full authority to do this, so don't let anyone think they can ignore you" (Titus 2:15 ERV).
The wording used by the Apostle Paul within this passage indicates that Titus was responsible to conduct himself in a manner that helped elicit respect for God and His Word. Although we are now separated from Paul's original letter to Titus by many generations, the timeless, God-inspired precept found within this verse is still applicable for God's people today.
While it may not be possible to earn the acceptance of everyone we encounter, it is often possible to secure the respect and recognition of friends, colleagues, business associates, family members, and others as they observe the manner in which we live out our beliefs. The Scriptures provide us with some direction in this regard as found within another of Paul's Pastoral epistles, a letter to a young leader named Timothy that we know today as the Biblical book of 1st Timothy…
"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).
This brief passage provides us with five key areas of interest for anyone who seeks to generate the kind of respect that reflects well upon God and His Word.
The first area is speech. This does not only encompass the use of inappropriate language but would also include the nature of those subjects that we choose to discuss with others. For example, some conversations feature a seemingly never ending barrage of complaints, negativity, criticisms, and fault finding. Other types of dialog may center around gossip, meaningless debates, or sexually inappropriate content. These types of conversations often fail to set the kind of standard that honors God or gain the respect of others.
Remember that Jesus once said, "…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him" (Matthew 12:34-35). Those who set a God-honoring standard in this area help to elevate the content and quality of their conversations with others and often win recognition from those with whom they interact.We'll consider some other important character elements as found within 1 Timothy 4:12 next.
"Teach these things, as you use your full authority to encourage and correct people. Make sure you earn everyone's respect" (Titus 2:15 CEV).
1 Timothy 4:12 provides us with five key elements that are beneficial for anyone who seeks to live in a manner that elicits respect for God and His Word. The second of these elements is conduct, a word that refers to our general behavior, comportment, or manner of life. (1)
To help determine where we stand with regard to this concept, we might prayerfully consider the answer to some questions such as these...
It's been said that one of the few things that money can't buy is a good name, and a reputation for God-honoring conduct is one of the most valuable things we can ever possess. As the New Testament epistle of 1 Peter reminds us, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12 NIV). A person who follows this advice is someone who is well-positioned to earn the respect of others.
The next character element found within 1 Timothy 4:12 is love. We'll talk more about the nature of love when we reach Titus chapter three but for now we can say that love can be defined as "that which always seeks another person's highest good." While many expressions of "love" may be driven by physical attraction, emotional need, or a desire for self-gratification, real, genuine love is expressed whenever we "...give preference to one another in honor" as we're told in Romans 12:10 (NASB).
Jesus was also quoted as saying, "...the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends" in John 15:13 (TLB). While an external display of affection may signal the presence of genuine love, this may not necessarily be the case in every instance. Instead, the existence of sincere, authentic love is best demonstrated by the actions we choose to take on behalf of others.
A person who demonstrates a willingness to lay down his or her life on behalf of a friend is someone who is certain to command the respect of others.
(1) G391 anastrophe Thayer’s Greek DefinitionsXXV
"Talk about these things. Encourage and correct with complete authority. Don’t let anyone disrespect you" (Titus 2:15 CEB).
1 Timothy 4:12 identifies five essential elements that can help secure the kind of respect that Paul the Apostle references here within the final verse of Titus chapter two. The fourth of those elements is faith. One source defines "faith" as "...a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one's life." (1) Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith as "...the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (KJV)..
Faith represents the confident assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, no matter what. A person who chooses to place his or her faith in the God of the Scriptures despite the difficulties, hardships, and challenges that such a decision may bring is someone who is poised to secure the respect of others, no matter how begrudging or reluctant that respect may be.
The final element found within 1 Timothy 4:12 is purity. Purity simply refers to doing that which is clean, right, honorable, and Biblically appropriate within a given situation. This is important to keep in mind especially when we consider how easy it can be to allow others (who may not be interested in doing what is clean, right, honorable, or Biblically appropriate) to set our standards.
One example that serves to illustrate the difference between the kind of person who sets a God-honoring standard for purity and one who doesn't can be found within a passage quoted earlier from the book of Titus...
"A person who is pure of heart sees goodness and purity in everything; but a person whose own heart is evil and untrusting finds evil in everything, for his dirty mind and rebellious heart color all he sees and hears. Such persons claim they know God, but from seeing the way they act, one knows they don't..." (Titus 1:15-16b TLB).
So a person who sets the right kind of standard in this area is someone who is positioned to gain the respect of others, even those who don't necessarily accept or recognize the importance of honoring God with our lives. While the effort to secure this kind of respect may not be easy, it is something that's possible to achieve when we seek to establish a God-honoring standard in the areas of speech, life, love, faith and purity.
(1) Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary © 1986 Thomas Nelson PublishersNext