Truth & Training From Titus - Part 8
Stephen Baker, Manchester
This article is part of an on-going study. The writer’s intention is to look at each phrase and statement in the letter and to glean a simple understanding of what Paul was writing to Titus about. It might be helpful to read the previous articles either in the printed edition of the magazine or online via www.preciousseed.org.
Titus 2. 9-16
This section deals with why Christians should behave differently from unsaved people. It is important to understand that doctrine underpins Christian life, and the gospel changes how people behave.
As we have previously covered verses 1 to 8, we will start by looking at the topic of servants or slaves in verses 9 to 10.
Servants or slaves, vv. 9-10
The word translated servant here could be translated ‘slave’ or ‘bondservant’. In New Testament times the word was used to describe a variety of relationships, some voluntary and some enforced, but we can apply the principles to our modern employment situations.
It was a tough life being a slave. A slave’s lot in life was to do exactly as instructed by his owner. The consequences of disobedience and rebellion could be devastating. If you currently live in a world of relative freedom it might be hard to imagine how a slave felt. In these verses we discover that the Christian slave was to be different. He or she was not encouraged to rebel or to revolt against their masters, but to submit to them. Submitting is about more than just obedience. It is essentially about a mind-set. It meant that the Christian slave would make a daily choice to honour the master, to demonstrate by their attitude, reactions, behaviour and working habits that he respected his master. In other words, he was voluntarily placing himself under the authority of his master. You might argue that he didn’t have much choice. Correct; but life would be a lot easier and God-honouring if he submitted to his master.
In verses 9 and 10 we have two basic principles:
- Please your master, AND don’t answer back.
- Don’t steal, AND demonstrate that you are trustworthy.
It is one thing to behave as a Christian when life is smooth and easy. It is quite another thing to behave well in extremely difficult circumstances. Paul is teaching that if slaves behaved well they would enhance and embellish the truth about the God who saved them. It is an amazing fact that we can add an extra sparkle to the gospel by how we live. The danger is that we can take the shine off it if we behave badly.
Please note two additional things about these verses. Firstly, the current passage was not written to discuss the rights and wrongs of slavery but to bring appropriate teaching to people in that situation. Other scriptures, such as Exodus chapter 21 verse 16 and Leviticus chapter 25 verses 39-43, make a very clear case for the value that God puts on the individual. In these passages warnings are given of God’s judgement on those who force people into slavery.
Secondly, the teaching is not that a ‘slave’ class of people should be subject to a ‘master’ class. The teaching is about how to behave in relation to your ‘own’ master if you are in these circumstances. This is important to notice.
How do we apply this teaching to Christians today? If it is the duty of slaves as Christians to obey their masters and to give them satisfactory service in every way, then this must apply to everyone else. In the workplace, Christians should be known for their hard work and diligence. We shouldn’t just give the bare minimum, but we should give our best. Other passages that deal with attitudes and behaviour at work are Ephesians chapter 6 verses 5-9, 1 Timothy chapter 6 verses 1-2, and Colossians chapter 3 verse 22 to chapter 4 verse 1.
Expounding the doctrine, vv. 11-15
This section starts with the conjunction ‘for’, which indicates that everything Paul has taught in the preceding verses is only effective because of the truth of salvation and its effect on our lives. Therefore, this truth is now expounded.
There are a couple of things to notice in verse 11. Firstly, Paul states that the grace of God appeared. He is almost talking about it as if ‘the grace of God’ is a person. In one sense it is, as that person is the Lord Jesus Christ. There are other verses in the New Testament that describe the coming of the Lord Jesus as an appearing, 2 Tim. 1. 10; Titus 3. 4; Heb. 9. 26. His appearing brought God’s grace out into the open as people saw what the grace of God looked like. For example, God’s compassion, His kindness, His gentleness, and His patience were all demonstrated in the life of Christ. He genuinely displayed the grace of God. John states in chapter 1 verse 14 that He was ‘full of grace and truth’.
Secondly, that grace brought salvation. The ultimate evidence of the grace of God is not seen in the miracles of Jesus, or in the care of Jesus, but in the cross of Jesus. At Calvary, grace is seen for what it is. God’s grace is limitless, daring to go where no one has ever gone before, bearing the judgement of sin and being made a curse for us. This is grace, undeserved and outside our grasp, but made available to all of humanity through the death of Christ. Notice that this grace-bringing-salvation is available to all humanity – ‘it has appeared to all men’. It has brought salvation within the grasp of all. ‘God is not willing that any should perish’, 2 Pet. 3. 9; it is His desire that all will be saved and ‘come unto the knowledge of the truth’, 1 Tim. 2. 4. Therefore, the grace of God appeared. When people get saved they will also begin to demonstrate grace-like characteristics in their lives.
Verse 12 is about discipleship. The grace of God teaches us that there are things that need to change when a person gets saved. The Christian is undergoing training and needs to learn to say no to ungodliness and worldly desires. We must reject and renounce everything that is irreverent and would displease God. Worldly passions and desires need to go. Essentially, the grace of God instructs us to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.
Two parts to this process of discipleship training are defined in this verse. The rejecting and the renouncing must go hand in hand with living soberly, righteously and godly. The world we presently live in is not an ideal environment for godly living. There will be many temptations to face. However, it is possible to live a God-pleasing life in this world. God’s instructions to Jeremiah in Jeremiah chapter 1 verse 10 provide a simple template. We must 'root out . . . pull down, and . . . destroy' what is godless and worldly to ‘build and to plant’ a lifestyle that is compatible with the grace of God.
When translating this verse J. B. Phillips describes the Christian lifestyle that God desires for us as ‘responsible, honourable and God-fearing’. 1 May the Lord give us help to live like this!
In verse 13 we have a two-pronged description of the second coming of Christ. It is called the ‘blessed hope and the glorious appearing’. Most translators join the two expressions together with the word ‘even’ instead of ‘and’, indicating that they are describing one event.
The word ‘hope’ has changed its meaning over time. Today, it gives the impression of something being a possibility, whereas its original meaning was that of a certainty. This is the way the word is used in Romans chapter 8 verse 24 and Philippians chapter 1 verse 20. This makes the preceding word, ‘blessed’, come to life. The return of the Lord Jesus to earth is a happy certainty.
Please notice the use of the word ‘appearing’ again. This time it points forward to the coming of Christ in power and great glory, Matt. 24. 30. Paul, the apostle, uses this word, normally but not exclusively, to describe the second coming of Christ to earth. Each of the references is in the context of the glorious appearance of Christ ushering in His world-wide kingdom. 2 The term should incentivise believers to keep their chins up, their eyes focused and their hearts cheered by the prospect of their once rejected Saviour coming back in triumph.
The next expression is also of great importance. Verse 13 is not describing the coming of two persons, the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, but it is a twofold description of one person. Jesus Christ is both the great God and our Saviour. Check your translations and you will discover that many trusted translators put the terms great God and Saviour together followed by the name of the one whom these terms describe, Jesus Christ. The saving character of God is referred to repeatedly in this epistle, 1. 3; 2. 10; 3. 4, 6.
Next, we are confronted in verse 14 with the sacrificial death of Christ and its consequences. The great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, gave Himself for us. It is personal on both counts. The Lord Jesus gave Himself – it was a willing sacrifice. And He gave Himself for us – He had us in His mind when He gave Himself. This is a truth to rejoice in.
His sacrifice had a threefold purpose:
- To redeem us from all iniquity.
- To purify people for Himself.
- To produce a people zealous of good works.
The price of redemption is beyond calculation. Psalm 49 verses 7 and 8 state that the cost of redemption is too high for us. Despite this, the Lord Jesus paid the price to redeem us from all iniquity. We broke His law; He paid the price to release us from our guilt.
He cleansed us from the filth of sin, and made us fit to be His own people. The work of redemption has made us a treasured people in the eyes of Christ. The response from those who love Him must be devotion to do works, spiritual and practical, that reflect the beauty of what has been done in our lives through Him.
Paul ends this section with a word of encouragement to Titus:
- These things must be taught;
- Urge them to action;
- You, Titus, have the authority to correct them when appropriate;
- Don’t let anyone treat you with contempt.
2 2 Thess. 2. 8; 1 Tim. 6. 14; and 2 Tim. 4. 1, 8.