Titus: The Goal and Ground of the Christian Life (6)

Evangelistic Ethics (2)

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this series are from the ESV.)

Paul continues to outline the syllabus for the Evangelistic Ethics course Titus is to give the Cretan believers. Knowing our human nature, he instructs us on both the what and the why of ethical behavior, and the why has everything to do with the gospel. If the Christian life was a skid steer, the left wheel pair would be controlled by the “I don’t want to do anything that would undermine the gospel” lever (2:5, 8), while the right wheel pair would be controlled by the “I want everything I do to promote the gospel” lever (2:10). Yet these two controls are not enough, for on their own they could lead us to compromise with our culture (so as not to offend anyone) or fall prey to a form of utilitarianism in which our only reason for doing good is to get people on to our side. In the one case, we do wrong, and in the other, we do good, but for wrong and harmful reasons. Which is why our behavior is also to “accord with” the healthy doctrine of the gospel (2:1), and be further motivated by the person of Christ Himself (2:11-14).

How women are to live (2:3-5)

Having begun with the older men (2:2), Titus is to teach the “older women likewise” (2:3) the behaviors they are to exhibit. The instructions consist of two virtues to be pursued, flanking two vices to be discarded. First, they “are to be reverent in behavior” (2:3), taking God’s claim on them so seriously (“reverent”) that it shows up in the way they live (“behavior”), not being “slanderers or slaves to much wine” anymore (2:3, 1:12). Paradoxically, alcohol has the potential to enslave the whole person while simultaneously loosening the lips. Most of us are able to slander and gossip without the help of alcohol. God help us to see that the intoxication of spreading malicious talk about others is every bit as damaging as the kind normally associated with that word.

Everyone is a teacher. The question is, What are we teaching?[1] If the fear of God fills the hearts of these older women, such that their outward demeanor is markedly godly, even in the matters of the tongue, they will “teach what is good” (2:3) and “train the young women” (2:4) – a responsibility in which older sisters are to do the heavy lifting. “A woman’s work is never done” is a proverb we often bandy about. Perhaps it’s time our sisters heard it stated from the pulpit and with utter seriousness. A woman’s work ends, not when her children and grandchildren are grown up, or when it’s time for her to retire from the mission field, but when there are no younger women left to train.

The young women are to be trained “to love their husbands and children” (2:4). Let’s not reduce this to how to turn on a stove or remove a stain from the husband’s white Sunday shirt. The young women are to be taught how to love, not launder. Love is the supreme Christian virtue according to Paul (1Cor 13:13), Peter (1Peter 4:8), and Christ Himself (Matt 22:37-40). Learning to love is at the heart of discipleship (John 13:34-35, 1Thes 4:9). This is a call for young women to be trained in how to practice the highest virtue in their sacred vocations, all with an eye to the mission of the gospel itself (2:10, 1Peter 3:1).

This training would also be relevant to the single woman who hoped to be married one day, and to the married woman who expected to become a mother. And perhaps those sisters whom the Lord has called to lifelong singleness can transpose their lessons into learning to love, with growing devotion, their heavenly Bridegroom, and the spiritual children He has given them.

Young women are “to be self-controlled” and “pure” (2:5). Sexual temptation and addiction to pornography are not problems restricted to males. How wise for the Scriptures, though, to instruct older women to provide this discipleship, rather than a Titus. “Working at home” (2:5) translates one word but conveys two contrasts: busy, as opposed to idle, and at her home, not in other people’s homes. The Bible is not forbidding employment or fruitful community involvement, but idle gossiping “from house to house” (1Tim 5:13-14, Prov 7:11, 31:10-31).

Finally, they are to be “kind, and submissive to their own husbands” (2:5), bringing the list back to where it began. The list is thoroughly counter-cultural, yet its goal is “that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:5). This is submission for the sake of mission: “Unbelievers who are repelled by Christian teaching on headship within marriage are attracted by the Christian marriages they see. Unbelievers who find Christian morality restrictive are attracted by the good lives of the Christians they know – because a gospel life is the good life. It is the good, counter-cultural life that commends God our Savior to our culture.”[2]

But to be counter-cultural we’ll have to be cross-generational. Don’t wait too long to be “older.” A woman in her 30s can disciple younger women, and make herself available to the godly influence of sisters older than her.

How young men are to live (2:6-8)

Paul has one word for young men: “be self-controlled” (2:6). But it’s all-encompassing, because Titus is to urge them to be self-controlled “in everything” (2:7, CSB). One word should govern all our actions: self-control in our use of time, money, entertainment, energy, and smartphones; self-mastery over sexual desires and temptations; self-control; control of the self. What could be more counter-cultural than this, given that manliness is no longer defined as mastery over one’s appetites, but as acquisition of money and multiple sex partners?

The young man will need four things in order to swim against such a tide. First, exhortation: Titus is “to urge” the young men to be self-controlled (2:6). They face many “urges” already; yours might be the only voice they’ll hear exhorting them to purity. Second, they need examples. “Show yourself … to be a model of good works” (2:7), Paul says to Titus. Just as young women need older women, young men need godly men who are a few steps ahead of them. Mentorship is the need of the hour. Third, young men need teaching: “in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (2:7-8). Not only will the teaching save the young men, but young men will save the teaching. Drawing close to young men and learning of their struggles drives us to the Scriptures and rescues us from irrelevance and irreverence in our teaching, “so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us” (2:8). Fourth, young men need the gospel, for it is “the grace of God” that trains us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled … and godly lives in the present age” (2:11-12). In a world where the only “battles” many men fight are in video games and the only “love” they know is in pornography, there is nothing more inspiring than to watch young Christian men wage war against their sin and grow in self-control.

How employees are to live (2:9-10)

We can apply these words to bondservants in our employment. In our work, by being “submissive … well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith,” we can “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:9-10). Paul has nearly finished the syllabus for the Evangelistic Ethics course. What motivation for Christian living! In all our discipleship, in all our cross-generational relationships and counter-cultural behavior, in our very vocations, be they at home or in the workplace, we can adorn, beautify, and promote to the world around us, the teaching of God our Savior. This is evangelistic living. This is living at large.

[1] Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, pp73-74.

[2] Tim Chester, Titus For You, loc 884. For reports of millennials still being attracted to a complementarian family structure, see Albert Mohler’s The Briefing 04-12-17 at albertmohler.com.