Titus: Adorning the Doctrine of God Our Savior in Every Respect

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on January 9, 2005

Titus 2:1-10

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Amen. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Titus, chapter two. We’re continuing to work our way through the Pastoral Epistles, and this particular pastoral epistle, the third in the canonical order—the third in the order of the three Pastoral Epistles in your Bible, but the second in our study, since we’re working chronologically through the Pastoral Epistles. First and Second Timothy and Titus is the order that you find them in your Bible, but I Timothy was written first, then Titus, and then finally II Timothy, and so we’re studying them that way.

Now, we commented—and we have commented on several occasions, but we commented last week that Paul is concerned, especially in chapter one, to promote the corporate sanctification of the congregation. He is desirous of seeing these Christians, though they are in Crete, a place that was locally known for its immorality, he wants these Christians to live a uniquely Christian and godly life. He wants their lives to be a witness to the reality of the gospel work that God has done in their hearts, so their transformation from the inside out shows to the people around them. And that is his clear concern in Titus, chapter one.

When he gets to Titus, chapter two, he is concerned to promote that same godliness—that holiness, that distinctive living, that godly living, that sanctification—in the congregation, especially in their homes and marriages and families, and in their vocations. He wants in those specific places people of every type in the congregation to live out the grace of God in their lives. And so, he gives some specific instructions to Titus about how he is to aim his preaching.

This section of Titus, the first ten verses of Titus, chapter two, is almost like Paul’s directions to Titus on how to apply his preaching to different groups in the congregation, but there are many, many great lessons and truths which we can learn from it today. We can’t do it justice and exhaust it all, but we’ll do our best to learn a number of important truths from God’s word in these instructions from Paul to Titus.

Before we read God’s word, let’s look to Him in prayer and ask Him to bless and help us.

Our Lord and our God, we ask that by Your Spirit You would open our hearts, and that You would quicken our minds; and that You would cause our ears to be receptive to the truth of Your word. Transform us by Your Spirit, working by the word; grow us in grace; get the glory for Yourself. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hear God’s word:

“But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”

Amen. And thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant word. May He write its eternal truth upon our hearts.

Paul, not for the first time and not for the last time, has emphasized again in this passage that truth is for life: that sound doctrine is essential to healthy Christian living. His very first verse picks up on the point that he had been making from verse 10 to 16 in Titus 1 about the effect of false teaching in the church, and so he says by way of contrast, ‘As for you, Titus, in contrast to those who are teaching things which are false, Titus, you speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.’  In other words, ‘Titus, your preaching, your teaching in this local congregation must be in accord with sound (or healthy) biblical teaching.’  And the reason is very clear, because for the Apostle Paul truth is for life, doctrine is for duty, biblical teaching is essential to healthy Christian experience and to living the Christian life.

And Paul has stressed that before. For instance, if you turn back to I Timothy, chapter one, in the fifth verse he says this: “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  In other words, Paul’s goal in teaching is not simply that people will agree with the things that he has taught, but so that there will be a transformation of their lives by the truth of the word.

I’ve been having a very interesting dialogue with a person who is a part of a new movement called “The Emerging Church.”  If you’ve never heard of it, you haven’t missed anything. But one of the things The Emerging Church argues is that the Christian life and growth in grace does not come about by what they call “information transfer.”  And so many Emerging Churches do not have teaching or preaching. I was reading about one in Seattle the other day, and on their website it explicitly says, “We do not have worship services on Sunday where there is preaching and teaching. We get together every once in a while and watch films and fellowship, and that’s how we’re growing in the Christian life.”

Well, the Apostle Paul would have been scratching his head!  He says, ‘Titus, it is vital, it is essential, it is absolutely necessary for healthy Christian experience and living in this congregation that you teach, that you speak what is in accordance with sound (or healthy) doctrine.’  And that’s the first thing that we learn in this passage, and that reality, that truth that sound doctrine is for living ought to color our attitude as we come to worship, as we come to Sunday School classes and to small-group meetings; that we come expectant, and that we come ready to respond to God’s truth in life. We’re not simply coming to learn more facts; we’re not simply coming to get more information; we are coming to be transformed by the truth of God’s word, and the work of God’s word is not done in us until that transformation is taking place.

And so we ourselves, though we should desire that truth to be applied to us by our preachers and by our teachers, yet we ourselves must invest in the work of application. No preacher or teacher, however well they may know us, is capable of applying the word in all its fullness to every circumstance in every one of our lives. For one thing, that would take quite a long time! For another thing, you might not want to have that kind of specific application done in a sanctuary where everyone knows you. The truth must be applied, and the minister must apply it specifically, but you must continue in that work of application yourself. And so knowing that the truth is for life, knowing that the teaching of Scripture is designed to promote the living of the Christian life, ought to promote an attitude in us that we come to hear the teaching of God’s word desiring it to be applied to our lives and continuing in our own personal work in the application of it to our lives.

Now, all that Titus does in the rest of this passage is apply that principle to five different groups in this local congregation: to older women; to older men; to younger women; to younger men; and, to bondslaves. And we could work through this passage according to that order, but I think in the time that we have with us today I want to highlight what Paul tells Titus to do as he addresses those particular groups.

Christian preaching/teaching must be in accordance with sound (healthy) doctrine.

And the first thing that I want you to see is the motivation that Paul tells Titus to share with the different members of the congregation, repeatedly. For instance, look at verses 3 and 4. Here Titus is being instructed on how he is to speak to the older women in the congregation, and they are being urged to live the godly life in their homes and to teach (and by example), to do—what?  Look at verses 3 and 4: 

“…so that they may encourage the young women.”

In other words, their motivation for taking the truth, seeing their own lives transformed by that truth, and then being an example to the younger women in the congregation, is so that they can be an encouragement to them in their life of faith, in their walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, Paul is saying, ‘Titus, teach those older women to remember that their personal growth in grace is not merely a private matter. It is a matter with ramifications for the whole congregation, and their growing in grace and their living the Christian life must be done at least in part out of a desire, out of a motivation, to encourage the younger women of the congregation.

Now, he says the same thing elsewhere when he’s speaking to the younger women. He speaks about their being motivated so that the word of God is not dishonored, so that people who see the congregation will not call into question the reality of God’s grace or the truth of God’s word when they see the lives of the people in the congregation. And it comes up again, even when Paul gives an exhortation to Titus himself on how he is to be an example to the congregation in living a life of sound words and dignity, and of appropriate purity and demeanor. He’s to think about how his example impacts the rest of the congregation. 

Christian preaching/teaching is with a view to cultivating specific godliness-among the older men.

So Paul is setting up a principle here, and the principle is this: it is not only true that biblical teaching is for the cultivation of Christian experience and living; it is also true that our Christian life, our character, our obedience, our behavior, our words, our example, must always take into consideration the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ in a local church; so that my life is to be an encouragement to you, and your life is to be an encouragement to me, and that together we are to encourage one another to love and good deeds. 

Paul is reminding the older men—though he doesn’t do it explicitly…he does with the older women, the younger women, and to the younger men, and to the bondslaves…he explicitly says to four of the five classes of Christians that he addresses in this local congregation that they are to remember that they live not merely for themselves—that their desire to grow in grace is not just for their own personal relationship with God—but that it has an impact on the well-being and the witness of the whole congregation. 

That is a tremendously important truth, and so vital as we live together in community here at First Presbyterian Church. Parents know this. One parent’s decision can have a ripple effect on other parents in the congregation whose children go to school with that parent’s child. Your decisions have an effect, good or bad, different or indifferent, on others. And Paul is saying we need to remember that our own growth in grace, our own character, our own behavior, our own speech ought to be in part designed explicitly, deliberately, to be an encouragement to everyone else in the congregation.

So that’s a second thing we learn here:  not only is sound doctrine for healthy Christian living, but it’s also true that our growth in grace, our motivation for growing in grace is at least in part because we want to encourage our brothers and sisters in this congregation.

There’s a third thing, too. Very often we’re told, ‘You know, there’s nothing in the Bible that says that you ought to have a youth ministry’; or, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you ought to have a men’s ministry; or, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you ought to have a women’s ministry; or, there’s nothing in the Bible…and you can go on and list the church program. And my response to that is, well, of course there’s not a chapter and verse that you go to for such things.

But notice what Paul is saying to Titus here. Paul is saying to Titus, ‘God’s truth needs to be brought to bear on every class and kind of person in the Christian congregation with respect to their age and station in life:  older men, older women, younger men, younger women, bondslaves….’  And this is not the only list. He has other lists in other writing.

His concern that God’s truth would be brought to bear on Christians at every station, at every setting in their life. Specifically, God’s truth needs to be applied specifically. And so one of the things that we often do in the church is we try and facilitate that through different programs of ministry. That’s just us responding to what Paul is telling us to do here in Titus 2.

He doesn’t give us the mechanism for it. I’m sure there are different ways that you could do it, but the point is this: it’s logical that we’re all different and that we are all at different stages of life; but Paul takes that logical point—that every Christian, because of the stage and the situation that you are in life—has different challenges, different temptations, different opportunities. Paul says, ‘Titus, don’t forget to apply God’s word to each Christian in those specific circumstances.

Let’s just look at some of the things, then, that he does. Look at verse 2. He says with regard to the older men,

“Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.”

Notice two things that he does. First, he talks about the character of older men, and then he talks about their spiritual health being revealed through their faith, love, and perseverance. He speaks about them being temperate, dignified, and sensible. How many of you have seen a man whose life has generally been characterized by temperance, and by dignity, and by good sense, defect in all three of these areas in his old age?  And so Paul says, ‘Titus, be ready!  Apply God’s word to that man. Exhort older men. Stay the course!  Continue to preserve in your character being moderate in respect to your use of wine, and in all your tastes and habits; being serious and respectable, and self-controlled, of mature judgment and proper restraint.’  He’s talking about Titus’ continuing to exhort older men in the realm of their character. 

But he doesn’t stop. He goes on to speak of their faith and love and perseverance as revealing their spiritual health. Their spiritual health is revealed as they are sound, or healthy, in their faith, their belief and their trust, in their love, in their tangible care for the brethren, in their love for God, and in their perseverance. And they’re not backsliding! And how many older friends have you seen, having stayed so long the course, struggle with backsliding?  Well, Paul is saying, ‘These are particular temptations, Titus. Preach to those things. Apply God’s word to those things.’

Christian preaching/teaching is with a view to cultivating specific godliness-among the older women.

He does the same with older women. Look at verses 3 and 4. He speaks about their character, then he speaks about their example, and then he speaks about their desire to encourage younger women.

They’re to be reverent, they’re not to be gossips; they’re not to be addicted to wine. Their character, in other words, 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. In fact, they’re to have a desire to encourage the younger women of the congregation. They’re not only to be motivated in the Christian life because of God’s grace to them; they’re not only to be motivated out of gratitude to God for His grace; but they’re to be motivated to live the Christian life because there’s someone watching them, and because there’s someone that they ought to encourage, and because there’s someone younger than them who doesn’t know the ropes like they know them who is getting ready to get into something that she probably doesn’t have the slightest idea that she’s getting into, and she needs to be encouraged along the way in living the Christian life.

Christian preaching/teaching is with a view to cultivating specific godliness-among the younger married women.

He does the same thing with younger women in verses 4 and 5. Encourage them

 “… to love their husbands, love their children; to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will [not] be dishonored.”

Notice that the things that he tells Titus to apply are things that are particularly appropriate for that group of Christians in the local congregation relating to specific challenges that they have because of their place and station in life—different temptations, different challenges. In all of these commands for these specific Christian groups notice that Paul’s command to Titus to apply God’s word are in areas that would not come naturally for us to do. It doesn’t come naturally for an older man to think about these things. He needs to be exhorted in these things. It doesn’t come naturally for a younger wife and mother to engage in the kind of radical self-denial that she has to engage in, in order to be a good wife and mother. But Paul is there exhorting Titus to exhort them.

And all this [is to say] God’s truth must be applied specifically, and that’s what God is encouraging Titus to do.

Christian preaching/teaching is with a view to cultivating specific godliness-among believing slaves.

One last thing:  If you look at the very last verse of the passage, after Paul has instructed Titus about how to speak even to bondslaves in the congregation, he says that their behavior towards their masters, their superiors, is to be a behavior that will “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.”  That’s the final thing that I want to draw to your attention out of this passage today. And that is simply to say that all of our response to God’s word and all of our Christian living ought to have in it the view to adorning the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. In other words, the way we live will either adorn or besmirch the truth of God’s word in the eyes of the watching world. It will either make it to be compelling, it will either make it to be sweet, it will either contribute to the perception of its truth and reality, or, it will detract and take away from it. 

And so Paul is saying to the whole congregation that they are to so imbibe healthy teaching so that they encourage one another, so that every Christian in every station in the congregation is encouraged and has the truth applied to his or her specific situation, and that we are all living with a view to adorning the doctrine of our God and Savior in every respect for the eyes of the watching world, so that they will have to say, ‘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.’ 

May God make that to be true about us. Let’s pray.

Our Lord and our God, we thank You for Your truth. It is rich and wise and practical. We recognize, however, that we ourselves need Your Spirit for the truth to work in us like You mean it to work; for we are thick and stubborn. And so soften our hearts to respond to Your truth, and grow us in grace that we might adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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