We don’t often think of rebuke or strict rules as comfortable. But the sound doctrine of the Gospel, rigid and inflexible with its truth that salvation is in Christ alone, and the summons to obedience to our respective duties is not confining. It is, in fact, a comfort. This is what we were made for, to glorify God & enjoy Him forever. But from the sinful heart emerges two ways of avoiding God’s Law; one is the libertarian insistence that we should just let people “do whatever feels good” to them, the other is to litigate every human action.
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. […]
Summary of the Text
In contrast to the unruly babblers who were besetting the Cretan church, Titus is to instruct the saints how to live in accordance with sound doctrine (v1). Paul will outline the substance of sound doctrine in the second half of this chapter, but he now spells out the behavior which should be expected from teaching this sound doctrine (vv2-11). The false teachers were subverting households through their tall tales. They were serving up a diet of deep fried theology. So Paul’s remedy for this ailment is healthy doctrine.
Old men are not only to be dignified, but full of the life/health/soundness of faith, charity, and patience (v2). Older women are cultivate a holy bearing, avoid loose tongues, refusing to numb themselves to life’s trials through wine or other similar “dulling” treatments, and teachers of good things (v3). Their students and curriculum is given in the next verse. Young women are the pupils, and virtuous home-keeping is the curriculum. The duties of young women are the most elaborated on here, and it consists of seven things: sobriety, husband-loving, children-loving, the twin virtues of discretion & chastity (i.e. not easily duped, and not easily wooed), home-keeping, goodness, obedience to their own husbands, with the reason that this manner of life is one of the potent ways whereby the false teachers’ mouths would be stopped (vv4-5; Cf. 1:11). Young men are told, very briefly to be sober-minded (v6); that encompasses a whole world (just a short way of saying, “read & live out the book of Proverbs”).
Titus is told to set the example of bold teaching coupled with a holy example of good works, so that those contrary to him would be unable to say anything bad about him (vv7-8). Household servants are exhorted to live in such a way that will overthrow the wickedness innate to their servitude. Treat their master’s property (themselves included) with shocking respect. Obey their commands, don’t take what belongs to them, and be trustworthy. In so doing, a servant adorns the Gospel (vv9-10)
Paul then sums up the sound doctrine which these various duties flow from. The Good Works commanded come out of the Good News which is proclaimed. God’s favor, which brought salvation, has appeared to all men (v11). This good news teaches us, and the sum of what it teaches is that we must turn from our sin and turn to godliness (v12). God’s grace has appeared to save us, but it is looking forward to the blessed hope of Christ’s second appearing which enables godly living. He gave Himself for our redemption, that we might be a priestly people, zealous for good works (vv13-14, Cf. Ps. 130:7-8, Ez. 37:23). Titus is to impart all of this with all authority; this firm insistence on sound doctrine & sound living might ruffle some feathers, so Titus should live as to give no room for being despised (v15).
Home-Wreckers & Home-Keepers
It is striking that one of the features of the false teachers was that they were subverting whole households. Given the indulgence of Cretan culture, it would seem that Paul’s more extensive remarks to older and younger women indicate a particular concern for cultivating feminine virtue & guarding against feminine vices. We learn more in the next chapter what exactly was so fascinating in the false teacher’s doctrines, but one thing is plain, women were particularly vulnerable to these serpents.
Elsewhere, Paul has warned of false teachers who creep into houses to lead silly women laden with sin and enticed with diverse lusts (2 Tim. 3:6). He’s also warned of the temptation for women to give way to being a busy-body which flits from house to house (1 Tim. 5:13). Here, Titus is to instruct older women not to give in to “wine-mom” culture, in order that they might pass on to young women the wisdom of how to love their husbands and children, by being home-ward. The enticement for young women is to nurture the whole world, while neglecting to make their own nest a place of warm and lawful indulgence.
Feminism teaches young women to spend all their time in the house of the corporate world, whereas Paul wants Titus to teach them to make the home a garden for this Gospel life to flourish and be passed along. False teachers from the Jews of Crete, down to modern CRT Marxists, all aim to subvert the home, and godly women will see to it that they don’t listen to the serpent, while men are tasked with vigilantly rebuking & resisting such vipers.
Order & Ardor
The Apostle’s instruction here should make one thing abundantly clear. Good works are the expected outcome of the Gospel. Paul’s instruction for the various classes of Christians is summed up in his euphoric description of the Gospel. Here we have instruction as to how we should live, abundant in the good works described, and to do so because Christ appeared, and will appear again (according to the promise of God, which was made before all ages, Tit. 1:3).
Some want the Gospel to liberate us into an antinomian lawlessness. But Paul insists that we’ve been redeemed from such lawlessness. Your salvation is from your lawless works to lawful ones. Order & ardor are not at odds. The Gospel frees us from our sin. These are indeed, glad tidings of great joy. But that joy is not feral joy. It isn’t tumorous joy. It isn’t the pseudo-joys of libertarian dopamine hits. This is joy which lives in the wide borders of God’s will.
Sound doctrine brings the joy of life lived to God’s glory by God’s power, while false doctrine brings the misery of living to according to your own laws of self-indulgence. This Gospel of Grace brings us out of the barren wasteland and into fertile fields. You are freed from your sin, in order to be free to be godly, by the new life He’s revealed in Christ.
The Glorious Appearing
It being Ascension Sunday, it is providential that there is no need to shoe-horn it into this message. It arises quite naturally and nicely. Christ’s appearing is assured because of His ascension. He is reigning, and must reign until all enemies are subdued. He has tasked us with living in His Kingdom, and under His Lordship, in a certain manner. Paul exhorts all classes of Christians to live in the light of the blessed hope of Christ’s appearing, and assumed in this is that Christ is seated on high. As the Creed states: “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
Our obedience is an adornment of the Gospel. Of course, our obedience is not what procures the Gospel, but it is what should confirm to the world the potency of the Gospel. Our adversaries might ask: “You believe that God raised that good teacher from Nazareth, what proof do you give?” The Christian’s life ought to be a large part of the answer. Our sober-minded, joyful faithfulness in our God-assigned duties is the apologetic which Paul says will leave our opponents red-faced with embarrassment. You might feel ill-equipped to debate an atheist professor. But can you be sober-minded? Love your husband & children? Not be given to wine? Show up to work on time and put in an honest day’s work? Paul’s tactic for resisting the false teachers was the church proclaiming the Gospel on one hand, and then displaying it in the ornate treasure chest of joyful obedience.
Salvation has appeared. You were dead, but now you are alive, and you are raised up with Christ. You are seated in Christ. And He shall appear again. This blessed hope, of the great God & Savior Jesus appearing again is how you fight sin and life righteously. This is your only comfort, in life & in death.
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
I want to put two questions to you. Do you believe that Christ is King? If so, are you living like it? Notice that the sort of good works which Paul exhorts the Cretan church to cultivate are not disembodied virtues. They are the sort of things you can witness & behold. If Christ is King, and you believe that, then it should become quite evident to those around you that you are one of His loyal subjects.
Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work. Amen.2 Thessalonians 2:16-17