Good Living in Good Theology

Because those false teachers that Paul has just described are “unfit for any good work,” he now launches into the positive alternative to that kind of error-filled condition. Paul reminded Titus of the genuine piety consistent with the gospel.


I. Contrasting Purpose for Titus

A. In contrast to the speculative instruction of the false teachers who use a lot of God-language but have godless moral and corresponding conduct, Paul issues to Titus an admonition of strong contrast,“But you.” – William Ames defined theology as the “doctrine of living to God.” Truth about God and godwardness of life cannot be separated in Christian thought. This passage from Titus assumes and reinforces that idea as potently as any place in the New Testament.  If knowledge of truth does not transform living, then one does not possess true knowledge. That is one of the most obvious distinctions between Titus and the false teachers he is to oppose, correct, and refute. Their teaching not only is erroneous in its content because built on personal speculation, but it does not translate into a life that delights in God, his Law, his worship, and his rule. Some teachers foster the idea that one can receive the blessings of forgiveness before God and retain a self-centered unholy life-style. Paul shows the absurdity of that false proposal here even as he does in Romans 8:1-17.

B. Titus is to teach what is fitting, appropriate, for sound doctrine (cf. 1:1 – “knowledge according to godliness;” 1 Tim 1:10 – perverse behavior in “contrary to sound doctrine;” 2 Tim 4:3 – “Not endure sound doctrine” but pursue “their own desires.”) This has been an emphasis throughout the pastoral epistles.This should convince us that a doctrine is not really believed if we see no fruit consistent with its substance. Can a person of uncorrectable arrogance really believe that Christ was equal to God and yet emptied himself for the sake of sinners?  Can a person who consistently indulges the passions of his flesh really believe that the flesh lusts against the Spirit and that the lusts of the flesh wage war against our souls? Can one who sees himself as superior to others really believe in unconditional election? Can one who is impatient with others discern the great patience that God had in bringing him to trust in Christ?

  1. Older men (Verse )2
  • Personal conduct – sober, dignified self-controlled; These words are contained in list Paul gives to state qualification for bishops, deacons, and Timothy himself in 1 Timothy 3: 2, 8 and 6:11. Those nearer death should realize more keenly there are no amoral moments, no moments unpervaded by divine presence.  All of us shall soon taste death and see all of our lives in terms of moral responsibility. The compassion of Christ in undergoing punishment for his people and the holiness of God in setting him forth will appear in such unbroken power at that time, that we will marvel both at him for his grace and at ourselves for such careless lives. Those older should lead in helping all too see that life must be seen in terms of its end.
    • Christian witness – sound in faith [the faith, the whole body of doctrine], love, and patience; soundness in faith produces love and patience; see 3:1-5 If older men find themselves failing in bodily strength and soundness of health, they should all the more see the necessity of soundness of the soul conformed to the truth of divine revelation.  In addition, Paul assumes the theme of unity between truth, affections, and actions in these instructions.  How can one have a healthy confidence in the truth if it is not an expression of love for God and man? Galatians 5:6 shows that faith and holy action have the common source of love. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” The source of true faith is the circumcised heart, that is, the new birth; the clearest demonstration, therefore, of sound faith is its expression of love.  Sound faith arising from love also manifests patience. Paul modeled his conversion as an example of patience.  “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). To this same effectual patience Peter referred when he wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).
  1. Older Women
  • Personal conduct – conduct as fitting for holiness [hieroprepeis];  Both their tongues and their appetites must be fitted for a higher calling; they must be suited to teach godliness.  Often old age brings bitterness. Liquor becomes a sedative and gossip becomes the main source of entertainment. The tongue is made for nobler purposes—for truth, not falsehood; for praise, not complaining; for blessing, not cursing; for edifying instruction, not slander. An older woman who is saved finds pleasure in seeing the growth of Christlikeness in those younger than she, not in slanderous fault-finding.
  • Christian witness – teach what is good [kalodidaskalous] and train the younger women, call them to be soberminded. Instead of the evil of gossip, a practice that shows that the tongue is set on fire of hell [James 3:6], they should teach what is good, right, beautiful, godly.  So easy it is to be absorbed in baser things, the Christian must place her mind on things above and thus give her tongue new matter for exercise (cf. Phil. 4:8, 9). In this way they aid in the restoration of sanity [that is the root meaning of “train”] to minds predisposed to the deceitful lusts of the flesh. Calvin does not think that what follows should be taken as a catalogue of the things that older women are to teach the younger, but a continuation of instructions to older women. It seems to me that Paul is giving specific examples of what issues need to be taught.  That means that it serves as instruction also for the older women, for they cannot teach it without embracing the practice.
    • They should be Husband lovers. The word means to have a genuine friendship and fondness for her husband. This includes being physically attracted, a love of esteem and friendship, and finding way to encourage. Wives should avoid fault-finding and impatience which gives a message of dissatisfaction, not love.
    • Also the young wives need to be Children lovers, not considering them as burdens but as blessings and in need of godly guidance. T. Robertson says, “This exhortation is still needed where some married women prefer poodle-dogs to children.”
    • She is to be taught to be self-controlled and pure. As she has proper regard for her husband and children, so she must see herself as God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19, 20). Devotion to one’s husband and children represses any temptation toward wantonness. The environment for these important aspects of nurturing others and developing personal holiness is the home. She is the single most important element of the home as a place of security rest, and unifying encouragement. Thus we sense the importance of the instruction be being the worker at home. Instead of flitting about from house to house (1 Timothy 5:13) involved in gossip the business of others, she makes her own home, and the home of her family, a place fit for hospitality for others and joy for the family. In all of this she is “kind,” indicating that the wife sees the home not as  an end in itself but a means of expressing kindness; it is to be used not merely observed, it is to put people at ease, not make them nervous.
    • Given both the order and the specific occasion of her creation (Genesis 2:20-25) she is to be submissive to her own husband. This submission does not make her work any less important and filled with dignity than Christ’s submission to the Father makes his work less important (cf. 2 Cor 11:3). This is particularly difficult in the case of an unbelieving husband, but still applies, in fact, with more intensity. Peter says “You wives be submissive to your own husbands, so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:1, 2).
    • These instructions are given so as to eliminate any ground of criticism of the gospel (5b) – “So that the word of God will not be blasphemed.” Unbelieving husbands will blaspheme if his wife’s Christianity makes her disrespectful, self-willed, lacking in fondness to him, and unsubmissive.
  1. Younger Men should be instructed to be self-controlled, to live according to sober-minded sense. They should have their minds submitted to truth, not to their glands. This word is used frequently as constituting sanctification. As well as the presence of the Spirit in the converted young person, the self includes the remaining presence of the flesh. We must walk in the one and mortify the other. The world makes every appeal it can to the flesh of a young man. If the world can capture one while he is young and enwrap him in its values, then it has a life-long source of wealth. A young Christian man must carefully disentangle himself from the values that reside naturally in the heart of flesh and that have been flattered and strengthened by the world’s approach to him. These intrinsic tendencies of the fallen nature must be restrained and even put to death by energetic attention to the life engendered by the Holy Spirit in the illumination of the word of God.
  2. Titus himself is to exemplify the truth that “Theology is the doctrine of living to God.”
  • Personal conduct – he is to be a model of good works in all things. Obviously, he cannot stress the continuity between faith and conduct if he shows no aptitude for the connection. Preachers are sinful, too, and often will fall short of the holy glory of gospel truth, but they should not flaunt these short-fallings nor seek to comfort their people by using the pulpit as a confessional.
  • Christian witness – His teaching must show integrity, dignity; Nothing is more distressing than truths of grace taught in and overbearing and haughty way; Or, on the other hand to see such grave realities handled as a piece of entertainment or fodder for the histrionics of the preacher betrays the holy content of the message..
  • His word, that is his daily speech, must be unimpeachable. Not only should the gospel be preeminent in the place he functions as a proclaimer, but in the places he functions as a person.
  • Give no ground for criticism, that is, such as arises from inconsistency. Many will speak evil of the truth itself as is abundantly recognized in Scripture. Jesus was said to cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons (Mark 3:22). The good deeds of Christians sometimes are represented as evil [1 Peter 2:12]; given that, we must assure that none speak evil of the gospel because we have conducted ourselves badly.
  1. Slaves (9, 10).
  • Personal conduct – Slaves were admonished to be submissive and positively Christian; they must be indisputably trustworthy. This institution has in it the greatest possibility for personal abuse of any relation engendered by a fallen world. Whereas the Christian slave might well see the injustice or arrogance or impersonal expectations in instructions given by a master, and might well have reason to consider such instructions an unjust imposition and therefore feel justified in disobedience or argumentation, Paul says be submissive “in everything,” well pleasing, and not argumentative. Pilfering would be a great temptation since just remuneration has no part in the slave-master relation. One might convince himself that he is not stealing but only taking what is his just due. Paul says do not do it.Rather, live within the relationship in a trustworthy manner. The application here to the present employer-employee relationship holds with even greater tenacity.  We should perform the task that we are assigned, should show ourselves to be competent and trustworthy and not be a grief to those who employ us. Obviously, we may not deny the faith to please any human being, nor engage in lawless activity as an act of loyalty to the boss.
  • Christian witness – doctrine is adorned by such living:When we demonstrate patience and submission for the sake of doing good, we show that we have higher values than seeking the pleasure and prominence of self. We are called to a higher way of living by a higher purpose—the glory of God in the gospel.



II. Foundation and content of instruction—All of the previous instruction gains its motive and model from what follows. God is calling to himself a people to reflect his holiness.

A. The appearance of the Grace of God

  1. It brings salvation – “Salvation” is an adjective in this unusual use of the word and could be translated “For the saving grace of God has appeared.” This is salvation in its most comprehensive sense from new birth to glory. Our corrupt state produced by the fall must be reversed and we must be justly acquitted from our state of condemnation. The old man in Adam must be replaced by a new man in a suitable savior and the promise of eternal death must be supplanted by the hope of eternal life.  A future filled with the company of devils and increasing hatred must give way to the presence of God in a world of love.
  2. It has appeared to all men. There are two possible connection for the phrase “to all men.”
  • Those among whom we live recognize that our profession demands a singular lifestyle. The translation probably should not say “bringing salvation to all men,” but “to all men” is the indirect object of “has appeared.” For this reason, those among whom Christians live their lives have certain expectations concerning their attitudes and conduct.  They will be quick to point out inconsistencies for their expectations of Christians are much higher than they have for themselves.
  • If, however, one sees the adjective “soterios” as connoting “bringing salvation to all men” then Calvin’s comment is appropriate: “He expressly declares that salvation comes to all men, having especially in mind the slaves of whom he has just been speaking.  He does not mean individuals, but rather all classes of men with their diverse ways of life, and he lays great emphasis on the fact that God’s grace has condescended even to slaves.  Since God does not despise even the lowest and most degraded class of men, it would be extremely foolish that we should be slow and negligent to embrace His goodness.”

B. This grace that brings salvation teaches us in accordance with its character (12-14).

  1. Renounce ungodliness and worldly lusts – This is the essence of repentance. In our former manner of life, we had no regard for God’s holiness and his sole prerogative to be the object of our worship and affection. Regeneration brings one to eschew such ungodliness. The world and its pleasures had the place of God for us, but now, having been replaced by the one true God, the pleasures of the world take their proper place. God himself has designed the human body to sense pleasure in every aspect of the created order. From the viewing of a sunset, or a waterfall, or a flower, smelling a roast as a sure sweet-smelling savour, and hearing Handel’s Messiahup to the pleasure of a convivial friendship or the heights of the husband-wife relationship, these things show how teleologically designed the human body is for all aspects of his environment and his social interaction. God gives these as means by which we see and admire the goodness of God in his creation. We are not to make idols of them to replace the pleasure we should have in God alone, but we receive these things in their proper relationship and with gratitude.
  2. Live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age – While in this present age, a fallen and rebellious age filled with the perverse use of all God’s good gifts, the Christian learns how to regard each thing in its place. The atmosphere is poisonous and destructive, pervading every nook and cranny of this present age, pressing every item created by God into the mold of sensuality, popularity, power, self-importance and personal gain. To think soberly, righteously, and godly means that each aspect of our world undergoes transformation through the inundation of truth. The Gospel transforms all. Right and sober thinking, awareness of a true revealed standard of righteousness, and a persuasive sense of the presence and knowability of God combined with a desire to worship and be well-pleasing to him now inform and transform all we do. Compare Romans 12:1, 2
  3. While waiting for the blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing [same root word used to state the initial appearing of the grace of God in 11] of Jesus. Sobriety in the present age is greatly enhanced by a pungent realization that it will soon end to be replaced by an age in which righteousness reigns. This is the objective use of hope. The substance of hope is Christ himself in his glorious appearing when, according to 1 John 3, we shall see him as he is and consequently be like him. If we have that hope in us, we purify ourselves.
    • He is our Great God and savior. No one less that God himself in our nature would be capable of this redemption. The grammatical construction here employing one article with two nouns, means that both nouns are used together in apposition to the name Jesus Christ.  We see the same type of construction in 2 Peter 1:1 and 11.  Peter and Paul believed that Jesus Christ, the one who appeared in the flesh as man, was and is both God and savior.
    • He gave himself for us. The Father gave us his beloved Son. The Son in turn gave himself for us. Paul in Galatians wrote that “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” Galatians 1:3, 4). This was a voluntary death, conceived in eternity, executed in time, and consummated as the end result of a series of events in each of which Jesus Christ gave himself to us. Paul asserts the substitutionary nature of Christ’s redemptive work. Lawlessness demands punishment, and we could not be released from the necessity of its infliction unless an acceptable substitute were found. Christ as God in human flesh is that acceptable substitute.
      • To redeem us from lawlessness is to redeem us from our state of condemnation. That we are unlawful places us under the curse of death. “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” Romans 5:18. But Christ’s acceptable life and sacrifice has rendered that condemnation non-operative, “Even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”  Everyone in Adam is the recipient of hiscondemnation, while everyone in Christ is the recipient of his “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
      • He did this redemptive work in order to purify a people as his own possession, to make them peculiarly his own. This redemption not only buys us out of the sentence of condemnation but buys us off the slave block of sin. He reverses the state of corruption and insures the process of sanctification. Not only does God remove the condemnation but he removes the gnawing worm of internal destruction that corrupt affections produce. He then declares, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” (See 1 Peter 2:9). The people for God’s own possession are those that he gave the Son in the eternal covenant and for whom the Son sanctified himself, set himself apart, for the purpose of sacrificial death (John 17:19).  They are now his and he loses none of them. They are God’s own possession and the Spirit is given as a pledge until the time that Jesus appears in glory to claim us. See Ephesians 1:14 and Hebrews 13:20, 21.
      • The person purified for Christ is a person zealous for good works. Both in their mental outlook and in their spiritual intent and action they change from malignant and destructive to benign and edifying. The zeal for good works increases as inner transformation progresses. He will identify this specifically in 3:5 as the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” The more a Christian learns of the Scripture, and consequently of the attributes of God and the grace of Christ, the more pure and persevering is his desire for seeing Christ honored. He or she presses on for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).



III. Such Teaching is not optional – seamless connection between theology and ethics is our goal

A. Declare these things –The truths of Christ’s work and purpose undergird the instructions. The doctrines of grace have a transforming effect and as God’s revealed way of salvation must be preached to saint and sinner alike. They are converting doctrines as well as sanctifying doctrines.

B. Exhort and rebuke with all authority – this is no light matter, but at the heart of the apostolic concern; cf. 1:3, 5; Titus has been left in Crete for this specific purpose, to set things in order.All the instructions of this chapter, therefore, are part of that orderly arrangement of things that Paul desires to see.

C. Let no one disregard you – as a special emissary of the apostle, he must be heeded. Paul has sent this letter in part to arm Titus with authority. This is similar instruction to that given to Timothy: “Command and teach these things. Let n one despise you for your youth. Nothing less than the glory of God in this world is at stake in the conformity of God’s peculiar people to his character and truth.



IV. Lessons

A. Truth always may be set in contrast, and at times in stark contradiction, to the thinking of the world. Christian theology is not a matter of human speculation but of sensible and orderly organization into consistent themes of the things revealed. Right living can only come from right thinking.

B. Christian truth not only treats themes to be contemplated intellectually but transformation of affections and actions.The doctrine of living to God does not diminish the importance of rigorous thinking and organization of biblical ideas into coherent arrangement, but sees such rigorous mental work as organically integrated with making hearts fit for the presence of the glorious God. An appropriate shaping of the life follows as a piece from the godly instruction of the understanding. I use understanding to mean more than intellectual cognition. Those that are saved from “this perverse generation” devote themselves to “the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” [Acts 2:40-42] and they are “zealous for good works.”

C. A Christian will accept misunderstanding and unrealized appreciation in this life in order to adorn the grace of God with a gentle and humble spirit. Our goal is not to be men-pleasers but to work as unto the Lord. It is the Lord Christ that we serve, and in so doing our tasks for others will be done with greater stewardship and skill than they otherwise might ever have been done.

D. The most cruel task-master is the corruption of sin and the greatest fear is the wrath of God. Christ’s redemption has removed both of these aspects of the curse.The greatest gifts, therefore, have already been shed abroad in the heart of the Christian by the coming of the Holy Spirit to seal the work of Christ to his people.  In light of having been relieved of the greatest hindrance to life, we accept the providence of our heavenly Father in all other things in this life, knowing that they serve his redemptive purpose for us also.

E. Hope transforms everything. Our God and Savior comes. He will judge the world in righteousness.He will place all things under his feet. He will transform our lowly body to be made like his glorious body. The brightness of his appearing will be a marvel even to those who wait expectantly for him and destroy all that exalts itself against his truth. The present material world will give way in a spectacular manner to an incorruptible New Heaven and New earth that will be characterized, not by the nomenclature of “this present evil age,” but by that splendid appellation “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).

F. These truths constitute the substance of our teaching. They speak to the actual God-revealed needs of every person and, because not of this age, transcend all ages. Because this grace has appeared to “all men,” this message transcends all cultures. Because it is for God’s “peculiar people,” his own possession, any alteration of its content has no warrant.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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