Thursday, November 12, 2015

Honoring God’s Word by Teaching – Titus 2:3-5

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God. (TLB)

Older Women

Do you wonder why much more instruction is given to women than to men? Everything that applies to the men also applies to women as he says, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior” (Titus 2:3 ESV). That word, likewise, pulls in all the qualities that he addressed for older men and applies them to older women. These instructions parallel verses that list the qualifications for elders and their wives (1 Tim 3:8-13). Perhaps the reason that he spends more time with the women is that he previously (in Timothy) he has already instructedmen. Perhaps it goes back to the references about Cretans and there is something specific in this culture that women have been neglecting. Whatever the Holy Spirit’s reasons for this, it provides some good reminders for families and is applicable to both men and women.

Teachers and Trainers

Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior. (1 Peter 3:1-2 RSV)

Where the NASU says that the women should encourage younger women, many versions and the NASU footnote use the word train. There are several implications of this instruction. The first is that older women have a duty to help younger women become godly wives. The second implication is that younger women need to be trained to love their husbands and children. We often think this comes naturally. Yet, the Lord used the idea that a woman could forget about her child in contrast to himself to emphasize that He doesn’t forget us (Is 49:15). Since it is possible for women not to love their husbands and children, they need to be taught how. By the way, men, I see ads on TV that tell us we need to train our boys to respect women. We shouldn’t need TV to tell us to do what is right.

The emphasis on women being submissive (Eph 5:22 and 1 Peter 3:1) perhaps overshadows the reality that there needs to be love as well as respect. If we go back to Genesis 3:16, we find a punishment inflicted on Eve for her disobedience to God and it is passed down through the ages, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you" (NIV). While there is a lot of controversy over what this means, many believe that this means women have a sinful desire to rule over their husbands but God’s order is to have a hierarchy in the family with the husband as the head. If this true, it means that Christian women have a temptation that must be resisted. Paul’s solution to this is for older women who have found how to live in harmony with their husbands to teach younger women how to love their husbands. Peter says they do this by their godly behavior. I’ve also found out that what’s good for women is also is good for men. A godly husband with his behavior is able to resolve marital problems if he is patient and not overbearing demanding submission and subservience. Maybe Paul should have told older men to teach the younger ones as well, but the truth is that the instruction to the women is just as applicable to men as it is to women.

Submissive to Whom?

Submissive to their own husbands. (Titus 2:5 ESV)

Most translations correctly put the word “own” in this verse. While we may think it redundant to add “own” to “their,” the Greek distinguishes between simply saying it is their husbands and it is their own husbands. The word used for their own is idios,[1] which is used to differentiate between what belongs to one rather than belonging to another. Their (autos[2]) is used in other verses where there is no distinction between the ownership. An example is when the three kings opened their treasures (Matt 2:11). The implication is that their treasures were shared. With all that said, the implication is clear that there is no requirement for the women to be submissive to other women’s husbands. The point of this is the mistaken idea that women must be submissive to all men. It is very likely that the first century culture thought that women should be submissive to all men but Paul repeats what he said to the Ephesians (Eph 5:22) and what Peter said (1 Peter 3:1) applying submission only to the woman’s own husband. It also means that some of the appalling sexual communes are not biblical in any sense. Finally, it would mean that the normal marriage relationship would be only one man and one woman.

Shame on God’s Word

 As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Rom 2:24 NIV)

This is the key to why Titus is supposed to establish elders who have great integrity and why everyone should behave in a manner worthy of the name of Jesus. Whether it is older men or women or the ones they are instructing, younger believers and their children, the point is that bad behavior blasphemes the name of Christ. You would think that people who are “foolish … disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending … life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” (Titus 3:3 NASU) – and that is what we once were - would not care how Christians behave if we were no different from them. Surprise! They know better and when they see Christians doing these things, it casts derision on the name of our holy God.

In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:4 NKJV)

Unfortunately, even when we do live godly lives, unbelievers will still find fault. Living a Christian life is a “Catch 22.” If we fail at a point, we are condemned as hypocrites. If we live godly live, we are condemned as being judgmental, self righteous, or intolerant, trying to force other to live up to our standards. Sometimes these things are true and we should avoid them. Other times, it is simply the world doing what the world does, trying to suppress righteousness and the truth (Rom 1:18).

When people's lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them. (Prov 16:7 NLT)

How should we react to all of this? We have to get our eyes off the world and people who will condemn us one way or another. Generally, and proverbs speak in generalities, when we are God-pleasers instead of people-pleasers, then we will not have many enemies. But we also know that at times in our lives, walking with Jesus and living to please him will bring persecution of one sort or another (2 Tim 3:12). Our goal is, “If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18 RSV). We know that we will have opposition, but we do not want that opposition to come because we claim to be Christians and are living ungodly lives bring shame on the Word of God.

[1] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, s.v. “NT:2398,”, (Biblesoft: 2006), Electronic Database.
[2] Ibid., “NT:846.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sound Doctrine and Older Men – Titus 2:1-2

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. (NASB)

Effects of Sound Doctrine

Paul wants Titus to be a contrast to the empty talkers who preach doctrines that lead families astray. The contrast is going to show the effects of sound doctrine on families and relationships of slaves to owners. While Paul doesn’t list which doctrines of the Christian faith result in these snippets of advice, I wouldn’t be surprised if we can find other references in the Bible that will support them.

Our Purpose

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10 ESV)

Since Paul is emphasizing outward behavior, it would be easy to think that people who have been taught to get their act together are the ones that are saved. However, aspects of the doctrine of salvation make it clear that this is a result of salvation not the means of salvation. Where Ephesians 2:8-9 emphasize that God’s grace saves by a gift of faith from Him and has nothing to do with our actions, Ephesians 2:10 emphasizes the result of that salvation.

His workmanship – notice the possessive pronoun in the first phrase. We are the work of God. Salvation didn’t come to us because we cleaned up our act, but it came because God worked in us. He was working long before we made a decision to follow Jesus. It was His decision to save us even before He created the world (Eph 1:4).

Created in Christ Jesus – it is through Jesus that He has been working. While God made the decision to save us long before the earth, that work was only completed when he re-created us in Jesus. Before our salvation, we were different beings than we are now. Before, we were slaves to sin (Rom 6:19-20) and the master of sin, the devil (Eph 2:1-3). But in Jesus, we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are something totally different from what we were before. It is the fulfillment of the promise God gave to Ezekiel that He would give Israel a new heart and His Spirit so that they would want to obey (Ezek 36:26-27).

For good works – With a new heart and the Holy Spirit living in us, we are now able to do the good that we should have been doing all along. While salvation is not a result of good works, Jesus made it clear that good works can only come from a heart that has been cleansed of evil (Matt 15:19, Matt 7:15-17). This is the effect of salvation and it is this doctrine that Paul wanted Titus to teach.

Older Men

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. (Prov 16:31) NIV

Paul starts with older men because they are the ones that should be demonstrating a righteous life. They are the ones who have gained wisdom through a long life. If they are Christ followers, then that wisdom should be godly and reflect exactly what James described, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17 NASU).

However, since Paul had to address these issues with the Cretans, it means that either the older ones were young in their faith or they had not applied good doctrine to their lives. The first are understandable and hopefully teachable. But the latter have no excuse. They have been living the way they wanted and their only option is to repent or face the Lord’s discipline.

Another interesting thing is that the qualities that Titus is to teach older men parallels the qualities of elders. Temperance is also translated as sober. This particular word is also used in 1 Timothy 3:2. It is most often used in relation to restraint in drinking wine. It is not referring to sober-minded as in 1 Peter 4:7 or 5:8. Just as it is not fitting for a church elder to be addicted to wine, neither is it fitting for an older person to be a drunkard. It is often the case that we think that an older person in not capable of changing or that it is too late to help them get sober. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is the common response to those who don’t want to change their life-long bad habit.

My dad was past 70 when he stopped smoking. He supposedly started when he was seven. Of course, he had incentive to stop when cancer caught up with him. And that is just the point. Being sober or temperate or being taught to overcome past bad habits is really a matter of incentive. The incentive for a Christian to get sober is to honor God. If they are not willing to renounce their behavior, then there has to be a question of how dedicated they are to their Savior.

Not Childish or Child-like

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor 13:11 NKJV)

Teaching a man to be dignified and sensible is often seen as stifling fun, creativity, and the joy of living. But, that is not Paul’s point. There is no prohibition of having a fun-filled life, however we must not think and reason as a child does. Children do not have the capacity to understand and it is only when they get older they can process things as an adult. They are very self absorbed and decisions will almost always be what they perceive to be best for them. Their goals are short term and don’t put others first. They have to be taught to renounce selfish ambition and look out for others (Phil 2:3-4). They have to be taught that there is more to this life and not live for instant gratification (2 Cor 4:18).

I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17 NLT)

Some may point to Jesus’ words and insist that even as adults, there is virtue in being child-like. If they do, then they are misrepresenting the meaning. The context is in coming to Jesus, not living daily life. Child-like is carefree with regard to responsibilities as they are too young to support families hold down jobs or make decisions that affect not only their lives, but the lives of others. It doesn’t mean that our faith must not hold up to good reason just because a child can’t understand all the truths of Jesus’ atonement, virgin birth, or other doctrines. Child-like in coming to Jesus is being totally dependent on Jesus alone for salvation as a child has total dependence on his or her parents. It means trusting the authority of the Bible just as a child trusts his parents’ authority for his own good.

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Ps 4:7 ESV)

So there is a big difference between being child-like, childish, and putting away childish things. It means that adult believers must accept the responsibilities of being a Christian and living an exemplary life. It doesn’t mean they can’t laugh, play, and enjoy life. It means that their laughter must be pure, not from crudeness (Eph 5:4) or the expense of other. Our joy should be centered on Jesus not in the abundance of the world or the cravings and desires of the world (1 John 2:15-17). That is the joy that can come only from knowing the Father through Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit indwells us.