Monday, December 21, 2015

Sensible People Are Dignified – Titus 2:6-8

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. (NASB)

Sensible Young Men
What does it mean to be sensible? Several versions say it is to be self-controlled. Others say it is to be sober-minded. Then there are a few other versions with other translations. But looking up the Greek word and where it is used elsewhere reveals what many older people think about most young men even in this culture – they are crazy and Paul is urging them to be sane. The word is soofroneoo which means, “to be of sound mind, (a) to be in one's right mind: [used in ] Mark 5:15. (b) to exercise self-control (1) to put a moderate estimate upon oneself, think of oneself soberly: (2) to curb one's passions, [used in] Titus 2:6.”[1]

The word is only used in six verses. The first is, “And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid” (Mark 5:15 ESV). The same incident in Luke 8:35 uses the same word. While demon-possessed, the man had been out of his mind. He had no self-control. In Romans 12:3, Paul urges everyone not to think too much about oneself but to “think with sober judgment.” In 2 Corinthians 5:13 Paul uses the word again in the sense of not being crazy. “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you” (ESV). Beside ourselves could be translated crazy or out of our minds. Right mind is again the word soofroneoo. And then Peter also uses the word in 1 Peter 4:7 where he says, “Be self-controlled and sober-minded” (ESV). If soofroneoo were translated sober-minded, it would read, “Be sober-minded and sober-minded” as Peter uses a different Greek word for sober-minded. What does all this prove? Not much, but it is interesting to see how closely the word is used in opposition to erratic behavior that stems from the mind and lack of self-control. Perhaps it proves that this is more serious than just being sensible.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7 NKJV)

When it comes to sanity and self-control, Christianity has the corner on the market. Going back to the Greek reveals that the word for sound mind is a form of soofroneoo. In this case it is soofronismos,[2] a call to a sound mind or self-control. Where does insanity or a lack of self-control come from? In this verse it is related to fear. In the context of Second Timothy, it looks like Timothy may have been fearful of what other people thought about him, his faith and his association with Paul who was a now a prisoner. The craziness comes when someone feels an overwhelming desire to protect himself because he can’t deal with reality. There are many other reasons for people to act insanely such as wanting something so bad that they are willing to sin to get it. Think about the many reasons people have violent tempers. While we don’t usually call it insanity, it is certainly a lack of self-control. Foolishness and sanity are often linked and “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back” (Prov 29:11 NLT). Modern psychology doesn’t have the answer as it once advised, if does not still continue to do so, to vent your anger.

The answer in is God’s power and God’s love to overcome the fears and craziness that often abound because we either do not trust God, use His power to overcome, or experience and reflect His love. I mentioned Paul’s use of being out of his mind above (2 Corinthians 5:13), but I must follow up here as we can see from the next two verses how God’s love works. “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor 5:14-15 NKJV). These verses explain how Jesus’ love working in us keeps us from being crazy because we are no longer focused on ourselves but on each other. It is really hard to be crazy when you care for other before yourself.

Good Deeds
Look back at Titus 2:7 where the result of being sensible is, “A model of good deeds” (RSV). Some people grow tired of doing good deeds. They want to get out and have some fun. Unfortunately, that kind of fun usually results in regrets the next day, because of either personal consequences or having fun at the expense of others. Paul told the Galatians, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal 6:9-10 NASB). Which is more sensible? Having worldly fun or the pleasure of seeing others helped in some way. What we reap by doing good not only benefits our souls now but it is storing up treasures for eternity.

Jesus promised rewards for those who performed acts of kindness to His disciples (Matt 10:42; 25:34-40). On the other hand, he also predicted eternal punishment for those who ignored the needs of others, especially Christians (Matt 25:41-46). Hosea 10:12-14 is clear as God commanded Israel, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love” (vs. 12 ESV), but follows it with a description of what happens when people are not sensible but trusting in their own ways. The result is war and destruction.

Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Cor 2:17 NIV)

The way we are to teach is a topic Paul often hits. In Titus, he provides three qualities for doctrines or teaching. Teaching must first be pure, then dignified, and sound in speech. Purity may relate to the topic of doctrine meaning that it is not corrupt or false. It could also mean as 2 Corinthians 2:17 says, the motivation is to be pure. They are both related. If the motivation is for profit, then the doctrine will likely be distorted to what people want to hear instead of what God wants taught. This would fit with the ESV and NIV translation that the teaching should be done with integrity. Integrity would also include the idea that it wasn’t done shabbily, without proper preparation and study. Too many preachers have an idea that they can just “wing it.”

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29 NASU adds “of the moment”)

Being dignified in teaching is another matter. A teacher doesn’t have to come across as stuffy but teachers should be careful in the way they present doctrine. It can’t be flippant or peppered with so many jokes that the main point is lost. I’ve heard some preachers work through a very serious passage that has eternal consequences on a person’s soul or serious reflection on living a godly life. Then they ruin the moment with a flippant comment that makes the audience laugh or snicker. When the Holy Spirit is working on a person’s heart that moment is a time to be dignified.

Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. (Matt 12:13 NKJV)

What does this verse have to do with sound speech? The NLT tends to translate passages like Titus 2:8 according to its own bent so that alternate thoughts are stifled. It says, “Teach the truth.” However, the word that Paul uses to describe speech as sound[3] is only used in the New Testament in relation to healings where the person is made whole or healthy. Applying this word to speech implies that the presentation of the doctrine should be whole or healthy. While truth is certainly part of that, Paul already covered that when saying the doctrine must be pure. Here, we should look for additional, not redundant meaning. Like a hand that is made whole, speech that is sound would include completeness. A big issue with false teachers is that they generally camp on a single topic or issue and don’t teach the whole Word of God.

In context, the soundness of speech (along with purity and dignity) is related to being beyond reproach so that opponents will have nothing bad to say. Have you ever heard someone say or write something that should have been profound but it was so full of grammatical or spelling error it made you wonder if he really was qualified to make a reasonable statement about the subject? While I don’t want to imply that everyone must have advanced degrees to be able to teach or preach as God has used ordinary people like Billy Bray. However, this is usually the exception. I also don’t want to point fingers at others because of my own deficiencies in the area of grammar and spelling (I thank God for a good spelling and grammar checker in Microsoft Word). However, the point is that I don’t want to be so sloppy as to turn people away from what I have to say or write.

Nothing Bad to Say
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. (Phil 2:14-15 NLT)

Being dignified and having soundness of speech relate to this verse along with all the other characteristics of a Christians that Paul expressed in Titus. No one likes to be around someone who is complaining or arguing. This goes on and on until it wears people down. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov 12:18 RSV). It is hard enough to be around negative people when they don’t know the Lord, but it is especially irritating if they are Christians. Sometimes I think that unbelievers are even more sensitive about Christians who are obnoxious than we are. We want to extend grace to a believer who is acting poorly but others seem to know that insufferable Christians should know better and get their act together. Besides, it gives them reason to excuse their own behavior, tear down all Christians, and do their best at preventing others to become Christians.

Whether young or old, men or women, Paul’s advice to Titus applies just as well to each of us. A lot depends on how the world sees us as Christians. We don’t act sanely or dignified to impress people, but to please our Lord.

[1] Thayer's Greek Lexicon, s.v. “NT: 4993,” (Biblesoft: 2006), Electronic Database.
[2] Ibid., s.v. “NT: 4995.”
[3] Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, s.v.” NT:5199” (Thomas Nelson, 1985).   Hugies (cf. Eng., "hygiene") is used especially in the Gospels of making sick folk "whole," Matt 12:13; 15:31; Mark 3:5; 5:34; Luke 6:10; John 5:4,6,9,11,14,15; 7:23; also Acts 4:10; of "sound (speech)," Titus 2:8, Biblesoft. 

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