7. Teaching Christians the Godly Life (Titus 1:1-2:12)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (40:10)

Dolphins in floor mosaic of the early Christian Basilica of Elounda, in northeastern Crete (4th to 5th century AD).
Dolphins in floor mosaic of the early Christian Basilica of Elounda, in northeastern Crete (4th to 5th century AD). Overall size of the building was about 56 by 115 feet (17 by 35 meters).

Around the same time as Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy in Ephesus (1 Timothy), he penned a somewhat similar letter to Titus. Though the order in our Bibles is "1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus," I'm putting Titus right after 1 Timothy in our study, since it is written about the same time and to co-workers who had similar tasks of setting churches in order -- Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete.

Titus is one of Paul's co-workers. Together they have just evangelized the island of Crete. Paul has left Titus on Crete to help establish and appoint leadership in the new congregations there (Titus 1:5), much as he and his co-workers had done on his first and second missionary journeys (Acts 14:21-23).

The theme I see running through this brief letter is Paul's charge to Titus to teach the Christians of Crete how to live godly lives, both behaviors to embrace, as well as behaviors to walk away from. The result of this will be an absence of all that is destructive about ungodly lifestyles and speech, allowing these new believers in Christ to blossom into men and women living fruitful, productive lives (Titus 3:14), pleasing to God, and winsome to their surrounding community (Titus 2:10b; cf. 5b, 8b.).

A couple of theological high points in the letter are Paul's words about the Blessed Hope of Christ's return (Titus 2:13-14) and the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration in new believers (Titus 3:4-7), the "new birth" Jesus taught about (John 3:1-8), causing believers to become "a new creation" in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). We'll consider those in Lesson 8.

With that prologue, let's begin a verse-by-verse study of this short letter.

7.1 Greeting (Titus 1:1-4)

The Epistle to Titus begins with the same three-fold salutation structure that we observed in 1 Timothy 1:1-3 (Lesson 1): Author, Recipient, and Greetings, except that here, he expands on the faith and knowledge that he and Titus proclaim.

Author -- Apostle and Slave (Titus 1:1)

"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ...." (Titus 1:1a)

Paul identifies himself as a "servant of God" -- literally, a "slave" (doulos) of God -- and an apostle (see Lesson 1.1). Are you a slave of God, one who has voluntarily made yourself a bond-servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords? (Exodus 21:5-6). To those who love independence and freedom, the idea of being a slave is repugnant. But to those who love and trust God, it is a place of status and security and freedom to grow.

Propagating Faith and Knowledge (Titus 1:1-2)

Unlike most of Paul's letters, in this letter Paul expands on this part of the salutation -- the purpose of his apostleship:

"1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- 2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior...." (Titus 1:1-3)

In these three verses, it is fascinating to see how Paul links together purpose, end, and means.

Purpose. Paul's apostolic role is to promote knowledge. Then he specifies: faith of the "elect," God's chosen. And not just any knowledge, but knowledge that leads to godliness.

End. "Godliness" (eusebeia) is "awesome respect accorded to God, devoutness, piety, godliness."333 Probably the concepts of godliness and faith overlap here. Sometimes we act as if we increase religious knowledge, We'll increase godliness. Lots of sermons by learned men and women increase knowledge. But do they increase love and devotion for God? The aim of our ministry is faith and knowledge that make a difference in our relationship with the Living God. As Paul said elsewhere: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1b).

Means (if that is the right word): "the hope334 of eternal life" (verse 2). As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:

"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:19)

We look beyond this life to the next, which give meaning to our faith, our hope, and the ways we choose to live out our lives.

Practical sermons about how to raise children or solve conflicts in our marriages may be helpful and good. Paul spends some time on that in his epistles. But they don't increase our hope in eternal life, which is a powerful motivator for our actions. We need to balance practicality with teaching about eternal life.335

Notice how Paul talks about his ministry with a kind of awe:

"The preaching entrusted336 to me by the command of God our Savior...." (Titus 1:3)

Preacher-friend, don't ever devalue what God has called you to do, what he has entrusted to you. Your ministry and sphere of influence may seem small in man's eyes, but to your Father, it is a sacred trust.337

Recipient: Titus

"To Titus, my true son in our common faith." (Titus 1:4a)

Titus (Greek titos, Latin titus) was a common Roman name, from the Latin titilus, "title of honor."338 Titus, like Timothy, seems to be Paul's convert ("my true son"), apparently coming to Christ in Antioch following the revival there in 45 AD, which prompted the Jerusalem church to send Barnabas, who fetched Paul to help him (Acts 12:19-27).

Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their trip from Antioch to the Jerusalem Council about 49 AD, concerning whether Gentile Christians must be circumcised. It was determined that Titus, who as an uncircumcised Greek believer, need not be circumcised (Galatians 2:1-5).

He was a valued co-worker whom Paul sent on sensitive missions to Corinth339 and refers to him as both a "brother" (2 Corinthians 2:13) as well as "partner and fellow-worker" (2 Corinthians 8:23). It is surprising that he is not mentioned in the Book of Acts. As Paul writes this Letter to Titus after his first imprisonment in Rome, Titus is in Crete (Titus 1:5). Later, Paul sends him to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10), According to a late ninth-century subscription to a Greek manuscript of the Epistle to Titus, Titus was the first bishop of Crete.340


"Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." (Titus 1:4)

As mentioned previously, "Grace -- favor to you" was the common greeting among Greek-speakers, while "Shalom -- peace to you" was the common greeting among Jews. Paul combines them. Notice, it isn't Paul himself who extends grace and peace to them, but the Father and the Son.

Titus's Mission in Crete (Titus 1:5-8)

Now in this short letter, Paul gets right to the point.

"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you." (Titus 1:5)

Crete in Paul' s Day.
Crete in Paul's Day. Larger map.

Paul and Titus have worked together to evangelize the Island of Crete, probably about 62 to 63 AD. Another evangelistic team also seems to be at work as well (Lesson 8:4; Titus 3:13)

Crete, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean, is the location of the first known civilization in the Mediterranean, the Minoans. It spans 160 miles (260 km), east to west. North to south it varies from 37 miles (60 km) to as little as 7.5 miles (12 km). It is a mountainous island with peaks as high as 8,000 feet (2450 m), along with fertile valleys and plateaus. Paul had landed briefly on Crete during his trip to prison in Rome in 59 AD, but did no missionary work at that time.

7.2 Appointing Elders in Every Town (Titus 1:5-8)

Numbers of people have come to Christ during Paul's and Titus's evangelization. Now these people need to be grouped into churches with competent and godly leaders set over them to disciple them further.

Paul spells out for Titus the kind of leaders to look for as elders (verse 5) or "overseers" (verse 7), used here synonymously with the word "pastor" elsewhere (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-2; Ephesians 4:11).

"5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. 6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." (Titus 1:5-8)

Since Paul instructed Timothy in similar fashion how to appoint elders and deacons in the Church of Ephesus, I refer you to that detailed exposition in Lesson 3.1 (1 Timothy 3:1-7) where I compare Paul's instructions to Timothy and Titus -- largely the same.

7.3 Insisting on Sound Doctrine (Titus 1:9-16)

Elders, screened and trained church leaders, are essential "in every town," that is in the churches that Paul and Timothy have established in the various cities and towns they evangelized all over Crete. Doctrinal error was rampant both in Ephesus and Crete, and elders must have authority to combat it.

"[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." (Titus 1:9)

Paul is passionate for "sound doctrine" as we saw in Lesson 1.2. "Doctrine" (didachē from which we get our word "didactic") means "teaching." "Sound" is hygiainō (from which we get our word "hygiene"), "be healthy," here, "to be sound or free from error, be correct."341 Paul speaks about "sound doctrine" several times in Titus (1:9, 13; 2.1-2, cf. 2:8) and the Pastoral Epistles.342 Some teaching is merely unhealthy; other teaching is downright poisonous!

Correcting False Doctrine

Titus must continue to teach the clear, message that he and Paul proclaimed and seek out elders who hold firmly343 to the "trustworthy message" without deviation into false and speculative doctrine. Elders in these churches had a clear teaching role. But they also had authority to enforce doctrine and practice in their churches. Notice the verbs Paul uses that describe this enforcement in a kind of progression from the mild to the severe.

  • Exhort, encourage (verse 9). Paul uses a verb that can suggest both exhortation and encouragement.344 Good teaching needs to be both authoritative and persuasive. Believers are to be encouraged strongly with "sound doctrine."
  • Refute (verse 9). The Greek word suggests both exposing and convincing a person of their error, as well as correcting them.345
  • Silence (verse 11) sounds more forceful. Paul says, "they must be silenced,"346 which may require refusing to allow them to speak in the congregation, or even excluding them from the fellowship if they won't comply. After teaching, exhorting, and refuting false teaching, the time comes to silence it by any means at the pastor's disposal.
  • Rebuke sharply (verse 13) also suggests a no-holds-barred word of disapproval. The verb can even suggest discipline or punishment.347

Q1. (Titus 1:9) Why do pastors and elders hesitate to correct false doctrine today? What is the result of laxity? What is the result of gentle but firm discipline with regard to doctrine?

Difficult Culture in Crete (Titus 1:10-16)

By this time in his ministry, Paul has ministered in cities all over Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece (and perhaps in Rome and Spain), so he has the ability to help Titus assess the culture they found in Crete with a blunt description. Some mission fields are hungry and open; in others there is widespread resistance to the gospel. Crete was difficult.

"10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach -- and that for the sake of dishonest gain."348 (Titus 1:10-11)

The "circumcision group" implies that the converts in Crete included Jews -- probably because Paul's evangelism strategy typically began with teaching in synagogues, winning some Jews and Gentile "God-fearers" who attended the meetings. When Jews became believers in Jesus as the Messiah, some still insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation, a problem that Paul had to deal with in many places (for example, Acts 15 and Galatians 2:11-21).

Paul sees this rebelliousness and deception as characteristic of residents of Crete.

"12 Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' 13 This testimony is true." (Titus 1:12-13)

Paul quotes a Cretan prophet and agrees with that man's assessment. As I've reflected on this verse, I've concluded that we' re not seeing some kind of racial prejudice, but an evaluation from a world traveler who had worked in many locales.

Now, Paul seems to turn particularly to the Jewish Christians of Crete of the "circumcision party," who seem corrupt and deceitful.

"Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth." (Titus 1:14)

Paul senses an inner corruption in some of these opponents within the church.

"To the pure,349 all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted350 and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." (Titus 1:15)

Something is twisted in mind and "moral consciousness, the inward faculty of distinguishing right and wrong."351 In one place, Paul describes people "whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2). Searing destroys the nerve pain receptors in the tissues so they have no sense of feeling left. Some people have sinned so often that they lose any moral compass -- sociopathy. A conscience can only be restored by deep repentance and reeducation from the Word of God, but most who have lost a sense of right and wrong won't take the time to listen and absorb God's truth.

We sometimes meet people who say they are Christians, but by their actions show their true character.

"They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good." (Titus 1:16)

As Jesus taught us, "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matthew 17:16, 20).

To people who live in a tolerant culture, Paul's demand for sound doctrine and his assessment of rebellious and corrupt people may seem harsh. But we neglect his counsel at our peril.

7.4 Teaching a Variety of Ages and Genders (Titus 2:1-10)

In Titus 1, Paul has talked about the importance of insisting on sound doctrine. Now he turns to specify what sound doctrine needs to be applied to the various groups Titus must minister to -- older men, younger men, women, and slaves in the churches of Crete.352

The summary verse is verse 1:

"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1)

This is followed, not by theological doctrine, but practical teaching about a godly fulfillment of one's place in society. Sound or healthy doctrine353 about practical matters, not just theology, is vital to a healthy church.

Teaching Older Men (Titus 2:2)

First, older men in the congregation should be taught how to behave:

"Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." (Titus 2:2)

Reading between the lines here, Paul seems to be concerned that in the culture of Crete, older men can drink too much bringing disrespect on themselves -- and, by extension on the whole Christian community of which they are a part. Thus Paul adds in verse 5: "so that no one will malign the word of God." Let's look at the virtues Titus is to teach, calling Christian men to their best.

Temperance. "Temperate" (NIV, NRSV), sober-minded" (ESV), "sober" (KJV) is vēphalios, here, "pertaining to being very moderate in the drinking of alcoholic beverage, temperate, sober."354 Note that temperance in the New Testament doesn't require outright abstinence (1 Timothy 5:23), but means not being addicted to, or a slave to drink,355 having what we might term "a drinking problem."

Respectable. "Worthy of respect" (NIV), "dignified" (ESV), "serious" (NRSV), "grave" (KJV) is semnos, "pertaining to evoking special respect," especially, "worthy of respect/honor, noble, dignified, serious." The word is also used regarding a deacon's wife (1 Timothy 3:11).

"Self-controlled" (NIV, ESV), "prudent" (NRSV), "temperate" (KJV) is sōphrōn, "pertaining to being in control of oneself, prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled."356 The word is also used in the list of qualifications for elders (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

"Sound in faith, in love, and in endurance." Titus is to teach soundness or health357 in the Christian virtues of faith or trust in the Lord, in agape or selfless love, and in endurance or patience.358

Teaching Older Women (Titus 2:3)

Paul also has words for women. First, the older women who have already raised their families:

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good." (Titus 2:3)

Some of these directions sound a lot like the teaching to the older men. Some of the older women drink too much also.

"Reverent in behavior" (ESV, NRSV), "reverent in the way they live" (NIV), "in behavior as becometh holiness" (KJV) calls on the adjective hieroprepēs, "reverent, venerable."359 The root of the word relates to temple ministry and priests. Schrenk says, "The simple meaning is that we must take seriously the fact that we belong to God."360

Not "slanderers" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "false accusers" (KJV) is diabolos "pertaining to engagement in slander, slanderous."361 In Ephesus, Paul is concerned with younger women, "going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not" (1 Timothy 5:13). When gossip becomes part of the culture in a church -- often among the women, if truth be told -- it can be corrosive, divisive, and lead to all sorts of dysfunction. It is no accident that the word for slander in Greek (diabolos), is also the Greek word for the devil.362

Temperate. Not "addicted to much wine" (NIV), or the NRSV puts it, not "slaves363 to drink." Paul's qualifications for a deacon includes something similar: "not indulging364 in much wine" (1 Timothy 3:8). As we know, women can be alcoholics, as well as men. Paul calls both women and men to temperance with regard to alcoholic beverages.

Teachers of what is good.365 Paul's point is that women, especially older women, need to exemplify moral goodness, and not fall into evils such as irreverent behavior, gossip, and drunkenness.

Q2. (Titus 2:2-3) What seem to be the predominant sins of the older men and women in the churches of Crete? What specific behaviors does Paul urge in place of these sins?

Teaching Younger Women (Titus 2:4-5)

Now Paul gives some specifics about being "teachers of what is good." The older women can and should be examples to and instructors of the younger women in the church. Neither Titus nor the all-male eldership he is appointing are well-equipped to teach such things. Women show women how to be good mothers and wives, by example and by urging or spurring on the younger women to their duty.

"4 Then they can train366 the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (Titus 2:4-5)

Let's consider the qualities of younger women.

Love their families -- their husbands and children.367 A wife's and mother's first concern is to love her family and care for them.

Self-control. In this context, the Greek adjective takes on the ideas of "chaste, decent, modest." This word group seems to be a favorite in the Pastoral Epistles.368

Purity.369 Chaste behavior is important.

Attentive to household duties.370 Wives are traditionally in charge of the household, since in previous times it was usually the men who were laboring in the fields or shops. But we shouldn't see this as limiting a woman's role to the home. The wife of noble character in Proverbs 31:10-31 is an example of a capable woman, who not only managers her household, but also runs a small manufacturing business, buys and sells property, and plants a vineyard.

Kind. Moral goodness371 expresses itself in kindness and generosity to the family and the community.

Submissive to their husbands. The verb hypotassō (here in the passive), means "to subject oneself, be subjected or subordinated."372 It expresses itself in an attitude towards one's own husband; it is not a direct synonym of "to obey," though sometimes it can carry that idea.

Without such qualities in the younger women, non-believers will have lots of reasons to criticize or malign373 the Christian community, and by extension, the "word of God" that they teach. How you and I live out our daily lives reflects directly on how people view our God.

Teaching Young Men (Titus 2:6)

"Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled." (Titus 2:6)

You might think that Paul asks more of the young women than the young men. However, the verb sōphroneō speaks to the weaknesses of young husbands. It means, "to be prudent, with focus on self-control, be reasonable, sensible, serious, keep one's head."374 When applied to women it has the idea of "be chaste, virtuous" (like the adjective sōphron in verse 5), but here it speaks of young men's tendency to go off without thinking things through, and the need to be reasonable.

Setting a Good Example (Titus 2:7-8)

"7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8)

Titus, probably younger Paul, is to teach Christian virtues to younger men by example375 as well as word, as Paul exhorted Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12). People don't listen to what you say nearly as much as they observe what you do, and how well that conforms with your teaching, as Paul says here "in your good works, and in your teaching" (ESV, verse 8). I've heard it said that leaders shouldn't be held to a higher standard than everyone else. That might be true from the sense of fairness, but as a matter of fact, people emulate their leaders -- for good or for bad. We do need to hold our leaders to a higher standard or they will contribute to eroding morality inside and outside of the church.

Good works. "Doing what is good" (NIV), "good works" (ESV, NRSV, KJV). This virtue of service to others is found throughout the Old and New Testaments and often in the Pastoral Epistles.376 We are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), that is, to carry out good and generous actions to help others. Greek and Roman cultures weren't known for caring for the poor and needy, but these acts of compassion became an earmark of the Christian Church in its early days.

Integrity. The Greek word is literally "uncorruptness" (KJV), not corrupted or compromised.377 It is tempting for church leaders caught in a bind to flip-flop, to tell people what they want to hear, like politicians. But people aren't stupid. When they see this, they won't trust their leaders. Trust in our integrity must be earned by consistency in what we leaders say and so. Much better to be candid, to tell the truth, and to admit where we' re wrong.

Dignity. The underlying Greek word has to do with evoking special respect. It is translated in various ways in English Bibles -- seriousness, dignity, gravity, irreproachable.378 Seriousness and gravity can seem dark and unattractive. I think "dignity" may convey this best. Dignity can gain respect by being friendly, cheerful, and humble. But radical, wild, unpredictable speech and action can cause people to take us less seriously. If we expect people to follow our lead, we need to conduct ourselves like leaders.

Soundness of speech. Paul is talking about words or speech that are correct,379 not exaggerations or oratorical flourishes that make them not really true. Our words need to be accurate. Even if our hearers don't agree with us, they will respect our careful explanations and use of words.

Teaching Slaves (Titus 2:9-10)

Paul has given some pointers concerning ministry to older and younger men and women. Now he turns to another group that is a significant presence in churches in Crete and the rest of the Greek and Roman world -- slaves.

At first glance, we find Paul's instruction shocking. It sounds like it supports the evil institution of slavery! Paul is certainly opposed to enslaving people (1 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 18:13). He instructs people not to sell themselves into slavery to pay their debts (1 Corinthians 7:23) and encourages slaves to seek to become free, if that becomes possible (1 Corinthians 7:21). But the abolition of slavery did not begin to weigh upon the conscience of Christians and governments until the 19th century.380 We need to be careful not to judge first century Christianity with 21st century values.

Paul accepts slavery as part of his culture, and gives counsel on how to live out Christian lives in the midst of it.

"9 Teach slaves381 to be subject382 to their masters in everything, to try to please383 them, not to talk back384 to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." (Titus 2:9-10)

How do you win masters to Christ? By living exemplary lives before them. Paul counsels: (1) submission to masters, (2) trying to please masters, (3) refraining from disrespectful replies, and (4) and not stealing,385 but gaining their trust by scrupulous honesty.386 Paul gives more nuanced instruction for slaves and their masters in 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Peter 2:18-20.

Does this teaching have any relevance for us today, since we don't have the institution of slavery? Yes, by all means. Each of these instructions apply to how we should relate to a business owner or supervisor at our place of employment.

  1. Submitting to their instructions,
  2. Trying to please them,
  3. Not being argumentative, and
  4. Not stealing, but showing that we can be trusted.

The way we conduct ourselves in the workplace has a lot to do with how effective we are in attracting people to faith in Christ and to the reputation of our church.

Good Behavior Advances the Gospel

Indeed, how our behavior affects our testimony and public perception of Christ and Christianity is uppermost in Paul's mind throughout Titus 2. We should live exemplary lives, says Paul:

"... So that no one will malign the word of God." (Titus 2:5b)

"... So that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:8b)

"... So that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."387 (Titus 2:10b)

Q3. (Titus 2:2-8) What are the weaknesses that younger wives and husbands need to be careful about? How about employees? What positive qualities should substitute for these sins? Why is Titus's example so important in teaching good Christian behavior and morality? How does our behavior impact Christ's reputation?

7.5 Grace and Godliness (Titus 2:11-12)

Paul has been teaching how various groups in the local congregations should act in a way that brings credit upon their faith. Now he calls on the expectation of Christ's return as another motivation to live godly lives (which We'll examine in Lesson 8.1).

"10b... so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:10b-14)

Paul tells us that grace itself teaches us:

"... to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:12)

Just how does grace teach us to live godly lives? We start with the word "grace" (charis) that refers to God's favor to us. Grace is unique in that it is unilateral, with no relation to how good or bad we are. Much more on grace in my study Grace: Favor for the Undeserving (www.jesuswalk.com/grace/).

Grace has "appeared"388 in history in the person of Jesus Christ, who whose life, death, and resurrection has brought us salvation. The Greek word is related to the root of our word "epiphany." Christ's "glorious appearing" at the End of Time is mentioned again in verse 13.

In verse 12, grace seems almost personified, since it "teaches" or "trains us."389 Kelly says that Paul is stressing "what we may call the educative or disciplinary aspect of God's saving activity."390

Grace -- Jesus' act of salvation -- teaches us negatively, to renounce the temptations of the world, and positively, to live godly lives now. If we look at God's grace on the cross, Jesus' death for our sins, it is impossible not to understand that to embrace sin is to offend God. Grace teaches us quite powerfully in verse 12.

Negatively, grace teaches us to renounce:391

  • Ungodliness is lack of reverence for God resulting in careless and profane use of Jesus' name and God's name, and actions that utterly go against what Jesus teaches us.392 See the excursus above on "godliness" (Lesson 4.2).
  • Worldly passions would include being led into sexual sins by our human sexual desires, and into sins of greed, theft, and covetousness, where wrong desires are the leading factors.393

Positively, grace teaches us to live lives that are:

  • Self-controlled refers to being prudent, moderate, and in control of ourselves.394 This is a favorite descriptor in Paul's Epistle to Titus, 395 perhaps because the Cretans tended to be out of control.
  • Upright would refer to honesty, the desire to do the right and just thing.396
  • Godly would imply showing reverence and respect.397 It corresponds to the term "God-fearing" in the Old and New Testaments.
  • Expectant, looking forward to Christ's returning, the "blessed hope."

Q4. (Titus 2:11-12) How does a wrong understanding of God's grace seem to give us a license to be sloppy in our behavior? In what ways should God's grace motivate us to good behavior?

1&2 Timothy and Titus: Leadership and Discipleship Lessons from the Pastoral Epistles, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats.

Paul has taken pains to give Titus a guideline in teaching the practical Christian way of life to his congregation. May God help us to emulate Christ's example ourselves in our homes, churches, places of employment, and in the community at large!


Father, help us who are leaders to be diligent to instruct your people how to live in this world in a way that promotes love for each other and respect for Christ our Lord. Forgive us for the ways we have failed you and brought about disrepute upon our Savior. Cleanse and renew us, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Key Verses

"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1)

"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8, NIV)

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age...." (Titus 2:11-12, NIV)


References and Abbreviations

[333] Eusebeia. Classical Greek used the word to mean "piety, reverence, loyalty exhibited towards parents or deities, fear of God." But New Testament usage is directed towards God himself -- respect, awe, devotion (BDAG 412).

[334] "Hope" is elpis, "the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment, hope, expectation" (BDAG 319, 1bβ). Also at Titus 3:7.

[335] While an understanding of eternal life isn't found often in the Old Testament, the promise was there from the beginning (Revelation 17:8; 13:8; Matthew 25:34; John 17:24). God chose to reveal it through Jesus, Paul and the other apostles "at the proper time" (Titus 1:3).

[336] "Entrusted" is pisteuō, "to believe, trust," here, "entrust something to someone" (BDAG 818, 3).

[337] 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Corinthians 9:17.

[338] Titus Flavius Vespasianus, son of Emperor Vespasian (69-79 AD), was the general who conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD and later Roman emperor 79 to 81 AD.

[339] 2 Corinthians 7:6-7, 13; 8:6, 16-17; 12:18.

[340] I drew upon information in G. F. Hawthorne, "Titus," ISBE 4:864.

[341] Hygiainō, BDAG 1023, 2.

[342] 1 Timothy 1:10; 6:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 4:3.

[343] "Hold firm/ly" (NIV, ESV), "have a firm grasp" (NRSV), "holding fast" (KJV) is the verb antechō, "to have a strong attachment to someone or something, cling to, hold fast to, be devoted to" (BDAG 87, 1).

[344] "Encourage" (NIV, ESV), "preach" (NRSV), "exhort" (KJV) is parakaleō, "to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage" (BDAG 765, 2).

[345] "Refute" (NIV, NRSV), "rebuke" (ESV), "convince" (KJV) is elegchō, a verb that carries several connotations: (1) "expose," then, (2) "to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince," then (3) "to express strong disapproval of someone's action, reprove, correct," finally, (4) "to penalize for wrongdoing, punish, discipline" (BDAG 315). BDAG sees definition 2, "convict" as likely here.

[346] "Be silenced" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "be stopped" (KJV) is epistomizō, literally, "to put something on the mouth," here, "to silence" someone (BDAG 382).

[347] "Rebuke sharply" is two words, elegchō, "refute," which we saw in verse 9, and the adverb apotomōs, "severely, rigorously," here and in 2 Corinthians 13:10 (BDAG 124).

[348] Fee (p. 174) cites C.K. Barrett (The Pastoral Epistles (New Clarendon Bible; Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), p. 129), "It is the sordidness of making profit out of Christian service, rather than dishonest gain, that is here condemned." Knight (p. 298) says, "Paul designates 'gain' as 'shameful' or 'disgraceful,' not because he thinks teachers should not be paid, but because they get it by teaching error, and because 'gain' as the basic motivation for teaching what purports to be the Christian faith, as it was for them, is 'shameful' ."

[349] "Pure" is the adjective katharos, "pertaining to be clean or free from adulterating matter, clean, pure," here, "pertaining to being free from moral guilt, pure, free" (BDAG 489, 3a).

[350] "Corrupt(ed)" (NIV, NRSV), "defiled" (ESV, KJV) is miainō, "to stain," here, "to cause the purity of something to be violated by immoral behavior, defile" (BDAG 650, 2).

[351] Suneidēsis, BDAG 967, 2.

[352] I find it interesting that in 1 Timothy (Lesson 2 and Lesson 3), Paul gives instructions for dealing with men, women, widows, elders, and slaves, suggesting that certain specific problems with some of these groups existed in the Church of Ephesus. But to Titus, Paul's advice about ministering to various groups is much more generic, perhaps touching on a different set of problems.

[353] See Lesson 7.2 above.

[354] Vēphalios, BDAG 672. Vēphalios can mean, by extension, pertaining to being restrained in conduct, self-controlled, level-headed." But since sōphrōn ("self-controlled") is used later in this sentence, here we should take vēphalios as having to do with consumption of alcoholic beverages -- beer and wine. Also, sound doctrine for older women includes the parallel idea of not being "addicted to much wine" (Titus 2:8). Temperance with alcohol is also a qualification for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:2-3, 8; Titus 1:7).

[355] Titus 2:3; 1 Timothy 3:8.

[356] Sōphrōn, BDAG 987. Sōphrōn seems to be derived from saos/sōs, "safe, whole" (Thayer 613).

[357] Hyiainō, is "sound, free from error" (see Lesson 7.3 above).

[358] "Endurance" (NIV, NRSV), "steadfastness" (ESV), "patience" (KJV) is hupomonē, "the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance" (BDAG 1039).

[359] Hieroprepēs, BDAG 470.

[360] The word literally means that which corresponds to the hieron, whether as temple, temple ministry, sacred action, or deity (Gottlob Schrenk, hieros, TDNT 3:253-254).

[361] Diabolos, BDAG 226, 1.

[362] Satan is called "the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 3;1; Job 1:9; 2:5). Cf. diabolo (Spanish), "devil."

[363] "Slaves" (ESV), "addicted to" (NIV), "given to" (KJV) much wine, "slaves to drink" (NRSV) employs the verb douloō, "enslave," here, figuratively, "to make one subservient to one's interests, to cause to be like a slave" (BDAG 260, 2).

[364] Prosechō, "to continue in close attention to something, occupy oneself with, devote or apply oneself to" (BDAG 3).

[365] This phrase employs a single compound noun, kalodidaskalos, "teaching what is good," a word not found in this form elsewhere in Greek (BDAG 504).

[366] "Train" (NIV, ESV), "encourage" (NRSV), "teach" (KJV) is not the normal word to teach or instruct (didaskō), but sōphronizō (from sōphrōn, "of sound mind") "to instruct in prudence or behavior that is becoming and shows good judgment, encourage, advise, urge" (BDAG 986). "To make someone a sōphrōn," i.e., "to bring him to reason." also, "to exhort, spur on" (Ulrich Luck, sophron, ktl., TDNT 7:1104).

[367] The first adjective is philandros, "having affection/love for a husband" (BDAG 1055). The second adjective is philoteknos, "loving one's children" (BDAG 1059). Both are derived from philos, "love for family," rather than agapē, "unselfish love," though this should in no way be seen as a less worthy love for family.

[368] The adjective sōphrōn is (the root of sōphronizō, "train/encourage/teach" earlier in the verse), "being in control of oneself, prudent, thoughtful, self-controlled," in this context, "chaste, decent, modest" (BDAG 987). The word is also found in Titus 1:8; 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:2 describing qualifications for elders. The related noun sōphrosunē is also found in 1 Timothy 2:9, 15. The related adverb sōphronōs is found in Titus 2:12. The verb sōphroneō is found in Titus 2:6 of young men.

[369] "Pure" (NIV, ESV), "chaste" (NRSV, KJV) is agnos, "pure, holy," originally in the cultic sense, then transferred to the moral sense. Especially of women, "chaste, pure" (2 Corinthians 11:2; BDAG 13a).

[370] "Busy at home" (NIV), "working at home" (ESV), "good managers of the household" (NRSV), "keepers at home" (KJV) is oikourgos, "pertaining to carrying out household responsibilities, busy at home, carrying out household duties" (BDAG 700).

[371] "Kind" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "good" (KJV) is the adjective agathos, "pertaining to meeting a high standard of worth and merit, good," here, "kind, benevolent" (BDAG 3, 2aα).

[372] Hypotassō, BDAG 1042, 1bβ.

[373] "Malign" (NIV), "be reviled" (ESV), "be discredited" (NRSV), "be blasphemed" (KJV) is blasphēmeō (from which we get our word "blasphemy"), meaning, generally, "to speak in a disrespectful way, that which demeans, denigrates, maligns" (BDAG 178, ē).

[374] Sōphroneō, BDAG 986, 2.

[375] "Example" (NIV), "model" (ESV, NRSV), "pattern" (KJV) is typos, "an archetype serving as a model, type, pattern, model," here, in the moral life, "example, pattern" (BDAG 1020, 6b).

[376] 1 Timothy 2:10; 5:10, 25; 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:16; 2:7, 14.

[377] "Integrity" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "uncorruptness" (KJV) is aphthoria, "soundness," literally, "incorruption" (BDAG 156), from a- ("not") and phtheiro, "destroy," here, "cause deterioration of the inner life, ruin, corrupt" (Liddell-Scott 1054, 2). "Sincerity" (KJV) translates aphtharsia, "incorruptibility," a textual variant in the Textus Receptus. The presence of aphtharsia as a textual variant in verse 7 "is probably due to a misunderstanding of the rare word aphthoria ('soundness' )" (BDAG 155). Metzger (Textual Commentary, p. 585) writes, "The Committee preferred the reading aphthorian ("incorruption") because it is supported by good representatives of both the Alexandrian and Western types of text (א* A C D* 33 al), and because its rarity explains the origin of the other readings: aphthonian ("freedom from envy"), adiaphthorian ("sincerity"), and adiaphorian ("indifference")."

[378] "Seriousness" (NIV), "dignity" (ESV), "gravity" (NRSV, KJV) is semnotēs, "a manner or mode of behavior that indicates one is above what is ordinary and therefore worthy of special respect," here, "dignity, seriousness, probity, holiness" = Latin gravitas (BDAG 919). From semnos, "pertaining to evoking special respect."

[379] "Sound speech" (hygiēs) is literally, "healthy, sound" words, here, "pertaining to being uncorrupted or correct" (BDAG 1023, 2).

[380] It began with the Slave Trade Abolition Act in the British Parliament in March 1807, which abolished Britain's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

[381] "Slaves" is doulos, "male slave as an entity in a socioeconomic context, slave" (BDAG 259, 1a).

[382] "Be subject" (NIV), "be submissive" (ESV, NRSV), "be obedient" (KJV) is hypotassō, which we discussed above in Titus 2.5.

[383] "Try to please" (NIV), "be well pleasing" (ESV), "give satisfaction" (NRSV), "please them well" (KJV) is two words: eimi, "to be" and the adjective euarestos, "pleasing, acceptable," of slaves, "give satisfaction" (BDAG 403).

[384] "Talk back" (NIV, NRSV), "be argumentative" (ESV), "answering again" (KJV) is antilegō, "speak against, contradict someone" (BDAG 89, 1).

[385] "Steal" (NIV), "pilfer/pilfering" (NRSV, ESV), "purloining" (KJV) is vosphizō (from vosphi, "apart"), "to put aside for oneself, keep back" (BDAG 679), used here and in Acts 5:2f with regard to Ananias and Sapphira.

[386] "Show/showing" is endeiknumi, "show, demonstrate something" (BDAG 331). "Be fully trusted" (NIV), "all good faith" (ESV), "complete and perfect fidelity" (NRSV), "all good fidelity" (KJV) is the Greek words pas ("all"), agathos ("good"), and pistis, "the state of being someone in whom confidence can be placed, faithfulness, reliability, fidelity, commitment" (BDAG 818, 1a).

[387] "Make attractive" (NIV), "adorn" (ESV, KJV), "be an ornament" (NRSV) is the verb kosmeō (from which we get our word "cosmetic"), "to cause something to have an attractive appearance through decoration, adorn, decorate," here, "adorn, do credit" (BDAG 560, 2bβ).

[388] "Appeared" (NIV) is epiphainō, "show," here in the passive, "show oneself, make an appearance" (BDAG 385, 4).

[389] "Teaching" (NIV, KJV), "training" (ESV, NRSV) is paideuō, "educate," then "to assist in the development of a person's ability to make appropriate choices, practice discipline," specifically, "correct, give guidance to someone" (BDAG 749, 2a).

[390] Kelly, Pastoral Epistles, p. 245.

[391] "Say 'no' to" (NIV), "renounce" (ESV, NRSV), "deny" (KJV) is arneomai, "refuse," here, "to refuse to pay any attention to, disregard, renounce," also in Luke 9:23 (BDAG 133, 4).

[392] "Ungodliness" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "impiety" (NRSV) is asebeia, "impiety" ... "a lack of reverence for deity and hallowed institutions as displayed in sacrilegious words and deeds" (BDAG 141).

[393] "Worldly passions" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "worldly lusts" (KJV) is two words: (1) kosmikos, "pertaining to interests prevailing on earth, worldly," with the implication of that which is at enmity with God or morally reprehensible (BDAG 560, 2). (2) epithumia, "desire, longing, craving," here (and in Titus 3:6), "a desire for something forbidden or simply inordinate, craving, lust" (BDAG 372, 2).

[394] "Self-controlled" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "soberly" (KJV) is sōphronōs, "pertaining to being prudent, soberly, moderately, showing self-control" (BDAG 987).

[395] Titus 1:8; 2:2; 2:5, 6, 12.

[396] "Upright" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "righteously" (KJV) is "justly," here, "pertaining to quality of character, thought, or behavior, correctly, justly, uprightly" (BDAG 250, 2).

[397] "Godly" is eusebōs, "in a godly manner" (also in 2 Timothy 3:12; BDAG 413). The related noun eusebeia, "godliness" is found in Acts 3:12; 1 Timothy 2:2; 3:16; 4:7f; 6:3, 5f, 11; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:5. The verb eusebeō, "show reverence or respect" is found at 1 Timothy 5:4. This word group is a favorite in the Pastoral Epistles.

[398] "Wait for" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "looking for" (KJV) is prosdechomai, "receive, welcome," here, "to look forward to wait for" (BDAG 877, 2b).


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