A Life In Christ Is Publicly Transparent And Accountable

Titus 2:1 – 3: 11.

It was not unusual for the Apostle Paul to specify practical Christian responsibilities in the midst of expositing over weighty theological issues in his epistles, as he did so in his Letter to Titus (c.f., 1 Cor 7; Eph 5; 1 Tim 3; 1 Tim 5; 1 Tim 6; Philemon). He went down a nominated list of household roles in his instructions to his disciple Titus: firstly, to encourage older men to be temperate in the use of wine, reverent and sober in their habits, to be sound in faith and love and patience. Secondly, to exhort the older women to be dignified in their demeanour, to not be scandalmongers or over-addicted to wine, but to be teachers of all that is good, so that they will encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be restrained and chaste, to do their housework and be kind and obedient to their husbands, to ensure that the word of God be not brought into disrepute. Titus was to urge the younger men to be thoughtful in all their ways, by his example of good works, with a purity of doctrine, and respect for everyone, by a wholesomeness in language that is beyond reproach. This would confound their opponents because they will find nothing wrong to say about them. He was to implore the slaves to be perfectly obedient to their masters with satisfactory service, to not contradict them or appropriate things that do not belong to them, and as they are consistent by their good faith, they will be witnesses to their God and their Saviour to their masters. (Titus 2:2-10). Although some of Paul’s contextual instructions were pertinent to an era past, they remain acutely relevant to us today. None are absolved from the cultural, political, social and familial obligations despite a change in their spiritual status (Titus 3:1-2). Undeniably, the Biblical context demands that we discharge whatever duties with the highest level of integrity and righteousness as those who authenticate the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Regarding political responsibilities, Paul was writing at a time when theocratic institutions were inevitably intertwined with their political masters; not unlike Caesar with the pantheon of Roman gods, where no distinction separate religion from the state. When Christ reiterated that we ought to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” He was emphasising that His people no longer belonged to an earthly theocracy but a new heavenly community. Nevertheless, we have civil obligations to the country we belong, with a proviso that these responsibilities do not contradict God’s laws. Paul was unambiguous in instructing that in the public square, believers’ behaviour and attitude should continuously “be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1-2). This is so simply due to the reality of their transformation from their prior state of being “foolish disobedient, deceived, enslaved to lusts and pleasures, spending their life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another” to Christlikeness. And being like Christ is perceptibly transparent to everyone (Titus 3:3). The basis for the change was their redemptive transaction in Christ, being “justified by His grace… and being made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-8). Paul was not insensitive to the constant struggle that believers experienced in dying to the self, of laying down our will and being obedient to God; it is not an alignment of our will with our Lord’s will, but a willing complete capitulation of our will in submission to Yahweh’s (Titus 3:5; c.f., John 12:24-26; Rom 7:14-25). After all, holiness is certainly not about righteousness per se but with trusting God; it is a description of a relationship, about giving oneself wholly to Yahweh. For he who has died is freed from sin… but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:1-14). This positional attitude remains a constant daily challenge for us!

Tugged at the end of Paul’s Epistle was his advice on church discipline over heresy with issues regarding the Law (Titus 3:9-11). Paul’s concern was with rebellious Cretan teachers who were engaging in theological enquiries that were frivolous, genealogical debates that were speculative, with disagreements over the Torah. Titus was advised not to participate in these fruitless debates, but to warn the perpetrator who was causing fractions in the community with corrective measures in mind. This was in line with Jesus’ teaching (Matt 18:15-17), but when such an offender of ethical or doctrinal error refused to change, he had condemned himself and ought to be put out of the congregation (c.f., 1 Cor 5; 1 Tim 1:1-11; 1 John 4:1-6).