Titus 2:1 – 3:11.
The Apostle Paul’s Epistles are replete with both theological principles and practical counsel on Godly living, where an important element of his teaching encompassed the seamless integration of faith and behaviour in the lives of believers. One of the more detailed, but non-exhaustive, instructions can be found in his Letter to Titus (the latter was serving among Cretan believers), with a series of pertinent directives of sound Christian conduct to older men and women to young women and men, slaves, and generalising to everyone. To the elderly men, possibly including the leaders of families and in their respective community, were exhorted to be sober-minded, worthy of respect, self-controlled, spiritually healthy through their faith, love and patience (Titus 2:2). In Paul’s theological deliberations, this life ought to be measurably distinctive in its holistic Christian service, embodying a dignity in dynamic faith. This implied a purposeful intent in modelling for the next generation, without the temptation, commonly attributable to a reclusively disengaged and self-absorbed ageing lifestyle of the older generation in Cretan society, or in any culture for that matter.
The following two groups addressed were the older and younger women. The former were advised to be circumspect and God-fearing in their behaviour, and to desist from their typical slanderous loose talk and drunkenness, so that they may teach what is good, content-wise, to the younger women in their marital and domestic fidelity in loving their husbands and children, dignified in self-control and chaste, effective in running the household and kind in their contact with everyone, and of her own free showing submission to her husband, in order that God’s Word is not contradicted publicly (Titus 2:3-5). It appears inevitable that private ethics and morals will spill over into the public arena one way or another, and Paul’s caution was that when it did, their spiritual testimony must not be jeopardised. Young men formed the third group: they were encouraged to be self-controlled, with an outward conduct in zealously doing what is good, irreproachable with respect to sound teaching, showing themselves to be above corruption, respectable, where no one can condemn their manner of speech, thereby disarming their opponents (Titus 2:6-8). Clearly, there is a lot resting on Titus’ shoulders, for he is instructed to place his conduct and preaching on the line for the Pauline mission team against his opponents’ allegations. The inferences are clear, that our reputation and the integrity of what we may say is directly impacted by our behaviour and the conduct of our household, apart from how we frame our message with respect the gospel. The final household group are slaves: they are urged to submit to their own masters in everything, in order to please them as a measurement of their acceptable service, and not talking back to them. They must not steal from their masters so that they demonstrate their complete trustworthiness and reliability in household affairs, becoming an example of their redemptive service in testimony to their faith in God and in their Saviour (Titus 2:9-10).
Both in their private and public spheres, the Apostle draws for us a composite cultural picture concerning the men and women in Cretan society in the church community. However, with their profession of faith as believers, Paul uncompromisingly distinguishes Christian values from their traditional wantonness and recalcitrant independence. He then summarises his edicts in the following segment (Titus 2:11-3:11), covering everyone in the community. The crux of the Apostle’s pronouncement was that the Gospel of salvation is not merely a forensic dogma, but belief in it transforms us, purifies us, generating a spiritual life that fully anticipates our Lord’s second coming (Titus 3:1, 4-8). How one ought to live as a witness to the Gospel becomes the Christian norm in any society, where the church becomes a testimony to the living Christ. This becomes an irreversibly counter-cultural and transformative lifestyle – the very antithesis of Cretans conduct prior to their salvation (Titus 3:2-3, 9-11), was the emphasis of the Apostle’s instructions to Titus. Lastly, Paul warned Titus to confront and to avoid the persistently divisive person in the assembly. The embodiment of Christ Himself within His community is reflective of what kingdom life is all about (Matt 6:10), despite the fact that often church life is still very much a work-in-progress here on earth! The great distraction in this high calling of our life in Christ is to fall far short of loving God with all our heart, all our soul and with all our strength and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27).