William Kelly Major Works Commentary
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:Titus Chapter 2
In contrast with the injurious and profane trash, of which we have been just warned, the apostle now exhorts his trusted child and fellow-servant, entering into details which we may profitably follow with all care. It is interesting to note how the apostle directs Titus to carry himself in his work toward the saints according to age and sex. It differs not a little from that which he laid down in the Epistles to the Ephesian and the Colossian saints. There he is addressing the saints directly; and the order he adopts is precisely and best suited to that purpose. He begins with the subject rather than the superior of each co-relationship. Thus he exhorts the wives before the husbands, the children before the parents, and the slaves before their masters. It is the true moral order, where the apostolic appeals were written to the saints that filled these relative places. The principle is that those in the subject position should take heed to their duty, as a most important means for the smooth working of such as held the higher relation. But all are put in mind of Him Who has given the light and grace of God on each and every place a saint stands in, that God may thus in all things be glorified through our Lord Jesus.
Peter in his First Epistle (1 Peter 2:18) with fervour and consoling interest exhorts, not exactly "slaves," but "household servants" (oijkevtai); but there is no corresponding word to masters. In 1 Peter 3:1 he speaks to "wives" at some length, and then briefly (ver. 7) turns to "husbands" likewise.
But here our apostle is writing to his confidential fellow-labourer, working alone in Crete, and this modifies the case considerably. He commences with elder men among the saints, and then he turns to elder women, as objects for the special dealings of Titus. We may observe the wise and holy way in which the latter is told to admonish young women, not directly but through the elders of their own sex. Yet 1 Timothy 5:2 proves that scripture forbids an absolute rule in this respect. But purity is everywhere maintained, as is plain. What a contrast with the horrors of Romanism through the priest on earth that usurps the functions of the Great High Priest! He had passed through the heavens, and yet makes the throne of grace accessible with boldness to every believer, that we may receive mercy and find grace for seasonable help. Yes, He does this perfectly, as it could not be done if every soul had an earthly priest of unexceptionable character and zeal for his exclusive care and benefit continually.
Here "young men," to whom in particular Titus was to afford himself a pattern of good works, follow elder men and elder women in vers. 6-8. Then "bondmen" are to be objects of Titus' charge in vers. 9, 10. But very strikingly the grand basis of blessing for all is put in immediate connection with the despised slave, though surely the truth and motives and effects were for every saint.
Thus the apostle begins, "But speak thou the things which become the healthful teaching: that elder men be sober, grave, discreet, healthful in their faith, in their love, in their patience" (vers. 1, 2). Scripture leaves no room for the thought that the saints need not diligent instruction. We learn what value for the apostle there is in continual exhortation. No doubt we have to distinguish between the healthful doctrine and the things which become it. All right practice flows from divine principle; and all divine principles are concentrated in the person of Christ. He therefore is and must be the substance, the exemplar, and the test; for He is the object set before us, as well as the life we have, and the nourishment of that life.
For this very reason does the apostle urge fidelity on Titus. If he was steward of God's mysteries for the saints, he was no less to be a watchman on God's behalf. He was therefore to speak what befitted healthful doctrine. This he could not do without Christ continually before his own eyes; nor would any profit as they ought without Christ before theirs. There may be certain truths peculiar to certain times and seasons; but Christ is always in season; and, without giving Him His due place and connection withal, truth at any time is apt to fall flat, and, such is the infirmity of man, it may sometimes work dangerously. His grace is sufficient, as for the soul, so also for the servant; if he needs it for himself, he needs it for his ministry not a whit less.
Titus then was here enjoined by the apostle to speak the things which become healthful doctrine. Exhortation should ever follow teaching, as it flows from the same source, and needs to be continually fed with the fresh streams of truth. It will be observed that the word is not exactly "teach," but "speak thou the things," etc. The work of Titus was largely pastoral; and a vase deal of a pastor's work lies in speaking face to face with the objects of his care. This does not at all supersede the value of public teaching, on the one hand; but, on the other, teaching in public will never supply adequately all that every day's need requires. How many things may be happily nipped in the bud, which else would threaten danger to souls! Taken early, a kindly word may suffice; and what stimulus may be given by a few cheering words, where a soul might otherwise hesitate and in time turn aside! How much instruction also may be given individually, and with far greater impressiveness than in the general exhortations of public addresses! Again, how few there are who know how to speak privately in accordance with their healthful teaching! No doubt there may be legalism and a continual effort to preach in private as well as in public; but how happy when without restraint, and in unaffected love, there is fidelity everywhere, and the words at home are at least consistent with what has been heard in the open congregation!
It is evident therefore that the language of the Epistle to Titus here is large enough to take in his service both privately and publicly: "but speak thou the things which become healthful teaching." Another element has to be taken into account. The special relations of those that are addressed are themselves not an unimportant consideration for a servant of the Lord. And we learn how careful is the apostle as to the befitting ways of those who are mutually related (in the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians); as we see in the First Epistle of Peter with rather less prominence. Where mutual duties are pressed, the lesser or more subject relationship is regularly introduced before the greater. Thus the apostle exhorts wives before husbands, children before parents, and servants before masters. And this was done, one need not hesitate to say, in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. For even supposing that the more authoritative relation were to blame, how important that the subject one should feel and act aright before God! "A soft answer turneth away wrath." Nor is anything more comely than the incorruptible pearl of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price.
Here to Titus the charge is different, and as proper in its own place. The apostle began with the aged or elder men. The first duty laid down is, that they may be "sober" or temperate. If this become any Christian, the lack of it is serious in an elderly man: he above all should set an example of that moderation in spirit and conduct which bespeaks circumspectness and sense of the presence of God. One can understand how the inexperienced mind of youth may break forth into extravagance of thought or conduct; but such a fault sits peculiarly ill on a man of years, even if he be not old in the knowledge of the Lord. Retrospect should not have been without effect now that he does know Him in the light of God.
But besides sobriety aged men should be "grave." It is not only that experience may be turned to the account of sobriety, but to an aged Christian things around, things before, ought surely to be viewed with no levity but with seriousness, as we now look upon the things (not that are seen, but) unseen and eternal.
Then, again, Titus was to see that aged men be "discreet" or "right-minded." Their position would give them a certain weight, unless there were painful incongruity in their ways and spirit. There are continual perplexities that appear in the practical life of Christians. Discretion therefore is specially needed, and in none so much as an elderly man; who, if he lack the energy of youth, is expected to show discrimination in the conflicting circumstances of intercourse one with another.
Further, they were to be "healthful in their faith." It is very far from being enough that one know the Lord. It is well to be exercised in mind about the truth generally; but that very exercise exposes to mistaken thoughts, unless there be a single eye in looking to the Lord, and vigilance over one's own ideas. Neither is it safe to set the mind on, however one may respect, this favourite teacher, or that, among uninspired men. The word is the great safeguard, but the word sought into as a revelation of Christ to the soul. Where this is done prayerfully, there will be healthiness in faith; where man is trusted (whether self, or a leader, or a party), error is not far off. For God is jealous of a rival and will never endorse our leaning on the creature. He will have us to walk by faith, not by sight.
Nor does it suffice to be "healthful in their faith." "In their love" is the next word of the apostle. The order is instructive. As faith alone introduces into God's love toward us, so faith alone enables us to abound in the love of one another. There is scarce anything in which we are more liable to be deceived than in this divine charity, blessed as it is where real and holy. But it must be "faith working through love;" for faith brings in God, and God is love. It is not meant merely in what He has done for us, but in what He is and works in us. "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love;" and "he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him." This supposes not only the truth known and enjoyed, but present communion with Him Who has made it all known to us in Christ, and makes it good in those that are His; among whom questions are sure to rise which put the measure, and even reality, of love in us to the severest test.
There is another final want of which the apostle speaks: that the aged men be healthful - "in their patience" (or, endurance), as well as in faith and love. Evil abounds; but evil, where one abides in faith and love, will not seldom give the opportunity of being above it. It may cause suffering; but in this there is fellowship with the Master; and patience well becomes the aged saint. It was a primary sign even for an apostle; as few things seem more sad where it is lacking, particularly among elder men.
Exhortation is now given for the other sex. "That aged women likewise be in deportment reverent, not slanderers, not enslaved to much wine, teachers of good; that they may train (σωφρονίæùóι) the young women to be lovers of husbands, lovers of children, discreet [or, right-minded], chaste, workers at home,* good, subject to their own husbands, that the word of God be not ill-spoken of" (vers. 3-5).
*The Text. Rec., following many witnesses, and followed by the A.V., etc., has οἰêïõñïύς, "keepers at home"; which differs only by a letter easily omitted from οἰêïõñãïύς, which most of the later critics prefer, as it is apparently the best reading.
As aged men were begun with, so aged women come next. With such dress may not be so special a snare as it is to the younger; but it is of great moment that, not their apparel only, but their general demeanour, should beseem and be consistent with those who have to do with sacred things. For such is the full literalism of the word employed. This, therefore, holds the first place. They would naturally be somewhat less restrained, from their age, and habits in all probability contracted before their conversion to God. But grace is superior to all difficulties, and forms by the truth, instead of finding, that which is pleasing to the Lord. The doctrine, however sound, would be put to shame by irreverent carriage or demeanour which might appear in the attire, but covers much more inwardly and outwardly. Where they bore themselves as those who had the fear of God before their eyes, it would commend their profession. It is apparent that in 1 Timothy 2:9 the apostle directs Timothy in a way sufficiently distinct from his aim here with elder women. For there he speaks as to women generally, and καταστολὴ (while taking in far more than στολὴ) seems not so far reaching as κατάóôïìα a word primarily expressive of condition or even constitution, but applied also to dress.
The next snare against which they are warned is the abuse of the tongue. Aged women were not to be "slanderers." Unquestionably it befits none that call on the name of the Lord; but as men are more exposed to the snare of rough or violent actions, so elder women to give vent to their feelings in unseemly speech when in any way crossed. Idleness too (and often at their time of life there is apt to be a suspension of activity) would give room for injurious gossip. The Spirit of God therefore warns, in the next place, against abusive language on their part, and especially in traducing others. Hen are so described in 2 Timothy 3:3; but women more, as in 1 Timothy 3:11 and here.
Again, their age, especially in the country before the apostle's mind, would give them opportunity and desire for wine. Naturally, we all know that jaded body and tried mind might fall back on some such stimulant; as it is said in the last chapter of Proverbs, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts; let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more." But the word is plain, "not enslaved to much wine."
Whatever may be the speculations of moderns, scripture will not bend to theory, but maintains liberty for the Christian in the use of every creature of God. Our Lord Himself personally and particularly disproved the assumption that all such use is evil in itself. Here too we have a clear proof that there is no absolute prohibition whatever. Timothy was even enjoined to use a little wine for his stomach's sake and his often infirmities. Aged women are simply cautioned that they be not enslaved to much wine. Such excitement as it can give beseems not those who, having Christ as their life, are exhorted to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5).
But the apostle is not content with guarding them against snares. It was fitting from their age that they should be "teachers of that which is good." By good in this clause he does not mean benevolent practice, but what was honourable (kαλοδιδασκάëïõς), what befitted themselves, and themselves in relation to the Lord. Aged women would have considerable opportunities. Set free from the calls on young and vigorous life, they have in old age a no less suited sphere of usefulness. Let them look to it that they be teachers, with the weight which experience gives, of that which is upright and comely. Whatever may be the tendency of nature, and the inclination from habit, grace brings in the name of Christ, and from Christ flows out all that becomes the saints, precious in God's eyes, whether they teach or are taught.
Next, the apostle looks at their relation to younger women, with whom they would as the rule have a strong influence. How were they to use their opportunities? "That they may train the young women to be lovers of husbands, lovers of children." Here they would be admirably in place, and with the Lord before their eyes their experience would prove invaluable for those that have to face the daily difficulties and dilemmas of human life. Not merely were they to school their youngers to be subject to their husbands; to cultivate affection in the home circle is particularly pressed. This would win with an adversary of the truth, where godliness might at first be repellent; along with it love to a husband and to children is indispensably to be cherished by the wife and mother. Christianity was never intended to enfeeble the affections. If Christ governs, He is also the spring of sure unfailing strength. There is no trial with the husband or the child to which His grace would not apply; and the elder women were of all the most suited to cheer and confirm the hearts of their youngers, that they should not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.
But there is another exhortation which fits in most suitably. They were to school their younger sisters to be "discreet" or right-minded: they might be liable to enthusiasm on the one hand, or to carelessness on the other. Discretion is therefore a most needed quality to preserve on the true path of godliness and wisdom in the midst of the difficulties of ordinary life.
Further, purity claims a great place in the exhortation of the elders to their youngers. They were to engage them to be "chaste," in deed, word, and spirit; where the Spirit of God, revealing Christ, is of all power. How little it was known among the Greeks, and even among the Jews to their shame! Their very religion defiled the Greeks; it was the consecration of every corruption, and made them far more polluted than if they had none. So mighty and so essential a quality is purity in Christianity, that it outwardly and really proved a wholly new element, where grace was forgotten and truth almost effaced. Yet even then and there the very artists of Christendom, the sculptors and painters, not to speak of poets, manifested how deeply the light of Christ had penetrated their conceptions, as compared with the voluptuous remains of ancient art. But here it was no question of a surviving or novel sentiment, but of a deep unprecedented rectitude, proper to the relationship and due to the sex (to say nothing of the other), as God made it, and now brought under the grace of Christ. Purity a selfish Jew, or a dissolute Greek, would not fail to appreciate in his wife and in family life.
The next thing pressed is that they be devoted to domestic occupation, - "workers* at home." One cannot but feel the gracious wisdom of such an exhortation as this; and it must have struck those who lived in heathen circumstances even more than ourselves, accustomed to the blessed contrast with heathen habits in days of Christendom, however degenerate. It is a fine example of the way in which the Spirit of God adapts Himself to the most ordinary duties in the present scene. See it in Christ, Who lived for so many years of His life subject to His parents, and Who, in the obscurest of conditions, advanced in wisdom as well as favour with God and man. It is He Who makes all these exhortations as simple and easily understood as they are morally elevating. He brings in His own grace as applicable to women as to men. He shows us the way in every sense, the pattern of obeying God, undoubtedly beyond all comparison; yet how many has He not led, and fashioned, and blessed, in that narrow path He trod in a wilderness where there is no way!
*It cannot be questioned fairly that the most ancient and best MSS. are in favour of this word, though we have no instance of its use in classical or even Hellenistic Greek, and the verbal form occurs only in Clem. Rom, perhaps derived from our text. Still it is a perfectly legitimate formation. The common word "keepers at home" is far inferior in moral force.
The next exhortation is of great value, following diligence in home-work. It is that the younger women should be "good (ἀãáèὰς)" in the sense of kindness. If Christ were not before their eyes, home-work might be despised as drudgery. But if the work were ever so well done, is this all that would satisfy or please a husband? Goodness diffuses happiness all round. Christ sheds a heavenly light on every earthly duty, answering to the riband of blue which God commanded the Jews to attach to their garments. But the exhortation to kindness in this sort has special wisdom in following home-work. There is no place where it is more valuable and less frequent. Nothing short of the Lord's grace could make it a constant habit, where countless little occurrences would inevitably turn up to try patience. But with Christ before the heart goodness would hold on its unobtrusive way. They would labour and persevere as seeing Him Who is invisible.
Last, but not least, is the unvarying call for wives to be in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not evil spoken of. What more irritating to a husband than the readiness on the wife's part to question his authority, or interfere with his plans? The habit of subjection is of all things the most suited to win a husband's ear; and assuredly the knowledge of Christ would give the secret of wisdom, whether he were a Christian or not. If he had experienced the danger and the evil of slighting advice, given very probably at his own desire, it would have the effect of producing the wish to hear again. But the wife's unjudged insubordinate spirit would completely counteract this happy influence, and make even what might be good to be shunned and disregarded. It was therefore of the greatest moment that the elder women should instil it into their youngers to be in subjection to their own husbands; and this not merely for the peace and profit of the household in general, and for the happy relation of the wife and husband, but "that the word of God be not blasphemed," or of evil report. The failure of a wife in adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour by subjection, even in that intimate tie, would not fail to bring reproach, not merely on herself individually, or her associates, but on the word of God itself. This may not be quite just; but it proves what men expect from such as claim the possession of His favour; and these are bound to acknowledge their responsibility.
The apostle comes to a fresh clause in due order. "The younger men likewise exhort to be right-minded, in all things showing thyself a pattern of good works, in the teaching uncorruptness, gravity, healthy speech that cannot be condemned, that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil to say concerning us" (vers. 6-8). As there were specialities in dealing with elder men and elder women, Titus is instructed particularly as to the younger men; not, it may be observed, as to the younger women directly, who fell rather under the immediate care of the elders of their sex.
The moral propriety of this is obvious. There is no need of such delicacy as to the younger men. He was to exhort them to a right mind or discretion. But his own example is brought into the foreground now; any failure on his part in discretion would be peculiarly prejudicial to his godly influence with such youngers. Therefore it is said, "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good (καλῶν) works," that is, of works right and honourable. For benevolence (ἀγ.) is not the point here, though of course it would not, and ought not to, be wanting. But benevolent characters often fall short in that which is comely (καλ.) or befitting the name of the Lord. They are too often weakly amiable, and ready to compromise for peace. It is therefore important to point out the true force of the word of God in this case, which all must feel once it is named.
Practical conduct, however indispensable it may be, is not everything. In his teaching he was to see to "uncorruptness." No quality can be, at any time or with any souls, of greater moment. But especially the younger men have to be thought of. They are more or less acutely observant, as they would be sure to be stumbled by any failure in this respect. Compromise of truth or holiness is of all things most damaging to Christianity. And here we have to do with one very honoured, who yet does not stand in the specially elevated place of an apostle, but approaches more nearly to that which the Lord supplies from time to time for the need of the church. Titus was not inspired, nor had he such a place of authority as belonged to an apostle, save where expressly delegated. Nevertheless he. had a position of great honour and equally great. responsibility. It was therefore of all moment that he should be vigilant for himself. An apostle even was in no way absolved from the necessity, both in his walk and in his ministry, of continual watchfulness, and keeping his body under, and bringing it into subjection, as the great apostle phrases it in 1 Cor. 9. Here, however, it is in his teaching that Titus is exhorted to show uncorruptness: his practical walk and works had already been insisted on.
Next we hear of "healthful speech" or discourse Assuredly if any deposit of truth could give moral elevation to one in authority and gracious care of his youngers, it is the revelation of God in Christ and in His work. As there incorruptness shines and moulds the believer accordingly ; so is the teacher of truth called to bear his witness with dignity in his bearing and ways.
Next, he was to show "gravity." Only the Spirit of God could maintain this high character in his occupation with the younger men. There would not lack ample opportunity for discourse more or less light. Excitement is often most agreeable, as well to the speaker as to those that hear. But the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ claims gravity. "Sincerity" too appears in the A.V. None should wonder that this is an addition resting upon rather slender authority. It is pre-supposed in the uncorruptness which is already urged; only that "uncorruptness" goes far beyond "sincerity," because it brings in that which is due to God and Christ, and not merely the honest character and way of him who teaches. The kindred word, ἀöèáñóία, is with similar feebleness misrepresented in Ephesians 6:24; for people might be sincere enough who sully the "incorruption" which there conditions the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is another quality, it seems, not confined to his teaching, though certainly not excluded from it. But the apostle presses "healthy speech that cannot be condemned," sound in itself, and not open to just censure, not merely on the more formal occasions of doctrine, but in all connections with the younger men. Assuredly we must all feel the great importance of this, even though it be a characteristic in which we have to acknowledge our own frequent failure. One thing alone is an adequate safe-guard - the conscious presence of God. But let us not forget that as Christians we walk in the light, as God is in the light. We cannot avoid this if we have life in Christ, for He is the light of life; and he that followeth Christ shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life, as He Himself declared. Let us not be content with it as a fact, and a privilege that faith boasts. Let us by the Holy Ghost see to it that we truly enjoy it, and that it be a consciously living actuality; not a mere abstraction into which carelessness would betray us,, as unbelief would make it an attainment to reward our fidelity. Is it not meant to be a reality in which we live here below, not for some believers but for all? In such a case healthy speech that cannot be condemned is but natural; but oh I how apt we are to sink below the blessed plane on which it is ours to stand in Christ the Lord.
The apostle next and finally gives moral aim to this last exhortation. "That he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say concerning us." We have to consider not friends only but foes, with their readiness to malign what condemns themselves. Let us seek then to cut off occasion from those that seek occasion, that even the adversary, of whatever sort he be, may have no evil thing to say concerning us. The word for "evil" (φαῦëïυ) is so extensive as to comprehend things from light or slight to mean paltry and worthless; whereas κακὸν just expresses what is bad, and πονηρὸν activity of evil, or mischievous. The term used is precisely suitable.
It will be noticed that the critical reading is "us" rather than "you": a confusion very frequent indeed in the MSS. In this case "you" is out of the question. It would have been "thee," if it had referred to Titus; but the general application to the family of God is the better sense. The vulgar or T.R. reading was a change from "us" to "you," which is wholly unsuitable. "Concerning us" (i.e. Christians generally) seems evidently the word which the apostle wrote and of course meant. The business of sound criticism is to eschew every human importation, no matter how early, and to restore the original text which came from God through His inspired messenger.
Slavery was one of the grave facts which Christianity had to face, then universal, in some places existing still to a certain extent. Nowhere does the power of Christ's work more clearly or more decidedly prove its heavenly source and character, than in dealing with masters and slaves.
The apostle bids Titus exhort "bond-servants to be in subjection to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not gainsaying, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (vers. 9, 10). Here again subjection is the prime duty of such a relationship, and is accordingly put in the fore-ground - subjection to their Own masters. Occupation even in thought with others might only do mischief. No saint, no apostle or prophet, is free from the duty of subjection. Christ made its truth and its moral excellence plain to the faithful; for He, the Lord of all, manifested Himself a man, the pattern of absolute subjection in love and obedience of His Father, the Servant of all. What an example and motive for Christian bondmen?
"To be well-pleasing in all things" is sometimes a very great difficulty, it may be from the peculiarities of the master or from those of the bondman. Satan would love to insinuate that in any other circumstances they might better obey; and that it is in vain, as they are, to think of being well-pleasing "in all things" One's own master might be capricious or fault-finding. "Oh, if such a one were my master" But there is no lowering the claim of Christ; and it is Christ, and Christ alone kept before the eyes, that enables a bondman to be truly subject and to persevere in all things, instead of giving up-sometimes at least in despair. For faith, not resignation, is the true divine antidote to the passion of despair, which is never to be thought of by a Christian. Who more than a Christian slave needs to remember God's call to rejoice in the Lord always? "For Christ also pleased not himself, but even as it is written, The reproaches of those that reproached thee fell upon me" (Romans 15:3).
Further, the slave was to be "not gainsaying." Many a one could do or even bear much who finds it difficult to avoid contradicting or answering again in deed any more than speech; but the word of the Lord to the bondman is "not gainsaying." Is he not the Lord's freedman? Can there be such a manumission as His? Could money purchase emancipation like this? Let him give God thanks and go on his way rejoicing, forwarding and never thwarting his master's wishes to His Over-Lord and Saviour Whose eye is ever on him to cheer and guide.
Again, stolen themselves, or the children of those who were stolen, it was natural for slaves to have scanty respect for the rights of others whose very relationship was in general based on a wrong. But no reasoning is admitted on abstract rights as an excuse for "purloining." Is he not in his faith in possession of the true riches, which have no wings to flee away? Does he not look for the Lord to come and manifest it at any time, yet if He tarry at the best time? Is it for him to dishonour such a Lord, and to bring shame on all he believes and professes?
The apostle insists on Christian bondmen "showing all [or, every sort of] good fidelity." They were really serving the same Master as their masters if Christians; and without the sense of direct responsibility to the Lord, as well as of His grace, how could they go on thoroughly aright? So elsewhere grace teaches and exhorts that, whatsoever they do, they were to work from the soul as unto the Lord, and not unto men.
Nor was it enough that they were not to be inconsistent and unworthy saints; but as the apostle here says, "that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." There is nothing, on the human side of the effects of the truth, more admirable than its practical power on the heart of those once degraded or even depraved. See it in the converted robber's bearing in the midst of the agonies of crucifixion. What newborn reverence! What confession of sins! What sense of righteousness! What boldness of Faith! Was not this, even then and there, to adorn the doctrine of our Saviour God?
God's gospel is glad tidings to the highest earthly personage no less than to the lowest, though (as the rule) to the poor it is preached as alone generally accessible. No king, no queen, no emperor, but what is infinitely indebted, if the heart be opened, to the grace of God. But if steeled against it, the message is of salvation all the same. How unspeakably sweet then for those in the painful and trying position of slavery!
It was this that wrought so powerfully on the affections of the blessed apostle. Therefore is he drawn out by the Holy Spirit in the full and beautiful declaration of the message of God's love. "For the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all men, instructing us that, having denied ungodliness (or, impiety) and worldly lusts, we should live soberly (or, discreetly) and righteously and godlily (or, piously) in this present age" (vers. 11, 12).
No statement can be conceived more in keeping with the design of this Epistle. For, although it be an episode (like another in the chapter that follows, Titus 3:4-7), both are stamped with that present living reality on which the apostle dwells constantly in his authoritative instructions to his own child according to common faith. It is not that God's own eternal counsels are left out any more than the hope of everlasting glory to come; but the aim is most manifest that all should converge on the heart for the practical ways of our pilgrimage here below. Nor do we read of any fellow-workman so suited to carry this out administratively as Titus in both his teaching and his governance or rule.
When the law was given by Moses, it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. All kinds of partitions barred man's way; clouds of incense and veils rose up between the Israelite and God, Whose manifestation was only for one representative man, the high priest, for a passing moment and with ample blood, within the holiest. For the law was the test of man already fallen, that sin might appear in its true colours. If sin were there, as it was, the law could only work wrath; for disobedience then takes the shape of open violation or transgression. Therefore is it said that the law came in by the way (παρεισῆëèåν), that the trespass might abound, and that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful. Thus law in result must surely condemn the sinner. It could never justify nor save one guilty, being characteristically the ministration of condemnation and death. How wise and merciful that such a system of moral experiment, with its temporal promises and earthly judgments, should have been restricted for a while, and to a single people!
The gospel is wholly different in nature and effect where received in the heart. Therein the saving grace of God did appear to all men; for all lay in the direst need: they were lost. And we can add from elsewhere God's righteousness is therein revealed - the righteousness of faith which justifies, instead of condemning; because its effiacacy is grounded on the accomplished and atoning work of Christ. Its character therefore, as revealing God's righteousness, is "bringing salvation;" and this not to a single people like Israel under the law, but "to all men." The grace of God revealing Himself in Christ and His redemption is too precious to be limited; it is in itself infinite, for God is love as surely as He is light; and both have come out fully in Christ and especially in His atoning death,
God therefore is not of Jews only but of Gentiles also, Who justifies circumcision not by law but by faith, and uncircumcision through their actual faith, as we read in Rom. iii. if they do believe. A crucified Christ displays man as he really is. Jews and Gentiles are proved therein alike guilty and lost. But the love of God goes out "to all" alike indiscriminately, not judging by law but "saving by grace." Such is the gospel as here shown. It is no mere demand of works, no test of man, but distinctly founded upon the reconciling work of God Himself in Christ Who came and was here to do His will. It is therefore a revelation of His saving goodness for man to believe. "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
Nor is this all. While His grace presents salvation to all, it is also said to be educating us. The change from "all men" to "us" is important, and ought not to be overlooked. The one is the universal message of God, which may or may not be received. The other is the distinct effect, whenever souls receive that message in faith. And to what end does God's grace lead us on? "Instructing us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godlily, in this present age." No mistake is grosser or more antagonistic to the teaching of the apostle, than, after believing the gospel, to cast the Christian on the law as his rule of life. It is not so. Christ alone remains, not only the Saviour, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In and through Him did the grace of God appear, and His grace alone saves by faith. But, besides, it educates us, having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, and righteously, and godlily, in this present age. For repentance is as real as faith; and "ungodliness and worldly lusts" henceforth are hateful and denied. Either might work more or less to ruin the soul and dishonour God. In those who, believing in Christ, have a new and eternal life, a new character has to be formed; and old habits are and must be from the starting-point watched against, which once grew up unjudged in the days of our past evil and folly.
But that which is negative does not suffice for God as He reveals Himself in His Son. His grace, which goes far beyond law, instructs us, that we should live discreetly as regards ourselves, righteously as regards others, and piously in our highest relationship. For the present course of things, or age, is an evil one. But Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of God our Father (Galatians 1:4). As it is here, in this world and during this age, that we spend a little while for the present, we are therefore called to be so much the more vigilant, if indeed we hear His voice. We await His coming to receive us on high in the Father's house, and to accompany Him from heaven when He appears to establish His kingdom visibly in power and glory.
This is what the apostle next pursues here. For there is another all-important branch of truth and full of rich fruit for the believer: "Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (ver. 13).
It is the object before us which forms our character. The Christian object is the Lord in glory; we may say of it in this respect what David said of Goliath's sword, "There is none like it." Had it not done execution on him that had the power of death, that is, the devil? The essential thing for the soul's salvation undoubtedly is Christ and His work for us received in faith. But if the true hope be lacking to the believer, the blank even with that is irreparable. For the fact is so, even if energy of faith and love may do much to hinder the wiles of Satan; who would insinuate false hopes under fair pleas as a substitute for the "one hope" delivered to the saints. As Christ is the proper object of faith, and as the Spirit forms us practically by our beholding Him risen for us and in heavenly glory, thus transformed into the same image from glory to glory (as we read in 2 Cor. 3), so the right and divinely given object of hope is the coming of Christ to receive us to Himself.
Here the apostle presents it in a comprehensive way, not only the blessed hope, but the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Grace, we know, did already appear (ver. 11), saving grace for all men. This they reject at their peril; for salvation cannot be otherwise, and the richer and surer the grace that saves, the guiltier is the unbelief that refuses or slights it. The grace of God alone leads into a walk of communion, and of practical righteousness for every day. But we need also to look for "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory" (ver. 13). These are the two parts which comprise the revealed object God would have before our souls.
The one article given to the two objects brackets them together, not at all as if they are identical, but as here expressly associated to convey the complex and combined outlook. "The blessed hope" is that which alone can satisfy the heart; it is to be in the presence of Christ on high, changed at His coming into His likeness and with Him for ever. "The appearing of the" divine "glory" is bound up with it, and follows in due time, as that display or the divine manifestation in power, which our renewed souls cannot but desire to the utter exclusion of moral and physical evil and of Satan's guileful energy. It is the Lord Jesus Who introduces the world-kingdom of the Lord and of His Anointed (Revelation 11:15). As He brought the grace of God here below, so will He bring the glory to appear in His day. He it is who is called "the great God" as well as "our Saviour" lest we might forget His essential nature, when He emptied Himself to become a bondman, and humbled Himself to the death of the cross, in accomplishment of the infinite devotedness of His love in redemption to God's glory. He is no little God, as Arians feigned, but our great God and Saviour.
There is nothing nobler to act on the affections and the convictions, on the ways and ends, of believing man here below. Not in the smallest degree weakening the faith which works by love, it cheers and animates in the face of all which makes him groan; and we do groan now because, reconciled to God ourselves, we see nothing yet reconciled around us. Yea, we not only know a perishing world but we must add a morally ruined church. It is not simply the Gentiles still without God, but the Jews most of all hating the gospel of the rejected Christ. And what deliverance have we wrought in the earth? how far have we Christians, individually or together, reflected the heavenly glory of Christ as a testimony to those without? If the righteous with difficulty are saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?
Truly there is no ground for boasting save in the Lord, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify to himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good (καλ.) works" (ver. 14). Thus, when bringing in the bright future of God, which along can dispossess the enemy and deliver a fallen race and ruined world, carefully does the apostle remind our souls that all has been of grace. We have no claim, no desert; we stand by and to nothing but the Saviour Who gave not this or that merely, nor all possible other things, however precious, which He indeed and only could give, but that which is beyond all price, "Who gave Himself for us." God the Father had His blessed part in the inestimable gift. He knowing all gave Him and sent Him. He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?
The effect too answers to the cause: there is no failure, nor can there be, in the result for those that believe. What was His aim? "That he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works." Let us seek sedulously to make this good in our hearts, inasmuch as His grace would have a people for His own possession (not "peculiar" in words or manner, habit or feeling, but) for Him to have and delight in us as His own. How wondrous that He should care to have us, or make much of such a possession! What joy to the heart that so He feels and acts to us! May we for this be encouraged the more to be zealous of good works, not benevolent only but honourable and comely, not of forms or ordinances like Jews! nor of false gods like Gentiles, but of the fair and proper fruits of Christianity.
It is not only that the source lay in the unfathomable love of God, acting freely from Himself that He might surround Himself with beings brought out of all evil, with a nature given to them capable of enjoying and answering in practice to His goodness in the face of His and their enemy. The mighty work was laid on the Lord Jesus, not less God than the Father, and become man, so to defeat Satan and to save man at all cost. For indeed He gave Himself for us.
Here was the irrefragable ground of all the blessing. On the one hand sin could only be adequately judged in His death for us. On the other hand life eternal was only His to give consistently with God's character, and that sacrifice which abolished our guilt and imparted acceptance in His sight to those who without Him and His work were evil and lost. But for those that believe the result fails not, - that He might ransom us from all lawlessness (for the form might greatly differ) and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession.
God has a purpose to have Israel as His special possession in the land when Messiah reigns, and as Son of man has the far wider glory of a kingdom, where all the peoples, nations, and languages shall serve Him. But here it is the higher counsel of those who share Christ's rejection, know Him risen and glorified on high, and await His coming to join Him for heaven, and come forth with Him at His appearing.
"These things speak, and exhort, and reprove, with all authority. Let no man despise thee" (ver. 15). Arduous is the work of the ministry. Speaking, and exhorting, and reproving, must all have their place in faithful service. The truth needs to be spoken from God for the believer to know. But as flesh, world, and Satan make all possible hindrances, there is the constant want of exhortation. There may be will at work and evil may display itself. Reproof therefore is requisite for the forward or the laggard, the careless or the wayward. And "all authority" is thoroughly consistent with all humility. Woe be to those who despise Christ in the least of the servants whom He sends! Even the apostle did not escape slight from the refractory. "If any one thinketh himself a prophet or spiritual [for what will not vanity think itself?], let him recognise the things which I write to you, that it is the Lord's commandment" (1 Corinthians 14:37).
That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.