Summary: God’s health-giving truths transform a Christian community.
Sometimes it seems the Bible is a “waxen nose” – someone always twisting it to say what he wants. That certainly troubled the church in Crete, where empty talkers and deceivers, especially of the circumcision group, devoted themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turned away from the truth.
In contrast to such misuse of Scripture, godly pastors must preach the gospel and the proper application of it, as God directs beginning in Titus 2.1. Please give your attention as I read this portion of Scripture.
[Read Titus 2.1-10. Pray.]
A friend of ours adopted two kids from another country, rescuing them from abject poverty and the loneliness that comes from being unwanted and unloved. Because these children lived their earliest years hungry, fearful, and without positive and encouraging guidance, they behaved in some ungodly and unhelpful ways. Lying, stealing, manipulation – these were not only the outworkings of a sinful heart (as is the case in all of us), they are survival techniques for those who grow up on the streets or in orphanages.
Children from these situations often display what is called, “hoarding behavior.” Those who experience great hunger and do not know where their next meal will come from, often hide and hoard food whenever they can grab it. Even though adoptive parents are told to expect this, it still seems strange to welcome a child into your home with both open arms and an open pantry, only to find your new son or daughter secretly taking food from the dinner table and squirreling it away for later.
It took our friends months of work and many relapses to convince these children that food was always available. At the point of adoption, grace rescued them from lives of pain and misery, but the effects of their new life were slow to be felt and lived. The adopted children were in the family, and they could see that the natural born kids did not fear missing a meal and did not hide and hoard. But the doctrine of adoption had not yet gripped their hearts in a way that transformed their community life.
I think that situation well illustrates the circumstances behind our text this morning. The Cretans came to Christ from an orphan mentality. Though now adopted into the family of God, and though they would claim that new family as their own, their lives did not always match their gracious and grandiose status as children of the King. They still acted like orphans! So Paul reminds Titus to “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
Note well that he does not say (in Titus 2.1), “Teach sound doctrine.” Of course, that was part of Titus’ job, as Paul had earlier explained. Titus 1.9 says that all the elders must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that they may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine.” Teaching sound doctrine is essential to the work of every elder, especially the pastor, who is “worthy of double honor for his labor in preaching and teaching” (1Timothy 5.17).
But in Titus 2.1, the command is to “teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Titus must apply the grace of the gospel to proper and practical behavior. In fact, the best explanation of Titus 2.1 may be the New English Translation: “But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching.” Here is the motive for new behavior: the doctrines of grace and the gospel change the way we relate to one another.
When the adopted children began to hide and hoard, the new parents could have laid the law to them: “We do not take food and hide it in our rooms in this family. That is against the rules. If you do it again, you will be punished.” But these kids already heard the “law on food.” They long had lived with the threat of punishment if they ate enough to satisfy their hunger. They knew about rules; the key which unlocked the heart of hoarding was the key of grace: “Take all the food you want, there is always more here. In fact, the pantry is always open, so you can hide your stash here, and come and get it anytime.” And such grace worked into the heart eventually changed their behavior from that of an orphan to that of a son. Children who know they are fully loved and part of the family do not hide and hoard; so those that do must be convinced of the length and breadth of the love of their new family.
The same was true on Crete. These folks acted like orphans. They cared for themselves; they worried about their own needs and desires; they sought to satisfy their personal pleasures. But such behavior does not accord with sound doctrine. These folks needed to have their faith community shaped correctly by faithful application of the truth.