Summary: The patterns of holy living that make for effective witness are here given as the distinguishing marks of the Christian groups addressed to: 1) Older Men (Titus 2:2), 2) Older Women (Titus 2:3–4a), 3) Young Women (Titus 2:4b–5), and 4) Young Men (2:9)
Healthy things grow, but growth in itself must never be the aim. If it is, unhealthy things will be permitted. Commonly we understand the difference between someone who eats right and exercises that achieves health and someone who is sedentary and eats poorly who grows in obesity. God’s primary concern is always for spiritual heath over numerical growth, because if health and all its true shoots emerge, then genuine growth occurs. This starts when people of all age groups stop thinking as consumers and having their individual needs met, and each person starts thinking as ministers, looking for opportunities to serve. A church needs both the old and the young, and they should minister to one another. The grace of God enables us to bridge the generation gap in the church. One way to do this is for all members, young and old, to live up the standards that God has set for our lives (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 264). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).
In Titus 2, the subject changes from pastors to congregations, from leadership to laity. The entire chapter deals with the evangelistic impact of a spiritually healthy congregation and gives direct, practical instruction about how believers are to live for the purpose of showing sinners the power and joy of salvation. What is true of individual believers is, of course, also true of the church as a body. A church that is grounded in spiritual truth and protected from spiritual falsehood is to be spiritually healthy and productive through the way in which its members live. The fruit of right doctrine is righteous living.
The opening works in verse 1 “But as for you” indicates a transition by contrast between the false teachers in the churches, who, although they professed to know God, denied Him by their unholy living and were therefore “detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). Those men had been tested and found to be useless, even dangerous. The pronoun You is intended to emphasize that Titus belongs to a very different category from the trouble-makers. It is hardly correct to claim, as many scholars do, that the writer merely denounces heresy, for in this case he clearly believes that truth is the best antidote to error (Guthrie, D. (1990). Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 14, pp. 212–213). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.).
Titus therefore was commissioned by Paul, and by extension all believers, to challenge their false teaching and false living and to teach/speak what accords/the things which are fitting for sound doctrine, in order to strengthen the testimony of the churches for the gospel of salvation. This teaching translates a present imperative of laleo, which refers to ordinary conversation. The present tense carries the idea of continuity and persistence, and the imperative makes the verb a command. Titus, and the elders he appointed (1:5), were commanded to teach/speak about right living as well as right doctrine. They were not to deviate, capitulate, or be intimidated. They were to be as aggressive in their teaching of sound doctrine and its corresponding godly lifestyle as the false teachers in the Cretan churches were in their unsound doctrine and its consequent ungodly lifestyle. The Elders are to give regular and careful pastoral instruction about practical Christian living and about the godly attitudes and actions that result from believing and obeying divine truth. They were to live lives that properly reflected their salvation from sin and were a worthy affirmation of the transforming power of their Savior. The gospel and its implications must be articulated (Utley, R. J. (2000). Paul’s Fourth Missionary Journey: I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy (Vol. Volume 9, p. 106). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International).
It is important to note that the apostle is not here focusing on the teaching and preaching of sound doctrine itself, as he does in 1:9. He is rather focusing on practical instruction about what accords with/the things which are fitting for, that is, based on and appropriate to, the sound doctrine that already has been taught. Prepo (what accords with/fitting) carries the basic meaning of “being prominent or conspicuous” and came to be used of a distinguishing characteristic. It represents that which is fitting, appropriate, proper, seemly. Truth requires certain behaviors that reflect and are appropriate to it (cf. Eph. 5:3). Sound translates a participle form of the verb hugiaino, which has the basic meaning of “being well and healthy” and is the term from which we derive “hygiene.”
In Titus 2:2–10, the Holy Spirit prescribes a series of binding requirements that are necessary for members of a healthy church to have an evangelistic impact. The injunctions in verses 2–10 are strong, straightforward, and specific. Because they are so contrary to proud and self-willed human nature, they often have been unpopular and controversial, even in the church as a whole. At no time have they been more unpopular and controversial than in many churches today, where personal opinion and cultural standards take precedence over God’s truth and self-fulfillment is more important than holy living.