Summary: Talk 4 in in series. A look at how sound doctrine orders relationships within the church family.
It’s amazing what persistent teaching and training can do. Geoff Huegill (a successful Australian swimmer) lost 40 kg to win the 100m butterfly at the recent Commonwealth Games. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that ‘Huegill had feared disappearing under a pile of beer cans and pizza boxes before getting up and diving back into life two years ago’ (SMH, 9 Oct 10). Or as FoxTel put it, ‘From six packs to a six pack, Geoff Huegill’s dramatic weight loss has been Australia’s swimming’s gain’.
Teaching and training are essential to the Christian life. For this is the way that God’s elect are brought into the truth that leads to godliness. Whilst physical training is a good thing to do, spiritual training keeps us fit for eternity. In his letter to Timothy, Paul says, ‘For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come’ (1 Tim 4:8). And so it is that Titus is to train the Cretan church in godliness. In chapter 2, he is to teach the older men—then teach older women so they in turn can train the younger women. The younger men are to be taught strength of character. Slaves are to be taught to be subject to their masters.
Now we know that Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to straighten out what was left unfinished. The appointment of elders was important—men of appropriate character whose role is to encourage others by sound doctrine and OPPOSE those who teach error. Crete was littered with false teachers who were, according to verse 14, teaching Jewish myths relating to purity—how the cross of Christ is not enough to make us clean before God. The church must silence these men, they should be rebukeD taught the gospel—and the elders are to lead the way.
With a strategy in place to deal with false teachers, Paul turns to the life of the church. Titus is to train the Cretan church in godliness. Come with me to Titus 2:1, ‘You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine’ (Tit 2:1).
You must teach the Christians on Crete about Christian living. And then we realise that we also should be taught sound doctrine. And the reason is given in verses 11 and 12 which explains the instructions in verses 1 to 10. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age’.
Titus must teach the grace that glorifies God. Teaching is absolutely fundamental to Christ-like Christianity. For to know the truth of the knowledge of God, and to trust in that truth, will lead to changed lives. We are not in heaven yet, we are in this world and we very much feel the effects of sin. And how are we to be Christ-like in this present age? The grace of God teaches us, and as we believe it, we are redeemed from wickedness and transformed into a people eager to do what is good.
Tit 2:1–10 is a lovely picture of the church family in action. The trend in churches these days is to separate the older from younger—by-and-large family services have been replaced by youth services and traditional services. Following wider trends, like the world our churches have become social sieves that separate the generations. Music is often the dividing line which shows how little we understand music. On the contrary, the Lord who made us insists on inter-generational mixing.
Paul instructs Titus on what this means for various groups in the church. Firstly, to the older men and the older women. But Who are these older people? When is a person ‘old’? In the world of ancient Greece this could have meant someone as young as fifty. So maybe we should take fifty as a general rule of thumb. Anyone older than fifty is an old man—I don’t like the sound of that! Others say that ‘older’ should not be thought of in absolute years, but in terms of relative ages. So then anyone older than you is the older person Paul has in mind.
Not only does Paul have physical age in mind—he has in mind spiritual age—spiritual maturity. This doesn’t discount age but doesn’t necessarily rely upon it, either. Spiritually mature people are often older in years and they ought to be mentoring those who are younger in the faith. We must ensure that the baton of godliness is passed from one generation to another. Different ages need mentoring in different ways so that all ages are taught to say ‘“No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives’ (Tit 2:12).