The Epistle of St. Paul to Titus
Chapter 2 (contd.)
4- Instructions for the church’s congregation (1:1-4): (contd.)
C- Youth and bondservants (2:6-10): St. Paul subsequently focuses on the “young men,” asking Titus to exhort them to be “sober-minded” and not to follow the surrounding pagan, Cretan youth in their excesses, but to curb their own lusts by God’s grace and lead godly lives. He urges Titus to offer himself to the youth, as well as to the entire church – given that he was in that age bracket – an example of good deeds, as a fruit of the living faith in Christ the Savior. Leading by example, or being “a pattern of good works,” is the most effective means for changing the behavior of others, both at the family and church levels – it is even labelled the “fifth gospel” after the Bible’s four gospels.
Titus is also required to show in his teaching: (1) “integrity”, meaning that he should not be party to any worldly practices, or to any of the then prevailing pagan principles, but he should adhere to the pure words of the Gospel, capable of saving everyone; (2) “reverence,” leaving no room for sarcasm or the use of physical or emotional means; hence, he should conduct himself in the balance and wisdom of elders regardless of his age; (3) “Incorruptibility” is necessary to ensure that his service is characterized by honesty, selflessness, meekness, tirelessness, and sacrifice – hence all gifts for the sake of spreading the message of salvation, and offering Christ, the loving God, to all; (4) Finally, “sound speech”, i.e. offering upright teaching, as it was handed by the Lord’s apostles and disciples, who faithfully bore the Lord’s teachings. In this way, he would prove his authority, uniqueness, and superiority over the pagan teachings; hence, no one would dare oppose or “condemn” him, thus putting Satan and all opponents to shame.
“Bondservants” were the final component of the Cretan church. They numbered in the millions during the days of the Roman empire. Many of them, who had converted to Christianity and joined the church’s congregation, posed a huge problem for the early church. This is because there is neither racism nor discrimination in Christianity: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) Also, “… where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3:11)
The church did not encourage a general slave uprising which, undoubtedly, would have resulted in much bloodshed and loss of life. The church also realized that the slaves’ plight would not be solved overnight. Alternatively, the church taught that the slave be treated as a “beloved brother” (Philemon 16) – given the common faith. Slaves, nevertheless, should continue their obedience and service to their respective masters, as unto Christ: “… not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men …” (Eph. 6:5-7, Col. 3:22-24). The masters’ treatment should also change accordingly, since they have all become brothers in Christ: “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Col. 3:25)
As he had written previously to the Galatians and Colossians, St. Paul exhorts Titus to ask the slaves, members of the Cretan church, to “be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, [this is especially applicable in cases of Christian slaves serving non-Christian masters – their submission and Christian conduct would represent an opportunity for evangelizing.]“ Such behavior should be adopted in all sincerity and honesty, “not pilfering;”they would thus be participants in applying “the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.” Thus, God’s name becomes glorified.
5- The saving grace is the foundation of instruction (2:11-15):
Christian living cannot be acquired through human efforts or elaborate training programs. A sinner cannot, on his own merit, become righteous; rather, by “the grace of God” through Jesus Christ, Who saved us from our sins, and rendered us righteous by His blood. In this way we become His own through the Holy Spirit, Whosanctifies us and transforms us into a new creation. Through grace we resist evil, we deny “ungodliness” and defiance, and we reject the lure of “worldly lusts.” This means that we sever all ties with our gloomy past, starting a new, well balanced, “soberly” life, shrouded in right_eousness, godliness, self-control, and resist_ance to carnal desires, in accordance with the Bible’s commandments. These attributes should characterize our daily life “in the present age.” Our path and struggle will then be supported by “the blessed hope” in eternal life, and the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” in His second coming, during which His faithful will also be glorified. This glorification will follow their acquisition, through grace, of “justification” and “sanctification” through Christ’s salvation, in His first coming, “Who gave Himself for us” through His death on the Cross and Resurrection “that He might redeem us from every lawless deed.” This means that Christ will liberate us from the consequences of our sins, bearing them in His own flesh for our sake, “and purify for Himself His own special people”1. Christ purchased us with His blood, and He purified us from our transgressions, in order for us to be His – completely: a unique congregation, differing from all others, and “zealous for good works.” These good works are the fruit of a living faith: “… which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
This is the path of the new life to which Christ called us. St. Paul directs Titus to preach this gospel, instructing him to “speak these things, exhort;” and as for the heretics and opponents, “rebuke with all authority.” God granted Titus the gospel which we preach. Therefore, St. Paul instructs him to “Let no one despise you.”2 This is not a question of personal pride; rather, it is a question of the honor of the God Whom he represents, the message that he is preaching, and the faith that he follows. A servant must thus come across authoritatively, in order to ensure that the word of God is heard and worth obeying.
6- Dealing with the State (3:1 & 2):
Having issued his instructions within the Church’s framework, St. Paul now addresses believers’ relationship with the State. He thus re-emphasizes what he had taught previously in his letters to the Romans and to Timothy (Rom. 13:1-7 and 1 Tim. 2:1-4). Rather than rebel against them, believers must respect and honor authorities, since they are tasked with enforcing the law, punishing those who disobey it, and ensuring justice for all. He asks Titus to remind all members of the congregation to submit willingly to “rulers and authorities”3. Put differently, their leadership must be accepted, and the laws must be obeyed. This is because “the authorities that exist are appointed by God” and “they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” (Rom. 13:1,6). Our Lord, when standing before Pilate who ranted of his authority, declared to him, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11)
Furthermore, citizens should be good and honest, “ready for every good work,” cooperating towards the general good, rendering “to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” as Christ had said (Mat. 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). They should also not stir up strife, not abuse others, and not speak evil of anyone. Finally, they should be gentle, dealing peaceably with others, avoiding disputes through their tolerance, long-suffering and humility, and being “gentle and lowly in heart” like their Master.
7- Our salvation through grace, through the second birth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit – deeds are a testimony to the Faith (3:3-8):
St. Paul subsequently points out that the required conduct, outlined above, is the outcome of Divine work – it is not the product of human efforts. The proof is that St. Paul and others, both Jews and Gentiles, were “foolish” prior to their conversion to Christianity, they had no concept of truth, and were “disobedient,” rebellious,“deceived,” (meaning astray from the right path), and fully immersed in their sins “serving various lusts and pleasures” in order to satisfy their carnal desires. As for their conduct, they lived in “malice and envy,” and other undesirable traits, ignorant of the meaning of love, “and hating one another.”
Circumstances subsequently changed to the contrary “when the kindness and the love of God our Savior towards man appeared.” This change, resulting from God’s overflowing love and tenderness, was neither due to their worthiness, nor to any “works of righteousness” that they had done; rather, it was according to God’s infinite mercy Who “has delivered us from the power of darkness” (Col. 1:13), Who “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), and Who died for us and rose4. Through faith and baptism (the second birth’s cleansing)5 we acquire salvation (Mark 16:16); we are thus reborn (John 3:5), and renewed through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), Who was “poured out on us abundantly,” since Pentecost, “through Jesus Christ our Savior.” We are thus justified through grace (“not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:9)), sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and glorified, becoming “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
At this point, St. Paul affirms an essential issue. He starts by saying “This is a faithful saying6 meaning that the statements which follow are truthful and worth pursuing. Hence, the Christian Faith is neither words, nor verbal worship, nor outward appearances (having the appearance of righteousness). Rather, Christianity is a lifestyle, which applies the Bible practically; it is love, service and perseverance, requiring believers not to be pretentious, rather, to “be careful to maintain good works,” as a testimony to the authenticity of their faith. Put differently, a sincere faith coupled with the Holy Spirit’s work in them, will certainly yield the fruit of “good works” (Gal. 5:22, 23), which are “good and profitable to men.” Our lives will thus be fruitful and effective – not pretentious. This is described as a life of salvation, hence, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) By living thus all the days of our lives, we acquire the final salvation at the Lord’s second coming (Mat. 10:22 and 24:13, Mark 13:13, Phil. 3:20, 21, Heb. 9:28, 1 Peter 1:21).
(To be contd.)
- “… and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”” (Rev. 21:3) ↩
- This is what he instructed Timothy (was younger than Titus) with. See 1Tim. 4:12 and 2Tim. 4:2.) ↩
- Rulers are those in positions of power, and authorities are the police force, the judiciary, and local executives ↩
- 1 Cor. 15:3, 2 Cor. 5:15, Gal. 3:13, Eph. 5:25 -27 ↩
- “There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ …” (1 Peter 3:21) ↩
- In order to emphasize the truthfulness and importance of this expression, he used it in both of his letters to Timothy (1Tim. 1:15, 3:1, 4:9 and 2Tim. 2:10-12). ↩