Titus 2:2-7 explains the “how” of verse one’s instruction for Christians to “beautify” or complement sound doctrine. We conform to the beneficial teaching of God’s word when we acknowledge the differences our Creator established between the two genders He created (cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:7 & 18-24). There is some noticeable overlap between the qualities laid out for men and women in Titus 2:2-7 as well as for the aged compared to those who are younger. Sobriety, reverence, and self-control should be common to older Christian men and women alike, while awareness of personal responsibility and one’s Christian example are things that should be “top-of-mind” among younger Christian brothers and sisters. Regardless of one’s age or gender, being “sound” in the faith (not corrupted in doctrine, verse 7) should be a common characteristic for all Christians.
One of the harder-to-accept biblical instructions – for twenty-first century western Christians – is directed to servants in verses 9-10 (“bondservants,” NKJ), telling them to “be good, honest servants.” Modern western society rebels at these words when it recognizes that the word for servants can also be translated as slaves (as in the NIV), because the thought that God’s Holy Spirit would tell anyone to “be a good slave” contradicts our contemporary values. There are two points that should be considered here, however, before one objects to the Lord’s instructions:
- The first point is the simple fact that involuntary servitude – slavery – was a fact of life throughout the first-century Roman Empire, and secular history records that many of the early Christians were slaves. Nowhere does the bible ever instruct slaves to rebel against any master other than the devil.
- The second, and larger, point is that the instructions regarding both the roles of men and women as well as slaves are the backdrop for the declaration of God’s grace for ALL people, in verses 11-14. In this context, the instruction to “be a good slave” has nothing to do with “approving” of the inherent injustice of slavery as an institution, and everything to do with a Christian slave’s willingness to look past his earthly status to the “blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ…”.
The Holy Spirit’s instruction directs our attention toward eternity instead of concentrating it on the injustice of sin in the present world.
Titus chapter 3 echoes the instruction of Romans 13 concerning how Christians should think and act toward civil/secular authorities (vv. 1-2), and again stresses the eternal goal of our lives in the present world. Verses 4-7 give a clear and easily understandable description of “salvation by grace,” showing the difference between works of (self-)righteousness (vs. 5a) and faithful obedience to His instructions (vs. 5b).