Healthy Teaching Produces Healthy Christians, Part 3: Younger Men – Titus 2:6-8
This whole portion of Paul’s letter to Titus ranging from 2:1-10 has a common theme of godliness. Not just outward piety but true godliness that is evident in all who have been redeemed from sin and reborn as children of God. If Titus is to establish all that is lacking in the Cretan churches (1:5) then the Cretan Christians must live their lives as those who have been radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now we have arrived at the final group according to age and gender which Paul addressed through Titus.
By taking only age and gender into consideration, these four groups reflect the whole church. There is no consideration given for vocation or social status. Every individual in the various congregations of Crete fall into one of these groups. If they are older men who have raised their families, they are to be models of behavior and models of faith. If they are older women who have reared their children, they are to first be disciples so that they can then turn and make disciples of the younger women. If they are younger women who are in the midst of bearing and rearing their children, they are to lean on the example and experience of the older women as they submit to the headship of their own husbands. Now Paul turns his attention to the younger men and what they are to be.
At first glance it may seem as if the younger men get off cheap with only a single verse and a single exhortation delivered to them. But it is better to understand all of vv. 6-8 as having the younger men in view. Clearly v. 7 turns the attention to Titus as an individual, yet this individual attention carries the purpose of presenting Titus as an example. Much like the older women were to be disciples before they could make disciples of the younger women, Titus is to both demand godliness of and demonstrate godliness to these younger men. If he is to complete all that is lacking in the Cretan churches, then godliness must be exhorted and exemplified.
Godliness Exhorted (vv. 6-7a)
“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things”
The command here to urge translates the imperative παρακάλει and is a little stronger than the NASB makes it out to be. From παρακαλέω this is a command for Titus to call the young men alongside or to toe the line to a particular standard. This verb has been translated in various ways ranging from exhort to comfort depending on the context, but the idea of calling individuals alongside always remains in view. The present tense of this imperative suggests that Titus is already engaged in this business, but he is hereby ordered to continue to exhort these younger men to be sensible.
This is the fifth time we have seen this word group (σωφρονέω/σώφρων) in Paul’s letter to Titus and the fourth in this brief section. Being sensible must be a mark of any prospective overseer (1:8) and of older men in general (2:2). Older women are to speak sense into younger women (2:4) so that they too might be sensible (2:5). The younger men are not excluded from this most basic Christian virtue but are here exhorted to be sensible themselves.
We could translate this idea with a several appropriate English words like prudent, thoughtful, or even self-controlled. The idea behind this term is the antithesis of impulsiveness. The sensible young man thinks before he acts or speaks. He does not shoot first and ask questions later but investigates so that he can execute with precision.
All of the exhortation up to this juncture has been pointed and appropriate. What older men are to be chafes against what older men tend to be. The same is true of what Christ demands of older and younger women as opposed to what culture demonstrates for them. If younger men are in desperate need of one thing, it is that they be sensible. There are basically two kinds of young men; those that act and those that don’t. The young men of action are motivated by impulse. Their lazy counterparts need to be checked to ensure that they have a pulse. Either way, there tends to be little consideration given to inform or motivate action.
There is some debate regarding the placement of the phrase in all things (περὶ πάντα). Grammatically it is possible to take it with the exhortation to younger men or to place it with Titus’ example. There is a similar construction which concludes v. 10 (ἐν πᾶσιν – in every respect) and so there seems to be a pattern here of Paul concluding a thought in this manner. Once we remember that verse and chapter breaks are not inspired and came much later, we have no real problem with including this phrase with v. 6. In other words, there is no sphere that is to be off limits to sensibleness. Titus must exhort these young men to be sensible in all things.
Godliness Exemplified (vv. 7b-8)
Exhortation that does not mirror action is of very little use. There is no such thing as “do as I say but not as I do” in Christ’s church. Not to mention the fact that when exhortation is met with example, the people are quick to understand and motivated to obey. Here Titus is commanded to present himself as a pattern for the younger men to follow.
The Extent of Example (vv. 7b-8a) “show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach” – The term example (τὐπος) carries the idea of a pattern or imprint. Titus is to be a pattern of godliness for others to follow. His life must be a pattern of producing good deeds.
An example of good living: Good deeds or good works is an important theme throughout this letter (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 14) but what our English Bibles fail to capture is the transition of terms being used to describe these deeds; namely the term good. When describing the false teachers and their complete inability to perform any good deed (1:16), Paul uses the term ἀγαθός (good/useful/beneficial). These false teachers are incapable of performing the most basic deeds that would be considered useful. By contrast, Titus is hereby commanded to exhort godliness and sensibleness through his example of good deeds, but here Paul uses the term καλός (good/wonderful/beautiful/excellent). The deeds of Titus should mirror that of God’s good (καλός) creation and His good, created order. Titus’ life must mirror a life transformed from the curse. But what does this good life entail?
An example of integrity and dignity: The last phrase of v. 7 (with purity in doctrine, dignified) is difficult to translate while following the grammar. The purity in teaching or doctrine (τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ) does not reflect the purity of Titus’ teaching. Paul is not addressing the content of the teaching so much as the consistency of Titus’ living with his teaching. What the NASB translates as purity (ἀφθορίαν) literally means uncorrupted. The root term (φθείρω) is found in secular Greek writings with the meaning of to destroy or ruin. It has been used to describe the destruction of buildings, financial ruin, and the moral decay and corruption of officials through bribery and seduction. What we read as purity in doctrine is better understood as in keeping with the teaching, uncorrupted. In other words, this is a demand that Titus’ life is consistent with the Bible he preaches. As an example for the younger men, he must be a man of integrity.
The next term we read is dignified (σεμνότης) which is the same term used to describe what the older men are to be (v. 2). As in v. 2, the idea here is one of seriousness and sobriety. Titus must not flit away his life in a silly and childish fashion. He is not one who spends his time at play or chasing his fleshly desire. He takes on his responsibilities with an earnest seriousness as befitting the gravity of life.
An example of speech: Titus must provide an example to these younger men in both action and speech. The words coming out of his mouth must be sound or healthy. Soundness/healthiness (ὑγιής/ὑγιαίνω) is another theme throughout Titus (1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8). Paul uses this term to describe what is solid, correct, beneficial, and good for the one who receives. Titus’ words must carry substance, but that substance must be accurate and correct.
This would certainly include any public and formal teaching/preaching of the Scriptures, but it would extend to private conversation as well. There is no room for loose and frivolous talk among those who belong to God. Titus must weigh every syllable before it is uttered lest he open himself up to scorn and reproach. To say that Titus’ speech must be above/beyond reproach does not mean that his speech will not invite reproach. Rebellious man hates what is true because he hates the One who defines truth. Men who proclaim Christ crucified will be hated by those who crucified Him. Yet they must not find any objective foundation in our speech for their hatred. Our whole witness depends on this.
The Purpose of Example (v. 8b) “in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” – Here we find the grand purpose statement for Titus’ exhortations and his example. Younger men must be live godly lives and Titus must command and demonstrate what godliness looks like so that the opponents be put to shame. Paul doesn’t have in mind one particular opponent. Rather, he anticipates any given individual from the opposition (i.e., a false teacher, pagan antagonist, or Judaizer). The conduct of godly men will force any and all who oppose Christ to shut their mouths for lack of any accusation to put forth. The term bad (φαῦλος) indicates that which is coarse/ordinary/low-grade/substandard. Paul is not fearful of there being objective evil in the Cretan churches, but stresses that the opponent not even be able to accuse them of anything, whether in speech or action, that is below the standard of genuine godliness.
There are a few implications here. First, the shame that the opponents feel is a shame that will force reflection. After examining Titus’s words and deeds and seeing this same lifestyle in the young men the accuser may rethink his position. This is what Jesus meant when He commanded His disciples to be both salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16). Second, there’s an implication of solidarity. Did you notice that Paul includes himself? He says that these shamed opponents will have nothing evil/base/sub-par to say about us. In this he includes himself, Titus, every Christian on Crete, and the whole of Christendom. A substandard church is not only incomplete but it also places a black stain upon all other churches. Titus must exhort and exemplify genuine godliness in order to complete what is lacking in these Cretan churches. For any church that is lacking only supplies the opponents with ammunition.
Godliness is the theme that connects all these age and gender roles. The church of Jesus Christ must be godly, holy, pure, and completely conformed to His image. The world must see that the gospel is true. How else can we demonstrate the power of Christ to save and transform men unless we show them a saved and transformed man? How can we show the world God’s power to redeem society unless we show them a transformed body? Our lives will either confirm or deny the gospel that we preach. What Paul said of women in the congregation is true for all believers; that they must adorn themselves with good works as is proper for anyone who is making a claim to godliness (1 Tim. 2:9-10).
To put it more plainly, a church that is not godly is by definition useless. Their doctrine may be accurate and sound, but their living denies all that they preach. They preach a powerful gospel yet testify through their actions that the gospel is weak and unable to gain victory over the curse. The church must make godliness a top priority and thus train the coming generation accordingly. Godliness is not to be pitted against doctrine nor is holiness greater than orthodoxy. Both must be clutched, clung to, and pursued with vigor if we are to be found faithful upon our Lord’s return. May He find us faithful on that day. Soli Deo Gloria!