Monday, May 01, 2006

standards for believers (part 1)

Paul transitions from talking to Titus about qualified elders (Titus 1:5-9) and false leaders (Titus 1:10-16) to now talking to Titus about Titus (Titus 2:1), and then to speak concerning the rest of the members of the church body (Titus 2:2-10).

concerning Titus (Titus 2:1):

Over and above giving him the qualifications for an elder, Paul is speaking directly to Titus and admonishing him to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." This seems to imply more than just the work of preaching and teaching sound doctrine as a pastor or elder and includes more casual, constant, and daily conversations. It was referring to this type of practical application of sound doctrine that John MacArthur wrote, "The Bible never divorces doctrine from duty, truth from behavior....Those who claim the name of God have always been commanded to live godly lives."1 Adam Clarke does a good job of pinpointing this concept in his commentary,

"This is a conclusion drawn from the preceding chapter: the Judaizing teachers not only taught a false doctrine, but they led an unholy life; Titus was to act directly opposite; he must teach a sacred doctrine, and the things which become it; he must proclaim the truth, and illustrate that truth. The people must not only be well instructed, but they must be holy in their lives. Principle and practice must go hand in hand."2

I think that it is a good thing to understand was that Titus was not just to speak about the truth of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for those who would believe, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, or any number of other key doctrinal issues. The whole point of this chapter is the outward living or action of believers and what it should properly look like in the different demographic groups of believers. Paul makes it very clear that Titus is to speak these things boldly by the fact that Paul reiterates this statement at the end of the chapter, "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." (Titus 2:15 NASU)

We also notice that "fitting for sound doctrine" are the types of words that Titus is to speak. The Greek for "sound doctrine" is the same as is used in Titus 1:9 for what an elder is to use in order to refute false teaching and exhort people.

At this point, I think that it is fitting for us to take two small tangents relating to the admonition in this passage.

tangent #1: speech

The first one is dealing with speech. As Christians, what should govern our speech? Or better yet, how should we govern our speech? I would like to suggest a few passages to think about and to help with how to govern our speech.
  • Proverbs 4:24 - Do not let your speech be lying
  • Matthew 12:34 - What you think about and what you fill your life with will permeate your speech. Also, a frightening reminder that everything ever said will be brought up when God judges.
  • Ephesians 4:14,15 - We are to speak truth in love. Not one or the other, but at the same time. Love or compassion should always be present in our conversation. At the same time, it is sometimes necessary to say things that are unsettling in order to make the truth known to someone.
  • Ephesians 4:29 - No unwholesome word…. We are not given a “forbidden” list of words, but we are given a more difficult standard to abide by.
  • Ephesians 5:3-6 - Our talk must not only be wholesome, but we are specifically instructed to avoid lewd and base talking or perverted joking.
  • Philippians 4:8 - This verse captures the idea of the chicken and the egg relating to good speech. The “chicken” must be sound thought on good things so that your speech can be wholesome and edifying.
  • Colossians 3:8,9 - This is a specific admonition not to be abusive in our speech.
tangent #2: sound doctrine

I am becoming ever more convinced that one of the bigger problems in the modern evangelical church is the watering down of doctrine or the de-emphasis of teaching, learning, and studying sound doctrine. This is seen in many different areas of the modern church, but perhaps none more clearly than in the idea of church growth or having seeker sensitivity. Seemingly, one of the prevailing ideas and methods of growing large churches is to not teach sound doctrine. If we don't teach the doctrines of the Bible, we cannot truly understand the other doctrines of the Bible. For instance, if I wanted to build my church and only talk about the love of God, and never His terrible wrath, I could not really ever deal with the problem of sin in an honest and biblical way. The problem gets bigger, because if we don't understand sin, we cannot understand the cross. If we don't understand the cross, then the exclusivity of Christ is easier questioned and disregarded3 The focus of church has been sinfully shifted from the glory of God and the fellowship and edification of the saints to be one of evangelism (at best). The idea is to draw unbelievers inside the church and then evangelize them. Unfortunately, it seems like we have seen that we can draw large crowds, but once you have a large crowd it is awfully difficult to preach a message that will undoubtedly offend them and cause them to not return. "Pastors are to concentrate on the spiritual depth of their congregations and allow God to take care of the breadth."3

1 Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur Jr. p. 71

2 Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database, [Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft] by Adam Clarke

3 Because if I'm not that bad, and Christ's death was something other than enduring the full wrath of God that I should have experienced...then any other "divine" system will do just as well as Christianity.

3 Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary by John MacArthur Jr. p. 71

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