Wholly Holy

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. – Titus 2:1-10 ESV

They say the best defense is a good offense. So, in order to assist Titus in his battle against the false teachers and their heretical teaching, Paul told the young pastor to surround himself with qualified men who could help him lead the church. But Paul didn’t stop there. He also told Titus to be willing to rebuke his flock for their laziness and gluttony, so that they might be “sound in their faith” (Titus 1:14 ESV).

Now Paul gets specific. He gives Titus detailed and practical descriptions of how various groups within the body of Christ were to conduct their lives. First of all, Titus was to teach what “accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 ESV). Sound doctrine was essential to Paul because it was the glue that held the body of Christ together. That is why he spent so much time writing letters to the churches he had helped to establish. He knew that the most difficult days for any believing congregation were those that followed their initial salvation experience. Salvation was to be followed by sanctification, and that was going to require sound doctrine and teaching that was in accord with the words of Jesus and the Old Testament Scriptures.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the law “is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10 ESV).

He went on to tell Timothy, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4 ESV). In his second letter to Timothy, he warned him that people would prove to be fickle and drawn to falsehood, desiring to hear teaching that condoned their behavior and excused their love of the world.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT

But not only is Paul telling Titus to teach solid, reliable doctrine. He is encouraging him to get specific and show how that doctrine should apply to everyday life. The New Living Translation puts verse one this way: “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching” (Titus 2:1 NLT).

Good doctrine should produce good behavior. The teachings of Jesus, expounded and expanded upon by the apostles, were to have a dramatic impact on the lives of those who placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior. Christ’s followers were to be Christ-like.

So, Paul begins by emphasizing the older men in the church. He tells Titus that they are to be characterized by sober-mindedness, an ability to think clearly, unhampered by alcohol, or anything else that would confuse their capacity to judge wisely. They are to be dignified, worthy of respect, and not act in childish or immature ways. Their lives are to be marked by self-control, the ability to manage their natural desires and passions. They are to have a healthy faith that shows up in how they live their lives. And they are to be characterized by a love for others and a willingness to patiently endure with those who are difficult to love.

Paul next moves his attention to older women in the church. Their lives were to be marked by behavior that reflected their holiness. In other words, their godliness should show up in tangible and visible ways. They were not to be addicted to gossip and slander or, for that matter, wine. And they were to teach the younger women by modeling for them what godliness looked like in the life of a believing woman. And while Paul provides a list of good behaviors that the older women were to teach to the younger women in the church, I don’t think he had a class in mind. This was to be teaching by example, not a lecture. Their lives were to be the primary lesson the younger women studied and from which they learned God’s expectations for holiness.

The younger women were to love their husbands and children well. While this sounds like a no-brainer, we know how difficult this can be in a normal relationship between a husband and wife. Marriage is not always a walk in the park. Raising children can be extremely challenging. And older women were to model what loving your husband and children looks like over the long haul. Their lives were to be a tangible example of living self-controlled and selfless lives.

Purity or wholesomeness was to be a powerful motivation for these young wives and mothers. They were to be diligent workers who ordered their homes well. This does not suggest that wives are not to work outside of the home. But in Paul’s day, that was a rare option for women. He was simply calling for an attitude of diligence and order in their responsibilities, that would apply in every area of their lives – either at home or at work.

And again, these older women were to have modeled what submission to their husbands looked like. It was not an issue of worth or value, power or weakness. It had to do with exhibiting a willing submission to God’s intended order of things. Paul was not saying that the husbands were better, smarter, or more deserving of the leadership role in the home. He was simply saying that God had a prescribed order of responsibility. He had placed the man as the head of the home and expected him to lead well. Many men don’t. That is an all-too-proven fact. But God intended for the wife to be an asset to her husband, encouraging and assisting him in his God-given role. There were to see themselves as partners in this thing called marriage. In fact, Jesus would say that a husband and wife are not really partners, but a single unit joined together by God through the marriage covenant. The two of them are to act as one, in loving unison, as they raise their family and conduct their lives on this earth.

And younger men, which includes younger fathers and husbands, as well as single men, were to be self-controlled as well. They were not to be driven by their passions or controlled by their lusts. And Titus, as a young man himself, was to be a model of godly behavior, using his own life as a teaching tool that revealed integrity, dignity, and godly speech. Young men were not to use their youth as an excuse to act like fools or shirk their responsibilities as Christ-followers. They were to take their faith seriously and live their lives in such a way that the outside world could not point a finger at them and call them hypocrites.

Paul closes his list of individuals within the church by addressing bond servants or slaves. In that day and age, there were many who found themselves operating as household slaves or servants because of unpaid debts. There were others that were outright slaves, taken captive as a result of war, and sold into slavery as servants. But many of these individuals had come to faith in Christ while living on Crete and they had become members of the local churches. So, Paul didn’t want to leave them out.

It’s interesting to note that Paul doesn’t address the institution of slavery. He neither condemns nor condones it. He was not out to change the unjust institutions set up by men that took advantage of the weak or helpless. He was out to change hearts. This is why he tells Titus that these individuals were to remain submissive to their masters in everything. He didn’t tell them to rebel or run away. In fact, he told them to use their enslavement as a platform from which to exhibit their faith in Christ. They were to obey and not argue. They were to refrain from stealing and show themselves to be trustworthy and reliable. And their overall behavior, even as slaves, was to bring glory and honor to God.

Good doctrine should result in good conduct. Belief that doesn’t impact behavior is to be questioned. An individual who claims to know Christ and declares themselves to be a follower of Christ, but whose life exhibits no qualifying characteristics, is to have his faith doubted. Paul would even say they are to be rebuked. The way we live our lives is one of the greatest testimonies to the life-transforming power of the gospel. It is to be practical proof of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power within us. All of these characteristics and behaviors that Paul has listed are Spirit-produced, not man-made. They come about as a result of reliance upon the Spirit and an adherence to good, solid teaching of sound doctrine.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

One Motive In Mind

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV

Paul has already compared his ministry among the Thessalonians to that of “a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV). He seemed to have no problem with mixing metaphors if it helped him drive home a point. In verse 7, Paul describes the manner of his and Silas’ ministry to that of children.

we were like children among you. – 1 Thessalonians 2:7 NLT

Some translations read, “we were gentle among you.” This is because there are two different variants of this sentence found in the earliest manuscripts. One has the word, ēpioi, which means “gentle or mild.” The other has a very similar word, nēpioi, which can be translated as “little children.” It would seem that the second alternative is the one most likely intended because it fits with the flow of Paul’s logic. In the context of these verses, he transitions from comparing the spirit of his ministry to that of a little child, then to a nursing mother’s compassionate and sacrificial love, and ends with the paternal instincts of a father.

you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. – 1 Thessalonians 2:11 NLT

By referring to themselves as “little children,” Paul was attempting to emphasize the innocence behind their motivation. They had been guileless and without deceit in preaching the gospel among the Thessalonians. Paul has already emphasized the integrity of their ministry by declaring “our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive” (1 Thessalonians 2:3 ESV).

It’s interesting to note how Jesus described one of His disciples, Nathanael, upon meeting him for the first time.

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” – John 1:47 ESV

The Greek word translated as “deceit” is dolos and it refers to “cunning and craftiness.” It was used to refer to a pattern of hypocrisy or dishonesty in one’s thoughts or actions. Paul is emphasizing their guilelessness, the complete absence of any manipulative efforts meant to distort the truth or deceive the Thessalonians. And Paul reminds them that he and Silas had gone out of their way to be a blessing and not a burden.

Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. – 1 Thessalonians 2:9 NLT

As apostles of Christ, they could have expected and demanded remuneration for their efforts. When Jesus had sent out the 72 on their first missionary journey, He had instructed them, “remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7 ESV). Paul had shared this same idea with Timothy.

Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18 NLT

And both Jesus and Paul had taken a Mosaic law and applied it to the ministry of elders, preachers, teachers, and apostles.

“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain. – Deuteronomy 25:4 ESV

They could have demanded payment for services rendered, but instead, they had chosen to pay their own way. They took nothing from the Thessalonians in return for their sharing of the gospel. Paul flatly denied any semblance of greed or avarice behind their efforts.

God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! – 1 Thessalonians 2:5 NLT

No, they had ministered out of a spirit of fatherly love, displaying a heartfelt concern for those under their care.

We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 NLT

This parental point of view is something Paul talked about frequently. He told the believers in Corinth, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:14 NLT). He addressed the believers in Galatia with the same sense of parental care and concern.

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. – Galatians 4:19 NLT

Paul was not interested in fame or fortune. His ministry was not a job or a means to earn a living. It was a divine calling and Paul took it seriously. Like a loving parent, Paul sacrificed constantly, giving up his rights in order to minister to the needs of those under his care. He had gone without sleep. He had endured trials and tribulations. In fact, Paul provided the believers in Corinth with a well-documented list of his “accomplishments” as an apostle of Jesus Christ and a father to the faithful.

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. – 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NLT

Paul wasn’t bragging. He was simply driving home the reality of his daily existence. It would be ludicrous for anyone to question Paul’s commitment to his calling or to accuse him of being in it only for what he could get out of it. Paul truly believed it when he said, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NLT). And he was not afraid to give his life for the cause of the Kingdom and for the sake of the flock of Jesus Christ. He was happy to be able to serve God, sacrifice on behalf of Jesus, and share the good news of salvation to anyone who would hear.

But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. – Philippians 2:17 NLT

And Paul was content with his lot in life. He needed nothing. He didn’t crave the favor of men. He didn’t desire an easier life. Fame and fortune had no appeal to him. He wasn’t in it for the money. He didn’t preach in order to become popular. Paul simply did what he was called to do – willingly, gladly, and contentedly.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. – Philippians 4:11-12 NLT

For Paul, the objective was clear. He was to preach the gospel. And when anyone heard and accepted God’s gracious offer of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, he was to come alongside them and lovingly guide them in their spiritual journey. And Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his efforts to do just that in their lives.

…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. – 1 Thessalonians 2:12 ESV

As important as salvation was, Paul understood that sanctification was equally as vital in the life of a believer. Salvation should result in transformation. Belief should impact behavior. An expression of faith in Christ should express itself in a life of dedication to Him, resulting in a radical change in both inward character and outward conduct.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson