Teaching the Church

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Introduction

Godly living is the first part of our threefold mission statement at JPC: Godly Living, Church Growth and Changing Britain. Godly living is what we’re called to as Christians and is a right response to God’s grace and mercy. As individuals, as families and as a church we are to stand out from the prevailing culture and shine for Jesus Christ, making the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. Without godly living there won’t be church growth or changing Britain. But how are we to grow in godly living? Well here in Titus we learn that sound Bible teaching is key – so that people know the truth that leads to godliness.

One of the problems on Crete was false teaching. Look back with me at v10-16 of Titus 1. There Paul denounces the false teachers, especially those of the circumcision group (v10). He says (v11):

They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach – and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

And v16:

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

In contrast Titus, and so leaders in the church today, must teach the truth and set an example by doing what is good (2:1&7). Look at v1 of chapter 2. In the original Paul begins by underlining this contrast:

[But as for you, the NIV doesn’t translate it but its there in the Greek, But as for you,] you must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

You must teach the truth that leads to godliness (1:1). By nature the Cretans (1:12) were sinful ‘liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons’. They needed to hear the truth of the gospel, ‘because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’. (Romans 1:16) Then they would begin to know the truth that leads to godliness. They all – the younger and the older, men and women, needed teaching that would build them up in godliness, as Paul outlines in chapter 2. The false teachers were ruining whole households. Titus was to build whole households up and thereby the household of God – the church by teaching what is in accord with sound doctrine (2:2), by setting an example by doing what is good (2:7) and by appointing godly presbyter-bishops who are male (1:6) and who are

holy and disciplined and who hold to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that they can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (1:7-9)

False teachers in the church today are also ruining whole households and churches. In the Episcopalian Church of the USA bishops who are not holy and who do not hold to the trustworthy message are elected. The Presiding bishop of that part of the Anglican Communion is now a woman who supported the election of Gene Robinson, a man who left his wife for a man, to be the bishop of New Hampshire. Another practising homosexual is in the running to be elected bishop in a nearby US State. By their teaching and their lifestyle they undermine marriage and the family and the gospel and so ruin whole households and the church.

But this is not only happening in the USA but also in the Anglican Church in the UK and not only with regard to the issue of homosexuality. The Bishop of Oxford supports stem cell research on human embryos and who the researchers at the Life Centre here in Newcastle quote when they are asked if their practice is ethical. Praise God for President Bush’s stand last week against stem cell research on human embryos when he used his presidential veto to stand against the crowd. What does Paul say about the false teachers and leaders? Titus 1:11&16 again:

They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach…They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

“But as for you”, Paul says to church leaders today, “you must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

Like the Cretans, sinful Britons need to hear the truth of the gospel, experience its power and know the truth that leads to godliness.

This verse tells us that two strands are to be interwoven in Titus’ and our teaching. There is ‘the sound doctrine’ and also literally ‘the things that fit it’ or are ‘in accord with it’, namely the ethical duties which the sound doctrine demands.

Next week you’ll hear more about the ‘sound doctrine’ strand – “the grace of God that brings salvation and that teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness…while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” from v11-15. But this week we’re focussing on v1-10 and on the ethical duties of older and younger Christians in the home, in the neighbourhood and in the church. And as you can see from these verses the emphasis is on self control.

Interestingly for our society today Titus’ first concern is to be for the older men, for those one commentator calls ‘the greybeards of the flock!’ Though I suspect that Paul is referring to those in their mid forties upwards, to those who have older children if 1:6 is a guide.


So first, THE OLDER MEN (v2)

If you’re an older man listen up! V2:

Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Titus is to teach the older men. From among this group would probably come the elders or bishops who would lead and teach the church, according to the criteria given in 1:6-9. What is he to teach them? In contrast to the typical characteristics of Cretan men Titus is to teach them to be dignified and mature in Christ. Whether or not they are chosen to be overseers in the church they are to be different and an example, appropriate to their seniority. So instead of being quick tempered, drunk, lazy, brutish and overbearing (v7&12) he’s to teach them to be ‘temperate, worthy of respect and self controlled’.

He’s also to teach the older men to be ‘sound or mature in faith, in love and in endurance’. Older Christian men are not to be those who are tossed about by every wind of doctrine but rather they are to be sound and firm in their faith. If they are sound in faith they are also to be men who trust God. They believe that nothing is impossible for God and encourage the church to grow in and live by faith in a great God. So they are to be people who get behind the vision God has given JPC over the next twenty years including the Gateshead Project.

Older men are also to be taught to be ‘sound in love and in endurance’. They are to be men who are willing to serve others. Sometimes men can just want to be served. Has anybody noticed that? Any wives noticed that?! Older men can want that too but here it says they are to be sound in love, in serving others – in being willing to help, offering practical service and care. During JPC’s recent Summer Special for the retired it was great to see some of the older men of the church offering lifts. Others are regularly involved in maintenance on the building. Yes the church needs the older men to play their part in serving others and no doubt some will be helping on the holiday club this week. Today in many churches there are only older women. Praise God for the older men in this fellowship. May they also be sound in endurance – in keeping going to the end, having a long obedience in the same direction, rather than getting frustrated, angry and fed up with godly change, as they wait patiently for the fulfilment of the Christian hope.

But this is not just about older men and the church. It’s also about older men at home. Within their household they are to take a spiritual lead under Christ. To do so they must be temperate, worthy of respect, self controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. That will witness to the rest of the family and to other households in the neighbourhood. The impact of men behaving godly can be great in a society which doesn’t expect it.

All this is not automatic. Paul says the older men have to be taught and therefore they also have to teachable. As a church we need to do more teaching, teaching for particular groups in a more detailed way that can be accessed easily, live, on DVD and on the web. So look out for next year’s JPC men’s conference and also for some further discipleship training being introduced over the next year. The older men then need to go and put it into practice in the power of the Spirit. Likewise Titus is to teach the older women, which is my next heading…


Secondly, THE OLDER WOMEN (v3-4)

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women…

Titus is to teach the older women to also be reverent in the way they live. They are not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine. They are not to go around from house to house gossiping and drinking but instead they are to practise the presence of God – meaning that his presence is to permeate their whole lives in the church, in the home and in the neighbourhood. So instead of using their mouths for slander they are to use them to teach what is good. If they can be taught to do that then they’ll be able to train the younger women. It should be noted that Titus is to teach the older men and women and later the young men but it’s the older women who are to teach the younger women. This makes sense when Titus is a bachelor but also makes sense when the male teaching elder or presbyter-bishop is married. The ministry of mature women is greatly needed in the church. So what are the older women to teach the younger women to do? Well that brings me to my next point and to verses 4&5.


Thirdly, THE YOUNDER WOMEN (v4-5)

Then the older women can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no-one will malign the word of God.

First the older women are to train the younger women to love their husbands and their children. Some of you ask – can younger women be trained in this? Can you train someone to love their husband and their children? Well the Bible says so here in this way – younger women can be trained to love with an agape love, with a self sacrificial love, which is how Paul says husbands and wives are to love one another in marriage. That love does not come naturally – it’s a fruit of the Spirit and needs nurturing. Loving your children will also involve sacrifice and service. The older women are also to train the younger women to be self controlled, pure and busy at home. Busy at home is literally ‘working at home’. What is being affirmed here is not younger women being totally tied to the kitchen sink or being a household slave but rather that if a woman accepts the vocation of marriage, and has a husband and children, she will love them and not neglect them. As John Stott comments: “What Paul is opposing is not necessarily a wife’s pursuit of a profession [although that might be part of the sacrificial love she has for her husband and children, at least for a time], but the habit of being idle and going about from house to house.”

Younger women are also to be trained to ‘be kind’, probably meaning hospitable, and ‘to be subject to their husbands’. Now some of you are asking what does that mean. Well this subjection has nothing to do with inferiority. Rather it’s a recognition that, within the equal value of the sexes, God has established a created order which includes a masculine ‘headship’, not of autocracy but of responsibility and loving care. One reason why the younger women are to be trained in this way is (v5) “so that no-one will malign the word of God.” Paul is saying that Christian marriages and homes, which exhibit a combination of sexual equality and complementarity, beautifully commend the gospel. Those which do not, bring the gospel into disrepute.

As I said before this character and conduct of the older and younger women is not automatic. In today’s culture it still needs teaching. Perhaps next year’s JPC women’s conference is where some of this can happen. In terms of older women teaching younger women this already happens in part. In marriage preparation at JPC a mature woman does help to prepare younger women for marriage. Mature women also help to lead parenting courses. Otherwise a Christian mother may help to prepare her daughter. But no doubt there’s still more teaching and training that could happen, perhaps in the women’s Bible study groups from time to time, though, of course, the older women were to be taught by Titus, not by other women. But what of the young men, which is my next heading.


Fourthly, THE YOUNG MEN (v6)

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

Self control, a fruit of the Spirit, is key to what Titus and the older women must teach and to how the younger women and men are to behave. With regard to the young men Paul is no doubt thinking about control of temper, tongue, stomach, ambition, drink and sexual urges. He wanted the young men to remain committed to chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards, just as he also wanted the younger women to be pure. Titus, a younger man himself, was an ideal teacher for these young men. He would be able to encourage them in an appropriate and sympathetic way. Young men need this input from such men. Sadly today this is becoming rarer in the wider church and Christian world. For example, this past week a woman has been appointed head of the YMCA – the Young Men’s Christian Association for the first time. How important it is that we train up younger men for future ministry in the church and for other roles in the Christian world. Otherwise the feminisation of the church will be complete.

You see Titus must not only teach the young men, he must also set them an example. ‘In everything set them an example by doing what is good.’ This brings us to my next heading…


Fifthly, TITUS HIMSELF (v7-8)

Titus was to set them an example in his actions as are leaders in the church today. We are to practise what we preach. He was also to set them an example in the manner of his teaching. Look at v7-8:

In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

His instruction and the preacher’s today are to be wholesome and true. Serious subjects are to be spoken about seriously. Richard Baxter the author of The Reformed Pastor put it like this: “Whatever you do, let the people see that you are in good earnest…You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them.” Dr Martyn Lloyd–Jones once said, after preaching on the wrath of God from Romans, “I confess freely, I cannot understand a jocular evangelist…Go back and read the lives of the men God has used in the mightiest manner, and you will invariably find that they were serious men, sober men with the fear of the Lord in them.” Now Paul wasn’t necessarily ruling out appropriate use of humour but why was Titus to show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech? Look again at v8:

So that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.


Finally and very briefly, SLAVES (v9-10)

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.

Paul is referring to household slaves on Crete. Perhaps we can say that in our work we are to please our employers, not to be rude, or steal from them in any way but rather show that we can be fully trusted. Why? So that in every way we will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive. Again we need teaching on how to be a Christian not just in the home but also at work. Well watch out for CLASS 5 coming in the next year or two which will look at some of those issues.

One of Paul’s main reasons why all this teaching is to be done is his concern for the effectiveness of our Christian witness. We’ve seen that in v5, 8&10. Our lives can bring either adornment or discredit to the gospel. Are we making the teaching about God our Saviour attractive? Do our lives at home, work and in the community give good evidence of salvation or none?

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