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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Titus 2



Verse 1

DeWelt said that "The care of individual members of the church is the subject of Titus 2."[1] Throughout there is a strong emphasis upon the family which is the basic unit of every worthwhile society ever to appear on earth. The five particular classes of individuals mentioned are aged men, aged women, young married women, young men, and slaves. Despite the fact of Paul's emphasis in this chapter being upon correct moral and ethical behavior, there are nevertheless doctrinal declarations of immeasurable significance. Plummer was incorrect in the declaration that sound doctrine "relates almost exclusively to conduct";[2] because it is only in the dogmatic, doctrinal and theological frame of reference that acceptable human behavior is possible. All of the practical admonitions of this chapter are related "to the doctrine of God our Saviour" (Titus 2:10), "the grace of God" (Titus 2:11,12), "the Second Advent of Christ" (Titus 2:13), "the atoning ransom of the blood of Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:14), and the "purification unto himself' (conversion) of the redeemed, Titus 2:14, and also the bond of unity in Jesus Christ of all the faithful who are the Lord's "own possession" (Titus 2:14)! Therefore, the notion that "there is scarcely a hint in the whole chapter" of Christian doctrine must be rejected.

[1] Don DeWelt, Paul's Letter to Timothy and Titus (Joplin: College Press, 1961), p. 154.

[2] Alfred Plummer, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine: (Titus 2:1)

"The word rendered thou is emphatic."[3] The Cretans may be liars and some of the believers empty talkers, but Timothy is to teach the sound doctrine. It is "the proper ethical consequences which must ever flow from the Christian truth"[4] which Paul was about to stress, but Titus must never leave off teaching the sound doctrine. Everything depends upon that. "Titus should instruct them in the behavior that accords with belief."[5] Although Titus was addressed directly, "Through him Paul was instructing the whole church of Crete";[6] and even beyond that he was instructing the church of all ages to come.

Sound doctrine... is described as "wholesome" or "healthful"; but perhaps the best definition is "Scriptural, accurate and dependable." As Tasker said:

It is hardly correct to claim as many scholars do, that the writer merely denounces heresy, for in this case he clearly believes that truth is the best antidote for error.[7]

[3] J. Glenn Gould, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. IX (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1969), p. 676.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Alan G. Nute, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 527.

[6] Wilbur B. Wallis, Wycliffe New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 886.

[7] R. V. G. Tasker, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, The Pastorals (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), p. 191.

Verse 2

that aged men be temperate, grave, sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, in patience:

The aged men... "This is not the elders in an official sense, but simply the old men."[8]

Temperate ... means not given to excess in anything. While common enough as far as information about it is concerned, this virtue is often absent in believers. A life undistorted by any excessive indulgences of any kind is the thing required.

Grave... "Gravity must never be confused with gloominess."[9] A calm, sensible and decorous attitude, or demeanor, in all places and at all times is enjoined. "Monkey business" and "clowning around" are forbidden by this.

Sober-minded ... While mentioned here in the instructions to older men, this virtue "is demanded of three of the groups which follow, and of all in Titus 2:12."[10]

Sound in faith... "Faith here is objective,"[11] meaning that older men should cling to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. This is another appearance of Paul's famed triads (1 Corinthians 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:3, etc.). Here "love and patience" are bracketed with faith. "In these three lies the sum of Christian perfections."[12] Spence has these beautiful lines:

It is with "faith" that we worship God; no prayer, no work of piety can be severed from faith. "Love" spreads its wings over all our duties to our neighbor; and "patience" must ever go hand in hand with "faith" and "love."[13]

Let it be noted that Christian doctrine is by no means slighted in this chapter of practical admonitions. The Christian life is not merely commendable behavior, but such conduct as it relates to the great principles of the truth of God. As Zerr said, "Sound in the faith means to be true to the word of God which is the basis of faith (Romans 10:17)."[14] In this lies the great principle that all ethical behavior, if it is to have any meaning at all, must be anchored in authority that is external to man. Without the guiding restraint of that external authority, morality is progressively downgraded until it disappears altogether.

[8] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 1008.

[9] R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 191.

[10] Alan G. Nute, op. cit., p. 527.

[11] R. C. H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles ... Titus (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1964), p. 910.

[12] H. D. M. Spence, Ellicott's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970), p. 155.

[13] Ibid.

[14] E. M. Zerr, Bible Commentary (Marion, Indiana: Cogdill Foundation, 1954), p. 203.

Verse 3

that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good;

As in "older men" above, the instruction here is to all older women in the congregation.

Reverent in demeanor... This is one of the most beautiful phrases in the New Testament, fittingly applied here to that class of godly older women in the Lord's church. Concerning the word here rendered "reverent," Tasker has this:

Dibelius gives parallels (of the word) meaning "consecrated as priestesses," an idea well captured by Lock, who gives the meaning, "they are to carry into daily life the demeanor of a priestess in a temple."[15]

Not slanderers... This means "not false accusers," and is translated from a word which is one of the names of the devil, who is called "the accuser" of the brethren.

Not enslaved to much wine... As Lipscomb said:

The women of Crete were given to wine drinking. Observe the fitness of the term "enslaved." The drunkard is thoroughly the slave of his appetite.[16]

Here is an indication of what is meant by the term "wine" as used in the New Testament; it was a drink that had the power to enslave, and this is impossible of application to mere grape juice.

Teachers of that which is good... As Tasker said, "This cannot refer to public teaching, which was in any case mainly the responsibility of the elders, but must refer to ministry in the home." [17]

[15] R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 192.

[16] David Lipscomb, New Testament Commentaries, Titus (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1976), p. 272.

[17] R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 193.

Verse 4

that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

Significantly, the elders were not entrusted with the training of young married women, a function that pertained to the godly older women in the congregation. There are seven qualities to be instilled in the younger women, two mentioned in this verse, five in the next. They are: (1) husband-lovers, (2) children-lovers, (3) sober-minded, (4) chaste, (5) workers at home, (6) kind, and (7) in subjection to their own husbands.

At first glance it seems hardly necessary to speak of training one to love spouse or children; but as Ward noted:

Love does not always flow out of a person, even a wife and mother, as from a mountain spring. Love in the family requires thoughtfulness, and the mother has to work at it. Paul recognized this, and the older could inspire the younger[18]


[18] Ronald A. Ward, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Waco: Word Books, Publisher, 1974), p. 253.

Verse 5

to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed:

Sober-minded... As noted above, this quality is actually to be manifested by all Christians. It means having all faculties under control, well-balanced, even tempered, and realizing the importance and seriousness of life.

Chaste ... The original word here may be translated "pure"; "but the ASV has done rightly in preferring the word which is relevant to sex. Paul used the same word in 2 Corinthians 11:2."[19]

Workers at home... The word from which this is derived may mean either "workers" or "keepers" at home. Some radical critics have gone so far as to say that "The only authority for this word is Soranus of Ephesus, a medical writer, not earlier than the second century";[20] the object of such an assertion, to be sure, being that of questioning the Pauline authorship of Titus. The allegation is false, of course, White pointing out that "The verb is found in Clement of Rome,"[21] who lived in the first century and was identified by Origen as Paul's companion mentioned in Philippians 4:3![22]

Kind ... This is one of the homely virtues that blesses mankind as much as any other.

Being in subjection to their own husbands... This is fully in keeping with the New Testament teaching that the husband is the head of the family; and, through the centuries, those societies in which women have honored this divine injunction have invariably elevated women to higher and higher places of honor, respect and protection. In many cultures where this ethic is dishonored, women have ultimately been reduced to the status of chattels, as they were in the pagan culture of Paul's day. The behavior here enjoined proved to be the way up for womankind; and the opposite of it will doubtless prove to be the way down.

In case the older women should not have been successful in inculcating these noble virtues in the younger women, as Paul admonished, the apostle was sure that the word of God would "be blasphemed." "So much depends on the women, in great part on the young women."[23] The world still judges Christianity by the character of the young women produced by the church.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Newport J. D. White, Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 192.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago: William Benton, Publisher, 1961), Vol. 5, p. 793.

[23] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 913.

Verse 6

the younger men likewise exhort to be sober-minded:

Paul did not here skimp the advice to young men. As Spain noted, the word "likewise" may be construed as pertaining to "all the injunctions given in verses 1-10."[24] "Sober-minded" is therefore a synecdoche for the entire list of applicable injunctions.


[24] Carl Spain, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Austin, Texas: The R. B. Sweet Company, 1970), p. 179.

Verse 7

in all things showing thyself an ensample of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity,

This entire verse reiterates instructions already given to others, above; but here is the additional thought that Titus is to exemplify in himself the conduct, demeanor and virtues enjoined upon others. As Gould well said, "It is evident that Paul is as fully concerned with Titus' teaching as with his conduct."[25]

Gravity... See under Titus 2:2.


[25] J. Glenn Gould, op. cit., p. 680.

Verse 8

sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us.

He that is of the contrary part ... Wherever truth is preached, "he that is of the contrary part" always appears. It cannot be that Satan will allow the word of God to be preached without opposition. The gospel minister, and all Christians, must ever keep this in mind and so speak, and so live, that the enemy may be ashamed to speak against them.

Verse 9

Exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters, and to be well-pleasing to them in all things; not gainsaying, not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

Well-pleasing in all things ... "It is probable here that Paul was thinking of Christian slaves with Christian masters."[26] As Lipscomb said, "It is obvious that `all things' is here limited to things not contrary to God's law."[27]

Gainsaying ... means "talking back," with a view to thwarting, or criticizing, the master's will.

Purloining... "The particular form of theft implied is the abstraction or retention for one's self of a part of something entrusted to one's care."[28] Luke used the same word with reference to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:2,3.

That they may adorn the doctrine of God... The lot of a Christian slave was as nearly intolerable as possible. Without anything except the bare necessities for existence, slaves toiled continually without pay, without vacation, often even without any appreciation on the part of their masters. They had no legal, or natural rights of any kind. When they became they were allowed to die, unless the master thought it profitable to have them cured. Cruel and unjust punishments were often endured by them. Yet, even in such a condition, Paul speaks of their "adorning" the doctrine of God. The service of a slave was elevated to a higher plane. All that he did, he did it "as unto the Lord," and he would in no wise lose his reward. For more lengthy discussion of the problem of human slavery, as encountered by the primitive church, see under reciprocal relations in Ephesians and Colossians. Let it be noted that " Titus 2:9,10 are not given as suggestions, but as imperatives of Christian conduct."[29]

[26] Ibid.

[27] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 275.

[28] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 193.

[29] Don DeWelt, op. cit., p. 162.

Verse 11

For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men,

This is a reference to the Incarnation, the First Advent of the Son of God, whose visitation upon our planet came directly and solely from the grace of God. With his birth at Bethlehem, it was appropriate to say that salvation had indeed been brought to all men. As Simeon said:

Now lettest thou thy servant depart, Lord, According to thy word, in peace; For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples (Luke 2:29,30).

When Simeon said this, all men had not been saved; and at the time of Paul's writing here, nor at any time ever, was it ever true that all men are saved. Yet God has established the charter of human redemption in dimensions large enough to accomplish the salvation of every man ever born on earth. The mystery of why so many are still unsaved is not ours to unravel.

Bringing salvation to all men... As Spence commented:

This is another of those hard sayings which have been pressed into the service of that kindly but erring school of expositors which shuts its eyes to the contemplation of the many unmistakable sayings which warn the impenitent and hardened sinner of the sad doom of eternal death.[30]


[30] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 258.

Verse 12

instructing us, to the extent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world;

It is the grace of God (through the gospel) which instructs men regarding those conditions which must be fulfilled by men in order to partake of that grace; and rejection of the instructions is equivalent to the rejection of the grace. Both positively and negatively the conditions are plainly laid out.

Denying ungodliness... This refers to the denial in one's life of irreligion. Salvation is promised to the religious persons who seek and find the true way of the Lord. The person who boasts that "I am not religious" has already forfeited the grace of God as it pertains to him. Such persons have "fallen short of it" (Hebrews 12:15).

And worldly lusts ... The sins of the flesh must be renounced. Even an apostle "buffeted his body" to bring it under subjection to the will of Christ. This is "where the rubber meets the road." All of the evils that perplex humanity in very large part are due to the unbridled seeking on the part of unregenerated men to fulfill the lustful appetites of their bodies. The true doctrine of Christ confronts the problems squarely, enabling the Christian, with divine help, to overcome. There can never be any hope for any such thing as peace and tranquillity upon this earth as long as human lusts are unsubdued.

Soberly... righteously.., godly... As Barackman said, "Guthrie suggested that `soberly, righteously, and godly' might be taken to mean the right kind of action toward ourselves, toward our neighbors, and toward God."[31]


[31] Paul F. Barakman, The Epistles of Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan Baker Book House, 1962), p. 144.

Verse 13

looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Appearing... The two Advents are in Titus 2:11,13. In Titus 2:11, it was the appearing of the grace of God in the First Advent of our Lord, and here it is the final appearing in the Second Advent when Christ will judge the quick and the dead. The first of this twofold epiphany is past, being the earthly life of our Lord; whereas the one in Titus 2:13 is future. It pertains to the glory of Christ which shall be revealed to all men at the time of his coming and resurrection.

Looking for the blessed hope ... With these words it is clear "that ethical behavior is inspired by theological hope."[32] All of the excellent rules for living laid down earlier in this chapter are meaningless without that relationship between Christ and his followers on earth who are walking as he commanded and expectantly awaiting that time when the skies shall be bright with his appearing.

The glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ ... Despite the usual accuracy of the ASV, it appears to this student that the translators missed it here. The proper rendition of the phrase is as given in the ASV margin, the RSV, Weymouth and Goodspeed, thus:

The glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Lenski said flatly: "Jesus Christ is here called our God and Saviour. One person is referred to and not two."[33]

Of course, many scholars support the translation as in the KJV and the text before us; but despite that, it is admitted by all of them that this is what the Greek says, making it necessary to plead an exception in order to read it differently. Besides that, "The only begotten Son, alone, is the subject of this sublime passage."[34] Written as it should be written, it is one of the most precious statements in all the New Testament bearing upon the deity of our blessed Lord.

The marvelous glory of Jesus Christ will be in the cataclysmic events of the Second Advent, the same being the primary affirmation of this great text. Paul was encouraging the beleaguered saints on Crete to hold fast the true faith until that moment in the fullness of time when Christ has promised to return, the second time apart from sin, robed in the glory of the eternal world, for the purpose of redeeming the righteous and casting evil out of his universe. Apart from the rendition of the disputed phrase noted above, the deity of Christ shines clearly enough in that glory envisioned of him in the entire verse.

[32] Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 261.

[33] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 922.

[34] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 258.

Verse 14

who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works.

Who gave himself for us ... As Zerr said, "This clearly shows that Christ is the particular one of the godhead meant in the preceding verse."[35] Here the great ransom for many is in view (Mark 10:45). We do not inquire concerning the one to whom the ransom was paid, nor as to why it was necessary, nor if it could have been done in some other way. All such questions lie beyond our ability either to ask or to solve. Sufficient is the knowledge that our Lord "paid it all" that we might live. Men did not take his life away from him, but he freely laid it down upon our behalf (John 10:17,18). No bitterness assailed him as he bore our sins on the tree; but "for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame" (Hebrews 12:2).

From all iniquity ... The basic connection of salvation with the separation of the saved from the pursuit of iniquity is again apparent in this. Christ did not come to save men in their sins, but from their sins.

Purify unto himself a people... White accurately pointed out that Paul very likely has in mind here Ezekiel 37:23, thus:

I will save them out of their dwelling places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

On the basis of this, White went on to affirm "that there is an allusion to holy baptism here, which is explicit in Titus 3:5."[36] It may not be denied that sinners are purified unto the Lord in their conversion and that thus they become the Lord's own possession.

[35] E. M. Zerr, op. cit., p. 204.

[36] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 196.

Verse 15

These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Speak... exhort.., reprove... "These verbs are in the present imperative, meaning `keep on doing it'".[37] They also have the meaning that Paul considered Titus to be already doing the things commanded.

All authority ... "This word, found only in the Pauline epistles, has always the sense of a divine commandment?[38] It is because of the heavenly origin of his message that Titus was admonished to "let no man despise thee." The gospel preacher does not need to feel inferior to any man, because his message is from God.

[37] Ronald A. Ward, op. cit., p. 264.

[38] R. V. G. Tasker, op. cit., p. 202.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Titus 2:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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