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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
Titus 2



Verses 1-15

Chapter 2


(1) The Senior Men (Titus 2:1-2)

2:1-2 You must speak what befits sound teaching. You must charge the senior men to be sober, serious, prudent, healthy in Christian faith and love and fortitude.

This whole chapter deals with what might be called The Christian Character in Action. It takes people by their various ages and stations and lays down what they ought to be within the world. It begins with the senior men.

They must be sober. The word is nephalios (Greek #3524), and it literally means sober in contradistinction to given to over-indulgence in wine. The point is that when a man has reached years of seniority, he ought to have teamed what are, and what are not, true pleasures. The senior men should have teamed that the pleasures of self-indulgence cost far more than they are worth.

They must be serious. The word is semnos (Greek #4586), and it describes the behaviour which is serious in the right way. It does not describe the demeanour of a person who is a gloomy killjoy, but the conduct of the man who knows that he lives in the light of eternity, and that before so very long he will leave the society of men for the society of God.

They must be prudent. The word is sophron (Greek #4998), and it describes the man with the mind which has everything under control. Over the years the senior men must have acquired that cleansing, saving strength of mind which has learned to govern every instinct and passion until each has its proper place and no more.

The three words taken together mean that the senior man must have learned what can only be called the gravity of life. A certain amount of recklessness and of unthinkingness may be pardonable in youth, but the years should bring their wisdom. One of the most tragic sights in life is a man who has learned nothing from them.

Further, there are three great qualities in which the senior man must be healthy.

He must be healthy in faith. If a man lives really close to Christ, the passing of the years and the experiences of life far from taking his faith away will make his faith even stronger. The years must teach us, not to trust God less but to trust him more.

He must be healthy in love. It may well be that the greatest danger of age is that it should drift into censoriousness and fault-finding. Sometimes the years take kindly sympathy away. It is fatally possible for a man to become so settled in his ways that he comes unconsciously to resent all new thoughts and ways. But the years ought to bring, not increasing intolerance but increasing sympathy with the views and mistakes of others.

He must be healthy in fortitude. The years should temper a man like steel, so that he can bear more and more, and emerge more and more the conqueror over life's troubles.

(2) The Older Women (Titus 2:3-5)

2:3-5 In the same way you must charge the older women to be in demeanour such as befits those who are engaged in sacred things. You must charge them not to spread slanderous stories, not to be enslaved by over indulgence in wine, to be teachers of fine things, in order that they may train the young women to be devoted to their husbands and their children, to be prudent, to be chaste, to be home-keepers and home-minders, to be kindly, to be obedient to their own husbands, so that no one will have any opportunity to speak evil of the word of God.

It is clear that in the early Church a most honoured and responsible position was given to the older women. E. F. Brown, who was himself a missionary in India and knew much about Anglo-Indian society in the old days, relates a most interesting thing. A friend of his on furlough in England was asked: "What is it you most want in India?" And his surprising answer was: "Grandmothers." In the old days there were few older women in Anglo-Indian society, because those engaged in the administration of the country almost invariably came to the end of their service and returned to Britain while still fairly young; and the lack of older women was a serious want. E. F. Brown goes on to say: "Old women play a very important part in society--how large a part one does not realize, till one witnesses a social life from which they are almost absent. Kindly grandmothers and sweet charitable old maids are the natural advisers of the young of both sexes." The older women to whom the years have brought serenity and sympathy and understanding have a part to play in the life of the Church and of the community which is peculiarly their own.

Here the qualities which characterize them are laid down. Their demeanour must be such as befits those who are engaged in sacred things. As has been said: "They must carry into daily life the demeanour of priestesses in a temple." As Clement of Alexandria had it: "The Christian must live as if all life was a sacred assembly." It is easy to see what a difference it would make to the peace and fellowship of the Church, if it was always remembered that we are engaged in sacred things. Much of the embittered argument and the touchiness and the intolerance which all too frequently characterize church activities would vanish overnight.

They must not spread slanderous stories. It is a curious trait of human nature that most people would rather repeat and hear a malicious tale than one to someone's credit. It is no bad resolution to make up our minds to say nothing at all about people if we cannot find anything good to say.

The older women must teach and train the younger. Sometimes it would seem that the only gift experience gives to some is that of pouring cold water on the plans and dreams of others. It is a Christian duty ever to use experience to guide and encourage, and not to daunt and discourage.

(3) The Younger Women (Titus 2:3-5 Continued)

The younger women are bidden to be devoted to their husbands and their children, to be prudent and chaste, to manage their households well, to be kindly to their servants and to be obedient to their husbands; and the object of such conduct is that no one will be able to speak evil of the word of God.

In this passage there is both something that is temporary and something that is permanent.

In the ancient Greek world the respectable woman lived a completely secluded life. In the house she had her own quarters and seldom left them, not even to sit at meals with the menfolk of the family; and into them came no man except her husband. She never attended any public assemblies or meetings; she seldom appeared on the streets, and, when she did, she never did so alone. In fact it has been said that there was no honourable way in which a Greek woman could make a living. No trade or profession was open to her; and if she tried to earn a living, she was driven to prostitution. If the women of the ancient Church had suddenly burst every limitation which the centuries had imposed upon them, the only result would have been to bring discredit on the Church and cause people to say that Christianity corrupted womanhood. The life laid down here seems narrow and circumscribed, but it is to be read against its background. In that sense this passage is temporary.

But there is also a sense in which it is permanent. It is the simple fact that there is no greater task, responsibility and privilege in this world than to make a home. It may well be that when women are involved in the hundred and one wearing duties which children and a home bring with them, they may say: "If only I could be done with all this, so that I could live a truly religious life." There is in fact nowhere where a truly religious life can better be lived than within the home. As John Keble had it:

"We need not bid, for cloistered cell,

Our neighbour and our work farewell,

Nor strive to wind ourselves too high

For sinful man beneath the sky;

The trivial round, the common task,

Will furnish all we need to ask--

Room to deny ourselves, a road

To bring us daily nearer God."

In the last analysis there can be no greater career than that of homemaking. Many a man, who has set his mark upon the world, has been enabled to do so simply because someone at home loved him and tended him. It is infinitely more important that a mother should be at home to put her children to bed and hear them say their prayers than that she should attend all the public and Church meetings in the world.

(4) The Younger Men (Titus 2:6)

2:6 In the same way urge on the younger men the duty of prudence.

The duty of the younger men is summed up in one sentence, but it is a pregnant one. They are bidden remember the duty of prudence. As we have already seen, the man who is prudent, sophron (Greek #4998), has that quality of mind which keeps life safe. He has the security which comes from having all things under control.

The time of youth is necessarily a time of danger.

(i) In youth the blood runs hotter and the passions speak more commandingly. The tide of life runs strongest in youth and it sometimes threatens to sweep a young person away.

(ii) In youth there are more opportunities for going wrong. Young people are thrown into company where temptation can speak with a most compelling voice. Often they have to study or to work away from home and from the influences which would keep them right. He has not yet taken upon himself the responsibility of a home and a family; he has not yet given hostages to fortune; and he does not yet possess the anchors which hold an older person in the right way through a sheer sense of obligation. In youth there are far more opportunities to make shipwreck of life.

(iii) In youth there is often that confidence which comes from lack of experience. In almost every sphere of life a younger person will be more reckless than his elders, for the simple reason that he has not yet discovered all the things which can go wrong. To take a simple example, he will often drive a motor car much faster simply because he has not yet discovered how easily an accident can take place or on how slender a piece of metal the safety of a car depends. He will often shoulder a responsibility in a much more carefree spirit than an older person, because he has not known the difficulties and has not experienced how easily shipwreck may be made. No one can buy experience; that is something for which only the years can pay. There is a risk, as there is a glory, in being young.

For that very reason, the first thing at which any young person must aim is self-mastery. No one can ever serve others until he has mastered himself. "He who rules his spirit is greater than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32).

Self-discipline is not among the more glamorous of the virtues, but it is the very stuff of life. When the eagerness of youth is buttressed by the solidity of self-mastery, something really great comes into life.

(5) The Christian Teacher (Titus 2:7-8)

2:7-8 And all the time you are doing this you must offer yourself as a pattern of fine conduct; and in your teaching you must display absolute purity of motive, dignity, a sound message which no one could condemn, so that your opponent may be turned to shame, because he can find nothing bad to say about us.

If Titus' teaching is to be effective, it must be backed by the witness of his own life. He is himself to be the demonstration of all that he teaches.

(i) It must be clear that his motives are absolutely pure. The Christian teacher and preacher is always faced with certain temptations. There is always the danger of self-display, the temptation to demonstrate one's own cleverness and to seek to attract notice to oneself rather than to God's message. There is always the temptation to power. The teacher, the preacher, the pastor is always confronted with the temptation to be a dictator. Leader he must be, but dictator never. He will find that men can be led, but that they will never be driven. If there is one danger which confronts the Christian teacher and preacher more than another, it is to set before himself the wrong standards of success. It can often happen that the man who has never been heard of outside his own sphere of work is in God's eyes a far greater success than the man whose name is on every lip.

(ii) He must have dignity. Dignity is not aloofness, or arrogance, or pride; it is the consciousness of having the terrible responsibility of being the ambassador of Christ. Other men may stoop to pettiness; he must be above it. Other men may bear their grudges; he must have no bitterness. Other men may be touchy about their place; he must have a humility which has forgotten that it has a place. Other men may grow irritable or blaze into anger in an argument; he must have a serenity which cannot be provoked. Nothing so injures the cause of Christ as for the leaders of the Church and the pastors of the people to descend to conduct and to words unbefitting an envoy of Christ.

(iii) He must have a sound message. The Christian teacher and preacher must be certain to propagate the truths of the gospel and not his own ideas. There is nothing easier for him than to spend his time on side-issues; he might well have one prayer: "God, give me a sense of proportion." The central things of the faith will last him a lifetime. As soon as he becomes a propagandist either for his own ideas or for some sectional interest, he ceases to be an effective preacher or teacher of the word of God.

The duty laid on Titus is the tremendous task, not of talking to men about Christ, but of showing him to them. It must be true of him as it was of Chaucer's saintly parson:

"But Cristes love, and his apostles twelve

He taught, but first he folwed it him-selve."

The greatest compliment that can be paid a teacher is to say of him: "First he wrought, and then he taught."

(6) The Christian Workman (Titus 2:9-10)

2:9-10 Impress upon slaves the duty of obeying their own masters. Urge them to seek to give satisfaction in every task, not to answer back, not to pilfer, but to display all fidelity with hearty good-will, that they may in all things adorn the teaching which God our Saviour gave to them.

In the early Church the problem of the Christian workman was acute. It was one which could operate in two directions.

If the master was a heathen, the responsibility laid upon the servant was heavy indeed, for it was perhaps only through his conduct that the master could ever come to see what Christianity was. It was the task of the workman to show the master what a Christian could be; and that responsibility still lies upon the Christian workman. A large number of people never willingly darken a Church door; a minister of the Church seldom gets a chance to speak to them. How then is Christianity ever to make contact with them? The only possible way is for a fellow workman to show them what Christianity is. There is a famous story of St. Francis. One day he said to one of his young friars: "Let us go down to the village and preach to the people." So they went. They stopped to talk to this man and to that. They begged a crust at this door and that. Francis stopped to play with the children, and exchanged a greeting with the passers-by. Then they turned to go home. "But father," said the novice, "when do we preach?" "Preach?" smiled Francis. "Every step we took, every word we spoke, every action we did, has been a sermon."

There was another side to the problem. If the master was a Christian, a new temptation came into the life of the Christian workman. He might attempt to trade on his Christianity. He might think that, because he was a Christian, special allowances would be made for him. He might expect to "get away" with things because both he and the master were members of the same Church. It is perfectly possible for a man to trade on his Christianity--and there is no worse advertisement for it than a man who does that.

Paul lists the qualities of the Christian workman.

He is obedient. The Christian is never a man who is above taking orders. His Christianity teaches him how to serve. He is efficient. He is determined to give satisfaction. The Christian workman can never put less than his best into any task that is given him to do. He is respectful. He does not think that his Christianity gives him a special right to be undisciplined. Christianity does not obliterate the necessary lines of authority in the world of industry and of commerce. He is honest. Others may stoop to the petty dishonesties of which the world is full. His hands are clean. He is faithful. His master can rely upon his loyalty.

It may well be that the man who takes his Christianity to his work will run into trouble; but, if he sticks to it, he will end by winning the respect of all men.

E. F. Brown tells of a thing which happened in India. "A Christian servant in India was once sent by his master with a verbal message which he knew to be untrue. He refused to deliver it. Though his master was very angry at the time, he respected the servant all the more afterwards and knew that he could always trust him in his own matters."

The truth is that in the end the world comes to see that the Christian workman is the one most worth having. In one sense, it is hard to be a Christian at our work; in another sense, it is easier than we think, for there is not a master under the sun who is not desperately looking for workmen on whose loyalty and efficiency he can rely.


2:11-14 For the grace of God, which brings salvation to all men, has appeared, schooling us to renounce godlessness and worldly desires for forbidden things, and to live in this world prudently, justly and reverently, because we expectantly await the realization of our blessed hope--I mean the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from the power of all lawlessness, and to purify us as a special people for himself, a people eager for all fine works.

There are few passages in the New Testament which so vividly set out the moral power of the Incarnation as this does. Its whole stress is the miracle of moral change which Jesus Christ can work.

This miracle is repeatedly here expressed in the most interesting and significant way. Isaiah once exhorted his people: "Cease to do evil; learn to do good" (Isaiah 1:16-17). First, there is the negative side of goodness, the giving up of that which is evil and the liberation from that which is low; second, there is its positive side, the acquisition of the shining virtues which mark the Christian life.

First, there is the renunciation of all godlessness and worldly desires. What did Paul mean by worldly desires? Chrysostom said that worldly things are things which do not pass over with us into heaven but are dissolved together with this present world. A man is very short-sighted if he sets all his heart and expends all his labour on things which he must leave behind when he quits this world. But an even simpler interpretation of worldly desires is that they are for things we could not show to God. It is only Christ who can make not only our outward life but also our inward heart fit for God to see.

That was the negative side of the moral power of the incarnation; now comes the positive side. Jesus Christ makes us able to live with the prudence which has everything under perfect control, and which allows no passion or desire more than its proper place; with the justice which enables us to give both to God and to men that which is their due; with the reverence which makes us live in the awareness that this world is nothing other than the temple of God.

The dynamic of this new life is the expectation of the coming of Jesus Christ. When a royal visit is expected, everything is cleansed and decorated, and made fit for the royal eye to see. The Christian is the man who is always prepared for the coming of the King of kings.

Finally Paul goes on to sum up what Jesus Christ has done, and once again he does it first negatively and then positively.

Jesus has redeemed us from the power of lawlessness, that power which makes us sin.

Jesus can purify us until we are fit to be the special people of God. The word we have translated special (periousios, Greek #4041) is interesting. It means reserved for; and it was specially used for that part of the spoils of a battle or a campaign which the king who had conquered set apart specially for himself. Through the work of Jesus Christ, the Christian becomes fit to be the special possession of God.

The moral power of the Incarnation is a tremendous thought. Christ not only liberated us from the penalty of past sin; he can enable us to live the perfect life within this world of space and time; and he can so cleanse us that we become fit in the life to come to be the special possession of God.


2:15 Let these things be the substance of your message. Deal out encouragement and rebuke with all the authority which your royal commission confers upon you. Let no one regard your authority as cheap.

Here Paul succinctly lays before Titus the threefold task of the Christian preacher, teacher and leader.

It is a task of proclamation. There is a message to be proclaimed. There are some things about which argument is not possible and on which discussion is not relevant. There are times when he must say: "Thus saith the Lord."

It is a task of encouragement. Any preacher who reduces his audience to bleak despair has failed in his task. Men must be convicted of their sin, not that they may feel that their case is hopeless, but that they may be led to the grace which is greater than all their sin.

It is a task of conviction. The eyes of the sinner must be opened to his sin; the mind of the misguided must be led to realize its mistake; the heart of the heedless must be stabbed awake. The Christian message is no opiate to send men to sleep; it is rather the blinding light which shows men themselves as they are and God as he is.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Titus 2:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

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