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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Titus 2



Verses 1-15

HENCE IN THE opening verses of chapter 2 the Apostle turns the thoughts of Titus away from the bishops to those whom we may call the rank and file of the church. There were more bishops than one in each of these early assemblies yet not all elder men were bishops. Consequently there were found aged men who could be addressed as a class by themselves, as also aged women, young women and young men. Instructions suitable to their varying conditions are given as to each class. It is striking how the words “sound” and “sober” occur in these verses. Each is found three times, though the words in the original may not be in each case precisely the same. It is worthy of note however that the word, occurring again and again, translated “sound” is one from which we get the word “hygienic” which is so often upon people’s lips today. It means healthful. Sound doctrine is in very deed doctrine which makes for spiritual health.

In verse Titus 2:9 he turns to servants. Any kind of service would be like a galling yoke on the neck of one who was an evil wild beast by nature. Yet here were some of these converted. In their old wild beast days they had served under the lash, as a wild beast serves: they answered again and contradicted as much as they dared, they robbed their masters whenever an opportunity offered. Now they are to be obedient to their masters, acting in an acceptable way in all things, strewing all good fidelity, the effect of which would be the adorning of the doctrine of God our Saviour in everything. The doctrine is beautiful in itself, so beautiful, it might be thought, that it is impossible to adorn it further. Yet it may be. When the doctrine of God is exemplified and carried into effect in the beautiful life of a poor slave, who before his conversion was a perfect terror of a man, it is adorned indeed, and made beautiful in the eyes even of careless onlookers.

Now, what can produce such an effect in our lives? What produced it in the lives of some of the degraded Cretians? Nothing but the grace of God. Of that grace and its appearing verse Titus 2:11 speaks. The law was given by Moses and was made known in the small circle of Israel’s race. The grace of God has risen like the sun in the heavens to shine upon all men. Into its shining we have come, for which we shall bless God for ever and ever.

The marginal reading of verse Titus 2:11, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men, hath appeared,” is to be preferred to the text. The point is that now there is salvation for all, and that the grace of God which has brought that world-wide salvation teaches us how to live, while we await the appearing of the glory. The passage is not as clear as it might be in our Authorized Version inasmuch as in verse Titus 2:13 the words “of the glory” are turned into an adjective, “glorious.” There is this striking connection and contrast between the grace which has appeared and the glory which is yet to appear.

The grace of God has shone forth in all its splendour in Christ and His redeeming work. In its scope and bearing it is not confined to Israel, as was the law, but it embraces all; though in its application it is of course limited to all that believe. Hence verse Titus 2:12 begins, “Teaching us.” Not teaching all but us, who believe. Those who receive this salvation that grace has brought are thereby introduced into the school that grace has instituted.

How often is this great fact overlooked to much harm and loss. Why, there are those who refuse and denounce the fact of the eternal security of the true believer because they think it opens the door to all kinds of loose living! They imagine that if once we were assured of an eternal salvation restraint would be gone; as though the only effective restraint is fear of the whip—the whip of eternal damnation. Grace is far more powerful in its effects than fear, even that fear that was engendered by the law of Moses.

The law, we read, was “weak through the flesh” (Romans 8:3) and it failed altogether to restrain its workings. Every true believer is however a subject of the new birth and possesses therefore a new nature. The flesh, the old nature, still remains within him, yet it is a judged and condemned thing and upon it grace lays a restraining hand whilst fostering all that is of the new nature. “Ungodliness and worldly lusts” are the natural expression of the old nature, and grace teaches us to deny all these. The new nature expresses itself in sobriety, righteousness and godliness, and the teaching of grace is that these things should characterize us.

There was of course teaching of a sort under the law, for the Jew had “the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law” (Romans 2:20). It consisted in the clear laying down of what was right and what was wrong. The law was like a schoolmaster who impartially hands round a code of rules, very peremptory, very clear and well printed, yet without offering to his scholars the least assistance in putting those rules into effect. Grace teaches in a far more effectual way. There is of course the same clearness about all that it enjoins and the standard set is even higher than that which the law demanded, but there is this in addition, it works IN us. When Paul preached the grace of God to the Thessalonians and they received his message in its true character as the Word of God he was able to say that it “effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

That is the way of grace. It works in us, it subdues us. It not only sets a lesson-book before our eyes but bit by bit produces within us the very things that the lesson-book indicates. This is the case of course where the grace of God is really received. Where it is not really received men may do all kinds of things under cover of it, “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” as Jude puts it in his fourth verse. But this is because they are ungodly men and not true Christians.

Grace teaches us to live soberly, that is, “with self-restraint and consideration.” It thus puts us each right in regard to ourselves. It teaches us to live righteously, that is, in a way that is right in regard to our fellows. It teaches us to live godly, that is, to give God His right place in our lives. It puts us right in regard to God and man and self, and it sets us in expectation of the appearing of the glory.

Here is a converted Cretian. This wild beast of a man is thoroughly tamed and now plods on serving his master in a sober, righteous and godly way. But suppose he had no prospect! Life to him might then wear a very drab aspect. But grace teaches him to lift up his eyes and look for the approaching glory; the glory being that of “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The glory will be the fruition of all the hopes that grace has awakened. It may well be that by, “the blessed hope” the Apostle indicated the coming of the Lord for His saints, of which he writes to the

Thessalonians in his first epistle (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), and if so we have both His coming for and His coming with His saints set before us as our hope in verse 13.

The One who is soon to appear is the One who gave Himself for us upon the cross, and verse Titus 2:14 very strikingly states one of the great objects He had before Him in giving Himself. It was in order to redeem us from the “iniquity” or “lawlessness” under which we had fallen, so that being thoroughly cleansed we might be a people for His own special possession and filled with zeal for good works. It is not enough that we should be delivered from the practice of evil; we are to be keen in the pursuit of what is good, and that not only in a theoretical but also a practical way. We are not only to do good works but also to do them with zeal. How strikingly will all this “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.” Once a liar, an evil wild beast, a lazy glutton: now, redeemed from lawlessness, purified before God, a zealot for good works. What a transformation!


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Titus 2:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 23rd, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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