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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Titus 2

 

 

Verses 1-6

Chapter 21

THE MEANING AND VALUE OF SOBER-MINDEDNESS-THE USE AND ABUSE OF RELIGIOUS EMOTION. - Titus 2:1-6

Is marked contrast to the seducing teachers who are described in the concluding verses of the first chapter, Titus is charged to teach that which is right. "But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine." What they taught was to the last degree unwholesome, full of senseless frivolities and baseless distinctions respecting meats and drinks, times and seasons. Such things were fatal alike to sound and robust faith and to all moral earnestness. Belief was frittered away in a credulous attention to "Jewish fables," and character was depraved by a weak punctiliousness about fanciful details. As in the Pharisees, whom Jesus Christ denounced, scrupulosity about trifles led to neglect of "the weightier matters of the law." But in these "vain talkers and deceivers," whom Titus had to oppose, the trifles by which they distracted their hearers from matters of the highest importance were not even the minor duties enjoined by the Law or the Gospel: they were mere "commandments of men." In opposition to calamitous teaching of this kind, Titus is to insist upon what is healthy and sound.

All classes are to be attended to, and the exhortations specially needed are to be given to each: to the older men and older women, the younger women and the younger men, to whom Titus is to show himself an example: and finally to slaves, for salvation is offered to all men, and is for no privileged class.

It will be observed that the sound teaching which Titus is charged to give to the different sections of his flock relates almost exclusively to conduct. There is scarcely a hint in the whole of this chapter that can be supposed to have reference to errors of doctrine. In quite a general way the old men are to be exhorted to be "sound in faith" as well as in love and patience: but otherwise all the instruction to be given to old and young, male and female, bond and free, relates to conduct in thought, word, and deed.

Nor is there any hint that the "vain talkers and deceivers" contradicted (otherwise than by an unholy life) the moral precepts which the Apostle here tells his delegate to communicate abundantly to his flock. We are not to suppose that these mischievous teachers taught people that there was no harm in intemperance, or slander, or unchastity, or theft. The mischief which they did consisted in their telling people to devote their attention to things that were morally unprofitable, while no care was taken to secure attention to those things the observance of which was vital. On the contrary, the emphasis laid upon silly superstitions led people to suppose that, when these had been attended to, all duties had been fulfilled; and a careless, godless life was the result. Thus whole households were subverted by men who made religion a trade. This disastrous state of things is to be remedied by pointing out and insisting upon the observances which are of real importance for the spiritual life. The fatal lowering of moral tone, which the morbid and fanciful teaching of these seducers produced, is to be counteracted by the bracing effects of wholesome moral teaching.

No one can read through the indications which the Apostle gives of what he means by "wholesome teaching," without perceiving the key-note which rings through it all; -sobriety or sober-mindedness. The aged men are to be taught to be "temperate, grave, sober-minded." The aged women to be "reverent in demeanor," "that they may school the young women to be sober-minded." The younger men are to be "exhorted to be sober-minded." And in giving the reason for all this he points out God’s purpose in His revelation to mankind; "to the intent that, denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly."

Now, what is the precise meaning of this sobriety or sober-mindedness, on which St. Paul insists so strongly as a duty to be impressed upon men and women both old and young?

The words used in the original Greek ( σωφρων, σωφρονιζειν σωφρονειν) signify according to their derivation, "of sound mind," "to make of sound mind," and "to be of sound mind"; and the quality which they indicate is that mens sana or healthiness of mental constitution which shows itself in discreet and prudent conduct, and especially in self-control. This latter meaning is specially predominant in Attic writers.

Thus Plato defines it as "a kind of order and a controlling of certain pleasures and desires, as is shown by the saying that a man is ‘master of himself’ an expression which seems to mean that in the man’s soul there are two elements, a better and a worse, and when the better controls the worse, then he is said to be master of himself" ("Rep.," IV p. 431). Similarly, Aristotle tells us that the lowest bodily pleasures are the sphere in which this virtue of self-control is specially displayed; that is, those bodily pleasures which the other animals share with man, and which are consequently shown to be slavish and bestial, viz., the pleasures of touch and taste ("Eth. N.," III 10:4, 9; "Rhet.," I 9:9). And throughout the best Attic writers the vices to which self-control is opposed are those which imply immoderate indulgence in sensual pleasures. It is a virtue which has a very prominent place in heathen moral philosophy. It is one of the most obvious of virtues. It is manifest that in order to be a virtuous man at all one must at least have control over one’s lowest appetites. And to a heathen it is one of the most impressive of virtues. All of us have experience of the difficulty of regulating our passions; and to those who know nothing of Christian teaching or of the grace of God the difficulty is increased tenfold. Hence to the savage the ascetic seems to be almost superhuman; and even in the cultivated pagan abstinence from bodily pleasure and steadfast, resistance of sensual temptation excite wonder and admiration. The beautiful panegyric of Socrates put into the mouth of Alcibiades in the "Symposium" of Plato illustrates this feeling: and Euripides styles such virtue as the "noblest gift of the gods." But when this virtue becomes illuminated by the Gospel its meaning is intensified. The "sober-mindedness" or "sobriety" of the New Testament is something more than the "self-control" or "temperance" of Plato and Aristotle. Its sphere is not confined to the lowest sensual enjoyments. Self-mastery with regard to such things is still included; but other things are included also. It is that power over ourselves which keeps under control, not only bodily impulses, but spiritual impulses also. There is a spiritual frenzy analogous to physical madness, and there are spiritual self-indulgences analogous to bodily intemperance. For these things also self-mastery is needed.

St. Paul in writing to the Corinthians sums up his own life under the two conditions of being out of his mind and in his right mind. His opponents at Corinth, like Festus, [Acts 26:24] accused him of being mad. He is quite ready to admit that at times he has been in a condition which, if they like, they may call madness. But that is no affair of theirs. Of his sanity and sobriety at other times there can be no question; and his conduct before these times of sobriety is of importance to them. "For whether we went out of our mind" ( εξεστημεν), "it was for God, or are in our right mind" ( σωφρονουμεν) ("are of sober mind," R.V.), "it is for you": [2 Corinthians 5:13] The Apostle "went out of his mind," as his enemies chose to say, at his conversion on the road to Damascus, when a special revelation of Jesus Christ was granted to him: and to this phase of his existence belonged his visions, [Acts 16:9; Acts 27:23] ecstasies and revelations, [2 Corinthians 12:1-7] and his "speaking with tongues." [1 Corinthians 14:18] And he was "in his right mind" in all the great tact, and sagacity, and self-denial, which he exhibited for the well-being of his converts.

It was absolutely necessary that the latter condition of mind should be the predominant one, and should control the other; that the ecstasy should be exceptional and the sober-mindedness habitual, and that the sober-mindedness should not be turned into self-exaltation by the remembrance of the ecstasy. There was so much danger of this evil in St. Paul’s case, owing to "the exceeding greatness of the revelations" granted to him, that the special discipline of the "stake for the flesh" was given to him to counteract the temptation; for it was in the flesh, that is the sinful principle of his nature, that the tendency to pride himself on his extraordinary spiritual experiences was found.

St. Paul’s case was, no doubt, highly exceptional; but in degree, rather than in kind. Very many of his converts had similar, although less sublime, and perhaps less frequent, experiences. Spiritual gifts of a supernatural kind had been bestowed in great abundance upon many of the members of the Church of Corinth, [1 Corinthians 12:7-10] and were the occasion of some of the grievous disorders which were found there, because they were not always accompanied by sobriety, but were allowed to become incitements to license and spiritual pride. Few things show more plainly the necessity for self-control and sober-mindedness, when men are under the influence of strong religious emotion, than the state of things existing among the Corinthian converts, as indicated in St. Paul’s two letters to them. They had been guilty of two errors. First, they had formed an exaggerated estimate of some of the gifts bestowed upon them, especially of the mysterious power of speaking with tongues. And, secondly, they had supposed that persons so highly gifted as themselves were above, not only ordinary precautions, but ordinary principles. Instead of seeing that such special privileges required them to be specially on their guard, they considered that they stood in no need of vigilance, and might safely disregard custom, and common decency, and even principles of morality. Previous to their conversion they had been idolaters, and therefore had had no experience of spiritual gifts and manifestations. Consequently, when the experience came, they were thrown off their balance, and knew neither how to estimate these gifts, nor how to prevent "what should have been to their wealth, becoming to them an occasion of falling."

It might be thought that the conditions of the Christian life of St. Paul and of his converts were too unlike our own to yield any clear lesson in this respect. We have not been converted to Christianity from either Judaism or paganism; and we have received no special revelations or extraordinary spiritual gifts. But this is not so. Our religious life, like theirs, has its two different phases; its times of excitement, and its times of freedom from excitement. We no longer work miracles, or speak with tongues; but we have our exceptional moments of impassioned feelings, and high-strung aspirations, and sublime thoughts; and we are just as liable as the Corinthians were to plume ourselves upon them, to rest in them, and to think that, because we have them, all must necessarily be well with us. We cannot too often remind ourselves that such things are not religion, and are not even the material out of which religion is made. They are the scaffolding and appliances, rather than the formed edifice or the unformed stones and timber. They supply helps and motive power. They are intended to carry us over difficulties and drudgery; and hence are more common in the earlier stages of a Christian’s career than in the time of maturity, and at crises when the career has been interrupted, than when it is progressing with steadfast regularity. Conversion to Christianity in the case of a pagan, and the realization of what Christianity really means in the case of a nominal Christian, involve pain and depression: and the attempt to turn again and repent after grievous sin involves pain and depression. Strong religious emotion helps us to get the better of these, and may, if we use it aright, give us an impetus in the right direction. But, from the very nature of things, it cannot continue, and it is not desirable that it should. It will soon run its course, and we shall be left to go on our way with our ordinary resources. And our duty then is twofold; - first, not to repine at its withdrawal; "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord": and, secondly, to take care that it does not evaporate in empty self-complacency, but is translated into action. Impassioned feeling, that leads on to conduct, strengthens character; impassioned feeling, that ends with itself, weakens it. If religious excitement is not to do us more harm than good, by leaving us more insensible to spiritual influences than we were before, it must be accompanied by the sobriety which refuses to be exalted by such an experience, and which, in making use of it, controls it. And, moreover, these warm feelings, and enthusiastic aspirations after what is good must lead on to calm and steadfast performance of what is good. One act of real self-denial, one genuine sacrifice of pleasure to duty, is worth hours of religious emotion and thousands of pious thoughts.

But sober-mindedness will not only keep us from being pleased with ourselves for our impassioned feelings about spiritual things, and help us to turn them to good account; it will also preserve us from what is even worse than allowing them to pass away without result, viz., talking about them. To feel warmly and to do nothing is to waste motive power: it leads to hardening of the heart against good influences in the future. To feel warmly and talk about it is to abuse motive power: it leads to puffing up of the heart in spiritual pride and to blinding the inward eye with self-complacency. And this is the fatal mistake which is made by some religious teachers at the present day. Strong feelings are excited in those whom they wish to lead from a life of sin to a life of holiness. Sorrow for the past and a desire for better things are aroused, and the sinner is thrown into a condition of violent distress and expectation. And then, instead of being gently led on to work out his salvation in fear and trembling, the penitent is encouraged to seek excitement again and again, and to attempt to produce it in others, by constant rehearsing of his own religious experiences. What should have been a secret between himself and his Savior, or at most shared only with some wise adviser, is thrown out publicly to the whole world, to the degradation both of what is told and of the character of him who tells it.

The error of mistaking religious feeling for holiness, and good thoughts for good conduct, is a very common one; and it is confined to neither sex and to no period of life. Men as well as women, and the old as well as the young, need to be on their guard against it. And therefore the Apostle urges Titus to exhort all alike to be sober-minded. There are times when to be agitated about religion, and have warm feelings either of sorrow or joy, is natural and right. When one is first roused to desire a life of holiness; when one is conscience-stricken at having fallen into some grievous sin; when one is bowed down under the weight of some great private or public calamity, or elated by the vivid appreciation of some great private or public blessing. At all such seasons it is reasonable and proper that we should experience strong religious emotion. Not to do so would be a sign of insensibility and deadness of heart. But do not let us suppose that the presence of such feelings marks us out as specially religious or spiritually gifted people. They do nothing of the kind. They merely prove that we are not utterly dead to spiritual influences. Whether we are the better or the worse for such feelings, depends upon the use that we make of them. And do not let us expect that these emotions will be permanent, which will certainly not be the case, or that they will frequently return, which will probably not be the case. Above all let us not be discouraged if they become more and more rare, as time goes on. They ought to become more rare; for they are sure to become less frequent as we advance in holiness. In the steady growth and natural development of the spiritual life there is not much need of them or room for them. They have done their work when they have carried us over the breakers, which troubled our early efforts, into the less excited waters of consistent obedience. And to be able to progress without them is a surer token of God’s grace than to have them. To continue steadfast in our obedience, without the luxury of warm feelings and impassioned devotion, is more pleasing m His sight than all the intense longings to be freed from sin, and all the passionate supplications for increased holiness that we have ever felt and offered. The test of fellowship with God is not warmth of devotion, but holiness of life. "Hereby know we that we know Him, if we keep His commandments."


Verse 9-10

Chapter 22

THE MORAL CONDITION OF SLAVES-THEIR ADORNMENT OF THE DOCTRINES OF GOD. - Titus 2:9-10

SOMETHING has already been said in a previous discourse on 1 Timothy 6:1-2 respecting the institution of slavery in the Roman Empire in the first age of Christianity. It was not only unchristian, but inhuman; and it was so widespread that the slaves outnumbered the freemen. Nevertheless the Apostles and their successors taught neither to the slaves that they ought to resist a dominion which was immoral both in effect and in origin, nor to the masters that as Christians they were bound to set their servants free. Christianity did indeed labor for the abolition of slavery, but by quite other methods. It taught masters and slaves alike that all men have a common Divine parentage and a common Divine redemption, and consequently are equally bound to show brotherly love and equally endowed with spiritual freedom. It showed that the slave and his master are alike children of God, and as such free; and alike servants of Jesus Christ, and as such bondmen, -bondmen in that service which is the only true freedom. And thus very slowly, but surely, Christianity disintegrated and dispersed those unwholesome conditions and false ideas which made slavery to be everywhere possible, and to seem to most men to be necessary. And wherever these conditions and ideas were swept away, slavery gradually died out or was formally abolished.

As the number of slaves in the first century was so enormous, it was only in accordance with human probability that many of the first converts to Christianity belonged to this class; all the more so, as Christianity, like most great movements, began with the lower orders and thence spread upwards. Among the better class of slaves, that is those who were not so degraded as to be insensible of their own degradation, the gospel spread freely. It offered them just what they needed, and the lack of which had turned their life into one great despair. It gave them something to hope for and something to live for their condition in the world was both socially and morally deplorable. Socially they had no rights beyond what their lord chose to allow them. They were ranked with the brutes, and were in a worse condition than any brutes, for they were capable of wrongs and sufferings of which the brutes are incapable or insensible. And St. Chrysostom in commenting on this passage points out how inevitable it was that the moral character of slaves should as a rule be bad. They have no motive for trying to be good, and very little opportunity of learning what is right. Every one, slaves included, admits that as a race they are passionate, intractable, and indisposed to virtue, not because God has made them so, but from bad education and the neglect of their masters. The masters care nothing about their slaves’ morals, except so far as their vices are likely to interfere with their masters’ pleasures or interests. Hence the slaves, having no one to care for them, naturally sink into an abyss of wickedness. Their chief aim is to avoid, not crime, but being found out. For if free men, able to select their own society, and with many other advantages of education and home life, find it difficult to avoid the contact and contaminating influence of the vicious, what can one expect from those who have none of these advantages, and have no possibility of escape from degrading surroundings? They are never taught to respect themselves; they have no experience of persons who do respect themselves; and they never receive any respect from either their superiors or their fellows. How can virtue or self-respect be learnt in such a school? "For all these reasons it is a difficult and surprising thing that there should ever be a good slave." And yet this is the class which St. Paul singles out as being able in a peculiar way to "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things."

"To adorn the doctrine of God." How is the doctrine of God to be adorned? And how are slaves capable of adorning it?

"The doctrine of God" is that which He teaches, which He has revealed for our instruction. It is His revelation of Himself. He is the author of it, the giver of it, and the subject of it. He is also its end or purpose. It is granted in order that men may know Him, and love Him, and be brought home to Him. All these facts are a guarantee to us of its importance and its security. It comes from One Who is infinitely great and infinitely true. And yet it is capable of being adorned by those to whom it is given.

There is nothing paradoxical in this. It is precisely those things which in themselves are good and beautiful that we consider capable of adornment and worthy of it. To add ornament to an object that is intrinsically vile or hideous, does but augment the existing bad qualities by adding to them a glaring incongruity. Baseness, which might otherwise have escaped notice, becomes conspicuous and grotesque. No person of good taste and good sense would waste and degrade ornament by bestowing it upon an unworthy object. The very fact, therefore, that adornment is attempted proves that those who make the attempt consider the object to be adorned an object worthy of honor and capable of receiving it. Thus adornment is a form of homage: it is the tribute which the discerning pay to beauty.

But adornment has its relations not only to those who bestow, but to those also who receive it. It is a reflection of the mind of the giver; but it has also an influence on the recipient. And, first, it makes that which is adorned more conspicuous and better known. A picture in a frame is more likely to be looked at than one that is unframed. An ornamented building attracts more attention than a plain one. A king in his royal robes is more easily recognized as such than one in ordinary clothing. Adornment, therefore, is an advertisement of merit: it makes the adorned object more readily perceived and more widely appreciated. And, secondly, if it is well chosen and well bestowed, it augments the merit of that which it adorns. That which was fair before is made still fairer by suitable ornament. The beautiful painting is still more beautiful in a worthy frame. Noble ornament increases the dignity of a noble structure. And a person of royal presence becomes still more regal when royally arrayed. Adornment, therefore, is not only an advertisement of beauty, it is also a real enhancement of it.

All these particulars hold good with regard to the adornment of the doctrine of God. By trying to adorn it and make it more beautiful and more attractive, we show our respect for it; we pay our tribute of homage and admiration. We show to all the world that we think it estimable and worthy of attention and honor. And by so doing we make the doctrine of God better known: we bring it under the notice of others who might otherwise have overlooked it: we force it upon their attention. Thus, without consciously intending to be anything of the kind, we become evangelists: we proclaim to those among whom we live that we have received a Gospel that satisfies us. Moreover, the doctrine which we thus adorn becomes really more beautiful in consequence. Teaching which nobody admires, which nobody accepts-teaching which teaches nobody is a poor thing. It may be true, it may have great capabilities; but for the present it is as useless as a book in the hands of an illiterate savage, and as valueless as treasures lying at the bottom of the sea. Our acceptance of the doctrine of God, and our efforts to adorn it, bring out its inherent life and develop its natural value, and every additional person who joins us in doing this is an augmentation of its powers. It is within our power not only to honor and make better known, but also to enhance, the beauty of the doctrine of God.

But slaves, -and such slaves as were found: throughout the Roman Empire in St. Paul’s day, -what have they to do with the adornment of the doctrine of God? Why is this duty of making the Gospel more beautiful specially mentioned in connection with them? That the aristocracy of the Empire, its magistrates, its senators, its commanders, -supposing that any of them could be induced to embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, - should be charged to adorn the doctrine which they had accepted, would be intelligible. Their acceptance of it would be a tribute to its dignity. Their loyalty to it would be a proclamation of its merits. Their accession to its ranks would be a real augmentation of its powers of attraction. But almost the reverse of all this would seem to be the truth in the case of slaves. Their tastes were so low, their moral judgment so debased, that for a religion to have found a welcome among slaves would hardly be a recommendation of it to respectable people. And what opportunities had slaves, regarded as they were as the very outcasts of society, of making the Gospel better known or more attractive?

So many a person, and especially many a slave, might have argued in St. Paul’s hearing; and not altogether without reason and support from experience. The fact that Christianity was a religion acceptable to slaves and the associates of slaves was from very early times one of the objections made against it by the heathen, and one of the circumstances which prejudiced men of culture and refinement against it. It was one of the many bitter reproaches that Celsus brought against Christianity, that it laid itself out to catch slaves, women, and children, in short the immoral, the unintellectual, and the ignorant classes. And we need not suppose that this was merely a spiteful taunt: it represented a deep-seated and not altogether unreasonable prejudice. Seeing how many religions there were at that time which owed much of their success to the fact that they pandered to the vices, while they presumed upon the folly and ignorance of mankind, it was not an unjustifiable presumption that a new faith which won many adherents in the most degraded and vicious class of society, was itself a degrading and corrupting superstition.

Yet St. Paul knew what he was about when he urged Titus to commit the "adorning of the doctrine of God" in a special manner to slaves: and experience has proved the soundness of his judgment. If the mere fact that many slaves accepted the faith could not do a great deal to recommend the power and beauty of the Gospel, the Christian lives, which they thenceforward led, could. It was a strong argument a fortiori. The worse the unconverted sinner, the more marvelous his thorough conversion.

There must be something in a religion which out of such unpromising material as slaves could make obedient, gentle, honest, sober, and chaste men and women. As Chrysostom puts it, when it was seen that Christianity, by giving a settled principle of sufficient power to counterbalance the pleasures of sin, was able to impose a restraint upon a class so self-willed, and render them singularly well-behaved, then their masters, however unreasonable they might be, were likely to form a high opinion of the doctrines which accomplished this. So that it is neither by chance, nor without reason, that the Apostle singles out this class of men: since, the more wicked they are, the more admirable is the power of that preaching which reforms them. And St. Chrysostom goes on to point out that the way in which slaves are to endeavor to adorn the doctrine of God is by cultivating precisely those virtues which contribute most to their master’s comfort and interest, -submissiveness, gentleness, meekness, honesty, truthfulness, and a faithful discharge of all duties. What a testimony conduct of this kind would be to the power and beauty of the Gospel; and a testimony all the more powerful in the eyes of those masters who became conscious that these despised Christian slaves were living better lives than their owners! The passionate man, who found his slave always gentle and submissive; the inhuman and ferocious man, who found his slave always meek and respectful; the fraudulent man of business, who noticed that his slave never pilfered or told lies; the sensualist, who observed that his slave was never intemperate and always shocked at immodesty; - all these, even if they were not induced to become converts to the new faith, or even to take much trouble to understand it, would at least at times feel something of respect, if not of awe and reverence, for a creed which produced such results. Where did their slaves learn these lofty principles? Whence did they derive the power to live up to them?

The cases in which masters and mistresses were converted through the conduct of their own slaves were probably by no means rare. It was by the gradual influence of numerous Christian lives, rather than by organized missionary effort, that the Gospel spread during the first ages of the Church; and nowhere would this gradual influence make itself more strongly and permanently felt than in the family and household. Some slaves, then, like some domestic servants now, stood in very close relations with their masters and mistresses; and the opportunities of "adorning the doctrine of God" would in such cases be frequent and great. Origen implies that it was no uncommon thing for families to be converted through the instrumentality of the slaves (Migne, "Series Graeca," 11:426, 483). One of the grievous moral defects of that most immoral age was the low view taken of the position of women in society. Even married women were treated with but scant respect. And as the marriage tie was very commonly regarded as an irksome restraint, the condition of most women, even among the free-born, was degraded in the extreme. They were scarcely ever looked upon as the social equals and the necessary complement of the other sex; and, when not required to minister to the comforts and pleasures of the men, were often left to the society of slaves. Untold evil was the natural result; but, as Christianity spread, much good came out of the evil. Christian slaves sometimes made use of this state of things to interest their mistresses in the teaching of the Gospel; and when the mistress was converted, other conversions in the household became much more probable. Another grievous blot on the domestic life of the time was the want of parental affection. Fathers had scarcely any sense of responsibility towards their children, especially as regards their moral training. Their education generally was left almost entirely to slaves, from whom they learnt some accomplishments and many vices. They too often became adepts in wickedness before they had ceased to be children. But here again through the instrumentality of the Gospel good was brought out of this evil also. When the slaves, who had the care and the training of the children, were Christians, the morals of the children were carefully guarded; and in many cases the children, when they came to years of discretion, embraced Christianity.

Nor were these the only ways in which the most degraded and despised class in the society of that age were able to "adorn the doctrine of God." Slaves were not only an ornament to the faith by their lives; they adorned it also by their deaths. Not a few slaves won the martyr’s crown. Those who have read that most precious relic of early Christian literature, the letter of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne to the Churches of Asia Minor and Phrygia, will ‘not need to be reminded of the martyrdom of the slave Blandina with her mistress in the terrible persecution in Gaul under Marcus Aurelius in the year 177. Eusebius has preserved the greater portion of the letter at the beginning of the fifth book of his "Ecclesiastical History." Let all who can do so read it, if not in the original Greek, at least in a translation. It is an authentic and priceless account of Christian fortitude..

What slaves could do then we all of us can do now. We can prove to all for whom and with whom we work that we really do believe and endeavor to live up to the faith that we profess. By the lives we lead we can show to all who know anything of us that we are loyal to Christ. By avoiding offence in word or in deed, and by welcoming opportunities of doing good to others, we can make His principles better known. And by doing all this brightly and cheerfully, without ostentation or affectation or moroseness, we can make His principles attractive. Thus we also can "adorn the doctrine of God in all things."

"In all things." That all-embracing addition to the Apostolic injunction must not be lost sight of. There is no duty so humble, no occupation so trifling, that it cannot be made into an opportunity for adorning our religion. "Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God". [1 Corinthians 10:31]


Verses 11-15

Chapter 23

HOPE AS A MOTIVE POWER-THE PRESENT HOPES OF CHRISTIANS. - Titus 2:11-15

THERE are not many passages in the Pastoral Epistles which treat so plainly as this does of doctrine. As a rule St. Paul assumes that his delegates, Timothy and Titus, are well instructed (as he knew they were) in the details of the Christian faith, and he does not stay even to remind them of what he had frequently taught to them and to others in their presence. The purpose of the Epistles is to give practical rather than doctrinal instruction; to teach Timothy and Titus how to shape their own conduct, and what kind of conduct they are chiefly to insist upon in the different classes of Christians committed to their charge. Here, however, and in the next chapter, we have marked exceptions to this method. Yet even here the exception is more apparent than real; for the doctrinal statements are introduced, not as truths to be recognized and believed (it is taken for granted that they are recognized and believed), but as the basis of the practical exhortations which have just been given. It is because these great truths have been revealed, because life is so real and so important, and because eternity is so certain, that Titus is to exert all his influence to produce the best kind of conduct in his flock, whether men or women, old or young, bond or free.

The passage before us might almost serve as a summary of St. Paul’s teaching. In it he once more insists upon the inseparable connection between creed and character, doctrine and life, and intimates the close relations between the past, the present, and the future, in the Christian scheme of salvation. There are certain facts in the past, which must be believed; and there is a kind of life in the present which must be lived; and there are things in store for us in the future, which must be looked for. Thus the three great virtues of faith, charity, and hope are inculcated. Two Epiphanies or appearances of Jesus Christ in this world are stated as the two great limits of the Christian dispensation. There is the Epiphany of grace, when the Christ appeared in humility, bringing salvation and instruction to all men; and there is the Epiphany of glory, when He will appear again in power, that He may claim as His own possession the people whom He has redeemed. And between these two there is the Christian life with its "blessed hope," the hope of the Lord’s return in glory to complete the kingdom which His first Advent began.

Most of us make far too little of this "blessed hope." It is of incalculable value; first, as a test of our own sincerity and reality; and, secondly, as a source of strength to carry us over the difficulties and disappointments which beset our daily course.

There is perhaps no more certain test of a Christian’s earnestness than the question whether he does, or does not, look forward with hope and longing for Christ’s return. Some men have seriously persuaded themselves that there is no such thing either to hope for or to dread. Others prefer not to think about it; they know that doubts have been entertained on the subject, and as the topic is not a pleasant one to them, they dismiss it as much as possible from their minds, with the wish that the doubts about there being any return of Christ to judgment may be well-founded; for their own lives are such that they have every reason to desire that there may be no judgment. Others again, who on the whole are trying to lead Christian lives, nevertheless so far share the feelings of the godless, in that the thought of Christ’s return (of the certainty of which they are fully persuaded) inspires them with fear rather than with joy. This is especially the case with those who are kept in the right way much more by the fear of hell than by the love of God, or even the hope of heaven. They believe and tremble. They believe in God’s truth and justice much more than in His love and mercy. He is to them a Master and Lord to be obeyed and feared, much more than a God and Father to be adored and loved. Consequently their work is half-hearted, and their life servile, as must always he the case with those whose chief motive is fear of punishment. Hence they share the terrors of the wicked, while they lose their share of the joys of the righteous. They are too much afraid to find any real pleasure either in sin or in good works. To have sinned fills them with terror at the thought of inevitable punishment; and to have done what is right fills them with no joy, because they have so little love and so little hope.

Those who find from experience that the thought of Christ’s return in glory is one on which they seldom dwell, even if it be not positively unwelcome, may be sure that there is something defective in their life. Either they are conscious of shortcomings which they make little or no attempt to correct, the recollection of which becomes intolerable when confronted with the thought of the day of judgment (and this shows that there is a great lack of earnestness in their religious life); or they are being content with low motives for avoiding iniquity and striving after righteousness, and thus are losing a real source of strength to help them in their efforts. No doubt there are persons over whom high motives have little influence, and can have but little influence, because they are as yet unable to appreciate them. But no one in watching over either his own soul or the souls of others can afford to be content with such a state of things. Childish things must be put away when they cease to be appropriate. As the character develops under the influence of lower motives, higher motives begin at times to make themselves felt; and these must gradually be substituted for the others. And when they do make themselves felt, high motives are much more powerful than low ones; which is a further reason for appealing to them rather than to the others. Not only is a man who is capable of being moved, both by the fear of hell and by the love of God, more influenced by the love than by the fear, but love has more power over his will than fear has over the will of one who cannot be influenced by love.

All this tends to show how much is lost by those who make no effort to cultivate in their minds a feeling of joy at the thought of "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." They lose a great source of strength by neglecting to cultivate what would be a powerful motive to help them on the right way. Nor does the loss end here. With it they lose much of the interest which they would otherwise take in all that helps to "accomplish the number of God’s elect and to hasten His kingdom." Christians pray daily, and perhaps many times daily, "Thy kingdom come." But how few realize what they are praying for! How few really long that their prayer may be speedily granted. How few take a keen and untiring interest in all that promotes the coming of the kingdom! And thus again motive power is lost; for if we had but the eyes to see, and the heart to appreciate, all that is going on round about us, we should feel that we live, as compared with our forefathers, in very encouraging times.

We are often enough told that Christianity in general, and the Church of England in particular, is at the present time passing through a great crisis; that this is an age of peculiar dangers and difficulties; that we live in times of unblushing vice and uncompromising skepticism; and that the immensity of our social, commercial, and political corruption is only the natural outcome of the immensity of our irreligion and unbelief. These things may be true; and there is no earnest Christian who has not at times been perplexed and saddened by them. But, thank God, there are other things which are equally true, and which ought to be equally recognized and remembered. If the present is an age of peculiar dangers and boundless irreligion, it is also an age of peculiar encouragements and boundless hope.

There are Christians who love to look back to some period in the history of the Church, which they have come to regard as a sort of golden age; an age in which communities of saintly men and women were ministered to by a still more saintly clergy, and in which the Church went beautifully on its way, not altogether free from persecutions, which were perhaps necessary for its perfection, but untroubled by doubts, or dissensions, or heresies, and unstained by worldliness, apostasy, or sloth. So far as the experience of the present writer has carried him, no such golden age can be found in the actual history of the Church.

It is not to be found in the New Testament, either before or after Pentecost.

We do not find it where we might have expected to find it, in the period when Christ was still present in the flesh as the Ruler and Instructor of His Church. That period is marked by the ignorance and unbelief of the Apostles, by their quarrels, their ambition for the first places in an earthly kingdom, their intolerant spirit, by the flight of all of them in the hour of Christ’s danger, by the denials of St. Peter, by the treachery and suicide of Judas. Nor do we find it, where again we might have expected to find it, in the age immediately succeeding the completion of Christ’s work, when the Apostles, newly anointed with the Spirit, were still alive to direct and foster the Church which He had founded. That period also is marred by many disfiguring marks. Apostles can still be timeserving, can still quarrel among themselves; and they also experience what it is to be forsaken and opposed by their own disciples. Their converts, as soon as the Apostle who established them in the faith is withdrawn, and sometimes even while he is still with them, become guilty of the gravest errors in conduct and belief. Witness the monstrous disorders in the Church of Corinth, the fickleness of the Galatian converts, the unchristian asceticism of the Colossian heretics, the studied immorality of those of Ephesus. The Church which was presided over by St. Timothy was the Church of Alexander, Hymenaeus, and Philetus, who removed the very corner-stone of the faith by denying the Resurrection; and the Churches which were presided over by St. John contained the Nicolaitans, condemned as hateful by Jesus Christ, and Diotrephes, who repudiated the Apostle and excommunicated those who received the Apostle’s messengers. And there is much more of the same sort, as the Pastoral Epistles show us, proving that what comes to us first as a sad surprise is of still sadder frequency, and that the Apostolic age had defects and stains at least as serious as those which deface our own.

The failure to find any golden age in either of these two divisions of the period covered by the New Testament ought to put us on our guard against expecting to find it in any subsequent period. And it would not be difficult to take each of the epochs in the history of the Church which have been selected as specially bright and perfect, and show that in every case, directly, we pass through the hazy glow which the imagination of later writers has thrown around such periods, and get down to solid facts, then, either the brightness and perfection are found to be illusory, or they are counterbalanced by many dark spots and disorders. The age of the martyrs is the age of the lapsed; the ages of faith are the ages of fraud; and the ages of great success are the ages of great corruption. In the first centuries increase of numbers was marked by increase of heresies and schisms; in the Middle Ages, increase of power by increase of pride. A fair comparison of the period in which our own lot has been cast with any previous period in the history of the Church will never lead to any just feeling of discouragement. Indeed it may reasonably be contended that at no era since Christianity was first founded have its prospects been so bright as at the present time.

Let us look at the contest between the Gospel and heathenism, -that great contest which has been going on since "the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to all men," and which is to continue until "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior." Was there ever a time when missions were more numerous or better organized, and when missionaries were as a rule better instructed, better equipped, or more devoted? And although it is impossible to form a correct estimate on such a subject, because some of the most important data are beyond our reach, yet it may. be doubted whether there ever was a time when missions achieved more solid success. The enormous growth of the colonial and missionary episcopate during the last hundred years is at any rate one great fact which represents and guarantees a great deal. Until 1787 there was not a single Episcopal see of the Anglican communion in any of the colonies or settlements of the British Empire; still less was there a single missionary bishop. And now, as the Lambeth Conferences remind us, these colonial and missionary bishops are not far short of a hundred, and are always increasing.

Or let us look at the relations between the great Churches into which Christendom is unhappily divided. Was there ever a period at which there was less bitterness, or more earnest and wide-spread desire for the restoration of unity? And the increased desire for reunion comes hand in hand with an increase of the conditions which would render reunion possible. Two things are absolutely indispensable for a successful attempt in this direction. First, a large measure of culture and learning, especially among the clergy of the divided Churches; and secondly, intelligent religious zeal. Ignorant controversialists cannot distinguish between important and unimportant differences, and thus aggravate rather than smooth difficulties. And without religious earnestness the attempt to heal differences ends in indifferentism. Both these indispensable elements are increasing, at any rate in the Anglican and in the Eastern Churches: and thus reunion, which "must be possible, because it is a duty," is becoming not only a desire, but a hope.

Let us look again at our own Church; at its abundant machinery for every kind of beneficent object; at the beautiful work which is being done in a quiet and simple way by numbers of Christian men and women in thousands of parishes; at the increase in services, in confirmations, in communions; at the princely offerings of many of the wealthy laity; at the humble offerings-equally princely in God’s sight-of many of the poor. Can we point to a time when party feeling (bad as it still is) was less rancorous, when parishes were better worked, when the clergy were better educated or more self-sacrificing, when the people were more responsive to what is being done for them?

The very possibility of seriously raising such questions as these is in itself a reason for taking courage, even if we cannot answer all of them in the way that would please us most. There are at any rate good grounds for hoping that much is being done for the advancement of Christ’s dominion, and that the prayer "Thy kingdom come" is being answered day by day. If we could but convince ourselves more thoroughly of the truth of all this, we should work more hopefully and more earnestly. More hopefully, because we should be working with a consciousness of being successful and making progress, with a conviction that we are on the winning side. And more earnestly, not merely because hope makes work more earnest and thorough, but also because we should have an increased sense of responsibility: we should fear lest through any sloth or negligence on our part such bright prospects should be marred. The expectation of defeat makes some men strive all the more heroically; but most men it paralyses.

In our Christian warfare we certainly need hope to carry us onward to victory.

"The appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." Among the foolish charges which have been brought against the Revisers is that of favoring Arian tendencies by blurring those texts which teach the Divinity of Jesus Christ. The present passage would be a sufficient answer to such a charge. In the A.V. we have "the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ," where both the wording and the comma make it clear that "the great God" means the Father and not our Savior. The Revisers, by omitting the comma, for which there is no authority in the original, and by placing the "our" before both substantives, have given their authority to the view that St. Paul means both "great God" and "Savior" to apply to Jesus Christ. It is not any Epiphany of the Father which is in his mind, but the "Epiphany of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." The wording of the Greek is such that absolute certainty is not attainable; but the context, the collocation of the words, the use of the word "Epiphany," and the omission of the article before "Savior" ( επιφανειαν της δοξης του μεγαλου θεου και σωτηρος ημων I X), all seem to favor the Revisers’ rendering. And, if it be adopted, we have here one of the plainest and most direct statements of the Divinity of Christ to be found in Scripture. As such it was employed in the Arian controversy, although Ambrose seems to have understood the passage as referring to the Father and Christ, and not to Christ alone. The force of what follows is enhanced, if the Revisers’ rendering, which is the strictly grammatical rendering, is maintained. It is as being "our great God" that He gave Himself for us, that He might "redeem us from all iniquity"; and it was because He was God as well as man, that what was uttered as a bitter taunt was really a glorious truth; -"He saved others; Himself He cannot save." It was morally impossible that the Divine Son should turn back from making us "a people for His own possession." Let us strengthen ourselves in the hope that our efforts to fulfill this gracious purpose, are never thrown away.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Titus 2:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/titus-2.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, January 24th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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