By J.R. Miller
Here we have special words of exhortation addressed to five different classes of people--aged men, aged women, young women, young men and servants.
"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." Titus was exhorted to think carefully what he should speak as a minister, so that his words should be fitting. It is serious work to teach others. Paul exhorts another young preacher to handle aright the word of truth. Wrong direction has sent many a life to destruction! Those who speak for God--must know well the Words of God.
There is a word here for aged men. The preacher is to exhort them, "to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." Temperance is commended in every part of the Bible. Drunkenness is unworthy of any being wearing God's image. The old men ought to set the example to the younger. But temperance in the Bible includes all the life--the appetites, the feelings, pleasures, and it means self-control.
Older men are also to be grave, preserving dignity and propriety in all their conduct. They should be sober-minded, serious, thoughtful, realizing the meaning of life. We often hear about being sound in the faith. This is well. But Paul exhorts these older men to be sound in love and patience as well as in faith.
"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good." The second word is to aged women. They are exhorted to be reverent in demeanor and behavior. It is not fitting to see an old woman, foolish and frivolous in her conduct. She should watch her acts and words and bearing, for younger women look to the older for example. Aged women should not be slanderers, says Paul. Perhaps it was then as it is now, that there was too much gossip in certain companies of women. Gossip borders perilously close all the time to slander. It is a fearful thing to start or to repeat a bad story about another person. Christian women should never do it. Aged women are urged also not to become slaves to wine. They are exhorted to be teachers of that which is good. Very beautiful is a saintly old woman who has learned her lessons well and is living sweetly. She has a wide and helpful influence wherever she goes.
"Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God." The young women have their word, too. Their mothers and older women are to be their teachers, training them to be sober. Over and over again this word sober is repeated in this passage. It has a much wider meaning than the sobriety which comes from abstinence from strong drink, though this is properly included, too. Life is not merely a bit of fun from the cradle to the grave. We are in the world to do something of God's work. We are moving toward the judgement bar of God, where we must give account of every act; and toward eternity, where we shall forever eat the fruits of the trees we plant now and here. We should live soberly, taking hold of life with earnestness, striving with all our might to do God's will.
Young women are also to love their husbands. Certainly--if not, they should never have married them. They should love their children, too, and be sober-minded, watchful of their conduct. They should be workers at home. This is a very suggestive bit of teaching. Home is the young wife's realm--and she is to do her sweetest and best work there. It is not enough for her to be active and earnest in societies outside; if she neglects her own home duties--she has disappointed God. She should be a good housekeeper and a good homemaker, kind, loving, thoughtful, earnest, and filled with the Christly spirit.
"Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good." The apostle has earnest words also for young men. They, too, are to be sober-minded. They should put away childish frivolities, and not trifle. Paul was writing here to a young man, and he exhorts him to be a pattern to other young men. There are several things in which this young minister was to be an example. One was in good works. We are to be interpreters of Christ, and His life was full of good works.
He was also to be serious--not long-faced, solemn-visaged--but remembering always that he was living in God's presence and must give account for all his life.
He was also to watch his speech. This is important. Some young men are careless in their talk. They speak rashly, foolishly, sometimes saying false words, sometimes staining their own lips and the souls of those who hear them with indecent stories or allusions. This young man was to live so that those who disbelieved Christianity should be ashamed when they saw how beautifully, how unselfishly, how purely, and helpfully he lived. This is a noble ideal for life--that the enemies of Christ shall be compelled into silence, "having no evil thing to say of us."
There is a word also for servants. "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."There were slaves in those days--many Christians were in bondage among the Romans. Paul tells the young minister what to say to them. They are quietly to accept their bondage, not rebelling against their masters--but cheerfully obeying them. Christ always counsels His followers to submission, even when they are unjustly treated.
The starling in a cage flies against the wires and tries to get out. All it does, however, is to batter and bruise its own wings and breast. It does not get out. The canary, far more wisely, when put into a cage, flies up on a perch and sings, filling its cage with song. We may take a lesson from the birds.
Servants were also exhorted to do what would please their master, obeying, not complaining, not talking back to argue the case--"Theirs not to reason why."
Servants are not to steal--but are always to be faithful and honest. In other epistles Paul encourages servants to do their best always, regardless of the character of their master, because it is Christ they are really serving; they should do their work as for Him, even if their human master is hard, unjust, unreasonable. Christian slaves also were to adorn the doctrine of God in all things. That is, they were to live so beautifully that by their conduct that in every way, they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
While these counsels were primarily for slaves, they are applicable to all who are under others as servants or employees. The great majority of us have to work under a master or superintendent. Not always is this master gentle, patient, or lenient; sometimes he is unjust, harsh, severe, exacting and oppressive. But the character of the master does not modify the duty of the servant. We must keep sweet and must be faithful and gentle with the worst overseer. Other people's sin does not excuse sin in us.
"For the grace of God . . . teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present world." This a great teaching for all of us who bear the name of Christ. There are some things we are to condemn, that is, give up, put out of our life--ungodliness and worldly lust. There is something we are to do--live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. It is not enough to intend to be saintly when we get to heaven; we are to be saintly in this present evil world.
The closing words tell us what the motive for a Christian life should be--"the blessed hope and appearing of Jesus Christ." He has given Himself for us--this reminds us of the cross. Then, He is coming again--this is a glorious hope, which cheers all believers in this world. Life may be hard here, with struggle, self-denial, toil and loss--but we are to live for that day when Christ will come again, when all earth's iniquities shall be made right.