“…exhort…shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.”
Paul has noted frequently in his instructions to Titus that the acknowledging of the truth is to be accompanied with godliness. Faith and acknowledging of the truth “is after (accords with, is in harmony with) godliness” (). He commands Titus to speak “the things which become sound doctrine” ( ). This must be the case because Jesus Christ gave Himself not only to redeem from all iniquity, but also to purify unto Himself a people zealous of good works ( ).
Paul then shows what “things” are consistent with sound doctrine in aged men, aged women, young women, and young men. Now in this text Paul applies this admonition specifically to Titus as an officebearer. Thus this passage identifies for all officebearers the godliness that gives evidence of their grasp of the truth.
Another thought that frequently receives Paul’s inspired attention in this brief letter is the reality that the godly lifestyle of Christians is a necessary and very good answer to the enemies of the Christian faith. The godliness of the Christians on the island of Crete is what prevents the Word of God from being blasphemed. In fact, a righteous and godly life in this present world () adorns the doctrines of salvation and thus silences all critics of the gospel. Just a quick reading of this small letter shows this: ; b, 8b, 10b.
Finally by way of introduction, notice that Paul will state that Titus, and all officebearers with him, have a God-given authority, and thus they may not allow any to despise them (). Respect must be given to officebearers. Nevertheless, the officebearers must conduct themselves in such a way that they show themselves to be worthy of the respect. They are worthy of honor. In fact, they that rule well are worthy of double honor ( ). identifies the conduct of officebearers that makes them worthy of double honor.
Paul instructs Titus to “exhort.” The word “exhort” is very interesting. This word is translated in a variety of ways: instruct, or encourage and console, or rebuke and admonish, or beg and beseech, with its precise use determined by the context. Its literal translation is to “call alongside,” and thus it describes the manner in which this activity of exhorting someone is to be done. The idea is that regardless of what Titus must say in his exhorting, he must realize that he stands next to the new elders and deacons in the churches on Crete. One who exhorts stands side by side, not toe to toe, or nose to nose. The reason for calling them alongside is that the content of the exhortation applies equally to the one speaking and to those spoken to.
Titus must instruct others as one who shows that he also needs the instruction. He must command them to believe and obey the teachings, and he must do so as one who shows that he also must receive the commands. He must encourage them to live a life that is consistent with the pure doctrines of salvation, as one who also needs encouragement to live such a life. He must rebuke and admonish those who fail to believe and to live as they ought, as one who also needs such admonition.
Though He did become like us in all things, sin excepted, the Good Shepherd was not a sheep. But every officebearer is also a sheep. And he must exhort convinced that whatever the Lord would have him say to others, the Lord would have him hear, for it applies also to him. Whenever he exhorts his fellow sheep, then he is calling them alongside himself!
All of our exhorting must be accompanied with an exemplary attitude and conduct. Titus must be “a pattern of good works.” He must teach, but he must also show himself a worthy example. As he speaks the things that become sound doctrine, he must himself be a pattern, an example to be imitated. His own life must be one that exemplifies the great doctrines of salvation! Officebearers must be able to say: Do as I do. Follow my example. This is what Paul did:; ; ; ; ; . To lead the sheep of Christ effectively, the officeholders must walk in, and be zealous unto, good works.
These good works are those that are beneficial and useful to others. They promote and advance the cause of God’s kingdom. The “things” that are consistent with sound doctrine () are beneficial to the cause of God and His church. When the elderly saints teach the younger saints, there is great benefit to the cause of the church. When young men and young women learn to love, this serves the cause of good in the home and church. So officebearers are to seek the benefit and good of the believers they are called to serve.
There is a reason for this kind of exhorting and for being a pattern or example. This reason is expressed in the words “in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech.” Titus must not only teach them how they are to live, but he must also show them why they are to live this way. Sadly, it is not uncommon in the church world today to find preachers and officebearers emphasizing how God’s people are to live without informing them why. When the reason is missing, then something extremely important is missing. If we are only told that we must do something, then we will neglect that which is crucial to God: the heart.
The “why” for a godly life is “doctrine,” or literally “teachings.” The pure doctrines of salvation are the only solid basis for a godly life. Paul’s letters of Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians all begin with several chapters of solid teachings. The teachings are the truths that reveal God, His unspeakable gift, His eternal plan to save totally depraved sinners by grace alone through faith alone, without any works of men, and all to the glory of God. These teachings are given in Romans 1-11 and in Ephesians 1-3. But after presenting these teachings Paul did not stop writing and send these letters. He continued to write and he showed the various ways these truths are to be manifested in the lives of those who believe these truths. In brief, the truth of God’s electing and saving love in Christ is to be shown in a life of rendering grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great a love to us. Therefore believers must be instructed in all the truths of Scripture, which serve as the foundation for a godly life.
The word “uncorruptness” refers to the content of the instruction of Titus. His teaching must not be corrupted with the lie of false doctrine, nor be mixed with the folly of Jewish fables (cf.), nor adulterated with his own personal opinions. Titus is to teach faithfully, that is, according to God’s revelation in Scripture. Only then will the teaching serve as a beautiful and solid base for a godly walk by the saints in all good works.
“Gravity” and “sincerity” describe the manner in which Titus is to exhort and teach. “Gravity” is reverence. Titus’ reverence for the great doctrines of salvation should be evidenced in the manner in which he communicates them. The use of gimmicks, slang, or humor cheapens the truths. The eternal truths about God and Christ must be conveyed with dignity—in such a manner that causes believers to respect and honor them. The attitude of the officebearers toward these truths must be one of greatest reverence. Hence, Reformed worship services should be characterized by a solemnity that arises, not out of mere tradition, but out of respect for the teachings themselves, and especially for the God and Savior revealed in the teachings.
“Sincerity” speaks to the motive for the instruction and exhortation. The precious teachings of Scripture are to live within Titus’ heart. The motive of a teacher cannot often be hid from godly hearers. Self-centeredness is soon observed. The desire to gain the attention and praise or respect of men is as vain and ruinous as the desire for filthy lucre. The proper motive for bringing the gospel, whether by instruction, encouragement, or admonition, is grateful love for God, for Jesus, for the members of His body, for the gospel. When one loves the truth because it is his salvation, then he loves to proclaim it, and he fervently desires others to know the same joy he knows. Then he earnestly desires God to be glorified and praised.
“Sound speech” is a speech that is in good health, able to make one whole. This can mean that the teaching itself is wholesome and fit and does not deviate from the truth. This idea has already been taught in the word “uncorruptness.” So the emphasis here is that the teachings are conveyed with the spiritual health of the hearers in mind—to make them whole. The concern of the one exhorting is for the spiritual well-being and the health of the hearers. There must be not only a concern that Scripture’s truths be conveyed accurately, but also that the teaching of the truth be with an earnest concern for the faith of God’s elect (cf. 1:1).
This kind of teaching and exhorting “cannot be condemned.”
The Christian believers on the island of Crete lived in the midst of those “of the contrary part.” These were and are enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such are always planted by the devil to discredit the gospel by discrediting and slandering Titus and any gospel preacher. The instruction that Paul gives to Titus (and to every officebearer) presents the way to preach and teach so that he cannot be condemned. Preach and teach in such a way that all the charges of the enemy will be seen to be obviously false. When an officebearer’s teaching and life are as Paul instructed Titus, then the enemies will be put to shame and will have no evil thing to say. They might continue their assault, but God and honest observers will see that their charges are a lie.
Officebearers are to exhort and live also with an eye on the Lord. This instruction concerning how they are to perform their calling is given them from the Lord Himself. They must do their work as before His face. They are to focus on doing the will of the Father in heaven (as taught them in this passage). Then they will not hear the dreaded words, “I never knew you” (). Rather they may expect to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”