Godliness of Officebearers

“…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.”

Titus 2:7, 8

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, in harmony with] godliness” (Titus 1:1). He commands Titus to “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Paul then shows what “things” are consistent with sound doctrine in aged men, aged women, young women, and young men. In our text he applies it specifically to Titus, and in him to all officebearers. All of this is because Jesus Christ gave Himself, not only to redeem from all iniquity, but also to purify unto Himself a people zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).

Another thought that frequently receives Paul’s inspired attention in this brief letter is the fact that it is the godly life-style of Christians that answers the enemies of the Christian faith. The godliness of the Christians on the island of Crete prevents the word of God from being blasphemed. In fact, a righteous and godly life in this present world (Titus 2:12) adorns the doctrines of salvation and thus silences all critics of the gospel. Just a quick reading of this small letter shows this: Titus 1:9-11; Titus 2:5, 8, 10.

Finally by way of introduction, notice that Paul will state that Titus (and all officebearers) have a God-given authority, and thus they may not allow any to despise them (Titus 2:15). While respect must be given to officebearers, the officebearers must conduct themselves in such a way that they show themselves to be worthy of the respect. They are worthy of honor. And they are worthy of double honor if they rule well (I Tim. 5:17). Our text points out the conduct of officebearers that makes them worthy of double honor.

First, Paul has just instructed Titus to “exhort” the converted young men about the godliness that must characterize their acknowledging of the truth. The word “exhort” is very interesting. Its literal translation is to “call alongside.” 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. The specific meaning of this word (to call alongside) speaks clearly of the manner in which this activity of exhorting someone is to be done. The idea is that they stand next to you, and you to them—not directly in front of you, as face to face or toe to toe or nose to nose. The reason they come alongside you is that the content of the speech applies as much to you as it does to them.

Titus must instruct them as one who shows that he also needs the instruction. He must command them to believe and obey the teachings, and he does so as one who also must receive this command. He must encourage them to live a life that is consistent with and harmonizes with the pure doctrines of salvation, as one who also must 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.

The Good Shepherd was not a sheep, but He did become like us in all things, sin excepted. Every officebearer is also a sheep. And he must exhort, believing that whatever he is used of the Lord to say to others applies also to himself. 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 instruct, 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: I Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Philippians 3:17, 4:9; II Thessalonians 3:7; II Timothy 1:13. 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 (Titus 2:1) are beneficial to the cause of God and His church. When the elderly saints teach the younger saints, there is great value given to the cause of the church. When young men and young women learn to love, then the cause of good in the home and church is greatly benefited. 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 God’s people are only told what they must do, the officebearers have neglected 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 to the 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 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 them. In brief, the truth of God’s electing and saving love in Christ is to be evidenced in a life 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 Titus’ instruction. His teaching must not be corrupted with the life of false doctrine, nor be mixed with the folly of Jewish fables (cf. Titus 1:14), 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 traditional formality, 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. This is something that is easily apparent to godly hearers. Selfishness is soon noted. 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 Jesus’ body, for the gospel. When one loves these truths because they are his salvation, then he loves to proclaim them, and he fervently desires others to know the same joy he knows, and 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 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 the spiritual well-being and the health of the hearers. There must be not only a concern that Scripture’s truths are conveyed accurately, but also an earnest concern for the faith of God’s elect that will be evidenced in their acknowledging and living the truth (cf. Titus 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 is 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” (Matt. 7:21-23). Rather, they may expect to hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”