The Apostle Paul commissioned the evangelist Titus to set in order the Lord’s church on the isle of Crete, an incredibly corrupt place. I would like for us to concentrate on Titus 2, where Paul is telling him what he will speak and what he will do on Crete. It is important that we understand what was to happen on that isle, for whatever was to happen there, is to happen in any place where the Lord’s people are. The whole second chapter of Titus is a call for godly, consecrated living from God’s people.
Paul gave us a tremendous task in this passage. He said, “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this world (Titus 2:12),” and that we should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). We are to furnish, ornament and adorn the doctrine of almighty God. That is our purpose. That is the plan of God, that by living changed lives, we will be able to change other people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not an easy job and I do not propose it to be.
THE BEAUTY OF THE DOCTRINE
First of all, I know that the doctrine of Jesus Christ is beautiful. I know it because Paul said, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things” (Rom 10:15 ). That is not because of who they are, but because of that which they preach. It is the preacher’s association with what he preaches that makes his feet beautiful. It is the doctrine that is beautiful, glorious, wonderful, and perfect that came to us from heaven, not the preacher.
The doctrine of Christ is beautiful and lovely within itself and is to be put on by people like us, as well as those Cretians of so long ago, as a garment. We are to furnish and ornament this doctrine for the world. Our conduct is to be a perpetual comment on Christ’s doctrine and His religion. Our lives are to be a constant exemplification of the truth and power of the gospel. If this is not what it is saying, then I just do not understand the import of words at all. This is exactly what he wants us to do. Day by day we are to let the world know who we are and where we stand. God is glorified in obedient people.
THE ADORNING OF THE DOCTRINE
In Romans I, the apostle spoke of a people, who when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God. They became vain in their imagination, foolish heart was darkened They professed themselves to be wise, but they became fools. They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into corruptible ways of corruptible man (cf. Rom 1:21-23).
The responsibility is two-fold: to know God and to glorify Him as God. It is not enough to know God. We must also glorify Him as God. Everyone adorns himself in some fashion daily. Paul is saying, I want you to “adorn the doctrine of God your Savior.” Now, how are we going to adorn the doctrine of God? I understand the responsibility. I understand the language. But, how are we going to accomplish that within our lives? I think that the main thing was to teach those who had been redeemed, those who have named the name of Jesus Christ, that they would furnish and adorn the gospel by the conduct of their daily lives.
WE ADORN IT BY DENYING UNGODLINESS
In verse twelve Paul says, “teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly.” May I point out that we are not discussing the world. He said, “teaching us.” That is God’s people. This does not mean that we deny those things exist. How foolish it is for a person to take the stance that nothing evil is going on in the world. That is not what Paul is saying. The apostle is saying that evil is very much wit us and no person that is rational is going to deny this. Evil is present, and Paul is saying that the grace of God teaches us that we deny ungodliness (those things that are unlike God), and worldly lust, and that we live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.
WE ADORN IT BY LIVING IT
The man who said, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one day, I’d rather that someone would walk with me than merely point the way,” had a good point. We really do not have a great deal of appreciation for those who just stand and point the way and say, “There’s the way you really ought to go.” “There’s what you ought to do.” What we want to see is somebody living those things and leading us in the ways of truth.
In Philippians 1:27 , the Apostle Paul said, “Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ. Now notice the similarity to our title. He said, “let your conversation become the gospel of Christ.” Paul is one of those exclusive writers. He said, “only” let your life be as it becomes the gospel. I get the distinct impression that we have some control over that. I can decide to live a life that will become the gospel of Christ, or I can decide that I will not. But he said “only.” Only let your conversation, that is, your way of living, become the gospel of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 3:10 , Peter is discussing the doctrine of last things. He says, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” There is not anything more awesome to think about than this. He says, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” The word “conversation” again means “manner of living.” Only live in that way.
WE ADORN IT BY EXEMPLIFYING IT
In I Timothy 4:12 , Paul said to the young man Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of the believers.” I like that. Think about what is happening. Timothy is going out from the body of believers to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying to him, “Timothy I want you to say to the preacher, “I want you to be an example of the body of believers from which you came.” Evidently they were of such caliber, that he could say to anyone going out, you be like them. That is our goal, to be that kind of people.
THE RESPONSIBILITY GIVEN TO TITUS
Titus 2 reveals the tremendous task of the evangelist. He faced a people who were characterized as “always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (1:12). Can you imagine the responsibility that man bore? How would you like to be dropped on the isle of Crete, with this responsibility laid on your shoulders? That was a tremendous task and it reminds us that we do not have a monopoly on evil and ungodliness in the world today.
Paul tells him, in effect, “You are going to find a deplorable situation over there on that island. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him. What you are going to hear over there are people who are going to sing, ‘Oh how I love Jesus.’ They profess to be great people of God, but ‘in their works, they deny all they say.’ You need to deal with that. What you are going to find over there, are people that are ‘unto every good work, reprobate.’ Nevertheless, ‘you speak the things that become sound doctrine.”‘ Paul expects to have a totally different person in Titus, than what he has out there on Crete.
Paul’s instructions included, “rebuke them sharply, and do not give heed to Jewish fables and the commandments of men that turn from the truth.” He said, “unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto those that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure.” He said, “but speak thou the things that become sound doctrine.”
“The aged men, teach them to be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, charity and patience.” Then he told Titus to preach to the women. “The aged women likewise that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, that they may teach the young women to be sober and to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” “Young men like-wise exhort to be sober minded” and “in everything show yourself a pattern of good works.”
What is he saying? We can respond by living in an ungodly way. We can cause the very truth that we once obeyed to be blasphemed. It is important that they turn their lives around. Paul does not leave anything uncovered, does he? “In everything you show yourself a pattern of good works. In doctrine, you show uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, you have a 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.”
Then he said, “Talk to the servants.” You see, there were some servants that had responded to the gospel, and they need to be taught some things. “Exhort them to be obedient to their own masters and to please them well in all things, not answering again, not purloining (engaging in petty thievery).” You see the problems that existed in that place? He said, “not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men. Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” Titus, that is your job. What a tremendous task was laid on his shoulders.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHURCH
The message that in Titus preached on the isle of Crete so long ago, still needs to be preached in America today. There is not a spot on this globe that does not need to hear this message. When we go contrary to the doctrine of Jesus Christ and do not adorn it, we rather do harm to it.
The world has always judged an institution by its members. Suppose you ask me about some particular doctrine of a religious group. I may not know a great deal about that doctrine, but I find myself drawing some conclusions because of some person that I have known who was a member of that organization. Now, whether we should or should not do that is not the question. The fact is that if we have known someone who was apart of that organization, we draw conclusions about the organization. This should not alarm those of us who are the people of God. I rather think that if we were living the lives that God would have us to live, we would rejoice in that fact. The world has always judged an institution by its members, and is judging the Lord’s church by our lives.
In Matthew 5 is the familiar passage where Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt have lost its savor, it is good for nothing.” How could He more vividly say that you have become salt, but if the salt loses its saltiness it is good for nothing? He puts us in our place, does He not? He also said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” What a beautiful people He expects us to be!
In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 , the Bible says, “But if our gospel be hid…” How deplorable! “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. In whom the God of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not, lest the glorious light of the gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”
In John 3:19 Jesus said, “This is the condemnation…” Now we are always hearing somebody say, “Here’s the problem.” Jesus said, “Here’s the problem.” “This is the condemnation, that light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” That’s the problem We need to accept that fact. Light has come into the world. If light had not come it would be a different thing. But “the Son of righteousness has risen with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2).
In Ephesians 5:13 Paul said, “All things that are reproved are made manifest by light, for whatsoever doth make manifest is light” Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” How are we going to be the light of the world? Mr. Campbell once said, “I am but a speck upon a speck sailing through illimitable space.” How true. That is where we are. We are but a speck upon a speck sailing through illimitable space. How can we be the light of the world? We cannot by ourselves. But with our Lord, we can be the light of the world. He insists upon it. He demands it.
In Hebrews 1:1-2 , the Bible says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, bath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” He goes on to say, “He is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (v.3). Jesus is the light of the world. “Then spake Jesus unto them, I am the light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn 8:12 ). The world should have seen the Son rise. Malachi said, “Unto them that fear Him, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings” (Mal 4:2). The Son shall only rise through us as God’s people. This is what Paul is saying to Titus, and to us.
We are not going to be the light of the world by ourselves. I do not have any hope of that. But I do believe that we reflect He who is the light of the world. Yet sometimes the smut of sin covers our lives till our reflectors do not reflect anything. It does not matter that Jesus Christ is the light of the world, nor that He walked the shores of Galilee, opened blind eyes, unstopped deaf ears, and did all those wonderful things. That does not matter, if we do not reflect His glory to the world.
In Ephesians 5:25-27 , Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives.” He commands it. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify it and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church.” What the Lord wants is a glorious church. What kind of church do you want? What kind of church do we want all over this country? What kind of church do you want your children to attend? What kind of church do you want your children’s children to be a part of?
You spend your life thinking about your sons and daughters, wanting to teach them the way of righteousness. Deuteronomy 4 teaches that you should teach these things to your sons and your sons’ sons. You want them to see the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It must come through our lives.
PROBLEMS CONFRONTING THE CHURCH
Living a Christian life has not been easy. I do not think that it was easy on the isle of Crete. I will guarantee it was not easy for Titus who had the responsibility of setting in order the things that were wanting and turning them around. It has never been easy to live a Christian life and it is not getting any easier. Great changes have occurred in our world, even during my lifetime. We are more in contact with the world than we have ever been. At least sixty per cent of our women are now in the work force. All of us are touching the world more than we ever have in our lives, and conversely, the world is touching us more than it ever has.
We have come to a time when we need to listen to Titus 2 very carefully. I fear what we are learning. We are learning to get along, which means, we are learning to stay out of trouble. We are basically taking a defensive position and in doing so, we are about to give up as soldiers of the cross. The big lie goes unchallenged. The dirty joke is tolerated more that it ever has been in our lives. Have you noticed that low language is popular in high places? It is endorsed now even by some of our legislators. It flows from the pen of our editors. You can pick up the newspaper and see all of these things. Immorality has graduated from secret practice to public show, and if you do not believe that, sit down and watch television for half an hour. You will find it very difficult to proceed through a half hour without coming to believe it. Society openly advocates lust and licentiousness. The alternative lifestyle is not very alternative any more. It is with us.
Too often, we get jolting reminders of what is happening in this world of ours. The prodigal son does not have to leave home anymore. He can stay home and be a prodigal son. If indeed he goes into the far country and gets into the hog pen of sin, we just advocate building bigger and better hog pens and call them “home.” This is not news to you, but we need to stop and think about what is happening in our world and our reaction to it.
I do not think that God’s people are launching headlong into sin. I think we still try to avoid evil, but we really do not seem to oppose it as we once did. We are getting used to it. We are getting conditioned by it, and that is frightening. The church militant is becoming the church muzzled. The Christian life – and I deplore this – the Christian life is being looked upon today as a refuge for the weak, instead of an army for the strong.
THE RESPONSE OF THE CHURCH
What is our response? What should be our response? I see three things at least, that we can do. First, we can conform to the world and just let it roll on by. Second, we might flee from it. Finally, and hopefully, we can stand and speak the truth in love. Now I think we have to make a decision. I think the world is going to force us to make a decision. You are going to have to decide, as a Christian individual, what you are going to do. You are going to have to decide as a family, what you are going to be and what you are going to do as a family. You are going to have to decide as a congregation what you are going to do and what your response to this world and its evil will be. Let us talk about these three options facing us.
SHOULD THE CHURCH CONFORM?
First, I suggest to you that to conform to this world is suicide. It is absolute suicide for you, for your children, for your grandchildren and for your congregation. To conform is the easiest things to do. It is not too painful, because it happens ever so slowly. We mistake a stretching of our conscience for a broadening of our minds.
Sometime ago, I saw a study that was done during World War II, about men who were placed in concentration camps during the war, and the various types of prisons and camps existing then. They were discussing in particular those who were placed in solitary confinement, in dungeons. Such prisoners very seldom, if ever, saw the light of day. In reference to this study, one of the things that caught my attention was, that men who were imprisoned so long in that kind of darkness, often fancied the day was dawning. In their tormented minds, day after day after day, not knowing night from day, they would occasionally decide that day was dawning, that the light was coming, although there was no light at all.
The absolute horror of that, is that we can get so used to the darkness, that we think it is getting brighter. We can get to the place where we are not offended by anything, and say that there is no harm to things that are absolutely questionable. We are going through a desensitization process- we are being desensitized by this world in which we live.
There are some things that we do not have a right to get used to. Let me mention a few. You do not have a right to get used to brutality. We are being fed a big dose of it. We do not have any right to get used to violence and the irrational. We are being fed that every day as well. There was a time when sin shocked us. But the brainwashing goes on, until what was once amazed us, now amuses us. We now laugh at shady jokes, we allow profanity to be funneled into our very laps, and we are going along with it. Remember, we are not here to learn how to live in the dark. That is not why we are here. God never placed us here and said, “I want you to learn how to live in the dark.” He wants us to be people of light, and He said, “only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel.” In fact, in Ephesians 5:11, Paul said, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” We need to listen to Ephesians 5:11 and take heed.
SHOULD THE CHURCH FLEE?
The second thing I suggested that we could do, is to flee. But I do not believe this is in His plan at all. As God’s describes the Christian soldier and the armor or God has given (Eph. 6; 2 Cor 10:2 Tim. 2), not once in any armor given for our beck:. We have all kinds of armor on the front, which teaches that soldiers of the cross need to advance over the fields of sin. Yet, He never prescribed one piece of armor for our backs. God does not intend that we flee, neither does He intend that we become a recluse.
When I was a very young preacher, I was in Missouri in a meeting. A brother asked, “Would you go to see a monastery?” I supposed that I would, and I remember going with him to a place I would not go now, because we had to walk across a rope catwalk stretched between two mountains in order to get there. Once we reached that monastery, we met one man who was over seventy years of age, whoever had never been been out of that place. His concept was that we should leave this world and form a commune somewhere, dedicating ourselves to God and living as a recluse. That is not what this Book is saying to us at all. The Scriptures say, “Go ye into all the world…” (Mk 16:15). You cannot do that in a monastery. We are to reach out to all the world, and the world spoken of is the people in it.
In John 17, Jesus prayed, “I do not pray that they shall he taken out of the world, but to be kept from the evil that is in the world” (v.15). One of the greatest concepts of Christianity is that we are in the world, but not of it. That is one of your greatest blessings and yet also one of your greatest problems, is it not? We wrestle with that. Now if you do not wrestle with that, I suspect you are not thinking about it. We are in the world. We live in it. We make a living in it. We function in it. We educate our children in it. All of these things have to happen, and yet at the same time, “you are not of it.” It is not easy to maintain our equilibrium.
Let us return to Matthew 5 for a moment. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). That is an interesting statement, because salt preserves, tastes and stings. The virtue of salt is not that it is salt, but in the effect it has when it is used. So it is not enough to say that we are the salt of the earth. It is our effect that we have as salt, as we deal with this world in which we live. We need to be poured into the stream of life, to have an effect on people in the world. Salt works only when it is used.
Further, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” Mt 5:14 ). You know, that is our business. Every once in awhile in the business that I just left, I would hear the teachers talking about one of those days when the kids were not there, and they would be saying how nice the day was. It was quiet around there and things were calm and someone commented that this would be a great business if it were not for children. But that is our business. You do not have a school business without children. We need to remember that we are in the light business. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” That is our business. If we do not like being looked at, and if we do like being the light of the world, then we are in the wrong business, because that is exactly who we are and what we are about.
We will always be a reproof to darkness, as Paul said, “Whatsoever doth make manifest, is light” (Eph 5:13 ). When you walk through the woods and kick over one of those rotting logs, little black beetles run off in all directions. They are sensitive to the light. They do not like light and they scurry off to find another place of darkness. have already observed, that when you walk through world and kick over a few rotting logs, whether it be in church or out of it, that people do not like it. But I submit to you, that we need to have the light shining in. We need to turn on the light! We are so afraid of being offensive that we are not effective. We must deal with that concept. We are turning our lights down low. Oh, we are not go to turn them out, but we will turn our lights down so low!
I do not believe that the early Christians dimmed their lights to match the times. I do not see that in this Book. Whether they were in a dungeon, or on the streets of Jerusalem, or in the catacombs of Rome, they let their lights shine. Oh, it cost them! It costs to turn on the lights. You do not pay a dark bill do you? You have to pay a light bill! You get the dark free.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
The third response to our world that I suggested was to stand and speak of the truth in love. In Philippians 2:15-16 , Paul said that we are to be “blameless and harm the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in world; holding forth the word of life.” Perhaps no verse in the Bible better sums up all we are to be and do than does this verse.
You will notice in Titus 1:3 that the apostle declared that He “hath in due time manifested his. word through preaching which is committed unto me by the commandment of God our Saviour” (1:3). Paul also said, “the things that thou hast heard of me… the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). God intends His word to be preached and transmitted from generation to generation. It is through the preaching of His Word that His will is accomplished, and there is no greater privilege or responsibility known to man. We must speak the truth to the lost and be sure that our lives exemplify the message we preach. May God help us to adorn the doctrine. We can never do more; God forbid that we should do less!
Published in the March 1, 1997 issue of the OPA.