How do we ‘live Christian’ in this present world? The importance of that question at this particular time in our history is why we’re studying Paul’s letter to Titus. Even though Paul wrote it almost 2,000 years ago, his guidance is perfect for Christians today. We invite you to read the introduction to this series for some historical background to the letter.
Paul began with the importance of having godly leadership in local churches. I would add that since many churches are guided by denominations, we need godly leadership in denominations as well. We could say the same thing about para-church ministries, missionary organizations, Bible colleges and seminaries.
Paul then moved on to how older men, older women, younger women and younger men should live in this present world. In our last study we began looking at what God’s Grace teaches us. We saw that the “grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” and what that means. We move now to the specifics of living out this amazing Grace of God in a challenging world.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
The Grace of God appears and teaches. It brings salvation from sin and death and instruction for godly living. The Greek word for “teaching” in Titus 2:12 is paideuó and means “to correct, to chasten, to discipline, to train children.” The word was used for training up a child who was under development. That’s interesting as we consider what Paul was telling Titus to do for local churches.
The Grace of God brings salvation to people, which is the idea of being born into the family of God. Paul often referred to Christians as children (e.g. Ephesians 4:14; 5:1, 8; Philippians 2;15). Both Paul and Peter described new Christians as babes and encouraged them to grow in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Peter 2:2). An important aspect of a baby growing into childhood and adulthood is correction, discipline and training. A young Christian is developing into what God wants them to become – “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
Salvation, spiritual birth, is just the beginning. Once a child is born they need to be fed regularly, cared for, disciplined, and trained to know how to live well in this present world. What Paul emphasized to Titus was that the Grace of God does both very well — bringing salvation and training newborns and young children how to live.
Here are nine specifics Paul mentioned about the training:
- denying ungodliness and worldly lusts
- we should live soberly
- we should live righteously
- we should live godly in the present age
- looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ
- who gave Himself for us
- that He might redeem us from every lawless deed
- and purify for Himself His own special people
- zealous for good works
Paul started with a negative — denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. The Greek word for denying is arneomai and means “say no, repudiate, deny.” How many times do parents say the word no to their young children? What parents are doing is denying their child of things or actions that would not be good for them. What does the parent say when their young child tries to grab a pan on top of a hot stove? NO! The parent knows something the child does not — that what’s in the pan on top of the hot stove is hot and will burn them. The parent says no out of love for the child. The child is wise to obey and learn.
What if a parent saw their child reaching their hand up to a pan on top of a hot stove and didn’t say anything to stop them? We might ask if the parent loves their child? Why would a parent not warn their child about potential danger?
In the case of the young Christian, Paul said they should deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. “ungodliness” is asebeia and means “wickedness, bold irreverence, impiety, lack of respect.” “worldly lusts” is kosmikos epithumia and means “pertaining to the world, belonging to the world, passionate longing, inordinate desire.”
Why should Christian leaders teach Christians to deny wickedness and passionate longings that belong to this world? Because ungodliness and worldly lusts will hurt them. What if a Christian leader doesn’t train Christians to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts? Is it because the leader doesn’t love the Christian or is it because the leader doesn’t know better themselves? Whatever the answer to that question, leaders shouldn’t be leaders if they won’t or can’t train members of their church to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.
Paul then moved on to three important positives — “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
- soberly .. sóphronós, meaning “with sound mind, true moderation, prudently.”
- righteously .. dikaiós, meaning “justly, uprightly.”
- godly .. eusebós, meaning “piously, devoutly.”
Just these three character traits cover a lot of ground for living and the living, Paul wrote, should be “in the present age” — nun aión, “now, present, time span, age.” In light of what is going on now and what has gone on before, we need to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.
Look around and what do you see? Depending on where you live you may see deep divisions among your fellow citizens. You may see opposition to Christianity, possibly to the point of severe persecution. Some of the Christians we are in contact with around the world have recently suffered the loss of loved ones and friends to martyrdom. Some have spent time in jail because of their Christian beliefs. Some have suffered the loss of property, homes, and businesses. This is not an easy time to be a Christian, much like Crete in the 1st century AD.
We live in a dangerous time in our world’s history. Evil is increasing in power and influence every day. It is hostile to the goodness of God and His people. As Jesus told His disciples — “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. NIV
It teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly (immoral) desires, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives [lives with a purpose that reflect spiritual maturity] in this present age. AMP
… training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ESV
… instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age. CSB
No matter how Titus 2:12 is translated in English, we receive the same message. Christians must learn how to say no to ungodliness and worldly lusts and yes to living soberly, righteously and godly in this present age. We Must.
We will investigate what Christians should look for in the next part of our special study about Living Christian in the Present World.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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