Ethics in Titus

The problem Paul addresses in the letter of Titus is the potential for teachers to arise from within the church who teach bad doctrine and are not living an exemplary life.  In order stave off the sorts of which Timothy has in Ephesus, Titus is told to appoint men to the office of elder who are qualified for the position doctrinally, but also men who are of good reputation and will not bring shame to the churches on Crete.

Is this the right way to think about ethical and moral living?  We should behave properly because the world watches us and is either drawn towards Christ because of our consistency, or they are driven away because of hypocrisy.  One of the biggest factors in the anti-church “Spiritual” movement among younger Christians is dissatisfaction with the structure of church since it seems to harbor hypocrisy.  It is not hard to find examples of hypocrisy in every church and denomination, nor is it hard to find people who have rejected Christianity as a whole because of the actions of public Christians.

There is a great deal which is applicable to the church today since modern churches have the same sort of reputation problems as the churches in Crete.  The members of the church are urged to live exemplary lives in terms of both the Greco- Roman world and the Jewish / Christian world.  The elder qualification list in 1:5-9 begins with “above reproach” – someone who is blameless.  Various social groups are addressed in chapter 2 with the same interest in what outsiders think of the members of the church.  What runs through all five of these sets of commands is the idea of being “sensible.”  There is a derivative of the Greek –sophron– for each of the first four categories of believers. This word has the idea of common sense, which is a cornerstone of Greek virtue.  “The Hellenic model is avoidance of extremes and careful consideration for responsible action” (BDAG, citing Aristotle, EN 3.15).  Common sense was “a characteristic of persons distinguished for public service,” and is used in 1 Tim 3:2 as one of the qualifications of an elder. For a woman, the word could take on the idea of chastity or modesty, also characteristics which were important to the Greek world. In fact, these words occasionally on women’s graves, praising them for their high moral character (BDAG).

In every case, this section highlights the sorts of things which would appeal to the Greco-Roman world.  The moral life of the Christian in Titus 2 ought to be attractive to the outsider, drawing them to Christ not repelling them with hypocrisy.  I think this might cause raise some questions, since most people think that the Greco-Roman world was rather sinful and immoral, but that is just the point.  Greek and Roman writers often decried the decline of moral values, Christianity called people to reject the “passions of the world” and embrace a new kind of life.

In Titus 3:3-11, we find the reason for our living for the sake of the Gospel.  Paul develops a contrast between what the believer was (before Christ) and what the believer is now (in Christ).  The person who is “in Christ” has become new, they have been made alive though the washing of the Holy Spirit, and they are in fact now a child of God.   Paul’s call to devote ourselves to doing good (verse eight) is simply the natural response to this change from foolish suppression of the truth to our adoption as heirs of God.

13 thoughts on “Ethics in Titus

  1. I wonder about this often. Does my life draw people toward Christ or pull them away? Or it is even noticed under that name? All of this makes me think of something Brennan Manning said once, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.” Manning’s words are stuck with me. They are a haunting reminder of my responsibility as a Christian (little Christ). I think the book of Titus is training for Titus and the church as to how to really live the message or maybe just an encouragement to do it. Whatever the case, Titus’ practical theology is refreshing as compared to some of the more theoretical epistles of Paul’s youth. These words (Titus 3:3-9) are refreshing reminders of our transformation and its outworking. Really knowing these words (with everything that is in you) allows this us to enter into our transformation mind, body, and soul. There “Christians should win the trust of their fellow citizens in order to witness to them” (Polhill 420). I think Paul recognizes that our “preaching” follows much out of action. Actions define what we really think/believe and therefore Paul calls believers to be made new from the inside out.

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  2. I would say that Paul’s call to Titus to “Appoint men who are of good reputation and will not bring shame to the churches on Crete” (P Long) is sensible because like P Long says the world is watching us. I have known on a couple of different occasions churches that have people in them that commit crimes. Both of the times I am thinking of were men that were very involved with the church. They were to represent Christ and the church well and in a godly way, but they fell short. Though they apologized and wanted to come back into ministry at the church, there was a very serious process that had to happen before they could. They were completely removed from the website so that their names could not be connected to the church at all. They had to go to court, go through their trials, and spend their time in prison. Even after prison they were allowed to attend church, but it was a very long time before they were allowed to do even “behind the scenes” ministry. It is not that the church had not forgiven them or considered them reconciled, it was just the fact that they had chosen to not be a good representative of Christ. Their actions brought shame upon the church, and a waiting period was necessary. I say this all because no matter what we do, we are already going to be judged by nonbelievers. Humans automatically question what they do not know. We need to use this to our advantage to show people that we live for Christ and serve Him instead of showing the bad things we do. We need to more carefully consider our actions and words around nonbelievers. This is why Grace has “stupid” rules like no clubbing. Even though clubbing in itself may not be wrong, when people see you doing it they are going to automatically question you more than they already were. Besides, would we not want to do our very best to show that Christ really is the focus and center of our lives—that He is the motivation behind all we do? After all we should be living for Him: “And He died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and was raised again” (2 Cor. 5:15). He died for you, the least you can do is live for Him.

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  3. P-Long you said “One of the biggest factors in the anti-church “Spiritual” movement among younger Christians is dissatisfaction with the structure of church since it seems to harbor hypocrisy.” And I think that is true and disturbing at the same time. I think structure in general nowadays is being looked at as a horrible thing, as a hypocritical worldview. I see it more and more amongst my friends and within churches, the view of “don’t take everything to literally… just read the bible and do what it says”. I think that can be a valuable view in some ways, yet if that is so than why would Paul instruct Titus in this book (Titus) to live just for God. Titus 2:12 “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” how can one say no to worldly passions if they do not dig deep into God’s word, why would anyone just simply read it to get instruction, and not want/yearn to learn more, learn why and learn how. Every time I read the bible I am drawn to learn more, to find out why and how it said the words it said, hence the reason for my degree and study in Greek. I strive as a Christian to be as equipped as I possibly can to do the works God has called me to do, and I am saddened by the continual decrees in the want to study God’s word in the younger generations.

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  4. The biggest argument I get regarding my style of life is that I “can’t be distinguished from non Christians”. People say that because I swear and because I don’t have an issue with drinking or smoking (I haven’t done either so relax people looking for anything to get me fired over) that I have no shining light of Christ. I say bolax.
    For our youth min classes we often have to talk about our style of evangelism and honestly, my style of evangelism is extremely relational. I begin a relationship with a person and through that I am able to share Christ. How can I begin a relationship with someone if I am condemning them for drinking or smoking? How can I start a relationship with someone if I tell them they are sinning with ever drink or smoke they have? Christ did the same thing I am doing. He spent time with the sinners. He did not stand outside of sinners’s houses and hand out tracks… He went into those homes and ate with them.

    So yes, I would say it is incorrect to behave “morally and ethically” because the world is watching us. I wouldn’t have as much issue with this is Christians could get their morals and ethics right, but until they do I will continue to be one of the few Christians non Christians can stand….

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    • I know where you are comming from Chris. I think that one way to go about that situation is telling them about mistakes that you have made. We all know that smoking and drinking as a Christian is bad, But i have done that in the past, and it is something that I regret. Sharing that with them, is part of telling them at their is forgiveness in Christ, and that they to can be relieved of the sins that they have committed.

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  5. I have found that there is two different types of non-Christians when it comes to how they look at Christians and their actions and morals. One group tends to look at Christians that are hypocrites and feel like Christianity is a bust, and hypocrisy keeps them away from coming to Christ. The other group just looks at a Christian that really does live how they say they live, and shun Christianity because of it. Tim Tebow is a guy that I believe really lives it out, and is very legitimate giving glory to God through his actions, and yet people hate him because of it, and it also brings them to hate on Christianity as well. The line keeps growing further and further away from living a life that pleases the Gospel, and grows more and more towards living a life that is more “fun,” to draw people to the Gospel, as true Christian living is boring, and does not attract people.

    On the other hand, it is verses like Titus 3:8 that point back to hope in living a life worthy of Jesus Christ being beneficial to non-believers as well as believers: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:8). Overall, there are always going to be people that are in that second group, but in the end, if Christians devote themselves to doing what is good, in the end it will be profitable.

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  6. I must be one of the Christians that nobody can stand if it means that I must have biblical morals that God established. I may not be able to live up to those morals, but at least I can see that God is my standard.

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  7. I must say, this topic is touchie to many churchs. Where does the hypocricy end? I know that are many different types of chruchs that accept all different kinds of people. My church in particular, seeks for the broken people. The ones that truly have messed up lives and need Christ the most. My church has to expect some hypocritial people. Because of the type of people that they are trying to draw in.

    On the other hand, there are churchs that have the people with a mask on, or that look perfect. For example, one reason my dad trued away from the Catholic church, was because he foud out the one of the leaders in the chruch was having an affair on his wife, with someone next door. I know that the Catholic church is way out in left field, but things like this happen all the time.

    There are so many people doing the right things all the time and that are following the doctrine, but that does not make them a true leader of the church. This people needs to be tranformed by God and live a Godly life, not beacuse of the position that he holds, but because of his heart and obedience toward God. I do not think at all that the church creates hypocrisy. It is the world that creates it. The human nature is to be hypocritical, not the chruch at all. It is the everyday living and the lack of Christ in our lives personally that creates the hypocricy in ourlives and the chruch.

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  8. One of the greatest criticisms that the church gets is that it is full of hypocrites. This is a criticism that is well understood, by both non-believers and Christians alike. It’s always a frustration when you go to church, and see people leading worship who you know don’t live their lives in a way that is trying to please God. What we need to realize is that its not just the church that is hypocritical, its humanity. Hypocrisy exists as much outside of the church as within. We are all sinners, and we all fall prey to hypocrisy. But it does call us to be more careful on how we as individuals are foreseen by those around us. Does our life reflect the love and truth of Christ our Lord? Are we any different from the non-believers that surround us? Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We are called to be transformed people. We are to try and follow God’s will. We are called to be a people who show others the love and acceptance that Christ shows us. We are called to stand up for what is good and true. We are called to be little Christs.

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  9. I think there is a large difference between having bad doctrine and living immoral lives and acknowledging the truth in Scripture and doing your best to not sin while proclaiming the Word of God. Paul said that he was the worst of sinners, which to me suggests that he struggled at times with many different sins. But, i wouldn’t call him a hypocrite every time he teaches the truth in his epistles. We must continue to show people that we are sinners and tie this in with our teachings of redemption (not hard to do). Honesty is key. Leaders in the church can preach against doing drugs, but if they have a drug problem they must be honest about it.

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  10. The first two paragraphs are problematic because you have misunderstood what Paul was actually saying.
    When David wanted to build a temple God said no because David had been a man of war.
    This is an understanding we must have in order to realize what Paul was saying. It is a deep understanding but many seldom connect the dots.

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