The New Covenant is ultimately about complete redemption of every part of life. The covenant with Abraham is arguably the Bible’s foundational covenant; it lays the groundwork for salvation at every level and promises an enduring people and Seed (most immediately, the eternal physical nation of Israel, but more generally the spiritual seed of Abraham—the pinnacle of both being the Lord Jesus Christ), land covenanted to that people forever that would be the citadel and center of the work of God in the earth, and blessing for all the nations because of these promises and especially the divine Seed. The Davidic Covenant assures us of a human-divine king who will rule perfectly and forever over God’s kingdom, and of God’s unconditional faithfulness to the line of David to make this happen. But the New Covenant—which is in many ways a restatement of and enlargement upon past promises that were made to Eve, Shem, Noah, Abraham, David, and many others—promises a people rightly related to God, whose sins are dealt with by forgiveness and whose new natures receive joyfully the rule and reign of God through His Word written upon their very hearts.
Out of them flows redemption to every part of life; the sinful heart is taken care of (that chief among men’s problems), so there is anticipation for the fullness of God’s promises to be fulfilled. He has redeemed the ones who have plunged His world into death and disarray, and having laid that foundation He can apply that redemption everywhere else, that heaven might touch earth.
While this new relationship with God invites progressive and increasing redemption of the world both now and in the future, the stress of the New Covenant is placed upon the redemption of the person, both body and soul. It is this reality we see worked out in many of the epistles, even as our hope is pointed towards the fullness to overwhelm the world in that final day. In Titus 2, Paul explains specific ways in which the gospel shapes and transforms different groups of people redeemed by it. Verses 6-8 explain three key ways this gospel renovates the hearts of younger men for the glory of Christ.
A. Sensible (v. 6)
Paul has emphasized a theme in the previous seven verses that he continues here. Every age group and both genders in the church are to be sensible. It is a rich word, with both internal and external implications. Most basically, it refers to being in one’s right mind. It has the idea of being in control, of having the sense to know what is going on as to the big picture of things, of being able to moderate oneself and curb passion. It also carries the idea of discernment and judgment. This has both intellectual and affectional aspects to it. Additionally, it also has an external element in that this sensibleness must be developed and maintained so that one has a properly oriented sensibility towards the right things. Our hearts must not be dull or indifferent towards the things of God and the true, good, and beautiful. Nor should they feel too much towards a thing than it warrants, or feel it in the wrong way (you do not love God the same way you love your spouse, your dog, or an ice cream sundae). Proper sensibleness leads to ordinate sensibility.
Naturally, younger men find ways in which to immediately apply this to their own lives. The biological drive towards procreation, which will lead many (though not all) young men into marriage, provides temptations internal and external towards physical immorality. The impetuousness, hotheadedness, and zeal of youth, coupled with a latent arrogance that thinks it knows everything without the life experience in which to ground it, create a myriad of problems that would be best answered with a humble spirit and closed mouth. (This does not mean younger men are to be doormats, nor that being older confers infallibility or a lack of blind spots.) A sober mind and heart take into account the consequences, even those in the secrecy of his own heart, of clicking on the wrong internet link or dwelling on sensual fantasies. Sobriety cultivates a teachable spirit that listens to those who have earned the right to be heard and have persevered in the faith and ministry. Sobriety is often quicker to listen than to speak. It serves others rather than demands its own needs be met.
Most of all, it lives all of life as in the direct presence of God and in light of the grand realities soon to come described in Bible prophecy. What will my choices mean ten thousand years from now upon the new earth where holiness and joy are the air we breathe? Surely that will put any temptation in perspective and douse the blinding prowess of fleshly desire!
B. Doers of Good (v. 7a)
Once younger men have cultivated the heart to identify and love the right things (not that one ever “arrives” at doing this perfectly!), Paul tells them to be doers of good. Notice he moves from attitude to doing. Where is the Pauline emphasis on teaching the Word of God? There are two reasons for this. One is the action-oriented temperament of younger men. Many are disinterested in theory and ideas, preferring to move directly to the doing (something that can be very effective but also potentially foolish, which is why Paul prefaces it with sensibility). So Paul concedes this orientation and works with it. After all, there are some things we learn best by doing!
But I do not believe Paul abandons teaching entirely. We already know that Titus is being exhorted to walk alongside his sheep and explain a lifestyle that accords with sound doctrine. This sound doctrine has presumably been taught, and even sensibility itself has a teaching element to it (the right things and how to ordinately love them must be explained). So this is the second answer: By exhorting sensibility and doctrinally-informed living, Paul has already told Tutus the foundation of godliness is right understanding of the Truth.
Of note is that Tutus is exhorted to show himself a doer of good. We can assume Titus was a younger man, probably in his midthirties at the oldest, so he would have been old enough to have a bit of life experience, but young enough he could still identify with his younger brothers. But he is not to exhort them to a place he is not striving towards as well. We all fall short, but we must own our failures and strive towards greater godliness by grace. Younger people have a very refined sense of (real or perceived) hypocrisy. Titus is not to give that any credence. He is to have credibility by being a doer—and lover—of good himself.
C. How to become godly older men (vv. 7b-8)
Paul carries forth the call for Titus to model the life to which he calls younger men by enumerating three godly characteristics that flow out of sound teaching, and of the teaching itself.
“Purity” is lit. “uncorrputibility.” It does not refer to the doctrinal purity of the teaching so much as the way one lives in accord with it. It presumes one’s obedience is comprehensive and complete, and not double-minded. It means living (and, incidentally, believing and feeling) in accordance with the whole of the truth revealed to and preserved for us in Scripture. “Live the truth without corruption” is the idea.
This word can also mean “seriousness.” It carries the idea of honor and nobility, even graveness. In our lackadaisical, fleshly, unrefined day, when scatological details are talk show fare and the worst sexual depravities sources of comedy during primetime, the multitudinous ways in which foolish behavior, thinking, and speech are enshrined in our culture bogles the mind. While crude jokes about sexuality and immorality are obviously prohibited by this demand, the elder is to comprehensively model a dignified, serious, noble, refined approach to life and ministry. He is not to be crude, crass, unthinking, reactionary, or unreflective. (A rigorous liberal arts education can go a long way in laying this foundation, which is one of the many reasons why in years past preachers would not be admitted to seminary until they had received one.) Depth, broad learning, conviction, careful thought, and discipline all are aspects of this idea. They are the very opposite of the frivolity, foolishness, and thoughtless crudeness of youth.
The full idea is “sound in speech which is beyond reproach.” “Sound” means healthy or lifegiving. It means speech that is healthy and healing as opposed to diseased and sickening. This includes doctrinal teaching (obviously), but extends to the entirety of the use of the mouth. One’s speech, whether teaching the Scripture or interacting with a stranger, must be able to withstand accusation! If it were diseased, it would be accusable. It must be sound so that it can be free from accusation.
Paul adds this must be so “so that the opponent will have nothing bad to say.” This likely refers to the false teachers (with the pagan world, and ultimately Satan himself, not far behind) in 1:10-16, who are seeking to sow discord in the church and draw people away from apostolic doctrine. If Titus, and the young men who will lead the next generations, does and says things that are ungodly, he will discredit the very truth he is called to defend against errorists. Gospel grace calls us to comprehensive holiness of life. We are out of step with the gospel if we are disobedient to even the smallest applicable precept of our Lord. And we give people who deny the truth ammunition in their effort to drag souls to Hell!
The young men of today are the older men (some of them elders) of tomorrow. Titus, and we, are called to exemplify the life to which our holy God calls them by grace. If we wish to be godly old men, and we should, that will not happen in our sixties. We must make the hard decisions now, die to self now, ingrain faith-filled habits of grace-enabled godliness now, so that in our eighties and nineties we can look back on a life filled with fruit and many generations who have a worthy pattern in us for their own pilgrimage, to the praise and glory of our eminently worthy God.