Nothing could be a stronger proof of sound doctrine in Crete than the good and sober conduct of all Christians, whatever their position in life; indeed right teaching is always accompanied by certain fruits, and this is true both in Crete and everywhere else. Titus was to announce these things.
The instruction given in the second chapter to the different classes is clear and simple, and we should take heed to it. When slaves are mentioned at the end, a wonderful little compendium of Christianity (as seen by its fruits), and its highest motives, is given to us, and we may look into this more fully.
The character of the more aged saints speaks for itself. It is well to notice the expression "false accusers" of the third verse, for it is the very word used in Scripture to characterize the accuser, the slanderer of God and men.
The quiet, well-ordered interior of a Christian household, activity* and love in the wives, is a testimony that cannot be spoken against.
*It is not merely "keepers at home" in verse 5. The real word is, "occupied with household work," and supposes diligence.
It is well, too, to note the expressions "discreet" and "sober-minded" of verses 5 and 6, for it is the same sense in either case, and implies moderation.
Titus, in preaching these excellent virtues, was to show them in his own life - purity of doctrine, gravity and sound speech, to the shame of opposers, who should thus find no pretext for speaking against Christians.
All this is beautifully simple, and needs to be practised in our day, when social order is being overturned by the enemy: quiet family duties despised, women going about lecturing, men generally not given to moderation, the word of God neglected and despised. I speak of the general state of Christendom; but these things infect true Christians, and we may well go to Scripture for the things which become sound doctrine.
When the apostle comes to slaves, he exalts at once their calling to that of adorning the doctrine of our Saviour God in all things.
A slave in Crete was a person at the very base of the social ladder, and the ladder itself was low. (Chap. 1:12.) There is not, however, a word of Emancipation here; and this is important, for Christianity is not a scheme for the improvement of Cretans or of negroes. It is degrading Christianity to drag it down to this level; and the Holy Spirit, in this passage, after prescribing to Christian slaves what their conduct should be, gives us in a few words a comprehensive view of the subject. Christianity is not a partial remedy for misery, nor a philanthropic institution for improving the world; but it calls out of the world an acquired people, expectant of eternal and heavenly glory. New life, new motives, an unfailing object, zeal for good works in the very midst of Cretan degradation! And this blessed truth applies to us all.
"The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." The full, free grace of God, which finds man utterly ruined and lost, and upon that very ground saves him without money and without price, cleanses him from all defilement, and gives him everlasting life. Now come the things which are befitting to sound doctrine, the teaching* us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts first of all. It may be said that we are not in so gross an atmosphere as that of Crete; but we are in a world which is as ungodly as ever, and which is intent upon its own affairs (" the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life"), and there are many things to which we must say that difficult word "No!"
*Notice the force of this expression; there is positive discipline, by the word of God in our souls.
Then "soberly" is not merely the avoiding of gross material evil, but implies also moral moderation, as we have already noticed, and we may compare with it the "sound mind" of 2 Tim. 1:7.*
*The word has the same derivation. See the apostle's character in the Christian Friend for August, 1893.
"Righteously" goes further, of course, than a mere worldly code of justice. The Christian's conscience has been first purified, and then enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and is a delicate instrument; and it is a very happy thing when the balance is in equilibrium.
"Godly"; these three things form the practical life of the Christian (as to himself, as to others, and as to God) in this present age. It is the period of man's independence, and of the rule of the god whom the world has chosen. We are now living at the close of it, and, alas! we must confess that the nineteenth century is characterised neither by moderation, justice, nor piety. The testimony of the Christian will be that of a man actuated by principles that are not of this world. "You are behind the age!" they say. "Or before it!" might be replied.
May our conduct truly show this! The course will soon be ended; and there is the earnest outlook into the coming age, which shall be ushered in by the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. "Looking for that blessed hope," etc. How this most splendid perspective must have alleviated and ennobled the life of a Cretan slave! And does it not indeed shine right along our path, whatever may be our service here? The poor humble slave, suffering often, no doubt, injustice at the hands of men, could go on in a path pleasing to the Saviour God, and look forward with the same certainty as Paul himself to the day when the just Judge should reward his patient work. It is no vague hope of better days to come, such as this benighted world may dream of, but the full and bright epiphany of the glory of our great God and Saviour.
The fourteenth verse is very beautiful, for we have His own proper claim upon us, as a present motive. He gave Himself for us! The redeeming from all iniquity includes the wilful, unbridled condition of the natural man. It is well to notice this, for thus the contrast is all the more striking; we have been redeemed from lawlessness, to be under the blessed yoke of the Lord Jesus, and to be purified unto Himself
He has an acquired people, bought with an infinite price; and whilst free spiritually and morally, we belong to Him, and to Him alone. As the Levites in Numbers 3, representing the redeemed firstborn of Israel, were given to Aaron for Jehovah's service, so do we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ; we are His own acquired people. The zeal for good works too belongs to His most excellent school; they will not always be appreciated by those who surround us, but it is a sufficient consolation to know, as we await the glory, that we have the Master's approval in our service.
Whilst owning our failure, we feel the importance of the subject (the things which become sound doctrine), and wish to be more in subjection to Him to whom we belong both now and for ever.
Happy they who adorn the doctrine of the Saviour God in all things! And this is the very point in question - the precious fruits that accompany Christian teaching, all through the course till the Lord's appearing. E. L. Bevir.