Online Bible Commentary
In Accord with Sound Doctrine
Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. (NIV)
In this passage Paul is writing to Titus, who is setting up churches on the island of Crete. Some would say that this passage is another passage on household rules that we find elsewhere in the Bible. However, we must remember that context always governs translation. The context of this letter is that it is a Pastoral Epistle. It is God’s instruction to pastors and churches. It is, in this case, instruction to Titus to be used in setting up churches and appointing pastors, referred to as overseers or elders.
Here Paul is instructing Titus on how to teach each gender and age group in the church. Above all, what he teaches must be “sound doctrine” (v. 1). This is the overriding statement of the whole passage. The teaching specifics that follow must always be subject to this statement. Whatever he teaches, and trains other to teach, must be of sound doctrine. It can not be false doctrine, which was a huge problem that Timothy was facing in Ephesus, and that Titus was facing, to a lesser degree.
First, Paul addresses the proper teaching for “older men” (v. 2). The term “older men” is not defined. Since the attributes that follow align with those of overseers (1Timothy 3), it would seem that this designation would refer to those who were eligible to teach. In the culture, the term “older men” could have meant to be men over 50. Hippocrates wrote that, of the seven periods of a man’s life, the last two periods began at age fifty. However, in Judaism, eligibility for the priesthood began at age thirty. Jesus began His ministry at age thirty. Whichever the case, the only other age group mentioned in this passage for men is “young men” (v. 6).
These “older men” are to be taught six virtues. The first three, according to the literal Greek translation of verse two, are to be “temperate, sensible, and discreet.” They are to be taught to be even tempered, sensible, and discreet. In other words, they are to be well respected by those of whom they come in contact. This was a common theme throughout this chapter. It was important to the spread of Christianity that Christians behaved in a manner that endeared respect in the community. The next three virtues to be taught these older men were taken from the three cardinal virtues of Christianity: faith, love, and hope. The word translated “endurance” (v. 2) could mean a perseverance of hope.
Paul then turns his attention to how to teach the “older women”. Again, like men, the only other age group for women listed is “younger women”. The term “women” was interchangeable with the term “wives” because almost all women in the culture were given in marriage at a young age. Paul lists four virtues to be taught to these “older women”. They should be taught to be “reverent in the way they live” (v. 3a). In other words, they should be taught holy living. They should be taught not to slander or be “addicted” to wine (v. 3b). This may be a reference to the problems with women that Timothy encountered in Ephesus. The fourth teaching was to “teach what was good” (v. 3c).
This good teaching was to be directed towards teaching the younger women five virtues (v.4-5). In these Pastoral Epistles it is taught that women should not teach men, thus the reason why only men are listed as being qualified to be pastors. The role of teaching for women is specifically limited to women and children. So that there should be no confusion Paul now employs the term “train”, instead of “teach”.(v. 4) Part of that training was to model a holy life to the younger women.
The five virtues on which older women are to train the younger women are “to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands” (vv. 4-5a). These are virtues that were consistent with the culture of the day, but also are timeless teachings of God.
The purpose of these teachings is not to make women second class citizens, but to not “malign the word of God” (v. 5b). These, again, are God’s instructions to pastors and churches designed to spread Christianity. The intent is to maintain respectability for the church in the community. Part of that respectability was to fit in with the culture, without compromising God’s word.
Paul concludes this passage with how to teach “younger men” (v. 6). It is interesting that he only cites one virtue: “to be self controlled.” God knows us better than we know ourselves. He created us. He knows the role hormones can play in our lives if left unchecked. He knows that young men are plagued by the disease “young and dumb”. I had it, and most young men do. He stresses teaching young men to be self controlled, above all else.
The time is about 64 A.D. and the culture is decidedly male dominated. But this fact has nothing to do with these timeless teachings from God. God is not influenced by any culture. His teachings are the best advice He can give to those He created. He loves us and wants only the best for us during the short time we have on earth. He teaches us these things because He knows that these virtues give us the best chance to find joy, peace, and happiness in this world. He teaches what is in accord with sound doctrine, the word of God.