Online Bible Commentary
Set Them an Example by Doing What is Good
Titus 2:7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. 9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (NIV)
The Apostle Paul continues this Pastoral Epistle to Titus, with instructions to those who teach the word of God. Titus has been assigned the task to appoint and train overseers (pastors) for the new churches on the island of Crete, in the Mediterranean Sea. Cretans were infamous for their devotion to obtaining wealth, at any cost. Also, many of the new Christians, who were evangelized by Paul and Titus, were Jewish and wanted to hold on to the Jewish rituals, which were considered false teaching by Christianity. These were just some of the challenges that Titus faced.
In this passage, Paul begins with instruction on the proper behavior required of pastors in order to overcome challenges faced within, and outside, the church. The literal Greek translation of verse 7a is “concerning all things yourself, holding forth a pattern of good works, in the teaching.”
Paul then defines “a pattern of good works, in the teaching” by giving three behaviors pastors are to model when teaching (vv. 7b-8a). These behaviors are listed as “integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech.” The word translated “integrity” is the Greek word “adiaphthoria’, which means “incorruptibleness of doctrine”. Their teaching should be of sound doctrine, the truth of Scripture. The word translated “seriousness” is the Greek word “semnotes” which means “gravity”. Pastors should not play loose and fast with teaching. They should understand the gravity associated with speaking for the Lord, and prepare accordingly. The word translated “soundness of speech” is the Greek word “aphtharsia” which means “immortality”. Their teaching should be of unending existence. In other words, the word of God should be presented as never ending, never changing.
The purpose of these behaviors is so that these pastors, and Christianity itself, “cannot be condemned” (v. 8b). Those who oppose the message will have nothing to hang their hats on, no proof for their accusations. The opposition includes those pagan critics outside the church, and those inside the church who may be supporting false teaching.
At this point, Paul returns to the subject of the previous passage. That subject was how to teach certain segments of church members. He previously addressed older men, older women, younger women, and young men. He now turns to how to teach slaves (vv. 9-10).
It is very important to understand that slavery was never endorsed by Christianity. The practice stands in stark contrast to Christian doctrine. However, since slavery was the law of the land, it was addressed. It was always addressed in a manner that called for good treatment of slaves. Many slaves were Christians, and as such commanded higher prices at public auctions than the non Christian slaves. Slaves would often be entrusted by their masters to purchase goods for them. Slave owners recognized that Christian slaves were being taught to be honorable and trustworthy.
Paul calls for slaves in the church to be taught five virtues. They were to be taught to be submissive to their masters, to try to please them, not to talk back, not to steal, and to be trustworthy in all things (vv. 9-10a).This same teaching applies to the obligation of employees to their employers. The purpose of these teachings was the same purpose of the teaching to the other segments of church members. That purpose was so that Christianity could be seen as “attractive” to those outside the church (v. 10b). The goal was to spread Christianity, to take the Gospel to the world.
As Christians, we need to pay attention to our behavior. Non Christians, especially our critics, are watching. If we teach one thing, and do another we make ourselves out to be hypocrites. We make Christianity unattractive to others. We destroy the message of the Lord. We are called to “set them an example by doing what is good.”