Titus 2:11-14 (Basic Bible Commentary)

November 24th, 2013

What God Expects from All Christians (2:11-15)

With no further explanation, the preceding charges sound like little more than moralisms: You should do. Therefore, verses 11-14 supply the theological undergirding and motivation for the higher calling to which each of the categories of people is called.

The moral life is set within the context of another life: the life of Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God would be little more than a notion, an idea, without a life that exhibits what this notion looks like in practice. The grace of God has appeared, been made manifest, through a real person who has known what it means to be fully human and fully alive in the context of real history working with real people. The word used for appeared is epiphany.

The word has two meanings. One meaning is the coming of light into darkness, as dawn gradually emerges from the darkness of night. Another is the sudden appearance through divine intervention. In Genesis just such an appearance occurs. Jacob is able to travel safely from Shechem to Mamre because God intervenes as a terror among the pursuing forces (Genesis 35:5).

In this context, the implication is that God intervened on behalf of all humankind through Jesus.

The coming of Christ in human form is called the incarnation. Frequently the incarnation is restricted to the celebration of the actual birth during the Christmas season. But the incarnation means much more than birth. In the New Testament, the incarnation implies the entirety of Jesus' life: birth, ministry, life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, this verse is an allusion to the entire life of Jesus, not just his birth.

The purpose of the incarnation is the salvation of all humankind. Now we can see the importance of the listings earlier in the chapter. Paul has suggested that all, regardless of age or station, have equal access to God's salvation. By implication Paul points toward the rest of pagan culture as well (verses 5, 8, 10). Certainly Paul's work as recalled in Acts points toward a universal gospel intended for all, including slaves.

The term training (NRSV) or it teaches us (NIV) in verse 12 may be a reference to the catechetical training that accompanies preparation for baptism. The training leads people to forego false religion, or no religion at all, for the high-minded Christian religion, as well as to eliminate baser actions.

The Christian lives soberly in relation to self, uprightly or sensibly in relation to others with respect for their rights, and with an authentic piety in relation to God.

All three of these relationships are in this world, that is, in the present time (1 Timothy 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10).

In verse 13, however, the Christian perspective is greater than an inheritance from the past and a strong moral commitment in the present. Christians envision life within the context of eternity. Christians await a time when all that is good will be brought to its full and complete end (see 1 Corinthians 1:7).

The word appearance is also used when speaking of the arrival of a Roman official. The subtle suggestion may be that Jesus is the true ruler who will appear, and the true Kingdom will finally be established.

The verse contains a section that is difficult to translate. It sounds as if this could read God [who is] Savior Jesus Christ. At no other time does Paul ever refer to Christ as God, though in the Pastoral Letters God and Christ are placed side by side (1 Timothy 1:1; 5:21; 6:13; 2 Timothy 1:1; 4:1; Titus 3:4-6). The NRSV note indicates a variant translation, of the great God and our Savior, eliminating the difficulty by making the two very distinct entities.

The description great God establishes a clear distinction between the Christian/biblical God and the claims made by heathen religion regarding its gods and goddesses. Paul had refuted this sort of claim during his missionary activity in Ephesus (Acts 19:26).

Having declared God's intention of salvation for all humankind and invested great hope in the teaching ministry of the church all within the context of eternity, now in verse 14 Paul alludes to the work of Christ.

Rescue is a dominant theme throughout the Bible. God rescued the Hebrews from slavery, and redeemed them (Exodus 15:13). Following the defeat and subsequent deportation, God rescued the people from their captivity (Isaiah 44:23).

However, we should note that God rescues from the power of sin, not from the guilt that accompanies sin.

In the Hebrew mind, purification takes place after deliverance (Ezekiel 37:23). The same theme is picked up in 1 John 1:7.

The work of Christ, then, is to make a people for himself. The effort of God to make a chosen people stems from the earliest history of Israel (see Exodus 19:5, 6).

The Christian perspective is that the church has inherited the designation of God's people. The church is the new Israel (Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:3). The same theme is reflected in 1 Peter 2:9, 10.

Wary of the pride that can develop along with the notion of being chosen, Paul hastens to add the description of God's chosen people. They are eager to do what is good (NIV) or zealous for good deeds (NRSV). Christianity at its best is not merely a systematized theological construction that interprets all of life, nor is it a people confident of their being a people in God's sight. True Christianity is also a way of life expressing itself through good works; it is a practical way of living.

Thus in verse 15 theological undergirding is given to the high calling of an exemplary moral life. All of these things, both moral expectation and theological understandings, must be taught. In 2:1 the same verb is used, teach (NIV) or declare (NRSV).

The final sentence may be intended as much for Titus's congregation to hear as for Titus himself. Evidently some members of the congregation have been disregarding the teaching and admonition of the younger preacher. Here Paul tells them that they should not disregard the preacher's authority.

excerpt from: Basic Bible Commentary in the Ministry Matters Library

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