Read the Passage: Titus 2
Gender Roles (2:1–8)
As he had done in writing to Timothy, so here in Titus 2 Paul addresses the topic of gender roles. While we may be tempted to think that distortion and confusion of gender roles is a modern phenomenon, issues related to gender roles have always been a struggle for fallen humanity, making this issue a frequent target for false teachers. Observe that in addressing older men (cf. Titus 2:2), older women (cf. Titus 2:3), younger women (cf. Titus 2:4–5), younger men (cf. Titus 2:6–8), and bondservants (cf. Titus 2:9–10), Paul spoke to everyone within the church. The older men whom Paul mentions here were those over age sixty. Paul writes that such men were to be sober, reverent, temperate, as well as sound in faith, in love, and in patience. Note that many of these characteristics are also required of pastors (cf. Titus 1:5–9), as they describe a spiritually mature man who is living a quiet and peaceable life (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 1 Tim. 2:2).
The older women whom Paul addresses in Titus 2:3 were those over the age of sixty who no longer had child-rearing responsibilities. Paul only lists four characteristics here—that is, these women were to be reverent, not slanderers, not given to wine, and teachers of good things. Following this list of traits, in Titus 2:4–5, Paul explains that the good things older women are to teach include: admonishing younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chase, homemakers, good, and obedient to their husbands. Then, in Titus 2:6–8, Paul addresses young men, writing that they are to be sober-minded, engaged in good works, showing integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility, as well as having sound speech. The rationale for this behavior is so that the Word of God is not blasphemed (cf. Titus 2:5) and the enemies of the gospel are shamed (cf. Titus 2:8).
In Titus 2:9–10 Paul addresses the proper roles of bondservants. Given the history of racial slavery in post-biblical times, New Testament references to bondservants can be challenging. Yet, we must keep in mind that while bondservants had few rights, the category is more akin to the modern concept of an indentured servant or a bonded employee. As with all human relationships, certainly some biblical-era bondservants were sinfully abused; yet, the concept cannot be inherently evil, as Scripture repeatedly refers to believers as bondservants of Christ (cf. Rom. 6:22). When the New Testament calls Christians “bondservants,” the point is that a believer’s identity is not rooted in oneself, but in Jesus Christ. In other words, believers must set aside notions of personal rights in order to serve Christ. In this passage, Paul teaches on how the gospel affects the identity and activities of bondservants.
While Paul mentioned various groups within the church in Titus 2:1–10, at Titus 2:11 he unites all these groups together as he reminds the church, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” Indeed, the doctrine and experience of justification is that which unites all believers regardless of age, gender, position, gifts, abilities, ethnicity, economic status, education, experience, or any other reality that is used to distinguish mankind. Recall in Titus 1:4 Paul referred to “our common faith,” which Jude later calls “our common salvation” (Jude 3). In Titus 2:12–13 Paul writes of the shared experience of those who are in Christ—that is, (1) in the past, we’ve both engaged in and denied ungodliness and worldly lusts; (2) in the present, we live soberly, righteously, and godly lives; and (3) in the future, we all look forward to the blessed hope of the appearing of Jesus.
After writing about salvation in Jesus Christ in Titus 2:11–13, in Titus 2:14 Paul describes two separate aspects of the process of salvation. First, Paul writes Christ has “redeem us from every lawless deed,” which is often referred to as the doctrine of justification. Second, Paul notes that Jesus is currently “purifying for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works,” which is often referred to as the doctrine of sanctification. These two inseparable events are the positional and the practical aspects of salvation. Note that neither justification nor sanctification can occur without the other. In Titus 2:15 Paul encourages Titus to speak the things which he has written, to exhort the church, and to rebuke those who were in sin. Just as Paul had told Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth” (1 Tim. 4:12), so here Paul instructs Titus, “Let no one despise you” (Titus 2:15).
- In instructing Titus about Christian living, why does Paul find it necessary to give instructions on gender roles? Has the church always struggled with gender issues?
- In your experience, do most older Christians in the church, both men and women, display the spiritual characteristics that Paul discusses in Titus 2:2–3?
- In your experience, do most younger Christians in the church, both men and women, display the spiritual characteristics that Paul discusses in Titus 2:4–8?
- How can we explain the seeming tolerance in the New Testament of the concept of bondservants (cf. Eph. 6:5–7; Col. 3:22–24; 1 Pet. 2:18)?
- Can a person be redeemed and not be purified? Can someone be part of God’s “special people” (Titus 2:14a) but not be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14b)?