You've probably heard someone say, do as I say. Not as I do? Maybe you've said it yourself.
Doesn't carry a lot of weight, does it? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why a pastor's conduct has to be a living embodiment of what he's preaching. Alistair is in Titus chapter 2 today. Here, of course, in this second chapter of Titus, in the midst of all the other aspects that are addressed, Paul is giving very clear directions to Titus himself concerning his role in relationship to the edification, the instruction, and the encouragement of those who are under his care. So let us just begin at the first verse as he exhorts him, first of all, to teach what accords with sound doctrine. Titus is to be a teacher.
It's very clear, it comes again and again, and we ought not to miss the obvious when we're reading our Bibles. Titus, you are to teach. You are to teach.
Your mouth is to be consecrated to the service of your master. Not only are you to teach, but you are to teach sound doctrine. And actually, in the Greek, there is the definite article there, which isn't translated here in the ESV. In other words, it reads, you are to teach what accords with this sound doctrine.
Now, that may seem insignificant, but I don't think it is. Because it is just one of the phrases that is used interchangeably by Paul—the trustworthy message, the good deposit, the gospel itself, and in this instance, this sound doctrine. And that definite article sends us in the direction of understanding that what he's saying there is that there is a body of teaching, there is a deposit, if you like, the apostolic gospel, the gospel itself, which is to be the substance of the pastor's ministry. And recognizing that not only does the Bible tell the pastor to teach, but it also tells the pastor what he is to teach—teach, teach sound doctrine, and teach what accords with sound doctrine, that which ties in with sound doctrine, that which harmonizes, if you like, with the gospel. And as Titus would have had this read out loud, presumably for the people who were present, those that were sitting there listening to whoever read it out for them would be saying to themselves, Well, that is a reminder to us to pray for our pastor, to pray that he teaches, and that he teaches sound doctrine, and that he doesn't go off on dreadful tangents and rabbit trails and his own theories and ideas, but he actually teaches what accords with sound doctrine. And it is a reminder, isn't it, of the fact that for effective preaching to take place, you need not only a prayerful pastor, but you also need a praying congregation, praying to the same end that the ministry of God's Word would be marked by these things. Now, you will notice here, if you're alert—and I take it that you are—that instead of beginning as is his norm with doctrinal indicatives, he actually leaves those things until later on, down in verse 11 and on, and instead he's beginning here with all of these moral imperatives. Now, that may just seem like a mouthful, but we understand that we use the phraseology all the time, don't we? He usually lays down, for example, in Colossians all the things that are indicatives, that are true of the believer who is in Christ, and then, once he has made that clear, he then moves from the indicative to the imperative and begins chapter 3, Since then or if then you have been raised with Christ, do this, do this, do this, and do this. Well, in this instance, he's actually reversing it, and he's leading with these directives. If you jump down to verse 7, we'll be coming back to the instruction not tonight that is given to these various ages and gender brackets within the congregation there in Crete. We'll come back to that.
But we're looking just at what he says to Titus. If you go down to verse 7, there you have it, show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works. And we'll just stay with teaching for a moment. And in your teaching, show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, the purpose being that no opponent will be anything other than shamed because they will have nothing bad to say concerning it. Now, this is a high calling, is it not? It's a high standard that in his teaching he is to show integrity.
In other words, once again, in contrast to these folks who were full of hot air and full of nonsense, Paul points out that behind a lot of what they were doing was a desire to line their own nest. And so he says, Now Titus, as for you, not only are you to teach in this way, but your teaching must always be marked by integrity. You cannot allow yourself to succumb to the corrupting influence of ill-gotten gain.
You dare not do it. And presumably, there was the temptation to do it in the first century. There is definitely the temptation to do it in the twenty-first century. And I have never been anywhere in the world where the temptation is as great as right here in the continental United States.
And it abounds. And therefore, the only way that we can handle it is to do what the Bible says—to make this a mark and a standard and a controlling influence. There mustn't be any cunning. There must be no tempering.
There must be no distortion. There must be no delusion. It's very similar, isn't it, to what he says to the Corinthians? In 2 Corinthians 4, he distinguishes himself and his colleagues from the ministry of those who are charlatans, and he says, Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we don't lose heart. And then he says this, We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. What does he mean, we've renounced them?
Well, we've said we're not going to engage in them. We know that it goes on, he says, We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And so here he is, true to his own precept.
The pattern of his life bears testimony to that which he now urges upon Titus. Titus, make sure that your teaching is marked by integrity. Also, by dignity. By dignity. If integrity answers the question, Why are you doing what you're doing? Not for ill-gotten gain.
Not as a result of manipulative processes. Then the dignity issue is about how you do what you do. In other words, that there should be about the teaching of the Bible, there should be about what he's engaging in, a seriousness.
If you like, a gravitas. Now, that's not the same as a dolefulness or a sort of manufactured sense of awesomeness. But the awareness should be present in the opening up of the Bible, that we haven't gathered here to be entertained by Titus, we haven't come here to hear the views of Titus, but that we have gathered in the presence of God before the instruction of the Word of God, and we recognize that he raises up vessels, mouthpieces for himself. It is a reminder, isn't it? And it is a warning to different personality types to make sure that custom, the routine nature of doing this again and again and again and Sunday and Sunday and Sunday and three services and four services, times all the weeks in the year, times all the years.
Because, you see, the greatest danger that is represented for us is the danger that comes when it becomes increasingly easy to do what we do. When you can talk for half an hour without ever really knowing what you're on about, and manage to do it at least a couple of times without letting your listeners know that you don't. If you've taught your congregation well, you will only get by with two.
They will not stretch to a third. They will call you out on it, and of course, that would be very helpful. But, you see, when you think of all of these pastors, I think this will help you to pray for them. Father, I pray that you will help these men in their teaching for it to be marked by an integrity that doesn't tamper with it and by a dignity that is not an undue and falsified solemnity. I take great comfort in the fact that Spurgeon was involved in outrageous bouts of laughter in the Metropolitan Tabernacle. I mean, I wish I'd been there for one of them, but it is reported that at times he got the congregation laughing so hard that they weren't sure whether they were going to be able to continue the sermon or whether they would just have to pronounce the benediction and go home. And of course, he was criticized for that. He was criticized roundly for the use of humor in what he did, and his reply was, you know, if you knew what I held back, you would commend me. And that's the same Spurgeon you will remember who, when Moody chastised him for smoking cigars, as he did, Spurgeon said, but I don't do it in excess. And Moody said, what would you call excess?
And Spurgeon said, smoking two at once. Integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned. Sound speech that cannot be condemned.
Now, remember, we've said that this word sound means healthy, in keeping, and not open to the condemnation that would be placed by an opponent. And again, it doesn't mean that the speech will be perfect speech, but it does mean that the pastor should be able to say what Paul says, at least when he is before Agrippa, you'll remember, in Acts chapter 27. And Festus, who has set up the opportunity for Paul to speak in the company of King Agrippa, eventually realizes that Paul is getting way too direct and pointed in what he's doing, and you remember, he interrupts him. And he says to him, Paul, your learning has just driven you nuts.
You're out of your mind now. It's time that you stop. And Paul replies and says to him, that is not the case, Festus.
You know that what I'm saying is true and reasonable. And it is a sad day when the person in the pulpit is unable to make such a claim. So says Paul to Titus, make sure that your opponents will be put to shame when they realize that the charge of impropriety is absolutely groundless. And interestingly, you will notice the way in which Paul includes himself in that final phrase. It's an indication of his humility. It's an indication, I think, of his partnership, isn't it? That he's not simply giving a directive to Titus, but he's a partner with Titus. They're in this together.
They're in gospel ministry together. So that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. About us. He's actually addressing Titus. It's lovely, isn't it? We're in this together, Titus. What a wonderful encouragement that must have been to Titus as well.
And then, of course, we weren't skipping the opening phrase of the verse, but it is challenging, isn't it? Titus, show yourself in all respects—that's comprehensive—in all respects to be a model of good works. You see, it's not gonna be enough for Titus just to exhort the members of his congregation, to exhort the young men in his congregation to be marked by self-control, unless he's going to be marked by self-control.
He can't give instruction to the women not to be hanging around wine bars if he's hanging around them. You're gonna have to adopt not simply a posture, Titus, but you're gonna have to take a stand in things, Titus, so that you are marked by the very moderation that you call others to, that the things that are going to mark the congregation that will spill over into the challenges of Crete do need to be at the head of this parade. It's very hard. You're not gonna just be able to get away by preaching it.
You're going to have to be a living embodiment of it. You're going to have to make sure that you're not only watching your life and your doctrine, but you're watching them closely. Which is, of course, Paul's word to Timothy. You see, the great challenge in this—and we joked about it last week with my son's comments when I told you that he would say, and that's another kind word from your pastor—the fact is, it's only partly funny, because it is all too possible for the person who's in the position of responsibility in teaching the Word of God to render their words ineffectual, because their lives don't back them up. And it is particularly the case, when he's living in a kind of cesspool environment in Crete, to make it obvious that the transformative power of the gospel is a power that has transformed the pastors, for the congregation will go as the pastors go.
And then finally, you have to jump to verse 15, and you have the final directive that is given in this chapter 2, Titus himself. Declare these things. Or as the NIV puts it, these are, then, the things you should teach. It's really helpful, isn't it? What is he referring to?
Well, presumably, all that has been mentioned not only in chapter 2, but all that is mentioned in chapter 1 and then again in chapter 3. Declare these things. We've got a really novel idea for you. Why don't you try and teach the Bible by teaching the Bible? We've got a great suggestion for you. It's not original, but we want to suggest to you that if you just stick with your Bible and just work through the Bible, you'll be amazed for how long you'll be able to preach.
And I don't mean the length of the sermon, but the length of your life, because you'll never run out of material. What am I supposed to do with these people in Crete? Titus might have said to himself. And his wife said, Well, Paul wrote you the letter. Just do what he told you.
You're supposed to declare the things he wrote to you about. And in doing so, you're to exhort the people or encourage the people, and you're to rebuke them as necessary, with all authority. What authority? What authority? The authority of his personality? The authority of his training? The authority of his intellect?
No, none of that. No, only the authority that comes as being set apart as an old clay pot, in whose life the treasure of the gospel has been placed, and from whose life it is to be measured out with care and with encouragement. And with great practical sensitivity, he wraps the chapter by saying, And let no one disregard you. Why would he ever have to say that?
Because people would disregard him. Don't let anyone disregard you. It's what he says to Timothy. He says, Don't let anyone disregard you just because you're youthful.
And Timothy was probably about forty years old by that time. That's an encouragement, too. The last Gallic-speaking minister of the Presbyterian church in New Milne's, in Ayrshire, wrote a hymn for the encouragement of his colleagues in ministry. The opening line of the hymn is, Courage, brothers, do not stumble. And it's a good hymn, and you can sing it yourself when you're driving home on a Sunday evening, if you're so inclined.
But the real high point in his poetry contains these words. Some will hate thee, some will love thee, Some will flatter, some will slight, Cease from man and look above thee, Trust in God and do what's right. Everybody won't like you. They won't like you all the time.
Some of them won't like you any of the time. So if you're going to be judging your effectiveness, gauging your psychological welfare as a pastor, by the ebb and flow of the congregation to whom you're set, you probably will join the statistics of those who make it just through four years. But when the Word of God takes hold of the hearts of the people of God, pastor and people alike, when a congregation and a pastoral team are prepared to acknowledge what we really are and what we're really like, when we're prepared to bow down before God and recognize that on our best day we're unprofitable servants, then we can free one another from the tyranny that comes, and we can remind ourselves that were it not for the grace of God, we would never even be in the family of God. And when we look around on the family of God, I know the song goes, I'm so glad you're a part of the family of God. And, you know, we've joked about the fact that really we have to change that to read, I'm surprised that you're part of the family of God. It would be a far more honest response if we were true to it. And then we don't have to pretend.
Then we can just be straightforward. He's going to go on and see to it that Titus, in these various categories of people in this congregation—young women and young men and older women and so on—understand the indissoluble link between their belief and their behavior. But he makes it perfectly clear from the opening verse, and from that central verse, and from the concluding verse, that Titus himself must see to it, that he watches these things.
What we say and how we act needs to line up. You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg encouraging pastors to teach sound doctrine and then live accordingly. We hope you'll keep listening.
Alistair will be back in just a minute to close the program with prayer. Here at Truth for Life, we hear from listeners all around the world, even from places that are hostile to the gospel. They tell us this program is a needed source of strength and encouragement. And I want you to know when you sign up to become one of our truth partners and make a monthly gift to Truth for Life, your giving goes directly to the distribution of Alistair's teaching. This includes making clear, relevant Bible teaching available online through radio, even through your Alexa or Google Home device. As a truth partner, your giving and your prayer will help make a real difference in someone's life, someone you may never meet, but someone who will be extremely and eternally thankful.
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Visit truthforlife.org slash donate. Now here's Alistair with the closing prayer. Father, thank you so very much for your grace and goodness to us. Thank you for those who have taught the Word of God to us. And so we pray that you will help us to play our part, to live under your watchful eye, in the awareness that all of our acceptance, all day, every day, is not on account of how well we're doing, anything that we're doing, have done or will do, but is always on account of what you have done and bringing us into fellowship with yourself. So hear our prayers and guard and guide us. We ask in Christ's name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you have a wonderful weekend and are able to worship with your local church. Older men and women are often overlooked in the prevailing culture, but on Monday we'll hear about the unique and important role they play in the local church. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
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