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Titus 2:11-14

This portion of scripture begins with a conjunction, for, which points us back to the preceding section. This previous section is one of the New Testament’s “household codes,” which tell the various members of the household (husbands, wives, children, slaves) how to conduct themselves. The point of our passage is that Christian disciples are to live lives of careful moderation because the saving grace of God has appeared for the purpose of training us in the conduct of life. Verses 11-14, in other words, establish a theological basis for the virtues mentioned in the previous section.

 

The grace that trains us has “appeared.” Appeared is a favorite word in this letter: God’s word has appeared in the apostolic preaching (1:3), and in 3:4 we read that God’s goodness and benevolence have appeared (i.e., in Jesus Christ). Appearance is also used to refer to Christ’s return. The Christian life thus transpires between appearances of Jesus in the world.

 

This grace has appeared, “bringing salvation to all.” This could also be translated, “The saving grace of God has appeared.” This grace not only brings salvation, it is in itself saving.

 

This saving grace has appeared, “training us.” Training (the Greek is paideuo) is not a common word in the New Testament. It is used because this letter, despite its emphasis on sound teaching (didaskalia), wants to make sure that the reader thinks of this teaching primarily in moral, not cognitive terms. That is why the letter begins by mentioning “the truth that is in accordance with godliness” (1:1). The teaching that is to occupy Titus is not concerned with facts or theories, but with virtues. So, God’s saving grace is not merely teaching, it is training. Paideuo is used here because it has connotations that relate it to child-rearing (pais is a Greek word for child) and other forms of practical instruction.

 

What, then, are the virtues that saving grace trains us to embody? First the negative: we are to renounce “impiety” (asebeia, the opposite of godliness, eusebeia) and “worldly passions” (better translated as “desires”). Our passage is not specific about these worldly desires, but in 1:6-7 we read about debauchery, addiction to wine, and greed.

 

As to the positive: we are to live in a way that is self-controlled (better translated “temperate” or “moderate”), upright, and godly (2:11). Elsewhere in Titus we read about being hospitable and devout, and practicing self-control (1:8), being sober and worthy of respect (2:2), and being uncontentious and reasonable (or fair) (3:2).

 

“Self-control” merits special comment. This word (sophrosune) occurs six times in Titus (counting adjectives, verbs, and adverbs): 1:8; 2:2; 2:4; 2:5; 2:6; and 2:12. The word means moderation with respect to physical desires. Moderation is a better translation than