What should be taught in the church?

But as for you, promote the kind of living that reflects right teaching. Titus 2:1 (NLT).

Local churches should be marked by sound teaching. So what are some of the essential things that should be taught in the church? The Apostle Paul answers this question by directing our attention to four groups of people and what each should be taught:

Firstly, the older believers (Titus 2:2-3). It could have been easy for Titus, a younger man, to misunderstand or neglect the older members of his congregation, so this may be why Paul starts with this group. He also may have started with this group to subtly point out that we’re never too old to learn – never too old to be taught how to walk in God’s way – never too old to be taught how Christians should conduct themselves.

So how should older believers behave?  Paul begins with instructions for the older men.  Older men must:

– be self-controlled (be sober, show moderation, be balanced)

– be worthy of respect (be dignified, don’t be foolish)

– be sensible (live wisely)

– be strong in the faith (be sound and know what they believe)

– be filled with love (exercise grace and mercy)

– be filled with patience (endure to the end)

To summarize, the older men must be respectable in every way, and above all, they should be examples to the younger men in the cardinal Christian virtues of faith toward God, love toward all, and endurance to the end.

The instructions to the older men are followed by instructions to the older women. The older women must:

– be holy in the way they live (be appropriate, reverent)

– not be slanderers (not malign, pick up gossip, or falsely accuse others)

– not be heavy drinkers (not be addicted to wine)

– be good teachers of the younger women (teach the right spiritual and mental attitudes by word and example)

All told, the older men and women are urged, through their behaviour, to set a righteous example for the younger generation.

Secondly, the younger believers (Titus 2:4-8). So how should young believers behave? Young women (wives are implied) must:

– be loving wives (love their husbands)

– be loving mothers (love their children)

– be self-controlled (be sober-minded, discreet, live wisely)

– be pure (be chaste, virtuous, pure in mind and heart)

– be homemakers (take care of their homes, manage household affairs, 1 Tim. 5:14)

– be kind (do good, Proverbs 31:26 “When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions”)

– be submissive to their husbands (submit to his authority, Eph. 5:21-23; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1)

Paul says one thing to the young men:

– be self-controlled (live wisely, be clearheaded, be sensible in everything)

Why doesn’t he say more to the younger men? Why isn’t there a list of virtues like there was for the older men and women, and young women? Maybe it’s because he wanted to emphasize that self-control is vitally important. Maybe it’s because he knew that young men would find it hard to remember more than one thing!  But then again, it may be because Paul tells Titus to be an example to the younger men. When the younger men look to Titus it becomes obvious that in addition to being self-controlled they should also:

– be known for good works (be helpful)

– be sincere (have integrity, inspire respect)

– be sound in speech and doctrine (be wise in the use of words)

Thirdly, Christian employees (Titus 2:9-10). In Paul’s time a good deal of the work was done by slaves. I want to be careful how I say this because I don’t want you to read it the wrong way … but in applying the text to our situation today I want to suggest that slaves are analogous to employees.

So how should employees behave? Employees must:

– be obedient (be subject, do everything their employers want them to do – not grudgingly)

– be pleasing (be positive, go the extra mile, give 110 percent)

– be respectful (don’t talk back)

– be trustworthy (do not steal)

– be faithful (do your work to bring credit to God, have an attitude that makes God attractive)

This last point is a summary of everything Paul has been saying thus far.  The old and the young, the men and the women, and all employees, must behave in a way that makes God look good to non-Christians (Titus 2:5, 8, 10).

Fourthly, everyone (Titus 2:11-14). Finally, Paul urges Titus to teach about the grace of God. Leaders can’t lead right, pastors can’t pastor right, the old and young can’t behave right, and employees can’t work right, if they don’t know the grace of God in their lives. Put slightly differently, we can only behave right by the grace of God.  So all our teaching should have an emphasis on grace.

Now that’s not everything the Bible has to say on what we should be teaching, but it’s a good starting point …

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