“Sound Minds and Healthful Teaching”

Few would argue that a sound mind is something to possess. Few would argue that what one teaches ought to be healthy and not harmful. But who will determine what is “sound”, or who will set the standard of what is “healthy”? For those who are Christians, most would agree that the apostle Paul is representative of Biblical standards among the Nazarene’s disciples. Paul uses the words “sound” and “health” in a number of contexts, but particularly the thoughts and ideas occur in his epistle to Titus.

If anyone wanted to know about the 1st Century Christian Church the letter to Titus is an outstanding place to begin. For it is something of an official letter from an apostle to an elder left on the isle of Crete to, as Paul puts it, “correct the things that are defective” within the local churches on that island country. In the second chapter of the letter Paul encourages “sound minds” and “healthful teaching.” An examination of Paul’s words to Titus will give us an idea what was needed then within Christian congregations. As it turns out, the same things are needed nearly two thousand years later in the modern Church at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. Any Christian at these times who desires to know something about the beginnings of Christianity will find a consideration of Titus chapter 2 of great interest. Let us take a closer look at the inspired epistle.

Keep Seeking Healthful Teaching

1 However, you [Titus], speak those things which are appropriate and suitable with healthy teaching. 2 Elderly men -- temperate, respectable, sound of mind, healthy in the Faith, in love, and in endurance. 3 Similarly, elderly women -- holy behavior, not slanderers, nor enslaved to a lot of wine, teachers of goodness, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to be fond of males, fond of their children, 5 sound of mind, pure, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, lest the Word of The God be spoken about evilly. 6 Similarly, the younger men, exhort them to be sound of mind. [NCMM]

First Paul begins by directing this lone appointee on Crete to speak things “suitable with healthy teaching.” The King James calls this “sound doctrine.” The early Church was not a lose conglomeration of independent churches with divergent opinions. [1 Corinthians 1:9-11; see notes on Ephesians 4:13, 14] But what does Paul include in this “healthy teaching”?

Appropriately the first counsel regards the Christian men, particularly the older men. The Greek is similar to that in Titus 1:5 but here most view these as older in years not in office. [1 Timothy 5:1] Paul now gives counsel to both sexes with a variety of ages. In those days some determined an older man to be over 40. As with older women, younger women, and young men, all are encouraged to be “sound in mind.” That is, to hold healthy thoughts in harmony with God’s own thinking. What does this include?

Older, Mature Men

For the older men five things are associated with such a “sound mind.” These include, first, “temperance.” That is, sober-minded [ASV], dignified [NAS], serious [TCN]. The mature Christian men were not to be immoderate or unsteady in their general behavior. Seriousness should mark their character and disposition. They were to take their discipleship seriously. They were not men constantly joking and from whom one could never get a serious answer.

Second, these men were to be “respectable.” That is, dignified [NAS], high-principled [NEB], or decent [KNX]. We get a view into the high morality of the early Church. If we compile these characteristics and apply them to one person we get a good idea of the type of person this Christian was. Such were not disrespectful or unprincipled men of questionable character.

Third, these serious and respectable gentlemen were to also be “healthy in the Faith.” Surely this meant they continued in prayers, meeting with fellow Christians, sharing the Gospel with others, and a fruitful study of God’s Word. They were not men of weak or little faith. They were not men filled with constant doubt and question about God, His Word, or His People.

Fourth, they were to be loving or charitable to both the household of faith as well as those not inclined toward Christianity. These were not stingy, closefisted men who are never seen coming to the aid of those in need.

And, finally, they were to endure in all of this, remaining patient, persevering in steadfastness. What a fine gentleman this is. Not a man to embarrass the church, and known in his community as a godly man. In a similar manner the younger men were also to be “sound in mind” just as the older men.

Older, Mature Women

In a similar manner Paul gives instructions to Titus regarding the mature or older Christian ladies. In Biblical times this would have been a woman over 40. Like the men, Titus is to encourage several things among the elderly women. First, “holy behavior.” That is, “reverent in demeanor” [ASV], or with a “deportment which testifies of holiness.” [CON] She may be jolly, but everyone who knows such a lady realizes she takes her faith seriously and behaves in a manner recognized by all who know her as a pious woman. She is not a “material girl” given to worldly and fleshly thinking.

Next, such a Christian woman is not to be slanderous, or bring a false accusation against another Christian or neighbor. Some versions render this: “not scandal-mongers” [NEB], “not malicious gossips” [NAS], or “not given to intrigue.” One does not find this pious lady spreading vicious gossip or hurtful slander in the market square. She knows that when conversation takes a negative turn to quietly depart. For one of the most destructive forces in a church is a group or clique of gossips. [1 Timothy 3:11] This is not a woman who is up on the “latest.” She is never heard speaking negatively of others. If she has an opinion she keeps it to herself. The woman who slanders another does not have a “sound mind” and knows nothing of “healthy teaching.”

Wine in Biblical times, and even today in the Middle East, was a common beverage at all meals. So, Paul goes on to caution becoming “enslaved” to it. Timothy 3:11] The elderly Christian ladies are encouraged to be “teachers of goodness” which makes them examples of morality and virtue. The younger women have good role models to imitate. However, if these older Christian women are given to gossip and perhaps often tipsy, an unholy influence undermines the good done in the church. But what were they to teach to the younger women. Paul addresses that subject next.

Younger Christian Women

Among the early Church, women of this age probably represented the majority of Christians even as is the case in many places today. So we find Paul spending more time here and recommending as part of being “sound of mind” six matters.

First, the young women were to be “fond of males.” The Greek is PHILANDROUS [5362] from which the English corruption “philanderer” comes with an opposite meaning - a man who cheats on his wife. Other versions render this: “love their husbands” [KJV], or to be “loving wives.” [CON] It does show that the older women should teach the younger to be fond of males and not hateful of them as if in a battle of the sexes. This is not a woman who is a hater of men, not identified as someone who constantly is critical of men in general.

Second, the younger Christian mothers were to be “fond of their children.” Cultures vary, but in most it is a natural thing for mothers to love their children. There may have been a particular problem on Crete requiring this encouragement. There can be no greater work in the Church than rearing the next generation. Certainly in both cases of their husbands and their children, this love or fondness is expressed by care for the well-being of hearth and home. What such a “capable woman” does in this regard is outlined beautifully in Proverbs 31:10-31. We can imagine such women reading this portion of Scripture and striving to follow such godly advice.

Third, the younger Christian women were to be “pure.” That is “chaste.” [KJV] Early Christian records extol the virtue of such women in contrast to their pagan surroundings where temple prostitution was still practiced. She is not a women who is coarse or foul or obscene. She is not a woman who relates matters best left in private. Rather she is “pure” in thought, speech and action.

Fourth, these women were to be “workers at home.” That is, “homekeepers” [WMS], or “domesticated.” [TCN] Paul encourages the young women to be home-bodies, expending their energies in caring for their own home and house. No where does he encourage women to follow a “career” or work outside the home. However, consider the good woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 and the wide range of latitude she had. She is a worker and not given to laziness. This is not a woman whose house is unclean or in disarray.

Fifth, she was to be “good.” Now “good” is a word with a wide range of meaning. In English here are just a few of the synonyms: moral, upright, virtuous, righteous, worthy, exemplary, conscientious, skillful, admirable, kind, reliable. If such a woman were to read Proverbs 31:10-31 she would find the word “good” a couple of times, as well as an excellent picture of such a “good” woman. So this is not a “bad” woman with a reputation in the community. Everyone knows this Christian woman is “good.”

Sixth, such young Christian women was to be “subjecting themselves to their own husbands.” Other versions render this: KJV: obedient to their own husbands; ASV: living in subjection to; ALF: submitting themselves; NEB: respecting the authority of; WMS: subordinate; PME: willing to adapt themselves to their husbands. A subject to repulse many modern Christian women! However, if the younger wives are to be taught to be in subjection, the older ladies must also set the example. [Genesis 3:16; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34] Subjection is only necessary when the wife disagrees with a husband’s decision. Subjection is manifest often by speech. This woman does not contradict or criticize her husband in public. She is not one to “wear the pants in the family.” She is not bossy, pushy, or manipulative of her husband and other males.

What is the reason Paul gives for the above instructions? He continues by saying: “Lest God’s Word be spoken of evilly.” Or, KJV: not blasphemed; RHM: defamed; TCNT: maligned; BER: slandered; RSV: discredited; WMS: suffer reproach; MOF: scandal to the gospel. This is Paul’s main reason for the previous words of counsel from older women to the younger. Christian women were to be an example to the world of a godly mother and submissive wife. It may well be that the women of Crete acted in an atrocious way and those who became Christians had to make big changes.

So, Paul outlines by his own “healthy teaching” what a “sound mind” is from a Christian perspective. But what about Titus himself, as an elder, how was he to have a “sound mind” as a role model for all? Paul mentions that next.

Keep Exhorting Sound Minds

7 Above everything show yourself as a role model of good works. Regarding your teaching show integrity, seriousness, 8 healthy speech beyond reproach, so that those who oppose may be ashamed and having nothing bad to say about you. 9 Slaves need to continue subject to their own masters and to please them well in everything -- not talking back, 10 not stealing, but rather demonstrating trustworthiness and goodness in everything -- so that they may adorn the teaching of our Savior God in everything. [NCMM]

In everything Titus did he was to demonstrate himself “as a role model of good works.” That is a pattern [KJV], worthy example [WMS], an all-around example [BER], or the model of a life nobly lived [KNX]. Titus -- something of an “apostle” with powers to appoint -- must himself be an example to imitate. [1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Timothy 6:18] This would also include what and how he taught.

Paul writes that his teaching - and every elder who imitated Titus as a role model - should demonstrate integrity. Teaching that features integrity would include: honesty, morality, principle, soundness. Judging from elsewhere in this same letter teaching would include only “sound doctrine.” As Paul puts it earlier, “Holding to that teaching in harmony with [the] faithful Word.” [Titus 1:9; 3:8] This doctrinally correct teaching was also to be “serious.” One version puts it: “… teaching what is unadulterated and dignified.” [BER] His teaching must be loyal to the original pattern and have a dignified presentation.

This speech or teaching must be “beyond reproach” Paul urges. Another version renders this: “your message should be true, your language correct and not open to criticism.” [NOR] No doubt this also involved the language of Titus on a conversational level. [Colossians 3:8] Paul’s reason for this advice is “so that those who oppose may be ashamed.” Even though a person may disagree, if speech and conduct are above reproach it becomes frustrating to opposers who are looking for a reason to criticize. [1 Peter 2:15]

However, the world in general would view anyone who expected Christ to Return to not be a person of “sound mind.” What does Paul say about such a hope?

Live with Soundness of Mind

11 For the unmerited favor of The God -- which brings salvation to all humans -- has appeared. 12 Having rejected irreverence and worldly desires [He] is instructing us to live in soundness of mind and righteousness and reverence in this present period of time. 13 We continue to await that blessed hope of the glorious appearance of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 [Jesus Christ] gave himself on our behalf that he might redeem us from all lawlessness and also might cleanse for himself a people as his possession, zealous for good works. [NCMM]

The Christian with a “sound mind” -- and who has been exposed to “healthy teaching” -- will hope for the fulfillment of God’s grace “which brings salvation to all humans.” This glory “has appeared” Paul says and so it is ever present among those who obey Christ Jesus. [Hebrews 5:9] The New English Bible puts it most beautifully: “… has dawned upon the world with healing for all mankind.” The message of salvation has been introduced to the world through the Church.

Christians who truly believe this have already “rejected irreverence and worldly desires.” Others render this phrase: “give up godless ways and worldly cravings” [WMS], “forego irreverent thoughts and worldly appetites” [KNX], or “irreligious ways and worldly ambition.” [TCN] God’s own teaching through Christ instructs “us to live in soundness of mind and righteousness and reverence in this present period of time.” Living with a sound Christian mind is greatly helped by remaining hopeful regarding the Return of Christ.

Paul puts it this way: “We continue to await that blessed hope of the glorious appearance” of Christ in his visible Return. It seems likely this is a reference to the future visible Return of Messiah. [See notes on Matthew 24:30.] That is, the revelation of Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 2:28; 3:2] We do not have to wait for the Return of Christ to receive any benefits.

Paul states something we already know - Jesus “gave himself on our behalf.” [Or, NEB: sacrificed himself for us.] We already have been “redeemed from all lawlessness.” [Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:14] Salvation has an early or first element: being saved out of this wicked world by faithful obedience. This has started a process in our case as God “cleanses for Himself a people as His possession.” That is, a clean people who belong to him. Clean physically, morally, and spiritually. It is clear from Paul’s letter that the Nazarene community was an example of such moral uprightness. [1 Thessalonians 4:3]

Such cleansed and pure persons are identified as being “zealous for good works.” Good works characterize the Nazarene community and include personal works of faith, kindness and empathy to all around you, and sharing the Good News with others. Thus God’s grace is not without tangible fruitage: the disciple of the Nazarene rejects ungodliness and worldly pleasure. Christ gave his sacrifice to save us from unrighteousness and impurity. The Christian Church is characterized by good works which are often manifest in charity.

No doubt Titus wondered how will such “healthy teaching” be received. Paul concludes this portion of Titus chapter 2 with direct counsel to him.

Speak, Exhort, Reprove

15 Continue to speak and encourage all these things. Also reprove with every command. Permit no one to disregard you. [NCMM]

Titus was authorized by the apostle Paul to “continue to speak and encourage all these things.” That is “these things” stated above which identify the “sound mind.” If necessary Titus has apostolic orders to reprove or rebuke those who would resist such godly advice. If there were some present in the Christian community of a different mind, Titus was never to allow anyone to show disrespect for his authority.

We can read these words the same way today, because everything Paul advises was not just good for those people at that time. Note near the end of the letter to Titus what Paul says about all of these ideas: “Concerning these [teachings] I counsel you [Titus] to make strong affirmations about them so that [the congregations] of those who believe God continue minding good works. These [teachings] are good and profitable to all humanity.” [Titus 3:9] We will do well two thousand years later at the beginning of this 3rd millennium to walk in those “healthy teachings” with “soundness of mind.”

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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