What are the fundamental elements of successful evangelism? Obviously we must clearly proclaim the truth about God, sin, Christ, faith, and repentance. But in addition to faithfully preaching the gospel, is there anything else required of us?
In his commentary on Titus, John MacArthur highlights another vital element that believers too often overlook: the evangelistic value of their own, transformed lives.
For a person to be convinced that God can save him from sin, he needs to be shown someone who has been saved from sin and who, as far as possible, lives a life separated from sin. For a person to be convinced of God’s hope, he must be shown someone who has hope where there was once despair. For a person to be convinced that God can miraculously provide us with love, peace, and happiness, he needs to be shown someone who now radiates those blessings. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 90.
In a world that’s hostile to God’s Word and His people, we must give evidence of the transforming, sanctifying work of God. We need to be living testimonies of the grace that saved us and the Spirit that refines into Christlikeness.
To help us understand what our transformed lives should look like, we’ve been studying Paul’s instructions to the churches in Crete. In his letter to Titus, the apostle exhorts specific groups of believers—divided by age and gender—to exhibit character qualities befitting their transformed lives, for the purpose of adorning the gospel through their testimonies.
Last time we began to look at Paul’s instructions to young women (Titus 2:4-5), starting with their duty to love and submit to their husbands. But Paul’s exhortation doesn’t end there—he also instructs young women who are mothers to “love their children” (Titus 2:4).
Here’s how John MacArthur explains the kind of love Paul commands:
Whether the children are born to the couple or are adopted, they are to be loved with a love that, like the love of spouses for each other, should be selfless and sacrificial. As with love for their husbands, love for their children is not an option. It is not based on the children’s physical attractiveness or personalities or intelligence but on their need. The most important responsibility of love for believing parents is to lead their children to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But Paul’s admonition here is inclusive. Young mothers are to love their children in every way—practical, physical, social, moral, and spiritual—with a love that has no conditions and no limits. This love, to be fully expressed, is extremely demanding as the mother seeks to fulfill her obligation to raise godly children (see 1 Timothy 2:15). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 84-85.
Children can be a source of tremendous joy and blessing, as well as great frustration, disappointment, and heartache. In that sense, godly mothers are able to exemplify God’s love for His people—love that isn’t earned through faithfulness or destroyed by rebellion, but is unconditional, steadfast, and sacrificial.
Next, Paul highlights two godly qualities that aren’t specific to wives or mothers. He exhorts all believing young women to be “sensible” and “pure” (Titus 2:5). John explains the spiritual value of those two characteristics.
This is the same quality that should characterize elders (Titus 1:8), all older men (Titus 2:2), and, in fact, all believers (Titus 2:12). Common sense and good judgment should improve with age, but they should be evident even in early adulthood. . . .
Hagnos (pure) refers primarily to moral purity, and, especially in this context, to sexual purity, marital faithfulness. Like older women, in fact like all Christian women, young wives are “to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9–10). “Modesty” refers to a healthy sense of shame at saying anything, doing anything, or dressing in any way that would cause a man to lust. “Discreetly” refers to moral control, to keeping passions, especially sexual passions, subdued. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 85.
In a culture that bombards young women with salacious influences and perverse morals, sensibility and purity stand out. In that sense, godly young women exhibit a bold and clear testimony to lives transformed by the Spirit—lives that contradict the immoral values and priorities of their worldly contemporaries.
Paul’s next exhortation for young women also contradicts the trends of modern society. In a short phrase that infuriates feminists and defies the political correctness of our culture, Paul says young women are to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5). John MacArthur explains how the world has twisted Paul’s simple instructions in an attempt to turn housewives and stay-at-home moms into victims.
The greatest pressure on young wives today is the saturation of our culture by the ungodly precepts of radical feminists, who believe that wives being homebound is an egregious form of bondage by males, from which all women need to be freed. They unequivocally insist that women should be as free as men to work outside the home at whatever job and to whatever extent they want. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 86.
Instead, John writes,
The true female victims today are not women who are willingly bound by love to the Lord, to their husbands, and to their children. The true victims are rather those women who have been deceived by unbiblical and satanic feminist ideas about being liberated from God and from the home.
The home is where a wife can provide the best expressions of love for her husband. It is where she teaches and guides and sets a godly example for her children. It is where she is protected from abusive and immoral relationships with other men and where, especially in our day, she still has greater protection from worldly influences. . . . The home is where she has special opportunity to show hospitality and devote herself to other good works. The home is where she can find authentic and satisfying fulfillment, as a Christian and as a woman. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 87.
Finally, Paul exhorts young women to be “kind” (Titus 2:5). In his commentary, John MacArthur explains the various qualities bound up in that simple instruction.
They are to be gentle, considerate, amiable, congenial, and sympathetic, even with those who are undeserving and unkind to them. To be kind is to be godlike, “for [God] Himself,” Jesus said, “is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Similarly, Paul admonishes believers to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 87.
The reason for Paul’s exhortation is simple—he wants young Christian women to live godly lives “so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:5). John MacArthur explains how our living testimony effects the credibility of the gospel we preach.
Paul’s point is that not only the evil things we say and we do, but also the good things that we fail to say and do, dishonor God and His Word before the church and before the world. Unbelievers judge the genuineness and value of our faith more by our living than by our theology. In doing so, they judge the truth and power of the Word of God by the way in which we live. The world judges the gospel, which is the heart of the Word of God, by the character of the people who believe and claim to be transformed by it. . . .
The positive concern that corresponds to living so as not to dishonor God and His Word, and thereby put a barrier between the unsaved and the gospel, is that of living so as to attract the unsaved to our gracious Lord.
Jesus commands His followers: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Paul said of believers in Corinth, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3). Whether they intend to be or not, Christians are “living letters” of Christ and sometimes are the only testimony to the Lord and to His saving gospel that the world has. . . .
The only platform from which Christians are to so preach and witness is a transformed life marked by godly virtue. We are to live in a way that will “prove [ourselves] to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we are to] appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 89-90.
The world is watching how we live—perhaps now more than ever. In their eyes, the day-to-day aspects of our lives can build up or tear down the reputation of the gospel. In light of that scrutiny, we need to faithfully live lives that adorn the gospel and display the transforming work of God.
Next time we’ll consider what Paul has to say to young men.