For better and for worse, young men often establish the trajectory for the church. On the one hand, their energy, passion, and drive can be assets to the Body of Christ when they are invested in the study of Scripture, the disciplines of godliness, and the building up of the saints.
However, as we’ve seen in recent history, young men—especially in positions of prominence—can be a detriment to the progress of the gospel and a blight on the testimony of the church. Immaturity, arrogance, skepticism, and shallowness are just some of the hallmarks of youth, and they must not be inflicted on the church. God’s Word establishes a high bar for those who seek leadership positions. The church today would do well to return to that standard and purge its pulpits of worldliness and spiritual immaturity that give sinful license and ammunition to the watching world.
Young men are the focus of the passage before us today. We’ve been looking at Titus 2, and the exhortations Paul gives to various groups within the church. In Titus 2:6-8, he writes,
Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
For the third time in this brief passage, Paul stresses the need for sensibility with his readers. In his commentary on Titus, John MacArthur explains why the apostle continued to emphasize that particular quality.
As in verses 2 and 5, “sensible” carries the broad meaning of having common sense, good judgment, and self-control. Just as older men and young women are to be sensible, so likewise are young men. . . .
The phrase “in all things” properly belongs at the end of verse 6. It refers to being sensible and emphasizes the broad scope of this admonition. Young men, who frequently are impulsive, passionate, ambitious, volatile, and sometimes arrogant, are to exercise self-control and show good sense and judgment in all things.
“Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things,” Paul reminded believers in Corinth. “They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25). Because self-control is so important in living for and serving the Lord, even that great apostle, after many years of faithful, sacrificial service to his Lord, went on to say of himself, “Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26–27).
Self-control, a synonym for sensible, is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). With the Spirit’s help, therefore, young men, like all other believers, are enabled to master all areas of their lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 91-92.
The call for sensibility is Paul’s only exhortation directed specifically at the younger men of the church, but it’s not the only lesson he wants them to learn. The apostle shifts his attention back to Titus, as he charges the young pastor to be an example to the other young men under his leadership. While Paul’s instructions are pointed at Titus in particular, these are qualities he’s commending through his example to the rest of the men in the church.
Paul exhorts his young disciple to “show yourself to be an example of good deeds” (Titus 2:7). John MacArthur explains how those good deeds aren’t the end goals in themselves, but that they reinforced the truth he taught and exemplified his transformed nature.
Kalos (good) does not refer to that which is superficial or cosmetic but to what is genuinely and inherently good, righteous, noble, and excellent. Titus’s deeds were to be true reflections of what he preached and taught. Christians are the Lord’s divine workmanship and are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 94.
Paul also instructed Titus to be an example “with purity in doctrine” (Titus 2:7). Again, John explains the intent behind the apostle’s exhortation.
Perhaps Paul was urging this young elder to make sure that he preached pure, orthodox doctrine, which he has already mentioned in 1:9 and 2:1. On the other hand, there may be another explanation. Aphthoria (purity) is a negative form of a term that carries the basic idea of being morally corrupt and vile, which in extra-biblical literature was often used of morally depraved people such as rapists, seducers, and abortionists. A related form of the word is used by Peter, who says that false teachers promise “freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19, emphasis added). Paul may have used this term to admonish Titus to live a life of moral purity that corresponds to the pure doctrine that he proclaimed. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 94.
Paul’s next exhortation also had to do with the way Titus lived his life—he instructed him to be “dignified” (Titus 2:7). John MacArthur explains what it means to be spiritually dignified.
Titus was to set the example of a dignified life, a serious life that is fixed on God and honors whatever honors Him. As noted previously in relation to older men (v. 2), being dignified does not preclude a sense of humor, laughter, or enjoyment. It does mean that they should be able to distinguish between that which is important and that which is trivial. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 94.
Over and over, the message is that Paul wants Titus—and, by extension, all the young men of the church—to live lives that adorn the gospel instead of tarnishing it. The value of integrity and the damage that hypocrisy can do is one of Paul’s primary points in his instructions to the believers in Crete (where Titus was ministering), and it’s been our focus throughout this series.
The apostle emphasizes it again, exhorting his readers to be “sound in speech which is beyond reproach” (Titus 2:8). In his commentary, John MacArthur explains the kind of speech the apostle has in mind.
The issue here is not doctrine or theology but conversation, day by day speech. Titus’s speaking, whether formal teaching or informal conversation, was to be sound, healthy, edifying, life-giving, appropriate, and beyond reproach. Such virtuous and consistent conversation is surely the mark of a genuinely spiritual man. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 95.
As we’ve seen, Paul’s point is to weed out hypocrisy, and to deny critics of the gospel the ammunition it supplies. He wants believers to live with integrity, and he makes the reason explicit: “in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:8). John elaborates on the apostle’s point.
The godly lives of older men, older women, young women, and young men all have, as part of their purpose, the putting to shame of the critics of Christ, His church, and His people. . . .
When an opponent makes a rash, unfounded charge against a believer, the obvious and public testimony of that believer’s life should be so commonly known that the accuser is embarrassed by his false criticism.
The true effectiveness of evangelism does not come from manmade methods, strategy, or marketing techniques adapted from the culture, but from the genuine virtue, moral purity, and godliness of believers whose lives give proof of the truth of God’s Word and the power of Christ to redeem men from sin. That is what silences the critics and makes the gospel believable. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 95-96.
The integrity of God’s people is particularly important today as the world grows increasingly hostile to the gospel and the church. As believers—of all ages—we need to discipline ourselves for greater godliness and usefulness, and we need to hold one another accountable to the standard of God’s Word.
With the world watching and eager for us to slip up, we need to pay careful attention to how we’re living, and how the transforming work of God is displayed through our everyday words and actions. As John MacArthur writes, our lives need to do more than merely hold up to scrutiny.
When an unbeliever criticizes us, our righteous living should make it clear that he really has nothing bad to say about us. Hopefully our godly testimony will arouse his curiosity, then his consideration, and ultimately his receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Titus, 96.