Christian ethics and the Christian message are meant to be inseparably and harmoniously related. Paul's command in verse 1 binds Titus to this principle. He does so because the opponents had rejected the message and perverted the concept of a Christian way of life.
Sound doctrine, the approved teaching of the Christian faith which produces spiritual health, is the immovable foundation of the Christian life. What is taught about Christian living must be in accord with (or correspond to) it. Paul measures this in two ways.
First, the Christian message is the source of the real Christian life. It is salvation through Christ that has introduced this new manner of life (2:12). Without the message there can be no Christian ethics. Consequently, many of the terms that describe aspects of godly living in verses 2-10 represent the possibilities of belief and in principle do not have their beginning in human effort. Here Christian and secular "respectability" part ways.
Second, the Christian manner of life accords with the Christian message by serving its missionary purpose. It adorns the gospel and makes it attractive to those who look on (2:5, 8, 10).
This opening command is therefore not simply a transition to bring the readers from 1:16 to the practical teaching of 2:2. Rather, it reminds Titus and Christian teachers that Christian ethics to be Christian must emerge from, correspond to and serve the message of the Scriptures. Furthermore, every believer's lifestyle must be subjected to the test of biblical principles; the alternative is to allow our lives to be shaped and approved by a value system that is opposed to God's.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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