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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–10
Verses 1–10

Here is the third thing in the matter of the epistle. In the chapter foregoing, the apostle had directed Titus about matters of government, and to set in order the things that were wanting in the churches. Now here he exhorts him,

I. Generally, to a faithful discharge of his own office. His ordaining others to preach would not excuse himself from preaching, nor might he take care of ministers and elders only, but he must instruct private Christians also in their duty. The adversative particle (but) here points back to the corrupt teachers, who vented fables, things vain and unprofitable: in opposition to them, says he, “But speak thou the things that become sound doctrine, what is agreeable to the word, which is pure and uncorrupt, healthful and nourishing to eternal life.” Observe, (1.) The true doctrines of the gospel are sound doctrines, formally and effectively; they are in themselves good and holy, and make the believers so; they make them fit for, and vigorous in, the service of God. (2.) Ministers must be careful to teach only such truths. If the common talk of Christians must be uncorrupt, to the use of edifying, such as may minister grace to the hearers (Eph. 4:29), much more must ministers’ preaching be such. Thus the apostle exhorts Titus generally: and then,

II. Specially and particularly, he instructs him to apply this sound doctrine to several sorts of persons, from Titus 2:2-10. Ministers must not stay in generals, but must divide to every one his portion, what belongs to his age, or place, or condition of life; they must be particular as well as practical in their preaching; they must teach men their duty, and must teach all and each his duty. Here is an excellent Christian directory, accommodated to the old and to the young; to men and women; to the preacher himself and to servants.

1. To the aged men. By aged men some understand elders by office, including deacons, etc. But it is rather to be taken of the aged in point of years. Old disciples of Christ must conduct themselves in every thing agreeably to the Christian doctrine. That the aged men be sober, not thinking that the decays of nature, which they feel in old age, will justify them in any inordinacy or intemperance, whereby they conceit to repair them; they must keep measure in things, both for health and for fitness, for counsel and example to the younger. Grave: levity is unbecoming in any, but especially in the aged; they should be composed and stayed, grave in habit, speech, and behaviour; gaudiness in dress, levity and vanity in the behaviour, how unbeseeming in their years! Temperate, moderate and prudent, one who governs well his passions and affections, so as not to be hurried away by them to any thing that is evil or indecent. Sound in the faith, sincere and stedfast, constantly adhering to the truth of the gospel, not fond of novelties, nor ready to run into corrupt opinions or parties, nor to be taken with Jewish fables or traditions, or the dotages of their rabbin. Those who are full of years should be full of grace and goodness, the inner man renewing more and more as the outer decays. In charity, or love; this is fitly joined with faith, which works by, and must be seen in, love, love to God and men, and soundness therein. It must be sincere love, without dissimulation: love of God for himself, and of men for God’s sake. The duties of the second table must be done in virtue of those of the first; love to men as men, and to the saints as the excellent of the earth, in whom must be special delight; and love at all times, in adversity as well as prosperity. Thus must there be soundness in charity or love. And in patience. Aged persons are apt to be peevish, fretful, and passionate; and therefore need to be on their guard against such infirmities and temptations. Faith, love, and patience, are three main Christian graces, and soundness in these is much of gospel perfection. There is enduring patience and waiting patience, both of which must be looked after; to bear evils becomingly, and contentedly to want the good till we are fit for it and it for us, being followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Thus as to the aged men.

2. To the aged women. These also must be instructed and warned. Some by these aged women understand the deaconesses, who were mostly employed in looking after the poor and attending the sick; but it is rather to be taken (as we render it) of all aged women professing religion. They must be in behaviour as becometh holiness: both men and women must accommodate their behaviour to their profession. Those virtues before mentioned (sobriety, gravity, temperance, soundness in the faith, charity, and patience), recommended to aged men, are not proper to them only, but applicable to both sexes, and to be looked to by aged women as well as men. Women are to hear and learn their duty from the word, as well as the men: there is not one way of salvation for one sex or sort, and another for another; but both must learn and practise the same things, both as aged and as Christians; the virtues and duties are common. That the aged women likewise (as well as the men) be in behaviour as becometh holiness; or as beseems and is proper for holy persons, such as they profess to be and should be, keeping a pious decency and decorum in clothing and gesture, in looks and speech, and all their deportment, and this from an inward principle and habit of holiness, influencing and ordering the outward conduct at all times. Observe, Though express scripture do not occur, or be not brought, for every word, or look, or fashion in particular, yet general rules there are according to which all must be ordered; as 1 Cor. 10:31; Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. And Phil. 4:8; Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. And here, whatsoever things are beseeming or unbeseeming holiness form a measure and rule of conduct to be looked to. Not false accusersme diabolous, no calumniators or sowers of discord, slandering and backbiting their neighbours, a great and too common fault; not only loving to speak, but to speak ill, of people, and to separate very friends. A slanderer is one whose tongue is set on fire of hell; so much, and so directly, do these do the devil’s work, that for it the devil’s name is given to such. This is a sin contrary to the great duties of love, justice, and equity between one another; it springs often from malice and hatred, or envy, and such like evil causes, to be shunned as well as the effect. Not given to much wine; the word denotes such addictedness thereto as to be under the power and mastery of it. This is unseemly and evil in any, but especially in this sex and age, and was too much to be found among the Greeks of that time and place. How immodest and shameful, corrupting and destroying purity both of body and mind! Of what evil example and tendency, unfitting for the thing, which is a positive duty of aged matrons, namely, to be teachers of good things! Not public preachers, that is forbidden (1 Cor. 14:34; I permit not a woman to speak in the church), but otherwise teach they may and should, that is, by example and good life. Hence observe, Those whose actions and behaviour become holiness are thereby teachers of good things; and, besides this, they may and should also teach by doctrinal instruction at home, and in a private way. The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy his mother taught him. Such a woman is praised, She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness, Prov. 31:1, 26. Teachers of good things are opposed to teachers of things corrupt, or to what is trifling and vain, of no good use or tendency, old wives’ fables or superstitious sayings and observances; in opposition to these, their business is, and they may be called on to it, to be teachers of good things.

3. There are lessons for young women also, whom the aged women must teach, instructing and advising them in the duties of religion according to their years. For teaching such things aged women have often better access than the men, even than ministers have, which therefore they must improve in instructing the young women, especially the young wives; for he speaks of their duty to their husbands and children. These young women the more aged must teach, (1.) To bear a good personal character: To be sober and discreet, contrary to the vanity and rashness which younger years are subject to: discreet in their judgments and sober in their affections and behaviour. Discreet and chaste stand well together; many expose themselves to fatal temptations by that which at first might be but indiscretion. Prov. 2:11; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee from the evil way. Chaste, and keepers at home, are well joined too. Dinah, when she went to see the daughters of the land, lost her chastity. Those whose home is their prison, it is to be feared, feel that their chastity is their fetters. Not but there are occasions, and will be, of going abroad; but a gadding temper for merriment and company sake, to the neglect of domestic affairs, or from uneasiness at being in her place, is the opposite evil intended, which is commonly accompanied with, or draws after it, other evils. 1 Tim. 5:13, 14, They learn to be idle, wandering from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. Their business is to guide the house, and they should give no occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully. Good, generally, in opposition to all vice; and specially, in her place, kind, helpful, and charitable; as Dorcas, full of good works and almsdeeds. It may also have, as some think, a more particular sense; one of a meek and yet cheerful spirit and temper, not sullen nor bitter; not taunting not fretting and galling any; not of a troublesome or jarring disposition, uneasy in herself and to those about her; but of a good nature and pleasing conversation, and likewise helpful by her advice and pains: thus building her house, and doing her husband good, and not evil, all her days. Thus in their personal character sober, discreet, chaste, keepers at home, and good: and, (2.) In their relative capacities: To love their husbands, and to be obedient to them; and where there is true love this will be no difficult command. God, in nature, and by his will, hath made this subordination: I suffer not a woman to usurp authority over the man (1 Tim. 2:12); and the reason is added: For Adam was first formed, then Eve. Adam was not deceived, but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression, Titus 2:13, 14. She fell first, and was the means of seducing the husband. She was given to be a helper, but proved a most grievous hinderer, even the instrument of his fall and ruin, on which the bond of subjection was confirmed, and tied faster on her (Gen. 3:16): Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee, with less easiness, it may be, than before. It is therefore doubly enjoined: first in innocency, when was settled a subordination of nature, Adam being first formed and then Eve, and the woman being taken out of the man; and then upon the fall, the woman being first in the transgression, and seducing the man; here now began to be a subjection not so easy and comfortable, being a part of the penalty in her case; yet through Christ is this nevertheless a sanctified state. Eph. 5:22, 23, Wives submit yourselves unto you own husbands, as unto the Lord, as owning Christ’s authority in them, whose image they bear; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. God would have a resemblance of Christ’s authority over the church held forth in the husband’s over the wife. Christ is the head of the church, to protect and save it, to supply it with all good, and secure or deliver it from evil; and so the husband over the wife, to keep her from injuries, and to provide comfortably for her, according to his ability. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be unto their own husbands, as is fit in the Lord (Col. 3:18), as comports with the law of Christ, and is for his and the Father’s glory. It is not then an absolute, or unlimited, nor a slavish subjection that is required; but a loving subordination, to prevent disorder or confusion, and to further all the ends of the relation. Thus, in reference to the husbands, wives must be instructed in their duties of love and subjection to them. And to love their children, not with a natural affection only, but a spiritual, a love springing from a holy sanctified heart and regulated by the word; not a fond foolish love, indulging them in evil, neglecting due reproof and correction where necessary, but a regular Christian love, showing itself in their pious education, forming their life and manners aright, taking care of their souls as well as of their bodies, of their spiritual welfare as well as of their temporal, of the former chiefly and in the first place. The reason is added: That the word of God may not be blasphemed. Failures in such relative duties would be greatly to the reproach of Christianity. “What are these the better for this their new religion?” would the infidels be ready to say. The word of God and the gospel of Christ are pure, excellent, and glorious, in themselves; and their excellency should be expressed and shown in the lives and conduct of their professors, especially in relative duties; failures here being disgrace. Rom. 2:24; The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. “Judge what a God he is,” would they be ready to say, “by these his servants; and what his word, and doctrine, and religion, are by these his followers.” Thus would Christ be wounded in the house of his friends. Thus of the duties of the younger women.

4. Here is the duty of young men. They are apt to be eager and hot, thoughtless and precipitant; therefore they must be earnestly called upon and exhorted to be considerate, not rash; advisable and submissive, not wilful and head-strong; humble and mild, not haughty and proud; for there are more young people ruined by pride than by any other sin. The young should be grave and solid in their deportment and manners, joining the seriousness of age with the liveliness and vigour of youth. This will make even those younger years to pass to good purpose, and yield matter of comfortable reflection when the evil days come; it will be preventive of much sin and sorrow, and lay the foundation for doing and enjoying much good. Such shall not mourn at the last, but have peace and comfort in death, and after it a glorious crown of life.

5. With these instructions to Titus, respecting what he should teach others—the aged men and women, and the younger of both sexes (Titus himself probably at this time being a young man also), the apostle inserts some directions to himself. He could not expect so successfully to teach others, if he did not conduct himself well both in his conversation and preaching. (1.) Here is direction for his conversation: In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works, Titus 2:7. Without this, he would pull down with one hand what he built with the other. Observe, Preachers of good works must be patterns of them also; good doctrine and good life must go together. Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? A defect here is a great blemish and a great hindrance. In all things; some read, above all things, or above all men. Instructing others in the particulars of their duty is necessary, and, above all things, example, especially that of the teacher himself, is needful; hereby both light and influence are more likely to go together. “Let them see a lively image of those virtues and graces in thy life which must be in theirs. Example may both teach and impress the things taught; when they see purity and gravity, sobriety and all good life, in thee, they may be more easily won and brought thereto themselves; they may become pious and holy, sober and righteous, as thou art.” Ministers must be examples to the flock, and the people followers of them, as they are of Christ. And here is direction, (2.) For his teaching and doctrine, as well as for his life: In doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned, Titus 2:7, 8. They must make it appear that the design of their preaching is purely to advance the honour of God, the interest of Christ and his kingdom, and the welfare and happiness of souls; that this office was not entered into nor used with secular views, not from ambition nor covetousness, but a pure aim at the spiritual ends of its institution. In their preaching, therefore, the display of wit or parts, or of human learning or oratory, is not to be affected; but sound speech must be used, which cannot be condemned; scripture-language, as far as well may be, in expressing scripture-truths. This is sound speech, that cannot be condemned. We have more than once these duties of a minister set together. 1 Tim. 4:16; Take heed to thyself, and to thy doctrine: and, Titus 2:12. of the same chapter, “Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou an example of believers in word—in thy speech, as a Christian, being grave, serious, and to the use of edifying; and in thy preaching, that it be the pure word of God, or what is agreeable to it and founded on it. Thus be an example in word: and in conversation, the life corresponding with the doctrine. In doing this thou shalt both save thyself and those that hear thee.” In 2 Tim. 3:10; Thou hast fully known my doctrine and manner of life (says the same apostle), how agreeable these have been. And so must it be with others; their teaching must be agreeable to the word, and their life with their teaching. This is the true and good minister. 1 Thess. 2:9, 10. Labouring night and day, we preached to you the gospel of God; and you are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you. This must be looked to, as the next words show, which are, (3.) The reason both for the strictness of the minister’s life and the gravity and soundness of his preaching: That he who is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Adversaries would be seeking occasion to reflect, and would do so could they find any thing amiss in doctrine or life; but, if both were right and good, such ministers might set calumny itself at defiance; they would have not evil thing to say justly, and so must be ashamed of their opposition. Observe, Faithful ministers will have enemies watching for their halting, such as will endeavour to find or pick holes in their teaching or behaviour; the more need therefore for them to look to themselves, that no just occasion be found against them. Opposition and calumny perhaps may not be escaped; men of corrupt minds will resist the truth, and often reproach the preachers and professors of it; but let them see that with well-doing they put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; that, when they speak evil of them as evil-doers; those may be ashamed who falsely accuse their good conversation in Christ. This is the direction to Titus himself, and so of the duties of free persons, male and female, old and young. Then follow,

6. The directions respecting servants. Servants must not think that their mean and low state puts them beneath God’s notice or the obligations of his laws—that, because they are servants of men, they are thereby discharged from serving God. No; servants must know and do their duty to their earthly masters, but with an eye to their heavenly one: and Titus must not only instruct and warn earthly masters of their duties, but servants also of theirs, both in his public preaching and private admonitions. Servants must attend the ordinances of God for their instruction and comfort, as well as the masters themselves. In this direction to Titus there are the duties themselves, to which he must exhort servants, and a weighty consideration wherewith he was to enforce them.

(1.) The duties themselves are these:—

[1.] To be obedient to their own masters, Titus 2:9. This is the prime duty, that by which they are characterized. Rom. 6:16; His servants you are whom you obey. There must be inward subjection and dutiful respect and reverence in the mind and thoughts. “If I be a master, where is my fear, the dutiful affection you show to me, together with the suitable outward significations and expressions of it, in doing what I command you?” This must be in servants; their will must be subject to their master’s will, and their time and labour at their master’s disposal and command. 1 Pet. 2:18; Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. The duty results from the will of God, and relation in which, by his providence, he has put such; not from the quality of the person. If he be a master, the duties of a servant are to be paid to him as such. Servants therefore are to be exhorted to be obedient to their own masters. And,

[2.] To please them well in all things, in all lawful things, and such as belong to them to command, or at least as are not contrary to the will of their great and superior Lord. We are not to understand it either of obeying or pleasing them absolutely, without any limitation; but always with a reserve of God’s right, which may in no case be entrenched upon. If his command and the earthly master’s come in competition, we are instructed to obey God rather than man; but then servants must be upon good grounds in this, that there is an inconsistency, else are they not held to be excused. And not only must the will of God be the measure of the servant’s obedience, but the reason of it also. All must be done with a respect to him, in virtue of his authority, and for pleasing him primarily and chiefly, Col. 3:22-24. In serving the earthly master according to Christ’s will, he is served; and such shall be rewarded by him accordingly. But how are servants to please their masters in all things, and yet not be men-pleasers? Answer, Men-pleasers, in the faulty sense, are such as eye men alone, or chiefly, in what they do, leaving God out, or subordinating him to man; when the will of man shall carry it, though against God’s will, or man’s pleasure is more regarded than his,—when this can content them, that the earthly master is pleased, though God be displeased,—or when more care, or more satisfaction, is taken in man’s being pleased than in God’s, this is sinful man-pleasing, of which all must take heed. Eph. 6:5-7, “Servants, be obedient to those that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, with singleness of your heart, as unto Christ. Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers (who look at nothing but the favour or displeasure of men, or at nothing so much as this), but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men;” not to them chiefly, but to Christ, who requires, and who will reward, any good done, whether by bond or free. Observe therefore, Christian liberty comports well with civil servitude and subjection. Persons may serve men, and yet be the servants of Christ; these are not contrary, but subordinate, so far as serving men is according to Christ’s will and for his sake. Christ came not to destroy or prejudice civil order and differences. “Art thou called, being a servant? Care not for it, 1 Cor. 7:21. Let not this trouble thee, as if it were a condition unworthy of a Christian, or wherein the person so called is less pleasing unto God; for he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman, not free from that service, but free in it; free spiritually, though not in a civil sense. Likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant; he is bound to him, though he be not under civil subjection to any; so that, bond or free, all are one in Christ.” Servants therefore should not regret nor be troubled at their condition, but be faithful and cheerful in the station wherein God hath set them, striving to please their masters in all things. Hard it may be under some churlish Nabals, but it must be aimed at as much as possible.

[3.] Not answering again; not contradicting them, nor disputing it with them; not giving them any disrespectful or provoking language. Job complained of his servants, that he called them, and they gave him no answer; that was faulty another way: Non respondere pro convitio est—Such silence is contempt: but here it is respect, rather to take a check or reproof with humble silence, not making any confident nor bold replies. When conscious of a fault, to palliate or stand in justification of it doubles it. Yet this not answering again excludes not turning away wrath with a soft answer, when season and circumstances admit. Good and wise masters will be ready to hear and do right; but answering unseasonably, or in an unseemly manner, or, where the case admits not excuse, to be pert or confident, shows a want of the humility and meekness which such relation requires.

[4.] Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity. This is another great essential of good servants, to be honest, never converting that to their own use which is their master’s, nor wasting the goods they are entrusted with; that is, purloining. They must be just and true, and do for their masters as they would or should for themselves. Prov. 28:24; Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression, the same is the companion of a destroyer; he will be ready to join with him. Thus having such light thoughts of taking beyond what is right, though it be from a parent or master, is likely to harden conscience to go further; it is both wicked in itself, and it tends to more. Be it so that the master is hard and strait, scarcely making sufficient provision for servants; yet they must not be their own carvers, nor go about by theft to right themselves; they must bear their lot, committing their cause to God for righting and providing for them. I speak not of cases of extremity, for preserving life, the necessaries for which the servant has a right to. Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; he must not only not steal nor waste, but must improve his master’s goods, and promote his prosperity and thriving, to his utmost. He that increased not his master’s talent is accused of unfaithfulness, though he had not embezzled nor lost it. Faithfulness in a servant lies in the ready, punctual, and thorough execution of his master’s orders; keeping his secrets and counsels, despatching his affairs, and managing with frugality, and to as much just advantage for his master as he is able; looking well to his trusts, and preventing, as far as he can, all spoil, or loss, or damage. This is a way to bring a blessing upon himself, as the contrary often brings utter ruin. If you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? Luke 16:12. Thus of the duties themselves, to which servants are to be exhorted. Then,

(2.) Here is the consideration with which Titus was to enforce them: That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things; that is, that they may recommend the gospel and Christ’s holy religion to the good opinion of those that are without, by their meek, humble, obedient, and faithful conduct in all things. Even servants, though they may think that such as they, in so low and inferior a condition, can do little to bring repute to Christianity, or adorn the doctrine of Christ, and set forth the excellences of his truth and ways, yet, if they be careful to do their duty, it will redound to the glory of God and the credit of religion. The unbelieving masters would think the better of that despised way, which was every where spoken against, when they found that those of their servants who were Christians were better than their other servants—more obedient and submissive, more just and faithful, and more diligent in their places. True religion is an honour to the professors of it; and they should see that they do not any dishonour to it, but adorn it rather in all that they are able. Our light must shine among men, so that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father who is in heaven. And thus of the apostle’s directions to Titus, about the discharge of his office, in reference to several sorts of persons.