Online Reading – Hygienic Doctrine

Bible Study

Hygienic Doctrine

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness.—1 Timothy 6:3

A verse by verse study in the second chapter of Titus

Titus served as Paul’s emissary for many years, accompanying Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem before being sent on specific missions to Corinth, Macedonia, Crete, and Dalmatia (present-day Yugoslavia). The epistle to Titus is written during his ministry in Crete, a large Mediterranean island some 65 miles south of the Peloponesian peninsula of Greece with a hundred organized cities.

The gospel probably found early roots there since Jews from Crete were in Jerusalem when Peter and the other apostles spoke on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11)

The epistle gives specific instructions from Paul to Titus on how to establish a church there and “to set in order the things that are lacking” (1:5). The first chapter deals with the selection of leadership for the churches, the second with the establishment of sound doctrine and the third with the maintenance of high Christian character need for the latter was specially stressed by Paul since the Cretans had a reputation for a life style of excess. Paul quotes the Greek poet Epimenides of Knossos, “The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” and verifies it as accurate with the assertion, “this witness is true” (1:12, 13).

Sound Doctrine
Verse 1

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”

Doctrine is the subject of this chapter. Dr. Paul Brand, in his book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, likens Christian doctrine to the bone structure of the human body. It forms the rigid skeleton of beliefs which are fleshed out with extended interpretations and covered with skin to give us a complete moral code of conduct. All doctrines are not abstract intellectual concepts. A doctrine is simply a teaching. It can be a statement of the inner workings of God’s plans or it can be a teaching of how to live the Christian life. Both alike are doctrines.

It is not uncommon to hear the word “sound” in our text used as if it had the meaning of “accurate, correct, or pure.” The Greek word here translated “sound,” hugiano (Strong’s 5198), is the same word from which we derive our English word “hygiene.” It bears the same meaning as the English, “pertaining to health, to be healthy.” Except for the Pastoral Epistles it is used of physical health in all other biblical passages.

Perhaps the best translation would be “wholesome” as in 1 Timothy 6:3, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness.” It is significant that these “wholesome” (or hygienic) words are here combined with “the doctrine that is according to godliness,” to godly living.

Paul, however, is not merely admonishing Titus to preach sound doctrine, but “the things which become,” or befit, sound doctrine. He is describing the effects of wholesome teaching.

Four Classes
Verses 2 to 6

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things. That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.

The “aged men” here are to be distinguished from the “bishops” of chapter 1 (v. 7) and those of 1 Timothy 3. Here the term apparently means just what it says, those of older age. The first four items on the list for the aged men—sobriety, gravity, temperateness and a wholesome faith—while applicable to all, were particularly suited for the Cretan disposition. The latter two—charity [agape love] and patience—may have more direct reference to the disposition of the elderly (often through physical deterioration) to a certain crankiness. As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary: “Aged persons are apt to be peevish, fretful, and passionate; and therefore need to be on their guard against such infirmities and temptations.”

The first three admonitions to the older women seem likewise related to the Cretan problems of excess, stressing a life of holiness and the avoidance of alcoholic excess and busybodying. The closing exhortation to this group is implied to the older men as well: to teach by precept and example the younger generation how to live a godly life.

Evidently the situation in Crete was not that different from that in nearby Corinth in that there was a tendency for the younger women to be assertive. Hygienic doctrine for them was largely related to domestic living, submission to their husbands as heads of the household, chastity, and attendance to their responsibilities in child raising.

A Living Example
Verses 7 and 8

In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

Paul had given a similar example in his epistle to Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Our conduct speaks so much louder than our words. A teacher cannot teach what he does not know. This was even more important in the community on Crete where the general life style was so different from that of the Christian.

Four ingredients of his teaching are emphasized: “uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, and sound speech.” The word here translated “uncorruptness” has more then thought of undecaying, that which is permanent. The Christian life style is not like a garment that is put on for holy days only, but must be worn in the daily concourse of life. His gravity would contrast sharply with the levity that was such a large part of the island life style. The sincerity was to show that the same principles which Titus was teaching to others were principles he applied to himself, that he was not a hypocrite. The word translated “sound” in this passage is closely related to that of the first verse of the chapter and has much the same meaning, “wholesome, upbuilding.” It is just this kind of Christian teaching, then or now, which cannot be gainsayed and if taught by one who himself lives the same principles leaves its opponents speechless, “having no evil things to say of you.”

Servants and Masters
Verses 9 and 10

Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.

Not content with advice to the seemingly all-inclusive classes of older and younger men and women, Paul singles out one class for special admonitions. Society in New Testament times was not all that dissimilar from pre-Civil War America, though the conditions of servants was somewhat more elevated than that of the American slaves. It is probable that Paul speaks only of servants in this epistle because most of the believers were of this class, whereas in his epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians he also admonishes the masters of the servants (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1).

It appears from this passage that some of these servants served in more than menial capacities and were, what we might call in our day “white collar workers.” This may be why he stresses that they do not purloin, or embezzle, from their employers, but show strict accountability—”good fidelity.” In this way they are “adorning” the gospel, showing its fruitage in their lives.

Taught by Grace
Verses 11 and 12

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.

Herein lies the secret of the “sound doctrine” which Titus was to commend to the Cretans, the real teacher would be “the grace of God that bringeth salvation.” Being saved was not a matter of current attainment to Paul but a process which must be applied to purify the life. A condition of the salvation of which Paul speaks is a recognition of our own unworthiness. “Repent and be converted” was the clarion call to the prospective believer. Appreciation for what God has done for us must beget a determination to clean up our own lives. Elsewhere the same apostle writes, “I . . . beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1).

Our society today is not that different from the hedonism which prevailed in Crete. We, too, live in a materialistic world where every sort of pleasure is within our grasp. Thus the admonition is timeless, to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts.”

It is not enough, though, to cleanse our lives of ungodly pleasures. We must replace them with a new style of life. If we fail we will be like the man of whom Jesus spoke who swewpt an ungodly spirit from his mind only to find it replaced by seven spirits even more wicked (Matt. 12:43-45). The three ingredients of our new life are to live “soberly, righteously, and godly.” The first of these graces is basically that of self-discipline or restraint. Professor W. E. Vine says that it “it suggests the exercise of that self-restraint that governs all passions and desires, enabling the believer to be conformed to the mind of Christ.”

Righteousness goes beyond soberness. If soberness is basically a negative grace, eschewing evil thoughts, words, and deeds; then righteousness is its positive counterpart, replacing the former activities with those which are governed by strict standards of justice.

Godliness is the third progressive step. According to Vine, it “denotes that piety which, characterized by a godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.” It is an added dimension to that of righteousness as love is an added grace to justice. Christ is spoken of as “the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16.) His life added a whole new dimension to that required of the Israelites by God’s law—the dimension of sacrifice. Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), then godliness is living a life motivated by love. That apostles says again in 1 John 3:16, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

This godly life is not a matter for the future, but Paul urges Titus to ask his hearers to do it in “this present world,” this “present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). The true Christian challenge is to live a godly life in an ungodly world.

The Incentive
Verses 13 and 14

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Such a radical change in life style requires motivation. Here we have it supplied. It is the anticipation of the second advent of Christ. It is at that time that the judgment of the saints is made manifest. It is then that they are redeemed from “all iniquity” and presented as a “peculiar people,” or as the American Standard Version better phrases it, “a people for his own possession.” The earmark of these followers would be that they would be “zealous of good works.”

Verse 13 is sometimes used to support the concept of the trinity. Kenneth Wuest, in h isExpanded Translation of the Greek New Testament draws attention to Granville Sharp’s rule of the Greek which states that when two nouns are joined by the conjunction kai and only the first is preceded by the definite article both refer to the same thing. That is true in this verse. His conclusion, with which we disagree is: “that the Savior, Jesus Christ, is God, thus teaching his deity.”

This conclusion, however, is based on the premise that God referred to in this verse is Jehovah. This is highly interpretative. The word for God, Greek theos, is also used of Jesus, as well as of angels, ancient judges of Israel, and even Satan, “the god (theos) of this world.” It is the Son of God, and not God himself, who have a “glorious appearing (Greek,epiphania) predicted in the scriptures—the second advent of Jesus Christ. It is the hope of this appearing to which Paul refers in the epistle to Titus.

The Commission
Verse 15

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

In this final verse Paul summarizes his commission to Titus. Not only is he to deliver the messages of “that which becomes sound doctrine,” but he is to exhort, or urge, their following and to rebuke those who go astray. The “liberty” of the gospel was very attractive to the early witnesses of the Christian faith, especially for the Jews who had been under the bondage of the Law. Therefore it was necessary that strong admonitions be given in establishing new churches that the object of the gospel, to produce a character likeness to both God and Christ, be realized.

The hierarchical establishment of the early extension churches, such as those in Crete, was not meant to be a model for the age. Professor Mosheim, in his Church History, notes that as the individual new congregations developed they were to become autonomous from the churches which sponsored them and became responsible for their own selection of leaders and the maintenance of order and discipline. This made it even more important that, in the establishment stages, that there be sufficient education in sound doctrine, hygienic or wholesome teachings which would prepare them for the greater independence there were to have later.

While the age of Titus is not known, he may well have been about the same age as Timothy. Certainly he did not carry with him apostolic authority. He was an emissary of Paul and was not acting on his own initiative. Knowing this Paul admonishes Titus to not let himself be despised by those whom he was sent to serve. It brings to mind the similar words he wrote in his letter to Timothy, “let no man despise thy youth” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Hygiene Promotes Health

Sound doctrine, then, consists of those wholesome teachings about the Christian life which are meant to keep the body of Christ, his church, in the best of health. They are the health food of the new creature. In other of Paul’s writings they are contrasted with earthly teachings and striving over words and endless genealogies which breed strife and contention. How important it is for all God’s children to be daily nourished by those doctrines of truth which can be applied in the Christian life and keep them strong in the Lord!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: