Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. – Titus 2:6–8
In the pastoral epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, there are many helpful applications for church life that can benefit both pastors and church members. Titus 2:6–8 touches on both life and ministry. As Paul explains biblical discourse and exhorts young men to pursue sound judgment, we will see how everyone can broadly apply biblical wisdom.
At the pastoral level, two key points are doctrinal preaching and resisting hypocrisy. When the pastoral epistles use terms like “exhort,” “rebuke,” “convince,” and so on, this entails an authoritative, clear, and unapologetic articulation of scripture. In the immediate context, Titus 2:1 and 2:15 call Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” or to “speak these things.” These two statements are bookends for a series of instructions that affect every category of person – aged men, aged women, young women, and young men – and servants that would be comparable to today’s employees. By definition, biblical religion is practical. However, biblical practice assumes biblical preaching that tells people how to practice biblical religion. When we see 1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:9, and Titus 3:8 talk about preaching, holding fast to scripture, paying attention to doctrine, and affirming the gospel constantly, this is a central component of biblical eldership. Even if this approach has become unpopular in our anti-doctrinal age, and even as we suffer generational and social consequences from neglecting God’s Word in our churches, we are to stand firm on these biblical mandates.
In terms of resisting hypocrisy, this does not mean sinless perfection. However, it does mean being above reproach and blameless. It also entails “sound speech” where heretics, the unregenerate, and other opponents of biblical religion may disagree without having occasion to rightfully condemn us. As 1 Corinthians 1 teaches, the gospel is offensive enough. Why should we add our personal offensiveness to the mix? Indeed, as rebel sinners look to justify their blasphemy and sin, why should we tolerate scandal in our pulpits that gives the world further opportunity to dishonor our Lord? When we see postmodern evangelicals allow the equivalent of Eli’s sons (or worse) to remain in leadership, and we see people brush over embezzlement, plagiarism, and sexual misconduct, this is evidence of decline and judgment. Again, even if it is popular to tolerate the intolerable, we must say no to these clear violations of God’s law even when our “favorite preacher” is guilty of them.
As laypeople, we have much to learn from this passage too. The term “likewise” in v. 6a connects the exhortation that young men be of sound mind with the previous material for the other categories of people. In Titus 2:2-5, we see Paul call for sobriety, temperance, resisting slander, and domestic diligence. As Titus articulates biblical religion across the board to every kind of person, God’s people are to then disciple each other and reinforce those mandates. In particular, then, young men are not only to avoid drunkenness, but in addition, “sober-minded” in v. 6b also includes reasonability, sound judgment, self-discipline, and biblical ambition. As those who will become tomorrow’s leaders, young men have a responsibility to build sound habits that will prepare them to take ownership as church members, fathers, and citizens.
When we see v. 7a call for a “pattern of good works,” this entails sharpness in both mind and act. As Christians, we are to be known for holiness and sound practice that reflects the superiority of the biblical worldview. Again, this is not sinless perfection, but as Titus 2:11–14 explain, it’s about living “soberly, righteously, and godly,” denying “ungodliness and worldly lusts,” and pursuing purity given Christ’s past redemptive activity and future coming. As 2LCF 11.2 affirms, biblical justification necessarily produces a demonstrable pattern of progressive sanctification. Just as pastors pursue “integrity, reverence, [and] incorruptibility,” in doctrine, God’s people should also hold themselves accountable to biblical orthodoxy and confessional parameters (v. 7b). The Bible does not envision a doctrinal or practical free-for-all. Both pastors and laity alike are equally responsible to maintain biblical standards and sound judgment. Finally, Titus 2:8 is parallel to 1 Peter 4 and our Lord’s own warnings about how His enemies will persecute and slander us. As we advocate good doctrine and practice, we can expect to be accused of “evil,” but those accusations should not ring true.
In summary, these three short verses summarize what doctrinal and practical consistency looks like. The biblical pastorate entails consistency in exhortation, honesty, and orthodoxy. Biblical practice also entails consistency and rationality. As we strive to obey God in these things, may God bless the application of His word.