The gift of the Holy Spirit is not given indiscriminately. It is so precious that only those who meet the requirements of repentance and baptism can be recipients (Acts 2:38). The Apostle Paul emphasized the responsibility that falls upon the shoulders of each converted Christian who has received that gift. The evangelist Timothy was given the following admonition, and it applies to Christians in general. Paul wrote: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:6–7). Each Christian must constantly strive to keep the Holy Spirit active in his or her life. This is accomplished by daily prayer and the study of God’s Word. When the Holy Spirit is active, the Christian will have the power to overcome the pulls of human nature. He will have a deep abiding love for the brethren and for all men in general, and will have balance and common sense in all his actions.
Those who possess the Holy Spirit will recognize sound doctrine and will be able to faithfully maintain it. Paul admonished: “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy [Spirit] which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim. 1:13–14). One who has a sound mind and is committed to the Truth will not be carried about with every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14).
America today is turning to secularism. We may recall what the Apostle Peter said about Lot. Peter wrote that God ” . . . delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:7–8). World conditions are such today that the temptation for many Christians is to “do something about it.” Can true Christians have any real effect in changing this world? Consider this: Many who profess Christ today are actively trying to restore decent values and to “make the world a better place.” Yet when one compares their concepts of righteousness and obedience to the Law of God with that of true believers, the gap is extensive. The fact is: What really needs to be done to change this world is far beyond the willingness and determination of professing Christians to accomplish. What is truly required can be accomplished only by the return of Jesus Christ! Many Scriptures reveal what His return will bring—the Kingdom, or government, of God where righteousness and peace will prevail. When we consider world conditions today, there is a reason that Paul wrote: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4). The struggle the Christian faces is not trying to make the world a better place, but to overcome human nature, as well as the power and influence of the devil. Paul, understanding that only the return of Christ can truly change this world, advised the brethren to seek the Kingdom of God rather than trying to “make this world a better place.” This is why Paul emphasized: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life . . .”
While it is a requirement to study the Word of God, the passage often used to demonstrate this is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. It reads as follows: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The word “study” in this text is archaic English and means “to be diligent” or “to endeavor.” This is also the meaning of the Greek word from which the word “study” was translated. The word “dividing” above does not mean “to dissect,” that is, to separate into pieces the Word of God by choosing which portions one decides to accept as authentic. Martin Luther was guilty of this and regarded portions of the Scripture as uninspired. This same practice is being done by some today. The word “dividing” means to more correctly expound the Word of God. One who endeavors to be approved of God will certainly be studying God’s Word, but will not be striving about words to no profit (v. 14). This same verse shows that this practice leads to the subverting of the hearers. To keep on the right track, one should shun profane and vain babblings that increase to more ungodliness (v. 16). Paul also instructed Timothy that one should avoid foolish and unlearned questions knowing that they do generate strife (v. 23).
In Titus 2, Paul gave guidelines of proper conduct for aged men and women. He wrote: “That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things” (Titus 2:2–3). Special instruction is given because as people grow old they tend to weaken in energy and zeal. As a result, they often lose their spiritual edge. Aged men, therefore, are admonished to be sober (vigilant), grave (august or dignified), temperate (self-controlled, moderate), sound in faith (as an example), in charity (love), and patience (endurance). They should be examples for younger Christians, demonstrating the benefits of Christian living and convincing all that it pays to follow the Laws of God.
Aged women are also admonished. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour 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” (Titus 2:3–4). Included in this admonition is the need to teach younger women to be sober (to make sound minded) because they need to set an example of propriety before both their children and the world. The next verse is even more specific. “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (v. 5).
The instruction in this last verse flies in the face of modern society. Feminism has become the standard-bearer for many women. They disdain the home. They insist a career is more important than their children. They refuse to be under the authority of their husbands. Unfortunately many husbands are willing to allow their wives to assume the leadership role in the family, because they are either too lazy or too indifferent to be bothered. Both men and women have been misled by influential spokeswomen who endlessly harangue about the unfair disparity between men and women. There is a reason God says: “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isa. 3:12). So serious is the import of Paul’s instruction in Titus 2:5, that to reject it is considered blasphemy against His Word!
Instruction is also given to young men. Paul tells them: “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded [discreet]. 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” (Titus 2:6–8). The hope of the Church rests on the shoulders of young men. Unless they realize that the propensity for overindulgence and foolishness can eventually ruin the body and soul, there is little promise such young men can be of use to God later on. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). A young man who cannot govern himself during the time-period in his life that is the most likely to plague him with temptations, cannot build the character that God requires of all human beings. Remember Paul told Timothy: “. . . That from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). Timothy was serious- minded during his youth. The period of youth is important in forming what one’s future character will become. “Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Prov. 20:11).
The Apostle John said the whole world lies in wickedness (1 John 5:19). Everywhere temptations are great. What should Christians do? Should they be compromising, willing to accept as normal this present moral decline? Here is what Paul instructed: “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” (Titus 2:11–12). For many, this path is not easy. But this is exactly what Jesus said it would be: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13–14). Because they are living a godly life, Christians can expect to be ridiculed and even persecuted. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Those who heed what Paul wrote will strive to ” . . . be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
Paul instructed the Romans to be subject to the powers that be (Rom. 13). He also urged Titus to teach the same thing. Paul wrote: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). This is an important principle. If Christians are going to be criticized or condemned, it should be for good works, not bad ones. Rulers will punish evildoers, but one who is subject to the powers that be will have “praise of the same” ( Rom. 13:3). But Christians know that obedience to God takes precedence over the powers of the State. This principle was aptly demonstrated by Peter and the Apostles when they were commanded by the Jewish high priest not to preach Christ. The high priest said: “. . . Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:28–29).
Men judge by the laws they have made, but God judges by the eternal standard He set in motion when man was created. Paul illustrated this when he said: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3–4). This is why Christ said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna fire]” (Matt. 10:28). We would do well to carefully heed these words.
One other important principle of Christian living is found in Titus 3:2. After admonishing Christians to obey the powers that be, Paul added that Christians were, “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:2). The tongue is the most difficult instrument of the human body to control. James said that the man who can control his tongue is a perfect man. Speaking evil of another reflects what is in the heart and mind of the speaker. Jesus warned about this when He said: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). “But I say unto you, That every idle word [words spoken without substance] that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).
Sharp words often lead to violence. Coupled with the admonition to control the tongue, Paul added that Christians were “to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing meekness [mildness] to all men.” This is the example Jesus set when He faced condemnation by the Jews. “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing” (Matt. 27:12). Jesus knew what His purpose in this physical life was. He came to pay the penalty for our sins and to give up His life for us. With this in mind, perhaps we should ask: What is expected of us? The answer: To repent in order to receive forgiveness for our sins, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we may be able to put to practice Christian principles in our lives.