“In everything, present yourself as the epitome of good works — in teaching: trustworthy, dignified, and accurate words that cannot be condemned in order that the opponent might be shamed, having nothing vulgar to say about us.”
Paul switches back to the singular for this statement, so it seems not so much to be a direct instruction to the young men, but a personal instruction to Titus himself. He is to live a life that is the model of good works and he is to teach with integrity.
One of the great challenges that Pastors have is that we spend so much time focused on teaching others, that sometimes we do not spend enough time nurturing our own souls. We fall into the trap of thinking that “good works” refers to visits that we make to people, services we perform in the community, and activities that we organize and host at the church. And while all of these things are good things, the most fundamental and basic good work that we can perform is caring for our own spirituality. Without that being in place, no other good works will truly follow…not at least, in a healthy way.
The second aspect that Paul focuses on is that of Titus’ teaching. It must be trustworthy, dignified, and with accuracy. When one’s teaching is sloppy, whether that is in one’s exegesis, theology, or application, one opens up the door to those who would seek to undermine the good work that we do. As John Piper has often stated, “precision is my passion.” Accurate words need no defending; sloppy words might be more interesting at times and may not offend as quickly, but they leave one open to error and attack.
My fear is that in today’s world, “sloppy preaching” has become an art. People tell stories of the imagination as if they were Gospel Truth and mislead people by word and application. I have heard more than a few preachers spiritualize the texts of Holy Writ to make them teach things that they were never meant to teach. I have heard stories where preachers have used illustrations that were never fact-checked, leading their listeners into error. And in the midst of all of this goofy gobbledygook, reprehensible rubbish, fallacious piffle, people wonder why the enemies of God have a field-day bringing the Christian church to shame. May the accuracy of our teaching, its consistency with the whole of Divine Revelation, be such that our enemies shame themselves when they speak against us. Further, may those who insist on sloppy stories instead of precise preaching have their tongues tied into a gordian knot.