EDITORIAL  Living Soberly, Righteously and Godly

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In Titus 2:11, 12, the apostle Paul stated: "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world . . . " Some of the brethren appear to, have been so anxious about "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" that they were not paying enough attention to how they should live "in this present world."

The instruction of God's grace (the gospel) demands that one renounces and repudiates ungodliness, which here connotes impiety. Ungodliness in this passage comprehends both idolatry and immorality at their worst. Worldly passions also are to be denied in one's life. Worldly lusts would include illicit sexual desire, liquor-mania, covetousness, and an inordinate desire for pleasure, power, and possessions. But one's living in this' present age does not consist of just a string of negatives. Enlightened living embraces certain positive responsibilities too.

Many commentators have suggested that living "soberly and righteously and godly" embraces one's duties to himself, to other men, and to God. Typical of such commentator comments is that of Donald Guthrie in the Tyndale series of commentaries: "Possibly this triad of adverbs expresses the Christian's ideal behavior towards himself, his neighbor and his God" (p. 199). But Hendriksen, Matthew Henry, Lipscomb, and Clark also call attention to this three-fold duty of man.

Duty to Oneself

Until one does his duty to himself, he is not ready to contemplate his duty toward others and toward God. One's duty to oneself is expressed by Paul's command to live "soberly." The Greek word which Paul used is sophronos, which is defined by W. E. Vine like this: "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" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 4, p. 44). Hendriksen suggests that a good synonym would be "self mastery." Sober living is demanded of elders (Tit. 1:8), of aged men (Tit. 2:2), and of young women (Tit. 2:5).

The self-composed man who measures his life by the gospel makes the proper use of such desires or drives as are not sinful in themselves, and he overcomes those passions that are sinful. He has such mastery of himself that he keeps within the limits of moderation and temperance. Paul also stated, "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected" (I Cor. 9:27). Paul therefore sought to have every temper, appetite, and desire under the government of his mind, and his mind was under the government of the

Spirit of God, as the mind of God's Spirit was revealed through the gospel. These concepts are embraced in living soberly.

Duty to Other Men

One's duty to others is comprehended in Paul's injunction to live "righteously." The word "righteous" here pertains to honesty, justice, fairness, and integrity in dealing with others. The Greek word used is dikaios. At least 23 times when this word is used and translated "righteous" or "righteously" in the King James Version, the American Standard Version used instead the translation "just." "Dikaios signifies just, without prejudice or partiality" (W. E. Vine, Vol. 3, P. 297) Vine explains more fully, "In the N. T. it denotes righteous, a state of being right, or right conduct, judged whether by the Divine standard, or according to human standards of what is right" (Vol. 2, p. 283).

Dealing "righteously" with others necessitates that one render to all others that which they are due. Selfishness on our part robs others of that which they rightfully are due. Hence, selfishness is a form of unrighteousness. Paul commanded Timothy to obey and apply his commands "without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality" (1 Tim. 5: 2 1). He was to deal fairly with others. Righteous living demands that we injure no man as to body, mind, reputation or property, and that we do unto all as we would that they should do unto us.

Duty to God

Supreme in one's list of duties is one's duty to God. This duty Paul enjoined by his command that one live "godly." The Greek word used here is the adverb eusebos, which denotes "piously, godly." However, this adverb comes from the noun eusebeia which, more fully defined, requires one "to be devout, denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him" (W. E. Vine, Vol. 2, p. 162).

The godly man is one who exemplifies true piety toward God. His life is characterized by reverence and respect of God. His life and his service are rendered to God "with reverence and awe" (Heb. 12:28). He believes in and gratefully acknowledges His being and perfections. He loves God, fears Him, and trusts Him. The godly man depends on Him, devotes himself to Him, prays to Him, praises Him, and meditates upon His Word and works both day and night. This is Biblical godliness; this is true piety.

These verses in Titus 2 are, to me, some of the richest passages in all of God's Holy Writ. In this present age, man can do no better than to live soberly, righteously, and godly. In so doing, he will fulfill his duties to himself, discharge his duties to others, and render acceptable homage and service unto God. This is the whole duty of man.

January 6, 1972