It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
Quick Glance of Other Versions
ESV – training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
KJV – Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
NASB – instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
NLT – And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,
Titus 2:12 is perhaps one of the verses that substantiates the often held point that NIV Bible is not as literal as some other versions – where several interpretations could stand, in this instance (and many others), the NIV translators have subscribed to a certain interpretation and offered little room for the reader’s own interpretation. I have nothing against the NIV; I grew up with it and it’s the version of the one main physical Bible that I use – but the advent of technology has made it easy for me to counter check across other versions on verses I’m not familiar with, and that’s a blessing. In the case of Titus 2:12 I should perhaps have chosen another version to study, but the NIV’s unique translation here struck out at me – saying ‘No’ to ungodliness. In most other versions it says denying, renouncing, rejecting – which probably isn’t that different from saying ‘No’. There are many ways to denying and renouncing ungodliness – but just for today, allow me to spend special focus on the idea of saying ‘No’ – an important form of denying sin that’s almost akin to a declaration.
Titus is, perhaps along with Philemon, one of the smaller and lesser known epistles of Paul – but I would argue that for it’s limited length it has a lot of depth. Of all the Pauline epistles recorded in the Bible only 4 were not written to churches or places – Paul wrote specially to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, of which his 2 epistles to Timothy, his true son in the faith [1 Tim 1:2], were of course very well-known. Well, Paul uses a similar title to address Titus as well, calling him, my true son in our common faith [Titus 1:4] – it is likely that Paul uses that to address many more others – there’s a certain format to the epistles of Paul which is largely similar and consistent – which is why I like studying the Pauline letters a lot. Who was Titus? He wasn’t directly mentioned in the book of Acts, but through the epistles of Paul there have been several mentions – for example, Titus was the one who bore Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul clearly treasured Titus, for in 2 Cor 2:13 he wrote – I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia. If Timothy was Paul’s beloved disciple, so was Titus, and in fact, this letter was very much like Paul’s first epistle to Timothy – a mentor encouraging a young preacher in a challenging mission.
ungodliness and worldly passions – Ungodliness? If we take this word by its literal meaning, it would be things that we cannot associate with God. Ungodliness – not godliness; not of God. It should be noted that this word has been retained across majority of the translations that I could find listed, which is often assuring to the reader. I don’t know about you, but it sometimes annoy me when a verse (or even just a phrase in a verse) is so vastly different from one translation to another. Worldly passions, or worldly lusts, or worldly desires – things of the world that we hanker after. This is pretty much everything that doesn’t translate into the eternal life, isn’t it? I would like to think it doesn’t just include sin, but also all the things that distract us from God.
to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age – this is largely consistent across the various translations and I don’t wish to go into this, although a lot can be said about this. There is no lack of such reminders throughout the Bible. What I really want to go into is this – It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions – What is it? Going a verse back – ‘it’ is the grace of God that brings salvation [Titus 2:11]. The grace of God empowers us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness. The grace of God that brings salvation gives us the assurance and the understanding to say ‘No’ to worldly passions.
When we say ‘no’ to something – it is a rejection, it is to deny, it is also a declaration of our intentions. Often, saying it out empowers ourselves. We don’t say maybe not… when we reject the pursuit of worldly passions. We don’t find excuses when we deny ungodliness in our lives. We don’t need to leave any room for a possibility for these ungodliness or worldly pursuits to creep back into our lives. We don’t need to leave ourselves with any doubts – or any room for doubts. We say ‘No’ in faith, firmly and resolutely. They may still creep back, of course – hence saying ‘No’ firmly every single time is important. Don’t just avoid thinking about it. Reject it. Deny it. Renounce it with a declaration.
Yet, more often than not, we find ourselves saying ‘No’ to God. No, God, I don’t want to go into missions – that’s a very, very common one. No, God, I don’t want to give more than one-tenth of what I have, that’s too much. No pastor, I don’t want to be a leader. No, dear brother, I don’t want to come to church unless it’s a Sunday. No God, Wednesday nights are not for Bible studies – they are for Ladies’ night. Well, half the time as a fellow human being I can fully understand what we are thinking when we say ‘No’ to God. Many times, God seem to demand the impossible from us. Jonah is the best example – God told him to serve in Nineveh, something which was against his personal principles. He said ‘No’ to God. Maybe you’ve been asked on missions – and that’s entirely out of your comfort zone – and you said ‘No’. I can understand this, really – I don’t remember how many times I’ve said ‘No’ to God as well. Say ‘No’ to ungodliness – it’s hard, but not that hard. It’s probably harder not to say ‘No’ to God than it is to say ‘No’ to ungodliness.
I won’t ask you not to say ‘No’ to God. I will just ask you about why you said ‘No’ to God. If the story on Jonah tells us anything, it is the persistence of God in his will. God doesn’t have to use us. But he wants to, because he loves us. Perhaps there are a number of things we are still playing tug-of-war or hide-and-seek with God on. But the more we consider why we reject God and why we’re so insistant on it, the more we consider the pros and cons and the consequences, the more we’re willing to think about it and the possibilities – that’s when our hearts will slowly open to the often daunting missions that God has thrown on our plates. I think.
What do we say ‘no’ to? Is it ungodliness? Or is it God? In rejecting God, are we rejecting the grace of God that brings salvation to us? This probably doesn’t work so literally. But in significance, metaphorically speaking, yes, we are.