Faithful Sayings for a Young Man – Titus

Titus, papyrus 32 (c. A.D. 200)


Faithful Sayings for a Young Man

Engaging with the letter of Paul
to one of his sons in the faith


This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.  (Titus 3:8)



“You Cretan!”  In the 1st century, that was an ugly way to call someone a liar.  Cretans were rough, immoral, and untrustworthy, leveraging their trade in agriculture to spur a riotous, raucous way of life.

Paul chose Titus to go to the Isle of Crete to lead the believers there to walk in faith and holiness with Jesus.  He was also tasked with establishing order in the church – a church made up of people who believed in God but still earned their nickname, “you Cretan!”

It reminds me that in a culture of this nature, a man needs to be tough physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Titus was that type of young man.  Here, on an island 35 miles wide and 135 miles long, Titus ventured into a difficult way of life.  Physically, he was an energetic young man, ably keeping up with Paul’s mission work.  He could identify with Cretan men in stature and ruggedness, being equally Greek as they were.  Mentally, he had the mindset to match the Cretan mentality and bend it to God’s purpose.  Spiritually, he wore the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and was able to stand against spiritual wickedness in high places.  In total, he is traditionally credited with being this island’s spiritual leader, taming it for the duration of his lifetime.

And Paul did not leave him lacking and ill-equipped.


In Titus, chapter 1, Paul set the tone for his gritty, Godly advice.  Study this chapter using the following outline:

  1. An overseer (or elder) must hold to the Truth as Biblically taught (verse 9). Read Titus 1:1-9.
    • Discuss the qualities a young man should look for in a mentor (verses 1-4 give some clues).
    • Discuss what it means in Titus 1:9 to hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught.
  2. Read Titus 1:10-14. In verse 10, Paul referenced those of the circumcision who stubbornly required Gentile believers to follow the Law and be circumcised.  Paul disproved the necessity of this practice by not having Titus circumcised as he did Timothy, thus showing that one could have faith in Jesus apart from the Law.
    • Read Matthew 25:31-46.  What can Christian young men do today to connect with non-Christians?  With the unchurched?  With the hungry?  With the thirsty?  With strangers?  With the naked?  With the sick?  With those in jail?
  3. An overseer must know the Truth so that he can pass it on as well as rebuke those who deny the Truth (verse 13).  As a matter of Biblical principle, this not only applies to overseers but to all Christians, and in the context here, to Christian young men.
    • Discuss practical, Christlike ways to rebuke truth-naysayers today.
    • Discuss accountability (and its opposite, insubordination) between Christian young men using terms like warning signs, trust, reinforcement, loyalty, integrity, and courage.  What impact do these things have on your walk with Jesus?  In your witness for Jesus?  In your worship of Jesus?
  4. Fables and commandments of men (verse 14) include perverse, deviant behavior (verses 15-16).
    • Read John 18:28-38.  Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”  When people ask you, “What is truth?” what will you tell them?
  5. Verse 16 reads, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”  What does it mean to deny a true profession of faith in Christ?
    • “Maintaining good works” (Titus 3:8) does not mean keeping the Law.  Paul was adamantly opposed to religious legalism and made that clear to Titus and others, both Jew and Gentile.  Discuss what it means to maintain good works as a Christian young man (Hebrews 6:9-12 gives some clues).  This discussion might include good works for Christ, works of the Law, and works of disobedience.
    • Read James 2:14-26.  As does Paul, James advocates for faith in Christ and works in His name complementing each other.  Martin Luther said that a man is justified (that is, declared righteous before God) by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.  Genuine faith produces good works, but only faith in Christ produces salvation (see NASB Study Bible).

Faith in Jesus…  Maintaining good works…  Bring your Bible study to a conclusion by discussing these two truths.


In Titus, chapters 2 and 3, Paul composed a comprehensive profile of faithful sayings profitable to men (as he called it in 3:8).  We can say, without harming the integrity of the Scriptures, that this also means to all men everywhere of all time, and especially to Christian young men today.  This was personal, as Paul pointed out to Titus by saying, “But as for you…” (verse 2:1).

But as for you…  Paul urges young men to be self-controlled and disciplined in their living for Jesus.  Here are 20 of his faithful sayings (in no particular order):

  • Be sober.  (2:2, 6, 12)
  • Have a good work ethic.  (3:1, 8, 14)
  • Teach and learn with integrity and reverence.  (2:1, 3, 7)
  • Speak with truth and sincerity.  (2:8, 15; 3:2)
  • Guard yourself against ungodliness and lusts of this world. (2:5, 11-12; 3:3-7)
  • Be sober (oh no, not the alcohol thing again!). (2:12)
  • Live righteously and in a Godly way.  (2:2-12)
  • Be alert to how God is working around you.  (2:13; 3:1)
  • Speak, exhort, and rebuke with authority.  (2:15)
  • Subject yourself to the rule of law.  (3:1-2, 9)
  • Maintain and be obedient in good works.  (2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14)
  • Don’t speak evil of anyone.  (2:1-3, 8-9; 3:2, 9)
  • Live in peace with others.  (2:2; 3:2, 9)
  • Be a gentleman, humble in your relationships with other men.
  • Constantly affirm your faithfulness to Christ.  (2:3, 7; 3:8)
  • Maintain good works (something about a work ethic here?).
  • Avoid stupid and pointless arguments.  (3:9-11)
  • Don’t bear the courage of others’ worldly convictions. (3:1-11)
  • Defend Truth.  (2:1, 7-8; 3:8)
  • Have nothing to do with those who cause division.  (3:10, 14)

Rank the above in order of importance.  Okay, that’s not fair.  They are all equally important!  Instead, choose three and write out or discuss what strengthens you and challenges you in these areas:

  • _______________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________
  • _______________________________________________

In addition to encouraging living out one’s faith, Paul also urged Titus to model and teach the necessity of having a good work ethic.  Discuss the qualities of a strong work ethic, especially how it is impacted by one’s faith in Christ.


Set aside 13 weeks to focus on 13 faithful sayings of Paul to young men.  Solemnly commit by setting a start and end date:

  • Pray for strength to do well, for challenges to be mastered, and for opportunity to be present.
  • Do this with a friend, brother, father, mentor, or group. Agree to check up regularly (the beginning and/or end of each week.)  Discuss or write out how the action is addressed by Paul’s faithful sayings to Titus.  Use your Bible and explore.
  • At the end of each week, write your personal thoughts on how that particular faithful saying affected you as a young man living out your faith in Jesus.
  • Celebrate at the end of the 13 weeks! Go out for dinner together.  Hit a coffee shop.  Talk about how this experience changed your life, challenged your living, and/or affirmed your faith.


The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Grace be with you.  Amen. 
(Titus 3:22)


The Faithful Sayings of Paul to Young Men

Week 1
This first week, refrain from:  the use of alcohol, use of any kind of illegal or questionable drug or chemical, overeating, playing video games, listening to head-banging and/or inappropriate music, expressing oppressive (bully) behavior, and no road rage.  Don’t hang out with those who do these things.  Act like a prince.

End of week thoughts


Week 2
At your job (or school), go above and beyond the call of duty.

End of week thoughts


Week 3
Read I Corinthians 15:1-4 each day.  Learn the answer to “What is the Gospel?”  That answer is:  Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He was buried dead, and God raised Him to eternal life.  Believing this, share that definition with at least one person this week either in person, on the phone, in an email, in a text, or on social media.

End of week thoughts


Week 4
Answer everything with total honesty.  Be utterly, if not brutally, truthful.  Seek truth in Scripture.

End of week thoughts


Week 5
Do not look at porn or “undress” women with your eyes, nor watch anything that you suspect contains sexual content.  Refrain from masturbating.  Practice purity.

End of week thoughts


Week 6
Be alert to how God is working around you.  Meditate on those things and find ways to engage some of the work.  Intentionally do good deeds.  Be a gentleman in every respect.  Practice chivalry!

End of week thoughts


Week 7
Determine not to be intimidated by anything.  Face crises with the authority given to you as a man created in the image and glory of God.  Stand firm so that when the smoke clears and the dust settles, you’re still standing.  Wear God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).

End of week thoughts


Week 8
Subject yourself to the rule of law:  Go the speed limit, make complete stops, pray for government leaders, demonstrate patriotism, gladly pay taxes, tip well, return a lost and found or borrowed item, etc.

End of week thoughts


Week 9
Treat others as you want to be treated.  Speak calmly.  Make peace.  Each day, find a way to bring joy into someone’s life.

End of week thoughts


Week 10
Be a perfect gentleman this week in your relationships with women and other men.  Chivalry is not dead.  Remember, you are a prince.

End of week thoughts


Week 11
Several times each day, affirm your faith in Christ to yourself, out loud (maybe look in a mirror!).  Recall Week 3.  Very simply, before you speak to others about Jesus, speak to yourself about Him, and speak to Him often.

End of week thoughts


Week 12
Avoid arguing with others over insignificant things.  Don’t say something stupid or act toward others in a dumb way.  Think before you speak.  Pause before you act.  Count the cost before you commit.

End of week thoughts


Week 13
Speak out when others speak badly about God, the Bible, or Christians.  Don’t agree with unholy thoughts and ideas.  Be strong and courageous – don’t be afraid or dismayed (Joshua 1:9).  Walk away from divisive, immoral people.  Walk with Christ.  Draw close to God and He will draw close to you (James 4:8).  Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (Matthew 10:16).  You are a prince.

End of week and final thoughts



Pattern for Success – Titus 2:7-8

…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.

Patterning a shotgun tells a shooter many things.  He can visualize the density of the shot at given ranges.  He can see the evenness of the shot spread.  He can judge the concentricity of the pattern.  He may even realize that the shotgun doesn’t fit his physique.

Serious problems can be found and corrected before heading into the field.  A bent barrel might be revealed or an out-of-round choke tube might be discovered.  Simple problems can be addressed by merely changing brands of shot shells to gain a better pattern.  Ultimately, a good shooting session helps achieve the best pattern for success.

Christians can also do certain things to fine tune their pattern for successful Christian living.  In his letter to Titus, Paul went to the shooting range, so to speak, to discover these things.  What God revealed to him then is true for us today if we are to be a pattern of good works.

First, the things we teach must have integrity.  Integrity is a collection of several character strengths:  confidence, humility, honesty, resolve, and dependability, to name a few.  Integrity should always be wrapped in the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.  If we believe the Word is less than any of these things, then our integrity is worthless.

Second, we must have reverence for the truth.  When people talk to us they must know that they will always be treated to the truth.  Because Jesus Christ is truth, truth is the essence of God’s Holy Word.  If truth is violated, so is God, so is His Son, so is His Word, and so is our integrity.

Third, we must be genuine, or sincere.  We can understand this better by looking at the opposite of genuineness:  coveting.  If we don’t like who we are or we’re unhappy with God’s blessings in our own lives, it is because we desire to be someone else or we want their things.  Coveting what someone has or who someone is makes us a very disingenuous person.  We must be the person God made us to be.  We must be happy and thankful for the things God has given us.  People must know that about us.

A genuine person obeys the command, “You shall not covet.”  Only then will you have love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith (I Timothy 1:5).  People around you will have confidence in your character because you are who God made you to be and you are happy with what He has given to you.

And finally, we must have sound speech.  Our communication must be thoughtful and honest.  Our words must be clear and wholesome.  Our talk must be truthful and genuine.  Everything that comes out of our mouths must be pure and healthy.  We can’t speak about God’s love and forgiveness if we are mean, condescending, puffed up, or hateful.  It’s a matter of the heart.  Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matthew 15:18).  Our speech expresses our integrity.

This is the pattern for success.  It is the pattern every Christian man must have in his life:

  • integrity
  • loyalty to the truth
  • genuineness
  • sound speech

The result of this pattern of Christian living is clear.  That one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.  (Titus 2:8)

  • List vital elements of sound speech. Which ones are your strengths?  Which ones do you need to improve?  What will you do about it?
  • What do you do regularly that keeps your integrity intact? What about your sincerity?  In your view, why do people around you have confidence and trust in your character?
  • Personally meditate on these key words, or discuss these with your friends or small group. What does the Bible say about each one?  Determine how you will interact with these subjects this week:
    • integrity
    • sound speech
    • pattern of good works



Every young man should have an appreciation for art.


Young man reading by candlelight, Matthias Stom

Young Man Reading by Candlelight, Matthias Stom.  Stom (1600-1650) is believed to have been a pupil of Gerrit van Honthorst in Utrecht, before going to Rome in 1628.  He mainly painted genre pieces and Biblical subjects.  His works differ from Honthorst’s in that the faces of his subjects are more highly elaborated and have broader features and more furrows.  His paintings make use of a warmer palette, dominated by reds and yellows. While in Rome, Stom painted several genre pieces like the present work.


Return of the prodical son, Rembrandt

Return of the Prodigal, Rembrandt (1665).  Perhaps Rembrandt’s most moving painting, the theme recalls Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-31.  Henri Nouwen, in his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, observed, “Moving my eyes from the repentant son to the compassionate father, I see that the glittering light reflecting from golden chains, harnesses, helmets, candles, and hidden lamps, has died out and been replaced by the inner light of old age.  It is the movement from the glory that seduces one into an ever greater search for wealth and popularity to the glory that is hidden in the human soul and surpasses death.”



David, Michelangelo (1504).  This masterful 17 ft. tall marble statue took young Michelangelo over two years to carve.  At over six tons, it literally stands as a Renaissance interpretation of a common ancient Greek theme of the undaunted, heroic male nude.  Although Biblically inaccurate (David was circumcised), the statue is a reminder of an uncircumcised Titus and what that meant to his ministry on the Isle of Crete.


The American Way, Norman Rockwell (1944). Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was an American author, artist, and illustrator. His works appeal to a broad audience in the United States, reflecting on the American culture and way of life. Many of his paintings capture inspirational patriotic moments, such as the artwork presented here. Rockwell did not receive the acclaim he deserved during his lifetime. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 for “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”




Of the lesser known hymns written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), How Wretched Was Our Former State stakes out some lonely territory.  In fact, one is hard-pressed to find tune information for this poetic expression of the Savior’s triumphant rescue of fallen, sinful man.  Indeed, Watts was known for his poems as well as his hymns, with some (poems) having no sacred theme at all.

Isaac Watts, statue

As a reformed yet very capable theologian, Watts was extraordinarily adept at weaving rich, Biblical truths into nearly every line or stanza of his hymns and poetry.  How Wretched Was Our Former State was chosen for this Bible study in Titus for its capacity to vividly picture the former state of man compared to the merciful, salvific work of Christ on the cross.

With an meter, the hymn can be sung to familiar tunes like AZMON (aka O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing) or NEW BRITAIN (aka Amazing Grace).  For me, the tune KINGSFOLD (aka O Sing a Song of Bethlehem) fits the hymn perfectly with its haunting melody framed by minor chords.  Because KINGSFOLD has a double common meter, adding the last two lines of the familiar Christmas song makes the hymn work, not only in context and meter, but also in specifically referencing, not just inferring, the cross of Christ (see hymn, words in italics).

At the turn of the 19th century, the hymn appeared in only three hymnals used by Presbyterians (1796), the Church of Scotland (1800), and the Universalist Church of America (1817).

In his letter to Titus, Paul charged his young son in the faith to remain faithful and to maintain good works as he battled against Jewish legalists who were enforcing works of the Law as a condition of following Christ, and against Gentile unbelievers who were in every way “slaves to Satan,” as Watts put it.

  • Compare and contrast the words of this hymn with the words of Paul to Titus.
  • Identify key words or phrases in this hymn that invite more Bible study.


How Wretched Was Our Former State

How wretched was our former state,
when, slaves to Satan’s sway,
With hearts disordered and impure,
o’erwhelmed in sin we lay!

But, O my soul!  For ever praise,
for ever love His name,
Who turned thee from the fatal paths
of folly, sin, and shame.

Vain and presumptuous is the trust
which in our works we place,
Salvation from a higher source
flows to the human race.

’Tis from the mercy of our God
that all our hopes begin;
His mercy saved our souls from death,
and washed our souls from sin.

His Spirit, through the Saviour shed,
its sacred fire imparts,
Refines our dross, and Love divine
rekindles in our hearts.

Thence raised from death, we live anew;
and, justified by grace,
We hope in glory to appear,
and see our Father’s face.

Let all who hold this faith and hope
in holy deeds abound;
Thus faith approves itself sincere,
by active virtue crowned.

For He who died on Calvary
Is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by heaven adored,
Is mighty now to save.