St John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Titus 2:11-15

The following post contains the saint’s teaching on Titus 2:11-15, it has been excerpted from a much longer instruction (on 2:11-3:6) which can be read in full here.

The Saint begins with a reference to verses 9-10 in order to introduce the subject of the current instruction. Those verses read: Exhort servants to be obedient to their masters: in all things pleasing, not gainsaying: Not defrauding, but in all things shewing good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

Having demanded from servants so great virtue, for it is great virtue to adorn the doctrine of our God and Saviour in all things, and charged them to give no occasion of offense to their masters, even in common matters, he adds the just cause, why servants should be such: “For the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men:.” Those who have God for their Teacher, may well be such as I have described, seeing their numberless sins have been forgiven to them. For you know that in addition to other considerations, this in no common degree awes and humbles the soul, that when it had innumerable sins to answer for, it received not punishment, but obtained pardon, and infinite favors. For if one, whose servant had committed many offenses, instead of scourging him with thongs, should grant him a pardon for all those, but should require an account of his future conduct, and bid him beware of falling into the same faults again, and should bestow high favors upon him, who do you think would not be overcome at hearing of such kindness? But do not think that grace stops at the pardon of former sins—it secures us against them in future, for this also is of grace. Since if He were never to punish those who still do amiss, this would not be so much grace, as encouragement to evil and wickedness.

For the grace of God our Saviour, he says,  hath appeared to all men: Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly and godly in this world,  Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. See, how together with the rewards he places the virtue. And this is of grace, to deliver us from worldly things, and to lead us to Heaven. He speaks here of two appearings; for there are two; the first of grace, the second of retribution and justice.

Instructing us, that, denying ungodliness, he says, and worldly desires. See here the foundation of all virtue. He has not said “avoiding,” but “denying.” Denying implies the greatest distance, the greatest hatred and aversion. With as much resolution and zeal as they turned from idols, with so much let them turn from vice itself, and worldly lusts. For these too are idols, that is, worldly lusts, and covetousness, and this he names idolatry. Whatever things are useful for the present life are worldly lusts, whatever things perish with the present life are worldly lusts. Let us then have nothing to do with these. Christ came, that we should deny ungodliness. Ungodliness relates to doctrines, worldly lusts to a wicked life.

We should live soberly and justly and godly in this world. Dost thou see, what I always affirm, that it is not sobriety only to abstain from fornication, but that we must be free from other passions. So then he who loves wealth is not sober. For as the fornicator loves women, so the other loves money, and even more inordinately, for he is not impelled by so strong a passion. And he is certainly a more powerless charioteer who cannot manage a gentle horse, than he who cannot restrain a wild and unruly one. What then? says he, is the love of wealth weaker than the love of women? This is manifest from many reasons. In the first place, lust springs from the necessity of nature, and what arises from this necessity must be difficult to restrain, since it is implanted in our nature. Secondly, because the ancients had no regard for wealth, but for women they had great regard, in respect of their chastity. And no one blamed him who cohabited with his wife according to law, even to old age, but all blamed him who hoarded money. And many of the Heathen philosophers despised money, but none of them were indifferent to women, so that this passion is more imperious than the other. But since we are addressing the Church, let us not take our examples from the Heathens, but from the Scriptures. This then the blessed Paul places almost in the rank of a command. “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim 6:8). But concerning women he says, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent”—and “come together again.” (1 Cor 7:5). And you see him often laying down rules for a lawful intercourse, and he permits the enjoyment of this desire, and allows of a second marriage, and bestows much consideration upon the matter, and never punishes on account of it. But he everywhere condemns him that is fond of money. Concerning wealth also Christ often commanded that we should avoid the corruption of it, but He says nothing about abstaining from a wife. For hear what He says concerning money; “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath” (Luke 14:33); but he nowhere says, “Whosoever forsaketh not his wife”; for he knew how imperious that passion is. And the blessed Paul says, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb 13:4); but he has nowhere said that the care of riches is honorable, but the reverse. Thus he says to Timothy, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.” (1 Tim 6:9). He says not, they that will be covetous, but, they that will be rich.

And that you may learn from the common, notions the true state of this matter, it must be set before you generally. If a man were once for all deprived of money, he would no longer be tormented with the desire of it, for nothing so much causes the desire of wealth, as the possession of it. But it is not so with respect to lust, but many who have been made eunuchs have not been freed from the flame that burned within them, for the desire resides in other organs, being seated inwardly in our nature. To what purpose then is this said? Because the covetous is more intemperate than the fornicator, inasmuch as the former gives way to a weaker passion. Indeed it proceeds less from passion than from baseness of mind. But lust is natural, so that if a man does not approach a woman, nature performs her part and operation. But there is nothing of this sort in the case of avarice).

We should live soberly and justly and godly in this world. And what is this hope? what the reward of our labors?

Looking for the blessed hope and coming. For nothing is more blessed and more desirable than that appearing. Words are not able to represent it, the blessings thereof surpass our understanding.

Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Where are those who say that the Son is inferior to the Father?  The great God and Saviour, he say,  He who saved us when we were enemies. What will He not do then when He has us approved?

The great God. When he says great with respect to God, he says it not comparatively but absolutely, after Whom no one is great, since it is relative. For if it is relative, He is great by comparison, not great by nature. But now He is incomparably great.

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable. “Acceptable,” that is, selected from the rest, and having nothing in common with them.

A pursuer of good works. Dost thou see that our part is necessary, not merely works, but “zealous”; we should with all alacrity, with a becoming earnestness, go forward in virtue. For when we were weighed down with evils, and incurably diseased, it was of His lovingkindness that we were delivered. But what follows after this is our part as well as His.

Tit 2:14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.

A people acceptable. That is, selected from the rest, and having nothing in common with them.

A pursuer of good works. Dost thou see that our part is necessary, not merely working good works, but pursuing them; we should with all alacrity, with a becoming earnestness, go forward in virtue. For when we were weighed down with evils, and incurably diseased, it was of His loving-kindness that we were delivered. But what follows after this is our part as well as His.

Tit 2:15  These things speak and exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

These things speak and exhort. Do you see how he charges Timothy? “Reprove, rebuke, exhort” (see 2 Tim 4:2) But here, “Rebuke with all authority.” For the manners of this people were more stubborn (see Titus 1:12-13), wherefore he orders them to be rebuked more roughly, and with all authority. For there are some sins, which ought to be prevented by command. We may with persuasion advise men to despise riches, to be meek, and the like. But the adulterer, the fornicator, the defrauder, ought to be brought to a better course by command. And those who are addicted to augury and divination, and the like, should be corrected “with all authority.” Observe how he would have him insist on these things with independence, and with entire freedom.

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One Response to St John Chrysostom’s Commentary on Titus 2:11-15

  1. Pingback: Resources for Christmas Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass) | stjoeofoblog

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