Nancy: Well, Mary, as we come to the halfway point of this study, the fifth element out of ten that we're looking at in the series, we come to another word that is, again, kind of antiquated. You don't hear it very often today. It's the word "virtue," and it builds on these others that we've been looking at: discernment, honor or reverence, affection, discipline or self-control, and now this word virtue.

Before we unpack what that is, (a true woman who is pure is the word in Titus chapter 2), I just want to remind us that everything that a woman is called to be here (a follower of Christ) is counter-cultural to the way the world is going.

Mary Kassian: Yes. And it was so counter-cultural also to the world at that time because in Crete, at that time, there was so much immorality—sexual immorality—and there was all types of evil.

Nancy: Paul describes that in Titus with some pretty graphic terminology. He says in chapter 1:

To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work (vv. 15–16).

And then in chapter 3 he says these people who don't know Christ are "slaves to various passions and pleasures" (v. 3)

Mary: Right.

Nancy: So you have the portrait of the world in his day, which is so similar to the world in our day.

Mary: Very similar.

Nancy: If you say that today, you're considered intolerant or unloving, but it's true. People who don't have Christ in them live for their flesh. They live for their fleshly passions. They're slaves to that.

And against that backdrop, Paul, in the book of Titus, calls us to a lifestyle as believers that is polar opposite.

Mary: It is polar opposite. And in our culture, as you said, virtue, that's almost a dirty word. That's almost a word that is, "Oh, who would want to be virtuous?" or "Virtue is bad." I saw, I believe it was last Christmas, where there was a t-shirt that said, "A little bit of naughty is nice." That naughty is actually the new nice, and unless you are naughty, or unless there is a little bit of impurity or there's a little bit of sexual looseness about you, then there's . . .

Nancy: . . .  something wrong with you.

Mary: There's something wrong with you . . . terribly wrong with you.

Nancy: So, in the context of this culture back then, and now, that thinks that way, Paul says in a world that celebrates promiscuity and lack of restraint, when it comes to sexuality, we ourselves came out of that background.

We  ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures . . . but when the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us. [He washed us.] (Titus 3: 3–5).

Mary: Yes. And that's that whole picture of purity washing. We know what pure and impure means. We talk about it all the time. There are the soap commercials that the soap is oh so pure. And even in our eating, we talk about clean eating, where we're eating healthy, good food and not food that contains contaminates or carcinogens or food that's bad for us. So we have an understanding.

Nancy: That's popular, but not so popular when you talk about the heart or the soul.

Mary: No, not so popular when it comes to that. But that whole picture that Paul uses, that cleansing that Christ washes us, washes us sparkling clean and gets rid of all the dirt, gets rid of all the impurity, and actually presents us as His spotless bride. …