So we return to the book of Titus tonight, concluding our look at this letter this evening.
You’ll remember from last week:
- Titus was one of Paul’s proteges (or disciples if you will).
- This type of letter was called a Pastoral Letter
- Instructions on how to appoint elders in the church
- Exhortation to those in Christ to live in such a way so as to avoid bringing reproach upon Christ, for the sake of being a good witness.
Need to be very careful to make the distinction that Paul (in his letter to Titus), in talking about good conduct, good works, he was NOT referring to works unto salvation. We should never EVER mistake Paul’s words for legalism. He was explaining some of the reasons WHY we were to be diligent in our conduct and it had much to do with acting in accord with our faith. We noted the phrase Paul used in the very first verse, where he says “…truth, which accords with godliness” (ESV). A faith that actually matched our walk and how that spoke to our modeling for not only other Christians but also, the world. Not that we walk in the sight of the world FOR THE SAKE of the world, seeking the world’s approval (because we certainly don’t) but that we are to walk as in the sight of the LORD. And we spoke about how it was to be a pattern in our lives. Not that we were expecting a certain perfection in our conduct, but that rather there was an ongoing pattern of growth, a pattern of ever-increasing holiness, a pattern of ever-increasing joy, a pattern of ever increasing godliness in the way we walk out our faith.
This study was particularly convicting for me personally. I can never assume to know anyone else’s heart in these matters, in fact, I can’t even presume to know my OWN heart for that matter. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” as it says in Jeremiah 17:9. But the point is that at least as far as I DO know my own heart, I have become more and more conscious of how much I fail in my own conduct; how much I continually fail to “walk out” my own Christianity. Whether it’s the music I listen to, the movies I enjoy, etc. I have become increasingly more aware of when I’m NOT glorifying Christ. When I’m walking in a way that God hates. The more years that I walk with the Lord, the more aware I become of being much like the world in some of my conduct. It’s a hard thing to have to admit. But if I’m being intellectually honest, it’s a confession that needs to be made.
I remember a number of years ago, when I was still active in the actual day-to-day running of my business, I remember realizing at some point, “I don’t think any of my customers even know that I’m a Christian…”. It hurts to even admit that, even if just in recalling that memory. I’m not even talking about evangelizing here. I’m talking about my PRACTICAL witness for Christ. For all those years, I walked in a way that it wouldn’t have mattered WHAT I said to anyone because my actions showed who was TRULY Lord over MY life. In those times, I was. I was Lord over my life. I mean, sure – Christ was my savior. But was He Lord? You wouldn’t have been able to answer in the affirmative by the way I conducted myself. And so I began to be far more conscious of the “truth which accords with godliness”; more aware of my actions and how I conduct myself in my walk with the Lord in a PRACTICAL way. And again, this is not about ACTING like a Christian so that you can become a “better” one. This is about becoming the right person, FOR THE RIGHT REASON, and then because of that, walking in a way becoming of His grace.
Paul also mentions false teachers and the deception that they present. And so we are to beware these false teachers and rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine. And of course the primary aim of rebuking – remember – is to benefit the one being rebuked with correction in truth.
So with that, we now begin to pick up our overview of the second half of this letter beginning roughly with Chapter 2, and roughly with verses 11-15. That’s about where we left off. And this is really the heart of the letter. This is where Paul begins to really emphasize God’s sovereign purpose in appointing elders and in commanding God’s people to live in such a way as to avoid bringing reproach upon Christ and thereby to provide a reliable witness that brings God’s purpose of salvation to an unbelieving world, to pass. Paul talks a lot about good conduct among believers, but let’s remind ourselves of some of the reasons why:
The doctrines of grace and salvation through the Gospel are for ALL men. The Gospel, among other things, teaches us to forsake our sinful nature. Conversely, the Gospel is instructive to us in how we are to be more conscious of those things that are good and suited to a heavenly calling. Our duty: is to
- Deny ungodliness
- Live soberly
- Live righteously and godly
All of the world’s temptations, its richness in examples of corruption and wrongdoing, its enticements to use every good thing that God created wrongly.
It’s an interesting thing to consider that among the institutions that God ordained on earth, ie the Family, the Church, and the Government, it is the CHURCH that is to be a representation of Heaven on earth. Just a slice, a small TASTE of what is to come. That we are to act in love towards one another as brothers and sisters in Christ NOW, because THAT’S what it will be like in Heaven when we all get there. That we are to act in such a way so as to demonstrate Holiness NOW, because we’ll conduct ourselves that way and won’t be carnal in Heaven. That we are to walk in greater and greater Communion with God NOW because that is exactly what we look forward to in Heaven in the future. It’s not about performing a bunch of righteous acts with fervor and rigor. It’s the understanding, the truth that God, in His love through the Person and work of Jesus Christ, so loved US, that we should do no less than give ourselves up to HIM.
And now we close out Chapter 2 and move briskly into the first 7 verses of Chapter 3. And by the way, I was struck by a very interesting thing as I studied Titus in preparing this message. There’s a fascinating pattern that I think relates to 2 of the 3 aspects of our Christian life. Remember the 3 aspects, our:
If you look at the 5th verse of Chapter 1, you see the words (in the ESV), “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and APPOINT elders in every town…”. Then when you walk over to the very first verse in Chapter 2, we read Paul’s words, “But as for you, TEACH what accords with sound doctrine”. The NKJV uses the phrase “SPEAK the things which are proper for sound doctrine”. “Speak the things”: it means TEACH. And then since we are now in Chapter 3, take a peek at that first word in the very first verse. Titus 3, verse 1, “REMIND them to be submissive to rulers and authorities…”. And so you see this interesting 3-fold exhortation to Titus from Paul to:
And isn’t that like our own walk? I don’t want to call it a “typology” but it’s sort of a shadow with US. Look at it: God first saved us (“Appointed”), and then through the process of sanctification, by the Word of God, through the Spirit of God, we are TAUGHT, and then after being taught, REMINDED of the Truth which we have been taught. Pretty cool.
- Pastor Dale wants us to work on our weaknesses rather than our strengths
- “What have you LEARNED?”.
- I realized that much of my own life is NOT learning NEW things – it’s being REMINDED of things I already know. Now that’s not to say that I’m not somehow learning new things constantly; (I AM). It’s just to say that more often than not, I find that I’m being REMINDED of the things which I’ve already been taught.
In verses 1-7 of Chapter 3, we’re reminded, through Paul to Titus, to be obedient to those who govern and to demonstrate our own faith through behavior that is becoming of what our Lord has done for us. This has to do with being model citizens BECAUSE we are to be model citizens for the sake of Christ. We’re never to be involved in riots or violent protests, especially when we are persecuted. You’ll recall that in the past few months, we had studied the book of 1st Peter with Pastor Dale on Sundays and even though that letter was written to a persecuted church, where Christians were being faced with egregious violence and slaughter, never ONCE did Peter call for an uprising against those responsible. He could have. But he didn’t. Christ, with only ONE WORD could have utterly UNMADE his enemies at the Cross, but He didn’t.
We are to show meekness toward all men, not just those we love. And meekness is often exceedingly difficult to demonstrate to those we DO love. Now, “meekness”, at its extreme, is described as an attitude whereby a person is willing to voluntarily submit themselves, without resistance, to the will of another. In even its MILDEST form, it’s that patient endurance of the offenses of another. Gentleness or Grace (Humility even) would be another word we might use. And we are to extend that same expression of what Christ has done in and for US to others.
Now Paul, here in verse 3 of Chapter 3 begins to describe how much like the world we used to be and does so in fairly rich language. The children of the world are hateful, deserving to BE hated by others in the world. It was said by one commentator, speaking on this verse along with the next, that “their hatred for one another is their misery” and then how that’s juxtaposed by the duty of us who are in Christ to demonstrate the happiness in our salvation and our love to one another. I mean, especially seeing as how we have been DELIVERED out of all that misery. We have been effectively TRANSLATED, that is moved, from that condition of abject, utterly hopeless misery by the freely-given GRACE and MERCY of God ALONE, by way of the merit of Christ’s sufferings upon the cross in His glorious and finished work, and then into a process by which we are molded more and more into His likeness, by greater and greater degrees, all the days of our life here on earth. God the Father is God our Savior. His Holy Spirit is the FOUNTAIN of our salvation, our regeneration, our sanctification. And this whole blessing comes to us through the Person and finished work of Christ. To mirror that pattern we identified earlier, if you will, to “appoint”, to “teach”, and to “remind” us of what He’s taught us as we move through this earthly sojourn.
Again, good works must be IN US as a part of us, a part of our new nature but good works are NOT the cause of salvation. It isn’t even Christ-PLUS. It Is Christ ALONE. And because of that, and the fact that God’s love and grace has such a power as to change our hearts and grant us new affections towards Him, we then find a new principle of His grace – one that causes us to be moved and swayed by the Holy Spirit into a pattern of greater and greater holiness. You see, most people want to go to Heaven. Ask anyone. Everyone wants to be in Heaven upon their death. They just don’t want God to be there when they arrive. After all, many of those who profess Christianity only PRETEND to care about their holiness now. They want the fruit but not the pruning necessary. They want the Crown but without the Cross. A baptism in the river will not suffice. The outward washing of our flesh in Baptism is as the circumcision of the Jews who the Lord rebuked as “white-washed graves”. It is the heart that is to be “circumcised”, it is the inner man that is to be washed by the Holy Spirit. In other words, in referring to verses 5-6, the washing of regeneration that Paul speaks of here is both inward and spiritual! So again, I don’t want to devolve into a notion that good works are meritorious in a salvific sense. Because they aren’t, and that much is clear. Rather think of good works and godliness in our conduct as the outward seal or insignia of a far GREATER work that has been performed inside of us. Though we should never REST in that outward display of a greater, inner work, we are to be nevertheless DILIGENT in walking out our faith practically, “…truth which accords with godliness”.
Paul continues on and then mentions justification, an important point we can never overlook. Justification, in the Gospel sense, describes (positionally) right-standing with God. It is the forgiveness of sin, granted freely, where the sinner is now accepted as righteous through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that is to say righteousness granted BY the work of Christ upon the cross, and received by way of faith. Now, God in justifying the sinner by means of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, now extends grace to us and is able to remain JUST because both He and His Law are now satisfied by the atoning work of Christ’s blood. And because of the fact that God’s forgiveness is granted through the PERFECT righteousness of Christ, and God’s Justice is satisfied by Christ, then by NO MEANS can a sinner himself merit the work of salvation.
In verses 8-11 Paul speaks of how SINCE God has extended grace towards us as redeemed sinners, that there exists now a need of good works. That we, as children of the Most High God make it our business to maintain good works, indeed to look for opportunities to do them, being motivated of course by the gratitude we have and the love that exists in us as Christ-bearers. Paul is acutely aware of the nonsense that Titus will undoubtedly face in the church plants in Crete that he was to be in charge over and exhorts him to avoid nonsensical conversations and debates with the false teachers there. He doesn’t want Titus to find himself embroiled in the idiocy of the Judaizers who insisted on obedience to the Mosaic Law which was an utter assault upon the Gospel; the Gospel being of course that we are justified by grace, through faith alone. In essence Paul wanted Titus to proclaim TRUTH and NOT be spending all of his time chasing arguments and error. Less time arguing, more time to evangelize is the idea. Should I even mention the application point here? I mean, this is a WONDERFUL exhortation to US. It is SO EASY for us as Christians to find ourselves arguing nonsensical and temporal things that have absolutely NO BEARING on our futures in the Kingdom of God. Pick your idiocy: politics is the hot one of course. How we rage against those on the opposite side of our own beliefs. In effect, the admonishment for us now is to spend less time commiserating about our current political landscape and MORE time learning about the character and nature of God! Otherwise is just plain vanity. After all, the love and study of sound biblical doctrine and truth is MOST edifying. Far more edifying than blowing your stack at something some worldly politician said or didn’t say.
And now, we finally approach the end of this letter from Paul to Titus. In verses 12-15 it’s basically the summation of the letter here in this block of verses. That we as Christians are to be honest in our work, to provide for ourselves and our families as we’re able to do so. We are, in a sense, under an obligation to work honorably in both our employment and our callings and in so doing, be in a greater, practical communion with God. Truth which accords with godliness.
And Paul finally concludes his letter with prayer and a wish of grace for all. He’s expressing his desire for God’s favor and love to be with Titus (and therefore with us). And we see that Grace is the chief favor that we would wish and pray for, not only for ourselves, but for others. And with that we close out our overview of Titus.