3 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
(Titus 3:1-8 NIV)
In our previous time together, we finished chapter 2, looking at Paul’s instructions for the attitudes of slaves (employees) toward their masters (bosses), followed by all believers’ mandate to live out their calling in Christ. Chapter 2 was focused on each person’s inner and outer character traits.
As we begin chapter 3 today, Paul begins by reminding us to live out our calling in Christ in relation to others in addition to our personal lives. In verses 1-2, Paul reminds Titus to remind the people of Crete that they are to obey, to be subject to the government authorities. Even though Crete was an island, they were still part of the Roman empire. Paul did not say this out of loyalty to Rome, but out of obedience to Christ, with the full understanding that even governmental leaders are under the authority of God (whether they acknowledge God’s authority or not).
These outward behaviors toward others (obedient, ready to serve, not slanderous, peaceable, considerate, gentle) were not a “happy face” to be worn only in the presence of others. Rather, these behaviors were the outward manifestation of the inner and outer character traits Paul laid out in Chapter 2. These outward behaviors toward others were the culmination, the end result of a life centered in Christ.
In verse 3, Paul reminds Titus (and us) of our common heritage, our sordid past of sin and brokenness and selfishness and damaged relationships as we try to live out life on our own and fail miserably. Notice that Paul does not exclude himself from this mess – he says “we too”. No one is immune to this way of living – not Paul, not Titus, not me, not you – no one.
The contrast, however, is in verses 4-7, as Paul reminds us of our salvation and new life in Christ. Verse 4 is so rich, as Paul says “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared”. First of all, God showed up in flesh and blood in the person of Jesus! And what was God’s attitude when He arrived and saw the mess and brokenness of humanity? In His righteousness, did He destroy them all? No – Paul says God showed up in kindness and love.
Paul goes on to say that God saved us, not because of any good that we had done, but because of His mercy toward us. God knew that despite our best efforts, we could never do enough good things to earn His favor as a righteous and holy God. His standard is perfection (no sin) and we all fall desperately short of His standard, which is Himself.
The judgment for our sin is separation from God. But God intervened and paid the penalty for our sin through His own Son, Jesus. Jesus took the penalty for our sin on the cross and paid it once and for all.
When we accept God’s free gift of salvation, we are telling God that we can’t earn our way into His presence, that we are depending on His Son alone for eternal life. When we yield our life and will to Jesus and tell Him so with our words, then Paul says that God saves us and transforms us through regeneration (spiritual rebirth) and indwelling our lives with His Holy Spirit (v. 5b).
As a result of us yielding our life to Christ, God justifies us (wipes out our record of sin) and accepts us, lavishly pours out His love on us, takes us in as family (He calls us heirs), and gives us hope (assurance) of eternal life with God (v. 7).
Paul then stops in verse 8 and tells Titus that verses 4-7 are a trustworthy saying, that Titus can count on these teachings as foundational truths and stake his life on them.
Paul then goes on to tell Titus (and us) to preach and teach and demonstrate these truths in our daily lives so others will do the same. Discipleship, learning to live like Christ, is both taught and caught, and we must be intentional in teaching and leading others by example. Paul ends his thought by saying that these truths are applicable to and good for everyone who claims to be Christ’s follower.
May we have a “Paul” in our lives to teach and demonstrate what it means to be more Christlike, to encourage us and give us a nudge or prod as we need it.
May we be a “Titus” to others, providing a living example of what it means to follow Jesus through both our words and our actions, investing in them and walking with them through the joys and pains of life.