In chapter 2 of Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul instructed Titus on what he should teach to different groups within the churches in Crete. He referred first of all to the older men and to what they should be; and then he referred to the older women and to what they should be; and then the younger women and to what they should be; and then the younger men and to what they should be; and finally he referred to the slaves and to what they should be. And I suggested that since slaves in those days were often treated well by their masters and were often given important work to do, then what Paul said about the slaves applies today to those of us who have to work for a living. And so, Paul was referring to life at home and to life in the workplace.
And he went on to teach us that Christ the Saviour gave up his life on the cross to redeem us, or to deliver us, from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are eager to do good. And so, one of the reasons Christ died on the cross was to free us from wickedness and to make us eager to do what is good in our life at home and in our life at work. And at the end of the last sermon, I referred to a theologian who said that grace restores nature. What he meant is that the family and work are part of the natural world which God created. He has given us families and work for our good. But the natural world has been spoiled because of sin. So, the people in every family don’t love each other the way they should. And because of sin, we can be lazy and insubordinate and difficult and dishonest. However, grace restores nature, because Christ graciously gave himself for us to deliver us from sin and to make us eager to do what is good at home and in the workplace and wherever else we might be.
When we’re converted to faith in Christ, Christ does not remove us from our families and he does not remove us from the workplace. He doesn’t lift us out of the natural world. He keeps us where we are and he graciously helps us to do good and to honour him right where we are.
And having addressed life at home and life in the workplace, Paul turns at the beginning of chapter 3 to refer to life in society.
Verses 1 and 2
When we’re converted to faith in Christ, Christ does not remove us from civil society. He doesn’t take us our of our community. He keeps us where we are. And because he gave up his life on the cross to deliver us from all wickedness and to make us eager to do what is good, he expects his people to be subject to rulers and authorities and to be obedient and to be ready to do what is good. Do you see that at the beginning of chapter 3?
Some people are anarchists and revolutionaries. They want to overthrow the government and start again. And while the rest of us might not be anarchists, not many of us like to be told what to do and to have people over us. People often think that life would be so much better if they were free to do what they wanted. People ask themselves why must there be rulers and authorities over us? Would we not be better off if we were free?
But in Romans 13 Paul makes clear that the government is from God. So, not only is the family from God and not only is work from God, but rulers and authorities are from God as well. The authorities that exist, says Paul in Romans, have been established by God. And God has given us governments for our good, because whether the rulers realise it or not, they are servants of God.
Now, since there’s an election coming up, you might be thinking that whatever governments exist are established by us, because we elect them. But since everything derives from God’s will, then the outcome of our elections are in God’s hands and he determines who will win the election and who will not.
Whatever happens in the world happens according to his will. And since the government is from God, what should our attitude be to it? We should be subject to the rulers and authorities. That is, we should submit to them and we should obey whatever laws and rules and regulations they put in place. And we should be ready to do good, which means we should be good neighbours and citizens. We’re to do good at home among the members of our family. We’re to do good in the workplace. And we’re to do good in the community. We’ve to be the best possible citizens.
And what else? We’re to slander no-one. And we’re to be peaceable. And we’re to be considerate. And we’re to show true humility to all people. Other translations say we’re to show perfect courtesy or gentleness and meekness to all. That’s the kind of person we should be. That’s what we should be known for in our community and neighbourhood. Our neighbours should be saying about us: There’s someone who is law-abiding. There’s someone who is ready to help others. There’s someone who never says a bad word about anyone. There’s someone who is easy to get on with. When we’re converted to faith in Christ, Christ does not remove us from our neighbourhood, but he leaves us where we are and he gives us his Spirit to renew us and he wants us to be good neighbours and to be good and law-abiding citizens. And so, this is God’s will for you.
Verses 3 to 8
And then, in the following verses, Paul tells us about the grace of God. That is, he tells us about the kindness and love of God and to what he has freely done for us. And the reason he’s telling us about the grace of God in these verses is to motivate us to greater obedience. Why should we obey God? Why should we do his will? God wants us to be eager to do good in the family and in the workplace and in our community and neighbourhood. Why should we do what he wants? We should do what he wants out of gratitude for what he has done for us. We should do what he wants in order to demonstrate how grateful we are for all that he has done for us.
So, what has he done for us? Paul begins in verse 3 with what we once were. He’s describing himself and Titus. But he’s also describing people generally before they’re converted to faith in Christ. Now, some of us grew up in the church and we grew up believing. And so, perhaps we were never like this. But even if that’s the case, even if you never lived like this, then that too is due to God’s grace and kindness to you, because he graciously kept you from this kind of life. But for others, who were converted later in life, this is what their life was once like.
So, we were foolish, Paul says. And disobedient: disobedient to God and disobedient to other people. And we were deceived. That is, we were led astray, because we did not know the truth about God. And we were enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. People who aren’t Christians like to think they’re free and they can do whatever they like. But they’re not free, because they’re enslaved to their own sinful nature and to their own sinful desires and inclinations which make them do evil. And we lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. So, our lives were characterised by conflict.
And so, what do we deserve for living that kind of life? We deserve to be condemned by God and punished forever. We deserve the wrath and curse of God for our sins. But instead of suffering the wrath and curse of God, what did they experience? Look at verse 4. Paul says the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared. So, what they deserved was God’s wrath and curse. But instead of experiencing the wrath and curse of God, they experienced his kindness and his love.
And God demonstrated his kindness and his love by saving them. He saved them from a life of sin and misery, because sin is misery. Whenever we sin, we cause misery to others by our sinful words and deeds; and we cause misery to ourselves, because of the foolish and harmful things we do. So, God saved them from that. And God also saved them from the wrath of God which is what we all deserve for our sins and shortcomings and for all the ways we break God’s law. We deserve to be condemned and punished forever for being lawbreakers. But God our Saviour saves us from that.
And Paul adds that God did not save them because of the righteous things they had done, but because of his mercy. Do you see that in verse 5? Do you remember the story the Lord told about the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray and in his prayer he boasted about his righteous deeds? And then there was a tax-collector, a notorious sinner, who bowed his head and beat his breast and asked God for mercy. And the Lord said that it was the one who asked for mercy who went home forgiven and accepted by God. All have sinned and we all come short of God’s glory. We all, like sheep, have gone astray and each of us has turned to our own way. And even our best deeds are spoiled by sin. And therefore we can’t boast in God’s presence and we cannot make any demands upon him and he doesn’t owe us anything. All we can do is ask him for mercy. But because he is merciful and gracious and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, he’s willing to pardon whoever asks him for mercy.
And Paul goes on to say that God saved them through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. When he refers to rebirth, he’s referring to that moment when we’re born again by the Holy Spirit. God sends his Spirit into our lives and he enables us to believe in the Saviour for the very first time. And, at that moment, our old life of sin and rebellion comes to an end and we begin a new life of obedience to God. And having believed, we’re washed. That is, the stain of our sin, the guilt of our sin, is washed away forever. Our black hearts are made white. And the Holy Spirit, who is now living inside us, begins his work to renew us in God’s image so that we become more and more willing and able to do God’s will here on earth.
So, what has God done for them? He saved them from his wrath and curse by sending his Spirit into their lives to give them a new life and to wash them and to renew them more and more. And Paul hasn’t finished yet. Having mentioned the Holy Spirit, he goes on to say that God poured out his Spirit on them generously. And so, once again he’s stressing God’s kindness and love, because God gives his Spirit generously and freely and abundantly. And the Spirit comes to us from God the Father through Jesus Christ our Saviour, because after Christ gave up his life on the cross to pay for our sins, he was buried; and then he was raised from the dead; and he ascended to heaven; snd in heaven he received the Spirit from God the Father. And Christ gives his Spirit to each one of his people to enable us to believe in him for salvation.
And whoever believes is justified. Do you see that in verse 7? That means we’re pardoned by God and we’re accepted as right in God’s sight. Though we may have done everything wrong, God treats us as if we’ve done everything right. And he pardons and accepts us by his grace. So, we didn’t deserve it. We didn’t do anything to earn it. But he freely and graciously pardoned and accepted us, because of Christ who died for us.
So, what has God done for them? He saved them from his wrath and curse by sending his Spirit into their lives to give them a new life and to wash them and to renew them. And he graciously and freely pardoned and accepted them because of Christ who gave up his life for sinners. And Paul is still not finished, because he refers in verse 7 to how they have become heirs. Heirs expect to inherit something, isn’t that right? So what will we inherit? What can we expect to receive from God as our inheritance? We can expect to receive from him eternal life in his presence. That’s the hope he gives to his people. Those who do not ask God for mercy will suffer eternal punishment away from the presence of God. But those who receive God’s mercy will enjoy eternal life in the presence of God in that new and better world to come.
‘This is a trustworthy saying’, says Paul in verse 8. He’s referring to everything he’s just said in verses 4 to 7 about God’s kindness and love to sinners. This is a trustworthy saying which Titus and every preacher like Titus needs to stress. And the reason preachers are to stress these things about the kindness and love of God is so that those who have trusted in God and who have benefitted from his kindness and love will be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. That’s in verse 8. And we’ll be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good because this is the way we demonstrate our gratitude to God for his kindness and love to us in Christ Jesus.
Are you a Christian? Have you experienced God’s kindness and love? Has he saved you? Have you been born again by his Spirit? Have you been pardoned and accepted by God for the sake of Christ who died for you? Have you received the hope of eternal life? Then this is God’s will for you: You’re to be careful to devote yourself to doing what is good. And that means doing good at home and in the workplace and in the community and wherever else God has placed you. Christ does not remove us from the world, but he keeps us in the world and he expects us to do good wherever he has placed us. That’s his will for you.
Verses 9 to 11
This is what Titus and preachers like him are to teach. And, according to Paul in verses 9 to 11, preachers are to avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law. Those things are unprofitable and useless. They’re a waste of time. That kind of thing will not make anyone eager to do good. So, instead of devoting themselves to that kind of thing, preachers are to devote themselves to preaching about God’s kindness and love and salvation because that’s the message which will reconcile sinners to God and which will make them eager to do what is good.
And preachers like Titus are to warn divisive people. Divisive people are people who create divisions by the things they say and do. They cause conflict. Instead of doing good, they do evil. So, warn them once and warn them twice, says Paul. After that, have nothing more to do with them, because that kind of person, who does not take heed to warnings, is warped and sinful and self-condemned. So, when we come across such people, we’re to shun them. But we’re not shunning them to condemn them. We’re shunning them to make them ashamed so that they will humble themselves and repent.
Verses 12 to 15
And Paul ends the letter as he often does with some personal remarks and greetings. But notice in verse 14 how he stresses one last time that the people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good. And so, here we are today. We’re about to receive the Lord’s Supper: bread which speaks to us of Christ’s body broken for us; a drink which speaks to us of his blood shed for us. He gave up his life to make a lasting peace between God and us. And he gave up his life to deliver you from wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are eager to do what is good. So, take the sacrament and rejoice in your salvation. And then go back out to your homes and your workplace and your neighbourhood and do what is good, because this is God’s will for you.