Paul’s Epistle to Titus (3)

Tom Wilson, Levin, New Zealand

Part 3 of 3 of the series Paul's Epistle to Titus

Second Teaching Synopsis: The Grace of God, 2.11-14.

In these verses we have what has been described as 'a masterly epitome of Christian doctrine'. Paul, great exponent of the grace of God, now gives a succinct statement of this free, unmerited favour of God.

The preceding practical statement is linked to this doctrinal section by the connective 'for', reminding us that Christian conduct must ever be based on Christian truth. While the first synopsis, 1. 1-3, described the truth of God in general terms, that truth is now related to redemption through the instrument of God's grace.

Too often grace is interpreted as a way out of maintaining divine standards; it ought rather to be seen as a means of achieving these standards, but not by human effort, Rom. 8. 1-6. Thus we see that these verses do not present a passive excuse for failure but an active process by which success is achieved-a salvation that really works.

Here we have these perspectives on grace:

Its Appearance, v. 11. It comes from God our Saviour, bringing salvation to all, freely offered in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Its Announcement, v. 12. It declares God's purpose through grace: voluntarily denying (aorist participle conveying the idea of being led to a definite act) ungodliness and worldly lusts, thus being enabled to live sober, righteous and godly lives.

Its Anticipation, v. 13. It looks forward to the blessed hope of our Lord's coming for His own and the 'appearing of the glory', Newberry, of the great God and our Saviour.

Its Achievement, v. 14. It accomplishes our present sanctification by redemption, freeing us from lawlessness and purifying a people for God's own possession who are anxious to do His good will.

Restatement, 2.15.

This last verse in the chapter turns us back to what Paul says in the first verse. Titus is told to speak out, exhorting and rebuking as required. He was to do this, knowing that he had the authority of the apostle behind him. As Paul's messenger, he must not allow his teaching to be disregarded.

The Pauline epistles were also read to the churches. When they heard these words the Cretans would be bound to treat the younger man and his teaching with respect. We have God's own authority in the words we preach; we should never err by presenting the truth of God casually, but speak as the oracles of God, 1 Pet. 4. 11.

Good Works, 3.1-11.

Having dealt with the recognition of elders, the problem of false teachers and the need for sound teaching and practice, the apostle now turns his attention to the way believers behave in the world. In this section he deals with the way they should conduct themselves as citizens, w. 1,2; reflects on their deliverance from the world, v. 3; writes of the kindness and love of God in the third teaching synopsis, w. 4-7; re-emphasizes the need for good works, v. 8; and returns to the problem of false teachers, w. 9-11.

Good Citizenship, 3.1-2.

The believers were to subject themselves to temporal authorities. In conduct they were to be exemplary: they were not to speak evil of anyone, or be quarrelsome; rather, they were to be gentle and courteous. Overall, their attitude was to be one of humility. In this Paul is showing them that then-way of life in the world was an integral part of their testimony. How could they witness for Christ if their lives were not Christlike?

We should in this connection remind ourselves of the debased way of life in Crete in those days, 1. 12, 13a. How brilliantly the believers' lives would shine against such a backdrop of decadence! As the darkness of revived paganism deepens around us, the challenge to us is that our lives should shine in the ways Paul mentions here. We must not lower our standards to conform to what people are doing around us but show in practical terms the meaning of being 'transformed', Rom. 12.2.

Reflection, 3. 3.

Lest there be any self righteousness, the apostle reminds them of what they were like before God wrought His salvation in them-foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by lusts and pleasures, malicious, envious, hating and being hated. As we live among those who are dead in sin, may we tell ourselves again and again, 'There go I, but for the grace of God'. It is only through 'the kindness and love of God' that we have been taken from the horrible pit and miry clay of the lives we once lived, Psa. 40. 1-3.

Third Teaching Synopsis: The Kindness and Love of God, 3. 4-7.

But, says Paul-in contrast to what we used to be-the kindness and love of God have brought us salvation. The whole gospel is beautifully summarized in this passage:

Its Embodiment, v. 4. That kindness and love were incarnate in the Lord Jesus Christ when He appeared on earth, as foretold by the prophets. 'God was manifest in the flesh', 1 Tim. 3.16.

Its Foundation, v. 5a. God saved us by His mercy, not any personal merit of our own. The word 'saved' is in the aorist, denoting a past event. Salvation is an experience out of which a process evolves, to be consummated at the return of Christ.

Its Means, v. 5b, 6. These are twofold: washing and renewing. 'Washing of regeneration' refers to the cleansing experience of being born again through responding by faith to the gospel, 1 Pet. 1. 23; 1 John 5.1. Some have interpreted this as a reference to water baptism. But baptism does not save; it is a symbol of identification with the death and resurrection of Christ on the one hand, and of cleansing on the other. The experience must precede the symbol.

Simultaneously, there is the 'renewing of the Holy Ghost' by which 2 Corinthians 5. 17 becomes an instant personal reality. 'This passage stresses the continual operation of the indwelling Spirit of God', W. E. Vine. From that initial transforming experience the new abundant life of the Spirit is ours through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Its Accomplishment, v. 7. We are thus pronounced righteous in the sight of God apart from any self-effort. Justified by His grace, we are made heirs of eternal life.

Good Words Emphasized, 3. 8.

Having such a salvation and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, believers ought to dedicate themselves to a life of doing good. For them, good works are not to gain merit, but having been made righteous in Christ they are motivated 'to maintain good works'. 'These things', he says looking back at w. 4-7, 'are good and profitable unto men'.

Dealing with Error, 3.9.

A procedure for dealing with those who opposed the truth is here laid down. As he constantly affirmed these things he could expect opposition, v. 8. He is warned to avoid getting involved in answering 'unprofitable and vain' comments and wrangling. The 'heretic' is one who would cause division, if allowed to do so (Gk. hairelikos-causing division by a party spirit, factious, W. E. Vine).

Conclusion, 3.12-15.

Three instructions are given: Titus is to be replaced by Artemas and was then to join Paul who was spending the winter in Nicopolis, no doubt to receive a new assignment; he was to bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos, making sure that they were adequately provided for; and in reference to this, he was to ensure that the Cretan believers played their part - which is probably what verse 14 refers to. There is a final greeting from Paul and his associates, to Titus personally and also to the faithful believers. The simple benediction is consistent with the message of the epistle, cf. 2. 11; 3. 7.

Summary.

This brief epistle to Titus whom Paul left on Crete deals with three main issues: lack of oversight among the assemblies, proliferation of false teachers and the need for consistent conduct among the believers.

Titus was to ensure that elders were recognized, false teachers exposed and patterns of Christian behaviour laid down.

Footnote.

There is an interesting insight here into the way Paul directed his team of fellow-workers. Titus had an itinerant and advisory, though authoritative, role. Like the apostle and his other helpers, he did not settle down or take over in any one district or assembly. There were no professionals. Christ was (and is) Head of the Church, all believers His priesthood. The local assembly (Gk. ekklesia) was responsible to the Lord alone. Paul and Titus recognized this, even in the unsatisfactory state of affairs at Crete.

Nothing has changed. Every move in Christendom away from the simplicity of gathering in (unto) the name of our Lord, Matt. 18. 20 has tended to obscure the centrality of Christ. May we heed these words written many years ago: 'And, we may ask, is not He sufficient? Is it not quite enough for us to be "joined to the Lord"? Why add aught thereto? "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." What more can we need? .,. Why set up human authority, in any shape or form in the house of God? ... If Christ be in our midst, we can count on Him for everything', C. H. Mackintosh.