A Brief Recap
Over the last two weeks we have explored Paul’s charges to Titus and the church on Crete. Paul began by instructing Titus to appoint Elders, men of godly character to lead the Church. Last week we discussed mentoring relationships and the value of both having a mentor and being a mentor to others.
In the closing chapter, Paul instructs the entire community of believers on ways to live out the Gospel in their radius. But these ways aren’t easy. They require two things that are difficult for us – humility and submission.
A Humble Community
The chapter opens with a strong statement about “submit[ting] to the government and its officers” (v.1). The second half of verse 1 tells how this should happen: believers “should be obedient, always ready to do what is good.” Paul is making the case that a community of believers that is humble enough to obey “do[ing] good”, especially when it costs them personally, will make the greatest impact on the society around it.
Why should Christians seek to do what is good? Because we are different. Paul reminds Titus and the Cretans in verse three that: “once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.” The natural overflow of our sinful natures drives us to lust and the pursuit of personal pleasure, producing evil and envy of one another. This shouldn’t be, Paul says, because Jesus has changed us.
Beginning in verse four, Paul lays out the beauty of the Gospel and it’s transforming power to change us as individuals and as a community. “God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,” and He “saved us…because of His mercy.” Paul reminds us that God’s activity of salvation was not because of any righteous activity on our part, but wholly because of His goodness. He washed us through His Spirit, giving us a new heart that enables us to humbly serve one another. He closes with a reminder in verse 8 that it was “because of His grace [that] He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
A Level Playing Field
These four verses immediately “level the playing field” for followers of Jesus. If we are all redeemed by God, through His provision and power, then none of us has anything for which to boast. We are all co-heirs with Christ, but not because of anything we have done. Therefore, rather than establishing our worth by focusing on the flaws, imperfections, and sins of others in the family of God, we can be confident in what God has done in our lives and consumed with pursuing those outside of His family. We live out this pursuit when we mutually submit to one another and collectively pursue “doing good” (v.8).
The Importance of Our Mission
So important is the mission of pursuing others that Paul warns Titus to not let “foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws” detract from the church’s mission. He uses strong language in calling them “useless and a waste of time” (v.9). He then goes so far as to command Titus to “have nothing more to do with” those who “are causing divisions among you” (v.10) because “people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them” (v.11). Our ability to advance the Kingdom in our society seems to be linked to our ability to live in humble community, to submit to others for the sake of doing good, and to our ability to rest in the finished work of Jesus.
Paul’s desire for the Kingdom to advance is strongly evidenced by his closing remarks. He gives instructions to several individuals, pressing Titus and the believers on Crete to engage in the mission with him by “help[ing] Zenas the lawyer and Apollos with their trip” to the extent that Titus is to “see that they are given everything they need.” (v.13) He tells Titus “our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.” (v.14)
As we wrap up our series on Titus, are there urgent needs in your radius that need to be met? Are there places you can submit and serve others so that you can be more productive relationally? Are there opportunities this week for you to sacrifice so that the Gospel can go forward in our town?
You can read all of Titus here.
Here are some helpful resources for continuing your study of Titus:
Exegetical Commentary on Titus (available on Amazon)
“What are Elders?” (courtesy of The Village Church; audio available)