Titus Part 5
Isn't this the boring old list of rules which puts so many people off religion?
Here we are in Titus 3! Even at the end of this nifty little book, Paul isn't gently winding down, he's got some big stuff for us yet. But the first 2 verses sound a bit like the list of instructions your mum gives when you go away for a week or a term. Be good, offer to wash up, remember to fold your clothes, wash behind your ears, don't cause trouble. Paul tells Titus to teach his church to obey authority, do whatever is good, don't be nasty to or about people, but be peaceable, considerate and gentle. Isn't this the boring old list of rules which puts so many people off religion?
Well, not really. First of all, they are healthy! Jesus says that he offers life in all it's fullness - his way isn't easy, but it's the creator's instructions for how his creations should operate. I recommend you go through them and think about how they apply to you in your situation.
Jesus says that he offers life in all it's fullness - his way isn't easy, but it's the creator's instructions for how his creations should operate.
Secondly, we saw in Titus 2 that Christians living godly lives makes Jesus look fantastic, and draws people to him more and more.
Thirdly, and most importantly, verses 3-8 show that the reason we are to do the sort of good stuff Paul talks about is that Jesus has died for us! In the Greek text, verse 3 is introduced by a crucial little word, which means 'for' or 'because', which a lot of English translations weirdly leave out. It's a massively important word because it means that everything he has just said is on the basis of and the result of what he's about to say...
He says that we as Christians used to be just as messed up and hopeless as the rest of the world, and the only reason we have anything is because 'when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.'
He says we should be humble, gentle, considerate since everything we have, we have because of Jesus!
This means that our motivation for treating other people in a loving way is that God first loved us, not because we were good or loveable (verse 5), but because he is good and merciful. He sent his own son to die horribly to bring us to a right standing before him, where he counts us as perfect before we did anything to deserve it (that's what Paul means when he says we are 'justified by his grace' in verse 7), and we are born again by the Holy Spirit. He reminds us of all this before saying 'those who have trusted in God... devote themselves to doing what is good.' Those of us who have really really believed in what a Holy God has done for us in Jesus must start devoting ourselves to doing good.
Those of us who have really really believed in what a Holy God has done for us must start devoting ourselves to doing good.
If you like, Paul is a doctor, and his prescription for learning to act more lovingly towards others is to read and remember what Jesus has done for us. The dosage is to be taken every day, in quantities as large as possible. My own very limited experience is that it needs to be taken along with lots of repentance as we continually fail to live up to the standard of Jesus, and usually a friend to be accountable to (for more about accountability, click here).
So Paul's genius in this chapter is that he takes those pretty boring sounding instructions, and grounds them in the most explosive truth in history! He shows that if we really spend some time in prayer and work hard at it (please pray God helps me not to be a hypocrite with that statement!), the gospel of Jesus' sacrificial death will not only save us, it can start changing us too.