Week Seven: Devotion to Good Works, Titus 3:1-11

As Mary talked about in the intro to Titus, you cannot separate the gospel from the good works that flow from it. Right belief must be the root of right living or else as Jesus says, you’re a whitewashed tomb – looking good on the outside and full of dead bones on the inside. But if we have right belief without right living we only have the “Faith” of the demons as James says, who believe in God but shudder instead of worship and obey. That’s not real faith.

 

The shape of our passage today shows so clearly the the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and how it is the ground of good works, of a godly life.

Look with me for a moment at Titus 2. Last week, Kelly spoke on the gospel-proclaiming passage of Titus 2:11-15, which told us that the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men. If you remember, Titus 2:1-11 is what Titus is to teach various groups of believers about godly living. But they’re not supposed to conjure this moral living out of their own resources, right? How are they supposed to do it? Paul tells them in Titus 2:11-14. Kelly called this passage the “How and the Why”. It’s through knowledge of the God and what he’s done and through spirit-empowered living.

 

Our passage is similarly structured today. We get some moral teachings and a glorious, beautiful how/why section. This passage is often considered the climax of the book. I don’t know if I’ll be able to meditate as beautifully on this passage as Kelly did on hers, but if our two passages were in a fight, mine would win!

 

But before thinking about it deeply, I want us to take a look at the actual structure of the passage because I think it can help us learn something about what it looks like to tangibly apply the gospel to our lives. [I asked the following questions of the group and then filled in the boxes on the diagram below]

 

  • This is somewhat the shape of the passage IMG_3686We’ve got some action “do’s” in 1-2, the How/why (3-8) and more actions “don’ts” in 9-11.
  • What are some examples of the do’s/don’ts? Start with do’s.
  • Summarize the content of 3-8 (Answers could include : the gospel message, “he saved us”, etc.).
  • How do I know these three are connected? that they’re not just separate paragraph ideas? Can anyone tell me from the grammar? (Answer: connecting words like For/we too, But)
  • What does Paul call this gospel section (v.8)? (“The trustworthy saying”. NASB says that Titus should speak it confidently – there are many things about God and His Word that are mysterious. Things we could argue about and debate, but on this, Titus, speak boldly, confidently. God’s message of salvation is clear and he has has revealed it unmistakably. It’s a “Trustworthy saying”.
  • One last thing – how does Paul describe the good works (v.8 – answer: excellent and profitable)? (btw, when he says profitable for everyone – that’s everyone like all men/society) How does he describe the foolish controversies and arguments? (v.9, – answer: useless, unprofitable)

 

Remember, this passage is primarily written as a reminder for believers. The gospel is or should be central to all that we do or don’t do. By the spirit, it fills our minds and hearts. We don’t move on from the gospel after God saved us. Paul is clearly writing here to remind believers of their salvation as the grounds to their good works, so he didn’t expect them to move on either. In fact, it seems that some of the Cretan believers did “move on” from the gospel to arguing about genealogies and the law, etc., and Paul has strong words against that.

 

Now that we’ve seen the overall shape, let’s dive into the specifics for the remainder of our time.

 

Verses 1 and 2 are all about doing good to unbelievers, to “everyone”/society at large. This is a convicting list! We learn that we must be subject to and obedient to a government that is pro-abortion and considers us backward or bigoted. This doesn’t mean we don’t speak out where appropriate or that we disobey God’s law, but it does mean we are respectful, lawful toward the government God has given us. We have to have room in our schedule to be ready to do whatever is good, even if it’s costly. To slander no one, to speak evil of no one, to make peace instead of making waves, and so forth.

 

Then it’s almost as if there’s an implied question between verses 2 and 3. Like Paul expects someone to ask: Why should we be nice to unbelievers? For we ourselves were once foolish… or as the NIV puts “at one time we too”. Like the unbelievers we are supposed to treat well, we too were once like them. The way the unbelievers are described is the opposite of the way Christians are to be in 1-2. The list in verse 3 doesn’t mean that every unbelieving person is as bad as he or she could be Instead of being oriented toward God and others, unbelievers are oriented toward their own passions, their own rights. And actually they can’t be expected to be different – they are enslaved.

 

At first glance, this list of the characteristics of unbelievers doesn’t seem like unbelievers I know. It seems really dark. Maybe Cretan society was especially immoral, I don’t know. But I don’t think you have to dig too deep under the surface of people to see these things going on today pornography and abuse, trafficking, addictions, broken relationships. These are rampant in our society and I bet virtually all of us have been affected by one or more of these even in our own families.

 

Paul is making the point here that the fact that we were once that way (or would have been that way) should give us great humility when dealing with unbelievers. We have no right to be prideful, condescending, or cantankerous. Remember verse 5, we weren’t saved because we were righteous, but merely because of God’s mercy and kindness. None of the hungry or homeless people I’ve seen at soup kitchens or a shelters ever seemed very proud to me. They were receiving that which they could not provide for themselves. We are the same way. What do we have that we did not receive? And if we did receive it, why would we boast as though we hadn’t? We didn’t earn our salvation, we just received it. So we can have a gentle, courteous posture toward unbelievers. They are not the enemy. They are hungry souls who need the bread of life.

 

If we find ourselves harboring bitterness toward unbelievers and their actions/morality, maybe it’s because we’ve forgotten who we were. Maybe we need to meditate on verses 3-7 and pray that God would drive them deep into our hearts. But, even if you don’t remember your pre-Christian days, some of these fleshly evils still lurk in your heart, don’t they? Repenting and reflecting on that can continue to give us gratefulness to God and humility toward others who are enslaved.

 

Paul is also reminding us here in this connection in verse 3 that we have an opportunity to respond to others the way that God has responded to us. Our rebellion, attitudes and actions were an offense to God’s holiness. How do I respond when someone’s morality offends me? Do I respond the way God has responded to me? Look at what this great passage about our salvation tells us about God! He is kind, merciful, generous, gracious. He makes those who are his enemies his heirs. He gives enslaved sinners, rebels against him the hope of eternal life. He cleanses us from sin by the washing of rebirth and renews us with a new nature from the Spirit who enables us to be like Him. How great and powerful is our God! This passage should lead us to worship Him and cause us to grow in our desire to be like this, especially as we seek to show a lost world what our saving God is like. I think the main application is for us to fall on our knees and worship God for His greatness. Don’t miss that. But then, pray that God would give you the grace to show the light of His character to someone. Perhaps there’s a difficult unbelieving family member you might be seeing this holiday season. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God could make your heart toward that person be like His heart toward you here in these verses.

 

Finally, to end on a low note – the gospel should have us so focused on, so busy about doing good that we shouldn’t even have time for foolish controversies and arguments. Thankfully, we aren’t so tempted to get in quarrels about the law as we don’t have Jewish false teachers infiltrating Hinson, but I think the principle still applies. Minor or debatable theological convictions that result in arguments and division in the body are unprofitable and useless. As we talked about earlier, the good news of Jesus is clear and trustworthy for us to know and to live by.

 

As for the divisive person in verse 10, the word Paul uses for “divisive person” in the greek is the work “hairetikon” – it’s where we get the word heretic or heresy. This person is undermining the clear and trustworthy gospel message. Paul advocates patience (warn him two times), the hope being that he will repent and believe the truth. If not, he shows that he is warped (sense being he’s on the wrong track) and sinful and proves himself condemned by not listening to the truth. The only choice is to put him out of the church. The reputation of God is at stake. As one commentary puts it: When the church cannot agree on the essentials of Christianity and is characterized by conflict and divisions, it is displeasing to God and ineffective to a lost world.[1] It’s ineffective. What a contrast to the gospel-rooted good works that are excellent and profitable for all society. If our own church is a mess, it’s of no use in being and showing the love of God Jesus Christ our Savior. It’s not attractive to others and we’re too busy dealing with our own messes to have the time and energy to reach out to others.

 

Ladies we have good news to tell and good news to live by. Let’s be busy about gospel-rooted good works today!

 

[1] Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 329). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[1] Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 329). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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