Titus 3:1-15 open_in_new
Though we are not of this world, as the blessed hope of Chapter 2:13 reminds us, yet while in it, our relationships toward it are to bear true Christian character. God has Himself constituted proper authority in the world's govern\-ment: therefore the Christian is to be subject to it, whether or not he feels it is acting rightly or wisely, and though he may suffer from it materially. Of course, if in any given case such subjection would involve disobedience to God, then it is God, and not man, he must obey. Along with the character of subjection, however, is the virtue of being prepared to every good work, so that, when occasion arises, the goodness in meeting the occasion will be spontaneous.
Decisively we are told to speak evil of no man: in no case is this right. Even if it is necessary to expose evil, it is to be done with genuine desire for the recovery and blessing of the guilty person, rather than in any spirit of denunciation. No contentious attitude is to be present, but gentleness, and "all meekness unto all men." This does not mean giving in to evil, but neither is it self-defensiveness.
For we are reminded that we too were once in the condition that now we dislike in others. This should both humble us, and give us a spirit of patient consideration as regards them. The evils listed in verse 3 characterize all men generally: some things may be more pronounced in some than in others, but all have the same nature from which such things proceed. In us, nothing could change this but the grace of God in Christ: others too require the same grace if their condition is to be any different.
At a time when man was manifested in his hopelessly sinful state, it would be natural to think that judgment would fall, but at such a time, the kindness and love of God appeared. God is seen as Savior rather than as Judge. This is presented here to show that we who have been blessed by such love and kindness are now in a position to act in the same spirit toward others.
For our own salvation was not by works of righteousness, but by God's mercy, His meeting us in our circumstances of sin and shame, and having compassion. The washing of regeneration implies the communication of new life, but emphasizes the moral change that new life brings with it, for it is a cleansing process. And the Holy Spirit has renewed once and for all every soul who has received this mercy. The "old man" has been forever put off, and the "new man" put on.
We have seen that the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" is not a thing to be repeated, but has been done once as to every believer: this has renewed the believer in the spirit of his mind; for the Spirit has been poured on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. God does not give the Spirit by measure, for the Spirit is a living Person, and not limited by human limitations. And this blessing has come through Jesus Christ our Savior, He to whom all the riches of God have been given, and who delights to share unstintingly with His saints.
God's kindness, love and mercy have been seen in verses 4
and 5: now added to this is grace in verse 7. Grace justifies, for it lifts one completely out of a condition of guilt, and sets him rather in a condition of established righteousness before God. Mercy is not said to do this, for mercy is that which has come down to meet souls in the circumstances of their need, of distress, or poverty, or misery, and has had compassion upon them in those circumstances. Grace justifies, that is, it both clears from every charge of guilt, and imparts to us a positive credit of righteousness.
This leads to the sublime blessing of being made heirs of God, with the secure hope of eternal life in view. Romans 8:17 shows that we are heirs of God because of our identification with Christ, Who is Himself the true Heir of all things. By being joined to Christ, we become "joint-heirs with Christ," inheriting with Him all of that which He alone is worthy to inherit. Marvellous grace indeed!
As to eternal life, John's writings insist that the believer possesses this now, for the very nature of God is implanted within him, by new birth. But the viewpoint in Titus is that we look forward to eternal life in its fullest and purest manifestation; that is, in the very circumstances into which we enter at the coming of the Lord; and all that is merely natural life will be fully displaced by the life that is eternal; so that not only within us, but in everything around us, all will be radiant with the beauty of eternal life.
The apostle stresses now the faithfulness of his words, words dependable and basic in every way, and which are to have such effect upon Titus that he is to strenuously insist that believers are to be diligent in maintaining good works. It has before been established that our works have no place 'whatever in the salvation of our souls; but having been aved, good works are a proper result. It is not a question of merely refraining from the wrongdoing that once engaged us while we were in our sins; but of the positive doing of good for the sake of others. These things are good and profitable to men, for it is these things that men observe, not the inner motives, which of course God alone fully discerns.
But foolish questions require no answer: they should be avoided. Tracing of genealogies too is vain, for it is only glorying in flesh, which profits nothing. Contentions are merely the resource of those seeking to win an argument. The same is true of strivings about the law, for this makes mere law-keeping an object, and Christ, the Center of all pure truth, is actually ignored. All this is vain. How good rather if the servant of the Lord should follow the example of John the Baptist - always turning the attention back to the Lord Jesus, when others sought to engage him with questions intended to stir contention (John 1:20-27).
Verse 10 is clear as regards the case of an heretical man. It has been a mistaken thought that a heretic is one who teaches fundamental error, such as the denial of the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection, or other vitally important doctrines. Such cases as this would call for decisive action in putting the guilty man away from fellowship.
Heresy however is the pressing of a certain line of things to the exclusion of another line, also important in its place, and tending to make followers for oneself by this means. It may be, for instance, the pressing of God's grace so strongly that it would tend to nullify God's government in the assembly: or, on the other hand, possibly stressing God's government in such a way that God's grace is forgotten. This is dangerous imbalance. Such an one was to be admonished, and if the second admonition was not heeded, Titus was to "have done with" him. This is not excommunicating from fellowship, but refusal to listen to him, or to have any discussion as to his views. It may seem severe treatment, but it is God's way: if anything will lead to his recovery, it is this. No saint should give such a man the satisfaction of a hearing, for everyone who will listen to him he will seek to influence to his point of view in opposition to saints who seek to walk soberly as subject to the pure truth of God.
This is not of course the case of a weak brother who needs help, but of one who has proven himself determined in his wrong course. It is a perverse attitude, not simply ignorant, but sinful, for his own attitude condemns him. If in leaving him to God, the man is not recovered, he is likely to become more perverted, and go elsewhere to seek a following, for it is this he wants.
Paul evidently much desired to see Titus, and urges that when he (Paul) sends one of two brethren to Crete, Titus should do his utmost to come to Paul at Nicopolis in Macedonia. It may be that either the brother was to be a traveling companion for Titus, or that he was to remain in Crete for the help of the saints while Titus was absent.
However this may be, yet it appears there was a very real necessity of Paul's having personal fellowship with Titus. It may be that, having labored long in Crete as he had, Titus needed the encouragement and strengthening of the fellow\-ship of such a man as Paul. And the apostle had a heart of shepherd care for every servant, as well as for all saints.
But Titus is encouraged to give every consideration and help to Zenas the lawyer and Apollos, as they evidently were to visit Crete for the ministry of the Word of God. No doubt these were capable men, and one might ask if they could not supply the encouragement Titus needed. Yet one can be a capable teacher, and not have the gift and wisdom of a shepherd. And moreover, it might be as well for Titus to leave the scene of his labors for a time, to gain a more objective view of his circumstances and associations.
"Ours also" no doubt refers to Zenas and Apollos, or indeed any servant identified with Paul. They were not merely to depend on the kindness of others, but be diligent in maintaining good works in view of whatever necessities. For diligence in practical things is a becoming accompaniment of gift in spiritual things: this is faithfulness in daily, practical living.
Paul now sends greetings to Titus from all who were with him, and widens this to include all in Crete in whom the truth had wrought to produce love in the faith toward the Lord's servants. All these are included in the grace he wishes Titus.