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Titus 3:1-7: He Saved Us Print E-mail
Sunday, 25 September 2011

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My Greek professor in college often told the class: ĎRepetition is the price of scholarship.í If you have ever tried to learn a different language, then that statement will make sense to you. Memorizing words and rules for grammar does not happen overnight. It does not happen in one setting. No, it takes time and it takes repetition. Unfortunately our brains quickly forget. I have been told that it only gets worse as we get older. We need to hear the truth and then hear it again and then again. We need some repetition in our fight to understand and believe the truth.

And, of course, my college professor did not come up with such an idea.  The Bible teaches us the same lessons over and over again.  We are told to hate our sin and love the Lord from Genesis to Revelation.  And even if we spend a year (or two or three) reading through the Bible and hearing these repeated lessons, by the time we get to the end we still donít really get it.  So we flip back to Genesis and start over.  For pastors, the need for repetition is job security.  None of us will ever get to a point in our lives where we no longer need to be taught the old story.  We will always need to hear it again (and again). 

We see this emphasis on repetition in the letters of Paul.  Throughout his writings the message never really changes.  Sure, he focuses on different parts of the message in different places, but the same old story is still there.  In particular, he shows the connection between belief and behavior repeatedly.  As we noted last week, in Titus 2 we see that the solid foundation for our obedience is the work of Christ, the appearing of grace and glory.  He does the same thing in our passage this morning.  He begins with commands for us to obey (v. 1-2) and then gives us the solid foundation for our obedience (v. 3-7).  Donít miss that connection.  Donít miss the repetition.  We obey the commands of God because He has sent us Christ and given us the Spirit so that we can obey the commands.  Letís consider that connection by looking closer at the two parts.

The Command: Remind themÖ(v. 1-2)

The main imperative is directed towards Titus in verse 1.  Look at that with me.  Paul tells Titus to remind them.  Paul has emphasized the importance of Titus continually teaching the people of Crete (2:1, 15).  And notice that he is not telling him to necessarily teach them anything new.  These are not new commands or new doctrine.  No, he is simply to remind them of what they already know.  Again, this is the charge to all teachers in the Church: teach the old story.  Stott comments: ďSo all conscientious Christian teachers, once they have been delivered from the unhealthy lust for originality, take pains to make old truths new and stale truths fresh.Ē   Hold me accountable to spending my ministry on simply reminding you of the old truth.

What specifically is Titus to remind the churches?  Paul goes on to list five ideas, which can be broken up into two headings: instructions for our relationship to the state and instructions for our relationship with unbelievers.  Under the first heading, Paul mentions three commands.  In our relationship with the state, we should be submissive to rulers and authorities, be obedient, and be ready for every good work.  Christians are not supposed to be rebels.  We noted this as we looked at Paulís instructions for slaves (2:9-10) and here Paul applies this principle to all believers.  We are not to be known for our unwillingness to submit.  Paul says the same thing to the Church in Rome (see Romans 13).  Yes, there are times when we will not be able to submit to ruling authorities.  Yes, we must obey God rather than man when we are forced to choose.  But that does not mean that we are to be characterized by rebellion.  No, we are to obey the laws of the government.  We are to pay our taxes and drive the speed limit.  We are to be good citizens who are ready for every good work.  And although this may be hard for us at times, just think about how difficult it was when Paul wrote the letter.  We must be submissive to rulers.

Paul goes on to give us two more instructions that seem to apply more widely to our relationships with unbelievers in general.  He tells us: be not slanderous but be peaceful.  Look at verse 2.  It is not our job to speak evil of unbelievers.  We are not to be overly critical and constantly causing conflict.  Rather, we are to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  These are simple commands but they are not easy.  People, particularly lost people, will mistreat you.  They will attack you and harass you.  But we are not to respond in kind.  We are not to treat them like they treat us.  As far as it depends upon us, we are to live at peace with them (see Romans 12:18).  How do we do this?  How can we keep these commands?

The Foundation: Godís work (v. 3-7)

How can we keep such difficult commands?  In short, we do it by remembering all that God has done, is doing, and will do for us.  We never lose sight of His work in our lives.  Paul states this by considering who we were, what God has done for us, and who we are now.  Letís consider each of these.

Who we were:  Paul reminds us who we were in verse 3.  Look at that verse with me.  We might be tempted to be angry and frustrated at unbelievers, but the truth is we all were at one time just like them.  We were foolish and disobedient.  We were led astray.  We were slaves to various passions and pleasures.  We spent our lives in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  We were not any better than anyone else.  Our pride loves to forget.  It feeds off of us forgetting who we were.  But Paul reminds us.  Paul wants us to remember that we were once just like the lost, which will help us in our treatment of them now.  We, like them, were desperate.  We were slaves to our sin and dominated by hatred.  When you find yourself struggling to submit to authorities and be gentle to unbelievers, remember who you were before Christ.  Remember your hopeless and helpless state.  But the glorious good news is that God did not leave us in that terrible state.

What God has done:  Three words are the driving force of the next four verses: he saved us.  Look at verse 5.  How did He do it?  Notice what Paul says in verse 4.  He again uses the language of Ďappearance.í  In Christ, the grace of God appeared (2:11) and the glory of God will appear (2:13).  Here, Paul speaks of Godís goodness and loving kindness appearing.  And how did it appear?  In the person and work of Jesus Christ.  God is so good and so loving that He sent us Christ to live a perfect life and die on the cross for our sins.  Thus, our salvation is not because of works done by us in righteousness.  It is not because of anything that we could ever have done.  No, if you are a Christian this morning it is because of his own mercy.  He saved us.  He did this by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom God poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Paul gives us the full picture of Godís work on our behalf to save us.  He sent us Christ to live and die for us.  Through His sacrifice, His death on the cross, we have been made new creatures and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It was the Fatherís loving plan, the Sonís gracious provision, and the Spiritís effective power, that has saved our souls.  Stott writes: ďIt is because of his kindness, love, mercy and grace that he intervened on our behalf, he took the initiative, he came after us, and he rescued us from our hopeless predicament.Ē     He came after us.  This is what God has done for us: He has saved us!

Who we are:  So then, what does that mean for us?  Who are we now?  Look at verse 7.  God has saved us, He has justified by His grace, so that we would now be heirs.  When we think about being an heir, we often think of inheriting lands and money and stuff we could sell for more money.  No one in my family is rich so to be honest I donít think that much about my inheritance in this life.  But Paul is not talking about money and possessions here.  He is not just talking about stuff we get in this life.  No, Christ has come and died so that we might be heirs of the hope of eternal life.  Any inheritance that we might get in this life is temporary.  We keep it for awhile and then pass it on to our kids (if thereís any left).  But this is not what Paul is talking about.  In fact, think of the greatest inheritance a person could receive in this life: all the money, all the fame, all the possessions.  That inheritance is worthless compared to our inheritance in Christ.  Any earthly inheritance is like the change you remove before washing your favorite jeans, or even better, the lint that is left behind.  It is nothing.  But the inheritance we receive from Christ is everything.  It is eternal.  It is unending.  It is forever.  And it is God Himself.  All those who have been justified by Godís grace through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ have become a part of the family of God.  We are His sons and His daughters.  And we are heirs with Christ.  And just to be sure, Paul sells elsewhere that we have been give a down payment, a guarantee, for our future inheritance: the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 1:13-14).  Nothing can take that away.  Even though we were undeserving sinners, God has sent us Christ to save us and given us the gift of His Spirit, so that we are now heirs of eternal life with Him.

If all this is true, and I firmly believe that it is, then the right question to put before us this morning is this: how could we not obey?  Make no mistake about it, God calls us and commands us to live holy lives.  In particular, our passage demands that we be submissive to authorities and peaceful with unbelievers.  These are difficult commands.  Yet, in light of all that God has done for us, in light of the fact that Jesus has humbled Himself and taken His Fatherís wrath in our place, in light of the fact that we have been given the Holy Spirit, who guarantees our future inheritance, in light of all that, how could we disobey?  How could we refuse to submit?  How could we treat unbelievers as anything other than people who, like us, are desperate for the gospel?  How could we not spend our lives on glorifying God by obeying His commands and pointing others to Jesus Christ our Savior?  Brothers and sisters, God has saved us.  He has saved us.  We are His people, purchased by the blood of His own Son, gifted with the Holy Spirit, heirs of eternal life.  May we live like it all our days.  Amen.

1 John Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus TBST (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsisty Press, 1996), p. 198-99.
2 Ibid., p. 203.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 October 2011 )

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