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Titus 3:8-15: Light in the Dark Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 October 2011

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In order to see something clearly, you often need some sort of contrast. A microscope will not work without a backlight to create the contrast. If you look through it with the light turned off you will not be able to see anything. But when you turn the light on (and get it focused) you can see whatever it is you are looking at clearly. The light creates contrast so we can see. The same idea holds true for a flashlight at night. If it is pitch dark outside all you need is some sort of light to be able to see because even a dim light creates contrast. The brighter the light of course the greater the contrast and the easier it is to see. 

Truth is, we live in a dark world.  Because of the Fall, because of our sin and rebellion against God, the darkness is widespread and deep.  In fact, it is so widespread that it has become our normal.  People have grown accustomed to the dark.  The world needs light and most donít even know it.  This is why contrast is needed.  People need to be able to see the difference between darkness and light.  They need to see that trusting in the gospel changes a man.  They need to see that belief in Christ leads to obedience and away from rebellion.  They need to see that contrast.

One major theme in Paulís letter to Titus is contrast.  The elders are to contrast the false teachers (ch. 1).  The churches in Crete are to contrast the culture on the island (ch. 2).  Those who believe in Paulís gospel and are seeking to follow Christ are to contrast the unbelievers and opponents (ch. 3).  There is to be a noticeable difference in true believers.  Paul highlights this contrast one last time by giving a final warning concerning the false teachers and a final command to Titus and the believers.  Letís consider each of these.

A Final Warning: Avoid foolish controversies and those who cause them (v. 9-11)

Paul gives Titus a clear warning against false teachers in 1:10-16.  In that part of the letter Paul gives a description of the false teachers (namely liars and disobedient) and some instructions for how to deal with them (namely silence them and rebuke them).  At the close of the letter, he gives two further instructions concerning false teachers.

First, Titus is to avoid foolish controversies.  Look at verse 9.  Paul is not saying that we will be able to avoid all controversy or that we should try.  Rather, we should avoid foolish controversies.  What are these?  Well according to what Paul goes on to say in the verse, they include genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law.  Again, it appears that the false teachers were Jewish.  Paul had already spoken about them being devoted to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth (1:14).  They were interested in hanging on to certain ideas from Judaism that were actually keeping them from true faith in Christ.  Paul wants Titus to avoid getting in debates over these issues.  They are to be rebuked and warned (see v. 10) but they are not to be given a platform for teaching/promoting these ideas.  We will have controversies over interpretation and application of the Bible, but we must avoid foolish controversies because they are unprofitable and worthless.  Such things only detract from the gospel, thus we should avoid them.

Second, Titus is to avoid those who cause such controversies.  Look at verse 10.  These false teachers were causing division in the churches in Crete.  Paul said earlier that they were upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.  In this way they were causing division in the churches.  So Paul gives Titus instructions on how to deal with them.  Titus is to warn them once, warn them a second time, and then have nothing more to do with them.  Although it is hard to be sure what this last phrase refers to, in light of Jesusí teaching in Matthew 18:15-20, it is probably a reference to excommunication.  Just like Jesus does in that passage, Paul encourages Titus to give them time to see there errors and to repent.  But if they are unwilling to do that, then action must be taken for the sake of the church.  Although such action might appear to be severe, Paul gives a clear reason for it in verse 11.  Look at that with me. 

After the individual has been warned not just once but twice and given opportunity to repent, if they still refuse, then it becomes clear that have become warped and sinful, even self-condemned.  Paul knew that false teachers were a serious threat to the churches in Crete.  He understood what was at stake, namely the unity of the Church and the purity of the faith.  Thus, he gave Titus these instructions concerning false teachers.  We too must recognize the importance of correct teaching and unity in the Church.  We must be careful and faithful in obeying these commands in our day.  We must avoid foolish controversies and those who cause them.

A Final Exhortation: Be devoted to good works (v. 8, 12-14)

Instead of being a part of the darkness (like the false teachers) Paul wants Titus to teach the believers in Crete to be light.  How are they supposed to do that?  They are to be devoted to good works.  Look at verse 8a.  Building upon his summary of the gospel in verses 4-7, Paul once again makes the connection between what we believe and how we behave.  If we truly believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, if we believe that God made us, we rebelled against Him, He sent Jesus to die for us and give us new life through repentance and faith, if we truly believe that, then we will be devoted to good works.  Do not miss the language: we will devote ourselves to good works.  This is more than causal obedience.  This is more than simply being good when we get around to it or when it is convenient or when it doesnít cost us much.  No, the followers of Christ will be devoted to good works.  Our lives will be characterized by good works.  And notice the reason that Paul gives for such devotion.  Look at verse 8b.  Did you catch the contrast?  The false teachers are devoting themselves to things that are unprofitable and worthless.  In contrast to this, we are to devote ourselves to good deeds which are excellent and profitable for people.  Foolish controversies and division drives people away from the gospel, but good deeds paves the way for speaking the gospel to the lost.  Through good deeds, the contrast becomes clear.  Jesus said: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

Paul repeats the command in verse 14.  Look at that with me.  He also adds a reason: so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.  By being devoted to good works, we will meet the needs that are around us and avoid being unfruitful.  Why is it so important that we avoid being unfruitful?  Jesus gives a serious warning about this in the passage we read as our call to worship (John 15).  We are to abide in Christ so that we can bear much fruit.  Only the branches who do this will avoid being cut off and thrown away.  Again, we see the connection between faith in Christ (abiding in Him) and good works.  It is not that good works save us or keep us saved.  Rather, they simply evidence the fact that we have been saved.  And when they are not present there is good evidence that we do not belong to the Lord.  Godís people are to be devoted to good works.  Their faith in Christ and the gift of the Spirit empowers them to do this.  And do it they must, lest they be unfruitful.

In the closing of the letter, Paul gives us a practical example of what these good works look like.  Look at verses 12.  He instructs Titus to meet him in Nicopolis.  Although we are not told any specifics, we can assume that Paul wants Titus there for fellowship and assistance in the work that he will be doing through the winter.  This is one example of a good work.  Another is found in verse 13.  Look at that with me.  Although we cannot be for sure, these two men possibly delivered Paulís letter to Titus.  After they delivered it they were going to continue ministering in some fashion.  Thus, Paul tells Titus (and the churches) to provide for them.  They are to give them whatever they need to finish their ministry.  Providing for fellow Christians who are seeking to take the gospel to others is a good work.  It is a very practical example of what Paul has been encouraging Titus and the churches to be about.  In the same way, we should be devoted to caring for one another and those who are seeking to take the gospel to others.  This is why we support foreign missions through our giving to the Christmas offering, which will begin soon.  This is not all that Paul means by good works, but it is a good place to start.

Whether we are serving as an elder or a young man or a young woman or whatever, we must maintain the contrast.  We must be different as Christians.  We must be light in a dark world.  God the Father has sent us His Son to live a perfect life and die on the cross for our sins.  He raised Him from the dead for our justification.  He has saved us.  Our sins have been forgiven and we have been given new life.  As believers in Christ, we are now heirs of eternal life.  We will one day be called home to Heaven to live with Christ forever.  Yet, until that day, we must live out who we are in Christ.  We cannot act like the world.  We cannot act like we are still slaves to our sin.  We cannot embrace heresy and be divisive.  No, we must be different.  We must act different because we are different through faith in Christ. 

Thus, we must keep a close eye on ourselves.  We must know what the Word calls sin and fight against it with everything we are.  We must know what the Word calls obedience and good works and devote ourselves to these.  We must never settle for half-hearted devotion to Christ.  We must not excuse our sin and justify our disobedience.  No, we must maintain the contrast so that others can see how belief in the gospel has changed us.  Of course, we might need to pause at this point and catch our breath.  How will we ever be able to do all of this?  How will be able to overcome those sins that we seem to always be fighting against?  How will we ever be devoted to good works like we should?  Paul answers in verse 15.  Look at that with me.  Paul knows that the gospel call is great.  He knows that living a life that glorifies Christ will not happen if we are left to ourselves.  Thus, his prayer for Titus, for the churches in Crete, and for all who will read this letter is simple: Grace be with you all.  O Lord, grant us grace so that we might live in such a way as to bring glory and honor to your Name through faith and obedience to your commands.  Grant us grace so that we can be light in this dark world.  Amen.
~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 October 2011 )

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