Reminders for the Household of God – Titus 3

Titus chapter 3 is a power-packed, short chapter to conclude Paul’s letter to Titus.  It is very diverse in its content and yet, familiar.  I found Titus 3 to be particularly hard to outline because it depends on the relationship between the three imperatives to remind (Titus 3:1), to avoid (Titus 3:9), and to reject (Titus 3:10).  Paul’s command to Speak (Titus 3:8) could also be considered an imperative although it does not verbally appear in imperatival form.  In addition, it is easy to get sidetracked on the profound and deeply theological sections of this chapter in Titus 3:4-7.  To fully understand Paul’s message in Titus 3 is important to fit all the sections of this chapter within the letter as a whole.  As I will show, Titus chapter 3 is deeply connected with the rest of the letter, reminding the Household of God to do good deeds because of Christ’s work.  Below is a possible outline for the chapter:

III. 3:1-10 Reminders
a. 3:1-2 Remind the Household of God to Be Subject to Authorities, Ready for Good Deeds, Showing Consideration for All Men
                        1. 3:3 For Previously Acted in the Ways of the World
                        2. 3:4 But God our Savior’s Love Appeared
                                    a) 3:5 He Saved Us by Mercy Not Deeds
1) 3:6 He Saved Us by the Regeneration and Renewing of the Holy Spirit Through Christ
                                    b) 3:7 He Saved Us so that Being Justified We Would Be Heirs
            b. 3:8 Speak These Truthful Statements so that God’s People Will Engage in Good Deeds.
            c. 3:9 Avoid Foolish Controversies, Genealogies, Strife and Disputes About the Law
            d. 3:10 Reject Factious Men.
IV. 3:12-15 Personal Concerns
            a. 3:12 Make Effort to Come to Nicoplolis
            b. 3:13 Help Zenas and Apollos
            c. 3:14 Household of God Must Learn Good Deeds, Meeting Needs
            d. 3:15 Greetings and Grace

After closing Titus 2:1-15 which is marked off by an inclusio, Paul opens Titus 3:1-15 with an imperative to Titus to “Remind” the Household of God to do two things.  In Titus 3:1 Paul instructs Titus to remind the Cretan believers to not be rebellious.  This is followed by the reminder to be considerate of all men in Titus 3:2.  Sandwiched in-between these two primary reminders at the end of Titus 3:1 is a call to be ready for good deeds.  Paul wants the Household of God to be ready for good deeds and this means being obedient to authority and considering those around us.  But this is often easier said than done.  We like to rebel, and it takes God given grace to be obedient to the authorities God has placed in our life.  Whether that is our boss, our parents, our spouse, or the government, we as the people of God’s Household should be striving to live in obedience to these authorities.  In addition, we should be considerate of those that we encounter in our normal everyday life.  It is easy to see that if we are rebellious against the authorities in our lives and think only of ourselves how the opportunity for good deeds in the name of Christ will evaporate.  Even as I ponder Titus 3 I am reminded of the many ways that I rebel everyday.  In the bigger picture, when we rebel we are playing right into our father Adam’s rebellion in the garden.  We show our true nature, a wild, rebellious heart that is only after its own self interest.  But the way of Christ is different.  If we claim Christ, then we want to place ourselves within the lineage of the seed of the woman.  Patterning ourselves after Christ's obedience to the Father and utter contempt for His own life, we learn to submit ourselves to God and the authorities that He has placed in our life knowing that His purposes are bigger.

Paul continues in Titus 3:3-7 giving the reason why we should not rebel and show consideration for all men.  Primarily because we were just like the world!  Paul is saying, ‘you were just like them, the only difference is the appearing of God’s mercy, grace, and salvation in your life!’  Titus 3:4 is the third time Paul mentions the appearing of God in our lives and its affects.  In Titus 3:3 God at the proper time made his plan of salvation and the hope of eternal life known, in Titus 2:11 God's grace appeared bringing salvation and giving us two reasons to live Godly lives; His instruction and the Hope of Christ’s return, and finally in Titus 3:4 God’s kindness and love appeared so that God would save according to His work by the Holy Spirit through Christ.  When we think upon our own salvation we should think upon God appearing in our lives.  It is His work and He should receive the Glory.  We are no different than the world around us except for God appearing in our lives.  We should desire this for every man.

So how are we saved?  Paul gives us great insight into the way God saves people in Titus 3:5-7.  In Titus 3:5 Paul reminds us that salvation is not based on “deeds done in righteousness” but rather according to God’s mercy, in the Person of Christ.  This takes us right back to the controversy Paul was writing against in chapter 1, there were some Jewish leaders upsetting the household of God, teaching commandments contrary to the Gospel.  Paul wants the Cretan believers to remember it is God who did the saving work here not them.  In addition God’s mercy is worked out by the means of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit regenerates and renews in Titus 3:5.  The Holy Spirit regenerates us in an Ezekiel 36 type of way, taking out our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh, giving us eyes to see and ears to hear.  Then the Holy Spirit renews us as we confess and repent of sin throughout our Christian life.  All this work is through the person of Christ our Savior.  Titus 3:7 is probably one of the most profound verses in the Bible, that we have been justified by God’s grace making us heirs of the hope of eternal life.  That is amazing.  We the sinner get life while Christ, who was perfect, takes our death.  This is called the great exchange.  We are then justified, made right with God, pronounced not guilty, and given a key to God’s residence.  Now that is motivation to be a part of what God is doing in the world through the Gospel.  Paul reminds Titus in Titus 3:8 that these things need to be taught (mirroring and reminding of chapter 2), not only the ways of Christian conduct, but also the particulars of the work of salvation accomplished by God.  The more we understand the Gospel, the more we will be willing to engage in the good deeds Paul is pushing for.

Paul’s second imperative comes in Titus 3:9, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law.”  This again takes us back to the disruptive and evil Jewish leaders of chapter 1.  They must have been arguing with the Cretan believers about foolish Jewish customs, birth lines, circumcision, and how to please God by following the Law.  Though we today do not usually encounter Jews disrupting our churches, we do have many evil leaders in our churches that like to add many deeds of righteousness to the Gospel of Christ.  We need to learn the Gospel well and be ready to not fall prey to anything beyond the appearance of mercy and grace in the person of Christ who alone cleanses us from our sins by His work.

Finally, Paul’s third imperative is in Titus 3:10, to reject factious men after two warnings.  Paul goes so far as to call these men perverted and sinful, self-condemned.  We are slow to counteract the factious man these days.  We would do well to head Paul’s word here.  Going back to elders in chapter one, this falls within their duties.  They are the protectors of God’s word and doctrine and must be able to exhort and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9).  Sometimes that means excluding and rejecting.  We need to learn to take the unity of God’s household as serious as the Word makes it.

Paul closes Titus as he does many of his letters with a few personal concerns in Titus 3:12-15.  I think the closing concerns of Paul tell us a lot about the missionary pastor.  Paul is living out what he preaches.  He has instructed the Household of God to care for those within and he is doing just that.  Paul makes a request for himself while sending workers to Crete, but then encourages the Cretans to help Zenas and Apollos on their way.  The personal concerns also show us that Paul is a real person.  He was living everyday life and is concerned about the things of life.  Also within these closing remarks, Paul makes a very important comment about good works in Titus 3:14 saying, “our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”  Paul just told Titus in Titus 3:5 that God saved not on the basis of works but because of His mercy, so why is Paul’s last word concerned with deeds?  It is because deeds for the believer become a marker of salvation.  As a believer grows in the Gospel, they desire to do more of the things of Christ.  Paul is meeting pressing needs and he wants the Cretans to learn to do the same.  If they are not growing in good deeds then they will become unfruitful.  Deeds become a marker and a barometer of our faith.

Paul does not leave us there but closes his letter in Grace (Titus 3:15).  Really this is where we all need to land.  God’s grace.  Paul so eloquently worked out God’s grace through the appearance language in Titus 1:3, 2:11-14, 3:4-7, and that is where we should live too.  God saved us by His Grace, now walk in His deeds.  May we never get over God’s Grace in the person of Christ.
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