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Saved in Order to Do Good

Date: Jul. 2, 2017

Author: Michael Mark

Titus 3:1-15

Key Verse: Titus 3:8

“This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

Last week we learned about being eager to do what is good.  We learned that Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Tit 2:14).  Titus was to instruct specific groups in the church how to be good to one another.  We learned that the grace of God teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness, and to live self-controlled lives, so we have received a new ability to do good.  It’s like receiving a brand new car, or a brand new smart phone.  You are eager to use it.  Today, we take doing good to the next level.  From being eager to do what is good, we now will learn about carefully devoting ourselves to doing what is good.  Our lives should be engaged in doing good works, because this is the fruit that comes from being saved.  Good works are natural expression of your life when you realize how richly God has blessed you in salvation.

In this last chapter in this letter to Titus, Paul progresses from instructing Titus to teach the people to practice good works in the church, to practicing good works in the world.  Look at v.1, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.”  Cretans may have not liked to be ruled by Rome.  In addition, there were many Jewish settlers there, who have had a history of uprisings against Rome.  But the church was to be reminded to be subject to the rulers, even if they were pagan unbelieving authorities.  The fact that they had to be reminded might indicate that they had a tendency to rebel.  In our day today, disobedience toward our government is a daily fact.  When President Trump won the election, riots broke out all over America.  The media continues to hammer him.  He is ridiculed on social media.

But why are Christians reminded to take a different path?  Why should they be subject to rulers who don’t even honor God?  Rom 13:1-2 tells us the reality: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established… Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”  Any type of authority anyone has, even if they don’t believe, has been given by God.  This authority has been given by God to enforce laws, maintain order in society, and to punish evil.  So what are we to do?  We are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.  We should pay our taxes, and obey the law.

What if the ruler makes us do something wrong, or evil, or forbids us from doing good, such as proclaiming the gospel?  We do see a limit here to our obedience to government – and that is to be ready to do whatever is good.  When the government tells us to do wrong, we may respectfully disobey, but the resistance should be peaceful, and not violent.  Sometimes we may even have to endure injustice from the government and imprisonment.  That might not make sense, but that is the best way to reform the government.  One who has endured unjust suffering will have a more powerful impact that one who stirs up violence.  And ultimately, God will be the judge of those rulers.  We have as an example Paul, who was in chains for the gospel and martyred, and even Christ himself, submitted to authority and was crucified under Pontius Pilate.  Today they live, and their accusers have been judged.

In verse 2 the people were also reminded “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”  Out of these four things, one of them they were told not to do, and three they were told to do.  They were told not to slander anyone.  This is to speak evil of someone.  Why was it so important not to slander?  Because it reveals a wicked heart.  Jesus teaches in Matt 15:18, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth comes from the heart, and these defile them.”  Jesus teaches again in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  James tells us, “The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. (Jas 3:6)”  More than that, when we slander someone, we are hypocrites, because we ourselves have things we are ashamed of.

Instead we should be peaceable and considerate of others, the opposite of slander.  Now sometimes it is necessary to rebuke someone sharply, but this is not the same as slander.  To rebuke someone is to try to bring them back to the truth and done in love.  Slander is a false accusation of someone done in malice.  There may be times required to be sharp, but the general rule is to be peaceable and considerate.  Finally, to always be gentle toward everyone.  There are a couple of very broad words there.  Always, and everyone.  We are to be gentle all the time to everyone we encounter.  Maybe this reflects a pattern.  Perhaps there were some who treated everyone harshly all the time.  Here are some examples the Bible gives for being gentle: bear with one another and forgive (Col 3:13), be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (Jas 1:19), and make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else (1 Ths 5:15).

It is not always easy to always do good.  In fact, Paul says it is impossible without God.  It is impossible to do good without God.  Look at v.3, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”  That is quite a list.  That is quite a description.  And Paul includes himself in the statement.  He says “At one time ‘we’,” showing that this is the nature all human beings share.  We were foolish, that is unwise, making bad choices and having no understanding.  That’s probably why insurance rates are so high for drivers under 25.  We had no understanding of true righteousness.  We were disobedient – to God, and in general, to authority, to parents, to civil law.  We were deceived, all of us at one point or another were led into error or wrongdoing by someone else.  But that doesn’t mean we are not responsible, because lastly, we were enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We were enslaved by desires to do that which is wrong.  We desire what is forbidden.  The world sees this as fun, but now can you see the perversion and depravity of our sinful hearts?  We want the things that are not good, and we call that normal.  These 4 things describe the nature of an unbeliever, which is something we all were.

The next 4 things in v.3 describe the fruits of unbelief: living in malice, envy, being hated, and hating.  Because of unbelief we were living in these things, wallowing in them like a pig in mud.  We lived in malice – having ill-will and a desire to hurt and injure one another.  We lived in envy, having jealousy or pride over what someone had or could do.  Worst of all, we were being hated and hating one another.  We disliked and despised each other.  Now not everyone has all of these things to strong degree, maybe we might have done some of these things to some people – but this does describe humanity in general.  There are some in the world who live deeply in malice, envy and hatred, and this is the result of unbelief.  These things are in the world.  In my Facebook newsfeed just a couple of days ago, there was an report that the police had arrested the man who kidnapped a girl on the U of I campus.  She had been missing for about a month, but now the FBI has presumed she is dead.  One of my friends commented on the article saying he was sick of what is going on in the world.

These things, malice, envy and hatred, make the world a dark place.  They lead to death and despair, and despite the advancements in science, technology and education, the problem is still not solved.  The world is still groaning from malice, envy and hatred.  But hope has arrived, as Isaiah said, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matt 4:16).”  Look at v.4-5a, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”  This is just what we need – kindness and love, the antidote to malice, envy and hatred.  Our own kindness and love could not solve the world’s problem, but this is the kindness and love of God.  And when this kindness and love appeared, he saved us.  We were saved from malice, envy and hatred.  We were saved from sin, and delivered from the darkness of this world.

We were saved not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  Why else would God save us?  We could do no good.  We were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by our lusts.  We lived in malice, envy and hatred.  Why would God spare a people like that, and call them his own?  He did not save us because there was something good to be found in us, he saved us because he himself is compassionate, he himself is merciful.  Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?  You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”  Let this be an encouragement to us: God delights to show mercy.  What is mercy?  It is compassion and forgiveness toward someone, by one who has the power to punish or harm.  God has the power to punish us.  He has every right to judge and condemn us, but he relented, he showed mercy, and he forgave our sins.  More than that, he has poured out his grace to bless us abundantly.

Look at v.5b-7, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”  Not only did God take away his punishment in mercy, but he made us completely new in grace.  The washing of rebirth refers to the sacrament of water baptism.  This practice is the outward symbol of what happens internally.  What happens internally is rebirth.  It means to be born again, to be transformed, to be made new.  When we are reborn, we are regenerated, recreated, restored to a pristine state.  Just as water washes the dirt off of our bodies, so the Spirit cleanses us from our sins.  We are given a new life, and this new life is consecrated, devoted to God.  Our minds have also been changed radically for the better.  Rom 12:1-2 describe this well, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy (in view of God’s mercy – this is important), to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  The pattern of this world was malice, envy and hatred, but we no longer have to conform to it because our minds have been renewed.

We are saved both by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  In those times, and in many churches today, water baptism symbolized the admission into the church and the ingrafting into the body of Christ.  While it is not required for salvation, I do encourage everyone who believes to be baptized, as the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained it as a means of grace, meaning, it is one of the ways God’s grace may come to you, and a physical way to experience what has happened spiritually.  Now rebirth and renewal are similar, but different.  Rebirth only happens once, you are born again, that is, the Holy Spirit only needs to make you born again once.  So you only need to be baptized once.  Renewal is an ongoing process.  It’s like a renovation of the mind and heart.  Much like the renovation of the Bible House, we can constantly make it better.  2 Cor 4:16-17 describe it this way, “Therefore do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  Though we are all getting older, and our skin is getting wrinklier, inwardly we are being renewed day by day, therefore, do not lose heart.

The Holy Spirit is renewing us, and as v.6 says, the Spirit is poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Do you feel as if you only received a little bit of grace from God?  That cannot be true.  The Holy Spirit was poured out on us generously, richly, abundantly.  You were washed, made pristine clean by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon you.  Even the smallest drop of the Holy Spirit is like an overflowing fountain – the Holy Spirit is like streams of living water, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God!  And He is poured out on us through Jesus Christ.  Jesus had told his disciples that unless he goes away, he cannot send the Holy Spirit to us, but if he goes, he will send him (John 16:7).  Jesus had asked the Father, and God has given us the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).  See how all three members of the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, are all involved in your salvation!

We were justified by God’s grace, declared righteous.  The Holy Spirit has applied to us the righteous life of Christ, he clothed us in the righteousness of Christ.  God has given us Jesus’ righteousness as a gift, that’s why it is by grace.  If it was by works, it would not be a gift, but an obligation God owed to us.  But v.7 says we are justified by his grace, which means it is the free gift of God.  You have been declared righteous in God’s sight.  What a mercy!  But he has also loved you so much, he has adopted you a children. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God!  And that is what we are!”  That is what we are, the children of God!  By his grace.  We are made heirs as children of God.  The rights of being a son and daughter of God have been conferred to us.  We shall inherit eternal life.  We shall also inherit the kingdom of God, and there, live forever in peace, in love and in perfect fellowship with one another, and with God.  This is our hope – to live in eternal peace and favor with God.

This hope does not disappoint.  Can we all read v.8, the key verse, “This is a trustworthy saying.  And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.  These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”  We can trust in the promise of eternal life.  In the first chapter in Titus, verse 2 says, “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.”  God, who does not lie, promised us eternal life.  Moving on in v.8, Paul tells Titus to “stress these things.”  “These things,” refer to what was just said in v.4-7.  Let’s review “these things.”  In verse 4, we see the kindness and love of God.  In verse 5-6, we see salvation, not because of our works, but because of God’s mercy.  We see salvation as our rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ.  In v.7, we see that we have been justified by grace, we have been made heirs, and now have the hope of eternal life.  What are these things he was told to stress?  The love and the grace and the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal life.  When Paul says to stress these things, he means to proclaim them boldly, and assertively, with confidence.

Why are these things stressed and proclaimed?  First, so that we might trust in God.  We are taught that God is gracious, kind, compassionate, and merciful.  We see that God saved us, and justified us.  We could only be justified because of the death of Jesus Christ in our place for our sins.  And when we believe in Christ, we receive the Spirit, rebirth, and hope and eternal life.  Second, these things are stressed so that after we have trusted God, we may be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good.  In the past, we were careful to devote ourselves to our own interests.  Maybe spending hours at the gym to get a buff body, or perfecting our card counting techniques to cheat at poker in the Casino, or shopping for the latest fashion trends.  Sometimes people devoted themselves to more sinister, wicked things.  But now, we give our lives to do what is good.  And good here is intentionally vague and general.  It means to do good in everything.  Be a good neighbor.  Be a good citizen, a good husband, a good wife, a good son, a good daughter, a good friend, a good employee.  And don’t forget to be a good Christian – pray for others, encourage others, teach others the truth.  Give yourself in love for one another.  And devotion means practice, practice, practice.  Practice doing good, according to the grace God has given you, and you will be fruitful and productive.  The ultimate fruit of your good works: is to bring glory to God.  Christians and unbelievers alike will praise God because of your good behavior.  And God is not unjust, he sees and knows everything, and he is fair.  He is more than fair.  He is gracious.  1 Cor 15:58 says, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  You will be rewarded for your good works, whether here on earth or with treasure in heaven.

False teaching, on the other hand, does not produce good works or good fruit, but only quarrels, division and strife.  Look at v.9, “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”  There were those in the church that would argue constantly over what they thought was right.  They had gone their own way in terms of what they believed, whether it was some strange mysticism or harsh legalism.  They were given chances to repent – Paul instructs Titus to warn such people twice, but if they still held on to their false teaching, Titus was to have nothing to do with them.  They love to argue and debate, but they end up wasting a lot of time.  Many years ago I remember trying to argue with an atheist via a blog – but writing the argument would take almost a whole work day.  It was draining, and neither of us would give in.  What’s worse is I wasted several days of working hours.  It was truly unproductive.  In the end it is better to leave one who believes falsely alone, after warning them twice, rather than to continue to argue.  Titus had to deal with such people in the Cretan churches.  Paul advised that “You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”  They are self-condemned because they refuse to listen to sound doctrine, the right teachings about God and his Son Jesus Christ.

Paul now concludes his letter with some closing remarks in v.12-15.  At some time in the near future, Artemas or Tychicus will be sent to Crete to carry on the work Titus was doing, and Titus would re-join Paul for the next chapter in his missionary work.  Paul also instructs Titus to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way.  Apollos was a popular teacher in Corinth (1 Cor 3:4).  He was a Jew from Alexandria, a learned man who taught with fervor and taught about Jesus accurately (Acts 18:24-28).  He might have been on his way to Alexandria and also delivered this letter to Titus on his way.  Paul re-iterates again in v.14, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”  Here they could practice doing good, and provide for the urgent needs of Zenas & Apollos.  But not only for them, for anyone, doing good would enable them to provide for their daily necessities, and help one another.  That is also why we should excel in doing good, so that we can help one another when any of us are in need.  Not everyone might be blessed materially in the same way, but we share and help one another out as family – just as we were able to help Msn. Daniel support the ministry in Rwanda, through conference T-shirts and soon a projector.  Paul closes this letter to Titus in v.15 with words of greeting and blessing: “Everyone with me sends you greetings.  Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all.”

Titus was sent to establish the church in a very difficult environment.  The culture of the people on Crete were known to always be liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons.  We also saw in this passage that the culture of the world is one of unbelief, disobedience, and slavery to worldly passions resulting in malice, envy and hatred.  To do good is actually something quite counter cultural to Crete and to the world.  Titus was given the task to raise up a people eager and devoted to doing good.  Titus need primarily to hold firmly to the trustworthy message.  He was to find elders to were faithful and loved good.  He was to teach the church to be good to one another, and he was to remind them to be good to everyone else.  But God would be the one to transform lives.  In the midst of this dark world, the kindness and love of God appeared to save us in mercy.  Jesus came to take away all our sins, and ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit, who has washed us, restored us, and made us pristine clean.  We were saved to do good works to bring glory to God.  One day he will return, and he will have his reward with him for those who are faithful.  Some of you might be nervous of Jesus’ return, not sure of your faith.  But remember, we are saved, not by our righteous works, but by his mercy.  Rest in the finished work of Christ.  He has done it all.  Don’t worry about earning God’s favor by your works, Christ has already done that.  So rest in that fact.  Believe in Jesus, and believe this: God delights to show mercy.  Trust in God first, then go ahead and devote yourself to doing what is good for the sake of the one who is worthy of all our worship, honor and praise, the great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with you all.

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