The Gospel Results in Action
David Devenish preaches to us from Titus.
THE SCRIPTURE: Titus 3:1-8
“Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. 2 They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarelling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—
When God our Saviour revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND:
- Titus was a key member of Paul’s apostolic team. He often undertook important tasks for Paul and was entrusted with situations that were very difficult.
- The Book of Acts (the story of the early church) ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome. However, after that he was released and he travelled around again and went to Crete, where the gospel had not been preached before.
- There were converts in several of the towns there, but Paul had to leave and left Titus behind to form these new believers into good local churches. Paul then wrote Titus a letter confirming his instructions to him that he had given when he left (rather like we do today, confirming a conversation with an email).
- Cretans had a bad reputation in the Roman Empire which meant that Crete was a difficult place to be a believer, quite apart from the possibilities of persecution.
- Cretans were famous for lying. That was considered by them to be a great virtue. The chief Greek God, Zeus was believed by Cretans to be a particular Cretan king who was famous for his lying exalted to heaven. Indeed, one of the Greek words for “to lie” was kretidziein (or act like a Cretan!). Paul quoted a Cretan prophet who said “All Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Titus 1:12. Paul then adds, “This is true!”
- Paul’s letter was to help Christians transformed by the good news about Jesus, to live a life in Crete where they commended the Christian faith to unbelievers, not particularly by what they said but how they lived. Their lives should preach the good news about Jesus because it had transformed them.
WHAT IS PAUL TEACHING HERE?
- Paul gives a brilliant summary of the good news of Jesus surrounded before and afterwards by practical commands which demonstrate lives changed by the gospel. In our day, particularly now under lockdown and fear because of Coronavirus, our practical lives are to demonstrate that we have been changed. The Bible always presents theology not as an academic study but as the incentive and the power for action. What we believe changes how we behave.
- So, the summary of the gospel. In Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, he repeats one phrase “trustworthy the saying”. These were proverbs and, in one case, an early hymn which all believers of that time would memorise. They are easy to remember statements and we need those to help our faith (remember that most people then would not have owned a Bible – in any case this was only the Old Testament and these were in scrolls and also letters were sent around the churches). These trustworthy sayings were “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15. “This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an overseer (or elder), he desires an honourable position.” 1 Timothy 3:1. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8. So, keep fit during lock down (the word Paul uses here is “gymnasia”) but train in godliness even more. “This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. 12 If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13. This is the hymn.
- The trustworthy saying in Titus is a summary of the gospel but longer so harder to remember.
- In your home, therefore, let’s read it out loud with me, (after 3). “When God our Saviour revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7.
- God has revealed his kindness and love in sending Jesus into the world, who could say when he showed compassion “he who has seen me has seen the Father”.
- God has shown mercy, not because we deserve it or earn it.
- God gives us new life through washing away our sins and giving us the Holy Spirit.
- He pours out the Holy Spirit generously upon us so that there is sufficient power for us to live a godly life – not just rules to obey but power to live differently.
- By grace we are counted as righteous by God and are confident that death is not the end of life but we will be transformed in eternal life with Christ forever.
- What a summary of the gospel!
- Obey the government – this is important always but particularly today. We should respect and stay at home except for the particular activities that we are allowed to do. (This was written before persecution had become general in the Roman Empire because of the command to worship Caesar as a god. When that happened, Christians needed to disobey that particular instruction but obey other things. This is covered more in the Book of Revelation.)
- Be ready to do good works for everybody. Again, let’s serve our town and serve nation.
- Don’t spread fake news about anyone.
- Don’t quarrel but bring peace. Society, up until the time of this pandemic, had become much more tribal, attacking one another verbally and sometimes, sadly, physically. We are different.
- Always demonstrate a humble attitude to everybody. We may be frustrated but don’t let that govern our behaviour. Again, it is important today when there are so many frustrations.
- If you trust in God, devote yourself to doing good.