David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
Titus 3:1-15 - REMEMBER THIS
A. Remember good works.
1. (Titus 3:1-2) Remember to live obedient and kind lives.
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
a. Remind them: In the grammar of the ancient Greek text, remind is in the present tense: “Go on reminding.” Titus was to constantly remind the Christians under his care to show proper respect and humility towards all people, particularly those in a position of authority.
i. Knowing the sometimes difficult character of the people of Crete (as mentioned before in Titus 1:12), this command to be subject to rulers and authorities had special meaning.
ii. “It is perhaps significant of the difference between Crete and the province of Asia, as regards respect for law, that in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, reasons are given why we should pray for rulers, while here the more elementary duty of obedience is enjoined.” (White)
b. Ready for every good work: If we simply focus on being subject to rulers and authorities, it is easy to make the Christian life passive. Titus should not allow this, and also remind them to be ready for every good work.
c. Speak evil of no one . . . peaceable . . . gentle, showing all humility to all men: This is a distinctively Christian kindness, coming not from simple good manners but from knowing who we are and who others are in the heart of Jesus.
2. (Titus 3:3) Remember what you used to be.
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
a. For we ourselves were also once: This shows why Titus should remind them of the things mentioned in Titus 3:1-2. Remembering where we once were shows us that the fallen nature is not so far from us, and we need constant reminding to stay where we should be in the Lord.
i. For we ourselves: “You need not suppose that it is hopeless to imagine that these wild Cretan folk can be reclaimed. We ourselves are a living proof of the power of God’s grace.” (White)
b. Were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived: Remembering this work of God builds four things in us.
· First, gratitude for how God changed us.
· Second, humility as we see that it was His work that changed us.
· Third, kindness to others in the same place.
· Finally, faith that God can change those who are still in that place.
3. (Titus 3:4-8) Remember the great salvation of God.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
a. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared: When we were in the place described by Titus 3:3, we didn’t rescue ourselves. We were rescued by the kindness and the love of God. He reached out to us long before we reached out to Him.
b. Not by works of righteousness which we have done: Our salvation isn’t based on any works of righteousness which we have done. In and of itself, response to an altar call does not save. Saying the sinner’s prayer does not save. Baptism does not save. Church attendance does not save. Giving does not save. Reading the Bible does not save. Each of these may be wonderful works of righteousness, but they do not save us. Instead, according to His mercy He saved us.
c. He saved us: This is the essence and distinctive of the gospel. We can notice the emphasis: of God . . . not by works . . . His mercy . . . He saved us . . . of the Holy Spirit . . . He poured . . . through Jesus . . . by His grace . . . heirs. God is always the initiator, and we receive from Him before we give anything back.
d. Through the washing of regeneration: These words are commonly taken as a reference to baptism, and this passage is sometimes quoted in support of the idea of baptismal regeneration. Yet we cannot say that Paul specifically mentions baptism here, and the only other use of the ancient Greek word translated washing here is connected with the spiritual cleansing of the believer by the Word of God through faith (Ephesians 5:26).
i. “In the LXX the word, which occurs three times only, on each occasion seems to represent not the receptacle but the washing itself. This is also the sense in the only other New Testament occurrence, Ephesians 5:26, ‘the washing of water by the word.’” (Guthrie)
ii. “Most commentators take the washing as a reference to water baptism. But if water baptism is the means that produces the spiritual rebirth, we then have the questionable teaching of a material agency as the indispensable means for producing a spiritual result (but cf. Matthew 15:1-20; Romans 2:25-29; Galatians 5:6). We accept the washing as a divine inner act, although the experience is viewed as openly confessed before men in baptism.” (Hiebert)
e. Those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works: This reminds us what we are saved for - to maintain good works. Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone. We must never put the cart of works before the horse of grace!
i. “The theology of Christianity is based on grace; the ethics of Christianity are based on gratitude.” (Briscoe)
4. (Titus 3:9-11) Remember to keep on course.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
a. Avoid foolish disputes: These are some of the things which ought not to be taught warned against in Titus 1:11. These foolish disputes are simply unprofitable and useless. Instead, Titus should focus on the simple word of God.
i. Avoid: “The word peristemi literally meaning to turn oneself about so as to face the other way (cf. 2 Timothy 2:16 where it is used in a similar manner).” (Guthrie)
ii. “The Jewish Rabbis spent their time building up imaginary genealogies for the characters of the Old Testament. . . . It is much easier to discuss theological questions than to be kind and considerate and helpful at home, or efficient and diligent and honest at work.” (Barclay)
b. Reject a divisive man: Titus must take measures against those who insist on going their own way. Their self-will makes them self-condemned.
i. “Labour to convince him of his error; but if he will not receive instruction, if he has shut his heart against conviction, then - burn him alive? No, even if demonstrably a heretic in any one sense of that word, and a disturber of the peace of the church, God gives no man any other authority over him but to shun him. Do him no harm in body, soul, character, or substance; hold no communion with him; but leave him to God.” (Clarke)
B. Concluding thoughts.
1. (Titus 3:12-13) Remember people.
When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing.
a. Artemas . . . Tychicus . . . Zenas . . . Apollos: These personal words of Paul - common at the end of his letters - may seem insignificant, but are really very important. They communicate that Paul was a real man in a real world with real friends that he had regular contact with and care for.
i. “It is natural to suppose to Artemas or Tychicus would take the place of Titus as apostolic legate in Crete. This temporary exercise of apostolic superintendence marks a stage in the development of monarchial local episcopacy in the later sense.” (White)
ii. “The epistle closes with reference to Tychicus, Apollos, Artemas, and Zenas. The very mention of these names indicates the growth of the Christian movement.” (Morgan)
b. That they may lack nothing: “The final word concerning occupation shows clearly the duty of members of the Christian Church to contribute to the support of those devoted to the work of the ministry.” (Morgan)
2. (Titus 3:14-15) Remember to do good deeds.
And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
a. That they may not be unfruitful: This is a recurring theme through Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul was concerned that Christians might be barren and unfruitful, yet still have a “wonderfully” confident assurance of their standing in the Lord. Instead of being unfruitful, God’s people must learn to maintain good works and to meet urgent needs.
b. Grace be with you all: “The closing benediction harmonizes with the opening salutation. It is a benediction of grace, the only difference being that whereas at the beginning it was addressed to Titus, at the close all those to whom he ministered were included.” (Morgan)
Sunday, February 26th, 2017
Transfiguration Sunday / the Last Sunday after Epiphany
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