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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Titus 3

 

 

Verse 4

THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

‘The kindness of God our Saviour, and His love toward man,’

Titus 3:4 (R.V.)

The message of Christmas affects each of us in different ways at different times, for it deeply concerns our whole humanity.

I. It never loses its power.—Men and women whose hearts are untouched by other great facts of Divine revelation feel strangely thrilled as their ears catch the angels’ tidings of the birth of the Virgin’s Son.

II. Christmas appeals to the primary instincts of humanity.—It meets man’s deepest needs; and if those without the Church feel a new glow at this season, surely we who are accustomed to meet here must be more deeply moved still.

III. We pass beyond the outward expressions of the joy to the inner meaning of which everything else is but a sign. ‘The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.’ The Incarnation is the making of God poor that we may be made rich.

Rev. S. Kirshbaum.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE PHILANTHROPY OF GOD

In what does wealth consist? Not surely in money, not even in knowledge. What are the most precious things, the things we hold most dear? We think of home, and we realise the glory of motherhood and the dignity of childhood.

I. Through the Incarnation we have become inestimably wealthy—

(a) In the power of home which binds hearts together indestructibly.

(b) In the riches of Christian literature and art springing through the centuries from that humble home at Bethlehem.

(c) In the new spirit which helps us in that work which is so trying to body and brain, for the whole routine of life is known to God, Who became a labourer in the city of Nazareth. All this true wealth is ours in this world through the Incarnation.

II. What then shall we say of the treasure and Divine riches given to us for the sustenance of our spiritual life, of the grace of Jesus Christ in His Church and in His sacrament, of the knowledge of His will in His inspired word and through His ministers, of the hope of everlasting life which binds earth and heaven? The kindness and philanthropy of God! In all parts of the world men are even now gleaning these riches of Christ’s poverty, the riches of an inheritance which is incorruptible and fadeth not away.

III. A Challenge to imitate His example.—As we consider the message of Christmas and realise all that that means, we find in it not only a gospel of infinite joy, but also a challenge to imitate the example of Him Who has made this wealth ours. ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’—the mind of true philanthropy. Christmas is the festival of kindness. Through the Incarnation philanthropy has acquired a new meaning.

Rev. S. Kirshbaum.

Illustrations

(1) ‘It is not to be asserted that there were no efforts to alleviate poverty and suffering before the Incarnation. The sympathies of humanity have had some expression at every period of the world’s history, and we know that the Roman noble gloried in giving alms to the beggar. But still there was nothing like the Christian conviction of the obligation resting upon each man to do all in his power wisely to alleviate misery.’

(2) ‘There is nothing in Christ’s teaching, or in the teaching of His Apostles, which approves of indiscriminate almsgiving. We must give ourselves trouble to see that our charity is always well advised, and that it is not a generous giving to comfort ourselves independently of the result of our bounty. The kindness and philanthropy exhibited in the Incarnation is our pattern.’


Verse 5

LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST

‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.’

Titus 3:5

St. Paul had left Titus in Crete, ‘to set in order the things that were wanting, and to ordain elders in every city,’ as he had appointed him. For his help and guidance, he addressed to him this Epistle, in which he sets forth the conduct he was to maintain, the discipline he was to enforce, and the doctrines he was to teach. In the text there is a clear statement of some important doctrines.

I. Salvation is not by works

(a) Became of our relation to God.—We are His creatures; we owe Him everything always.

(b) Because of our moral inability to perform works of righteousness.

(c) Because every attempt to procure salvation by works implies the principle of ‘value for value.’

II. The true source and character of salvation.

(a) It has its origin in Gods kindness and love toward man (Titus 3:4).

(b) His kindness and love were manifested through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:6).

(c) This salvation includes justification by His grace, adoption into His family by His love, regeneration by the power of the Holy Ghost, the blessed hope of eternal life while here, and the blessed reality of eternal life hereafter (Titus 3:5; Titus 3:7).

Illustration

‘There is no doubt that those men were right who, a hundred years ago or less, declared to a self-satisfied world that the true cure for all moral evil was, not sound moral advice, too good to be followed, not earnest moral effort which the sinful soul was unable to make, or at least to sustain, but the reception of a cleansing power from without, that the soul must be supernaturally, miraculously, divinely, undeservedly delivered from its evil past, if it were ever to start on a new and better life, if it were ever to be made natural to it to do good or possible for it to deserve well. Nothing short of a miracle can put a sinner in the way of repentance.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

ALL OF MERCY

The words of our text occur in the passage appointed as the Second Lesson for the evening of Christmas Day. The selection is appropriate and wholesome. In the midst of family and other festivities—consecrated, as we hope they are, by the abiding presence of the Master—we need to have our minds recalled to the great fact of Christmas, what it is, and what it means to us. We should ever remember that it was ‘for us men and for our salvation’ that the Lord Jesus Christ ‘came down from heaven and was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.’ Christmas means to us the manifestation of God’s mercy, and it is ‘according to His mercy He saved us.’

I. A neglected truth.—We have been taught the way of salvation again and again, and yet so anxious are men to find their own way to heaven, that they neglect to take in and appropriate the great truth that it is by the mercy of God, and by that alone, that we are saved. Just as in the days of the early Church, when St. Paul found it necessary to press home upon all men that it is ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done,’ so now we clergy have to be constantly reminding our people, and reminding ourselves, that salvation is not by ‘works,’ but through God’s mercy in Christ Jesus. Men and brethren, keep this truth ever before you; neglect it no longer; think of it day by day; let it be the inspiration of your daily life.

II. Trust your works of righteousness no longer.—They are but poor and weak works at the best, and when we have done all that is required of us we are still unprofitable servants. You lose the joy of Christian service if you do these works with any sort of feeling that they may after all be of some use in atoning for past neglect or past sin. Works performed in that spirit are dead; but when, recognising that it is God’s mercy that saves us, our hearts are filled with love and gratitude to Him, the works that flow from a heart of love become a living power in the world.

III. Salvation according to mercy.—It is a precious truth; hold it fast. Salvation is a big word and covers every relation of life.

(a) Salvation from the punishment of sin.

(b) Salvation from the guilt of sin.

(c) Salvation from the power of sin.

(d) Salvation unto holiness.

And all this is ‘according to His mercy.’ We have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, but His mercy endureth for ever.

Illustration

‘We are often told that Gospel teaching is far away from daily life, and some people go the length of saying that the central doctrine of the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ is an immoral doctrine. I am not going to discuss the latter statement now. If the former one is ever true, it is the fault of the preacher, not of the message. Rightly understood and presented, the great body of truth which we call the Gospel grips daily life very tightly, while on the other hand, of all the impotent things in this world, none are more impotent than exhortations to be good, which are cut away from the great truth of God’s mercy. If it be true that the best foundatiou for all practical godliness is in the possession of the great message of God’s mercy, it follows that Christian people ought to familiarise themselves with the practical side of their faith as the motive and the pattern for holy living.’

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Titus 3:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/titus-3.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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