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Once and Now
Titus 3:1. In the previous chapter Paul speaks about how the different groups must behave in the house of God. In this chapter he deals with the attitude of the Christian in the world. Of course the Cretans have the security to be saved from their lawless deeds (Titus 2:14), but that doesn’t mean that they should ignore the governing authorities (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-2 Chronicles :; Romans 13:1).
They know indeed that they ought to subject themselves to the government, but it seems that they have forgotten that. Titus must remind them of that. They possibly are influenced by their former life. In those days they did not care about anybody, even not about the civilian authorities.
How is that with you? Do you also struggle with acknowledging the government’s authority? How do you comply with the traffic instructions or filling out forms for a student grant or your income tax declaration or other forms of the government by which you claim to be entitled to a certain compensation? It might be necessary for you to be reminded not to be swayed by the spirit of rebellion against authority or the softer form of civil disobedience. I certainly need that.
Besides, not only obedience is required, but it is expected of you that you are “ready for every good work”. In this case it implies that you cooperate with the government in all things what is good for the nation and society. That means that what you do, has to meet the will of God.
Titus 3:2. In this verse it is not only about the government, but about “all men”. What is written here applies towards all people. How do your neighbors, fellow classmates or colleagues know you? Be careful not to speak with contempt about your unbelieving neighbor who may live like a ‘lazy glutton’ or an ‘evil beast’. How do you consider your unbelieving colleague? The command “to malign no one” regards the unbelievers here. I hope you do not participate in a gossip that may be going around about a colleague.
I also hope that you are known as someone who is “peaceable” and not as someone who is argumentative or contentious, but much more as someone who is “gentle”, kind and helpful. It cannot be right that you are kind to your brothers and sisters and in the meantime quarrel with your neighbor because he parked his car on the very spot where you normally park yours, even if he did that on purpose just to annoy you. You then miss the chance to show “every consideration for all men”. ‘All men’ is not ‘all men except for your annoying neighbor’.
When you show gentleness you show a wonderful feature of the Lord Jesus, Who says to you that you can learn this from Him (Matthew 11:29). In that way people will see that you are a citizen from another realm. The whole conduct radiates gentleness, always kind and helpful to ‘all men’, not only to nice people.
Titus 3:3. The remembrance of how you were will help you to bring the previous into practice. Then you will be able to show people the same love that God has shown to you. The most terrible things that other people may possibly insult you with in the heart of your being, do not come from a source that is more evil than your old nature. Consider therefore that if the Lord does not preserve you, you too may return to commit the most terrible deeds. Therefore you cannot speak with contempt about a criminal, how great and just your abhorrence may be about his deeds.
How were you yourself once (and unfortunately may possibly still be at times)?
1. You were “foolish”, which means: without reason. That is not flattering for people who think of themselves to be very smart.
2. You were also “disobedient”, not be willing to do anything you were asked to do.
3. You also did not see the purpose of your life, you were “deceived” or were “wandering”, for you were just wandering without knowing in which direction you would come out.
4. That led you to a life where you were ‘addicted to’ and were “enslaved to various lusts and pleasures”.
5. You were spending your life “in malice and envy”. You did not tolerate the other to enjoy anything he had; you wanted to have what he had.
6. Your whole performance was “hateful”, revolting.
7. The pleasure you had was unreal, for the atmosphere where you abided was one where people were “hating one another”.
Titus 3:4. If God had dealt with you according to your behavior, you would have been lost. But fortunately He did not. Instead on the contrary he dealt with you in His “kindness … and love for mankind”. Therefore you are still alive and you have not ended up in the ditch, or worse, in hell.
His ‘kindness’ has totally changed you. That kindness is supposed to be seen in you by people. You are not kind because others are kind to you, but because you are a Christian. While you were hateful He showed His ‘love toward man’ to you. In that way He showed you that He cares about you, because of who you are as a man. Speaking with reverence, God acted that way, because He could not otherwise. That love towards man must be visible in you for others, not because they show you love, but because you cannot otherwise.
Titus 3:5. How did God save you? Certainly not on the basis of your own works, for those were all unrighteous before your conversion. Even your so-called good works of which you thought that God should consider for righteousness were condemnable (Isaiah 64:6). You were absolutely totally unable to present anything to God that He could reward with salvation.
But what you were not able to do, God did as an expression of “His mercy”. Instead of pouring out His righteous wrath over you He held that back and gave you in His grace what you could never achieve: salvation. Mercy presumes the greatest need of its object and also the necessary means for help, in order to fulfill the need.
So God has saved you because He is merciful. In order to save you He used two means. The first means is “the washing of regeneration”. Although regeneration looks very much like the new birth (John 3:3-Joshua :), yet it is not the same. While the new birth happens in you, inwardly, the regeneration is more an outward matter.
You can conclude that from the only other time that the word ‘regeneration’ appears and that is in Matthew 19 (Matthew 19:28). In that case regeneration refers to the time that the kingdom of God has outwardly come, whereby the Lord Jesus reigns on earth and His own reign together with Him. Creation will then be regenerated as it were. All things you will then see are new.
What then will be the general situation now already applies to you personally. To you that new condition has come already. The sins you were living in formerly (Titus 3:3), have been washed away. This washing happened through the Word (Ephesians 5:26; cf. James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). Due to that your behavior has totally changed. What people see of you is not anymore what you once were, but is from the world that is to come.
Nevertheless the only way for you to live like that is when something has happened to you inwardly. Your outward life happens from the inside, where “the renewing by the Holy Spirit” has taken place. The renewing of the Holy Spirit means the renewing because of the Holy Spirit, the renewing that comes from Him and is worked by Him. Through this renewing work of the Holy Spirit you have received a new spiritual ability through which you are able to see and think in accordance with God (see Romans 12 (Romans 12:2), the only other place where the word ‘renewed’ is used). The Holy Spirit is the source of a completely new life, of totally new thoughts.
Titus 3:6. There is not only mention of the work of the Spirit, but also of the gift of the Spirit. He has been given to you (Ephesians 1:13) and gives power to the new life, that this new life may be expressed. He works a daily renewal in you and also liberates you from the old life you lived. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a one-time event that has taken place on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The Lord Jesus has received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father as a result of and because of His work, Whom He afterwards poured out. He did not do that scarcely, but “richly”.
Consider that: You are not only born of Him, but He works in you and is available to you. He dwells in you and abides in you and reveals everything to you what is yours in Christ. Because of the Holy Spirit you can richly enjoy the true life, the life in abundance (John 10:10).
Now read Titus 3:1-6 again.
Reflection: What are the differences between the past and present in your life?
Heirs, Instructions and Greetings
Titus 3:7. Now you get to learn about the purpose of salvation. God has saved you, that you could become ‘an heir’ “according to [the] hope of eternal life”. In the previous verses you have seen what God prepared to accomplish that. He appeared to you in His goodness and love towards man; He showed you mercy; He cleansed and renewed you. But there was still something else to happen to make you an heir, for as an heir you ought to be fully in accordance with the righteousness of God. As a true heir your ‘right’ to the inheritance is not to be questioned.
The Lord Jesus also took care of that through His work on the cross. He has perfectly fulfilled the right of God. Through faith in Him and His work for your sake God passes on His own righteousness to you (Romans 3:21-Song of Solomon :). You are a new creation in Christ. You have new life, a life from God. You are a child of God and therefore also an heir of God (Romans 8:17). God sees you in Christ Who became the righteousness of God for you (1 Corinthians 1:30). It will be evident that you owe that justification only to God’s “grace” (Romans 3:24).
It is not mentioned here what the inheritance entails. That doesn’t mean that you do not know what the inheritance consists of. It is after all everything that Christ inherits, because we are His fellow heirs (Romans 8:17; Ephesians 3:6). Here the inheritance is related to ‘the hope of eternal life’. The word ‘hope’ doesn’t indicate insecurity, but focuses you on the future. You will enjoy the inheritance in the same way as you will enjoy eternal life in the time that sin cannot possibly exert its pernicious influence.
You and all believers will then be perfect and therefore the circumstances will also be perfect, without any chance for sin to penetrate again. The full result of the work of Christ will be seen and enjoyed in all His glory and through all eternity. And you may partake of that. That is quite an awesome perspective, isn’t it?
Titus 3:8. What Paul just said is an absolutely faithful word. You can count on it. But it must not stop with nice reflections. Titus must urge that the believers believe this word and should arrange their lives accordingly. Just pass on the things you just learnt to others who also believe in God, which means that they believe Him without questioning His Word. They may not all know this, but when you start to tell them about these things you will notice that they are encouraged and helped by it.
Just like you they will then focus themselves on “good works”, which means that they will carefully examine for themselves which good works they can do. They will work with deliberation. When you are occupied with good, honorable works you do not harm or burden other people, but on the contrary you are engaged with things that have a “good and profitable” effect for the people in your environment.
Titus 3:9. Concentrating on good works prevents you from wasting time on things that are not good. You will avoid those things. Paul mentions some of those things. Titus must avoid “foolish disputes”, which are disputes that are useless and make no sense at all. He must also stay far away from figuring out and discussing about “genealogies”, because concerning that commentators came up with the wildest fantasies.
He must also not partake of the contentions and strivings on the law by the Jewish scribes to add all kinds of commands to it. All such empty rhetoric is without any sense and content. It produces nothing else than hot heads and cold hearts. He who mainly talks about outer things doesn’t understand much of the kindness and God’s love towards men.
Titus 3:10. Among the people who produce such foolishness, “a factious man” can just expose himself. Therefore it is not surprising that in line with this, Paul gives Titus an instruction how he should deal with a divisive man. A divisive man can also be a false teacher (2 Peter 2:1), but not necessarily. The Pharisees were a divisive group or a sect (Acts 15:5; Acts 26:5). They made a controversial point of many things and excluded others who did not share their opinion. Still you could not say that they proclaimed a false doctrine. They were pure in doctrine, but they made additions to God’s Word, which caused it to be with no effect (Matthew 15:6).
A sect is a group of believers that distinguishes itself from other believers by putting an excessive emphasis on certain parts of the truth. In order to have fellowship with them they require that people embrace their concept about those parts of the truth. A sect comes to existence when the conditions to have fellowship are more than the Scripture requires. Nevertheless not everyone who belongs to a sect is a sectarian or divisive man, but the leaders of the group certainly are.
Then Paul tells Titus (and you also) how to deal with a divisive man. Note carefully that this is a personal letter and not a letter to a church. Therefore it is about a personal attitude towards a divisive man. There is also no mention of the command to ‘put away from yourselves’ (1 Corinthians 5:13), but about ‘warning’ and ‘rejecting’. The moment a person exposes himself as divisive he must be admonished once or twice. Only when it becomes evident that the admonitions do not help, it can be determined that a person is a divisive person and then rejection should follow. Such a person persists in his deviation in such a way that further efforts to bring him to repentance will be in vain.
Titus 3:11. Titus must reject such a person, because he knows that that person “is warped and is sinning”. Further contact will be harmful to himself (1 Corinthians 15:33). Due to his stubborn attitude the divisive man is condemning himself without really being conscious of that.
Titus 3:12. In a totally different tone Paul speaks about some fellow servants in his concluding words. He would love to have Titus to be with him. But Paul doesn’t want the believers at Crete to be without any leadership. Therefore he promises to send someone to replace Titus. He still doesn’t know whether to send Artemas or Tychicus. Of Artemas we do not know more than what is written here about him. He must have been a faithful fellow worker of Paul. Of Tychicus we know more (Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12). Only when the replacement has arrived Titus could travel to him in Nicopolis, where Paul decided to spend the winter. Then he will be able to continue his journey in spring in the company of Titus.
Titus 3:13. Artemas and Tychicus appear to be fellow workers of the apostle who are able to represent him elsewhere. That doesn’t apply to someone like Apollos. He determines for himself in dependence on the Lord what his order is and where he should go (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:12). It is a danger if you see something clearly for yourself, to determine that it applies also to others. That is not what Paul does. Zenas and Apollos will also come, but not sent by Paul, but by the Lord.
Paul is not jealous that others come to the area where he has worked, but on the contrary, he is happy about that. He sees no competition, but a supporting one another. Because Zenas has knowledge of the law he is able to respond to the Judaic false teachers. Apollos is mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). Paul orders Titus to make sure that these two servants will have no lack of anything.
Titus 3:14. The believers at Crete can give their contribution to that. Titus must exhort them to focus on this kind of “good deeds”. Then they will not remain “unfruitful”. “Our people” are in a direct sense all believers at Crete and in the broadest sense all believers on earth. We are not to limit that to those who go ‘with us the same denominational way'.
You can learn to maintain good works. Are you also that eager to learn how to meet “pressing needs”? This exhortation becomes increasingly more topical, because we live in a world where people are building their lives for themselves alone more and more. This spirit also affects Christians more and more. That is to the detriment of lost sinners and needy believers.
Titus 3:15. Paul concludes with conveying the greetings to Titus from all who are with him. Wherever he is he has fellowship with other believers. In his turn Titus must greet without distinction all believers at Crete, from Paul and from those who are with him. He presumes that all believers at Crete love him and all who are with him as believers. He wishes grace to all at Crete.
In that way he says goodbye. In that way also you and I may say goodbye to one another. We wish one another on our separate ways that grace will guide us and that we will be aware of that.
Now read Titus 3:7-15 again.
Reflection: What was Titus to avoid and what was he to cooperate with?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Titus 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany