Paul begins the last chapter of his letter to young Titus by reminding Pastor Titus of how his people should be acting. The people of Titus’ church should be “submissive to rulers and authorities…obedient…ready for every good work…speaking evil of no one…avoid quarreling…gentle…showing perfect courtesy to all people.” That seems like a lofty goal. Who actually does all of these things? It seems really far “out there.” Like a super-Christian. But what we must realize is that Paul is describing an unnatural life that is made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit working within the Christian for sanctification.
We are not naturally submissive to rulers and authorities. We’re natural rebels. We are not naturally obedient and ready for every good work. We’d rather do our own thing. We do not naturally speak evil of no one, avoiding quarreling, while being gentle and showing perfect courtesy to all people. We prefer gossiping, arguing, and crudeness. Or at least I do. My natural self is a sinful self. I am bent toward selfishness, disobedience, and being a slave to my own passions and pleasures. David talks of this in Psalm 51:5 when he says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” That’s not a verse we have framed up on our office or living room walls, but it’s one that we should be aware of everyday, lest we get prideful.
Paul then moves past our sinful nature before Christ (which we also keep once we’ve been justified), and begins describing how Christ saved us in verses 4-7. He references back to Titus 2:11, by using the word “appeared” when describing salvation. The goodness and loving kindness of God appeared and was manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God’s immeasurable love and goodness were made known through Jesus in the world. When “the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us,” the earth experience the glory of God like never before. The living, breathing God of the universe was really there. He really walked and talked and laughed and cried, all the time remaining completely God. By coming to the earth as a man – becoming flesh – he brought salvation for us. He saved us. But we already established in verses 1-3 that we are naturally sinners. So how can we be saved? It is extremely selfish and prideful to ever think that you could be saved by works. There is no biblical grounds for such a claim. Paul lays it out clearly: We are not saved by our works, but by God, who has mercy. Romans 9:16 says this about salvation: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” No action, no self-centered righteousness, no amount of theological knowledge, no pseudo-spirituality can save you. Absolutely no work can save. Our salvation is based solely upon God, who has mercy.
How does this happen? Paul goes on to explain it. The Holy Spirit moves within us, even before we are “saved,” and regenerates and renews us. He opens our eyes and ears to the things of Jesus Christ, and leads us to repent of our sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Thus begins our journey of dying to ourselves daily, carrying our cross, and following him. So then, once we are justified by Christ, on the grounds of his atoning blood which was shed for us, we are free to live for him, being sanctified daily by the Holy Spirit. We begin recognizing our sinful, natural ways, and turn from those by relying more and more on the Spirit, becoming God-dependent, and we can then be the picture of Christlikeness shown in the first verse of our passage. By this process, we can be submissive to rulers and authorities, obedient, gentle, peaceful with others, and courteous. By sanctification we are brought to be more in step with the Spirit, and more pleasing to our holy and merciful God. How to we live as Paul described in Titus 3:1-2? We must die to ourselves, rest in God’s salvation of us, and rely on the Holy Spirit’s help.
Soli Deo Gloria.