Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. 11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives. 15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
Titus is a book in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul to one of his dear followers and fellow workers named Titus. Titus’ job at the time the letter was written was to strengthen the churches and believers on the island of Crete. Crete was not known for being a Mediterranean island paradise, but was known as a home of “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). And that was just how they described themselves! It was into this interesting field of people that Paul had sent Titus and was now sending a letter.
OUR IDENTITY IN HIS ORDER
Paul instructs Titus to “remind the people” in verse 1 of some important facts about their character and their identity. As Christians, they are to do their best to be different than they once were when they were outside of God’s will. He makes quite a distinction between the characteristics of those outside of the family of God and His order and those who have accepted the gift of being a part of it. Just note the list of words he uses to describe those outside of Christ:
Deceived by passions and pleasures
Enslaved by passion and pleasures
Full of malice and envy and hate
The description that Paul gives to Titus about non-Christians would have made total sense to him. Remember, Titus was ministering to people whose claim to fame was being rough and uncultured and all-around despicable. Paul tells Titus that no one is exempt from having those characteristics. We all have temptation to be that way.
Verses 4-5 tell us that something happened to change all that and to change our identity. Paul says very specifically, “kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Jesus Christ made all the difference. Jesus always makes the difference. The picture we get is that Jesus is the Divine Philanthropist who came and shared His love with us and we did not deserve anything. Paul reflects that once Jesus saved us that our characteristics and identity changed from being foolish, disobedient, and all-around “Cretans” to being:
It is Jesus that has made the difference and has washed us new. Our identity is now rooted in Him. He has saved us and we are His. We are people who are committed to rebirth. That is who we are. We are people who are committed to renewal. That is who we are. We are people who are considerate of others and seek the best for those around us. We want to be humble and point people to God as the result of what we say and do. That is who we are.
ORDERS FOR US WITHIN HIS ORDER
Paul tells Titus and us right away in verse 8 that “those who have trusted in God” (that is us) must be “careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Paul not only identifies who is part of God’s Kingdom, but shares with us some actions. He gives the directions for action and inaction. Avoid controversies. Avoid arguments. Avoid useless things. Avoid divisive people. Those are our marching orders. We are to devote ourselves to what is good and of benefit to those around us. 3 key words jump out at me:
The first is Devote. The word “devote” is only used 11x in the Old and New Testaments and 2 of those occurrences are in Titus. In 1 Chronicles (22:19), 2 Chronicles (31:4), Job (11:13), Jeremiah (30:21), and Micah (4:13) all have the object of devotion as God. 1 Corinthians (7:5) and Colossians (4:2) have as the object prayer. 1 Timothy (4:13) admonishes others to devote themselves to God’s Word. And the two uses in Titus 3 tell us to devote ourselves to doing good. Based on how the word “devote” is used elsewhere in Scripture, it would seem it is a word that denotes a high calling for a worthy object. “Doing good” is a worthy object of our devotion.
The second is Excellent. I would hope that we as a Body of Believers are committed to doing things with excellence. Everything we do is done for the glory of God and should be done with excellence. Excellence is our goal. Excellence is the bar that is set for us. Paul says elsewhere in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.” Paul also describes the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13 as the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). I would hope that our orders for excellence would describe for us the amount of effort we should put forth and the criteria by which we judge ourselves.
The third is Profitable. The sense we get is that devotion and excellence in life as we live out God’s order brings about advantage for others. It allows others to benefit from our efforts. In everything we do, we should ask “Who will profit from this?” That is a good guiding question when spending time, energy, money, spiritual gifts, and effort to do good. We should not do things to benefit ourselves and to give an advantage to ourselves, but the verse clearly says “profitable for everyone” (verse 8). The other sense I think we get from this word and from the other two key words is that believers in Jesus Christ should be taking the lead when it comes to good works. The end result is that when you hear about a family being provided for in the community… a church should be behind it. The end result is that when you hear about a church running a program or doing something… that you know it will be done very well. The end result is that people in need benefit no matter who they are or what they look like or what the cost… but that God gets the glory and people are provided for.
OUR OVERALL GOAL
The goal of anything is what must be accomplished. It is the end. It is the completion of the task. I could make this more complicated than it needs to be, but the goal for us as Christians, of those who are committed to Him, is that good is produced from our words and actions. Paul tells Titus in verse 14 “our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.” The goal is devotion to good for the provision of daily lives and productive lives. The goal is that we wage war against the evil and oppression in the world so that good is produced.