DUNCAN/Justified by grace, careful to engage in good deeds
Please turn to Titus 3:1-8. Paul has written this letter to exhort a local pastor in how to encourage his congregation to live the Christian life in the midst of a very immoral society. Paul wanted these Christians to live in such a way that their contemporaries would see evidence of the divine work of grace that God had done in their hearts setting them apart from the immoral culture surrounding them and bearing a sweet witness to God’s gospel in Jesus Christ. First, in verses 1-2, Paul encourages Titus to exhort the Christians in Crete to obey their civil authorities and to be kind to all people. Then, in verses 3-7, he provides an explanation for why they should heed the exhortation to behave towards civil authorities and towards their neighbors in the way that he exhorts them to behave. Finally in verse 8, Paul reiterates that the statement he has just made in verses 5-7 is a faithful saying. In other words, he tells them that it is a biblical truth that had become well known in all the Christian churches.
I. Paul’s Exhortation to the Christians in Crete.
In verses 1-2, Paul says, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” This is an exhortation to the Christians in Crete to obey and respect lawful civil authority and to be kind to their neighbors, especially their unbelieving neighbors. In other words, Paul is saying, “Remind these Christians not to forget their duty here on earth. They are to be good citizens and good neighbors even as they are members of the heavenly kingdom.” In fact, Paul lays out specific civic virtues for these Christians.
First of all, he encourages them to be outwardly respectful of the lawful commands of lawful rulers and authorities. Next, he says that these Christians in Crete are to be inwardly willing and obedient to the particular commands of that government. And then he begins to speak of their behavior in relation to all men. They are to be ready for every good deed. Thus, they are to show a spirit of love and cooperation and a readiness to do good to their nonbelieving friends. They are also to malign no one. That is, they are not to revile or insult or abuse with language those who are unbelievers. Furthermore, they are to be peaceable. Insofar as it is up to them, they are to live in harmony with those who are nonbelieving neighbors. Furthermore, they are to be gentle. That is, they are to be genial and ready to yield personal advantage for the sake of others. And finally, they are to show every consideration for all men. He wants them to display generous, indiscriminate kindness to their neighbors. Paul wants to see these virtues displayed in the lives of these Cretan Christians in order that they would adorn the doctrine of God their Savior.
II. Paul’s Motivation for His Exhortation.
Paul not only has this exhortation for these Christians in Crete to be ready for every good deed, but he also tells them and us why. Why should we live this way toward civil authorities and towards our neighbors? In verse 3, Paul says, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” If we say, “I’m not going to live with this kind of kindness and generosity towards the world because the world is sinful. The world is wicked. The world is filled with wrongdoing.” Then, in verses 4-5, Paul responds, “when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” In other words, God has dealt with us not according to what we deserved, but according to His mercy. Therefore, we must deal with our civil rulers and unbelievers around us not as they deserve but on the basis of mercy because that’s how God has dealt with us.
Paul also makes it clear that the way we are able to do this is by the power of God at work in us. Specifically, Paul says that God saved us according to His mercy “by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” We have been justified by God’s grace but we have been transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in us so that we might, in love, respond in kindness toward those who are in civil authority over us and toward those who are our neighbors who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul is calling on us to remember God’s kindness to us and to emulate that in our dealing with our fellow men.
III. Paul’s Reiteration of Truth in the Christian Life.
And then in verse 8, Paul draws his conclusion. If we understand his exhortation, if we understand the motivation for why we ought to relate to our neighbor this way, here’s the result: “so that those who believe God may be careful to engage in good deeds.” Now listen closely to what Paul has said there. Paul is not saying, “If we will believe on God and be careful to do good deeds, we will be justified. We will be forgiven. We will be accepted. We will be acquitted by God.” He is saying that God has saved us by His mercy. God’s saving of us is not based on our being good. It is not even based on the good deeds that we will do because of the Holy Spirit working in us. Having been saved by God’s mercy through Jesus’ work, we are saved in order to do good deeds. They are the result of the work of God’s transforming grace in us. And so the Apostle Paul is saying, “The result of the Holy Spirit’s work, the result of God’s merciful salvation in us will be that we will be very careful to engage in good deeds.” In other words, we will delight in doing what God wants us to do. We all face the challenge of bearing a faithful, truthful, loving witness in our lives and in our words to an immoral society and an increasingly anti-Christian culture. How will we do it? Paul gives us the answer right here in Titus 3:1-8. May God bless His Word in us so that we would adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.