The apostle Paul wrote a number of letters which appear in the New Testament. Some were addressed to churches and others were written to named individuals. Over the next couple of months we are going to look at Paul’s letters to two of his associates. Together these are known as the Pastoral Letters. They aren’t particularly manuals on pastoral matters but they are Paul’s instructions to his apprentices. Some scholars think that these letters were written much later by other people using Paul’s name. I am content with the view of the Early Church that the apostle Paul himself wrote them, close to the end of his life in the second half of the 60s AD. Next week we will move on to the first letter to Timothy but today we are going to start with the letter to Titus, a Greek Christian who Paul had left in charge of all the churches on Crete.
BIBLE READING Titus 2:11-15, 3:1-8
We can find the heart of Paul’s letter to Titus in chapter 2 verse 8.
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.
Paul wants Christians to live upright, holy and godly lives, devoted to doing good. Paul mentions what is good no less than 8 times in this short letter. God has saved all of us in order that we should do good. Doing what is good has at least two aspects. Doing good means doing what is right rather than doing what is wrong, living upright lives. And it also means doing good deeds, works of righteousness.
In most of his letters Paul roots his ethical teaching in theology, and the letter to Titus is no exception. At the end of chapter 2 in verses 11 to 14, which we just read, Paul explains why Christians should always do whatever is good. Paul says that these elements should be at the heart of Titus’s teaching to his churches.
2 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Paul begins by reminding us of the amazing grace of God and the wonderful salvation we have received.
Titus 2 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
It is by grace we are saved through faith. In chapter 3 Paul spells out how God’s grace works for our salvation. He begins where we all begin, cut off from God by our sin.
Titus 3 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.
That is how all people naturally live. The Message puts it this way.
3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
Paul had already talked in chapter 1 about how far people who don’t know God are away from God.
Titus 1 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
From birth, every one of us was living like that. But then Jesus saved us from ourselves!
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
It is by God’s grace we are saved. Not on the basis of any good works we might have done. They could never compensate for all our sins which separate us from God and only bring us judgment and death. We are saved by God’s mercy, saved by grace alone through faith alone.
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 Saviour,
So we are saved when God washes all our sins away and we are born again and renewed. God the Holy Spirit brings God’s life into our lives.
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
We are put right with God by his grace, justified, making things “just as if I’d” never sinned. And so we become God’s heirs, with the happy certainty of eternal life.
3 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.
Paul is reminding Titus, and us all, of God’s grace because God wants us to devote ourselves to doing what is good. God saves us because he wants us to enjoy a personal relationship with him. But God also wants us to do good. We said this a few weeks ago when we looked at the parable of the separation of the sheep from the goats. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. But saving faith is never alone – it is always demonstrated in good deeds. God’s grace calls us to live lives which are pleasing to God.
Back to Titus 2 12 It (God’s grace) teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
The new life we should live will have two aspects – the negative and the positive.
12 It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions,
Message We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life.
The Bible calls all believers to repent – to say no to sin and yes to God. Repentance has a positive side.
and (God’s grace teaches us) to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
That word self-control appears no less than five times in this short letter. Self-control is the ability to show restraint over one’s impulses, urges, emotions and desires. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God’s Holy Spirit gives us power, love and self-control. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit. Our lives should also be upright and righteous. And we should be godly, showing appropriate respect and reverence for God.
In these few verses Paul has listed a handful of motives for living this new and very different kind of life, devoted to doing what is good. Firstly, we are grateful for God’s grace which has saved us. Secondly, we want to obey God’s commands. But also, thirdly, we are living in the light of eternity. We are waiting for Jesus to return.
We live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ,
Like the good and faithful servant and like the wise virgins in Jesus’s parables, we live our lives in the light of the one certain event in future history – Jesus our Saviour is coming back in glory!
And we have a fourth motive for living self-controlled, upright and godly lives, full of good deeds. Because that is the purpose and destiny for which Jesus has saved us. He is
our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
God did not just save us from sin and wickedness. Jesus gave up his life to purify us, so that we could become God’s very own people, belonging to him. Our proper response is not only to do good deeds but to be eager at all times to do what is good!
As if four reasons weren’t enough, we just read a fifth in chapter 3 verse 8.
These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
We devote ourselves to doing what is good and to doing good deeds because in themselves these things are excellent and profitable. With all these motives, in the rest of this letter, Paul spells out what this kind of righteous and upright life should look like in practice. Titus himself should lead by example.
Titus 2 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
A church leader teaches as much by their example as by their words. They must be beyond reproach. Paul says much more about the qualities and qualifications appropriate for church leaders in Titus chapter 1 but we will look at that important topic in more detail when we come to it in 1 Timothy. For today we will jump to chapter 2 where Paul tells Titus what to teach as he gives instructions for different groups of people.
Titus 2 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
There are parallel instructions for older women.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
When they live like that the older women can then teach the next generation.
4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
How we behave affects not only our reputation but the reputation of the gospel and of God’s truth. There is just one overarching instruction for young men.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.
Self-control. Next Paul goes on to some instructions for how Christian slaves should behave.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.
Again Paul is concerned with witness – how Christians behave inevitably reflects on Jesus our Saviour. Going into chapter 3 there are some more concrete examples of how Christians should live.
Titus 3:1 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 always to be gentle towards everyone.
We must be ready to do whatever is good, peace-loving, considerate and gentle. Paul emphasises how important living it is for every Christian to live this new life to the full.
Titus 3:8 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.
Christians should love what is good. We should teach what is good. We should do what is good and our lives should be filled with good deeds. So the letter ends where we began and Paul hammers his message home like this.
Titus 3 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.
God calls us to devote ourselves to doing what is good.
Again, as we saw three weeks ago, doing what is good is often very practical. Providing for urgent needs – being productive. John Wesley’s Rule for Christian Living said., “DO all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can!”
We should be devoted to doing what is good. And we do all this in response to the exhortation which sums up the gospel and the call to holy living.
2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.