As I’ve noted already, Paul is driving a point home in Titus chapters 2 and 3: believers should be different from unbelievers in specific ways, and there’s a solid theological reason for that. In chapter 2 he speaks to specific groups of Christians; in chapter 3 he speaks to Christians in general. We’ve looked at two ways all believers should be different from the general population: in the way they treat the government, and in the way they treat all people, specifically including unbelievers.
He spends most of the rest of the chapter explaining why we should act this way. The core of his explanation is verses 3 through 7:
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Ti 3.3-7).
There’s a lot to digest here, but let me see if I can boil it down.
- We used to be just like everybody else: sinful, depraved, hateful.
- But now there’s a significant difference—a divine, infinite one. God himself loved us, and because he loved us, he showed kindness to us and in fact saved us, rescued us from all that nonsense, and gave us a new and different kind of life.
- He did this despite the fact that we didn’t deserve it. After all, we were just like everybody else.
- He has poured out his Spirit on us. We have God himself living in us, changing the very nature of who and what we are and the way we think.
- As a result, we have standing with God—we are his heirs, his sons and daughters—and we have a completely different outlook, being focused not on the here and now but on eternal life.
Well, that ought to make a difference in how we behave, shouldn’t it?
- It ought to keep us from being uppity toward those who are where we used to be.
- It ought to keep us from being proud of our wisdom or understanding or position, because he didn’t save us because of who we were or what we thought or did.
- It ought to make us mouthpieces for the Spirit of God himself.
- It ought to keep us from freaking out about present short-term controversies. Our words and actions should demonstrate the calmness and peace of long-term assured victory.
In the next paragraph Paul is going to make some final application; we’ll get to that next time. But in preparation for that, it’s time for each of us to take inventory and do some self-assessment.
- In what ways does my daily thinking, my view of the world and my life in it, reflect grace, mercy, and peace?
- What things make me angry and/or frustrated? Are they things of eternal significance or short-term irritations?
- If they’re of eternal significance, what is my frustration saying about the goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness of God, and my understanding and application of them?
- What people do I think I’m better or smarter than? What does that thinking say about me?
- Undoubtedly there are people I know who are troubled and looking for help. Will my public discourse make it likely that they will seek me out for that help? Will they expect grace, mercy, and peace from me?
Next time we’ll wrap this discussion up with a look at Paul’s closing comments in this epistle.