Questions: Why should we submit to the authorities? What has God done to earn our obedience? What have we done to earn His mercy? What have we inherited? How should it be manifest? What must we avoid? What does it mean to be fruitful?
“Read More” to pursue answers from Titus.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
I must say, this “anti-macho” advice to (apparently) pursue social conformity seems a bit wimpy — especially from someone who is trying to start a revolution! Given all the evils in Roman society, which isn’t he encouraging at least a little civil disobedience?
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another.
Ouch. I guess that’s always the problem with revolutions — it is so easy to focus on the evils of others we forget our own propensity towards evil. Thus, Paul is trying to foment a different kind of revolution — one where we swallow our pride and focus on building our own character, and thus transform society from the inside out.
That’s a lot to ask — but God’s already give us far more:
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Not that we deserved it:
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is incredibly powerful, in a way that is difficult to put into words. I am reminded of Chesterton’s comment that “joy is the petty publicity of the pagan, but the gigantic secret of the Christian.” To be loved this way, to be healed and restored to right relationships, is a source of security and gratitude beyond all understanding. I don’t even feel worthy to comment upon it.
So I’ll just accept it at face value, and move on:
This is] a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Again, this to me is the test of sound doctrine. We need to affirm the essentials in a way that inspires people to good works, to that with “good and profitable” for others, not just ourselves. Paul has no patience for any theology that leads to detachment and disputation:
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
My heart wants to weep at the enormous amount of energy (and time, and money, and lives)we as a church have wasted on such fruitless strivings. We should be more forgiving of the sins of the flesh, yet stricter toward the sins of a proud spirit:
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
To be sure, he wants us to give fair warning, but not to indulge the quarrelsome. To be sure, this very strictness can lead to another kind of legalism. The key, I suppose, is to set the bar for humility and unity by our own example, so that we have the moral authority to judge those who are truly divisive (vs. merely inquisitive).
Perhaps that is why Paul values Titus so highly, and commends other such men to him:
When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.
It is an interesting sense of urgency; I wonder if this is more a stern command or just the plea of an old friend who’s longing for companionship.
And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
Presumably he is reminding Titus not just to take good care of Apollos and Zenus himself, but to train his congregation in the idea of hospitality. Certainly, seeing our possessions as gifts to be used in service to others can save us from materialism, workaholism, and laziness.
All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace [be] with you all. Amen.
God, forgive me for all the time I’ve wasted in fruitless disputes. Reawaken me to the incredibly joy of my salvation. Fill my heart with gratitude towards you for all that you’ve done. Remind me that it is not my works that brings your glory down on me, but that you use my works to bring your glory to the world. Make me a diligent disciple, that I not be unfruitful. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.