Day 333 – Thru the Bible
Today we read Titus. Here’s the overview video.
Video – Read Scripture: Titus
How does this video help you understand Titus?
Titus 1 – Elders exist on account of the gospel. Paul instructs Titus to “appoint elders in every town” who are upright men. The final, culminating mark of an elder is that he is someone who cherishes “the trustworthy word as taught”—that is, the gospel, with all the “sound doctrine” that unpacks the gospel. Elders are gospel men.
Paul identifies fallen humanity’s fundamental problem as a corrupted heart with distorted desires. Emphasizing ritual purity, food laws, and external conformity to the law does nothing to address the corruption of the heart. “To the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure”—that is, coercing a sinful heart into godly behavior does not make it pure (Matthew 15:11; Romans 14:17–20). The external conformity urged by the legalizers merely papers over hearts of idolatry (seeking to gain God’s benefits by human efforts).
Even worse, those with defiled hearts will try to use religious activities for their perverse ends, using religious accomplishment for self-justification, self-exultation, and self-indulgence. Such religion, Paul says, for all its lofty language, is “empty” and “deceptive”. Ironically, the false teachers share a fundamental union with those who act in lewd ways in that both live in and by the flesh rather than through hope in God’s grace.
How does this help you see that the Christian life is not primarily about better behavior, but a heart transformed by the gospel?
Titus 2 – Gospel change is best evidenced not by flamboyant religious ritual but in integrity, humility, kindness, self-control, patience, and consistency of character. These are the fruits of living in the hope of the gospel. This section of Titus is intended to contrast the lives of true Believers with those of the false teachers described in 1:10–16. Paul’s list of gospel “fruit” here, combined with his lists in other epistles, such as Galatians 5:22–23 or 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, makes plain that grace is not an excuse for sin. Godliness is not merely an option for Christians; it is essential. The rules do not change, but the reasons do, as love for the God of grace becomes the primary motivation of the Christian life.
Gospel change is from the inside out, not from the outside in. If the heart is healthy, fruit will come.
Godly behavior adorns the gospel, putting on display the beauty of Jesus’ character to the world. Godly behavior makes plain the difference between works-based “religion” that focuses on benefits for the practitioner and the gospel of grace that focuses on honoring (loving) the God who delivers from sin and its consequences.
Verses 11-14 are arguably the most concise explanation of gospel-centered living found anywhere in Scripture. “Self-controlled, upright, and godly lives . . . zealous for good works” are produced by embracing the grace of God. Spiritual disciplines, Scriptural memorization, and accountability structures have their place. But a profound encounter with the grace of the gospel is the only thing that can produce change at the level of our desires. The gospel produces such loving and longing for our great God and Savior Jesus Christ that we desire to honor Him with our lives. When that love and longing are present, godly behaviors follow.
The pastor’s role is constantly to hold up the good news of the gospel and to rebuke all beliefs or practices that contradict it. Because licentiousness (being free to sin) and legalism are both at odds with the gospel, gospel preachers can expect resistance from both. After all, Jesus’ crucifixion was a joint project between both pagan (Roman) and religious (Jewish) leaders.
How does this chapter reveal the true change we need to embrace (namely the gospel of God’s grace)?
Titus 3 – Three often overlooked evidences of gospel change are submissiveness, kindness in speech, and humility. These are qualities demonstrated more in the home than they are on the stage. If the gospel has not transformed us in these areas, we cannot claim to know anything of its power ( ; ; ). Again Paul is making a direct contrast between the lives of true Believers and false teachers ( ; ). Jesus’ disciples are “submissive” rather than “insubordinate”; “gentle” and “courteous” rather than “evil beasts” and “detestable”; “ready” for every good work rather than “unfit” for them; and they avoid “quarreling” rather than “quarreling about the law.” This is the fruit produced by the gospel of grace.
Note Paul’s use of the word “appeared” both in verse 4 and in 2:11–14. Jesus’ appearance among His people to display “the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior” is presented as the means by which His people are motivated “to devote themselves to good works.” Transformation comes from the “appearance” of the loving kindness of God our Savior to our hearts. He who saved us by a rich outpouring of His mercy and not according to our worthiness, becomes the passion of our endeavors. All true godliness is a consequence of understanding that God mercifully came and found us. He “appeared” to us. We did not, fundamentally, seek after Him.
This “appearance” not only removes the penalty of our sin, it liberates our hearts from “slavery to various passions.” Such a radical transformation fuels the good works that Paul so repeatedly calls for in this book. The point of Jesus’ coming was to make God’s grace “appear” to the hearts of hearers. Apprehending the grace of God creates in us a stronger desire for God that brings all lesser desires into captivity, what Puritan Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Standing in awe of what God has done for us will do more to transform our hearts than piling up good works in a subtle attempt to appease God.
Few passages in the New Testament better capture the totality of Christian salvation than verses 5-7. We are reminded that God and God alone “saved us,” not due to any contribution we make but solely due to His own mercy. We learn that this mercy gives us new birth, or “regeneration,” the total renewal of who we are by the Holy Spirit. We learn that this regeneration washes us—messy sinners get clean not by washing themselves but by being washed by the Spirit, poured out on us; we are reminded of the way Jesus in his earthly ministry cleansed, with a touch of his hand, those deemed dirty by society (examples Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:41). We learn that justification—being declared acquitted and righteous in God’s divine courtroom—is only “by his grace” and makes us not only righteous but heirs, with Jesus, of all things through the hope of eternal life.
Salvation through the gospel is a total salvation, and is totally by God’s own free grace, enabling us to live with a godly abandon—living as a reflection of Jesus without being intimidated by the world or enslaved by its motivations.
Throughout this letter Paul weaves together the indicative (the fact of our settled status in Jesus–our identity) and the imperative (commands about what we do for Jesus in response). Paul does not merely tell Believers to rest in grace; he urges them to strive for godliness. While our righteous standing before God has been settled, our living out our new identity is a lifelong pursuit.
To be sure, exhorting Believers to grow in godliness, as Paul does in his letter to Titus, can reinforce the Pharisee lurking in every human heart. Yet the answer to legalism is not to cease preaching Christian imperatives (what we do) but to ground them in the indicatives (who we are in Jesus) of the gospel. While our victory over sin will not make us any more acceptable to God, an acute awareness of God’s free acceptance of us in Jesus transforms the heart in such a way that we devote ourselves to godliness. Indeed, it is striking that Paul tells Titus to “insist on these things”—presumably the great salvation with all its dimensions outlined in 3:3–7—“so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” Gospel preaching leads to godly living.
Whereas the gospel produces humility, submissiveness, gentleness, and patience, religion (based on human motivations) produces quarreling, competitiveness, and division. Believers know they are not saved because of their righteousness but because of the unmerited kindness of God. We need constant reminders of this unmerited grace in every age lest we turn the very doctrines God intended to humble our flesh into mechanisms for its exaltation. The doctrines of grace are not intended to fill us with pride in our knowledge or privileges. Paul tells us to avoid those with a divisive, contentious spirit. Such a spirit harms gospel work, even if the doctrines held are correct ones.
Paul ends the letter by again admonishing the Believers to devote themselves to good works, a theme he has brought up repeatedly throughout this short letter (2:7, 10, 14; 3:1, 8). The church is, as Francis Schaeffer put it, God’s “demonstration community,” his “final witness” to the lost world.
Godly, generous behavior within the church is the best “advertisement” for the gospel. The situation with Zenas and Apollos provides an immediate, practical opportunity for Believers in Crete (where Titus was living) to engage in such works. We don’t need to look far for opportunities for good works; God has placed them all around us—in our families, neighborhoods, churches, schools, and workplaces.
How do you see the fruit of the gospel being exhibited in your life because of the grace of God?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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