“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 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. These, then, are the things you should teach.” (Titus 2:11-15)
Like Timothy, Titus was faced with a monumental task. Paul had left him with the people of Crete, and while the Holy Spirit had begun to work in their hearts, it was evident that the “raw material” was, well…it needed some work.
However, Paul was confident that the people of Crete were in good hands. Oh, Titus was certainly a very capable leader. He was entrusted with several important missions in the New Testament, and Paul had a great deal of faith in his abilities. But it wasn’t Titus that Paul was trusting to shape the hearts and lives of these new converts, it was the Potter Himself – the Lord God Almighty.
Titus was working with men and women, young and old, who were used to a rather ungodly way of life. The darkness of the society from which they were coming made the road of sanctification long and arduous. And yet, this very darkness would allow the light of the Gospel to shine forth from each of them all the more brightly by contrast as they were changed and renewed by the grace of God.
The reason Paul was able to have such confidence in “drill sergeant” Titus was that he knew that Titus understood the crux and impetus of the Lord’s training regimen. Titus was there for two purposes: 1) to share the Word of God so that those who heard it might be redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and 2) to train these “new recruits” in righteousness and godliness so that they could be effective witnesses to those around them who remained yet in darkness. Thankfully, Titus knew the importance of putting “the horse before the cart” so to speak – he understood that any change or purification was a result of God’s free grace, unlike those who were still preaching that God’s favor was gained by first amending our outward lives.
Why was this spiritual training program so important for these poor Cretans? After all, if they were saved by grace through faith and not by their own works, why did it matter if they underwent such “purification” at all? First of all, this change in their hearts and lives would be a natural response as a result of receiving God’s mercy. It’s sort of like when you turn a four-year-old loose at the playground and tell her to “Have fun!” as if you could really stop her from having fun it that situation. In the same way, when God freely bestows His grace upon us and we see all of our sin and wretchedness being washed away, the new man cannot be restrained, but breaks forth and serves the Lord in gladness.
And yet, Titus is instructed to remind these men and women of Crete what might be riding on the example of their good works and godly lives. Again and again, Paul reminds Titus that the reputation of Jesus’ Gospel is at stake in the model of Christian life: “…so that no one will malign the word of God” (2:5); “…so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us” (2:8); “…so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (2:10); “These things are excellent and profitable to everyone” (3:8).
So no, we do not perform good deeds, speak in kindness and compassion, and serve in humility for the sake of our salvation. We do these things for the sake of the Gospel message and the salvation of those around us, that through our example their hearts may be softened and plowed, ready to receive the miraculous seed of God’s Word and produce a harvest of saving faith. That is both the reason and goal of our spiritual training here on Earth – may this training enable us to be always ready for service to the glory of our Lord and Savior.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant that all new warriors of Your faith may be trained and equipped for service and evangelism, inspired to serve You solely out of love and thanksgiving for Your great gift to us. Help us to be Your faithful ambassadors here on Earth, that we may prepare the hearts of men for the Gospel which we sow; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.