I am concluding my series based on the book of Titus today. Titus is an epistle, and we have seen that its words were first written by Paul to Titus as a sort-of instruction manual for the missions assignment in Crete. Titus was a younger missionary, and Crete was a hard place to plant the church, so Titus needed all the help and encouragement he could get.
In his epistle, Paul described what the church should be in that hostile environment. He described church members who were disciplined so that they set the standard for the community around them, and devoted to Christ and the gospel, so that the Cretens would know where the difference came from.
Here is my translation of Titus 3:
1 Keep reminding them to be submissive to their rulers and authorities, to obey them, to be ready to do every good work, 2 to insult no one, to be a non-combatant, to be gentle, and to demonstrate consideration of all people. 3 Because we ourselves were once stupid, disobedient, led astray, slaves to our lusts and various pleasures, spending our lives by being mean and envious, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness appeared from our Saviour God, 5 it appeared, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that having been declared not guilty by his grace we might become heirs, confident of inheriting eternal life. 8 The word is trustworthy, and I intend for you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are good and profitable for people. 9 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, arguments, and fights about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless. 10 As for a person who causes division, after warning him once and twice, refuse to participate with him, 11 since we know that such a person has been warped and is being sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, put forth your best effort to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Put forth your best effort to support and send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos; so that neither of them lacks the resources to join me. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so they can bring relief in these urgent cases, and not be unproductive. 15 The ones who are with me send greetings to you. Greet our friends in the faith. Grace be with you all. (Tit. 3:1-15 JDV)
Just as he did in chapter two, Paul sets the foundation for Titus’ ministry assignment in the gospel message itself. Nothing that Paul instructs Titus to do is arbitrary. Everything is based on what God had already done for us in Christ. Notice the elements of the gospel message here. In theological terms, incarnation, justification, regeneration and sanctification are all works of grace and they are the foundation of the church’s ministry.
Now, notice what Paul says the church in Crete should be doing because of what God in his grace had done for them. The faith that was given by God’s grace should produce a change in inner character and outer relationships.
Even in an environment known for its abuse of authority, Titus was to teach the Cretan believers to submit to those very authorities and obey them. The reason had nothing to do with the worthiness of the authorities. It had to do with the task of the church: to demonstrate God’s grace among the unbelievers. This was the reason that Christ submitted to the earthly authorities.
Also, in a world where you have to look out for number one or you will be stomped on, Titus was to teach the Cretan believers to be considerate and kind to others. Just like Jesus, who went out of his way to minister to the poor and marginalized, the church was to demonstrate God’s grace by being considerate of and kind to the unbelievers.
When it came top their relationships with each other, the church in Crete was to avoid division and promote unity. This was another way that they were to stand out among the various brawling groups in Crete.
We could all use a character makeover in the direction of mutual submission, consideration and unity. But this is especially true for members of Christ’s church, because that is how we demonstrate God’s grace within our context.
But let’s not forget the final words of Paul here in Titus. I know we need to be careful not to read too much doctrine into the travel arrangements that Paul is making for his fellow missionaries. But I see it as especially significant that Paul slipped so naturally into this subject while he was talking about demonstrating God’s grace as a church.
The missions mandate is present in every gospel presentation. It is part of every believer’s job description. The church is made up of those who serve as missionaries, those who send missionaries, and those who support the missionaries and missions work.
- The servers particularly implied or listed in this chapter are Paul, Titus, Artemas, Tychicus, Zenas and Apollos.
- The senders particularly implied or listed in this chapter are Paul and Titus.
- The supporters are Titus and the Cretan believers, whom Paul calls “our people” (14) and “our friends in the faith” (15).
Our church has a long history of missions involvement. We have those who have served, senders, and supporters. Jesus commissioned his apostles to make disciples of all nations, and we understand that commission as extending down to each disciple and each church. Our faith directs us into a relationship with God, and also devotes us to reaching others with the gospel.
So, there you have it. The little book of Titus in the New Testament. It turns out to be more significant that we might have thought. It challenges us to confirm what we believe by living up to the gospel, and by sharing it with others.