SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE
Titus 2 (CSB)
“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. 2 Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. 3 In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered. 6 In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled 7 in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 8 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us. 9 Slaves are to submit to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back 10 or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness, so that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works. 15 Proclaim these things; encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
Last week I began a short series of messages based on the book of Titus. When we examined Titus 1, we found that the missionaries had reached Crete with the gospel and had established congregations in various towns all over the island. But there were still some things left undone, so Paul assigned Titus to rebuke and silence the rebellious false teachers. Then he had to replace the false teachers with leaders who displayed godly character and were faithful to the truth.
What was at stake was the goal of the gospel itself. If left unchecked, false teaching can turn churches and communities against the gospel, and turn whole communities and nations into post-Christian communities. When that happens, what is left is a few words and traditions, but no true faith and therefore no hope of permanent life.
I think the message of the book of Titus is extremely important for our town, our county and state and nation and world today. We are much in the same shape as Crete was when Paul left Titus there. We are in danger of becoming post-Christian. We are in danger of keeping only the appearance of biblical salvation, but losing its reality. For that reason, we need to pay very close attention to this New Testament book.
Note first how this chapter defines salvation (11).
I titled today’s message “SALVATION FOR ALL PEOPLE” based on verse 11. I realize that the title needs to be explained. Paul did not teach universalism. Universalism is the view that eventually everyone is going to be saved. The Bible does not teach that. There will be a hell, and it will destroy all those who are not saved.
But Paul says that God’s grace has appeared, bringing salvation FOR all people. It will not bring salvation to all people, because many people will reject it. But the gospel message is for all people, and the offer of salvation is for all people.
Paul begins the sentence talking about the grace of God. That is always where the gospel message of salvation begins.
• “being justified as a gift by His grace” Romans 3:24.
• “For by grace you have been saved” Ephesians 2:5,8.
• “being justified by His grace” Titus 3:7.
When we talk about the gospel, we cannot begin anywhere else, because no one deserves the permanent life that God promises through Christ.
Paul’s point, then, when talking about God’s grace being “for all people” is that God offers his grace to all by virtue of the finished work of Christ on the cross. So, when we go out into our communities and share this gospel, we are to exclude no one. The gospel is not just for my kind of people, but for all kinds of people.
Jesus told us that. He said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He didn’t say “all English speaking nations.” He didn’t say “all developed nations.” He didn’t even say “all civilized nations.”
So, Paul sent Titus to proclaim the gospel among the Cretans, a people who even regarded themselves as “always liars, evil beasts (and) lazy gluttons” (1:12). The good news of the gospel is that God has no limit as to how far down he will reach to save us.
Now, note how this chapter explains the role of Christ in our salvation (13-14).
According to today’s text, Jesus Christ has three roles to play in the salvation that we have been discussing.
First, Jesus offers redemption. “He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (14a).
That is a reference to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. He was God’s sacrificial Lamb, given as a substitute for the sins of us all. I could not please God “just as I am” because my sins had separated me from the holy and righteous God. So I needed a redeemer, someone as pure as God is – his one and only Son.
Secondly, Jesus offers cleansing. He came “to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works” (14b).
In the Gospels, there were two groups of people who experienced cleansing from Jesus: lepers and those possessed by demons. Paul tells us that all believers have experienced the same kind of cleansing. He says in Ephesians 5:25-26 that Christ gave himself up for his bride “to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.”
Thirdly, Jesus offers glorification. Our blessed hope is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (13).
This is the ultimate experience of salvation. We have already been redeemed by the blood of Christ. We have already been cleansed so that we can draw others to Christ by our good works. But we have not yet been glorified. That experience awaits us when our Savior returns.
Next, note how this chapter shows that everyone in the Christian community can share salvation to all people (1-10).
The false teachings have done more than confuse people about what the gospel is. They have also resulted in the Christians failing to live like Christians are supposed to live. This is important because Jesus left us and went to heaven. He has left us as the only ones who can testify of the truth of the gospel.
• For the older men in Crete, that meant “to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance” (2b).
• For the older women in Crete, that meant “to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good” (3).
• For the younger women in Crete, that meant “to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands” (4b-5a).
• For the younger men in Crete, that meant “to be self-controlled in everything” (6-7a).
• For Titus, it meant making himself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in his teaching (7).
• For Christian slaves, it meant “to submit to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back or stealing, but demonstrating utter faithfulness” (9-10).
Everyone in the Christian community had a part to play in proving the validity of the gospel. Everyone was a link in the chain. If only one link failed, God’s word would be slandered (5). Every Christian in Crete had the responsibility to “adorn the teaching” (10). The Greek word Paul used for “adorn” is kosmeō (κοσμέω) – which means to decorate something so that it is beautiful and attractive. The word is related to our English word cosmetic.
Take a beautiful woman’s face, add good make-up, and you’ve got “wow!” Take a beautiful truth – like the gospel of Jesus Christ – add the make-up of Christian people “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way” and you’ve got a recipe for revival. God’s wonderful word is adorned by his obedient church.
Finally, note how this chapter explains how to draw all people’s attention to the gospel of salvation (12, 14).
How do we draw people’s attention to the gospel? The key (and our key verse for this series) is verse 12. We have “to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age.”
The word for “sensible” is σωφρόνως which means “marked by a serious awareness of responsibility.”
The word for “righteous” is δικαίως which means “being in conformity with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior.”
The word for “godly” is εὐσεβῶς which means speaks of a life lived “in a reverent relation to God.”
Now, if I come into my community determined to teach a set of religious doctrines and I fail to adorn those teachings by making myself “an example of good works with integrity and dignity” – nobody will care about what I teach.
Paul said something similar to the Corinthians. He said “If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). The Cretans were losing their members to false teaching. Why? Because the church was gonging the gospel. They were not demonstrating the truth by “living in a sensible, righteous and godly way.”
LORD, we are tired of gonging the gospel. Make us a church so filled with your love, wisdom, righteousness and godliness that we catch people’s attention. Then, when they are ready to know the reason we are the way we are, give us the wisdom to proclaim your gospel – a gospel which is good news because it offers your salvation to all people.