Lesson 19: "According to His Mercy He Saved Us" (Titus 3:5)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson # 19. We are ready to begin Titus chapter three. Up until now (I'm talking about ch. 1 & ch. 2); let me ask you: What has Paul stressed to Titus in this letter? Two things stand out in my mind, first Paul's emphasized "sound doctrine" and then (#2) "good works." The enemies of sound doctrine were the false teachers that Paul has alluded to several times. The foes of "good works" were simply the lax attitude and an omission of genuine effort on the part of the Cretan disciples themselves. Thus, part of the problem was somewhat external to these churches, while the other was basically an internal problem. Between these two extremes, Titus had been assigned a hard row to tend and a tender crop to harvest. Titus' duties were like hoeing a row of priceless vegetables in a weedy garden. First, the weeds and the insects (what we might call the externals) must be cut off and eradicated. Secondly, the tender vegetables of our imaginary garden must be nurtured and favored, i.e. internally pampered, nourished and induced to yield precious fruit. The gospel seed had been sown and the germ was budding forth in pale color and with a frail spirit; but, the potential was there. Now, how was this gardener servant named Titus to achieve the desired end? Well, he must go by the book. That book the apostle Paul wrote and which you have a copy in your hand, entitled: Titus. Let's read a few verses from chapter three. Are you ready? We'll begin with v.1 and we'll read down through verse eight. Here's what you must do Titus! Listen close! Let's read, beginning in 3:1, here we go: Titus! "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, showing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our saviour toward man appeared, 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 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."
O.K., Titus! Here is what it takes! This is what needs to be done and here is the desired end to be achieved. "The hope of eternal life" is our goal (v.7). Now, what is it that must be done, Titus? "Put them in mind to..." May I pause here just a minute? Please get a good grip on that phrase we just read: "Put them in mind to..." do so and so. Now, we'll get down to the what they must do in just a minute. However, before we get to that, let me ask you, What did Paul mean when he said: "Put them in mind to..." do so and so? How do you put another person in mind to do something? Well, that is easier said than it is done. It involves (first of all) the dissemination of information, i.e. what must be done. Secondly, it involves getting them to do it, once they understand what to do. What we might call motivation, if you will. It MUST BE done of their own free will and by their own volition. Thus, putting someone in mind to do something (as I said) is easier to say than to do, at least in most cases. However, to Titus' advantage (here), of course, was the fact these were Christians, i.e. disciples or baptized believers in Christ Jesus. Just how strong was their faith? Well now, that's another question. Titus was assigned to ordain some to be elders, who must "be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" you remember (1:9). Titus was to admonish the old men to "be sober, grave, temperate [and] sound in the faith..." you will remember (2:2). What about the old women? the young men? and the young women? and the slave? We've been through that! You must have a certain level of faith just to be a Christian. That's the first hurdle. Someone has said the Lord put baptism in the door of the church to keep the sinner out. It is very effective, you better believe it! He knew what He was doing! So, those in the church at Crete had been baptized into Christ, their sins were washed away (using Paul's figure of speech in Acts 22:16). Some, no doubt, had begun to focus in on heaven, living the Christian life, being faithful unto death (as Jesus said to the Christians at Smyrna, Rev. 2:10). Some, undoubtedly were motivated to a rather high degree and they understood the "hope of eternal life" (3:7) and were ready to practice what it took, sacrifice, service, dedication, worship, giving, learning, and teaching... they were ready, i.e. they were motivated. What motivated them? "The kindness and love of God our saviour..." (down in v.4). "Being justified by his Grace" (v.7). In these verses, Paul reiterates the gospel. Do you remember, back in Colossians, Paul restated the gospel. It may take you a minute to get it together; but, he restated the gospel again (right here) for the Cretans and for any who will read it. This restatement of the gospel is the motivator that Paul used to stir up the Cretans. It will motivate you! It motivates me! It will motivate anybody that really understands it and will take the time to consider it. There is power in the gospel (Rom. 1:16), there is power in the blood. It can cause a thief to return his loot. It is the difference in hope and no hope.
Now, back up just a minute and let's assume you are motivated to do it, i.e. you are willing to obey the gospel, live a faithful life and go to heaven. What does it take? What must these baptized believers in Crete do? Paul told Titus, "Put them in mind to..." To what? To #1, to #2, to #3, etc. There is a series of to's (in v.1 and v.2), do you see that? (1) Paul said: Titus, "put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers." (2) Titus, "put them in mind to obey magistrates." (3) Titus, "put them in mind to be ready to every good work." (4) Titus, "put them in mind to speak evil of no man." (5) Titus, "put them in mind to be no brawlers." Now, starting at the beginning, the first two in this series: "to be subject to principalities and powers AND to obey magistrates" means very simply to respect government, i.e. civil government. The apostle Paul went into more detail about this in Rom. ch. 13, if you remember. The first word here "principality" means a country, an empire or a kingdom. "Powers" of course has reference to civil laws and their enforcement. "Magistrates" is a reference to what we would call public officials. So, if you re-read these two verses, they say we must be subject to government, follow the rules of our land and be obedient to public officials. This is a Christian principle, the Christian attitude. Now, it goes without saying, that you cannot put these things before God. God comes first! However, very seldom if ever are we required by government to do anything that conflicts with faith in God, i.e. if you follow the rules of the Bible. Some try to make a big hoop where it is not warranted. This, by the very nature of Paul's admonition, is not permitted. Then (#3) Paul's third "put them in mind" is very general: "to be ready to every good work." Now, up front, let's get it straight, What is a good work? Well, that's a pretty general term...; but, you know what it means. Don't you? Anything that is right and anything that helps and encourages and accomplishes good, i.e. from the Christian point of view is a good work. Not every little tid bit, that might be called a good work, is spelled out in God's book called the Bible. Some things are left to our discretion and our good judgment. Our Lord Jesus, back there in the sermon on the mount asked this question: "What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" (Matt. 7:11) We know right from wrong, at least generally, don't we? In the next verse back there in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said: "Therefore!" What's "therefore?" i.e. based upon what has just been said (Jesus went on to say:) "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them..." If you have any trouble deciding what is right and what is wrong, you sure don't have any trouble deciding it when you are on the receiving end. Do you? Jesus said, that's the way you can tell. Turn it around and see how it fits when you are on the receiving end. This has been called the golden rule for many generations. And, Jesus went on there (Matt. 7:12) to say: "this is the law and the prophets." Or, we would say it (like this), this is the Old Testament. In other words, that principle is the essence of the Old Testament, i.e. the O.T. in a nutshell, that's the bottom line. Now, Paul said: Titus, "put them in mind to...be ready to every good work." If I may paraphrase: Titus, teach them the golden rule.
Some good works are left to our discretion, i.e. how we spend our time, how we spend our money and what will accomplish the most. Unfortunately, such opportunities can turn out to be a source of disagreement, bickering and a host of other little naughty, naughty no-no's. Especially is this true for those who glory in nit picking. Some years ago when I was preaching in Florida, there was a shopping center a few blocks from the church building where we assembled. One day in my office I got a telephone call from some lady at this shopping center. She wanted to know if any one from our congregation would volunteer to sell Bibles some place there in the shopping center complex. Now, she was probably a denominational of some kind, I never got into that. However, she went on to explain that for so many weeks, they had set up a table there in this shopping center and made Bibles available at cost, she emphasized that nobody profited from this, it was not being done by any denomination (she said), it was simply a way of making Bibles available to the general public at a reduced price. People from all walks of life were being encouraged to buy a copy and study the Bible. Now, I want to ask you: Was that a good work? Well, you might not answer the same way I would. You see, it involves discretion... it involves human judgment. I think now and I believed then, it was a good work. So, the next Wednesday evening I announced that volunteers were being sought for this purpose and offered to give the lady's phone number to anyone who would like to volunteer. One man (very outspoken) said, we can't do that! Because, he said, we would be promoting another organization. Well, now, if I had volunteered and sold a thousand Bibles, I would not have been promoting anyone else's religion. I may not have agreed in every detail with the person sitting next to me at that table. However, we agree on this much, more people need to read and study the Bible. And that's a pretty good start. It would have brought me in contact with people genuinely interested in the Bible, people willing to spend money to buy a copy. I saw it as an opportunity. The other man, I told you about, made hay out of that for months to come. He belittled the idea, he belittled anyone who would think of volunteering. Needless to say, no one volunteered.
I know, you can't do everything! Some people, like myself, didn't volunteer simply because they didn't have time. This is only an example. However, the Christian religion is both positive and negative. Some things are prohibited and some things are required and some things are left to our discretion. I've spent too much time here; but, Paul said, "put them in mind... to every good work." It should be part of our attitude, just like honoring civil government.
Alright, the last two of these ("put them in mind to" statements) involves: speaking evil of no man AND to be no brawlers. It doesn't take a PhD to understand that! "But," in contrast to that, Paul said, be "gentle, showing all meekness unto all men" (end v.2). That would make a good sermon title (wouldn't it?); but, I won't preach it here, I'll let you develop this one. I'm sure you could. Now, (v.3), why put them in mind to do this, Paul? Because, or for this reason, we ourselves at one time needed these very admonitions and some of us are not quite perfect yet. This would be a good time to take a little personal inventory, using these three verses.
However, in contrast to those former attitudes, the apostle says, our attitude should NOW be different. What brought about this change in attitude? (#1), "the kindness and love of God our Saviour...appeared" (v.4). (tt2) This is not something we accomplished on our own (v.5). (#3) It was by "his mercy he saved us," i.e. God's gift, it's a matter of grace and not of works. The word "love" (in v.4 the KJV) is translated "generosity" in some other translations. This word "love" (in v.4) is translated from a Greek word "philanthropia" from which we get the Anglicized word "philanthropy" meaning benevolence that benefit humanity. (#4) It was by the washing of regeneration, i.e. by baptism for the remission of sins, that we were made a new creature (II-Cor. 5:17) and by this baptism our conscience was corrected and renewed (I-Pet. 3:21). (#5) At the time of our baptism, the agency of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit) renewed or regenerated us spiritually such that we at that time became children of God (John 1:12). This had nothing to do with the fleshly birth, or our genetic pool, or of our intellectual capabilities. (John 1:13). (#6) Through this spiritual regeneration (called water baptism) we were "made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Or "we should be" heirs, (notice the way it is stated in v.7). If we have not been spiritually regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit, it is because we have not believed and submitted to baptism for the remission of sins. It is not because this gift is not available to us. The kindness of God our Saviour, Jesus Christ, His love and His mercy, has appeared to all men (end of v.4). This God "shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ" (v.6). Now, if you put this all together (v.4-5-6-7), you have a reference to the blood and death on the cross of our Lord and Saviour (Jesus the Christ) for our sins. His burial and His resurrection from the dead gave us "the hope of eternal life" (v.7). This is a restatement of the gospel (as defined in I-Cor. 15:1-4). Then (here in v.8), the apostle told Titus, "This is a faithful saying." In other words, Titus, this is dependable. It's true. The gospel saves. The blood of Jesus is now available to all mankind. Then, the apostle says, Titus, "I will that thou affirm [this] constantly." The gospel should be repeated over and over. Why Paul? "That they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works." Good works are important. "These things are good and profitable unto men." (end v.8). We'll pick up here in our next lesson, our last lesson on Titus. Until then, have a good day.