The book of Titus is full of ways for us to live out ‘The Good Life’. The motivation for this – the Son of God who died for our redemption. He saved us. Christianity is not merely rules to be followed but, instead, joy to be found. Chapter 3 sees the shift from our duties in the church and the home, to how we conduct ourselves around humanity and within our culture. Our responsibility for the world: is to instruct others in the way of truth because we were once without God ourselves. Without a personal experience of salvation, we lack the right to instruct others, but because of the joy to be found in the transformation of our lives through Jesus, we can share the good news with others and lay out the grounds of Christian doctrine, which is salvation through the trinity. This is what verses 3-8 are about and what we are going to explore.
Now I’m sorry to stereotype, but I’m going out on a limb here to say as women we love cake. So… what better cake to ‘make’ than a salvation cake, because Christianity is all about salvation!
There are some ingredients we are going to need and of course the method, but these should help us to grasp the powerful message that Paul was reminding us about in his letter to Titus.
The first ingredient:
1. Facing the truth about ourselves – The need for salvation
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)
Why do we need salvation? It is explained fully here in verse 3.
We were: Foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, envious, full of malice, hating each other. It paints an unsavoury picture of us as people before we had Christ. This picture is the image of human life without grace. It describes our brokenness and rebellion in our lack of relationship with God.
So what does it mean to have a personal rebellion towards God? To be foolish and disobedient shows we were mentally and morally depraved. Our relationship with God was a mess. A fool is referenced as someone who doesn’t live as though there is a God. Ignoring God. Ignorant of the true purpose of life. Maybe in the case of having idols: work, other relationships, hobbies, money, maybe other beliefs? To be disobedient is to reject God’s rule and we want to run own life. Guilty! Many times I ‘forget’ to take things to God. Try to fix things on my own first. Or maybe we know that we don’t actually want to follow certain aspects of Christianity. Some things the bible says we may think is a little old fashioned. What’s the harm of getting drunk with your friends once in a while, we’re in safe company. Surely that makes it OK??? Why deny yourself the pleasure of lust? Why not go ahead and get that harmless luxury? We repress the conscience within us, ignoring it and living the life we want.
The list goes on. We were ‘deceived and enslaved’. We allow ourselves to reason, excuse various passions. Without God we were at the beck and call of sinful desires. The enemy takes pleasure in this and blinds us and takes us captive. We were slaves to him, but also slaves to our own sin. Trapped by the habits that we choose. Enslaved, is such a powerful image. To be a slave to something is hard work, torturous, relentless, it has control of you. Whilst the sin itself may come easy, the consequence of sin is painful. The enemy is quick to prowl and bring us down, he will rejoice in doing this. At the same time we can’t disregard our own responsibility of sin and saying no to it.
And if these qualities weren’t bad enough, our relationship with others was disruptive. Paul states we were full of ‘malice’ and ‘envy’. Wishing evil and resenting the good, fed by personal jealousies and ambitions and then ‘hate’. Having hostility towards each other and not wanting to do good to them.
What an ugly picture we have been. It is clear when we see a list like that that there was a fracture in our relationship with God, but also with everyone else too. Our choices have created patterns of personal behaviour that enslave us. No wonder we needed saving.
But how can we go from that life to another? We can’t just exchange addiction for freedom on our own. It doesn’t work like that, especially as we were blind to needing to be changed in the first place. We need someone to save us. To rescue us. The answer is in verse 5: “he saved us”.
Look what we brought to the table in verse 3. We brought nothing good! We faced condemnation, judgement and death. But, “he saved us”. Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Because of the knowledge and understanding of God saving us from our own selves, it should give us the confidence to share this good news with others, as we come from a personal experience of salvation.
The second ingredient:
2. The heart of God – Where salvation originates
Today’s culture and society promote ‘self’. It is all about my feelings, how I experience the world, I’m looking for my inner peace to explore who I really am. And in case you were trying to justify how God works, the natural instinct of unbelievers is to try and work out God’s love based on works itself and we know this isn’t right, based on our previous studies. We may try and think what we have done or we can do to be accepted. BUT if we really were enslaved/deceived like in verse 3, there is no way we could save ourselves. Thankfully there is hope which comes from the very heart of God.
QUESTION: What makes God’s love so incredibly wonderful? Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 5:5-8; Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 John 4:9-11
The Bible is full of examples of God’s love and we know these are just a few examples that show us the true heart of God. So now we have that background, lets look at what Titus has to say about the heart of God and how that contributes to our salvation… Verse 4 states:
“When the kindness and love of God our saviour appeared…” (Titus 3:4)
Now we have already read and studied about the grace of God appearing in previous sessions. We know the appearing if referencing Jesus Christ. Douglas J.W. Milne explains it in a powerful image using 2 Timothy 1:10 as his guide: ‘When everything on the human plane was pitch-dark and hopeless, the God of love burst into the darkness of this world in the person of his earth-born son, in a definitive moment of divine epiphany.’ Jesus burst through the darkness of our sin and in his amazing love, came to save us. That is the heart of God.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3: 4-5a)
Let’s bear in mind verse 4 comes directly after the hideousness of verse 3. God’s kindness was given to a world that was so undeserving. Whilst we were selfishly indulging thinking of no one else, the generosity of God was afforded to us. Kindness is the idea of being generous toward someone who cannot pay it back, he is lifting off the ‘fee’ that we owe, even though we are ungrateful and wicked. This kind of kindness that Paul refers to is a divine quality that completely contrasts the despicable behaviour and traits people display in verse 3.
God’s love was the concern for all of us. Reflecting back to Titus 2:11 it states, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people”. Again, this is God’s true heart revealed: ALL PEOPLE! There is enough love for us all! How do we know God truly loves us? Look at how he sent his only beloved son to earth, to live as a human, to die as a criminal to wipe OUR slates clean. We couldn’t possibly bring anything to the righteousness of God. We couldn’t cross ‘that line’ because we were evil. Before reconciliation between us and God he had to deal with our disobedience, our rebellion. Verse 5 tells us, God had mercy on us. But he didn’t just HAVE mercy, he ACTED on it. Mercy led Jesus to the cross, which is where salvation flows. God couldn’t turn a blind eye to sin. To our sin of verse 3. It HAD to be punished. But God’s mercy and love and kindness dealt with it through Jesus at the cross, knowing we could never pay for it.
There is nowhere in these verses that tells us of anything we have done. It is all God and Jesus. And in case we were still wondering if we have managed to tick some sort of box of our own salvation, Paul makes that part clear too in verse 5: “he saved us not because of the righteous things we have done,” (Titus 3:5). NOT OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Paul reminds of us this for three reasons: 1) Clears the grounds for declaring the true basis of salvation; 2) Restates that God justifies the ungodly; 3) Highlights/reminds the notion supposing Paul, Titus, Cretan Christians, the Corsham Christians occupy high moral ground from which to look down on others around them. No one is different from the worst Cretan. (Eddie has mentioned several times about how he is as bad as Hitler. And whilst our human limitations feel that this is an extreme thing to say, in terms of Christianity, we are only made righteous through God. Nothing we have done. So he is right, without him, we are sinners, we are the worst sinners we could think of).
Paul is clear that it is ‘not our righteousness’ when he writes in Ephesians: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—.” Ephesians 2:8
We must remove faith in ourselves and just have faith in God. These verses remind us that he reached out to us, way before we reached out to him. He saved because of his mercy, that is our true hope. We receive salvation completely undeserved – it is by grace alone. That is the very heart of our God and is a complete contrast to our hearts of verse 3.
So, we have our mixture of ingredients, our sinful selves and the heart of God. Now we need to make the cake. But here is the beauty of it (because I am certainly not very good at making cakes), God provides the method, he turns the ingredients into something good!
3. The free gift – How salvation comes to us
“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 Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5b-7)
So how are we saved? Loving kindness and mercy of God took Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins, but it is only ‘through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit’ that changes our being, that cleanses our hearts to make us new, to literally give us a new birth. It is the Holy Spirit who applies God’s saving mercy in Christ directly onto us in the event of Spiritual rebirth. It washes our hearts leaving us holy and pure, one that is fit for the indwelling of God in the form of the Holy Spirit. We are made right, we are made righteous.
The simple imagery of the water washing us like we would to get the dirt of our outward bodies, is the powerful imagery used to describe the washing of the very souls of us. This same notion is in John 3 where Jesus himself is explaining this transformation: Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’” (John 3:5-8)
Thinking back to verse 3 and the life we were once guilty of and remember how you can’t just exchange one life for the next. It was God who saved us through this transformation, through being born again into a new body that now has the Holy Spirit in it. The ‘rebirth’ is literally a new creation. It is an individual experience for us all. God hasn’t just repaired the brokenness, but has made us new! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus.
And look how it was given to us: ‘he poured out generously.’ Has anyone ever had a really bad shower experience? I mean, I love my shower. To get 5/10mins of alone time in the shower really is luxury, but as it has to be a quick shower before I’m needed to solve a toddler dispute, wipe a bum or provide a much needed snack that can’t wait an extra minute or two, I really need the shower to be powerful. So have you ever got into a shower, excitedly anticipate the warm embrace of the water pouring over you only to turn on the dial, but instead of the powerful stream of water you’re expecting, you get a slow, lukewarm trickle which splatters parts of your body. You’re left more cold than if there was no water at all and you’re disappointed! And if you’re like me, you’re stressed as the ‘ticking time bomb’ of children will explode at any given minute! Now, I’m pleased to say that is the complete OPPOSITE experience that our loving Heavenly Father gives us. Praise God the renewal of the Holy Spirit is not like this. It doesn’t come in dribs and drabs, it is ‘poured out generously’. When I think of it I think of a powerful waterfall. The heaviness of the water completely washing out anything nasty left inside. It is a full stream of renewal. So when the guilt or questions creep in, ‘Maybe that sin was just too big; I knew what I was doing when I committed this sin, but did it anyway; God can’t forgive that or renew that part of me,’ tell Satan to be quiet and get behind you as the promise of God is that we are a complete new creation. ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!’ (2 Corinthians 5:17) That is our confidence! That is our assurance. So through the renewal and rebirth of the Holy Spirit, we become new people. New hearts. New loves. New desires. How awesome is that?
As a small, but significant aside I just want us to take a few moments to look at Paul’s word ordering in this section. We often think of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But in this instance Paul changes this order. It starts with the mercy of God the Father, it ends with the grace of God the Son and in the middle it is the renewal of God the Spirit. So why is this? We know God sends Jesus, but remember back to verse 3 and how we were ‘enslaved and deceived.’ Left to our own devises we don’t recognise Jesus or His grace. There has to be some sort of inward change in us first, to SEE his beauty, to experience His grace.
Some statements which might have rung true to us when we first became Christians: ‘I believe the Bible is true’; ‘I’ve seen the lives of Christians and I’ve heard the message of Jesus so I’ve decided to follow him’; ‘I love God because of all that he’s done for me so I’ve decided to be baptised’. These are all great statements and true statements BUT in every case, there has to be something going on beforehand. Because remember it isn’t about what WE have done, but GOD. Tim Chester explains, ‘Our experience of God begins with the Father’s merciful initiative. In His mercy he sends the Spirit to open our blind eyes and renew our dead hearts so we recognise Jesus. Only then do we see the death of Jesus as God’s victory and the shame of the cross as God’s glory.’ The spirit has opened our eyes to see and ears to hear the awesome news of Jesus. So in His kindness and love God has provided every step of the way for us. And that is him making our cake. The cake of salvation has almost been completed, but now is time for decorating it and putting the cherry on the top and this is where we see:
1. The evidence of salvation
And the good news continues! “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 Saviour, so that (verse 7), having been justified by his grace…” (Titus 5b-7)
Salvation means more than an inward rebirth and renewal. It also includes having been justified by his grace. So what does this mean for us? It means we have been declared right! The charge for us was: foolishness, disobedience, envy, malice etc. We should have been found guilty. However, having been justified because of Jesus taking our punishment on the cross, the sentence WE deserve is passed onto him. We are no longer condemned, but instead justified. (Parking ticket story when Emmy was a baby. Parked on double yellows, I had my reasons, but I still did what I shouldn’t. I needed compassion from the attendant, but didn’t get it. I got the ticket I deserved. BUT Jesus did ‘tear up’ my ticket for the wrongs I knowingly committed, unknowingly and the ones that are still to come. He took away my shame and my wrong doing even though I deserved the fine/punishment. That is our compassionate, kind, loving and merciful God).
So the renewal of our bodies, being made righteous through the indwelling power of his Spirit and the justification through Jesus bearing our sin at the cross, go hand in hand. And why does He do all this for us? His love continues: so we ‘might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.’ The gifts are endless. Justified. Renewed. Adopted. We have the highest privilege anyone can receive, to become God’s daughters. This inheritance is the future hope. The kindness of God has not only saved us from something, but for something: eternal life with Him, a time when limitations and weaknesses of human flesh will be swallowed up by life in full splendour of the resurrection glory.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in Heaven for you –“ (1 Peter 1:3-4)
And that’s it. Our cake is finished! We’ve had the ingredients: our sinful hearts and God’s heart of pure love. Then God has done the making and mixing of the cake for us – doing all the hard work by making us new and giving us a new life. Then finally dressing our cake in righteousness and justification. It looks good enough to eat and here’s the great news, good enough to share with others! Because it isn’t us who made it in our own strength, it is God. He poured in his merciful heart and made it how he first intended. Our cake is equipped – we are equipped!
And finally: This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)
QUESTION: ‘How can we practically “stress these things” in our conversations and lives in order to motivate each other to do what is good?’
We are responsible for living the life of obedience, with the constant renewing thoughts and purifying of our inclinations of our will through the work of the Holy Spirit. We know God hasn’t saved us because of the righteous things we have done, however Paul now insists as believers we must devote ourselves to doing what is good. This is the good life we have been referring to in the Titus studies this year. It is the fruit and evidence of our salvation. We are equipped and ready to go into the world because we have an agent to guide us, the Holy Spirit, and because we have gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made at the cross, and because we have a love for God who had mercy on us when we didn’t deserve it. We now have new loves and desires, the result of a divine adoption and this should empower us as Christians today in Corsham as it should have empowered Titus and the Cretans, to trust God for their future in the face of the possibly discouraging social situations they/we face. We want to see others saved, to experience the same joy we have experienced and to have fellowship, doing ‘good works’ with those who were once estranged from God also.
He saves us. The Trinity together secures our salvation: God the father in his love and kindness took the initiative; Jesus Christ the son enacts salvation through the cross because our wretched hearts couldn’t pay the price; and the Holy Spirit applies salvation to our broken selves making us new, making us righteous and allowing us to have eternal life. How great is our God?!
1. There is NOTHING more he could have given. He gave himself, he gave us his son (v.4) and poured out Spirit (v.6)
2. There is NOTHING more he could have done. He justified us at no cost to us, but at a great cost to himself. He then gave us a new birth and continues to renew us (v.5)
3. There is NOTHING more he could have promised. He has promised us eternal life in a world reborn (3:5-7), saved us to become heirs (v.7).
He saves us.
And my final, final thought, because this was/is helpful for me to remember and I want to share it with you:
Past – justified, regenerated, renewed
Present – ‘good life’. New life. To do good works in the power of the Holy Spirit
Future – secured inheritance of eternal life
Prayerful response: Praise – thankful hearts for all He has done; Confidence – salvation rests on what God has done, not on what we do; Humility – we have contributed nothing; Love – love God for his kindness to us and therefore do what is good