This is our final day looking at Paul’s letter to Titus. It follows on directly from yesterday (Titus 3:1-5) when Paul reminds us to live as model citizens of our world, interacting with the wider society considerately and gently – after all, it’s only by God’s mercy that we’ve been saved from their hopeless state before God. This salvation was entirely the work of God, not deserved by us, and brought about by the cleansing of the Holy Spirit – a spiritual “rebirth and renewal.” This Spirit, says Paul, is the one:
Titus 3:6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
This an Old Testament expectation of the age to come. (E.g. Joel 2:28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people….) It links the actions of God (who does the pouring, if you trace the grammar back to verse 4) with the actions of Jesus (through whom the Spirit is poured). It gives us a glimpse of the Trinity working together in the story of salvation.
The end result of this is:
Titus 3:7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
By this process, God has declared us to now be right with him (as opposed to the situation the rest of society is still in, see verse 3), so that we become heirs. That is, we share in the inheritance promised to God’s people through the ages.
And, unlike the false teachers, this word can be trusted:
Titus 3:8 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.
In fact, the trustworthiness of this message is yet further motivation to live in light of it! This is the sort of teaching that’s excellent and useful. Again, unlike the useless teaching of the false teachers, of whom we spoke last week, and Paul again reminds Titus to avoid:
Titus 3:9-10 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
(This is more evidence that the false teaching involved a fusion of Greek speculative philosophy with Judaism, as we discussed last week. The “genealogies” may refer to the speculative re-tellings of Old Testament stories, along with additional, made up stories that were popular among Greek-speaking Jews. See Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, p.795.)
He tells Titus not to get sucked into their debating games, but simply to warn them:
Titus 3:10-11 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Confront false teachers about their behaviour, but avoid being dragged into their “playgrounds.” Have an initial confrontation, but don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked indefinitely. Refute them with the God’s authority by all means, but don’t become just another “player” in a useless debate which distracts from the main tasks of ministry.
The remainder of the letter contains personal instructions that have little specific relevance to us:
Titus 3:12-15 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. 15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.
What we do have here is a small insight into how the Gospel was spread. Zenas and Apollos (presumably the well-known Apollos who turns up in Corinth, see 1 Cor 3:4; Acts 19) were travelling, presumably en route to evangelise elsewhere. They were most likely the ones who took the letter from Paul to Titus, and Paul’s instructions are (couched in the social code of the day) to give them accommodation, then money for the next stage of their journey. This is one example of what it means to “do what is good” and provide for the needs of others, being “productive” for the kingdom.
To think about
You’re not normally called to house travelling evangelists and give them money to get to their next speaking gig. What ways are you emulating this model of supporting the spread of the Gospel message?