Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Titus
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. 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 Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things…”. Titus 3:4-8a
Paul is the champion of run-on sentences, and because of that it has been difficult for me to write about one verse from each of his Letters because within one sentence there may be four or more verses!! And that is the case of today’s sentence and a quarter!
It was during Paul’s first missionary journey that a young Greek man named Titus heard Paul preach and the Lord opened his heart to come to faith in Christ. We read in Galatians 2:1-4 that Paul went to Jerusalem to deal with a doctrinal issue, so he brought Titus with him to show the apostles and other Jewish believers how a Greek non-Jew could come to a loving salvation just as they did.
Titus continued to travel with Paul on his missionary journeys, and at one point Paul sent Titus to Corinth to alleviate some trouble there (2 Corinthians 7:6) and to collect money donated for the poor (2 Corinthians 8-9). Paul looked at Titus as not only a faithful friend, but a spiritual son because Paul led Titus to Christ. Eventually, after Paul, Titus and their other traveling companions traveled to the island of Crete, and after a while there were enough new believers to start a church there, so Paul had Titus stay there and pastor the church. It was during this time of Titus’ pastorate in Crete that he received this Letter from Paul to encourage Titus in his ministry.
At the start of the third chapter Paul encourages Titus with some pastoral advice about what to remind his congregation on a regular basis. He tells Titus to remind the church to obey their rulers and the authorities over them, to be obedient, do what is good and right; not to slander anyone; be considerate, gentle and peaceable to everyone they encounter. Then in verse three Paul wants to make sure that Titus reminds the church that before their conversion, they were stinkers – in other words, sinners deserving God’s wrath.
And then we have our verses that begin with a big BUT. Yes, they were lost and rebellious sinners BUT something very special happened to their spiritually dead hearts, and that’s what Paul writes in our verses for today. These verses are another amazing summary of the Gospel of salvation. The Gospel starts with us being lost – spiritually dead – enemies of the Lord God – and that’s what Paul described in verse three. But, the Lord in His mercy, love, and grace decided before the foundations of the earth were laid to do something radical about our lost condition. And what we need to remember as we look at these next verses, is that this – our salvation – is ALL OF THE LORD. I think it should be obvious by the words that Paul uses. Let’s look….
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared….”: We were spiritual dead – unresponsive to any good thing from the Lord – sadly and weirdly content in our spiritual bondage and sin – not desiring to be ‘saved’, since none of us even believed that we needed to be saved in the first place. So, our salvation had to be initiated by the Lord; He made the first and most crucial move towards us, and He did so because of His kindness and love. We read in Romans 5:8,
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We weren’t partially righteous, or had enough good in us to decide to follow Jesus; we were still sinners – dead and separated from the Lord when He died for us. So, you have to get that part correct right from the get go – the Lord came to us when we were dead, and He did so because of His kindness and love. And of course, notice that God is called God ‘our Savior’ – He saved us – we didn’t ‘help’ Him save us.
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done…”: Well, there you go – confirmation of what I just told you up above. The Lord DID NOT SAVE US BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAD DONE!! Sorry for the capital letters – I’m not mad at you – just trying to emphasize something EXTREMELY important. If the Gospel is presented to you, and you then think about it and decided ON YOUR OWN to ‘choose Jesus’, then isn’t that a RIGHTEOUS THING? I mean, c’mon! Why are you a Christian and your neighbor isn’t? Maybe your neighbor went to church with you the same day that you came to faith, and you ‘believed’ and he flat out rejected it. Why? Were you smarter? Wiser? More sensitive? If you say ‘yes’ then you just proved that you did something – did the MOST RIGHTEOUS THING POSSIBLE! You chose to humble yourself and repent and come to faith in Christ. That’s the BIGGEST decision that any human can make, so you just proved that you did the GREATEST thing EVER! I’m really into the capital letters here, AREN’T I?
So, the Lord didn’t choose us because we were righteous; did a righteous thing; or even because He saw down the corridors of time that you would become a Christian so He then saved you. Oh gosh, I’ll have to write another whole ‘insight’ about that silly logic. Suffice it to say for now that if the Lord ‘predestined, called, and saved’ you because He saw it happening in the future, then that means the Lord is a slave to an impersonal future ‘fate’ of some kind. God will be ‘forced’ to save you because He saw the future – a future that He has no control over. You don’t really believe that, do you? If so, then God isn’t sovereign – ruling over ALL things, hence God is not God.
“…but because of His mercy.” The Lord saved us because He wanted to show us mercy, and that mercy was shown when His Son Jesus Christ paid for our sins on the cross. Justice is getting what you deserve. Since all are sinners, then we all deserve eternal death – separation from the Lord forever. But because Jesus took our sins and the guilt of our sins upon Himself on the cross, then the just, righteous and holy wrath of God was poured on Jesus. Thus, our debt was paid and now the Lord can show us mercy. Mercy: NOT getting what we deserve. When you get the opportunity, read the first chapter of Ephesians….slowly….very slowly and deliberately. Oh, and before you do, pray this little prayer: “Lord, show me the truth”. And as you read, especially verses three through fourteen, notice that the Lord saved us according to HIS PURPOSE AND PLEASURE!
I don’t know why the Lord would save the likes of me, but this I know: it brought the Lord pleasure to show me mercy by forgiving me, and grace by giving me eternal life.
“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 Savior…”: Here’s how the Trinity was involved in our salvation – the Father decreed it before the foundation of the earth; Jesus Christ procured or purchased or paid for our salvation through His death and resurrection; and then the Holy Spirit brought the life of Christ within us (made us alive – Ephesians 2:5), which caused us to immediately repent as our spiritually dead spirit (old man, old sinful nature – Romans 6:6) was crucified in Christ, and Christ’s life then became our life (Galatians 2:20).
And this ‘renewal’, this act of being born again, was lavishly poured over, in, through us because Jesus Christ completely, sufficiently, and efficiently became our Savior.
Almost finished….”so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Being ‘justified’ means being ‘made right before God’. We stood in the heavenly courtroom before the Great Judge of all the earth and we were deemed guilty. But Christ walked into the courtroom and said, “Father, Your Honor, he/she is absolutely guilty of high treason against You, Me, and the Holy Spirit, but I paid his/her debt. I died in his/her place.” And for that reason we do not have a debt to pay – we are free – we can now stand before the Lord, not as a guilty sinner – but as a redeemed, justified, child of God. And all of this is ‘by His grace’ – Christ’s finished work upon the cross, and because of the Father’s good pleasure in choosing to do so.
We are now heirs – family members – and heirs receive all the blessings of the Father, and all of those blessings are found in Christ, our Lord and our Savior.
“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things…”: Remember, Paul is telling Titus this so Titus can now emphasize this to his congregation. And what does Paul say about these last few verses? First, it is trustworthy: “Titus, you can count on what I just told you to be absolutely true. Bank on it!” Secondly, Paul tells Titus to ‘stress these things’. In other words, preach about this a lot!
We humans – we Christians – are forgetful, and more sadly, we are all legalists at heart, which means we have a tendency in our flesh to fall back – not into our former sinful life – but to fall back into ‘works’ as a means to being justified before the Lord, so we need to hear about God’s grace continuously, and as long as I am the pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship and a Christian, I am going to preach the grace of God found in salvation through Christ alone. Please, cling to the gracious hem of Jesus’ garment as your claim to righteousness. As I quoted in a previous ‘favorite verse’: ‘On Christ the Solid Rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand’.