Remember What You Were (Titus 3:1-3)
The Bible never tells us merely what to do, without telling us why to do it. The practical instruction in the Scriptures is always backed by the theological basis for why it is we are to behave that way. In Titus 3, Paul gives us both the “what” and the “why” of obedience. The way that we treat those in the world around us is to be rooted in and modeled after the way that God has treated us in Christ.
I. Behavior Toward Those Outside the Church (verses 1-2)
Titus is to remind the believers in Crete of their responsibility to quietly submit themselves to the governing authorities. The Creatans were known for their rambunctious behavior and their constant uprisings against the authorities. But the Christians were to be distinct, rejecting the sin that had become the social norm of the day.
In addition to passive obedience and subjection to the authorities, they were also to be actively looking for opportunities to do good deeds in society. As Jesus has instructed all believers, you are to “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
Paul goes on to describe our general conduct toward other individuals. First, we are not to malign or slander anyone. Second, we are to be peaceable, which literally means “not-fighting.” Third, we should be gentle, in control of our reactions and able to respond with reasonableness rather than mere emotion. Finally, we should show consideration to all men. While all men and women are fallen and sinful and marred by corruption, they are, nonetheless, image-bearers of God. Therefore, God’s desire for us is that we treat other people, all other people, no matter who they are or how they’ve treated us, with dignity and consideration.
II. Remember What we Once Were (verse 3)
Paul is here describing all of humanity as it is by nature. The list in this verse describes in detail the “foolish” condition of every man and woman apart from Christ. First, all of foolish humanity is “disobedient”, failing to love God or keep His commandments. Second, all of humanity is “deceived,” or deluded, believing the lies and deception of sin rather than believing what God has spoken. Third, all of humanity is “enslaved to various lusts and pleasures,” being so enticed by temptation toward sin and having such a desire after it, that we can do and desire to do nothing other than give ourselves over to it.
Finally, all of humanity spends its “life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” When people start to get in the way of the things we set our heart on, and threaten the fulfillment of our lusts and pleasure, we respond with things like envy and malice and hate. Worst of all, since God is primarily the One that forbids us from having the very things our sinful flesh longs for, He is the greatest object of our hatred. We love the things that God hates, and, therefore, we hate the God who tells us we can’t have them.
III. Seeing Our Need For the Gospel
This is Paul’s comprehensive picture of all people outside of Christ. While a person might not outwardly display the same degree of malice and hatred toward others, all of us experience the internal realities of those sins. And in God’s eyes, it doesn’t matter if that hatred and malice and envy is expressed outwardly or remains in the heart, it is what it is either way. He judges not just the outward actions, but the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.
Paul is here describing the helpless, sinful condition of humanity outside of Christ in order to make all the more clear our need for the salvation that he describes beginning in verse 4. Before you can see the beauty of verses 4-7, you have to see the ugly reality of your sin as described in verse 3. If you know what you are by nature and the punishment that you deserve at the hands of a holy God, then you have no other option than to run full speed into the arms of the only Savior, who gave Himself for you.
- Do you recognize how helpless and hopeless you are without Jesus? Do you see the condemnation that you deserve for your sin? Will you come to the Savior by faith to be freed from your enslavement to sin and to be brought to God (c.f. 1 Peter 3:18)?