Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote this letter to his coworker, Titus, around the year AD 64. Titus was working on the Island of Crete, and Paul sent instructions regarding his ministry. Crete was known for its immorality, but Paul expected believers to demonstrate their faith through godliness.
Titus 1:16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.
Paul was describing false teachers on Crete who were harming the church. They had a religious vocabulary, but their lives did not match what they professed. The best indication of what we believe is not what we say, but what we do. If a court of law had to determine whether or not you were a true Christian, and all the evidence was brought to bear, what would the verdict be? Christian profession without Christian obedience is a mockery of the Christian religion.
Titus 2:12 For the grace of God . . . teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions.
Some people think the grace of God is a license to sin. If God accepts us through faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of our sin, why not sin? That way of thinking misunderstands the nature of saving grace. When we understand that God hates sin, and sent Christ to die for our sin, we no longer want to live sinfully, but righteously. We learn to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions.
If you are raising a puppy, one of the first things you must teach it is the word no. It must be said emphatically, with the right tone, and with sufficient volume. This is how we should say it to ourselves as well. We can say no to sin and yes to Christ, or we can say yes to sin and no to Christ, but we cannot say yes to sin and yes to Christ at the same time.
Titus 2:13 [W]e wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The return of Jesus Christ is the blessed hope of his people. And hoping for Christ’s return is a good indication of spiritual health. Those who long for Christ’s return are probably in love with him, and are living well before him. Those who long for other things may have grown cold. Our greatest hope should never be for a spouse, a house or a promotion—but for the soon return of Jesus Christ. If we are hoping for anything else, we have lost our focus.
Titus 3:4-5 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.
The moment we think God saved us because of something good in us, we have destroyed the gospel of grace. God did not save us because of our faith, for that is a gift from him (Ephesians 2:8). He did not save us because of our good deeds, for they are ruined by sin (Isaiah 64:6). And he did not save us because of our good hearts, for they are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). [H]e saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy.
A lady was hospitalized for kidney failure, and was told that she would die. She was angry at God because she had a grandchild on the way, and this seemed very unfair. So she went to the hospital chapel, not to pray, but to curse God for taking her life. But on her way to the front of the chapel, she grew weak and fainted.
When she opened her eyes, she was looking at a communion table with the inscription: God, have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18:13). So instead of cursing God, she requested his forgiveness. Her kidney was instantly healed, and she was saved from all her sins. Most people do not receive healing, but whoever comes to Christ will not be turned away (John 6:37).
Titus 3:9 [A]void foolish controversies.
The central message of the church is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), wrote John. Satan wants to lead the church away from this message by drawing us into less important controversies.
Abortion is an important issue, but it is not the gospel. Homosexuality is an important issue, but it is not the gospel either. Political issues can be important, but they are not the gospel either. The gospel will speak to these and other issues, but they are not the central message of the church.
Other controversies are simply foolish. I was studying the Bible with a friend at a coffee shop when a stranger approached with another point of view. She tried to persuade us that Jesus had returned and was living in Australia. We listened politely for a couple minutes; then I said, Thank you very much.
My friend wondered if we should have attempted to change her mind, but I thought it was a waste of time. I could tell he was disappointed, but the next verse in our study was, avoid foolish controversies.
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Titus had a duty to maintain unity in the church, and that meant some people would have to go. The rule is like baseball—three strikes and you’re out. If someone is causing trouble, one or more elders should quietly correct that person, and draw their attention to this verse. If it happens again, the same procedure should be repeated. Upon a third offense, the divisive person should be told not to return. God’s word will be honored, a sinner will be warned, and the unity of the church will be preserved.
Reflection and Review
Why should we hope for the soon return of Jesus Christ?
Why should Christians avoid foolish controversies?
Why is God against division?