Text: Titus 3:1-8
Almost every survey shows us that 9 out of 10 teenagers leave the church. When they are most directly confronted by our culture, they leave the church. The question I have asked as I have considered this is why this is happening. What are we teaching to our young people that would create such an environment? Young people are not the only ones leaving. Adults are church hopping and church shopping, uncommitted and unfaithful to a local covenant community. It is not what we are saying, but what we are not saying that is having adverse effects on the young and the old. The text before us shows the answers to the questions we are facing today.
[discourse on the background to the book of Titus]
When we speak of moderns and postmoderns, we must be careful lest we interpret that the root of evils varies in nature. It does not vary; it is absolute in corruption and depravity. It varies in the manifestation, but the root of it is still the same, namely the depravity of the human heart. When the apostle Paul wrote this pastoral letter, he was fully aware of the ongoing opposition to the ministry of Titus. This is seen in Titus 1. To be more specific, he also knew that there were two fronts to the opposition – the external front (those outside the church) and the internal front (trouble makers inside the church). Among those of us who embrace the doctrines of grace, we have embraced opposition from the outside. Some have argued that we are making a cult, that we are killing evangelism.
What the Holy Spirit is wanting us to know from this text is the word of God will not prosper if our conduct does not line up with our message.
Consider the present environment: What is our prevalent approach today? Castigate those who are lost and tolerate those who are hypocrites. The church has been given the responsibility of judgment, but it is not those outside the church. It is those inside the church. Purity in the church is essential if we are wanting to impact the world outside the church. Church discipline is a lot bigger than we realize. It is not just about discipline; it is about evangelism. The apostle Paul never gives us any direction of changing the culture except by means of the gospel preached and lived out.
Verse 1: “Remind them . . .”
This particular statement connotes an opposing propensity. It is just not natural for a man or woman to do what is about to be commanded. Therefore, we should be careful to remember because we are more likely to forget about it.
Paul’s primary appeal is to put away our prejudice and our pride toward unbelievers, and it involves an appropriate attitude and a proper action. Two words – “submissive” and “obedience” are important for us. The reason Paul uses both of these is because he knew that actions without submission is hypocrisy.
Paul moves from something more specific in verse one to something more general in verse two. What Paul is going is starting at the top of the food chain. It is easier to be kind to your neighbor than the authorities who are trying to kill you. In Crete, there was absolute rebellion and hostility toward God, and they were responsible for the persecution of believers. Elsewhere, Paul encouraged Christians are to pray for and intercede for those trying to kill them (1 Tim. 2:1). We are commanded to love our enemies and pray for them. Failure to do so is one of the reasons why we are not making an impact in our culture today. In this text, Paul was describing our relationship with lost people. We were once lost, living according to the pattern and lifestyle of unbelievers.
In verse 3, we see our former life. Paul gives us a description that can be broken down in three categories: our former performance, our former persuasion, and our former predicament.
In verse 4, we come to the word “but.” This is one of the greatest words in the NT (cf. Rom. 3:21; Rom 5:8; Rom 5:15; Rom 6:17; Rom 6:23; Eph. 2:4).
Let me move to the second part of this motivation to love and be kind to lost people. This has to do with our present deliverance (verse 4-6).
I want you to see three elements of this difference. First, what is our motive for our deliverance? It is the goodness and lovingkindness of God. It is not a blind fate or arbitrary selection or decree by a tyrant. It was the goodness and lovingkindness of our Savior. It is the kindness of God which leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God was motivated by his love and affection which was set upon the elect from all eternity. This love of God talked today is so superficial, so frivolous. Here we see the magnificent love of God. We are, according to Romans 3, unsalvageable. We are not saved by anything other than what was in God. We also see the means of our deliverance – by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. This is monergism. Finally, we see the mediator of our deliverance – Jesus Christ our Savior. God, through the mediator, lavished upon us salvation. Through the passive and active obedience of Christ, deliverance comes. This ought to motivate us to love lost people.
God also gives us a future hope – to be blameless in the sight of God. Salvation has been paid in full, a salvation which includes our justification, sanctification, and glorification. This hope that is spoken of is a resolute confidence that what we will have is aboslutely certain. It is akin to faith. You cannot have faith without hope, and you cannot have hope without faith.
Have we been teaching our people to love the lost? To pray for those who rebelling against God and rejecting his truth? We must tell the truth and never apologize for it. But we must speak the truth in love. We have enemies, and we must recognize them thus, but cannot, must not, hate our enemies. We must love them and pray for them. We must be actively seek out lost people. What we do is what we really believe. We need to treat people as more than a decision or a notch on our belt. We must love them.
Some people think that the answer to our culture’s problems is to get out the vote, to become more likeable to the world, to get superstar spokesmen, or changing our message to appeal to the interests of more people. But the church’s responsibility is to be the people of God, embodying the compassion of Christ and communicating his gospel to the world.