Godly precepts: Devotional Commentary for September 17-23
1Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,
2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
Following his admonition on how servants should glorify God in their attitudes toward their masters, Paul urged Titus to confront the rest of the communities with the same aspects of faith and life. Still predicated on the appearing of the Grace of God in Jesus Christ, Paul exhorted Titus to teach the believers under his care that they ought to behave toward authorities and rulers in an attitude of respect, subjection, and obedience, all for the sake of Jesus Christ Who is the only reason and the only perfect example.
Just as he did with servants, Titus was instructed to remind the believers in Crete that they must acknowledge and respect the prerogatives of the authorities and rulers in charge of their affairs. They must recognize that the authorities were placed in charge by God for God's Purpose. They are called to live amenably being always ready to discharge their duties with a sense of responsibility and care.
Looking to God as the Lord Who orders the steps of His children, Christians must have the godly disposition to place themselves under the charge of the authorities and other institutions of governance, purposing to be the source of godly influence in the communities where they live and serve, as the Called who are always ready to do every good work for which they are saved and ordained by God. Paul instructed Titus to teach the Cretans that, as Christians, they must resolve in their hearts not to cause harm to anyone. They must not slander or speak evil against anyone. They must be peaceable, gentle, thoughtful of others, meek and courteous toward men, holding others in a higher esteem than themselves.
The essence of Paul's admonition to the Cretans was that the overall behavior of the redeemed of God should reflect a quiet and peaceful demeanor which does not offend others or is not easily offended by others. Christians should not be quarrelsome, difficult, or easily agitated. In other words, Paul urged Titus to impress upon the Cretans that they should not only believe or practice their faith, but they should also reflect the character of the Lord of their lives in their attitudes and interactions with the people of their communities and the authorities over them.
3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
The above precepts are powerful principles which directly confront the natural inclinations of man's sin-nature. Titus was probably not surprised by Paul's instructions because he would know that the redeemed also were once the children of disobedience. Paul reminded Titus that both they and the believing Cretans were also once foolish, unwise, and unruly. They were misled by the forceful impositions of their own lust and unbridled pleasure. They were unkind, jealous, bitter, and hateful.
Taking his cue from God's revealed wisdom and from his own experience, Paul told Titus that the only weapon against the residual snares of the believer's former unredeemed life is the enduring precepts of God's living Word. So he instructed him to teach the Cretans to be obedient, peaceable, gentle, kind, courteous, always ready to do every good work, and become new and different from what they once were; instead of being foolish, rebellious, malicious, envious, bitter, hateful, and slaves to sinful lusts and pleasures.
4But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
The above godly precepts cannot be applied in a vacuum. There must be a prepared heart, a changed life, and a committed spirit. When the Grace of God appeared in Jesus Christ, God's Love, Kindness, and Mercy were revealed toward men expressing our Father's Goodwill, Peace, and Favor upon the lost. Then the soul of the formerly unredeemed sinner is prepared for renewal by the Holy Spirit Who transforms the sinner into a New Man in Christ through the regenerative work of God's redemption. It is there in the heart of the redeemed where the sacred weapon of God's living Word destroys the works of unrighteousness, leaving no room for the depraved attitudes of the sin-nature.
Through divine washing and renewal, the redeemed are made new having received the riches of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ. The redeemed are not only regenerated, renewed, and saved, but are also justified having been declared righteous in Jesus Christ and having received the enduring hope of eternal life.
Paul was absolutely convinced that the Cretan believers and all the saints across the ages needed to understand this profound Truth. He instructed Titus to speak the Truth with confidence enlightening the Cretans why they must resist the unrighteous ways of their old nature, and why they must subject themselves to the godly precepts governing their new life in Christ. Having been made new in Christ, they must live as renewed in Christ consciously and deliberately engaging themselves in the good works for which they were saved and ordained. We belong to God. We are subject to His righteous ways. This is a profound and trustworthy statement. It should never be forgotten nor neglected.
In chapters one and two of His letter to Titus, Paul commissioned his child in the faith to be the Overseer of the churches in Crete. He instructed him to appoint leaders over the local churches and gave him a set of character traits by which he can identify those who were called to serve as leaders and elders. He also encouraged him to speak the Truth courageously and faithfully, teaching sound doctrine and setting the example himself for a godly living and selfless Christian service.
But the ultimate goal of Paul's letter to Titus was far reaching. He was not just looking for good qualified leaders. Nor was he simply enlightening the Cretans about the things of God. He longed to see a mature community of believers who believed in the Truth, spoke the Truth, and practiced the Truth as people redeemed and renewed by the Grace of God.
Although a knowledgeable community of believers organized under a good and competent leadership is not undesirable, that is not the essential reason and purpose for the redemption of the lost. Paul urges us to be consumed by a sacred passion toward God, His Word, and what He had done to redeem us. He wants us to understand the process and the cost of our redemption so that we know the Truth and live by its precepts, therefore, motivated to resist the natural inclinations of our sin-nature for the sake of Jesus Christ.
It is absolutely necessary that we know what God did to remove the stain of sin from our souls so that we might resist the corrupt influences of our sinful past. We must know and faithfully observe the precepts of God's living Word so that we might ward off the lingering aftereffects of our ungodly past. We must subject ourselves to the Truth of God's living Word so that we no longer live contrary to the Will of God our Father.
When the life of the redeemed continues to reflect the works of the flesh, the Holy Spirit grieves, God our Father is displeased, and the communities around us would be confused, disappointed, and at times hurt. The Truth is not withheld from us. God's wisdom is imparted to us. The Spirit of Truth resides in us and has promised to lead us into all Truths. We have no excuse to be living a contrary life to the One Who loved us and gave His Son for our redemption. The temple of God in us should never be relegated by our indifference and a feeling of impunity to the dominion of the flesh where the works of the flesh inundate the fruit of the Spirit. Let godly precepts flourish in our godly hearts. Let us hide His Word in our hearts so we might not sin against Him, Who redeemed us by judging His Son in our place.