Year 3 Day 102
Read - Titus 3v3-15
Message - Scott Woodburn
It was the Greek poet Epimenides who described the Cretans as liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons. I'm sure he had no clue that one day he would be quoted approvingly by the Apostle Paul. But while Paul agreed with Epimenides' assessment of the Cretans, Paul knew that at one time he was no better.
Once upon a time says Paul we were "foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another." (v3) This is a rather bleak picture of the individual who does not know Christ and yet it is the consistent testimony of Scripture. In Romans Paul would state “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3v11-12) It wasn't just the Cretans who needed Christ, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Thankfully, there is a "but" in verse four. Paul testifies that the Lord saved us not because of our good works but because of His own bountiful mercy (v5). We deserved anger and instead we received grace. We have been washed clean by the regeneration of God and renewal of the Holy Spirit (v5). The Gospel was preached and the Spirit was much at work causing us to be born again and to receive Christ by faith. As we believed the Gospel, God declared us to be righteous - He justified us by grace alone and so we are now heirs to the hope of eternal life (v7). Once we were lost and without hope in this world and now, through Christ, we have hope of glory.
In a few short verses the Apostle comprehensively outlines the good news of Jesus. All of this is "trustworthy" says Paul (v8) and therefore Titus was to insist on these things. He was to preach Christ and Him crucified, he was to proclaim the glory of the Gospel at every turn. What for? So that the church on Crete would devote themselves to good works in response to the Gospel. This would be both excellent and profitable for the Cretans.
What was neither excellent nor profitable were foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law (v9). These things were the territory of the false teachers and no good would come from focusing on them. The emphasis placed on law observance and endless debates about ancient traditions and discussion of the teachings of long dead Rabbis would not bring any fruit to the church on Crete. As far as Paul was concerned they were both unprofitable and worthless.
Indeed anyone who deliberately stirred up division was to be warned once, twice and then finally they were to be shunned (v10). This seems incredibly harsh but Paul saw constant division as a sure sign of a warped and sinful heart (v11). The church is not a place for constant fighting and arguing. If someone repeatedly seeks to divide the fellowship then that person must face the discipline of their leaders.
Paul wanted Titus to come to him at his winter lodgings in Nicopolis (v12) and he would send either Artemas or Tychicus to Crete. Zenas and Apollos however were to be sent on their way with all the help Titus could muster (v13). The Cretans were to devote themselves to good works making sure that they helped those in urgent need (v14) and with a word of farewell, the letter to Titus came to a close (v15).
I have never been to Crete but I wonder if there is still truth to the words of Epimenides...are Cretans liars, beasts and gluttons? I hope not but truthfully they (like you and I) are even worse. Thankfully in this final chapter Paul reminds us of the Gospel that takes liars, beasts, gluttons and transforms them by the power of God. Brothers and sisters, in Christ your life has been changed. You are not what you once were and by the grace of God you are being sanctified daily. Therefore put away all division, foolishness and argument. Focus on that which is both excellent and profitable. Devote yourselves to doing good, for once you were lost but now by the grace of God you have been born again.
Q96 What is the Lord’s Supper? The Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.