But As For You

     Paul did not take it easy on the young men who served with him in the early days of the church. We know a little more about Timothy than we do Titus because of the references to Timothy in Acts and the fact that we have two letters to him from Paul. As for Titus there are eight verses in 2 Corinthians that mention him as well as Galatians 2:3 and 2 Timothy 4:10. Of course we have the letter to Titus which fits in the general context with 1 Timothy. 2 Timothy was written near the close of Paul’s life (4:6-8).

I say that Paul did not take it easy on Titus because he sent him to Crete to “set in order the things that are lacking.” The church had been established there but it was not completely organized as it needed elders. Good strong leadership was definitely going to be needed in the church on that island. Some of the people there at that time were evidently quite a handful as we see from 1:12 which says “One of them, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” Paul told Titus that this statement was true and that he ought to “rebuke them sharply.” Some folks just do not respond to an easy going approach.

     This placed quite the responsibility on Titus and we can be sure that Paul knew what he was asking him to do. So we have at the beginning of chapter 2 these words: “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.” That was inspired advice for Titus and for us today.

     What follows in the rest of the letter we can reasonably take as some examples of what Paul considered necessary points of sound doctrine for these people. There are instructions for older men and women, young men and women as well as for the Christian bondservants there. If we look at this list of characteristics we can discern a very good summary of what it would take to live the Christian life in the church on Crete (2:1-10).

    All of this behavior had one foundation: the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We do not live on Crete but if Titus was fulfilling his “as for you” responsibility for us today he might well emphasize many of the same things Paul told him were needed by the Cretans. And I am sure that we need the emphasis Paul placed on the foundation of these good actions or works: an appreciation for the grace of God. There are at least three things here about grace that are always helpful to remember.

    First, grace was manifested in purest form in Jesus Christ (2:11-14). As the apostle John said, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Isaiah gave prophetic expression to God’s grace in Christ: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Our redemption comes only through the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

     Second, Paul wanted Titus to remind the Cretans that grace carries with it certain responsibilities. It is popular in our present world among some to claim that salvation comes by grace alone. There is a sense in which this is certainly true (Ephesians 2:1-12). Grace is the foundation for salvation. No one is saved but by the grace of God. But human beings are required to have certain definable responses to grace, including obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9, Mark 16:16) and good works (here in Titus 2:11-14, 3:1-3 and 9-11). As James said, “You see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (2:24).

    Third, these required works are not the power that saves: that power is God’s grace, mercy and love. The unalloyed truth is that grace saves us when we obey the gospel. We cannot save ourselves, but we must do God’s will if we are to have His great hope (Titus 3:4-8). Paul ties grace and the Christian’s work together here (as in Ephesians 2:8-10). As for us, we must never endeavor to untie the two.