Reminding All Members
    Titus 3
    By Paul Robison

After the reign of Nero, Vespasian became the emperor.  To win the affection of the people, he had the Colosseum built.  One of the bloodiest events that happened there were battles waged by gladiators against wild animals, against others, and against one another.  Of course, the gladiators fought here around 12 times a year.  They were the “stars” of the contests, and people even placed bets on who might survive and who might be killed.  Of course, the crowd could either signal life or death for a defeated gladiator, but it was the emperor's decision that really counted.  “It is estimated that over half a million people and more than a million animals died in the ancient Roman Colosseum throughout its history of gladiatorial and hunting events” (Ruhl; www.romanlife-romeitaly.com).  One of the church leaders wrote a history of the church around 420 A.D. and told of a preacher from Egypt who came to visit in Rome whose name was Telemachus.  When he saw what was happening in the arena, he entered the Colosseum and tried to stand between two gladiators to break up their fighting.  This action so upset the spectators, at having their “entertainment” interrupted and ruined, they stoned Telemachus to death.  When the emperor, named Honorius, heard of this action, he numbered Telemachus among the victorious church martyrs, and then banished fighting among gladiators in the arena forever!  The last battle took place 1 Jan. 404 A.D.  One person commented that Telemachus' death probably had more influence on history than all his life!  Telemachus shows us that one godly person CAN make a difference!
 
We have been looking at the book of Titus.  Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to set some things in order that were lacking.  In chapter 1, he gives this trusted ally some instructions on how to deal with deceivers. Then, in chapter 2, there are some instructions for dealing with five groups in the church.  In chapter 3, we find that Paul wants Titus to remind all Christians about certain behaviors and truths that they should practice and remember.  There are four admonitions here that we can put into practice as well.
 
The first admonition is: Live as a Christian! Let's look at verses 1-3: “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.  For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”  There are seven virtues that Paul gives here, and notice something interesting here about them.  First, be subject to rulers and authorities, and Jesus was subject to the death sentence of Pilate (Acts 3:13).  Next, they were to obey government officials, and Jesus taught that if a Roman soldier compelled you to carry his armor one mile, you would end up carrying it two, just out of the joy of service in His name (Matthew 5:41).  To be ready for every good work probably means in this context to be supportive of good civic projects, and Jesus taught His followers to render to Caesar the things which are Caesar's (Matthew 22:21).  Christians are not to speak evil of anyone (especially political leaders), just as Jesus never reviled anybody (neither His persecutors nor Jewish officials, 1 Peter 2:22-23). The next virtue is to be peaceable, and Jesus was called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Next, Christians are to be gentle or self-controlled, and Jesus calls Himself gentle or meek (Matthew 11:29).  Lastly, Christians are to show all humility, and justice was denied Jesus during His humiliation (Acts 8:33).  To live as a Christian means to live like Jesus and imitate the way that He related to others.  Then Paul reminds the Cretan Christians of several bad behaviors that they used to practice when they were pagans.  They were foolish or did not understand spiritual matters.  They were disobedient and deceived by Satan to follow worldly ways.  They served various lusts and pleasures, with their eyes fixed only on the fleshly plain.  Then still worse, they lived in malice or wickedness and envy or jealousy.  Sure sounds a lot like dog eat dog, doesn't it?  Then still worse, they were hateful or mean and hating one another or not being able to get along with anybody.  Now to be honest, before our conversions, weren't we just as sinful as those Cretans?  And we're we just as evil as those that we might consider our own enemies? Sometimes, it's good for us to be put in remembrance, so we can see how much Jesus has really changed us!  Live as a Christian!  Give up the old vices and put into practice the new virtues by following in Christ's footsteps.  "For to this were you called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).  Living righteously like Jesus in our corrupt society is where the rubber really meets the road.  Living like Christ is not for the wishy-washy and faint-hearted!  Will you have the courage like Telemachus to stand against the evils in your world?  Live as a Christian!
 
The next admonition is: Remember your transformation! This transformation was not something that we accomplished.  In fact, God, Jesus, and Spirit all worked together to bring about this great change in our lives! Let's read verses 4-7: "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."  There is a wonderful little word at the beginning of this passage: "But".  Thankfully, the Godhead intervened and taught us to turn away from the broad way of self-destruction to the narrow path of salvation.  God's kindness, love, and grace initiated this great turning process.  That great love for mankind, even while we were enemies to His will, manifested itself in our world when Jesus was born.  "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).  "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you, through His poverty, might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).  Remember your transformation!  Our righteous works didn't make our salvation possible; God's mercy is what conveyed us from Satan's kingdom to Jesus' kingdom (Col. 1:19).  How is one born into this kingdom?  Jesus gives the answer in John 3:5: "Most assuredly, I say to you unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  Do we have an example of the water and the Spirit being preached?  Yes, we do.  Notice Acts 2:38: "And Peter said to them: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins [there's water], and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [there's the Spirit]."  In Titus, we see the same elements involved in our salvation: "According to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration [there's baptism] and the renewing of the Holy Spirit [there's the Spirit]."  The purpose of this washing and this renewal is that a person might be "justified" or "put right" before God, which also makes him or her heir to the hope of eternal life.  The washing and the renewal go together, and indeed without both, a person is not "justified" in God's sight, and they remain children of wrath in an unsaved condition.  Aren't we thankful that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit all intervened to transform our lives?  Remember your transformation!
 
Another admonition is: Avoid divisive false teachers!  Now let's read verses 9-10: "But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned."  The words genealogies and strivings about the law sure sounds again like the false teachers who are of the circumcision and teach Jewish fables which are mentioned in chapter one.  The apostle Paul is not very complimentary of these false teachers; notice how he calls them divisive, warped, sinful, and self-condemned.  They appear to be argumentative and contentious about religious matters, but this is not out of a love for truth, but only to gain a following for themselves.  They are like the false teachers that Jesus describes in Matthew 23:5-7: “But all their works they do to be seen by men.  They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.  They love the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men: 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'”  Remember, the apostle Paul himself was once a Pharisee.  He well understood what drove these false teachers, and it was not others' spiritual growth in Christ!  So, we see that Paul commands Titus to give these men a couple of admonitions, and if they do not repent, then he is to reject or avoid these contentious Jewish teachers. Avoid divisive false teachers!  This was written about the Lord's church in 2011: “At the same time, professors and authors [from our brotherhood] have been setting forth questions and suggestions intended to demonstrate that members of churches of Christ are sectarian, judgmental, and denominational in their approach.  The only way to resolve this issue, they say, is to re-structure the church ... by making immersion in water optional ... [and] by changing the nature of its leadership [to include women]” (Hampton).   This statement should make us aware that there still are false teachers among who are doing exactly what Paul would happen in the first century in Acts 20:29-30 when he spoke with the elders from Ephesus: “For I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.”  When a false teacher today is divisive, warped, sinful, and ignores the truth after repeated admonitions, shouldn't we also reject them to be faithful what Paul is commanding in this passage?  Avoid divisive false teachers!
 
The last admonition is this: Do good deeds!  Let's read verse 8 and then go to 13ff: “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men. ... Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing.  And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.  All who are with me greet you.  Greet those who love us in the faith.  Grace be with you all. Amen.”  Paul says that he wants Titus to affirm something constantly.  In fact, this translation is really too mild.  Paul wants Titus to confidently insist on something over and over, and what is that something?  That believers or Christians should be careful, or thoughtful, or intentional to maintain good deeds.  Paul is very aware that the Cretan Christians' actions are going to be very important there on the wicked island of Crete.  Do good deeds!  Do good deeds!  Do good deeds!  Beat that drum Titus.  Those good deeds will show the power that Jesus has to transform people's sinful lives!  Do good deeds!  Notice again that this admonition follows what Paul said about the salvation graciously given by God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  Again, these good works are the result of salvation, and not to earn salvation.  Because we have been so blessed by divine grace and goodness, we want to be a blessing to others and to our community.  Notice also that Titus himself is to do the kindness of making provisions for Zenas and Apollos as they pass through Crete.  And what will be the effect of Titus' good deed?  “Let our people learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”  Titus will be setting a great example that the members on Crete can imitate. God wants to see the fruit of good deeds in our lives.  Being unfruitful is basically the same as being worthless.  A member gave me a call this week saying that an unbeliever had paid our congregation several compliments: she enjoyed getting the House to House publication; she had heard about the help our SOS group gave someone; she also cited another time that this church had been helpful to her family.  Oh that this kind of influence might be multiplied greatly!  Oh that that kind women might became a sister in the Lord!  Isn't it tremendous when townspeople see you as a worthwhile congregation and not as a worthless one?  Keep on doing good deeds!
 
The Christians on Crete had a very challenging culture in which to live. The American culture offers you its challenges as well.  Follow Paul's admonitions in order to make in impact on this culture!  You may not be able to make such a monumental change as did Telemachus, but Jesus will appreciate every small change that you can make, even in your own neighborhood!  So live as a Christian (like Jesus would), remember your transformation, avoid divisive false teachers, and do good deeds!
 
Let's pray!  “Holy Father, we thank You once again for the power of Your Word.  What spoke to those in the first century, still speaks to us today in the twenty-first century!  God, help us to put these admonitions into practice.  In Jesus' name, Amen.”
 
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).  If you haven't been putting into practice Paul's admonitions in this chapter, then repent now and let Jesus help you to improve.  If you have never known the washing of regeneration and the renewal by Holy Spirit, you can know that experience in just few moments.  After taking your confession that you believe Jesus is God's Son and His atoning sacrifice, you can be immersed in the name of the Father, the Son, and Spirit in order to have your sins forgiven and your life renewed!  You can be transformed today!  Become a disciple of Jesus without delay!