Summary: God trains his people in godliness through the grace of the gospel of Jesus.
As a parent, I know that when one of my dear children asks why they should do what I tell them to, it is rarely helpful for me to answer, “Because I said so, that’s why!”
I did say so, and God commands children to obey their dad, but that answer usually comes out of my mouth when my heart is not right. Maybe I feel impatience, or I’m angry because I do not have a good reason, or maybe some other sin grips my heart. Whatever the cause, “Because I said so,” usually reveals a problem that I have.
In our text this morning, our brother Paul resists the “Because I said so” answer. Surely he felt frustrated with the Cretans at times, but to explain why they should obey, he insists, “Because of the grace of God.” Let’s read how grace shapes character in Titus 2.11-15.
[Read Titus 2.11-15. Pray.]
Several winters ago, heavy rains deluged Southern California, creating a nightmare for one family. While they slept, a mudslide slammed into their home, ripped away part of the house, and flung their sleeping baby into the darkness. I think we can all imagine the frantic search that ensued. All night, they dug through mud, crying out desperately for their child – without results.
But morning brought a rescuer carrying a mud-caked bundle in his arms – their baby, filthy but alive! Of course, the parents did not care that their child was covered with sludge; from near certain death their baby lives! You can be sure they squeezed him close, with no concern for how muddy he was. Love saw a precious salvation, not a dirty bundle. (Illustration from Bryan Chappell, Titus, 337.)
But later, they bathed him, and determined to keep out of future mudslides. Why wash the child? Is it not enough that he was saved, so that their joy was complete, without needing cleaning? After the rescue they were content to embrace a filthy child; why insist on cleaning him? Of course the answer is that their delight in having him back continued to overflow in care for his well-being. Covered with mud is neither natural nor the best for their son.
Now any story which parallels and illustrates the work of Jesus will, of course, miss in some details. But the true account of that child and family does well-picture Titus 2: how the good gift of God in bringing salvation continues to work out in the cleansing of salvation – which the Bible calls, sanctification. That is God’s message to the Cretans (and to us) in Titus 2.
The island of Crete was well known for its immoral culture. But that did not cool the evangelistic zeal of Paul and Titus, who proclaimed God’s gospel of grace. And lo and behold, people put their faith in Jesus and his work! Soon churches appeared in every town, gatherings of brand-new Christians who needed discipling in the faith. Their lives were a mess, but Paul tells Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order” (Titus 1.5).
To do that, Titus first ordains elders, godly men to share in the work. They help, first, by discipling others: modeling the faith and sharing their lives. In addition to discipling, these elders also must “doctrine” the faith: hold to Biblical convictions, practice Biblical counseling, and engage in Biblical confrontation. This is the work of an elder.
For his part as pastor, Titus must especially labor at teaching. Last week we saw that a faithful pastor teaches, not only Bible doctrine, but also what accords with this sound doctrine. In other words, it is not enough to tell people about the grace of God in Jesus, Titus must also apply the gospel to proper and practical behavior. Titus 2.1 can be translated: “But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching” (NET Bible). Then in verses 2-10 of chapter 2, Paul illustrates this ministry with practical examples of the kind of teaching different groups in the church need.
But now a new question comes into focus: why obey? Titus 2.10 ends with the goal of Titus’ teaching: “in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our savior.” But why should I want that goal? Isn’t salvation enough? Why bother with godly behavior? God’s answer is in our text today.
1. Grace Provides the Foundation for Change (Titus 2.11)
Many Christians imagine that while we are saved by grace, we grow in godliness our good efforts. After all, it feels that way, and some texts lead us to believe that. Ephesians 2, for example, notes that, “when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved. And this is not your own doing.” So salvation is clearly a gift of God’s grace. But the next verse adds: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” And Philippians points in the same direction: “work out your own salvation.”