Meditations in Titus: 18: A Waiting People
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good
We need to look at these verses collectively. We wonder why Paul wrote these three things in this order. It may be the outworking of a mind that just dictates as he thinks it out. Perhaps a more logical or at least more chronological approach might have been the latter part about what Jesus has done to redeem us, then the first part which might be summarised as the sanctifying work of God’s grace in our ongoing lives, and only then the second part about waiting for Jesus who will return. Putting it like that hopefully clarifies what is here. But let’s take it in the order that Paul wrote it.
We’ve considered the sanctifying work of God’s grace in the previous meditation and to understand the overall picture we should pick up words we missed previously, “in this present age.” That sanctifying work is what is going on in us today and for the rest of our lives on earth. It is a work that takes us from godless, unrighteous, self-centred lives to godly, righteous, Jesus-focused lives.
This grace has come to us through the working of Jesus on the Cross, but now he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father, overseeing the working out of the End Times, but they are limited and so one day he will return in glory to wind up the present age. That is what is yet to come.
But having mentioned Jesus in such a context Paul can’t help but spell out who Jesus is and what he has done. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” This is another of those compact summaries of doctrine that we find in Titus.
The starting point is that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us.” Jesus left heaven and came and lived on earth with the express goal of giving his own life as a sacrifice for sin. We were lost, far away from God, separated from Him by our sin, prey to Satan and consigned to hell. But Jesus came and bought us back, paying the price, with his own life, of our sin and the punishment it deserves. In other words he stepped in and took our punishment so that we could be set free from guilt and condemnation, free to live new lives.
But there is the emphasis that Paul has been making and goes right back to what he had been saying about slaves living good lives as a demonstration of the Gospel: Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness.” Our lives were wicked and that’s why they needed punishing according to justice, but once the punishment had been paid, those lives needed setting free from the habit of wickedness. The new lives are to be characterized by the absence of wickedness!
This work of Jesus delivering us from wickedness, Paul sums up as “to purify for himself a people that are his very own.” The act of removing that wickedness is an act of purifying us, of cleansing us. He separates us out of the rest of the world and we become a distinctive people (free from wickedness), his people. He bought us and therefore we belong to him. He owns us. Now don’t see that in any negative way. It’s not like a slave master owns slaves. It simply means that now we are his possession we are precious to him and he will provide all we need and will protect us. He is jealous over us, the Scripture says.
That is his side of it, what he has done and what he feels about us, but from our side of it, now we have been delivered out of that past darkness we now find we are a people who are “eager to do what is good.” That takes us back to the beginning of these verses, the sanctifying work that goes on in us. We no longer want to do what it wrong and as we seek to do good, his Holy Spirit empowers and enables us to do it. We came to Christ out of desperation, recognising our hopeless and helpless state and when we found he had died to set us free from guilt and condemnation, we came to the Father in repentance and He forgive us, cleansed us and empowered us with His own Holy Spirit. As new people, so blessed and loved, we want to having nothing to do with those things of the old life and so we reject “ungodliness and worldly passions,” and instead “live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”
This is all in the present age but our lives are of limited duration and so we wait out our time before we either go to heaven or Jesus returns to collect us. It is a very positive waiting time as we are being changed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). In this present age we are God’s workmanship living out His plans for us (Eph 2:10), seeking first His kingdom (Matt 6:33) and sharing in all Jesus is doing as he works out his plans and purposes before he eventually returns to wind it all up. Is it like waiting at a bus stop for a bus to turn up? No way! It is not a passive standing around. It is living out a fulfilled life of love and goodness and purpose that glorifies the Father and the Son and brings us great joy. Hallelujah!