Meditations in Titus: 24: A Help to doing good
Titus 3:8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Again and again in this fairly short letter Paul is emphasising the ‘doing good’ element of Christianity. He starts this next verse with a phrase that often appears in his letters to Timothy and Titus, the so-called Pastoral letters: “This is a trustworthy saying.” It always implies that what he has just said or is about to say is a saying that was used in the early church to convey teaching. It also appears in 1Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9, and 2 Tim 2:11. Now because of the nature of the words that follow this phrase in this instance, it clearly refers to the verses we looked at in the previous meditation and we assume the ‘trustworthy’ phrase includes all of verses 3 to 7, although it could simply refer to few of those verses. The point of those verses was to spell out the ongoing work of Jesus by his Holy Spirit in us, all as a result of his work on the Cross – but the emphasis is on the ongoing work of changing us.
In our present verse, Paul now wants to emphasise the importance of these things. He hasn’t just said them casually, he has said them with a specific purpose in mind, hence he says, “And I want you to stress these things.” Titus, he is saying, make that you stress or emphasise these things to the people; they need to hear them, there is a reason I am saying all this and it is, “so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”
There it is again. Back in the 21st meditation in this series we noted that Paul refers to what is ‘good’ eight times in this fairly short letter. The previous ‘trustworthy saying’ was all about living out the Christian life enabled by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and this is what Paul is now doubly emphasizing, that Christianity is not merely about a bunch of beliefs but beliefs with practical outworkings. This perhaps is a word that the whole Church needs to hear. The temptation is to make our faith focus on Sunday mornings or other meetings of the church in the week, i.e. we make our faith meeting-orientated and neglect or ignore the rest of our lives, the vast majority of our waking hours.
The point of God saving us is not just to save us FROM destruction, but to save us TO BECOME new people with new lives and therefore everything we think or say or do is vitally important because if it is real it will be an outworking of the indwelling Holy Spirit and it will make us people who are different from those around us whose lives are self-centred and godless. Our lives, Paul is teaching, should be based upon and should therefore express goodness in every way and at every moment.
There are two personality characteristics that are clear about Jesus in the Gospels and they are love and goodness. Yes, there are other things but these two are fundamental and they are fundamental to God Himself and therefore also to His Son, and to His Holy Spirit. and if He is living in us and expressing Himself through us, then the world should see it as expressions of love and goodness. The hard truth is that if these things are absent, then our lives are seriously deficient and we are not letting the Holy Spirit energize and direct us in our daily living, and we are falling short of God’s will for us.
Look again and what Paul is saying: “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” Note the words “may be careful to devote themselves to….” This implies that we make an act of will to live like this and we make an effort to live like this. Part of this is to determine NOT to live selfishly and godlessly like we used to and part of it is, first of all, to determine to live good lives, and then, second, how to work that out in respect of everyone else in our lives, because our goodness will only be expressed in respect of how we relate to or respond to other people. Goodness will always be seen in our words or deeds and in our attitudes. Goodness looks for the welfare of those we encounter, goodness wants the best for them. Goodness together with love accepts them as they are and is there for them. Goodness is very practical.
No wonder, therefore, that Paul concludes this verse with, “These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” To teach about and work on living out good lives is excellent, exceptional and makes us stand out. It is profitable, bringing benefit to us, to others and to the name of the Lord. It is good to have goodness in our lives! It is good for goodness to be seen in the life of the Church; it is what God has worked for, sending His Son to die for us, so that we would be saved to live new lives – good lives, lives that impact on the rest of the world! Hallelujah!