26. People, Plans, etc.

Meditations in Titus: 26:  People, Plans, Provisions & Productivity

Titus 3:12  As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.

As we draw near to the end of this letter we find, as is so often the case, we are presented with an insight into some of the people in the early church.  Four people are named in these next two verses. Artemas’ name doesn’t occur anywhere else so we know nothing of him but he is someone presumably trusted by Paul as a leader. Tychicus, on the other hand is mentioned in Acts 20:4 (“from the province of Asia”); Eph 6:21-22 (“dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord”); Col 4:7 (“dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord”) and 2 Tim 4:12 (sent to Ephesus).

Zenas the lawyer isn’t given a mention anywhere else but appears to be a Gentile convert. Apollos on the other hand is mentioned in Acts 18:24-28 (“a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures”); 19:1 (“in Corinth”); 1 Cor 1:12, 3:4-6,22 (“as having a following) and 16:12 (“our brother”)

So in these verses we find two men who are clearly part of Paul’s ongoing activity and two men unknown but clearly approved by him. In the closing verse there is a much more corporate sense of the wider church: Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” (v.15) In the background are the believers on Crete there with Titus while there are obviously a number of believers with Paul.

We also get a glimpse here of the plans or activity of Paul as he says, “As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.” (v.12) It is believed that Nicopolis was on the western shore of Greece and Paul’s words indicate a) he was not there yet and b) was still at a time in his ministry when he was free to move around and decide where he would go, and c) was directing the apostolic endeavour, able to send two trusted leaders to carry on at Crete so that Titus could leave and go and join Paul at Nicopolis. Paul held sufficient sway in the apostolic community that men would come and go at his bidding.

We don’t know why Zenas and Apollos were on Crete (presumably helping Paul in the past and now Titus) or why they were leaving. Perhaps they were the ones who had brought this letter from Paul and now needed to return, but Titus is urged to help them before his turn comes to leave: “Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.” (v.13) Presumably that meant ensure they have whatever provisions they need to get back to me (this was not a day of credit cards and easy provisions!)

Now before we finish we must note once again Paul’s call for their people to be devoted to doing good and good in this case is presumably working to ensure they provide for their families the necessities of life, food, clothing, housing etc. Remember we have already noted the number of times Paul insists on the people of God doing good and in this way they stand out and recommend the Gospel. But more that that here, doing good has a practical outworking, not being a drain on others when it comes to providing for life. When he speaks about not living unproductive lives that must first mean in respect of providing for the family but it has a wider application for the call in the scriptures is for Christians to live productive or fruitful lives.

The apostle Peter taught, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:5-8) Notice that goodness was the first add-on after faith.

Jesus taught, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful, (Jn 15:1,2) and went on to say, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.” (Jn 15:16)

The apostle Paul also wrote, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work.” (Col 1:10)  The good works were seen as the fruit of their lives.  Elsewhere he wrote, “So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.” (Rom 7:4)

Even the apostle James taught this: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (Jas 3:17,18).

It is little wonder that Paul finishes with this last admonition because he sees it as absolutely foundational to the Christian life. One might almost say it is the key, crucial issue that comes through in this letter. Goodness is to be a key characteristic revealed in and through us as the Holy Spirit works through us and makes us stand out in a dark world, a world where true selfless goodness is rare. With that challenge we conclude this wonderful little letter of Paul to Titus on the island of Crete, as he instructs him how to develop and build the church that they have established there.

25. Beware Folly

Meditations in Titus: 25:  Beware Folly

Titus 3:9-11  But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Every coin has two sides. We have been considering the call to goodness in the Christian life but goodness excludes folly. I use the word folly here because it means lack of understanding leading to wrong thinking and wrong behaviour. Solomon wrote, Every prudent man acts out of knowledge, but a fool exposes his folly,” (Prov 13:16) and the word ‘fool’ here means one who lacks judgment or sense  So there are ways of thinking and ways of speaking and ways of acting that lack understanding and thus lead to further wrong thinking and further wrong speaking or behaviour.

So on the one hand, as we have been observing in the recent verses, there is a way of thinking, speaking and doing that is good; that is one side of the coin. But we are not robots and so there is the other side of the coin which is doing that which is NOT good. So Paul details some of the wrong things he has in mind: “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law.” (v.9a)

Now, first of all, why should he need to say this? Well, remember back in chapter 1 – “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group…” and so, “pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” (1:10,13). The island suffered from Jews who appeared spiritual and could lead others astray by their talking but Paul calls them rebellious and deceivers because they reject the truth of the Gospel as delivered by the apostles and prophets, and distort or add to it, remnants of Judaism. They keep harping back to the faith of their fathers, back to ‘the law’, which probably just means the Old Testament. There, back in the Old Testament, it isn’t always ultra clear which is why we have scholars and commentators, and these wrong thinkers were in that category except they were wrong because they remained in the Old Testament and used it to fuel their speculations over different genealogies and other not-so-clear matters.

But we should be quite clear, they are wrong because they have a  wrong starting place, they “reject the truth.” They have never let the truth touch them, convict them and bring them to their knees before God so that their repentance could lead to new birth. I believe the Christian Church suffered in the earlier part of the twentieth century because people listened to German ‘scholars’ of the nineteenth century who demeaned the New Testament and undermined the faith of so many, but their starting place was exactly the same – unbelief.

We should not see these warnings that Paul now brings in a negative sense; we need them. But if that is how the problem arose, why was it so damaging as to need refuting and rejecting? Paul speaks of these wordy, argumentative Jews and says of their activity that it should be rejected, “because these are unprofitable and useless.” (v.9b) As much as we should read and study the Old Testament to see the greatness and wonder of God in it, and the folly and sin of mankind, we should avoid the temptation of getting bogged down in the unclear areas of it because that brings no profit or benefit to our faith. I am one of the first to advocate studying the Old Testament  but I always remember the comment, “I trust those parts of the Bible that I don’t understand because of the parts that I do understand.” It is good to study these issues but they are unlikely to be things that are fundamental to our faith today.

The truth is that people who harp on about these things are simply causing division. I remember a phone call I once had with a man who knew me and he started out, “I just wanted to cross swords with you over….” and he named a particular doctrine. I replied, “Well, I don’t want to cross swords with anyone because that is divisive, and I know you disagree with where I stand on that issue, so rather than drive a wedge between us, can we simply agree to disagree and we’ll find the right answer when we get to heaven.” He wanted to pursue the argument but I refused. He was more concerned with division than unity.

Paul was quite clear about these people who were causing trouble on the island: “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.” (v.10) i.e. put the scriptures before them, point out that they are rejecting them and challenge them over them. If necessary do it twice and if then they still refuse to change, leave them to it and have nothing to do with them and ensure they have nothing to do with polluting the church with their untruths. He emphasises what he thinks about such a person who refuses to acknowledge the truth of the Gospel: “You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (v.11) Perhaps for the sake of grace, we should say no more, but the warning is there clearly in scripture and it is real and valid today as it was then. There are truths to be followed and lies to be rejected.

24. A Help to doing good

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!

23. God’s Work in us

Meditations in Titus: 23:  God’s work in us

Titus 3:4-7  But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

We’ve said previously that there are in Titus short passages that succinctly lay out essential doctrines, and these verses are another one of those. The previous verse had been full of the negatives of our old life but now Paul brings it right round to the positives of what God has done for us, the work of the Gospel.

He first of all describes this Gospel work as when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared.” Jesus coming was first and foremost an expression of the kindness and love of God. It was God’s love that motivated the godhead to devise this plan before the foundation of the world that would entail the Son of God leaving heaven and coming to earth. Behind everything we read in the New Testament is this kindness and love of God. What did he do?

“he saved us.” That is it as briefly and succinctly as you can make it – he saved us! We were lost, helpless and hopeless and Jesus came and saved us. But, says Paul, be under no illusions, it was “ not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” God did this, not because he found righteous people on the earth, because none of us were righteous. We were lost, we were away from God, doing our own self-centred, godless thing and unrighteousness was the outworking in our lives. No, God did this for no other reason than His mercy. Mercy is something that is not earned but just given for no other reason than He wants to.  So Jesus coming to die for us wasn’t because God saw something good in us. To the contrary, He saw that there was no good in us and we couldn’t escape this state on our own; we had to have His help

So what has God done in us as a result of Jesus dying on the Cross for us?He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” This is a funny way of putting it because it doesn’t focus on the work of Jesus on the Cross taking our sin and our punishment, but it focuses on the outworking of that work in us, what has happened to us as a result. He reminds us that we have been washed clean and free of our old life by the fact that we have been ‘born again’ and our lives have been completely renewed  by this working of the Holy Spirit.

Now why is Paul emphasizing this outworking rather than focusing on the work of the Cross? The reason, I suggest, is because he is emphasizing again and again that the new believers are now completely different people, different from what they used to be and different from all those who lived round about them. He wants to remind them what has happened to them to make them different. He wants them to live out new holy and righteous lives but to do this they need to understand or be reminded that they can do this because they are new creatures in Christ, empowered and made new by his Holy Spirit. This is all about living sanctified lives.

So he emphasises the work of the Holy Spirit, “whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour.”  Jesus’ work on the Cross opened the way for us to receive his forgiveness and cleansing so that when we turned to him, Jesus could pour his Holy Spirit into us so that we would be born again and be able live Spirit-empowered lives. Jesus has done all that was needed for us to receive His Spirit and so now all that remains is for us to receive the fruits of his work, or as Paul now puts it, “so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (v.7)

Jesus’ grace was his act of dying for us so that now we may be justified before the Father – made right in His eyes, just as if we had never sinned, and now we have been put right with the Father, we have now become heirs of all that He has for us, eternal life and all that goes with that, living out our lives here on earth as His sons and daughters and then living with Him in eternity.

So there we are, new people with a future, all because of Jesus’ work on the Cross and the work of his Holy Spirit in us. How wonderful!  All we’ve got to do is live out these lives in the recognition and fullness of that.

22. Our Past Lives

Meditations in Titus: 22:  Our Past Lives

Titus 3:3   At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

One thing I have noticed over the years  is that when it comes to testimonies you either have people giving very low-key accounts of how they became a Christian or they give the lurid drink-drugs-sex background testimony that reveals what an awful person they were and how wonderful their conversion was.  What we don’t tend to hear are testimonies in terms of the things we now find in our verse above.

I believe the reason for this is that we simply don’t come to a realisation of what we were truly like until some while later in our spiritual life when we have become sufficiently secure in God’s love to be able to face the truth of what we were genuinely like before we came to Christ. In my experience of watching for many years and listening to people I honestly believe there are very few of us who came to Christ aware of these things and convicted because of them. We may have been aware that our life was in a mess and we needed help but the deep seated reasons were not obvious to us.

The first sentence of our verse above speaks of a) the focus of our past lives and b) the fact that we were locked into these things: At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” The focus of our past lives had been “all kinds of passions and pleasures.” ‘Passions’ has a feel of emotional desires about it but is also a mind thing. We had set ways of thinking – that were self-centred and godless – meant we were defensive about ourselves, protective of self and out to make self feel good. We thought we were right and got upset if people opposed or contradicted us in our way of thinking and living (which is why Christianity is often seen as a threat and is therefore persecuted).

Hobbies and causes can even be expression of this. Seeking after self-pleasing experiences. I have recently seen secular writing that has suggested that the Western world has tried obtaining pleasure through materialism, and wanting more and more possessions, but has found it wanting and lacking satisfaction, and so is turning more and more to clocking up more and more ‘experiences’, hence so much travel to see ‘new places’ and encounter ‘new cultures’ and enter into their (to us) ‘new experiences. TV series, cult films and so many other ‘media experiences’ are also part of this ‘experience package’. These experiences are our new ‘pleasures’ that Paul speaks about.

To get meaning out of the godless life, people are locked into this seeking for (pleasurable) experiences, they are enslaved by them because they have to have them for without them (from this standpoint) life is meaningless. Satan has deceived people into believing this way about life and so they have become disobedient to God, searching after things in the creation rather than the Creator. How else can you describe them but foolish – senseless, unwise, silly! “Foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved.” What a condemnation and we didn’t realise it until the Holy Spirit started convicting us of the mess we were in, how hopeless and helpless we were, and showing us hope in Jesus.

But Paul doesn’t leave it there, he has specifics in mind of this godless and self-centred life that we used to live: “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Because we were, as we said above, defensive about ourselves, protective of self and out to make self feel good, we so often felt bad about other people, wishing them ill (that’s ‘malice’) and because we gained worth and pleasure through things, we constantly wanted more and more and so often more of what the people next door have (that is ‘envy’). ‘Keeping up with the Jones’’ became, for us, a familiar saying of the new prosperous materialistic world.

But of course such defensive feelings are divisive and our divisions are stoked by, first of all , dislike and then as it grows, hatred. There is racial division, class division and division of rich from not rich. Listen to the chants of demonstrators, one part against another, one group against another. Although they might deny it, strength of feeling indicates hatred. “I hate their way of life,” or “I hate their extreme affluence which is unfair on the rest of us,” and so on.

Life for the unbeliever involves conflict and although that is how we used to live, says Paul, now our lives should be exactly the opposite and none of these things we have been considering should be there in our lives in any form. This is one of the things that distinguishes us from our unbelieving neighbour, and our attitudes and words and behaviour should reflect and reveal faith to all around us. If we can be honest, that is what we once were like, but now we are completely different. Hallelujah!

21. Doers of Good

Meditations in Titus: 21:  Doers of Good

Titus 3:1,2   Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

In the previous meditation we focused on the first part of these two verses, the need for believers to be good citizens and to be obedient to the laws of the land. But we saw all this in the context of Paul’s teaching that our behaviour reveals who we are and should reveal the Lord to the onlooking world. A number of times, we have seen, good behaviour is required for the sake of the Gospel, but now Paul is saying that to be good citizens we shouldn’t just be those who obey the laws of the land, but we should be those who “do whatever is good.”

Before we go on to see the outworking of that in the verse that follows, we would do well to remind ourselves that goodness is something which comes up more than once in this letter. Early on, the qualification for an elder included this: Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good,” (1:8) ‘Good’ here goes beyond the dictionary definition of ‘what is right, correct and proper’ but includes something that is virtuous in that it brings benefit and blessing to the world, it is a positive, benefiting value. The Christian leader should love that sort of thing.

Then there was the condemnation of the corrupt of whom Paul said, “They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” (1:16) Bad people don’t do good and that is one of the things that marks them out as bad. Then when it came to the older women we saw, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” (2:3) There good was set against wrong speech and wrong behaviour and the indication is that there is speech and behaviour that is good and that is what should be taught. When it came to the young men he said, “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” (2:6,7) Titus’ should be characterized by goodness so that through that he will be an example for the younger men to follow.

Finally in that chapter her spoke of, “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.” (2:13,14) The mark of a believer is that they not only do good but they are eager to do good. Later, again as an outworking of our faith he teaches, “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.” (3:8) Titus’ teaching must always have this end product in mind – that God’s people are to do what is good. In his closing verses yet again he says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” (3:14) Doing good in that context includes working to provide for the family (implied). Thus eight times in this fairly short letter Paul refers to what is good. It may be something we take for granted, but he doesn’t. Goodness is to be a primary characteristic of our lives as God’s children, as believers.

But he continues on our verses above to apply goodness: “do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”  Goodness includes the negative, not doing certain things. Things that are bad, wrong or unrighteous are by definition not good. Perhaps because there was so much ‘wrong talking’ there on Crete (see 1:10-14) Paul picks out slander, speaking wrongly about others. One of the aspects of our goodness should be that – that when people encounter us they know we will not say anything wrong about another person or group.

But there is also the positive side to goodness. Being ‘peaceable’ according to the dictionary is ‘inclined toward, or promoting peace; not quarrelsome.’ Jesus said “blessed are the makers of peace” (Mat 5:9). This means we are not only people at peace to be with, but we also seek to bring peace into a troublesome world. Another positive of goodness is being ‘considerate’, being aware of the needs and state of other people and taking that into account in the way we respond to them. And then there is our general attitude towards others: “show true humility toward all men.”  Humility is knowing our own frailness, weaknesses and so on, so that we do not laud it over other people. Humility is the counter to pride, of which there is much in the world.

Thus when we exhibit these characteristics , we will indeed stand out in the world and that is what this has all been about, that we stand out as God’s children and reveal to the world an alternative way of living, a better way of living, and in so doing we draw others to Christ. May it be so.

20. Viewing the World

Meditations in Titus: 20:  Viewing the World

Titus 3:1   Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,

More than once in Titus we have observed Paul’s concern for God’s people to be a good witness to the surrounding world.  We wonder why those who set the Bible in chapter and verses put these next two verses in chapter 3 because in many ways they flow on from what he has been saying.

Certainly there has been no prior reference to the rulers and authorities but the tone and direction is a continuation. So let’s consider the first half of the verse first of all: “remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities.”  Being a believer isn’t just to be a good citizen of the kingdom of God, it is also to be a good citizen of the country in which you live. Paul doesn’t give Titus a reason for this injunction as he assumes as a leader he will understand the issues. To the church at general in Rom he said, Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” (Rom 13:1) There he explains to the believers that it is an authority issue and authority goes right back to God.

This wasn’t just something that Paul thought, the apostle Peter taught the same thing: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:13-15) However he spells out what Paul has been instructing Titus to pass on to the church, that the way we behave in public will reveal the sort of believers we are. The best citizens should be Christians. I wonder, however, how often that can be said?

Note also his words, “to be obedient.”  The obedience he refers to must be the laws of the country which mostly we should obey. However if there is a direct conflict with obeying God and a man-made law, then obeying the Lord must come first, e.g. “Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:18-20) and “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”  Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:28,29)

Yet, we would suggest, when there is such conflict, great wisdom is needed to not accentuate the conflict and no doubt believers have sometimes done that. The example of the wisdom and grace of Daniel and his friends in the court of Babylon (Dan 1) is worth studying.

Likewise, we would suggest, the believers should be working to be such outstanding members of their community that any conflict is likely to be overlooked by the authorities. It is said that quite often in the early centuries of the Gospel, when particular Caesars sent out a decree to persecute the Christians, the local governors sometimes gave the Christian community warning of what was coming and told them to leave town until the dust settled, because they knew that the Christians were the backbone of the local community.

We need to reiterate the point we made to start with, that Paul wants Titus to make the local believers realise what an impact on the local society they can have by the way that they work out their faith. Earlier on he had spoken about the poor quality of life on Crete. Yes, speak out against it, and yes declare the Gospel but ALSO live out your lives in such a way that the world will see and wonder. Remember Jesus’ teaching, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16)

There have been times in the life of the Church when there were those who felt the only way to really know God was to escape living in the everyday world of people and so we can think of the ‘desert fathers’ of Egypt or monks or nuns of closed orders, yet the Lord taught us to be light to the world and you cannot be that hidden away. Yes, circumstances may sometimes be difficult and when outright persecution occurs it is very difficult, nevertheless our calling is still to seek to be light to those around us. Even the apostle Paul had cause to apologize for overstating the issue to one in authority.  We may speak out, we may protest but we may not use violence, I would suggest, which goes against all of Jesus’ teaching. As we said above, a study of Daniel and his friends may help in difficult situations.

It might also be worth commenting, that when the church is moving in power and signs, wonders and healings become part of the life of the church again on a regular basis, instead of just rarely, then that also may challenge the hearts of unbelievers. Although there were times of persecution recorded in Acts we also find that early on, the church were, “enjoying the favor of all the people,” (Acts 2:47). After the incident of Ananias and Sapphira we find, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” (Acts 5:13) The witness of the church in respect of the world can influence the way people think about the church and about the Lord. That is what is behind so much pf what Paul has been saying to Titus.