Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
Titus 3:3, Titus 3:6
I. Up to a certain point, men of all schools of religious and philosophical thought are agreed, both as to the facts of the moral state of the world, and as to the nature of the improvements required for it. They differ widely in their theories of the essence of morality, or the foundation of moral obligation; they differ in the ideals that they hold up to men as embodying the supremest moral excellence; they differ in the attractive power of their ideal, and in the strength of the motives they offer for pursuing it, and for resisting temptation; but they all agree as to their elementary moral precepts. And it is not too much to say that all serious moralists are agreed, further, that according to the simple rule for knowing good from bad, the actual state of the moral world is bad and not good. The world is wicked; that we start with as a fact—not as a part of the Christian or any other theory of the way that the world ought to be conducted, but as to the state in which the world is; a fact which any complete theory of the world must account for, and which any competent guide of the world, if such there be, will have to remedy. To convince the individual of sin is a harder task. The one witness who is competent to adduce all the facts has an interest in keeping silence; the one judge whose verdict is on earth final has an interest in acquittal; and this being so, it is small wonder that an acquittal is often pronounced unhesitatingly, is oftener still pronounced after a decent hesitation and with some moderate reserves. But the world is condemned, whenever it is really judged, and the condemnation of the world must, in the eyes of any thoughtful person, throw grave suspicion on the acquittal of the individual. II. The only way to treat sin like this is to make a clean sweep of it altogether. Here there can be no question of adjusting a machine that is just out of gear, of harmonising elements salutary in themselves, though at present imperfectly combined. It may be that the evil mass is composed of things originally good, but that does not alter the fact that it is now evil, incurably evil. Let a flood sweep over it, and blot out all its features, for so, and so only, we may hope to see it washed clean. A little washing and rubbing here and there will not be enough; the washing of a foul world like ours must do no less than wash us out of ourselves—must rub off our whole self; in fact, we want a washing of regeneration, a washing which shall be, first of all, a death unto sin, and so make a possibility for a new birth unto righteousness. When this washing is effected, when the sinner has died again to his old life and started again in the new, then, and then only, is he capable of receiving the "renewing of the Holy Spirit," then only is it possible for that power to enter his heart, from which "all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed." There is no doubt that those men were right who, a hundred years ago or less, declared to a self-satisfied world that this was the Gospel, that the true cure for all moral evil was, not sound moral advice, too good to be followed, not earnest moral effort which the sinful soul was unable to make, or at least to sustain, but the reception of a cleansing power from without, that the soul must be supernaturally, miraculously, divinely, undeservedly, delivered from its evil past, if it were ever to start on a new and better life, if it were ever to be made natural to it to do good, or possible for it to deserve well. Nothing short of a miracle can put a sinner in the way of repentance, and that the blood of Christ has, as history proves, exercised that miraculous power, that when a man has believed in that blood, he has been saved from his sins, even as experience proves the reality of sin, so it proves, not less divinely though unhappily less universally, the reality of repentance and salvation through faith in Christ.
W. H. Simcox, Oxford Undergraduates' Journal, March 17th, 1881.
References: Titus 3:4-7.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 564; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 264.
Titus 3:8I. The Gospel is degraded unless it is asserted strongly. "These things I will that thou affirm constantly," or as the words might be rendered, "asseverate pertinaciously, persistently, positively, affirm and assert constantly and confidently." That is the way in which Paul thinks it ought to be spoken. If it is a message, the messenger's business is to deliver it as received and its sender's business, not his, is to look after it when delivered. And if it is a faithful message, then it ought to be asserted on lips that are eloquent, because they are believing; and to come, not as a word of the speaker's own, or the result of his thinking, or with a "peradventure," but as with the force of the "verily, verily, I say unto you," of the incarnate and personal Truth Himself.
II. Again, there is another thought here worth considering, viz., that this positive assertion of the truths of revelation is the best foundation to lay for practical godliness "in order that they which have believed might be careful to maintain good works." Now, we are often told that our evangelical teaching is far away from daily life, and some people go the length of saying that the central doctrine of the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ is an immoral doctrine. I am not going to discuss the latter statement now. If the former one is ever true, it is the fault of the preacher, not of the message. Rightly understood and presented, the great body of truth which we call the Gospel, and which is summarised in the preceding context, grips daily life very tightly, while on the other hand, of all the impotent things in this world, none are more impotent than exhortations to be good, which are cut away from the great truths of Christ's mission. If it be true that the best foundation for all practical godliness is in the proclamation and the possession of the great message of Christ's love, two things follow, the one is that Christian people ought to familiarise themselves with the practical side of their faith, just as Christian ministers ought to be in the habit of insisting, not merely upon the great revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ, but upon that revelation considered as the motive and the pattern for holy living. (2) Another consequence is that here is a rough but a pretty effective test of so-called religious truth. Does it help to make a man better? It is worth something if it does: if not, then it may be ruled out as of small consequence.
III. The true test and outcome of professing faith is conduct.
IV. No one will keep up these good works who does not give his mind to it. "That they... might be careful to maintain." My text suggests one chief means of securing that result—the habit of meditation upon the facts of the Gospel revelation looked at in their practical bearing on our daily life and character.
A. Maclaren, The God of the Amen, p. 148.
References: Titus 3:8-14.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 5th series, p. 341. Titus 3:9.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 324. Titus 3:12.—W. Morison, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 24.
To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.
When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter.
Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.
And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.