Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Titus (short version)

Teapots and Tommy Guns

Titus 3

Lesson audio

The Thompson submachine gun is a favorite of gun collectors. It seems strange to some that one would desire to collect firearms; it seems strange to others that one would like to collect teapots. But it does not seem strange at all that our government requires a license to own a Tommy Gun. We would want assurance that the owner had no plans to use such a powerful weapon on others. Some years ago I worked with a man who collected such weapons – until the government decided to raise the license fee to $55,000 a year (and this was some years ago). The hobby was too expensive.

Curiously enough, there seems to be no license fee involved with collecting teapots. This too we consider to be a reasonable thing; it is difficult to see how collecting teapots could harm others – save for the possibility your wife might start throwing them at you. So while the teapots may cost more than the Thompsons, the owner may collect them as extravagantly as the budget affords. Tommy Guns shoot people; the worst most teapots do is brew.

Why do I bring this to your mind? We, the Christians, must deal with things which are far beyond either teapots or Tommy Guns. We are entrusted with the reconciliation of the world to God; ours are the mysteries of the Lord’s Supper; it is ours to baptize and bring others to eternal life. The Scriptures teach us that we are to do so while being as harmless as doves. We shall examine such a passage of Scripture; in so doing we will discover the center of service. First, then, the Scripture:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Diligently help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way so that nothing is lacking for them. Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.

(Tit 3:1-15 NASB)

 

The Outer Layer: our relationship with the world

It is often noted that the Christian is supposed to be different from those of the world. It is well, therefore, that we examine this passage and ask, “Different – how?”

With regard to those in authority

It sometimes comes as a surprise to Christians raised in America that Paul would proclaim it necessary to be in submission to authority. But here it is again:

  • We are to be subject to them – showing them our outward allegiance. When they play the national anthem, you stand.
  • We are to be obedient to the authorities. Pay your taxes, observe the traffic laws – the ordinary diligence of a good citizen.
  • Most of all, we are to be ready to do good. In this context, we might say civic minded; one who is always willing to help in doing something for the good of his community.

With regard to those who are not Christians

Most conservative Christians are willing to submit to lawful authority. But sometimes our conduct in society does not match our Savior’s call. See these four characteristics and ask, am I missing that one?

  • The most commonly missed is this: malice to no one. You may not think this a problem, but it is. We become accuser and judge of those who do not know Christ. In so doing, we usurp the judgment and vengeance due the Lord. “Who am I to judge those outside the church?” says Paul.[1] If we are wrong in accusing them, we sin. If we are right in accusing them, we judge. Do neither.
  • We are to be peaceable. The word refers to brawling; no matter the temptations, we are not to be the ones swinging the fist. Interestingly, the Greek word here can be transliterated: a (not) makhos (macho).
  • We are to be gentle – the word is often translated “humble” as well. The Christian triumphs through suffering to bring a gentle answer.
  • We are to be considerate. Good manners make good company.

Why?

This at first seems strange, but consider the reasoning behind it:

  • For those who came to Christ as adults, we were just like the people around us first. We certainly have no right to judge them. Even those raised in the church should know that we are sinners, which removes the right of judgment from us.
  • But – we were saved by grace. We didn’t work our way into it; it is God’s free gift. Again, we have nothing to brag about and no basis for judging others.
  • Moreover, what he has given us – the hope of eternal life – sets this world in perspective. If this life is it, then the world is right: drink all the gusto you can. But if we are designed to be eternal, then the quarrels of this world should seem small indeed.

The Core of the Faith

Let us review, then, the core of the faith as it applies to our interaction with others:

We are sinners

But for the grace of God, here’s who we would be:

  • We’d be foolish, fooled by the world. Standing for nothing, we fall for anything.
  • We would be enslaved to various lusts – some of us consumed with envy, spitting out malice. Others would become hateful, despised – and in their turn hating others.
  • You think not? Consider the Democratic Party: based on envy. Consider the Republicans: based on greed.

We are saved by grace

  • MOTIVE: the love and kindness of God. We are saved because the God who is love himself loves us.
  • METHOD: his method is not to have us work hard at good deeds to earn enough brownie points to arrive at heaven’s gate. Rather, God himself provided the sacrifice needed.
  • MECHANISM: this is implemented in two ways: First, by baptism, the entrance ceremony of the kingdom, which displays cleansing. Second, by the renewing of the Holy Spirit day by day.

Result

This salvation should make a very noticeable difference in our lives. One very important difference for us is that we are “heirs to the hope” – of eternal life. We know that we are designed to live forever. Knowing this makes a difference in the way we behave. If there is only this life, then the world is right: go for the gusto, grab all you can along the way. But if we are eternal, the hope within us should make us live like our Hope. We should be like our Master: always ready to do good.

On the Inside

To the outside world we are to be seen as the gentle and kind, the humble of the earth. But to the inside? The same is to be seen, for we are not to be hypocrites in reverse either. But it does happen sometimes. See if you can recognize anyone in here:

Avoid Controversy

Some of us – if we’re honest – know that we enjoy a good argument. But we are told here to avoid such things. Paul calls them “foolish controversies.” How do I know the foolish ones? Simply this: do they divide the church? You should be able to recognize some of the foolish ones from Paul’s list:

  • Have you ever seen it where controversy itself was the end of such an argument? Either (or both) of the combatants really did not desire a solution; neither could risk going for victory and losing; so one or both are content to be the leader of a faction.
  • Paul tells us of those who fight over genealogies; we could extend that to those who require the small items before the large ones.[2]
  • There are those who are legalists and fight over every little point of the Scripture, piously telling us that they are intent only on preserving the integrity of the church.[3]

Reject the heretic

Your translation probably does not have the word “heretic.” In our modern times it seems impossible that anyone could be a heretic – just someone with a different opinion. But the original word means one who makes a division in the church, and that is what a heretic does. What are we to do about it?

  • Three strikes, you’re out. Warn him, with all solemnity, that he is dividing the body of Christ.
  • If he fails to repent, kick him out of the church. He may think the church cannot live without him; it’s just possible he can’t live without the church.
  • By their fruits you will know them; they are self-condemned. Look where the anger and divisiveness are, and trace them to their root.

Good deeds, pressing needs

We know little of Apollos; he was a good speaker, we are told. Zenas the Lawyer is completely unknown but for his name. But Paul asked that they be given all the support they needed. God does not do things by halves. Nor should his people. It is a matter of style; God blesses abundantly, and so should we.

God desires us to be fruitful. The quiet life, the orderly life yields up the fruit of the kingdom of God. Good deeds for pressing needs – nothing flashy, just the way of the church in a sinful world.


[1] 1 Corinthians 5:12

[2] See Matthew 7:3

[3] See Romans 14

Previous     Home