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Whose Work Is It?

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

"Whata ya have?! Whata ya have?!" If you live in Georgia or have ever visited the iconic Varsity Restaurant you've heard these words belted out as you stepped forward to place your order. The first time I visited I was taken aback by this boisterious, somewhat aggressive approach to taking an order. I mean, my repertoire of fast food at the time was pretty much limited to Chick-Fil-A. Going from, "How may I serve you today?" to "Whata ya have?!" was quite the shock! The fact that I was unfamiliar with the menu only added to my exasperation. I didn't know what they had so I didn't know what I'd have!

Just as being familiar with a restaurants menu makes ordering much easier, so. too, being familiar with God's Word makes living the Christian life less burdensome. When we know what's expected of us we have a better chance of executing those expectations.

In Titus 3 it's as if Paul is calling out to Titus: "Whata ya have?!" Instead of this being a question he's asking, its a reminder he's giving. Paul is saying: "Remember who you are in Christ. Remember what you have in Him. Remember how God expects you to live." Christians need to know these things. Knowing what we believe, who we are and what we have in Christ are all vital if we are to carry out His commission to make disciples. Knowing how we are expected to live as Christ-followers is critical, not only for our witness but also for our spiritual growth.

Paul implores Titus to remind the Cretan Christians of what they already knew. The NIV uses the phrase "to be" five times in the first two verses of Titus 3. Paul lists seven qualities Christians should know and implement in their lives:

to be subject to rulers and authorities

to be obedient

to be ready to do whatever is good

to be peaceable and considerate

to be gentle toward everyone

to slander no one (which we could paraphrase as: to be honorable to all in your speech)

Remember from our background study the type of people Cretans were noted to be: rebellious, liars, cruel, lazy gluttons.

Paul is telling Titus to remind the Cretan Christians to live according to what they know about God rather than what they know from their old lifestyle.

Gathered manna from Titus 3:1-2 is:

Christian citizens should be recognized by their Christlikeness and be influencers in their culture.

From the time the nation of Israel was established, God has called His people to live different from those around them. Countless times in Scripture we hear God say, "Consecrate yourselves..." "Be holy, because I am holy." "Come out from among them and be separate." (Check out the book of Leviticus!)

This call to counter-cultural living should come easily once we consider what God has done for us. Another reminder Paul urges Titus to make is found in Titus 3:3. The ESV translates:

"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures; passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another."

This list is opposite from the behaviors listed in verses 1-2. We have all been foolish and disobedient to God. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

We should never forget from whence it is we have come and we should always remember, as the English evangelical preacher, John Bradford said, "But for the grace of God, there go I." Apart from God we are all Cretan-like. With God's grace at work in our lives we can all be Christlike.

Which are you, Cretan-like or Christlike? In what ways has your behavior changed since becoming a Christian? Where do you still need to be changed? How can you allow the Holy Spirit to begin His transformative work in those areas?

Read the following passages and compare them to Titus 3:1-8.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Ephesians 2:1-6

Colossians 3:1-10

List the before Christ behaviors, List exactly what God has done for you.

Spend time in prayer: thank God for His work of salvation in your life; ask Him to reveal areas you are still holding on to Cretan-like behaviors; give Him permission to bring those behaviors in line with His holiness.

Paul gives the Gospel message in a nutshell in Titus 3:4-7. If in verse 3 the reader is the subject, verse 4 turns to God as the subject. God is the initiator of our salvation. God, because of His kindness and love did for us what we could not do for ourselves - He saved us from ourselves.

Earlier in our study we learned Cretans believed they could obtain god status by doing good deeds. This belief led to the Cretan Christians being works oriented rather than grace saturated. In Titus 3:5 Paul is reiterating the fact that we can do nothing to earn God's grace - it is an undeserved gift from God. He makes the point even clearer in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he says:

"God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it."

We are saved, not because of our actions but because of God's grace.

As Paul shares the Gospel message three characteristics of God emerge: kindness, love, and mercy. Because God is kind, because God is love, because God is merciful, we are saved.

Titus 3:5 is rich in meaning. We learn exactly what is meant by God's grace in this one verse. We see two distinct yet inseparable actions involved in God's grace: washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word used here is palingenesias. Can you see our word "genesis" there? Regeneration literally means "new birth". Jesus spoke of this new birth in John 3:1-21 when He is teaching Nicodemus what is needed for entry into God's kingdom.

In our English language the word "regeneration" is the noun form of the verb "regenerate". This means our regeneration is not a thing we actively participate in; it is a thing that happens to us. God is the subject of the verb "regenerate" in our lives. He is the One who re-creates us, making us over in His image. Our original state at creation was perfection, we were perfect Image-Bearers of God. When sin entered that image was marred beyond recognition and with it the perfection of all creation. Until each individual makes the decision to believe on the name of Jesus and be saved, God's image within that person remains marred. Those who have believed and accepted God's gift of salvation are now washed by Jesus' blood - the washing of regeneration, a new birth. It is God's desire to remake His perfect image in each person and ultimately to regenerate all of creation.

God doesn't save us to live forever in bodies that decay or in a world that is degenerate. God saves us for eternity with Him in the perfection of His new creation. His regeneration makes us new and through it He renews His Holy Spirit within us. Because of God's act of regeneration when we accept His gift of salvation we are made both clean and new: clean from every sin we have ever committed or will ever commit, made new by the indwelling of God's Spirit.

Titus 3:6 tells us God "poured His Spirit out abundantly through Jesus." The phrase "poured out" is reminiscent of the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit ascended and filled the disciples. This group of very ordinary men and women were so filled with God's Spirit that they boldly proclaimed Him to anyone within earshot. Because they were renewed by the Holy Spirit, they became extraordinary men and women who turned the world upside down. In Colossians 2:9-10 Paul tells us we all have this same Spirit living inside of us:

"For He is the complete deity living in human form. And our own completeness is now found in Him. We are completely filled with God as Christ's fullness overflows within us..."

When we accept Christ as Savior His Holy Spirit is made new in us filling us with ALL His power, ALL His knowledge, ALL His wisdom, ALL His love...ALL of Him. It is through this renewal of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to live God's way, empowered to leave what we once were - Cretan-like - empowered to live Christlike.

Throughout Paul's synopsis of the Gospel message we see glimpses of our Triune God. First in verse 4 we see God the Father as our Savior; as we've said, it's all His action. Then in verse 6 we see God the Son, Jesus Christ as our Savior. The second being of the Trinity became human, as the writer of Hebrews says:

"Because God's children are human - made of flesh and blood - the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death."

Between Titus 3:4 and Titus 3:6 we see the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:45:

"The Scriptures tell us, 'The first man, Adam, became a living person.' But the last Adam - that is, Christ - is a life-giving Spirit."

Our salvation is the work of our Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our Triune God regenerates us, renews us, and makes us right with Him. The work is all His and it is all already done. The very moment we turn to Him in confession, repentance, and acceptance we are cleansed, renewed, and justified. Paul concludes his Gospel presentation by emphasizing the trustworthiness of this message. This is the sound doctrine Titus is to teach the Cretan Christians. This is to be the basis for their good works.

Gathered manna from Titus 3:3-8 is:

The work of salvation is that of our Triune God.

Our good works do not save us but our salvation leads us to do good works.

Have you accepted God's gift of salvation? If not, will you today?

In what ways are you "works oriented" in your spiritual life? How can you become more "grace saturated" in your attitude even as you do good works? Remember the words of Paul to the Roman Christians:

"And since it is through God's kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God's grace would not be what it really is - free and undeserved."

Once again in verses 10-11 we hear Paul warning against the false teachers. These people were not only "leading whole families astray', they were also causing divisions within the church family. If you've been part of a church for more than a minute you know the division which can come from a person or group of people deciding their way is best and refusing to budge. The arguments that ensue over trivial matters have been know to split whole congregations. Divisions come when we stop looking to God and His Word for guidance and start leaning on our own understanding. When this happens we need to remember Proverbs 3:5-6:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take."

When I find myself at odds with a fellow Christian I try to pause long enough to consider the question: In the scheme of eternity, will this truly matter? Most times I find the answer is no and I am able to let it go. Will you adopt this practice when you find yourself in an argument with a brother or sister in Christ?

Paul tells Titus to warn the divisive person two times and then have nothing more to do with them. This is the same advice he gave the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15:

"Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don't think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister."

Paul's warnings about the divisive false teachers serves as an admonition for us. God takes divisiveness within His body very seriously and so should we. Jesus said the world would know we are His disciples by the love we have for each other. How can we love one another if we are always bickering and arguing over foolish and useless things?

How well do you love your fellow Christians? Where is there division between you and a fellow church goer? What can you do to mend this division today? What will you do to take the role of peacemaker?

The final verses of Titus 3 form the closing to Paul's letter. I always love reading these closings. They help me know these were real people, with real relationships, and real problems. They give some insight into the lives of Paul and his recipients. Most people will skim right over these names, but reading each name reminds me that our God cares for individuals. He knows our names. He calls our names. Names means souls. Souls God created on purpose for a purpose. Souls Jesus died to save.

What names has God brought to your mind as you've studied Titus this month? Who do you need to reach out to with the love of God? To whom do you need to offer aid? How will you reach out? How will you help? If not today, when?

Gathered manna from Titus 3:9-15 is: A Christian's life should be spent in service to others not in foolish arguments.

Gathered manna from Titus 3 is: The outworking of salvation is good works toward and unity with other others.

I hope you've enjoyed this study of Titus. It has stretched me and given me lots to think about and change in my behavior!

During the summer months we will delve into Psalm 119. If you would like to receive a copy of the "92 Days of Summer" Psalm 119 Scripture Reading and Writing Plan subscribe to my email list! Hope you'll join us!

Until next time,

God bless and keep you,


God is the subject of the verb "regenerate" in our lives.

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