If you were to pick a word to describe the current state of affairs, what would it be? Disorder? Chaos? Fear? Confusion? A big mess?
What about the current state of your own soul? Could you describe yourself as peaceful, full of joy, at ease in your conscience? Or is your inner man a hairball of guilt, shame, disordered desires, and fear of judgment? It is clear that all around us and within us things are all out of order. The nub of the matter is: how do we get things back into order?
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:11–15).
Summary of the Text
Paul sent Titus to set things in order in Crete (1:5), an island nation which was notorious for being, to use the technical Greek term: scumbags. Even Epimenides the philosopher noted how the Cretans were “alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies (Tit. 1:12).”
But Paul insists that because Christ, the grace of God which brought salvation, has now appeared to all men, mankind is obliged to learn a lesson (2:11). The lesson being taught is that in denying our sinful cravings, we are to live sober, righteous, and godly lives (2:12). We deny our lusts and pursue holiness by looking to the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus (2:13); and when we look to Jesus we must think of the redeeming work He accomplished for us (2:14). He did this to purify us to be a set apart people who are zealous for good works (2:14). And Titus is tasked with proclaiming this truth with force and authority, regardless of the disdain that may befall him for it (2:15).
Paul wants the Cretan church, under Titus’ oversight and by his example, to be busy with good works. Paul’s very greeting emphasizes that our faith and the truth accord with godliness (1:1). Some among them had professed to know God, but had shown themselves in regards to good works to be reprobate (1:16). Later on, Titus is to told to be a pattern of good works (2:7). Christ’s redemption purifies His people to be set apart to and zealous for good works (2:14). The Gospel which Paul proclaims is that we are not saved by our works of righteousness but according to God’s mercy (3:5) and by the kindness and love of God as displayed by sending His Son (3:4); all this is so that the Cretans “might by careful to maintain good works (3:8).” The believers under Titus’ care were to “learn to maintain good works” so that they would not be found unfruitful (3:14).
Paul, the great Apostle who formulated for us the glorious truth that we are not saved by our works of righteousness but by God’s grace alone, insists that though we are not saved by our good works, we are saved in order to do good works.
All of our current cultural chaos is the direct result of man trying to set things in order without the the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. We are like paleontologists in a dinosaur graveyard just imaginatively assembling bones according to what we think the creatures must have looked like.
Our politicians try to arrange the dead bones of racial animosity into a semblance of peace and justice, and all they get is dead works of racial hostility, envy, and bitterness. When you try to simply do good works so that men think well of you, all you are doing is polishing the dead bones of self-righteousness to be displayed in a museum, which sooner or later will get cancelled anyway. Dead hearts make dead works. Dead men make dead laws. Dead bones make dead cultures.
But Paul tells Titus that he is to set things in order by preaching sound doctrine. The Gospel preached is the only way for mankind to be arranged properly. To put it another way, the Gospel is a setting of things in order.
The Good News is that the grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to slit the throat of our disordered and depraved desires, and to zealously pursue good works. This is what Jesus redeemed us for, that by Him our sin might be forgiven and defeated, and our good works truly received by the Father. After all, Christ’s redeeming work gives us a new heart, by the regenerating and renewing power of the Holy Spirit (3:5).
So, are you in disarray? Are you fearful of all the derangement in our culture? The Gospel sets it all in order. It tells elders what sort of men to be (1:6-9), and how aged men are to bear themselves (2:2). It tells older women to teach younger women how to keep their home, love their husbands and children (2:3-5). It teaches young men to be sober and grave not hooligans given to every impulse (2:6). It has servants obeying their masters with fidelity (2:9-10). It reminds you of your foolish enslavement to lust and malice (3:3), and how you were re-ordered by the kindness of God (3:4).
And it can do all this and accomplish all this within you and within the church––and even within a nation––because God the Father, sent His Son to die for your sins, and the Son sent the Spirit to give you a new heart that you might be busy with good works. You are given a new heart because you have also been given a new identity. You are no longer a Cretan. You are no longer to be known by your lies, your lusts, your fears, or your follies. You have been set in order, by the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit, which lifts up the Lord Jesus who died to forgive your sins and who is your righteousness.