************ Sermon on Titus 3:3-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 13, 2008
"The Kindness and Love of God"
Have you ever noticed how our modern media focuses mostly or exclusively on the negative. If you listen to the media, nothing is going well in the economy, in the stock market, in the White House and Congress, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the housing market. The news is quick to report the negative.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday I have something negative to say but I also have something positive to say. However, I have to start with the negative or else the positive doesn't make sense. I have to tell you the bad news before I can tell you the good news.
I The Bad News
A We are told the bad news in verse 3 where Paul reminds Titus about sin:
(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.
This is not a pretty picture that Paul is painting. Sin is worse than we want to think it is. Some religions and people speak of sin as a character flaw that we need to work around. Or, a behavior problem we need to change. Or, politically incorrect talk that needs to be stopped. Or, attitudes that need adjustment. Or, a minor failing we need to overcome.
The Bible does not talk this way. The Bible talks about sin as something ingrained, something we are born with, something that goes deep to our innermost being. The Bible tells us that at our core, there is something rotten about us that needs fixing.
Now, people don't like to hear this. They want to believe that sin is not that big a deal, just a minor glitch. It is like spilling ketchup on your shirt – it is irritating, but it is not horrible. They want to believe that sin is something that is easy to deal with – a correction here or there, an adjustment or two, a minor cleanup. That's all it takes.
B Did you notice that Paul implies that we are like others? He says, "At one time we too were ..." (Titus 3:3). Who are these others he is making reference to? Listen to what Paul says in chapter 1:
(Titus 1:10,16) For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group ... (16) They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.The Apostle Paul supports his argument by an appeal to Epimenides, a sixth-century B.C. philosopher:
(Titus 1:12) Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons."Talk about a politically incorrect statement! Talk about alienating your target audience! But these are the kinds of people Titus is working with on Crete.
"At one time we too were ..." (Titus 3:3). Hear what Paul is saying? Paul is saying converts to Christianity were once no better than their heathen neighbors. Paul is saying all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Paul and Titus and Timothy and Silas and Barnabas and Adrian and Robert and everyone in front of me – we all are sinners, we all are rotten to the core, we all have more that is wrong with us than just a personality flaw or quirks of behavior.
C "At one time we too were foolish ..." (Titus 3:3). That word "foolish" means we are without spiritual understanding, blind to God and His Law. We don't admit our true spiritual condition: that we are lost, fallen, and dead. We are like an ostrich that sticks its head in the sand and pretends everything is okay. People don't like to hear this: that we are dead, fallen, and lost. They want to believe that most persons are basically good.
"At one time we too were ... disobedient ..." (Titus 3:3). Disobedient to whom or to what? Disobedient to God and His Law. We are like children or teens who don't listen to their parents.
"At one time we too were ... deceived ..." (Titus 3:3). The Greek here suggests a false guide leading astray. Paul writes earlier to Titus about false teachers who "must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach" (Titus 1:11). They teach false doctrine (Titus 1:9) and myths (Titus 1:14). They are false guides. A couple of years ago, Ruth and I had a guided tour of the Congress Trail in the Sequoias. Our tour guide knew what she was talking about and gave us accurate information about the Sequoias and Sequoia National Park. A couple of weeks later I was on the Congress Trail again and overheard a self-proclaimed guide – it didn't sound like the same information at all; in other words, he was a false guide.
"At one time we too were ... enslaved ..." (Titus 3:3). Enslaved by what or to what? "By all kinds of passions and pleasures" (Titus 3:3). In other words, given over to carnal and material things. This is what we lived for. This is what controlled us. This was our Lord and Master.
"At one time ... we lived in malice and envy" (Titus 3:3). In an anti-social manner. Wishing the worst for others. Being jealous of another's success or joy.
"At one time we too were ... being hated and hating one another" (Titus 3:3). The first Greek word means odious, detestable – like the smell of road kill spoiling in the hot Summer sun. The second Greek word means "to loathe, to despise."
"At one time we too were ..." Paul holds back no punches, does he?! When Paul looks at others living the pagan life, he does not regard them with contempt. Nor, does he regard them with pride, thinking he is better. Rather, Paul knows and realizes what Whitefield said when he saw a criminal on the way to the gallows: "There but for the grace of God go I." Paul knows, "That is me."
This is the bad news: "At one time we too were ..." Do you know this about yourself? As you examine yourself before taking the Lord's Supper, do you know your sin and misery?
II The Good News
A Now for the good news: "At one time we too were ..." Notice, this is the way it used to be. But this is not the way it is now. Something has happened. A marvelous change has come about. We have been reborn and renewed (Titus 3:5) so we no longer are the persons we used to be.
"At one time we too were ..." Why the great and marvellous change? Listen to the good news of the Gospel:
(Titus 3:4) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us ..."At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved ..." But that is no longer the case. Why not? Because "he saved us."
B "He saved us." How? How did He save us? "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us" (Titus 3:4). Paul uses the word "appeared." In the Greek, this word always refers to Jesus in the flesh. Jesus in the flesh shows the kindness and love of God.
How do you know God loves you? What is the proof of His love? Look at Bethlehem's manger. Look at the flight to Egypt. Look at the forty days of temptation and hunger. Look at the Garden of Gethsemane. Look at Pilate's courtroom. But, especially, look at the cross. Look at Jesus in the flesh experiencing the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race. That is the proof of God's kindness and love.
C "He saved us." There is no way that the people described in verse 3 can possibly save themselves. Remember? They are lost in sin. They are dead in sin. They are "detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing anything good" (Titus 1:16). "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done ..." (Titus 3:5). We cannot keep the Law. We cannot earn salvation. As the song puts it:
Not what my hands have done We need an intervention. We need help from the outside. We need saving by God.
can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne
can my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears
can bear my awful load.
"He saved us ... because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5). He saved us not because we are so warm and cuddly. He saved us not because we are so good and holy. He saved us not because we deserve it. He saved us "because of his mercy" (Titus 3:5). A one-time, once-for-all act, is in mind here. In mind is God's act of mercy on the cross – sending Jesus to die for our sins.
We celebrate this act of mercy today. As we eat and drink from the Lord's Table, we are reminded that God sent Jesus in the flesh to die for our sins. As we eat the bread and drink the grape juice, we are reminded of God's kindness and love towards us in Christ Jesus.
D "At one time we too were ..." Here is a reminder that those who are saved are supposed to be different. Here is a reminder that those who have experienced the kindness and love of God are supposed to be different. Here is a reminder that those who are recipients of God's mercy are supposed to be different. Here is a reminder that you have been reborn and renewed so you are supposed to be different.
"At one time we too were ..." My brothers and sisters, there is no place in the Christian life for the sinful acts of the past. "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do ..." (Eph 4:17).
Scripture tells us no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like is going to inherit the kingdom of God. (Heidelberg Catechism, A 87)
"At one time we too were ..." If you are a true Christian, this lies in the past because of what God has done for you in Christ. The rotten core of your being has been changed. The grace of God teaches you to say
(Titus 2:12) ... "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age ...
Notice what Paul says in conclusion? He says, "This is a trustworthy saying" (Titus 3:8).
Five times in the pastoral epistles we find the phrase "trustworthy saying" (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8). It is to be found nowhere else in Scripture.
What is a trustworthy saying? It is a saying you can depend on. You know it is true, reliable, and inerrant because it comes from God Who is true, reliable, and inerrant. It is the Spirit-inspired apostle's way of saying, "I do solemnly swear that what I say is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God."
As you eat and drink from the Lord's Table this morning, think about the trustworthy saying in front of us:
(Titus 3:3-5) 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. (4) But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
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