Titus 2:11-15: Grace, Applied and Taught
August 21, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We have mentioned several times that this section in Titus contains the key controlling theological principle that reverberates throughout the rest of the letter.
Paul has left Titus in Crete to straighten out what was left unfinished. To that end, he is to appoint elders to help encourage and indeed correct that which is wrong. He also needs to teach in such a way that it influences the key structures of the society in Crete: older men train younger men, older women train younger women, and the gospel impacting work as well as church.
But what is it that is behind all this? What is it that it gives it its power? With such a strong focus on the ethical in this letter to Titus (or as Paul puts is repeatedly, “that which is good”), it would be possible for us to think Paul was advocating for mere moralism, or perhaps even legalism.
To counter that impression, we come now to the key controlling theological principle of the letter. And then a final charge that concludes this section at the end of this chapter.
The theological principle is expressed in stunning form in verses 11 to 14. If you are looking to memorize a portion of Scripture, then this section would be in the top ten most important Bible verses to memorize in the New Testament. Look at it carefully! What Paul is saying is that it is grace that teaches us to say no to ungodliness, and shows us how to instead live godly lives. And what is this grace? It is that Jesus Christ gave himself for us on the cross to redeem for himself a people who are his very own “eager to do what is good.” This is true grace. God has saved us to be his own people, redeemed from all wickedness and increasingly purified. Grace does this.
What does that mean in practice? It means that if you are struggling with some sinful habit or pattern in your life, release will come from the application of grace. You need (as has been frequently said) to “preach the gospel to yourself every day.” You are a saved person. You are redeemed. You are loved. And therefore, you must live like it! Now, because of grace, you have the power to live for Christ. Previously, you could not please Christ. But now – if you have committed your life to Christ – you are a new creation and the old has gone. Sin still dogs your footsteps, for sin remains in your body. You are not yet raised from the dead with a new body. You are in a fight every day against sin. But, now, Christian, you have the resources to fight the good fight! So fight on! And become more like Christ as you apply grace to your life.
After this theological principle that is deeply practical – the practice of grace – Paul concludes this section with a strong charge to Titus. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. When we read words like those, we should be careful to read them in the context of the wider call to humility and servant-like attitude for all Christians, and especially those in authority in the church. But humility does not mean being a pushover; meekness does not mean weakness; and being a servant does not mean being a people pleaser, for you are servant ultimately of One Master and to his will. But it does mean that while pastors (like Titus) are to use the authority of God’s Word as they teach, to encourage and, yes, also rebuke when necessary, pastors are not to bully, manipulate, or intimidate. No! Consider the example of Christ who certainly preached with authority but always with love.
Such is grace, applied and taught.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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