Titus 3:9-15: Devoted to Doing What Is Good
August 23, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
As Paul comes to the end of this letter to Titus, he guards against taking his counsel to the other extreme, and also then underlines once more his main message.
First, in verses 9-11, he guards against taking his counsel to extreme. He has been saying that Titus must correct and rebuke and teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. But someone could hear this as meaning a free-for-all debate about every minutia. Indeed, with the passionate personality type that seemed to be predominate among Cretans at the time (see Titus 1:12), this was perhaps an ever-present danger! And so Paul warns Titus against being drawn into pointless and foolish arguments. Today, too, it is possible to end up engaging in a sparring debate about secondary or tertiary matters, while the main point of the gospel is forgotten. We must keep the main thing the main thing and not get drawn into divisive squabbles!
But what to do about those who do end up being divisive? Paul applies Jesus’ teaching about church discipline in Matthew 18:15-20 to this situation. First, warn the divisive person. Then, warn them again. After that, move on and have nothing to do with them. Paul is not talking about erecting a social stigma barrier or giving someone a “scarlet letter,” but not putting a divisive person in a leadership position or treating them as if they were a member in good standing. There does come a time when someone who is being divisive – after repeated warnings – should be removed from the status of good fellowship with the church. That does not mean that that person is no longer loved! Indeed, it is perhaps the most difficult expression of all to enact faithful, kind, yet firm church discipline. The aim is always for restoration and renewal.
Having given instructions about church discipline and avoiding getting into pointless squabbles about secondary matters, Paul reiterates the main theme of his letter to Titus again: “Our people must devote themselves to doing what is good.” This devotion to doing what is good comes out of the gospel (see Titus 2:11-14), and it is Titus’ task to ensure that this good behavior is taught as what is in accord with sound doctrine (see Titus 2:1).
As we conclude the Book of Titus, it is worth considering what we have learned. First, that churches must always be working towards greater health. The church at Crete had some way still to go! And it was Titus’ job, and that of the elders, as well as the members of the church, to grow in Christlikeness, or “devoting themselves to what is good.” Second, that the Word – sound doctrine – must be taught as what leads to practical life change. Third, that it is the gospel, the grace of God, that gives us the power to live lives that please God.
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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