Paul tells Titus that the grace of God that is “salvation-bringing” has appeared for all (see Titus 2:14 and following for the full text). Here are some “grace notes.”
We will be, must be, a church that lives by and in the grace of God. That grace must be palpable wherever we are and go. That grace must be thick in the air—no, it must be the very air we breathe, that gives us breath and keeps us breathing. If we get other things wrong, we can’t get this wrong—the grace of God. Paul declares it, celebrates what it accomplishes, and then urges Titus to make it the basis of exhortation and correction, with no apologies.
Note with me several things about this grace—that make it truly amazing grace. First, the context prompting Paul’s letter. I want to draw attention to the kind of world in which Paul writes and the way this world had intruded into the church.
Titus was appointed to bring order to the church and complete the organization of the church (see 1:5f.). The church needed such order. V.10 There were many rebellious people who were big talkers, and deceivers … they are corrupting entire families by their unwholesome teaching.
They remind Paul of the popular press that people of that region often got: Cretans always liars, evil and animal like, lazy gluttons. That’s what they say about themselves. Paul says, you can see there is truth in this by the way some of them are acting in the church. They’ve been won to Christ, but behave like their old selves and it’s wrecking the church.
The worst of the world seems to have crept into the church. And Paul writes to remind Titus that this is why he has been appointed to serve there: To deal with the mess, lead the church to her best self, to integrity, to singular focus on their hope, and to the mission Jesus has for them before Jesus returns.
Read the letter and you will see Paul giving specifics, telling Titus to choose leaders well, to warn, to correct, to discipline and all the rest. But clearly it must have seemed that what the church really needed was a good dose, a second dose, of the gospel that saves people.
Sometimes those in the church seem just as in need as those outside to get saved, to be filled with the Spirit, to become holy people. They may have had a “salvation” or even a “sanctification” experience but still the need is there. They are not spiritually well people. They complain, they insist on their own way; they are rude. They major on things Jesus never cared about, at least not enough to become part of his story. They are just not nice people, though they are in the church. And, lest you think I am only “picking on” lay people, sometimes even pastors exhibit such tendencies. Even worse, sometimes pastors act as though they are entitled, as though they should get a medal for all they do for the church etc. etc. What they need is this grace of God that brings salvation, that works savingly. They need grace to arrest what is not good, to correct what is crooked, to shed light on the false and true, and to empower God’s people to embrace and become people of truth, goodness, and beauty as these are seen in Jesus Himself.
Note well that Paul does not tell Titus to depend on the law of God, the standards of God, not even the disciplines of God. He says, it is the grace of God. You cannot correct people by throwing the book at them, by clearly explaining the rules, or by enforcing the rules. We have a long and storied past of trying to do so and it doesn’t work. When you throw the book at them you get Pharisees or inwardly rebellious though compliant people. No one was ever changed by a collision with the book.
Deep and lasting correction—better re-creation—will come only by the grace of God. More later.