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. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
After he has given Titus instruction about what behaviors are to be encouraged, and what not to allow, Paul shares some insights that reveal he has personal experiences that provide him with some important insight into these issues. Though he was a Pharisee among Pharisees, and very righteous in appearance, Paul has done many of the very things that he is telling Titus not to allow in the church. Paul and his very righteous colleagues were filled with foolish passions, were disobedient, malicious and hateful in spite of their outward righteousness. Yet, by the mercy and grace of God, Paul had been saved from all of that. No longer was Paul a slave to sin and unrighteousness, for by God’s grace, he was now a co-heir with Christ.
Each of us who follow Jesus today can say the same thing, that we have been turned from darkness to light, just as the people Titus has been called to lead had been. Yet Paul knew from his own experiences that this world has a way of pulling us back into silly disputes, debates and divisions. He continues:
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Verse 9 might seem a bit familiar to many us because what Paul seems to be getting at here is that we are to avoid unnecessary doctrinal disputes. It always amazes me when people become so upset when another person disagrees with them on some minor doctrinal point. They become irritated, frustrated and finally angry, over what? Is the story of Jonah and the whale (actually a fish) literal or figurative? What!? You dare to disagree with me?
It doesn’t matter, for either way the meaning is the same- so let’s fight about it…?
Even when we might disagree on something more important, God will reveal all in His time; my guess is that all of us will discover that we were right on some things, and wrong on others. There is nothing to be gained by tearing the Body of Christ apart in the meantime.
Paul’s instruction to Titus is to give people who insist on being divisive two chances to stop, and then to part company with them After that, they may, God willing, repent, and if not, they have condemned themselves. As a result, the rest of the community is spared being torn asunder.
Coming up next time, we’ll see how Paul draws his letter to a close: See you then!