“Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons,” Paul wrote to a young pastor on the island of Crete. “Therefore, rebuke them sharply” (Titus 1:12-13). Paul went on to advise Titus to teach the Cretans to be self-controlled and to set a good example (Titus 2:1-7).
Why should they learn self-control? “So that no one will malign the word of God” (verse 5). They were to change their behavior to make the gospel more attractive. Slaves, too, were to be good representatives for Christianity — “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (verse 10).
Paul did not want enemies of the faith to have anything bad to say about the people who were associated with the gospel message. He wanted the Christians to live holy lives and serve God, which would help put the gospel in a good light.
Then Paul gave some more reasons: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared” (verse 11). Grace, he says, teaches us to reject ungodly desires “and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (verse 12). Grace teaches us to be obedient. The message of grace leads to holy living. Gluttons need grace, and they should stop being gluttons.
Christians ought to be among the best-behaved people on earth. Often we are not, and for that we ought to be ashamed. Our sins invite people to say bad things about what we teach, the church we attend, and worst of all, the Savior we worship. We have every reason to live holy lives — not only in obedience to our Savior, but also for the sake of his gospel and for the salvation of those who see the example we set in his name.
Dedicating our lives to Christ leads us to reject every ungodly desire — sexual temptation, pride, greed for money and power, and even gluttony. It leads us to pursue peace and harmony in our families, learning how to constructively work through conflict. It leads us to a job performance that is marked by diligence and humility, not by office politics and stubbornness.
Our way of life is the result of God working in us, motivating us to conform to the image of Christ. His grace transforms us, and his Spirit changes us from lazy gluttons into self-controlled good examples. But it takes time. And it takes earnest commitment to our calling.
Jesus “gave himself for us,” Paul wrote (verse 14). Christ is not only our future King but also our Savior, the One who died for us. Why did he do it? “To redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.” He died for us so that we might be rescued from the power of sin.
Our Savior redeemed us and is purifying us, leading us to holy lives rather than sinful lives. Instead of catering to our natural selfish desires, we are to respond to his lead — we are to be “eager to do what is good.” This is the product of our salvation!
“These, then, are the things you should teach,” Paul concluded (verse 15). This is the job of a pastor, to teach about grace and living a good life.
We were once foolish and sinful, Paul noted (Titus 3:3). But when Christ came, he revealed God’s kindness and love for us. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (verse 5). Salvation was given by grace.
“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” We became cleansed of all sin and heirs of eternal life. The message of God’s grace and the gift of eternal life is “a trustworthy saying,” Paul says (verse 8). We can count on it and have faith in it.
“I want you to stress these things,” Paul instructed Titus. On Crete, an island full of “lazy gluttons,” Paul wanted Titus to emphasize grace. Every culture needs the message of grace. And the message includes the obligations that come with grace, too: a new way of life — holy living,
self-control, the path of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Savior.
Author: Joseph W. Tkach