Last Sunday we concluded our study of the Pastoral Epistles with a discussion of Titus 2:11-3:15. In the first half of Paul’s letter to Titus, we noticed his emphasis on self-control in his directions to Titus and to all types of Christians, young and old, men and women. In the second half of his letter, there is an emphasis on “doing what is good”.
…we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:13-14
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good… Titus 3:1
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. Titus 3:8
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Titus 3:14
What does this mean for us? Is the essence of faith the performance of good works? It is important to read these passages in context, or else we may go down the path of the Pharisees, trying to make ourselves righteous by our good deeds. In Titus 3:8 above, what is it that Paul tells Titus to stress, that will result in God’s people being eager and devoted to good works?
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. Titus 3:3-8a
This passage is a wonderful short summary of the gospel – that God saved us not because of what we had done, but because of his love for us. Titus is to remind his congregation that God saved them by his grace, and this is what will make them eager to do good works. When we understand God’s great love for us, when we receive his Holy Spirit and are reborn in Christ, doing good works becomes a joy and not a burden. We are not concerned with whether we have done enough, for nothing we do could be enough – that is not what saves us. Our salvation is secure, and in that security we are free to serve God in joy and peace.
This is not to say that we won’t sometimes struggle – the old Adam still lives in us, and sometimes it does feel like a burden to serve God. That’s why we need God’s Word and Sacraments on a regular basis. Titus must remind his congregation of the gospel constantly, or the message of the world will drown it out. Our natural tendencies to be either lazy and self-serving, or to do good but take self-righteous pride in it, will win out over the humble, joyful, grateful attitude that the Holy Spirit cultivates in our hearts.
This concludes our study of the Pastoral Epistles. Next Sunday, May 5, we will have a presentation from guest pastor John Welge about the ministry of Food for the Poor. Please note that there will be NO EARLY SERVICE on May 12 as we come together as a congregation to say goodbye to Pastor Dutzmann with a special reception after the 11 o’clock service. There will be no adult Bible study that day, although the children will have Sunday school. On May 19, Pastor and District President Timothy Yeadon will lead the adult Bible study hour, and on May 26 we will host our local Gideons.
To review the rest of our Pastoral Epistles studies, please use the links below.