Thursday, November 16, 2023

2023.11.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 3:3–8

Read Titus 3:3–8

Questions from the Scripture text: What seven things were “we ourselves once” (Titus 3:3)? What appeared (Titus 3:4)? Not by what did it appear (Titus 3:5)? But according to what? What did God do? Through what? What did God do with His Spirit (Titus 3:6)? Onto whom? How much? Through Whom? What did His grace accomplish (Titus 3:7a)? What did this make us? According to what hope? What kind of saying is Titus 3:8? What does the apostle (by the Spirit) want them to constantly do with it? About which people is he talking in this verse? What should they be careful to maintain? What results do good works produce for men?

What has  turned foolish rebels into careful maintainers of good works? Titus 3:3–8 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that righteous works do not come from righteous works, but from divine kindness and mercy that necessarily produces righteous works. 

Terrible sinners. Justification is one part of God’s marvelous salvation of terrible sinners. And “terrible sinners” is what we all start out as (Titus 3:3). “Foolish”—those who say in our hearts that there is no God. “Disobedient”—those whose wickedness resists restraining by authority. “Deceived”—those whose minds resist the truth of God, living and worshiping according to our own ideas instead.  “Serving various lusts and pleasures”—dominated by desires instead of delighting in God’s goodness that is the proper object of proper desire.  “Living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another”—our hostility to God spilling over in all manner of hostile thought and action toward those made in His image.

Justification. So, it ought to be obvious that God saving us is “not by works of righteousness which we have done”—such a thing could never save us because apart from God’s kindness and love and mercy (Titus 3:5a), such a thing doesn’t exist! When God became man “the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared” in the person of the incarnate Lord Jesus (Titus 3:4). 

Regeneration. But there is also a glorious moment in the life of every elect person where “the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man” appears. According to God’s mercy (not our or others’ effort, not our or others’ wisdom), He saves “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5b). Absolutely necessary, because of the completeness of our condition from Titus 3:3. And absolutely free because of the perfection of God’s character from Titus 3:4. God makes us NEW!

Union with Christ. But how can the righteous God give such a work, of such a Spirit, to such sinners as we are? Titus 3:6 answers, “through Jesus Christ our Savior.” The perfection of Christ in our stead is such that through Him, God’s giving us His Spirit is described here as an “abundant pouring out on us”! Upon those elected in Christ the Spirit is poured out by Christ, to bring us into Christ and His righteousness (Titus 3:7a), so that we can inherit glory with Christ forever (verse 7b).

From folly and disobedience to wisdom and good works. Now… you may have run into the idea (or even, from your own flesh, had the idea) that emphasizing Christians’ good works is somehow incompatible with emphasizing God’s grace. But nothing could be more opposite the truth! For the God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who finds us in the condition in Titus 3:3 is too gracious, too powerful, too good to leave us in that condition.

When God justifies us with Himself, in Christ, by the work of His Spirit, He makes us to live expectantly, as those who have a sure hope of eternal life. He makes us into those who live by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Those who live under the washing work of the Holy Spirit. Those who now do those works of righteousness. They go from foolish and deceived (Titus 3:3) to believing in God (Titus 3:8). They go from disobedient, self-indulgent, and hateful (Titus 3:3) to carefully maintain good works that benefit others (Titus 3:8).

What Christians must carefully do, and preachers must constantly affirm. This is why you must maintain good works. This is why you must be careful to maintain good works. This is why preachers must affirm that those who have believed in God must be careful to maintain good works. This is why preachers must constantly affirm that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). It is good and profitable men to hear and embrace the whole gospel, leaving out no part of God’s great salvation in Christ, by His Spirit.

What were you, apart from Christ? How could you come to be in Christ? What difference has this made in what you hope for? What difference has it made in the strength of that hope? What difference has it been making in your living?

Sample prayer:  Kind and loving God, You have saved us, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to Your mercy. But we have lived as if we are still in our folly and sin—as if the gracious work of the triune God doesn’t make much difference in us. O forgive us, O Lord, for such blasphemous living and thinking! And grant that by Your Spirit, through Your Son, we would be careful to maintain good works, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH426 “How Vast the Benefits Divine”

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