With respect to the conduct of Christians towards the world, grace has banished violence, and the spirit of rebellion and resistance which agitates the heart of those who believe hot, and which has its source in the self-will that strives to maintain its own rights relatively to others.
The Christian has his portion, his inheritance, elsewhere; he is tranquil and submissive here and ready to do good. Even when others are violent and unjust towards him, he bears it in remembrance that once it was no otherwise with himself: a difficult lesson, for violence and injustice stir up the heart; but the thought that it is sin, and that we also were formerly its slaves, produces patience and piety. Grace alone has made the difference, and according to that grace are we to act towards others.
The apostle gives a grievous summary of the characteristics of man after the flesh-that which we once were. Sin was foolishness-was disobedience; the sinner was deceived-was the slave of lusts, filled with malice and envy, hateful, and hating others. Such is man characterized by sin. But the kindness of God, of a Saviour-God, His good-will and charity towards men (sweet and precious character of God!) [See Footnote #2] has appeared. The character that He assumed is that of Saviour, a name especially given Him in these three epistles, in order that we should bear its stamp in our walk, that it should pervade our spirit. Our walk in the world and our conduct towards others depend on the principles of our relationships with God. That which has made us different from others is not some merit in ourselves, some personal superiority: we were sometime even as they. It is the tender love and grace of the God of mercy. He has been kind and merciful to us: we have known what it is, and are so to others. It si true that in cleansing and renewing us this mercy has wrought by a principle, and in a sphere of a life, that are entirely new,, so that we cannot walk with the world as we did before; but we act towards others who are still in the mire of this world, as God has acted towards us to bring us out of it, that we might enjoy those things which, according to the same principle of grace, we desire that others also should enjoy. The sense of what we once were, and of the way in which God has acted towards us, combine to govern our conduct towards others.
Now when the kindness of a Saviour-God appeared, it was not something vague and uncertain; He has saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy by washing and renewing us. This is the double character of the work in us, the same two points which we find in John 3 in the Lords' discourse with Nicodemus; except that here is added that which has now its place because of the work of Christ, namely, that the Holy Ghost is also shed on us abundantly to be the strength of that new life of which He is the source. The man is washed, cleansed. He is washed from his former habits, thoughts, desires, in the practical sense. We wash a thing that exists. The man was morally bad and defiled in his inward and outward life. God has saved us by purifying us; He could not do it otherwise. To be in relationship with Himself there must be practical purity.
But this purification was thorough. It was not the outside of the vessel. It was purification by means of regeneration; identified with the communication of a new life no doubt, which is the source of new thoughts, in connection with God's new creation, and capable of enjoying His presence and in the light of His countenance, but which in itself is a passage from the state we were in into a wholly new one, from flesh by death into the status of a risen Christ.
But there was a power which acted in this new life and accompanies it in the Christian. It is not merely a subjective change, as they say. There is an active divine Agent who imparts something new, of which He is Himself the source-the Holy Ghost Himself. It is God acting in the creature (for it is by the Spirit that God always acts immediately on the creature); and it is in the character of the Holy Ghost that He acts in this work of renewal. It is a new source of thoughts in relationship with God; not only a vital capacity, but an energy which produces that which is new in us.
It has been a question, When does this renewal by the Holy Ghost take place? Is it at the commencement, or is it after the regeneration [See Footnote #3] of which the apostle speaks? I think that the apostle speaks of it according to the character of the work; and adds "shed on us" (that which characterizes the grace of this present period) to shew that there is an additional truth, namely, that the Holy Ghost, as "shed on us," continues in order to maintain by His power the enjoyment of the relationship into which He has brought us. The man is cleansed in connection with the new order of things; but the Holy Ghost is a source of an entirely new life, entirely new thoughts; not only of a new moral being, but of the communication of all that in which this new being develops itself. We cannot separate the nature from the objects with regard to which the nature develops itself, and which form the sphere of its existence and characterize it.
It is the Holy Ghost who gives the thoughts, who creates and forms the whole moral being of the new man. The thought and that which thinks, cannot be separated, morally, when the heart is occupied with it. The Holy Ghost is the source of all in the saved man: he is ultimately saved, because this is the case with him.
The Holy Ghost does not only give a new nature; He gives it us in connection with an entirely new order of things ("a new creation"), and fills us as to our thoughts with the things that are in this new creation. This is the reason, that, although we are placed in it once for all, this work-as to the operation of the Holy Ghost-continues; because He ever communicates to us more and more of the things of this new world into which He has brought us. He takes of the things of Christ and shews them to us; and all that the Father has is Christ's. I think that the "renewing of the Holy Ghost" embraces all this; because he says, "which shed on us abundantly." So that it is not only that we are born of Him, but that He works in us, communicating to us all that is ours in Christ.
The Holy Ghost is shed on us abundantly by means of Jesus Christ our Saviour, in order that, having been justified by the grace of this Saviour, we should be heirs according to the hope of eternal life. I think that the antecedent of "in order that" is "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and that the sentence, "which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour," is an accessory parenthesis introduced to shew us that we have the fullness of the enjoyment of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Thus he has saved us by this renewing that we may be heirs according to the hope of eternal life, It is nothing outward, earthly, or corporeal. Grace has given us eternal life, In order to this, we have been justified by the grace of Christ. [See Footnote #4] Thus there is energy, power, hope, through the rich gift of the Holy Ghost. In order to our participating in it we have been justified by His grace, and our inheritance is in the incorruptible joy of eternal life.
God has saved us, not by works-nor by means of [See Footnote #5] anything that we are, but by His mercy. But the He has acted towards us according to the riches of His own grace, according to the thoughts of His own heart.
With these things the apostle desires that Titus would be occupied-with that which brings us with thanksgiving into practical connection with God Himself and makes us feel what our portion is, our eternal portion, before Him. This acts upon the conscience, fills us with love and good works, makes us respect all the relationships of which God Himself is the center. We are in relationship with God according to His rights; we are before God, who causes everything that He has Himself established to be respected by the conscience.
Idle questions and disputes on the law Titus was to avoid, together with everything that would destroy the simplicity of our relationship with God according to the immediate revelation of Himself and of His will in Jesus Christ. It is still the Gnostic Judaism setting itself up against the simplicity of the gospel; it is the law and human righteousness, and that which, by means of intermediate beings, destroys the simplicity and the immediate character of our relationship with the God of grace.
When a man tried to set up his own opinions, and by that means to form parties in the assembly, after having admonished him once and a second time, he was to be rejected; his faith was subverted. He sins, he is judged of himself. He is not satisfied with the assembly of God, with the truth of God: he wants to make a truth of his won. Why is he a Christian, if Christianity, as God has given it, does no suffice him? By making a party for his own opinions he condemns himself.
We have, at the end of the epistle, a little glimpse of the Christian activity which the love of God produces, the pains taken that the flock should enjoy all the help with which God supplies the assembly. Paul wished that Titus should come to him: but the Cretans needed his services; and the apostle makes the arrival of Artemas or Tychicus (the latter well known by the services he had rendered to Paul) the condition of the departure of Titus from the field in which he was laboring. We find too that Zena, a lawyer, and Apollos, who had also displayed his active zeal at Ephesus and Corinth , were disposed to occupy themselves in Crete with the work of the Lord.
Observe also that we have the two kinds of labourers: those who were in personal connection with the apostle as fellow-laborers, who accompanied him, and whom he sent elsewhere to continue the work he had begun, when he could no longer carry it on himself; and those who labored freely and independently of him. But there was no jealousy of this double activity. He did not neglect the flock that were dear to him. He was glad that any who were sound in the faith should water the plants which he had planted. He encourages Titus to show them all affection, and to provide whatever they needed in their journey. thought suggest to him the counsel that follows; namely, that it would be well for Christians to learn how to do useful work in order to supply the wants of others as well as their own.
The apostle ends his epistle with the salutations that christian love always produces; but, as we saw at the beginning, there is not here the same expansion of heart that we find in Paul's communications to Timothy. Grace is the same everywhere; but there are special affections and relationships in the assembly of God.
Footnotes for Titus 3
2: In Greek it is the word 'philanthropy', which in scripture is only used in speaking of God; and which moreover has much greater force than the English word, because 'phil' is an especial affection for anything, a friendship.
3: "palinggenisia" the word here used, is not being born again ("anagennao"). It is used, besides this passage, only in the end of Matthew 19 for the millennium. The renewing of the Holy Ghost is a distinctthing from the regeneration. This last is a change of one state of things to another.
4: It is because "Christ" is in the parenthesis, and not in the principal sentence, that we read "ekeinos".
5: Here, as everywhere, the responsibility of man and God's saving grace, by which purpose also is accomplished, are clearly distinguished.