Titus 3:3

‘foolish, disobedient, deceived,
serving various lusts and pleasures,
living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another’
(Titus 3:3)

This is what Jesus came to deliver us from, mankind’s inclination to live as deceived fools, enslaved by various cravings, driven by envy and hate! So Jesus announced that He’d come to ‘“proclaim release to the captives… sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed”’(Luke 4:18). He didn’t mean deliverance from Roman oppression, as many initially misunderstood Him, nor was this simply good news for the physically ‘“blind”’(John 9:32), although His ‘compassion’(Matthew 14:14) ensured that was part of it. His concern ran deeper. He saw mankind’s spiritual blindness and captivity to ‘“sin”’(John 8:34), ‘multitudes’(Matthew 9:36) oppressed, shackled, hooded and lost, since ‘the god of this world has blinded… minds’(2 Corinthians 4:4).

It’s helpful to reflect on the true wretchedness of this state we’ve been rescued from as Christians, how wretched it really is, and how easily we’re deluded to think otherwise. Such reflections will deter us from backsliding, spur on our discipleship, and fill us with thanks and praise to our saviour, all the more as we consider the blessings of our contrasting lives as Christians.

Paul seems to have had such thoughts in mind as he wrote this letter to Titus, a fellow worker he’d ‘left… in Crete’(Titus 1:5). It seems they’d been planting new churches there, Paul having left Titus behind to consolidate the work. Apparently the ‘“Cretans”’(Titus 1:12) were classic examples of our transformation from this wretched existence into new life in Christ, but obviously were still young in the faith. So Paul wanted Titus to emphasise ‘these things… so that those who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works’(Titus 3:8).

So first our wretched blind captivity, which Paul often mentioned, perhaps most comprehensively in his letter to the Romans. There he explains that mankind ‘became vain in their reasoning… senseless… darkened’(Romans 1:21ff.), later calling us ‘bondservants of sin’(Romans 6:17), which involves being driven by ‘the mind of the flesh’(Romans 8:7). Thinking leads to doing, so in another letter he lists ‘the deeds of the flesh… which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies,  envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these’(Galatians 5:19-21), the same sort of things mentioned in summary form to Titus here.

Nevertheless, Paul’s heart was always in the transformation, the compassion of God in Jesus in him. So writing to Titus he eagerly moves on: ‘But when the kindness of God our Saviour and His love toward mankind appeared… He saved us’(Titus 3:4-5). This involves release from both the spiritual blindness and our captivity to sin, and happens ‘through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit’(Titus 3:5).

Through His illuminating Spirit, God shines ‘in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’(2 Corinthians 4:6). Then ‘made free from sin’(Romans 6:18), a freedom ‘“bought”’(Revelation 5:9) by the blood of Jesus, we instead become ‘bondservants of righteousness… servants of God’(Romans 6:18-22), no longer those who ‘set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit’(Romans 8:5). Moreover, this new bond is far better than being the servant of a good master. We become the children of a good father, our perfect Father, having received not so much a ‘spirit of bondage… but… the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”’(Romans 8:15). So now, as children of God ‘“born of the Spirit”’(John 3:6), instead of the rotten deeds of fleshly decay, we’re enabled to yield the sweet ‘fruit of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith[fullness], gentleness, and self-control’(Galatians 5:22-23), a much more blessed existence, and one which grows in its yield.

This expectation of growth is important to understand, especially when newly set free into this Christian life, as with those Titus was ministering to on Crete. So Paul’s letter contains some basic teachings for such groups, including things like not being ‘enslaved to much wine’(Titus 2:3). As Peter taught, we’re to rid ourselves of all such fleshly drives, ‘Putting away… all wickedness… deceit, hypocrisies, envies’(1 Peter 2:1) etc., and instead, like ‘newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that with it [we] may grow’(1 Peter 2:2). It’s a wonderful ‘pilgrimage… from strength to strength’(Psalm 84:5-7). Then, in the fullness of time, when eternity dawns, ‘the creation itself… will be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God’(Romans 8:21) – as Paul concludes here, ‘the hope of eternal life’(Titus 3:7).

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