Last week, meditating on Titus 2:11-15, I wrote of the relationship between the grace of God and self-denial, and I said that I’d return this week to deal with the words “renounce, live, and wait” (2:12-13). However, as I prayerfully re-read the context again, I noticed another key idea in the preceding verses that really impacts what Paul says in 2:11-15.
In chapter one Paul lays out the requirements for elders (1:5-9) and then highlights the reasons why these particular qualifications matter. On the one hand, there are insubordinate false teachers in the church who are leading people astray and thus the church desperately needs elders who can “give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it” (1:9). On the other hand, these teachers “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (1:16). I take the word “detestable” to mean that they were indulging in some kind of fleshly practices so that their false teaching, as it always does, eventuated in disobedience to God. This ruined them for any good work, that is, any work that is pleasing and acceptable to the Father.
Therefore, Paul exhorts Titus in 2:1 to “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” that is, to promote a lifestyle that fits with truth. Paul then gives him specific instructions as to how to guide various groups of people “so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (2:10). This is a crucial idea.
Whatever the particulars of a Christian lifestyle ought to be—denying ourselves certain things that we may live to other things as we wait for the Lord—the point of our lifestyle is to make the true teaching of God our Savior look gorgeous! Our right behavior in Christ is neither to be a cause for pride in the secret places of our hearts nor a weapon to be used against others as though we’re better than them. After all, it’s only by the grace of God that we can do anything good. Rather, our behavior in Christ is to be an adornment on the true teaching of God our Savior, making it as attractive as possible to a lost and dying world. This is why we ought to “renounce, live, and wait,” which I do think I’ll say more about next week!
For now, let’s allow these two truths to sink all the more deeply into our hearts and habits: we can only obey by the grace of God and the reason we should obey is to make the teaching of this gracious God to be as beautiful as it can possibly be. May the beautification of God become our sole desire!