Christ’s saving appearance: A commendation for holy living
Titus 3:3 – 8
The persistent question is: What is a proper Christian response in a pagan culture? How are we to respond or react in order to display God’s saving power? This is precisely what Paul continues to answer in his instruction through Titus to the Cretan church (3:1-8). As Paul instructs Titus to "remind them", he wants specific attitude and knowledge stressed among them, so that their responsibilities and benefits of living in a pagan culture may flourish without hindrance. “Reminding them” is a present tense command that stays, to retell the people of God, as a regular, ongoing, and continuing duty of the necessity for behaving themselves in a pagan society for evangelistic causes.
What is needed is to live in such a way as to exalt the Word of God, shut the mouths of the critic, and put God's saving power on display. Thus, Paul instructs us to remember our duty (vs. 1-2) which calls us to be humble in order to be subject to those in authority. Second, we are to remember our former condition (vs. 3-4) a prompt that keeps us humble before those who are not yet saved. We are to remember our salvation (vs. 4-7), and be humbled to acknowledge that it is only because of God’s mercy and nothing of ourselves. And fourthly, we should remember our mission (vs. 8) which calls us to a sustained humility before God and man, so as to be effective channels of God’s power in meeting man’s greatest need. It is about humility.
Under all circumstances, a Christian can manifest great courtesy and consideration based on this grace-sustained attitude of humility. True humility is not about giving an appearance of humiliation, but the realization of God's gracious provision of everything that we have, which we do not deserve. To do this “unto all men” is our wholesome evangelical imperative. In order for us to have respectful listeners when we witness or teach, it requires that we have these personal characteristics shown in our outlook toward other people and in our responses to others.
Paul’s teaching also helps us see that remembering our past estrangement from our Creator is an excellent corrective when we are tempted to look down on others. Recalling our own unworthiness, we see that it is hypocritical for us to expect our neighbor to prove himself worthy before we are kind to him. John Chrysostom wrote that, “If then, doing well yourself, you are inclined to revile others, consider your own former life and the uncertainty of the future, and restrain your anger”. Similarly, John Calvin says, “Ignorance of our own faults is the only cause that renders us unwilling to forgive our brethren.” Being one of God’s saints does not put us above loving the unlovable; rather, it must compel us to fulfill the debt of love we owe to others.
John Calvin said there are two things that need to be understood here: The first is, that they who have now been enlightened by the Lord, being humbled by the remembrance of their former ignorance, should not exalt themselves proudly over others, or treat them with greater harshness and severity than that which they think, ought to have been exercised towards themselves when they were what those now are. The second is, that they should consider, from what has taken place in their own lives, that they who today are strangers, may tomorrow be received into the church. And having been led to amendment of their sinful practices, may become partakers of the gifts of God, of which they are now destitute. There is a bright mirror of both in believers, who "at one time were darkness, and afterwards began to be light in the Lord." (Eph. 5:8.)
So, how are we to live in a pagan society? One: we remember our duty