FALSE TEACHERS, MERCY AND GRACE (Titus)
by Jeffrey Hagan
Lesson 1: Chapter 1 - False teachers are selfish and quarrelsome.
1:10-11, 16, "For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach...They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."
One of the major obstacles Titus was dealing with was the presence of false teachers who were “upsetting whole families for shameful gain what they ought not to preach" (1:11). They were creating division (3:19) and were "detestable, disobedient...unfit“ (1:10). They were focusing on “foolish controversies and genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law" (3:9) which Paul deems to be “unprofitable and worthless” compared to a grace-fueled pursuit of “good works,” which are “excellent and profitable” (3:8). Though these false teachers “profess to know God...they deny him, by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (1:16).
Lesson 2: Chapter 2 - God's grace transforms his people.
2:11-14, "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."
When God’s grace transforms believers, the regenerating, purifying Holy Spirit makes them “zealous for good works” (2:14). These good works, and the sound doctrine underlying them, stand in direct opposition to the false ideas and selfish, quarrelsome behaviors of the false teachers. Even as we face false teachings in our time, the best way we can address them is by focusing on God’s empowering grace and how it works itself out in our lives, trusting his Spirit to guide us in ways that are sensible, righteous, godly, and hopeful.
We need to let our teaching be so powerful in clarifying the greatness and the beauty and the worth of God’s truth that those being taught will smell error before it infiltrates their lives. The 'shape" of error is always changing. It's impossible to preach, teach or write enough negative information to stay ahead of it. The good news is we don’t have to. The best protection against the darkness of error is the light of truth.
Lesson 3: Chapter 3 - We are saved by God's mercy and grace.
3:4-7, "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Paul makes himself very clear in his letter to Titus that although believers should be concerned about developing godly character, this is not what saves them. But, because of the loving grace of God, believers are renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and it becomes possible for them to engage in good works fueled by love, not fear (1 John 4:18).
Good works are extremely vital to the Christian life. James certainly emphasizes this truth when writing "faith without works is dead" (among other things) The book of Jude also emphasizes their importance in 3:14, "And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful."
Good works do not save us. Christ as our substitute saves us. For those who are in Christ good works do nothing to gain favor with God, they do nothing to cause God to love us more. Our position with God is a fixed position. Good works express to others the salvation we have. Good works are horizontal in nature, they are for our benefit and the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Salvation is vertical in nature, that is a one way act from God to us through Jesus Christ.