Scripture Reading: Titus 2:1-15, Malachi 3:17-18, 1 John 3:2-3
When my husband and I went to graduate school, we found a darling old home to rent on a popular street in St. Louis. It had antique door knobs, stained glass windows, and an old-fashioned brass post box that the mailman would slip our mail through each day. I swooned when we moved in, enchanted by all the architectural elements and the original hardwoods and the stunning, old stone fireplace.
I loved that house, until I didn’t. Until we found a mouse, until the emerald green tile in the shower collapsed on my visiting brother-in-law, until our gas bill was more than $400 in the wintertime, the foundation literally started crumbling into the basement, and the water that ran from the taps turned brown inexplicably and then stayed that way. The house was beautiful and charming, but it wasn’t sound.
When Paul writes to Titus, the church in Crete was experiencing a similar sort of story. Many people were teaching a Christianity that looked appealing, but was antithetical to the gospel. Titus 1 explains this in detail as Paul tells Titus that the false teachers are “ruining entire households” (v. 11). Theirs was an unsound gospel, and Paul knew the church in Crete was not safe on such a weak foundation.
In Titus 2, Paul exhorts each member of the household to carry their own weight toward sound teaching. Everyone had a task: older men and older women, young women and young men, slaves and their masters. From “teach what is good” to “be sound beyond reproach,” Paul’s instructions were serious, so that “God’s word would not be slandered” (vv. 1–9).
Paul probably could have stopped there. He was respected by Titus, who would take his words to heart. Paul could trust Titus to put the gospel first. But Paul continues on. In Titus 2:11–14, he recounts the glorious gift of the gospel. Paul’s ballast is Scripture; he is stabilized by grace. Paul is hardly one to say “just do this,” but instead illustrates why someone ought to. He writes:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (vv. 11–13).
I can’t help but think of my toddler, who adores Laura Numeroff’s picture book, If You Give A Mouse a Cookie. The rest of that sentence is, “he’ll ask for a glass of milk.” The theme goes on and on, a series of if-thens that build throughout the book.
Paul’s closing statements in chapter 2 are a cosmically important “if-then,” telling Christians how to act: If Jesus really brought salvation, then you have to deny worldly lusts and live in a godly way.
The false teachers in Crete were not living out a gospel that matched the work of Christ. Sound theology mattered to Paul; integrity to the gospel should matter to all of us. May we continue to rely on the unfettered grace that God gives to us to live out our lives in a way that honors him. May we rest soundly on the gospel, our foundation in faith.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing and reading in Nashville, where she also joyfully serves as the editor of Kids Read Truth. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables.