Scripture Reading: Titus 3:1-15, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Ephesians 2:8-10
Goodness, this passage reads like such good advice! The kind of advice I usually receive is more like:
Lay the baby on her front. (Read: late 80s.)
Lay the baby on her back. (Read: early 90s.)
Don’t sit on cold concrete. (Why?)
Clean the baseboards every week. (Please don’t make me.)
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. (This is actually pretty good advice.)
Never miss an opportunity to go to the lavatory. (It’s just true.)
Of course, receiving good advice and following it are two very different things. (I definitely don’t keep my baseboards properly cleaned.) We are often tempted to think that just knowing the right thing should be enough, a kind of salvation-by-information or salvation-by-education. But, as Paul points out, we aren’t the kind of people who just need another good bit of advice. We aren’t following the good advice we’ve already heard.
In fact, Paul is writing something much different from an advice column. He is talking about a transformation of life. We, left to ourselves “were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3). And it wasn’t merely a bit of good advice that saved us. It was not someone offering an odious, “Here’s what you oughta do…” No, it was grace. God poured out His Spirit on us through Jesus Christ. We were justified, not by following a nifty list of suggestions, but purely by grace.
This salvation by grace, through Christ, by the work of His Spirit, is what we are to insist on. It is this which actually transforms us. Yes, there are things we ought to do and ought not to do, but grace alone is sufficient to transform us from fools who refuse sound wisdom, to sons and daughters who walk in the righteousness of Christ. “Insist on these things,” Paul says, “so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works” (v. 8). Devotion to good works is the fruit of God’s gracious work of transformation.
Don’t worry about advice. It’s tempting to read Paul’s words as a list of how we are falling short, and how we need to change our behavior so we fit in as God’s kind of people. We are already God’s people. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And because of His sacrifice and His grace, He is changing us from the inside out. The work is done by Him. Step into the waters of regeneration and walk out a new creation. Paul is describing a whole new kind of humanity, one not achieved by human effort, but by God’s redemptive grace.
Thanks be to God!