I was listening to a podcast recently that was talking about research into the mob. Organized crime families. What the research revealed was fascinating: most mobsters don’t want to be mobsters. In fact, even when they themselves cannot break free from a life of crime, they will go to great lengths to help their kids and grandkids do so. While you are likely not living a life of organized crime, you have likely felt frustration about the difficulty of being good and doing good in your own life. It might be a struggle with addiction. It might be that difficult family member or friend. It might be a bad habit. It might be a money problem, stress at work, the difficulties of school, of parenting.
Even though we make fun of goody-two-shoes people, as if there is something uncool about do-gooders, and even though we humans have a natural tendency to sin, we also have a desire to be and do good. Often we forget that very first chapter of the Bible, which tells the story of God creating the universe, we read that after God would create something he said over and over again, it was good, it was good, and it was very good. Yet we can struggle to be good. How, then, do we become good? As we continue studying Paul’s short letter to his friend Titus, Paul talks about this very concept of being and doing good.
I encourage you to open your Bible or Bible app to Titus 2:11-15. As you turn there, remember that Paul and Titus had previously started churches on the island of Crete. He then sent Titus there to appoint leaders in the churches, and now in this short letter, he is giving Titus important instructions for the churches in Crete. We’ve heard how the people in Crete were known for being wild and crazy, and Paul is very hopeful that these new Christians will be different.
In verse 11 Paul starts off with the word, “For.” That’s one of those connecting words, meaning he has a flow of thought, where one idea leads to the next. So glance up at verse 10 to see where his flow of thought is coming from.
He has just talked about how Christians who were slaves could behave honorably, so that they would make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. When we studied that passage, I suggested it can apply to us too, maybe especially in our workplaces. How we act, how we live, how we make choices, what we say, all of our life choices, make the teaching about God either attractive or repulsive.
What Paul is saying in verse 10 is that oftentimes actions speak louder than words. So live in such a way as to give people a compelling reason to want to hear the words of the story. Because the story of the Kingdom of God has important words, concepts, and ideas, what are the words? That’s where Paul goes next in verse 11, and thus we now have an idea of his flow of thought.
He begins verse 11 with a foundational concept to the story of good news: the Grace of God. What is grace? Paul says that whatever grace is, it is “of God.” There is, then, a unique grace that comes from God. It is not human. It is the grace of God.
This grace is best understood and favor or kindness coming from God. It is not earned. It is God’s choice to act with kindness to us, based solely in his desire to be that way. He doesn’t owe it to us.
This is why the word Paul uses for “grace” is also translated “gift” in many other places. In that idea we see something important about grace. God’s kindness or favor to us is a gift he gives us. And what is the gift he gives us? Paul says God’s grace brings salvation. So in his kindness to us, God gives us the gift of salvation. We Christians throw around this word “salvation” a lot. But what does it mean to be saved?
We save things that are in danger of being lost. We save things to preserve them for the future. How many of you have had the agony of working on an email or paper for school or maybe you were playing a video game, and you have made so much progress, and the something happens, there is a glitch, or you accidentally turn off the computer, and you forgot to hit the “save” button? Your work, your progress is gone! Whew, that hurts right?
That’s very similar to the salvation Jesus brings. There is the real possibility that people, because of their willing choice to not believe in Jesus and not follow his way, are separated from his Kingdom, not a part of his covenant family. But God is gracious to us, making salvation available to us.
At this point in verse 11 Paul only tells us that salvation is available to us by God’s choice to be gracious. How does grace bring salvation? Keep following this week’s posts, as Paul will get to that!