Establishing a Healthy Church – Part 4

Focusing on Paul's letter to Titus, this series shows us that a healthy church is a church with healthy leadership—leadership that teaches the gospel, nurtures an understanding and belief in the gospel and lives out the gospel in daily life.

Topic : Nature of the Church | Scripture: Titus3:1

Transcript | Audio


Today we’re going to conclude our study of the book of Titus. If you missed the last few weeks, we did an introduction the first week, the second week we did chapter 1, last week we did chapter 2 and today we’re going to do chapter 3. It has been a good study and I hope that you have been encouraged and strengthened. The overarching purpose of the letter is that the apostle Paul is writing to a young man, a friend of his, a co-laborer in the ministry and he’s instructing him on how to take these young churches that had been planted on the island of Crete and to get these churches up and established. So Paul is writing to Titus and telling him, “Hey, this is what it want you to do. This is how I want you to lead the church into becoming a healthy local church.” So in Titus 1, we talked about the fact that Paul told Titus, “If you want to have a healthy church, it’s crucial that you have healthy leadership. Because healthy leadership nurtures a right understanding of the gospel and also protects the church against false teaching and false teachers.” So we talked about that at length the first week as we studied chapter 1. And in chapter 2, Paul writes and talks about how a healthy church is also a church that, as they are ever increasingly understanding and believing the true gospel that the leaders are teaching, lives in light of the message. A healthy church is a church whose lives match up with the message that they’ve come to believe. So we talked about that last week. We talked about the fact that Paul, in his mind, knew that on the non-Christians on the island of Crete were watching the church. Many people on the island who weren’t Christians had never heard of Christianity, they had never seen a Christian much less a group of Christians, and so Paul was very much concerned with the Christians on the island living in such a way that non-Christians would see and learn something of the Christian God.

And then this week, what we’re going to learn as we read and finish this letter is that Paul’s going to say that a healthy church that is shining bright for God’s glory to the neighbors around them is one that walks in the purpose that God saved it to. They are namely to be a people of God, to be “his own possession who are zealous for good works.” So a healthy church is one who, in light of their understanding of the true gospel, is doing good works because of the good work that Christ has done for them on the cross. So let’s read chapter 3 and then we’ll come back around and walk through it verse by verse.

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. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 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. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. When I send

Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.

Let’s pray. “Father, we pray now and ask that You would give us ears to hear what You would have for us to hear as we finish studying this letter this morning. We again thank You for this letter. We thank You for the wisdom, the grace and the insight in how to live godly lives that this letter has provided us as a church. Thank You for inspiring Paul to write it. So we pray that the ears of our hearts would be tuned to hear from You this morning, both as individuals and also as a family of faith corporately. We pray and ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Martin Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Saving faith always leads to tangible, visible evidences. Jesus would say it this way, “Each tree is known by its own fruit.” So He’s speaking to His followers and is basically saying, “Listen, if you’re one of My followers, people are going to know that based on the fruit that your life produces.” So we’re saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. Actually in the New Testament and the 1 st century, this was really a misunderstood topic. Over and over again as you read Paul writing these letters to the local churches, you’ll see that there were many in the local churches in the 1 st century that believed all they needed to do was believe in Jesus and that was that in terms of how they were to live their Christian lives. They thought they could just then sit back, enjoy the grace that had been afforded them and do nothing. They had this understanding that the grace of God was like fire insurance where you don’t want to go to hell and have God’s wrath poured out on you, so you believe in Jesus and agree mentally and that’s it.

After that, there was nothing, there was no movement, there was no moving forward. Their faith never worked itself out in the way that they lived their lives. So the writers of the New Testament repeatedly had to write and clear up this misunderstanding and tell these Christians, “That’s not true. Yeah, you are saved by grace through faith alone. There’s nothing you do that makes you right with God. It’s what Jesus has done that makes us right with God, but when you get that, when your heart grabs hold of that, when it registers in the deepest places of who you are that you have been saved by grace, it necessarily compels you to live a certain way. It leads to good works.” And over and over again, we see this in the letters of the New Testament. Perhaps James, who is the brother of Jesus, wrote most famously on this. He said in James 2, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” That’s about the most confrontational sort of language you could use that James is using here. “It’s dead. It’s not faith.” “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” And then he goes on to talk about how, as you look at the history of God’s people, a genuine faith, a true faith by grace leads to certain a certain lifestyle, leads to certain behaviors, leads to a certain sort of works.

And of course the apostle Paul is not shy about this either. He talks about at length in Titus 3. Paul is saying just that to the young Christians on Crete. He’s saying, “Now that you’ve come to believe the gospel, if you’ve really believed that and want to become a local church, part of what that means is that your faith will lead you to do certain things for the good of other people.” So Paul is going to jump right into this misunderstanding that was prevalent among 1 st century Christians and is still prevalent among many Christians today. Paul is going to blow this idea out of the water that being saved by grace alone is at odds with working out that salvation. He’s going to do so by affirming that we are saved by faith alone, not of works, and at the very same time he’s going to mention four times in this chapter how that sort of saving faith always leads to good works. So let’s actually pick it up in verse 15 of Titus 2. Paul just shared the gospel as the means and motivation by which we do the things that he’s instructing the churches to do. He tells Titus, “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Remind them. . .” So this is not something that would have been new. This is something they had already been told, and he wants them to remember. “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient,. . .” So as he begins to unpack ways that all Christians should act toward the non-Christian world, the very first place he starts is being good citizens. He starts at the most basic level and just says, “Christians ought to be good citizens. They ought to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient.” Politically the the atmosphere in Crete was very volatile. In fact, the Cretans were sort of known for their insurrection against the government. Rome had come in and conquered them just like they did with everybody else in the known world. So these people on the island were under Roman rule, and many of them did not like it at all, for good reason. So there were constant insurrections. And what Paul is saying to the Christians who live in a culture like this is, “You don’t do that. You as a Christian act different in this area. You submit to the authority. You submit to those who are over you. You be obedient to them. You live counter-culturally to the way that the people around you are living.” Of course, when Paul says to be submissive, this does not mean that Christians give the state unconditional allegiance. Paul never means that. To give a state unconditional allegiance is to worship the state, and Christians don’t do this. In fact, this is actually the primary thing that has gotten so many Christians murdered, martyred for their faith over the last 2000 years, because they have been unwilling to worship the state in place of worshiping Jesus Christ. The Christians in the New Testament refused to submit to the Roman government when the government commanded them to do something contrary to the commands of God. Over and over again, you see this. The Roman government would come to these Christians and say, “That’s great that Jesus is your Lord, but Caesar is lord of Rome, so you need to submit to Caesar, you need to bow to Caesar, you need to say Caesar is lord.” And the Christians said, “No, we can’t do that. Jesus is Lord.” So that little commandment in the letter to the Roman church where it says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” that had a lot of implications. To say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord in that sort of culture and not do that for Caesar could cost your life. And it did just that for many Christians. So when Paul is saying to be submissive here to the authorities, he’s not saying wholesale, “Do what they say, even if they tell you to do something that goes against the commands of God.” What he’s saying is, “As Christians who understand that God ultimately is the One who has placed these authorities over your life, you need to submit to them. The tone of your attitude toward governmental authorities and those over you should be different than the tone of those who are around you.”

I really think for our church this is something we really can grow in and also a way that we can be different, especially as we enter into an election cycle. We can be different in this area. It’s okay if you have decided your own political philosophy, and it’s okay if you graciously disagree with those who are in authority right now or whenever about that political philosophy. It’s even okay for you to tell others graciously that you disagree with the way that people are governing or leading. That’s okay. But if you are a Christian, your conversations and your actions regarding these things should always be characterized by a distinctively Christian tone. Our tone as Christians and our rhetoric about politics should be different than the rest of the world. It should be seasoned with humility and grace. We should not say and act in the same sort of ways that they act on CNN or Fox News. The venom and toxicity of such conversations should not be the way that we view that. Part of the thing I love about our church is that many of us right now disagree about these things. And that’s okay. There is room for that in our church. There is room especially when we’re dealing with those outside of our church. What we do not want to mark us is a rhetoric that is no different than the rest of the world when we talk about those who are in authority over us. Instead of cursing those in authority over us, we as Christians should be quick to pray. Instead of constantly grumbling about authority over us, the decisions they’re making and they way they’re governing, we should be filled with hope. And it’s not hope because we trust in these leaders regardless of what party they are in; it’s hope because we as Christians understand that God is the One in control ultimately. He’s the One who has put these authorities over us, like it or not. So as Christians, that leads us to hope. It leads us to prayer. It leads us to graciousness. It leads us to being characterized by what Paul says here about submission to rulers and authorities, being obedient. So informed by what Paul says here, let me just encourage you, as we move forward into national and local elections, to be different in this area. If you find yourself getting in those conversations and getting tangled up in the rhetoric, know yourself and keep yourself from doing that. Because that is a unbelievably positive way that we can do good to the world around us and make much of God. And that’s what Paul is saying here. And we can start with praying, which is why we’ve begun corporate prayer for those in authority like we’ve been commanded to.

He goes on to say, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,. . .” And again, “every good work” is used four times in these verses that we’ve read today. So Paul very intentionally is repeating this phrase. What he’s wanting the Christians to know is, “You’re saved by grace alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. It leads you to good works.” And when Paul says “good works” here, he’s talking about daily, practical help to those in need. This includes giving money, assisting with social emergencies, letting someone borrow something from you or whatever. But this term is extremely practical here. Paul is saying, “As Christians, you should be ready for every good work.” Some people take this verse to go with the civic responsibility we just talked about and maybe Paul is saying that you should be submissive to rulers and authorities and be ready in terms of your civic responsibility to do good. Maybe that is what he’s saying. It reads more to me like a general statement that leads us to the rest of what he says here in this list in verse 2. But I do know that he is contrasting the way that Christians should live with the way that the false teachers in chapter 1 were living. At the end of chapter 1, Paul says of these false teachers who were teaching a different gospel that they are unfit for any good work. So now he’s coming back around in the letter and saying, “But you as a Christian be ready for any and every good work. You stay ready for good works.”

And then he goes on to say what he has in mind there in verse 2. He says, “. . .to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” That is an unbelievable phrase. As Christians, in light of the gospel of grace, we are to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Tell me that’s not a comprehensive statement. I was a bit discouraged to find out this week in my study that the two words at the end of the phrase there “all people” actually means “all people.” I was trying to find a loophole, but this is how we’re to treat all people. So this includes of course those who we have casual conversations and experiences with, whether that’s the person in the apartment above you who is just loud all the time, the person in traffic who cuts you off, the person who is sitting next to you in class or the service technician who comes over to your house. In those casual situations, you be gracious and kind to all those people. But it also of course has implications for the more familiar and established relationships that we tend to walk in every single day with the coworker who sits next to you in the cubicle, the supervisor that you’re tempted to think less of, the customer that you wait on at the restaurant, your neighbors or whoever. He’s saying, “Whether it’s casual, whether it’s daily, in every interaction we need to show perfect courtesy toward people.”

And this doesn’t mean that we are just floor mats as Christians, that we lay down and if somebody does something wrong to us we don’t have the opportunity to engage them about that and talk with them about that in a gracious, kind way. That’s not what he’s saying here. We can do that. We’re not just floor mats. Although I would say it’s better for us to err on the side of absorbing those frustrations and those wrongs done to us than it is to be constantly angry and easily irritated. I don’t think most of us are erring on the side of being floor mats. That would be my guess. So he’s not saying that, but what he’s saying is, “Even the person who gets under your skin the most, you should be gracious and kind toward.” And this is unbelievable to think about. It also means that we don’t show grace and generosity toward them based on what they deserve. As Christians, I think we’re very good at treating people how we think they deserve to be treated. We’ll even start saying crazy things like, “I’m not going to treat them like this, because they don’t deserve it.” That is the most anti-Christian thing we could ever say. I hear it all the time. It comes out in our conversations. “Well, I treated him the way that he earned. . . I tipped her the way that she earned.” We think like this. This is detrimental for so many reasons, but it’s devastating because when we as Christians treat people like this, if we decide that we’re going to withhold grace, love and kindness from people until they deserve it, we are acting in the exact opposite way that God has acted toward us in Christ.

That’s what Paul says in verse 3. He says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” This is not a pretty picture. Paul is saying, “As you think about those you don’t want to show kindness and grace to, think about the fact that you were once like this and listen to how God treated us.” He continues, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,. . .” In other words, despite the fact that we rebelled against Him and belittled Him, God looked up on that and sent Jesus to save us despite how we were. He saved us from the wrath of God that we deserved. And He did this “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,. . .” We have the entire Trinity here in verses 5-6 working for our salvation, despite that we were the way that we were. “. . .so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Now that God in His mercy has declared us righteous, we are His sons and daughters and we’re going to inherit eternal life. We are coheirs with Christ, as other Scriptures would say. And Paul says, “This is why you do and how you do what I’ve been talking about in the rest of this letter.” This is the central message of Christianity in four verses. In fact, this might be the clearest statement of salvation in the entire New Testament. So if you’re not a Christian and you’ve been uncertain about what Christians believe, you just heard it in these four verses. If you are a Christian, this is the motivation. This is the why and how we’re to do what Paul talked about. This is what leads to good works. The fact that we have been saved not because of our works but by sheer grace alone leads and compels us to serve those who are non-Christians.

Paul goes on to say, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.” Paul’s saying, “Titus, you’ve got to insist on these things. You’ve got to put this and keep this before the church.” There are a couple reasons why. Number one, it is fundamental and crucial that we remind ourselves often of how God has saved us. God’s people have always been a remembering people. They have always come together and remembered how God has rescued them. Whether it was rescuing them from slavery in Egypt in the Old Testament or rescuing them from the deeper and greater slavery to sin in the New Testament, God’s people are a remembering people. And you’ll see Paul doing this over and over again in the letters that he writes. He’s always remembering the gospel, and not just in an ambiguous way. He’s personalizing his remembrance of it. He’s saying things like, “I was the chief of sinners, and yet God still came through Jesus Christ and saved me.” He is personalizing the gospel. He does it again and again. He’s constantly remembering and reflecting on the gospel. And God means for us to do that. That’s why Paul is telling Titus, “Insist on these things.” When was the last time that you personalized the gospel of grace for your own life? When was the last time you took the time sit down and really think about how God has saved you by His grace? We sing about it here and talk about it. But when was the last time you thought about and even got choked up about remembering how God saved you by His grace? When was the last time you thought about what He saved you from? I’m not talking about dwelling on your past and beating yourself up about it, but when was the last time you remembered what He saved you from? When was the last time you thought about the fact that it really didn’t have anything to do with your works, but it was all about His mercy or how He gave you the Holy Spirit? That’s unbelievable. He saves us from our sins and He has given us the Holy Spirit. He has poured the Holy Spirit into your heart if you’re a Christian. That should blow us away if we really stop, ponder it and personalize it. Or what about the fact that God the holy and righteous judge decided in His mercy to declare you innocent, despite the fact that He had every reason under the sun to condemn you? Paul means for Titus to insist on these things for the church because he wants the church to remember it, corporately and personally.

And it’s also crucial for Titus to insist on these things because, as the church remembers this, it’s the very thing that compels the church to do good works. It’s the very thing that compels the church to live in the way that Paul has been talking about. Paul is trusting that, as Titus reminds the church of the gospel and as the church hears it and remembers it, it will compel these young Christians on the island of Crete to do the very things that he’s writing and saying he wants them to do. In other words, when we as Christians have our heart set on the gospel of grace, it compels us to love others. When you really get the gospel, when these things that we’ve just read about connect in the deepest places of your heart, it compels you to love others in the way that you’ve been loved. Of course we have moments where we do that imperfectly, but it compels us that our lives in general are characterized by this sort of love if we’re really Christians. Because the gospel crushes any reason we have to be self-righteous. Self-righteousness in light of the gospel is pulverized. Because we look at verse 3 and we remember, “Man, this is how I was before Jesus Christ saved me. This is what I was doing. This is what I was caught up in. This is what I was shackled by. This is what I was enslaved to. And He came and rescued me.” So it’s now impossible for us to look down our noses at other people like they’re idiots if they don’t live as good as we do. The gospel crushes self-righteousness. It’s amazing how fast this happens in Christianity. Christians get saved and rescued by this message of grace, and then it seems like they’re immediately tempted to begin to forget the fact that it was by grace. And when we forget the fact that we’re saved by grace, we start to look down our nose at other people and say things like, “I wish they would just get smarter, be a better husband, do this better and clean their lives up.” It’s amazing how quickly we move to self-righteousness. But if we’re remembering the gospel, it crushes that. So we can’t look at anyone, especially those who aren’t Christians, with self-righteousness. The gospel kills that in our hearts. The gospel also nurture’s compassion for those who are outside of Christ. When we remember that we were outside of Christ and what that was like, we can’t help but feel compassion, love and hope for those we know who are outside of Christ as well.

This message of grace also trains us to forgive and absorb other people’s sins toward us because we see and understand how Jesus Christ has forgiven and absorbed our sins toward God. The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, took on the punishment of an enemy of God so that we who were enemies of God could become sons and daughters of God. That’s unbelievable. At the very center of our faith is a God dying for His enemies. So this necessarily informs the way that we treat those who wrong us, even those who we would consider to be our enemies. So this is why Paul is so intent on Titus insisting of these things to Christians, and it’s why we try to do this here over and over again. This is the reason why Paul is summoning the Christians to not speak evil of anyone, to not be quarrelsome and to treat everyone with courtesy. Because that’s what God has done for us. That’s how He has treated us. And if we quit doing that to other people, we have forgotten our way as Christians. We have forgotten what brought us in the faith to begin with. And then Paul goes on in verse 8 to say, “These things are excellent and profitable for people.” So we’re working for the good of other people. We’re doing these good things in light of the gospel for their good, their benefit and hopefully for their salvation.

And then he contrasts this with the false teachers of chapter 1. He says, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” So the good works that genuine faith leads us to do are profitable, but the type of things these false teachers are doing are unprofitable and worthless. And Paul is saying, “You don’t do that. Teach the Christians to live the opposite way these guys are living.” Paul is so concerned about this, look what he says in verse 10. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” So Paul is so serious about the effect that such divisive people have on the young churches that he’s telling Titus, “If these divisive people don’t repent, then you keep them away from the church.” This is pretty weighty stuff. And just in case you think that Paul was just having a bad day, he wrote the exact same thing to the church in Rome. In Romans 16, he says, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” In Paul’s mind, the health of these young churches in Crete is too important to let people like this run around and create obstacles for the young Christians trying to follow and live out their new faith. So Paul says, “As a last resort, if necessary for the health of the church, keep these people away from the church. Church discipline is a very unpopular thing today. Most local churches, even churches in our city, don’t practice church discipline, mostly because it’s messy and difficult if you do it. If you do what Paul is saying here, what do you think the response of people is going to be? “Well you’re just self-righteous, you’re overbearing, you’re legalistic.” If you really go to people in the church who profess to be Christians yet who are doing something contrary to what Christianity teaches to do and confront them, they will get really angry. Even people in our own church who have signed a covenant and said, “Yeah, I agree with this. I agree that if I get out of line here based on the Scriptures, please come talk with me in love,” when we do that, people still get angry. So because it’s so messy, because it’s so difficult, most churches just avoid it altogether. And the world really does frown upon this. Even some immature Christians who don’t have an understanding of the Scriptures frown upon this. And I’m not sure why. Any healthy organization or team does this. If you think about politics, what happens when a Senator acts in a way unbecoming of a Senator? How does the party respond? They respond the same way Paul suggests here, even more sharply at times. They don’t even come to them once or twice; they just say, “You did this. You’re out. For the health of the party, for the direction we want to go, because you acted this way, you are not longer allowed to be in this place of authority and you are no longer allowed to be a part of the team.” We see this in athletics all the time, especially in college. There is a set of rules, whether spoken or unspoken, for the team and if people on the team go against what the rules say, eventually they’re going to be let go from the team. This happens all the time. Why? Because these coaches know that it is unbelievably poisonous to allow someone like that to stay on the team. So it’s crucial for the health of the team that this person be removed. If it’s that crucial for an athletic team to do that, how much more crucial do you think it is for the church that God purchased with the blood of His Son to do that? It’s infinitely more so crucial.

So although what Paul is saying here may seem harsh or unbecoming of Christian responsibility, it’s actually not at all. Paul says, “Titus, do this for the good of the one you’re going to discipline in the hopes that they’ll actually return to the true gospel, for the good of the church as a whole and for the glory of God.” So as a church, we do often here what Paul told Titus to do. We practice church discipline, because we think it’s something that is so crucial to having a healthy church, regardless of how unpopular it is in this day and age. Doing what Paul said here is my least favorite part of my calling. To sit down and have these meetings with individuals is the worst thing that I have to do. But we do it as a church. It does not bring God glory for us as a congregation to let people who are members of our church walk around and say “I’m a Christian” an then live contrary. It does the exact opposite. It teaches the world something that is not true about Christianity. It teaches them, “I can be a Christian and do whatever I want. I can be a Christian and live just like you.” And that is the exact opposite of what Paul has been trying to get across in this entire letter. So for that reason, Paul says to Titus, “As a last resort, after you have warned this person twice, have nothing more to do with them.” It’s a hard thing to do, but a healthy church does this.

And then he gives his final instructions. Verse 12, “When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.” It seems like Paul hasn’t yet decided who he’s going to send to the island of Crete to replace Titus, but we know from a letter that he wrote to Timothy that Tychicus actually went to Ephesus, which leads many to believe that Artemas was the one who actually ended up being sent to replace Titus. And we do know that Titus did leave to spend some time with Paul. He continues, “Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing.” Apollos and Zenas are these two guys who presumably brought the letter to Titus from Paul. So Paul is reminding Titus of his Christian responsibility to show them hospitality and send them on their way lacking nothing. And then he closes out in verses 14-15. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.” With that final salutation, Paul ends this remarkably insightful and instructive letter to us. I love the way that he closes. It’s like he comes back around at the very end and says one more time the overarching purpose of the letter. He wants Titus to get these churches established and healthy. He want him to teach these Christians, in light of the gospel of grace, to devote themselves to good works so as not to live unfruitful lives, for the glory of God and the good of those around them. So we see here in chapter 3 that a healthy church is a church whose faith leads it to do good to those around her.

I just want to encourage you for a minute. I read this, and I was encouraged for our church. I’m not discouraged about us as we read through this. I’m encouraged that I think you are doing this. I just want to bless the Lord for that and just encourage you to continue to do that. My grandfather passed away this week, so yesterday was the funeral and Friday night was the viewing. I was over at my parents’ house waiting to go to the viewing, and the news came on. At the top of the news were two of our covenant members. They were taking air conditioning units to people in our city who had no air conditioning during this heat that we’ve been going through. They were delivering these air conditioning units and installing them in these people’s homes. So I’m reading this and thinking about the sermon, and that comes on the screen. Just thank God for that. Thank God for our faithful church. That is just one example among many that will never get on the news. But I just mean to say that I think we’re doing this as a church, and I hope that what Paul has written here will encourage us to do it all the more as we move forward and grow together.

So let me close by rereading a quote I read in week 1 in our study on Titus. I really do think this quote sums up what Paul is encouraging the church to be about. Tullian Tchividjian said “Christians make a difference in this world by being different from the world; they don’t make a difference by being the same. . .We need to remember that God has established his church as an alternative society, not to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it. When we forget this, we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer, nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming. Tragically, this leaves many in our world looking elsewhere for the difference they crave.” So may God be gracious to continue to make our church a family of God’s people who God uses to make a difference in this city by being different in this city.

We’ve talked about a lot these last four weeks. Just take a moment here and evaluate your heart and life in relation to good works. Think about the relationship between God’s grace in your life and good works. Is your faith alone or is your faith by grace leading you to do good to those around you, to be kind to those around you? Are you living a fruitful life? Is the gospel that you profess with your mouth leading you to do good? What might actually be hindering you from doing good? Just take some time to pray for our local church, that God would continue to make us the type of people and the type of church that Paul talked about in his letter to Titus. Pray that God would deepen our maturity, that He would strengthen our resistance to temptation and worldliness and that He would make us a light to our city.