Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Titus – Reflections III

Paul’s emphasis on self-control and good works (see previous post) is in contrast to a Cretan society that is ruled by passions and pleasures (3:3), manifesting itself in malice and envy and hatred. Consider 1:12 – 13:

Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith…

Obviously Paul was ignorant concerning sensitive evangelism and discipleship – even if the saying he quoted was true, how could he be so insensitive as to affirm its truth? Ah, if only we could travel back in time and educate the Apostle how much better the New Testament would be.

There is a link between sensuality and rebellion, between physical appetite of whatever kind, and lack of respect for authority, and slander, hatred and malice. What is in the belly and loins affects the mind and what is in the mind affects the belly and loins. Though we are created to be sons and daughters of the heavenly God; we can quickly learn to slither with the Serpent. The Serpent went on its belly, the Cretans were known by their big bellies – look familiar? We are called to have bowels of compassion; not bellies of consumption.

In chapters 1 and 2 Paul addresses elders, older men, older women, young women, young men, and slaves, and then we have the following in 2:11 – 14:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Note the link between the above passage and the beginning of the letter; note the intro of the letter regarding good works:

…the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…

Titus 2:11 – 14 is a hinge upon which the halves of the letter swing; leading up to 2:11 – 14 Paul addresses the above referenced categories of Christians, on the other side of 2:11 – 14 Paul moves from individual categories with an emphasis on self-control and good works to the church as a whole with the words in 3:1, “Remind the people…”

How important is all of this to Paul? How seriously should Titus take this letter? In 2:15 Paul writes, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”

To be continued…

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