23 July 2015

Titus 3:4-7

“[God our saviour] saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 48


Paul repeats his doctrine that we might call 'prevenient grace', that which comes to us as a gift before we are even aware of our need of it; that God loves us first and not through any worth or works that we can do. There is no 'earning a place' for us as adopted children of God.

We can find this very difficult to wear at times because our own personal history is one of satisfying other people's expectations of us - our parents, or teachers, lovers, friends, our employers. Guilt is often our response to failing to live up to someone's expectations. We always feel a need to convince someone else of our worth. To believe that we are loved for who we are and for who we are becoming is sometimes too difficult to believe. But that is the gift Paul speaks of, even if it is in very strident terms.

Paul does make it clear, though, that having acknowledged this gift we are no longer ignorant or unaware of God's hope of perfection in us as children of God. The human response to this gift we note in the preceding verses (Titus 3:1-3) are the ideals of moral self-restraint, mutual, loving respectful family relationships, fidelity and trust between employee and employer, relationships of civil humility, and respect between servant and master and with those in authority.

Behind all of this is Paul's concept of civil governance being ordained by God for our benefit. He was a Roman citizen and proud of it as a means of transmitting the gospel. I guess he also felt that time was short and the 'kingdom of heaven' was an imminent but not necessarily close event. So there was a waiting time in which he expected people to show restraint and an unimpeachable moral behaviour.

To Ponder

  • How much do you still believe that we have to earn God's love or favour; that being a Christian means hard work and effort to prove something to others, to ourselves even, because we can be our own worst critic? In the light of this passage what might God be saying to you?
  • To what extent do you feel the joy and humility of being welcomed within a community of faith as a child of God without strings attached, with nothing to prove? Try to put into words your thoughts and feelings.

Bible notes author

The Revd Michael Sawyer

Michael Sawyer is the minister of the Chelsea Methodist Church and Fulham Methodist Church. He was previously minister of Shepherd's Bush Road Methodist Church.