Monday, February 12, 2007

Titus 3:3-8 -- Have you been washed?

3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

If we are characterized by disobedience, foolishness, lust, or seeking pleasure; if we have ongoing problems with anger and envy; then we need to question if we truly have surrendered our lives to God and received the merciful salvation of Christ. Paul talks about these ugly characteristics in the past tense for one who has experienced the renewal and rebirth found only in Christ Jesus. A life still inundated with, or characterized by, these sinful acts just doesn’t line up with one who has been justified and washed in the blood of Christ. For when we truly accept Christ and live for him we will experience a pouring out of the Holy Spirit and a renewal that will have us devoting ourselves to doing what is good. Here’s the deal – we are not saved by our good works, but when we are saved, we will devote ourselves to “doing what is good”. Our outward actions and activities will turn from sin to righteousness just as our inward selves have been made new in Christ. The grace of Jesus is the agent that creates this transformation and initiates the process of sanctification. Praise God!

This makes me think of how we interpret Romans 7:14-25. Why do many think Paul, who was near the end of his ministry, is still a slave to sin and unable to do what he knows is right? It doesn’t work. Let’s go back to the passages in Titus where Paul is very definitely talking about himself in the past tense “at one time… we lived…”. Paul doesn’t indicate that he is still enslaved by these sinful desires or engaged in them in any way. In fact, he argues very emphatically to the contrary. This passage in Titus is yet another example that in Romans 7 Paul was in fact painting a picture of what he looked like before being re-generated.

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