No legitimate separation between belief and behaviour

Titus 1.1; 2.1, 11-14; 3.4-7

During these reflections on Paul’s letter to Titus we have picked out key themes as they are developed through the text. Arguably, that the gospel produces godliness in the lives of believers, is the dominant concept. In the middle of a pandemic we see the impact on credibility where what is said conflicts with the behaviour of the speaker.  It destroys confidence, creates division and promotes harmful behaviour.  These things equally apply to the teaching of the gospel and Christian leadership.

Paul opens his letter with the statement that it is, ‘the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness’. Titus 1.1 He is making the teaching of this knowledge central to his calling as an apostle and also the work of Titus and other church leaders.  The importance of teaching the gospel is repeated throughout the letter. Elders of churches, ‘must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught,’ and ‘be able to give instruction in sound doctrine’. V1.9

Titus is instructed to teach older men, v2.2 older women, v2.3 who then should teach younger women. v2.4 He is to urge (ESV) or encourage (NIV) younger men to be self-controlled v2.6 and teach slaves.  All of this teaching, in the context of the letter, relates to personal conduct.  Titus’ own conduct is to be a model for his teaching. v 2.8 In contrast teaching that does not accord to the gospel is associated with behaviour Paul defines as detestable, disobedient and unfit for any good work. v1.16 Paul gives some indications about how to discern such teachers, he describes their motivation as being for shameful gain, v1.11 although he doesn’t say whether that is personal esteem or monetary advantage. Their teachings are ones that stir up division v3.10 and so their focus will be on controversies, genealogies, dissentions, and quarrels about the law. v3.9 In context this seems to connect with the circumcision party but similar warnings could be taken about contemporary teaching that is designed to divide a fellowship.

Gospel teaching is only effective if it is partnered with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.’ John 14.26 The gospel is applied to our lives through the grace of God, ‘training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passion, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age’. v2,12 The sanctification process is by the Holy Spirit.  Paul terms it, ‘the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour’. v 3.6 The Holy Spirit first teaches and then applies that teaching to our lives training us in godliness.

How then could we pray?

We could pray that the Holy Spirit will make us aware of those things in our lives that diverge from gospel living.

We could pray that the Holy Spirit would train us in godly living.

We could pray for our teachers that their teaching and lives will continue to accord with the gospel.

Lord I need you – Chris Tomlin

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