CHRISTIANS: LIVE AS GOOD CITIZENS IN THE WORLD (TITUS 3:1-8) - 1
Christians live in two spheres and the tremendous contrast between those two spheres often poses a very difficult challenge. On the one hand, Christians are citizens of a heavenly kingdom with Christ as their Lord. On the other hand, they are called of Christ to represent Him in the midst of an age that is passing away and in a world system that is opposed to the plan and purposes of God. They live in the world, but they are not of the world (John 15:19; 17:14, 19). As those who live in this world, they are to live as aliens and sojourners and as ambassadors for the Savior without being contaminated by the age and the world system whose god is the devil himself (Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:17f; 2:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:20). The apostle now addresses this very issue in 3:1-11. As Augustine wrote in his book, The City of God, there are two cities, the city of man and the city of God. The city of man, being the product of his pride and rebellion against God, reflects man’s dreams, earthly hopes, and values. This is an earthly city, a city of this age and Satan’s world system. It is temporal and fundamentally opposed to God and ultimately ruinous to man.
There is another city, however, “with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). This is the city of God with God’s values, plan of salvation, and one that endures forever. At the center of this city is the cross or the person and work of Christ who died for our sin. Here is a city that can change the people of the city of man and add stability to their society because of the new life and values that are a part of the city of God. The citizens of the city of God have new life, are a part of an unseen spiritual world, and have their sights set on eternal values. Concerning Augustine’s city of man, Lutzer writes: Augustine did not mean that the city of man is destitute of all civil righteousness and justice. Yes, pagans have built great civilizations, thanks to the virtues they inherited as those created in the image of God. Indeed, Christians should be actively involved in the city of man, building it, maintaining it, and working alongside of those headed to destruction. But Christians should also have no illusions about building an earthly utopia, for they must pass this life with continual opposition from the citizens of the city of man. They must march through the crumbling empires of the world, spreading the knowledge of the gospel.
Looking at our past life as a part of the city of man, the apostle shows us that the city of man as so evident today in America is built on the cult of self-absorption and the desires of man’s fallen nature. The church always faces the temptation of fighting a legitimate battle in the wrong way. We always are tempted to fight the world with the weapons of the world. We always are tempted to use a sword of steel instead of the sword of the Spirit. And today, that temptation is greater than ever. In chapter 3 of Titus, the apostle shows us how the church is to live in the midst of this city of man. As seen in nearly all the New Testament letters written to the church, Titus was written to help God’s people live in a world and age that is a sea of pagan and humanistic values. But significantly, Paul neither calls on us to use the world’s methods nor seek to Christianize the morals of the society. Again, in his book, Why the Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t, Lutzer has an excellent word here: The second premise of this book is my deep conviction that our so-called culture war is really a spiritual war. In other words, our problems are not fundamentally abortion, trash television, and homosexual values. The roots of our cultural decay is first and foremost spiritual; we must attack the root of this corrupt tree. As always our greatest challenge is theological, not political or cultural.
As the salt and light Jesus called us to be, we are to seek change from the inside out through faith in the person and work of the Savior and through a personal walk with Him—with His values and priorities and calling. That this is so is clearly evident, or should be, from the way Paul reminds us of our past life, but then points to the theological basis, as in 2:11f, for our spiritual change by the regenerating and justifying work of God (3:4-7). And it is this message that has its hope centered on the eternal that we are to confidently proclaim (vs. 8) rather than any manmade substitutes (vs. 9). Again, let me quote Lutzer: Today, it is tempting to wrap the cross of Christ in the flag, to equate the American dream with God’s dream for this nation. We have attached a myriad of agendas to the cross of Christ, often clouding the one message that the world needs to hear with clarity and power…Incredibly, the church has, for the most part, abandoned the very message that is most desperately needed at this critical hour of history.My clear purpose is to challenge the church to confront the world with the one message that is able to transform society, one life at a time. Yes, we must fight social evils; we must attempt to use whatever means we have to clean up our contaminated culture. But all of our efforts will be futile unless we go to the source of our defilement.
The various exhortations of the first two chapters of Titus largely concern relationships within the church, the body of Christ, “which when seen by outsiders would keep them from ‘maligning the gospel’ (2:5) and perhaps would even attract them to it (2:10).” With chapter 3:1-8, however, the apostle broadens the focus to the believer’s behavior in the world where he or she is to function as a good citizen and neighbor. As mentioned, this is in keeping with the Christian’s purpose to function as the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Verses 1-2 set forth a reminder of two general responsibilities, to government authorities in general (vs. 1) and to all people (vs. 2). Then, as in 2:11-14, the apostle points to the basis or the reasons why such behavior is both called for and possible (vss. 3-7). Again, theology forms the foundation for behavior. With this as the doctrinal motivation, there is then a re-affirmation for good deeds (vs. 8) followed by a statement of reticence or caution against the error of false teachers and the futility of what they proclaim (man’s solutions to life). When men turn away from the central truth of the cross and the grace of God in Christ, it will be futile to truly impact the life for good works and be beneficial for mankind (vss. 9-11).
The Reminder to Live as Good Citizens in the World (3:1-2): 3:1 Remind them to subject themselves to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. 3:2 to slander no one, to be non-fighting (peaceable), to be gentle, showing all courtesy (considerateness) to all people (literal translation). As the above translation demonstrates, the main command here is to remind the Cretans of certain duties that would naturally commend the gospel to those in the world at large. These duties are spelled out by six infinitives (the words in bold) with a sixth infinitive to be understood. This is then followed by a participial phrase (“showing all courtesy”) that could be taken as another command or as pointing to the manner in which all the duties listed are to be carried out or expressed or even to the results that occur when these duties are obeyed. But how are we to understand these duties? Do they all point to the Christian’s responsibilities to government or does “to be prepared for every good work” make a transition from one’s civic responsibilities to government to one’s duties as a good citizen within the world? As Fee suggests, “More likely this is a generalizing imperative that prepares the way for the rest of the list. It could include civic duty, but need not be so limiting.” In this study, the duties of verses 1-2 will be divided between responsibilities to government (vs. 1) and those to all people as good citizens (vs. 2).
Responsibilities to Government (3:1): 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. As other New Testament passages do, this verse clearly points to the God-ordained place of human government in the affairs of men (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-7;1 Pet. 2:13). Here the apostle simply summarizes three key responsibilities—submission, obedience, and preparation—that promote good government and aid the work of governmental officials as keepers of law and order, which is their God-ordained task. But being faithful to these duties to government is often difficult because, being sinful men and also part of Satan’s world system, rulers are very often corrupt and unjust and fail to accomplish God’s purpose for government. It is easy, then, for Christians to fall into the pattern of the world and to malign and complain and act in rebellion against the government or to find excuses and seek ways to get around government’s authority or their duties to government. As Barclay points out, Here there is laid down the public duty of the Christian; and it is advice which was particularly relevant to the people of Crete. The Cretans were notoriously turbulent and quarrelsome and impatient of all authority. Polybius, the Greek historian, said of them that they were constantly involved in “insurrections, murders and internecine wars.
Hendriksen concurs and writes, Moreover, from the writings of Polybius and of Plutarch it appears that the Cretans were fretting and fuming under the Roman yoke. It is possible, therefore, that this circumstance had something to do with the precise nature of the present “reminder.” So Titus is called on to “remind them” of their duties to government. Because of the historical circumstances just mentioned and because Paul had obviously already taught the Cretan believers on this subject, Titus was to remind them. “Remind” is a present imperative that commands Titus to periodically repeat such teaching to cause them to keep these duties in mind. As those who are responsible to protect and lead the flock of God, church leaders and teachers of the Word often need to remind believers of God’s truth and never apologize for this. Note the following passages.3:1 Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! To write this again is not a bother for me, and it is a safeguard for you (Phil. 3:1). 1:12 Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have. 1:13 Indeed, as long as I am in this tabernacle, I consider it right to stir you up by way of a reminder (2 Pet. 1:12-13).The first duty is “to be subject.” This is hupatasso, “to rank under” and then “to be subject to.” As with 2:5, the voice of the verb should be understood as middle, “subject yourselves to.” The middle voice in place of the passive stresses the willing nature of the submission. Recognizing this as a divine responsibility, it is to be done willingly as an obedience to God (Rom. 13:1f). It will also be made easier if believers keep in mind the purpose of government as outlined in Romans 13 and if they pray for their rulers according to that purpose (1 Tim. 2:1f).
The apostle uses two abstract terms to designate government without pointing to any specific form of government or person.“To rulers” would apply to the Roman emperors, but by further application, it refers to the supreme civil powers in any form of government. “And authorities” takes this to the next level under the supreme commanders’ authority. It refers to deputies of the supreme ruler in the chain of command in any government system. For us, these two designations would refer to everything from the president down to the city government and local police.“To be obedient” and “ready for every good work” gives further clarification to the meaning and results of “submission” to government as good citizens. “To be obedient” is peitharcheo, which literally means, “to obey authority” and then simply, “to be obedient.” Its use points to the various laws established by government. Significantly, it is used only four times in the New Testament (Acts 5:29, 32; 27:21 and Tit. 3:1) and in two of the places (Acts 5:29, 32), its use points us to the exception and the rule that holds true whenever human government clearly contradicts the higher authority of God and the clear commands of His Word. A classic illustration can be seen in Daniel 3:16-18.
The practical outworking of obedience would include things like paying taxes, being orderly in behavior, displaying honesty in business, and in general, obeying the laws of the land. But submission to government and being a good citizen does not stop with just obedience. It should also include being “ready (hetoimos, “ready, prepared”) for every good work.” Because of the context, this clause should not be limited to good works in the Christian community, but understood as broadening the believer’s responsibility in the world around him as an influence for good in the community. It would certainly include civic responsibility, but should not be limited to that in view of the context that follows (vs. 2).
There is an important contrast here that we should not miss. The fact that Christians can and should be prepared for every kind of good work stands in sharp contrast to the false teachers and the error they advocate. They are “unfit (unqualified, worthless) for any good work” (1:16) because what they advocate or teach is empty, they themselves become “useless and empty (futile)” (3:9). By contrast, believers who stand firmly on God’s truth in Christ rather than the “arguments” and “quarrels” of the false teacher, can become “ready for every good work.” Paul now begins to elaborate on what is meant by “every good work” in the verses that follow.
Responsibilities to All People (3:2): 3:2 They must not slander anyone, but be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.The addition of “anyone,” literally, “no one,” which is emphatic by position, suggests that the apostle is broadening this beyond the rulers to include all people. “To slander” is blasphemeo, “to slander, revile, defame, to injure the reputation of by slanderous remarks.” As Hiebert points out, “That does not mean that they are never to talk of and expose the evils of men, for Jesus Himself did so very forcefully. It means that they are not to malign, slander, or speak injuriously of others. Prevailing practices made this a constant snare to believers,…In view of the degenerate moral behavior of many in our government in recent years, especially at the level of our highest office, it has become more and more difficult to refrain from abusive comments. It is right to hate the sin, to even become angry at the sinfulness that undermines the fiber of our society and that sets such a lousy example (cf. Eph. 4:26), but it is wrong for us to express this in ways that demonstrates hatefulness against the person and disrespect for the office. As verses 3-5 will demonstrate, God hates our sin, but in the coming of Christ, He has shown His kindness and love toward us as sinners. This demonstration of God’s love and kindness must temper our comments and attitudes toward others. Not done read next series part 2.
Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena