Titus 3:3 (HCSB)
3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.
What wonderful guidance for the believer on how to act and interact with the world, with those who do not believe. The first two verses tell us how we should interact: submit, do good work, do not slander, avoid fighting, be kind, and be gentle. This is the Christian, or at least should be. And how awesome is it how Paul follows up in Titus 3:3 by not only providing the contrast to what the believer should look like, but by reminding us that we were that person before the grace of Christ redeemed and renewed us! The follower of Christ should look like the person outlined in Titus 3:1-2, and he does so only by the grace of God, as Paul goes on to outline and refresh us on in Titus 3:4-7.
This passage ends with another contrast of sorts: that of the action of the believer, versus what he should refrain from engaging in. The believer should strongly affirm the truth of scripture, the saving gospel message, and should be “devoted to good works”. And look who that benefits: everyone! The believer should not be self-centered, only doing for his own gain. Instead, the focus should be on God, and His kingdom and glory, which in turn impacts others in a positive way. And in contrast, we should avoid “foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law.” All those activities are a waste, they do not further God’s kingdom, nor do they help either party. Nobody has ever been argued into a relationship with Jesus! I don’t think Paul is including apologetics, I think he is targeting argumentative interactions outside of what would be an actual debate. In other words, if two individuals come together to compare, contrast, and discuss differing worldviews for the purpose of furthering an understanding, then it would seem that debate would, in fact, be profitable. But simply coming together to argue about an obscure point of Mosaic law, with no actual desire to be edified, is not profitable. In fact, those dialogs often cause division, which Paul says we should “reject”, after two warnings, in Titus 3:10! We should not engage that type of attitude or behavior, for it is “self-condemning”.
The form of the pericope overall is cool as well. On the two ends are these compare and contrast sections, defining what we should look like and how we should behave, and at the core is this succinct account of Christ’s regeneration of us. That should be the way we operate: Jesus and His grace at the core, regenerating us, so that our outward appearance reflects Him to the world, as we practice and engage in the ways He purposed us to, in light, truth, and love.
Lord, thank You for saving and remaking us! I was a sinner, lost in myself, but You have forgiven, cleansed, and regenerated me. Help us to interact with the world in a way that exposes them to You, brings You glory, and ever expands Your kingdom. Amen.