The Scriptorium

...For Once...

Once we were not free, but now we are free in Christ. Titus 3.3

Titus 3


Pray Psalm 115.3-8.

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.

Read Titus 3.3.

Prepare.
1. Do you recognize your former self in any part of this verse?

2. Why do we need to be reminded of this?

Meditate.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1.16, 17). It is a liberating power, setting people free in the truth that is in Jesus from the bonds of sin and death (Jn. 8.32). Here Paul instructs Titus to remind the believers on Crete that, in these days of redemption, the Christian is no longer a slave to sin. Now, in Jesus Christ, all those miseries by which we were oppressed in our fallen condition are lifted from us, and we must not live in them any longer.

A kind of progression of sin is suggested in Paul’s choice of words: The fool does not believe in God (Ps. 14.1), therefore he lives in disobedience and wanders astray from the path of goodness and truth for which he was created. He fancies himself free to do whatever he will, but he is instead a slave to base passions and fleeting pleasures (Prov. 14.12). So dominated by lust is he that he becomes pragmatic in all his ways, justifying to himself every malicious, hateful stratagem by which he hopes to acquire whatever he desires, and making himself the enemy of others in the process.

Paul reminds us that we were all once like this – once, but no longer.

This is a fairly common Pauline device – presenting the contrast between life in sin, in our fallen condition, and life in Christ, free in the truth to love and serve the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 6; Gal. 5; Eph. 4.17-24). Implied in Paul’s use of this device is that pastors and church leaders must not be content for church members, for whom they are responsible, to continue living like fallen people once they have come to faith in Jesus Christ. In the redemption of Jesus Christ, the old ways of life pass away; all things become increasingly new in the glory of Christ and God (2 Cor. 5.15; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).

By including himself in this description Paul points to the grace of God in his own life – surely a source of encouragement to every pastor who becomes frustrated with the progress of his or his congregation’s sanctification. The contrast between fallen men and those who have been redeemed, outlined in vv. 1-3, could hardly be more stark. In the age of redemption and restoration, God is at work to liberate the miserable world from its rebellion and misery.

Reflect.
1. Why is it good for us to  be reminded of what we have been saved from in Jesus Christ? How can remembering our former ways help in our witness for Christ?

2. In what sense are people who do not know the Lord not free?

3. How can believers encourage one another to continue increasing in grace and in the likeness of Jesus Christ?

Therefore we ought to be gently disposed to all. For he who was formerly in such a state and has been delivered from it ought not to reproach others but to pray, to be thankful to him who has granted both to him and them deliverance from such evils. Let no one boast. All have sinned. If then, doing well yourself, you are inclined to revile others, consider your own former life and the uncertainty of the future, and restrain your anger. John Chrysostom (344-407),Homilies on Titus 5

Thank You, Lord, for delivering me from sin and death to life and hope in Jesus. Help me to show that hope to my world today as I…

Pray Psalm 115.1-8.
Are you serving any idols? Seeking satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment, and purpose from anything other than God? Let the Spirit search you, and then confess any sins He indicates. Pray for people you know who are trapped in the worship of idols.

Sing Psalm 115.1-8.
Psalm 115.1-8 (Plainfield: Nothing But the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, "Where is their God on high?"
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Idols made by men's own hand – ever to Your Name be glory –
see nor hear nor understand – ever to Your Name be glory!
They neither feel nor walk, nor can they speak or talk.
All those who serve them fall, but unto Your Name be glory!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.