A Commentary by John Stott
Titus: 2:13-14. b). The epiphany of glory (continued).
This special people of God, whom Christ died to purchase for himself, is described as *eager to do what is good*, literally ‘enthusiastic for good works’. This is not fanaticism. But it is enthusiasm, since ‘grace trains us…to be enthusiasts’, so that we may live for him who died for us.
Thus the apostle, in this short paragraph of only four verses (11-14) brings together the two termini of the Christian era, that is, the first coming of Christ which inaugurated it and the second coming of Christ which will terminate it. He bids us look back to the one and on to the other. For we live ‘in between times’, suspended rather uncomfortably between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’.
Of course the critics of Christianity seize on this with great indignation. ‘You Christians are such hopelessly unpractical creatures,’ they will say. ‘All you do is to preoccupy yourselves with the distant past and the remote future. Why can’t you live in the present, in the realities of the contemporary world?’
But that is exactly what the apostle Paul is summoning Titus, and through him us, to do. Older men are to be dignified and mature. Older women are to be reverent and teachers of the young. Younger women are to be good wives and mothers. Young men are to control themselves. Titus is to be a good teacher and model. Slaves are to be conscientious and honest. All of us are to renounce evil and to live godly, righteous and disciplined lives *in this present age* (12b). Why? On what does Paul base his appeal? What are the grounds of present Christian behaviour? (Towner (1986) emphasizes that in the Pastoral Letters the present age is the age of salvation and ‘the last days’; that it ‘occupies a central position within the message of the Pastoral Epistles’; that salvation is best understood in the Pastorals as an already/not yet phenomenon between the two epiphanies; and that, whereas *parousia* refers to the fact of Christ’s coming *epiphaneia* focuses on it as his saving, helping Intervention).
Paul’s reply is straightforward, namely that in Jesus Christ there has been an epiphany of God’s grace, and there is going to be an epiphany of his glory. That is, the best way to live now, in this present age, is to learn to do spiritually what is impossible physically, namely to look in opposite directions at the same time. We need both to look back and remember the epiphany of grace (whose purpose was to redeem us from all evil and to purify for God a people of his own), and also to look forward and anticipate the epiphany of glory (whose purpose will be to perfect at his second coming the salvation he began at his first).
This deliberate orientation of ourselves, this looking back and looking forward, this determination to live in the light of Christ’s two comings, to live today in the light of yesterday and tomorrow – this should be an essential part of our daily discipline. We need to say to ourselves regularly the great acclamation, ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.’ For then our present duties in the home will be inspired by the past and future epiphanies of Christ.
Canon Hay Aitken suggested that the two comings of Christ are like ‘two windows…in the School of Grace’. Through the western window a solemn light streams from Mt. Calvary. Through the eastern window shines the light of sunrising, the herald of a brighter day. ‘Thus the School of Grace is well lighted; but we cannot afford to do without the light from either West or East.’
The chapter ends as it began with the command to teach. Paul has commissioned Titus to instruct the Cretan churches in both doctrine and ethics. *These, then, are the things you should teach*, or ‘these are your themes’ (REB), both the epiphany doctrines and the ethical duties. Moreover, Titus is not to communicate them objectively and diffidently as if they were mere cold facts. Paul goes on: *Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you* (15).
|Tomorrow: Titus 3:1-8. 3). Doctrine and duty in the world.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Titus. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.