A Commentary by John Stott
Titus 3:2. b). Christian relationships with everybody.
From our Christian responsibility towards the leaders of the community, Paul turns to our relationship with everybody in the community. He looks beyond the Christian fellowship to secular society. How are believers to relate to unbelievers? It is essential to see that this is Paul’s concern, for he begins with a reference to ‘no-one’ and ends with a reference to ‘all men’, meaning everybody. He selects four Christian social attitudes which are to be universal in their application, two negative and two positive.
Negatively we are ‘to slander no-one* and *to be peaceable*, which in Greek is also negative, ‘to avoid quarrels’ (REB). So we must neither speak against, nor fight against, other people. We are to be neither offensive nor ‘argumentative’ (JBP) in either speech or behaviour.
Positively, we are *to be…considerate, and to show true humility towards all men* (2b). It is difficult to find appropriate English equivalents to these two lovely Greek words. The first (*epieikes*) means to show ‘clemency, gentleness, graciousness’ (BAGD), and specially to be ‘conciliatory’. The second (*prautes*) may be translated ‘gentleness, humility, courtesy, considerateness, meekness’ (BAGD). Both were characteristics of Jesus, so that Paul could appeal to the Corinthians ‘by the meekness and gentleness of Christ’ (2 Cor.10:1). Moreover, we must not miss the totality of the apostle’s requirement. Literally, he bids us show ‘*all* gentleness to *all* men’. There is to be no limit either to our humble courtesy or to the people to whom we are to show it.
Here then is a very brief delineation of Christian behaviour in public life. In relation to the authorities we are to be conscientious citizens (submissive, obedient and cooperative), and in relation to everybody, irrespective of their race or religion, we are to be conciliatory, courteous, humble and gentle.
2). Ingredients of salvation (3:3-8).
Paul now spells out the theological reason why we can expect Christians to have a social conscience and to behave responsibly in public life. The logic is seen in the pronouns: ‘Remind *them* to be conscientious and considerate Citizens, because [*gar* is unaccountably omitted by NIV] *we* were ourselves once anti-social, but *he* (God) saved and changed *us*.’ That is, the only reason we dare instruct others in social ethics is that we know what we were once like ourselves, that God nevertheless saved us, and that he can therefore transform other people too. It is not enough to affirm that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (2:11); we must be able to say that he saved *us* (3:5), even he saved *me*. It is not just history which raises our expectations; it is experience. Without a personal experience of salvation we lack the right, the incentive and the confidence to teach social ethics to others.
So Paul now gives a condensed but comprehensive account of salvation. Verses 4-7 are a single long sentence, which he may have taken from an early Christian creed.
The whole sentence (verses 4-7) hinges on the main verb *he saved us* (5). It is perhaps the fullest statement of salvation in the New Testament. Yet whenever the phraseology of salvation is dropped into conversation today, people’s reactions are predictable. They will either blush, frown, snigger, or even laugh, as if it were a huge joke. Thus the devil, whose ambition is to destroy, not to save, succeeds in trivializing the most serious question we could ever ask ourselves or put to anyone else. For Christianity is essentially a religion of salvation. To prove this, it is enough to quote two biblical assertions: ‘the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world’ (1 Jn.4:14) and ‘the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Lk.19;10).
So we have to come to terms with the concept of ‘salvation’, and one of the best ways is to study verses 3-8 of Titus 3. For here Paul isolates six ingredients of salvation – its need (why it is necessary), its source (where it originates), its ground (what it rests on), its means (how it comes to us), its goal (what it leads to) and its evidence (how it proves itself).
Tomorrow: Titus: 3.3-8. a). The need of salvation.
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.