During this week leading up to the October 31st celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we’ll be reading a lot about justification by faith and God’s grace. Interestingly, the verse we’ll study today discusses both topics, and then shows us how to respond to them.
Before I begin, may I offer a friendly reminder? Scripture teaches that women mustn’t teach men. I’m aware that gentlemen other than my husband and elders from my church are reading these Bible Studies, therefore placing me in a position of violating God’s Word. Gentlemen, please don’t do so. While my husband and elders from my church provide spiritual oversight for me, you do not. I respectfully ask, dear brothers, that you leave me to teach my beloved sisters in good conscience. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
Now, sisters, let’s begin our study of Titus 3:8 by looking at it within its immediate context.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (ESV)
Again in verse 7, Paul underscores the fact that God justifies us, not on the basis of anything we do, but because of His grace. Justification is a legal term that implies acquittal. Although we are guilty in practice, the Lord judges us as being innocent on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. For that reason, we attribute our justification solely to God’s grace, as described in verses 4-6.
The Complete WordStudy Dictionary defines grace, in part, as being “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” Paul hammers home the concept of justification by grace so that the church entrusted to Titus would maintain an attitude of humility amid Cretan society. Present-day Christians likewise must keep in mind that the Lord justifies us only by grace.
Justification causes us to become heirs of God’s promises. Romans 8:17, as John MacArthur points out, calls Christians “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” He cross-references 1 Peter 1:3-4 as documentation. According to Ephesians 1:13-14, the Holy Spirit Himself acts as the guarantee of our inheritance!
In regard to the phrase, “according to the hope of eternal life,” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown state that the position of the Greek words would be better understood as “agreeably to the hope of eternal life.” The idea is that the promise of eternity should influence how we live in the present world. Not that “being good” earns salvation, but that salvation motivates how saved people behave.
You may recall Titus 1:1-2, where Paul stated that the Lord had commissioned him to minister to the elect “in the hope of eternal life.” In that passage, Paul already made the connection between teaching that accords with godliness and that hope of eternal life. Indeed, their understanding of this phrase is consistent with the overall purpose of Paul’s letter. Since the Cretan Christians were heirs of God’s kingdom, their conduct needed to reflect that hope of inheritance.
So, although we neither earn or maintain our justification as a result of good works, God’s grace causes us to behave in good manner that reflects His holiness. In that way, we stand in contrast to the non-Christians around us. Next Monday we’ll see that the Lord, through the apostle Paul, desires us to demonstrate His grace by performing good works.