Philippians 3:20 states that “our citizenship is in heaven.” A citizen is an individual who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to that nation or country’s protection and rights. As Christians we are nationals of heaven – not earth.
One of the most wonderful things about the Apostles was that with all their heavenly knowledge they are probably among the most pragmatic group of people that you’ll ever meet. They understood that though our heads and hearts are in heaven, our feet for the meantime remain planted on earth. The question, “Between now and then, what are we supposed to do?” is one that the Apostles found themselves addressing quite frequently.
Sound Doctrine: In the tiny epistle of Titus, the Apostle Paul writes a letter in which he provides very specific and practical instruction regarding affairs within the church. Paul states in Titus 2:1, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Doctrine refers to the principles and beliefs that are taught, advanced, and accepted by a group. What is the significance of this? Sloppy doctrine equals sloppy living; sound doctrine equals sound living.
There is way of living that conforms to the gospel and there is a way of living that runs contrary to the gospel. In Crete the believers were in fellowship but were slack in doctrine. They needed to be taught. There is a direct correlation between our doctrine and our outward lives. If doctrine is neglected – like it was in Crete, then irresponsible, uncontrolled, and undisciplined lifestyles will follow. Experience, testimony, and presence in the Christian life are all good but they will never produce the inward growth that only sound doctrine can. Paul knew that unless the church in Crete was built up in sound doctrine she would not stand firm in the days ahead.
Party Politics Has No Power: Jesus had a remarkable way of staying on course. Of all people, Jesus appeared on the scene in a highly politicized and charged environment. Many of his followers indeed had hopes that he would “restore the kingdom” of Israel in the natural sense. Jesus never took the bait. He had far bigger fish to fry than party politics – namely the redemption of the human soul.
There is something far more powerful than the politics of man and the humanistic methods whereby his ends are achieved. Paul tells Titus to“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2).
Christians are not engaged in a natural war but a spiritual one. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Our weapons have divine power. Our weapons demolish spiritual bastions and blast unseen strongholds to smitherines. Paul was not suggesting that Christians stay out of government. Clearly, we are charged with being “ready to do whatever is good” in civil affairs (Titus 3:3) however, it is the unregenerate man who responds with malice, envy, and hate. He quarrels, argues, and is divisive. To God, such responsiveness is foolish. At one point we lived like that too – “being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:4). But like our Lord, we now make our appeal through the meekness and gentleness of Christ.
Devotion to Doing Good: Good works is a major theme in Paul’s letter to Titus. While good works alone are insufficient for salvation they can be evidence of a life controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul provides specific instruction to men and women of all ages on how to conduct themselves. He tells the men to be temperate, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love and endurance. To the women he charges them to be reverent, and cautions them not to slander. He exhorts them to be self controlled and pure. He highlights the importance of the older being the role model to the younger. He stresses the importance of integrity and seriousness. He underscores the value of trustworthiness.
Peter states, “Live such good lives among the pagans, that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (I Peter 2:12b). Real influence and transformative power are the products of a devoted life. Good deeds, if done in the holiness and humility of Christ will point others to Christ.
Upward Bound: The Apostle Peter, when preparing the believers in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) for the persecution and difficult times ahead, reminded God’s elect that they were to live as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter wanted his readers to know that just as Abraham “looked forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9) so should the Christian be looking upward.
The Apostles made it clear. The directive is as significant now as it was when Paul wrote his letter to the church in Crete. Between now and then build yourself up in the most holy faith, live a life of devotion to Christ, and set your hope on the blessed return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”. (Titus 2:11-12)