For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.You know: many of you are enthusiastic followers of Mike Horton and his cohorts on the White Horse Inn. And let's face it: good on ya. There's a lot more good than harm eminating from their call for a modern reformation, and I myself am capitaved by their little chats.
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
I've been listening to the 14 June 2009 podcast all summer, which is titled "God's Story vs. Our Stories". And if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I'd say that podcast is seeking to make the point that the most important story in the Christian life is God's story.
I mean: fair enough, right? That's what Paul is saying here to Titus to a large degree: The grace of God has appeared bringing salavation, giving us the blessed hope of the return of Jesus, and who purified us by redeeming us from lawlessness. The message is Jesus; it is not, "I cleaned up my life and now God loves me," or any other such twaddle. Our purification is because Christ died for us, not because we do better now.
There's a parallelism, btw, with our sin state here: we are not made sinners by our sinning, but in fact we are sinning now because we have the nature of sinners. It is our state as being in love with sin which makes us do sinful things, and our sinfulness is what makes us revolt against God. Because we are not pure, we do unpure things. Out of the overflow of the heart, as they say, the mouth speaks.
But it is exactly that parallelism which puts me off what our friends at WHI said in that podcast. In Mike Horton's view -- and in the view of his cohorts there -- somehow the consequence of "purified by redemption" doesn't have the necessary implication "his own possession who are zealous for good works".
Here's what Prof. Horton said: Yes: that is the Gospel. He is right that the active and passive obedience of Christ, his life and his death, followed by His resurrection as God's sign that He will keep His promise, is the Gospel.
But there are two things here which the White Horse Inn-mates (it's a joke; relax) are overlooking, and almost tragically so.
The first is that the Gospel is for someone. The Gospel is not just a spectacle but a gift, a grace which God gives to someone -- namely, His people who have faith. It is done, but it is for us. cf. last week's post on this passage: that's why it ought to be proclaimed -- to call out those for whom it is given.
But the second point is at least as important: It is not either deeds or creeds, but deed and creeds, or better still deeds as a necessary consequence of what the creeds say and mean. The creeds are not a law unto themselves; they are an enumeration of in whom we have faith and what He has done. They are not the faith but a limited description of the faith. And in that, if we believe what they say, we will live, as Paul says to Titus, as his own possession who are zealous for good works.
I love my wife, y'all. Without overstating this theologically, I love her because she loves me first. It's easy for me to go the extra mile for her when I have to because the name of Mrs. Centuri0n is "lovingkindness".
Now, that's sweet of me to bring it up, I know. I mention it because it is true. But what if you followed me around for a few days, and I was acting like Jon Gosselin -- or worse, that I was constantly calling her and checking up on her, making sure she wasn't cheating on me or leaving the kids unattended? Would my confession that Mrs. Cent is a wife of lovingkindness make any sense, or carry any credibility? Would my actions adorn the doctrine of Mrs. Cent?
Or would my actions prove I don't believe a word of it?
See: the doctrine of Mrs. Cent can be true objectively, but as Rod Rosenblatt points out so cunningly, maybe nobody believes it. Maybe nobody believes the good news of Mrs. Cent -- particularly her husband for whom she has done all these great things.
Here to Titus, Paul makes the equally demanding point that it is not enough to merely declare that truth that Christ is a Savior who has done great things; we must be a people for whom great things He has done. A people for whom great things have been done will not be an unchanged people. And in the same way that our sinners' nature has caused us to sin, our savior's redemption and purification will cause us to love what is good, and do it.
And you, dear pastor reader, must preach this. You must teach this. And you must live this. Your people will not be perfect, but they are purified. Teach them to live because that is true.