Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
The correct understanding of the truth of Scripture is evidenced in a life of godliness (). This godliness is to be manifest in the believer’s life in the home and in the church. And the text we consider emphasizes the fact that this godliness is to be manifest in the believer’s life in the world. In this letter to Titus, the apostle Paul is giving instructions as to how Titus, as a minister of the Word, is to teach the young Christians what they are to believe and how they are to live.
They believe in Christ Jesus, who is the great God and Savior, who redeemed them from all iniquity and purified them, making them zealous of good work (). With all authority Titus is to speak to and admonish the new Christians concerning a life of godliness in the communities in which they live. They are to be good citizens and good neighbors.
As good citizens
It is the calling of the Christian to recognize God’s authority in those who have the rule over him. The rulers are identified in this text as “principalities and powers.” The word “principalities” refers to the people who are first, the leaders or originators. These actually rule, regardless of the form of the government. The word “powers” refers to authority, that is, the right to set the standard, the right to demand compliance to the set standard, and the right to punish or reward those who disobey or obey the standard.
Titus is to instruct the Christians that they have a calling toward those in authority over them in the country in which they live. This calling is not conditional, that is, dependent on whether the ruler is doing a good job. This God-given calling is twofold. First, they are to obey. The idea is that of yielding and complying. Second, they are to submit, that is, arrange themselves under. Subjection is a willing activity in relationship to others. Put together, the idea is that outward obedience arises from inward compliance. A willing heart must be behind the outward activity of paying taxes, being orderly in behavior, and heeding the laws of the land.
The exception that should be obvious is described in A—when the human magistrate lays upon the Christian citizen a regulation that clashes with God’s revealed will. Then the follower of Jesus is “to obey God rather than men.” But he is to do so remaining in subjection, that is, willing to accept the consequences put on him for not obeying man—even if it means a fiery furnace.
The disciples of Jesus Christ have the very highest motive for subjection to earthly principalities and powers, namely, “for conscience sake” they are obedient to their Lord’s will ()! Christianity touches every part of our life. Always. Nothing is above or beyond our Lord’s will. Faith in our Lord Jesus makes us the very best citizens. Faith makes us conscious that God has all authority (cf. ; b). Knowing the true God through Jesus Christ whom He sent, we are aware that He has all authority, and that it is His authority that is being exercised in various spheres of human life: home, state, church, and labor. The fifth commandment teaches believers that positions of authority in the various spheres of our life are ordained of God Himself. Those without faith are completely unmindful of that; they believe that the positions are made by men.
It is because of this biblical instruction that the Reformers emphasized to the kings of their day that Christians are not rebellious. Christianity makes for excellent citizens.
And Christianity makes for good (the best) neighbors
“Put them in mind…to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing meekness unto all men.”
“Ready to every good work.” Paul has just said that the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, gave Himself for us, that He might purify unto Himself a people who are “zealous of good works” (). All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly equipped unto all good works ( ). And he will say that we “learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that we be not unfruitful” ( ).
The word “ready” conveys the idea that the Christian is to take the lead in doing good. Christians, grateful for God’s unconditional love, are to be ready always to be joyfully helpful and useful to others. This positive activity excludes the corresponding evil, namely, doing harm with words or actions, failing to benefit others. The motive is purely Christian: consciously reflecting the image of God’s Son, who went about doing good to all.
Also, the Christian is a good neighbor because he will “speak evil of no man.” The Greek word translated “evil” is transliterated (changing each Greek letter into its English equivalent) “blaspheme.” The idea is to speak reproachfully, to revile. It is translated “railings” in. He who professes to be redeemed from all iniquity and purified unto Christ will not want to use insulting and abusive language (sarcasm), no matter how provoked. Sinful language is out of place for anyone, but especially for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
Further, Christians are to “be no brawlers, but gentle.” People who are ever ready to fight and argue make for wretched neighbors. Redemption from all iniquity means that we are not to be contentious or quarrelsome. This is especially to be the case with elders and ministers (I). Positively, redemption in Jesus means that one is able to display the positive virtue of being gentle, that is, equitable, fair, and patient. Strive to develop a willingness to yield. This is not a yielding of the truth, but a yielding of self. This is a part of the self-denial required of a disciple of Christ ( ).
Finally, the text declares that true faith in Christ enables one to show “all meekness unto all men.” This is the inward virtue behind the outward conduct of not speaking evil, and not being a brawler but gentle. Meekness is not weakness! It is the spiritual strength of continuing in the knowledge of my natural face, which humility is the only way to true liberty (). The refusal to be meek comes out of pride. Pride can enable one to profess the doctrine of total depravity, but it refuses to live that confession in relationship to other sinners. To be saved by sovereign grace means exactly that there is nothing of me and it is all of God. Meekness is living that truth!
Salvation in Jesus requires meekness unto all men. Not some meekness to some, nor all meekness to some, but all meekness to all. Even to the Cretan liars, evil brutes, and lazy bellies. This meekness is possible only by believing that I am the sinner, the chief of sinners. This thought enables us to bear what the sins of others inflict on us. This meekness remembers to give to God the right to execute judgment, which He does perfectly. This meekness to all is helped, too, by being conscious that we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven with no abiding place here.
A Good Reminding
Paul commands Titus to put these duties before the new Christians by constantly reminding them of it. “Put them in mind” of the fact that confession of the truth must be accompanied with a corresponding life. We are God’s own (“peculiar”) people by virtue of God’s work of redemption and sanctification (). We need constant reminding that this gives us a calling ( ). Paul would have Titus exhort us to remember, so that this calling is always before our minds.
Paul’s reminder was necessary because the Cretans as a whole were very likely quite unhappy with Roman rule. The Christian Cretans had to be taught to pray for kings and for all in authority ().
This reminding is necessary because it is our nature to forget, and especially to forget to bow in subjection. Those to whom we are to subject ourselves are often not easy to obey and to submit to, for they are often sinful and self-serving. But God’s undeserved love is powerful, not only to save, but also to give us new perspectives and new attitudes. This is the perspective and attitude of the new man in Christ.
The doctrines of salvation by grace alone are the enabling power. May we grace the gospel by being the best of citizens. And may we adorn the truth of grace by being the best of neighbors.