The Gospel Makes us Citizens of Heaven First.

Christ's incarnation (His birth, death, and resurrection) allows us to understand the Gospel and be transformed in the way we live. Transformed, counter-cultural living defines a Christian's personal existence in Christ. This living results in good works in the daily rhythms of life inside and outside the church. James 2:14-26 makes it clear that we show faith by our works. The Devil does all he can to keep us from living a testimony for Christ.

The Gospel makes us citizens of Heaven first (Philippians 1:20-21), and consequently, helpful citizens of light in our community. Titus was to model this as a pastor and citizen of Crete under Roman rule. His life would clearly contrast with the self-centered culture in which he pastored.

The church at Crete had understood this principle at first but needed a refresher. Lawlessness and worldliness had crept in. Paul tells Titus to uphold the Gospel by setting the church in order and “reminding” them of what they already know as truth (3:1).

Duties as Citizens (Titus 3:1-2)

"Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to slander no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing every consideration for all people."

This is a tall order at any time, and especially so in a contentious political season. The only way we are capable of doing this is by God’s grace. It is impossible to do without divine help. (See Titus 3:4-5.)

In the time Paul wrote, Christians had become people of suspicion to the Roman government because their conduct was different. They gave primary allegiance to another King even while submitting with sweet reasonableness to wicked Roman domination. They worshipped in their own places or homes and did not support pagan gods. Consequently, the culture looked for any vice to which they could assign blame. Jewish religion also had Christians under scrutiny.

Regardless, Paul writes that Christians are "to be subject" to rulers and authorities. This word means to place yourself under. Religious Jews fought this idea as a mindless surrender to paganism. Their attitude actually reflected the anti-authoritarian mindset of the Romans – if I don’t like leadership, I don’t have to follow it – and sought to justify it because God was their ruler. When adopted in the church, this attitude drew attention away from Christ and growth in His character and placed attention on fallen human leaders.

Even Christ rendered what was due to Caesar and taught His disciples to do the same (Mark 12:17). When we are primarily governed by Jesus as Lord, we can follow governmental leaders as Jesus did. Jesus was without sin yet submitted to Rome in His day. Paul's word to Christians under Roman rule was not to make the target on their backs any bigger by disrespecting authority.

Christians are also to be "obedient" and "ready for every good deed." Our good deeds show people the Gospel, and this is why we live and breathe, regardless of who our leaders are. The whole book of Titus teaches us how to live out good works as citizens. The way we vote, our ethics, laws we support, and language we use are all affected by Paul’s instruction.

We are also told not to malign any authorities. Jesus did not disrespect Pontius Pilate (John 18:33-38).

“Lest we think Paul and other apostles simply did not know what we have to put up with, we should remember these were the times of Caesars, occupational armies, and colosseums.”

We are to work not to be contentious but to keep the peace. We all know it can be frustrating to submit to layered processes even in local communities. These realities unavoidably impact our daily lives. Our obligation to submit is not annulled when we consider our authorities' demands unreasonable. But we are to do so as Christ would, and at the same time, live Christ's character and let others see Him as our Lord. People without Christ cannot do this. Let them notice the difference.

All this is for the progress of the Gospel. People won’t listen to the Gospel from a political agitator. Jesus wasn’t a political activist. He simply lived God’s character. We can’t help but live out His morality if we are governed by the Spirit and growing in Christlikeness. Morality shouldn’t just be a topic of conversation when elections come up; it should be a way of life and not merely a platform (Matthew 5:16).

Gospel progress is at stake. Don’t sully Christ's reputation with your unwillingness to submit to proper authority. We take the testimony of Christ and His Spirit everywhere we go. Christ's Spirit's influence is known and appreciated when we are known to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Remember that God places rulers and authorities, not your vote. He raises up leaders and brings them down according to His pleasure and plan. Our purpose is to demonstrate Christ-likeness regardless, to be kind and respect every authority even that we don’t agree with. Then we will stand out in an anti-authoritarian culture. We don’t have to like, agree with, or support every authority and what they stand for – but we must not be agitated away from respect.

The order God establishes in the church in this book is important. Paul tells Titus how to choose leaders who will set the right example in the church. Believers should learn from their leaders in the church how to submit to authorities in the culture.

Our Great Commission far transcends any political agenda.

Application Points

  • Live for Christ and sweetly submit with His spirit and attitude. That’s not popular in any culture, because we all have problems submitting to authority.
  • Do people around you know you as someone who is sweet, kind, consistent, and lives a Spirit-filled, holy lifestyle? This should be your pattern through years, not just promoting morality during times of political and cultural warfare. Don’t preach morality if you’re not living your morals year round.

  • Are you fearful and agitated by the current political climate? First, go to God and settle your heart in prayer. Then ask your discipler questions, and follow them as they follow Christ. Be peacemakers pursuing holy lives.

  • This passage should change how you post on social media. Are your contributions ungracious, unkind, disrespectful, or otherwise not Christ-like? Take them down. You can post for morality; just don’t be nasty.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – Don’t listen to the Bible with political confirmation bias.
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-4 – Pray for leaders.