Rightly Relating to Those Inside and Outside the Church Who Do Not Know Christ.

Paul is writing the young pastor Titus to help his ministry in Crete. The first 2 chapters of his letter are about structure and relationships within the church (Titus 1-2). Chapter 3 begins with addressing a Christian's attitude toward those in authority (verse 1) and how to relate to those who don’t know Christ (verse 2). Titus 3:3-11 instruct us how to function among those who don’t know Christ, both outside the church and inside. Sadly, there will always be those even in the church who profess Christ but do not truly know Him.

Paul tells Titus to "remind" his congregations of several things, because we can’t rightly relate until we remember what we were like before we met Christ. This helps us compassionately deal with them and is healthy for us. Before we met Christ, we were facing imminent and certain death, unable even to call for help. Paul carefully describes our natural fallen condition and teaches us to treat people with mercy, patience, and compassion.

  • Foolish – able to be mindlessly influenced by others
  • Disobedient – unable to obey
  • Deceived – misled towards death by others
  • Enslaved – in bondage to all kinds of lusts and unbridled passions, undisciplined with good things and immoral things, unable to control our appetites
  • Malice – wanting revenge
  • Envy – making other people feel bad for having what you don’t
  • Hateful – directed against one another, the inability to be kind

The longer we live without Christ, the less disciplined we become. We can become enslaved to inordinate amounts of good things (work, food, exercise, etc.). Our culture no longer hides its appetites for immorality. As Christians, we know we would also be enslaved but for the grace of God; that’s why we don’t like looking back at these characteristics.

Titus 3:4 starts with a glorious contrast that reveals the source of our change. What the world really needs to see is the kindness, intentional graciousness, of God our Savior. ("Savior" is a repeated word in the book of Titus – Jesus and God are both called this.)

The "kindness" and "love" translated by the NASB are inseparable attributes from one another. We could also read it as “the lovingkindness” of God. The word for "love" here is the Greek “phileo,” where we get our word "philanthropic." It is God’s nature to want to rescue the unrescuable. Those who don’t know Jesus yet are still recipients of his good gifts. This is ultimately demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ. (See Titus 2:11.)

God chose to rescue us. Paul expresses our salvation both negatively and positively – God saved us not because He was impressed by our good deeds; salvation is all and only by His mercy and His desire to rescue us from what we deserved. Our salvation had nothing to do with our worthiness! Salvation and growth is all by omnipotent grace and mercy because He is kind and loving.

Titus 3:8 gives the purpose for which we reflect on these things: to engage in good deeds. We must exist in a fallen world in a righteous way and offer the kind, gracious love of God to others who are still stranded in their sin. We are to be engaged without being worldly, for Christ’s sake.

The next verses describe the unbelieving inside the church. They love talking about everything and nothing, attempting to tie this to noble-sounding cultural topics, and get distracted from Christ, His Word, and His mission. Paul is direct: avoid these conversations!

A "factitious" person is someone who likes to fight and disagree, is known for being disagreeable. Paul uses the strong word "reject" because the church needs to be protected from these people. By contrast, love is the beautiful light of the character of God inside and outside the church.

My friends, if you endeavor by God's grace to be disciplined by this kind of living, as you engage the world with graciousness and philanthropy, God the Spirit will provide for you many ways in which you can testify of God's graciousness and philanthropy towards you in Christ.

Application Points

  • Are you kind even when you disagree? Doing the right thing the wrong way is still wrong.
  • It's healthy sometimes to remember who we would have been if God had not chosen to rescue us from our sin.
  • How can you be engaged with those who don't know Christ without being worldly, for Christ’s sake? Simply be a friend; be gracious and kind; and know that it can take time for your character to lead to a Gospel conversation.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Romans 2:4, 10:17, 12:1-2, Ephesians 1:3-6 – Salvation and growth is all of God.
  • 1 Cor 12:13, Titus 3:6, John 1:12 – The gift of the Holy Spirit at our salvation.
  • 1 Thess 4:11 – How love demonstrates itself.