From personal and domestic duties the apostle turns now to those which are more external.
"Put them in mind to be in subjection to principalities,* to authorities; to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing all meekness toward all men" (vers. 1, 2).
* The more ancient MSS. omit the copulative.
As the apostle Peter presses similar exhortations on the believing Jews in his First Epistle, so did our apostle very fully in writing to the Roman believers, who were mostly Gentiles. Now he charges Titus, himself a Greek, to lay similar injunctions habitually on the Cretan brethren, whose countrymen were notorious for their insubordination and other vices to boot. Never was such an exhortation more needed than now, when the lawlessness of the age so rapidly increases as to shock all the right-minded. Lawlessness in the world is no less flagrant than a similar spirit in the church, though no doubt it is specially hateful in the temple of God, where the Holy Ghost dwells. But it is very possible for men to hold a rigid theory of obedience within the church, and to trample under foot and deny a similar responsibility in the world. They are not in this taught of God. Perhaps it is still more common to insist on obedience to the world's authority, and to deny it in the church on the plea of its state of ruin. God's word condemns all such selfwill.
Scripture however is plain and decided: it is not enough that it be for wrath's sake, but for conscience. God is concerned in our subjection, for there is no authority but of God; those that be are ordained of God; monarchical, republican, or any mixture of the two, they are ordained of God. "wherefore he that resisteth authority withstandeth the ordinance of God." Nor does it matter whether it be a supreme ruler or those commissioned by him, as the apostle Peter lets us know (1Pe_2:13-14), "For thus is the will of God." It was ordered in His providence that when the apostle wrote to the saints at Rome, one of the most cruel despots reigned: even so "Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities." The worst ruler is better than anarchy. Nevertheless it is not because of this reason of utility that the word of God speaks. Whoever he may be, he is the minister of God for good. He beareth not the sword in vain. He is a minister of God, and avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. If this doctrine is strange in our day, it is the more incumbent on the faithful, not only to believe, but to practise accordingly.
Next, Titus was to remind them to be obedient in a general way. That this is the force of the word is plain from the New Testament usage (Act_5:29; Act_5:32; Act_27:21). There is no sufficient reason to translate "to obey magistrates," as in the A. V. On the contrary this is to lose an exhortation by making it a mere repetition of the former clause. Do people plead the rights of man? the true place of the saint is "to obey." Do they abuse obedience, in order to set aside the authority of God? the answer is, "We ought to obey God rather than men." But obedience always, and everywhere, is the duty of the saint. If not sure of the will of God, he ought to wait till he learns, being one of the elect in sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. We are neither Jews under law, nor are we lawless Gentiles. The spirit of obedience Godward, if not always of man, it is therefore of the highest moment to inculcate.
But, further, the apostle would have Titus to press readiness for every good work. The saint is called not only to be a righteous man practically, but a good man. So our Lord here below went about doing good. If we cannot, like Him, heal those that were oppressed of the devil, we are here exhorted to be ready for every good work. It is a real and effective testimony to Christ where the truth is held and confessed along with activity in good: if Christ be not owned, the divine light which should shine is lacking. All then turns to glorify man, not God our Father.
But again, he would have them put in mind "to speak evil of no one." This is no easy matter in a world where evil abounds on every side, and where so much of it is levelled at the children of God in both word and deed; but God's word to us is plain, "to speak evil of no one." There may be a duty to bear witness for a godly end. Let us take care that it is only thus we can be charged with so speaking. No part of scripture is clearer than this Epistle for reproving severely that which calls for it. This is not evil speaking, but of God and for God.
Moreover, it is very difficult for those who are in the truth not to seem "contentious" toward such as deny it, counting it unattainable or indifferent. With Christ before us, however, the clear place of the Christian is to be really far from any strife, though charity demands that we should bear our testimony to the truth, and always deal faithfully with our brethren. If the Jew was not to allow sin in his neighbour, how much more is the Christian to be watchful in love, and to speak truth, and the truth, in love! This can only be with God before our eyes as seen in Christ. Then love is used and is never really contentious.
Moreover, we are called to be "gentle." Here again Christ has left us an example that we should follow in His steps. None so withering in His exposure of hypocrisy and self-righteousness; yet none so tender and considerate even to the most faulty against Himself. He was meek and lowly in heart, and calls E[is own to take His yoke upon them and learn from Him, as the way to find rest unto their souls, where so much tends to ruffle and grieve.
Lastly comes "showing all meekness toward all men." What self-judgment is called for! what continual walking by faith and not by sight! Christ before our eyes believingly can alone either call it out or sustain it, whatever the circumstances. It is not only meekness in fraternal intercourse, but expressly "toward all men," and in every form of meekness. Who is sufficient for these things? Truly it is "of God": none other source avails and as it is through His Spirit, so also and only with Christ before the eyes of the heart.
The apostle now draws a very dark yet true and life-like picture, not merely of what man is here or all over the world, but of what we ourselves were once in our natural state. It is evident that this was intended to strengthen the duty of subjection to authority on the one hand, and on the other the spirit of mild and meek bearing toward all mankind, in all those who bear the name of the Lord. Grace was to prevail and display itself all round. This has been far from always the fact among God's children. And no wonder. They have been trained up for the most part under the mistaken' assumption that the law is the rule of life for the Christian. The consequence has been that the Christians so formed have manifested the spirit of earthly righteousness, much more than of heavenly grace. Necessarily in the measure of our uprightness we are really characterised by that which governs our thoughts and affections. If error rule there, as communion fails, the walk is proportionately perverted from the will of God. Christ being our life, risen and in heaven, so is His word in all its fulness the rule of our life, as the Spirit is the power which works and forms us as witnesses of Him to the glory of God.
No maxim more false than that the practical life is independent of the creed. Christ is set forth in the written word as the true rule of Christian life; and as He walked Himself, so He uses all the word of God in the power of the Spirit to create in us intelligence as well as divine motives flowing out of His love. Grace, therefore, is the predominant character of the Christian, the direct and essential opposite of law; yet grace reigns in every sense through righteousness. Undoubtedly God did of old test Israel by His law, and the commandment is holy, just, and good; but the object was to prove the impossibility of aught good in man, or to be got out of man. This the believer has to learn, and alone does learn, experimentally. On that ground nothing but the grace of God in Christ can deliver from guilt and sin, as well as from its consequences; but the practical effect is that the righteous import (τὸ δικαίωμα) of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. With those who theorise about the law, it begins with ineffectual struggles, and issues in disappointment or in delusion.
Hence the importance for us, who, as believers in Christ, are now the objects of divine grace, that we should draw lessons of lowly love, not only from the incomparable grace which has saved us, but from the utter depths of evil out of which we ourselves have been saved. "For at one time even we were foolish, disobedient, gone [or led] astray, in slavery to divers lusts and pleasures, passing time in malice and envy, abominable, hating one another" (ver. 3).
To the Greek mind especially, perhaps no description was less welcome than that with which the apostle commences, our folly, our want of understanding before God, for the life that is now, and for that which is to come. But this is the truth. Human knowledge has nothing to do with it, save (it may be) by making the contrast more glaring. See a man, on the one hand, full of science, sound information, and letters, as in Rom. ii.; on the other hand, a prey to every falsehood about God, wholly without Him, and insensible to any living relationship with Him. In the beast there cannot be such a link from its nature; there is for it no moral association with God. But man! He had even as man, he only had, God breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, whereby he became a living soul. Man is therefore immediately and ever morally responsible; he was made to obey God, as much as to rule the lower creation. On earth the brute looks down, man alone looks up. Sin has utterly ruined this, whilst the responsibility remains. He has become the slave of a mightier rebel than himself. What "folly" now? and what can the end be?
Accordingly we find the next description of the apostle is "disobedient." This is the universal condition of man; so he lives and dies in his natural state, never once obeying God here below. From a condition sodesperate Christ, Himself the obedient Man though infinitely more than man, alone delivers; and this, by imparting His own life through faith. "He that believeth hath everlasting life." It is true that this could not avail without Christ's atoning death, which alone removes man's guilt before God by Christ's suffering, Just for unjust, on the cross. Yet even His death could only be a cleansing from every sin through His blood, and a blessed incentive to a new walk here below; in itself it could not be the new life on or rather in which the Holy Ghost would act by the word, were that all.
The urgently permanent want therefore of a sinful soul is the breath of a new and spiritual life. But herein was manifested the love of God in our case, that God has sent His Only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. Life in Him is only and always an obedient life; thereby from the moment of conversion the Holy Spirit separates us from evil. It is wholly different from Pharisaic setting ourselves apart, being a divine work. For we are sanctified, as the apostle Peter says, to the obedience of Jesus Christ, no less than to the sprinkling of His blood. Without His blood we should be oppressed with the sense of unremitted sins. Spiritual life alone would rather deepen this sense; life could not remove it righteously It is there that His death by grace comes in effectually for us before God. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son as propitiation for our sins" (1Jn_4:10).
Thus the whole work of Christ is necessary for sinful man, and is the incomparable boon which faith enjoys in its fulness; but the practical aim of it all is that we, having died to sins, should live unto righteousness (1Pe_2:24), and walk even as He walked here below. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoso keepeth His word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected" (1Jn_2:4-5). For man therefore is nothing good without obedience; yet we were once "disobedient," as we were "foolish" or lacking intelligence. God was not in our thoughts or hearts to obey. Our way was our folly in ignorance of God and gratification of self, or perhaps we fell into an ascetic dream of making God our debtor.
Further, we were not only wandering in error, but "led astray," however highly we may have thought of our independence and shrewd judgment. Nor should any one be surprised to learn that so it was. Were we not part of the world which lies in the wicked one, where the spirit of self-will governs all without exception, Jews and Gentiles, alike children of disobedience? "We also all once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children ofwrath, even as the rest" (Eph. 2), wholly ignorant that through unbelief we were slaves of one who is a liar and the father of it. Nor is any lie so evil, subtle, and fatal, as human religion. God only can make known in His word what pleases Him.
Nor was the evil confined to desires of the mind. We were "in slavery to divers lusts and pleasures"; so much the more bondmen, because we flattered ourselves that we were pre-eminently free. We did our own will and pleased ourselves; we chose our pleasures here or there as we liked. What was this but to be slaves of the devil when severally pursuing divers lusts and pleasures? To do our will is to fall into his slavery. Christ was the blessed contrast, Who pleased not Himself but ever did the will of God, cost what it might.
Such ways as these exposed us to constant dangers, difficulties, strains, and miseries. Conflict of will broke in upon the calmest surface of amiability; gusts of feeling, yea, of passion, swept us along now and then; in short we were, as it is said here, "passing time in malice and envy," whatever might be the good opinion we had of ourselves or valued one from another. We had no love in any divine or real sense of doing good unselfishly. We disliked what condemned ourselves. We envied in others what we had not. Here again let us delight our souls in Christ, Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him.
Lastly, the apostle does not hesitate to say we were "abhorred (or, hateful)" as well as "hating one another." We awakened the horror of other people, spite of all appearances or efforts; and others returned "hate" with no less bitterness of feeling. What a power of evil lay on us! What a reality of evil and shame is in alienation from God! What grace in Him Who alone could say, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst . . All that the Father giveth me shall come to me ; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
Man's extremity was God's opportunity, as always, then above all. When judgment might have seemed most due, His kindness and His dear love toward man appeared. Earthly deliverances were wholly short of the dire need. Prophets had spoken for this in vain; in vain for this the most striking powers, miracles, signs. Man was lost. Would God appear to save him? This is just what the apostle here declares in terms clear and certain.
"But when the kindness and the love to man of our Saviour God appeared." The A. V. rather fails in that it merges "the philanthropy" of God in His kindness; whereas, by a distinct article to each, the two things are presented separately, however closely associated otherwise. Next, God's love toward man is a single word, φιλανθρωπία, whereas the absence of the article in the English makes its natural meaning to be His kindness toward man in His love. Now this is not really the thought expressed by the apostle, which appears to be as one has here endeavoured to represent it.
It is a blessed and full statement of what God is in His kindness, contrasted with all that we were in our folly and evil aforetime. Corruption, violence, disobedience, and error described ourselves. God, Who is holy and of inflexible righteousness, is also the God of gracious goodness in His own nature, and has most especial love toward man. This is no longer hidden, no longer a manifestation to be waited for; it has appeared so completely that God Himself could not add to the full expression of His love. "The law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." It is true that no man has seen God at any time. But this in no real way hindered the activity of His kindness and the proof of His love to man; on the contrary, it only gave occasion for its richest possible display. "The Only-begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He declared [Him]." Nothing could match this. It was beyond all thought of creature. The angels were lost in admiration; men, in stupid unbelief, think nothing about it; else their hard and senseless hearts would melt before the wonders of such love. The mind of man is incapable of fathoming grace, and therefore retreats into its own dark selfishness. And no wonder, if he judge, as he is ever apt to judge, of God by himself. Not one that ever was born would have had the heart for such a death, even if he could.
God sent His only Son to die for His enemies! To die for a good man, for a dear friend, is what some rare man might do, as it has been done; to die for one's enemies is an impossibility for man. But this is the very way in which the kindness of God and His love toward man appeared. Being characteristically divine, it can only be received by faith. Those who believe their own thoughts, and judge from their own feelings, refuse to receive it, give the lie to God, and are therefore lost, and this most justly. For is it not the rejection of God, alike in His grace and truth? Now, whatever may be the compassion of God toward foolish disobedient man, as we who were so once can but testify, God cannot pass by deliberate and persistent contempt of His love in the presence of His revealed light. And it is the true light of God which is now shining. Such is the gospel of Christ, in which more than in all else put together the kindness of God and His love toward man appeared. He therefore sent it forth to every creature, as the sun shines for every land.
It was not so with the law, however capable of dealing in a righteous way with every heart that takes it up. Still the law was given to Israel, and only they were formally and by divine authority placed under the law. According to the scriptures the Gentiles were without law; they are thus designated in contrast with Jews; and on this ground will they pass under God's judgment, as we are told in Rom. 2. But now even they, who were nothing but sinners, and had nothing but the conscience to accuse or excuse, have the unspeakable privilege of the gospel preached to them. As the Jews were without excuse in rejecting their Messiah when He came to them in love and amplest attestation, so the Gentiles are yet more inexcusable if they shut their eyes and ears to that Christ, Who lifted up draws all men unto Him. It was a wonder for God in His love to humble Himself and come down to man in the person of His Son become a man. It was a wonder infinite that a man Who was God incarnate died as a sacrifice for sinners on the cross. He now is raised from the dead and received up in glory, exalted to give repentance and remission of sins, not to Israel only, but to any poor sinner who believes in Him to the ends of the earth.
For the due time was scarcely less admirable than the way. It was after the sins in every form and degree, and before the judgment. Man had been tried, then left to himself, which ended in the flood. Israel had received the law and apostatised. The Gentiles had been given world-power and only demonstrated that they were "beasts" morally. Both Jews and Gentiles joined in rejecting God's Son, the Messiah Who could and would have shed nothing but light and good to God's glory. When all hope naturally was buried in His grave, God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory; nor this only, but causes grace to appear in deeper and larger ways than ever by the gospel.
"This is love, not that we loved God [which was what law asked and never got], but that He loved us and gave His Son [this is the gospel] as propitiation for our sins." Thus did the kindness of God and His love toward man appear. It is matchless, full of comfort, deliverance, and blessing to every soul believing in Christ; but he who despises it, as he dishonours God in His deepest grace, so he incurs God's vengeance and everlasting judgment. In the solemn words of our Lord Jesus Himself, "He that believeth (or obeyeth) not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
It is remarkable that, if we find the word in its human application in Act_28:2, this is the only passage in scripture, where we hear of "philanthropy" or love of mankind predicated of God our Saviour. Is it not worthy of inspiration? The philanthropy of God means His special affection toward man and, as we shall see presently, shown in a way of which the creature is quite incapable. Benevolent men boast of their own philanthropy or of their fellows'. What can be more in contrast? The baser metal is displayed very often by heterodox, by Arians, Unitarians, and Deists, by infidel Agnostics and Positivists. Furthermore Christians of every sort scruple not to join frequently in an unholy alliance with any or all those enemies of the faith for social, educational, and political purposes. Men glory in these combinations so foreign to God's word and Christ's cross, a worldly counterpart for the unity of the Spirit we are enjoined to keep as members of the one body of Christ. They rejoice that any merely natural means should be applied to the relief of social distress and personal misery, careless of God's will, mind, and glory.
In what is purely external and of this creation men can all unite, whatever their faith or lack of faith - yea, opposition to the faith of God's elect. Such is the philanthropy of man, without serious thought of God's word or will, occupied with prisons and workhouses, the hospital and the asylum, people's parks, baths, and clubs, public bands, thus seeking to deal with every aspiring class, as well as the misery of the world in general. But our Saviour God deals with man by bringing in the light which discloses his ruin in the best circumstances from the throne down to the firstborn of the female slave that is behind the mill. God's philanthropy views the human philanthropists as perhaps most of all needing His saving love, because they are blinded to their sins by the consciousness of amiability or benevolence. Many of them on principle believe nothing unseen. They see only the facts of human misery and seek to alleviate it, wholly ignorant that they themselves are wretched before God, no less than the lowest of those they would relieve, and this for an eternity, which they not only do not believe but perhaps openly deny and defy.
God's philanthropy is as different as His nature is from man's, and springs from motives of love in Himself, as it is based on the sacrifice of Christ. So we are told in the verse before. No longer hidden as once, it once for all appeared; and man is the more responsible, because His kindness contemplates all, while it is valid only for those who believe. For it is "Not by works in righteousness which we ourselves did, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost" (ver. 5). Language cannot be clearer than this.
The works of a man as a ground for salvation are excluded; and most mercifully, for how could an unrighteous man - and such we were by nature before God - do works in righteousness? There is no doubt a work done in righteousness, if there ever was such, and an infinite one. Christ, the Righteous One, was come to do God's will, and did it all perfectly; as He dying said, "It is finished." Thus it terminated with His suffering for sins, but God therein glorified even as to sin. Thereby have we our blessed portion. We committed sins in unrighteousness abundantly; works in righteousness we ourselves never did, till we were justified by divine grace: even then could we stand in them before God? But in due time Christ died for ungodly men. God commends His love in that, we being still sinners, Christ died for us. According to His mercy God saved us. Thus is He God our Saviour. It is not only the title of His character: He has wrought for our need according to His mercy in Christ. Nor was it only to help but to "save."
It is not a theory but a fact; "according to His mercy He saved us." The best part of Judaism consisted of shadows which prefigured this; but Christianity is founded on facts in Christ come and suffering for us; and these facts are now through faith in the gospel applied to souls. Christ is the life eternal; and the Christian has that life in Him, not in himself but in Christ dead and risen to secure all. "He that believeth hath eternal life." Yet was he guilty and cannot deny his sins, but confesses and hates them before God. We needed therefore a Saviour to die for our sins as much as to give unto us life everlasting. This in both its parts was in the mercy of God; and thus according to His mercy He saved us.
But the mercy if unknown or doubtful in its application to the soul is shorn of half its blessedness. Such is not the philanthropy of God. He loves that we should know what Christ has done and suffered for us. Believing in Him we are saved, and we know it on His own word and in the delivering power of His Spirit. Hence it is added, "According to His mercy He saved us through a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Not only are we set in a new position through Christ's death and resurrection, of which baptism is the sign; but there is the effectual work in the soul from first to last. It is unbelief alone that doubts God's salvation, if we receive Jesus. For the word is that "He saved us," though it is only in a way most holy and that secures holiness in us.
"Regeneration" is a new state of things, and not merely "to be born again," as anyone can see in Mat_19:28. "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is the changed state of the earth which the Lord will introduce at His appearing, as the kingdom of God pre-supposes according to John 3. That state is not yet come. But there is an action of grace which already apprehends a believer for it, the moment he receives Christ and His work proclaimed in the gospel.
Of this new and changed state baptism is the sign - not of the new birth, but of deliverance from sin and its effects by the death of Christ, witnessed in the power of His resurrection which has taken away the sting. Hence it is that in 1Pe_3:21 we read, "Which figure also now saveth you, baptism." But it is carefully added, "not a putting away of filth of flesh, but request of a good conscience toward God through resurrection of Jesus Christ." Superstitious men, who know not God's grace in Christ, do only misuse the sign and confound it with the thing signified. The gospel may not dispense with the outward side; but it announces an everlasting reality in Christ risen. How blessed to have our part in this new creation even now (2 Cor. 5)! How wondrous to know that "if any one is in Christ, it is a new creation! The old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God that reconciled us to Himself through Christ." Before this is manifested to every eye, the Christian has both washing of regeneration now and renewing of the Holy Spirit also. This makes the force evident. If the washing of regeneration has an objective force, the renewing is a real and divine work in the soul In order that it should be so, the Holy Spirit, as He does invariably in the believer, takes His suited and efficacious part, which is no mere token but a reality in power suited to and worthy of redemption.
It is well known that some are disposed to understand here "the laver of regeneration." The A.V. did not recognise this; the margin of the Revised Version does. It is well that the Revisers did not venture farther. The notion is absolutely unfounded; for λουτρὸν never means laver but washing, or the water for the washing (in the sense of bath), as is notorious. Never in the N.T. occurs λουτὴρ which is the proper word for "laver." They are both found in the Septuagint, and even λουτρὼν, a place for washing or bathing-room. It is strange indeed that a commentator of learning could say that λουτρὸν is always a vessel or pool in which washing takes place, here the "baptismal font." Liddell and Scott do, it is true, give "a bath, bathing place," but not a solitary instance of such usage. Their abundant references are to hot or cold bathing in the sense of washing, or water for it, or even libations to the dead; but λουτὴρ isthe tub or laver, as λουτρὼν is the place or bath-room. Bp. Ellicott and Dean Alford misrepresent the Lexx., of course only through haste or pre-occupation. The word is correctly translated "washing" in our text. There could be no question about the matter, unless there had been a prejudice to warp the mind. The wish was father of the thought.
Salvation then is no outward work, though based on Christ's work entirely outside ourselves; nor is it any mere deliverance by power, but personal and inward, "through a washing of regeneration and renewing ofthe Holy Ghost." There is a total change of position in Christ, a new place which is given to the believer, as well as another state subjectively. This is expressed by the washing and renewing. Old things are passed away, all things are become new. For now the believer is in Christ. As a man he was in Adam. Faith is now entitled to know that we all stand in Christ by God's mercy, and altogether independently ofwhat we did ourselves. Thus the evil is gone before God and for the conscience; for Christ is risen, the fullexpression of the state into which the Christian is brought by grace.
But, besides what may be called objective place and subjective change, there is an incomparably blessed power which works in those who are brought into this standing. It is not only that there is real "renewing," perfectly true and important as this is; but the Holy Ghost Himself was poured out upon us in all fulness; as it has been said here, "Which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (ver. 6). This covers the entire Christian life. It is not merely that He effectually works, but He abides with us for ever. This is of immense value and in evident contrast with O.T. privilege where the danger of His leaving is felt and deprecated, as we see in Psalm 51. Under the gospel our privileges are known as abiding. The Holy Spirit Himself is even called in the Hebrews the eternal Spirit, though there it is in His special connection with Christ offering Himself without spot to God. But beyond controversy it is the same Spirit Who is now by grace imparted to us, or, as is here expressed with peculiar emphasis, "poured out upon us richly." Undoubtedly this could not be, save "through Jesus Christ our Saviour." But so it is added here, that we might dream of no other ground, on the one hand, and on the other have the fullest assurance of abundant and unfailing grace in the power of the Spirit personally through such a Saviour. It is a privilege which never can lapse, any more than God revokes it where faith is living, as it flows through Christ and His redemption; and these He will never dishonour.
We know that, on the day when this privilege was first made good, powers and wonders accompanied. But no mistake can well be more pernicious than to confound the gift (δωρέα) of the Holy Spirit with those gifts (χαρίσματα)and signs and miracles which were external vouchers, as well as the display of the victory of the ascended Man over all the energy of evil. The presence of the Paraclete is an incomparably higher and deeper thing than all the mighty deeds which He wrought. Just so the grace and truth of our Lord rose above the signs which pointed out Who and what He was. Even tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not; and yet tongues, the characteristic Christian miracle, approach nearer to that which edifies than any other exertion of divine power. But the gracious action of the Holy Spirit conveyed by His personal presence rises far above all such accompaniments, as the cause does above some or all of its effects.
Hence the all-important truth for all saints is, that while displays of power have passed away, as unsuited to the ruined state of the church, that which always was and is most needed and precious abides, because it rests on His work, finished on earth and accepted in heaven, Who never changes; and it comes to us through Christ, the same yesterday and today and for ever. It is He Who gives us to cry, "Abba, Father," and this in the Spirit of the Son. It is He Who takes the things of Christ, and shows them to us and glorifies Him. It is He Who searches all things, yea the deep things of God. He gives us communion with the Father and the Son, no less than He helps our infirmity, and makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, because He makes it for the saints according to God. It is He Who is all-powerful on the one hand for service in testifying of Christ, on the other for the worship of saints in the assembly above all.
The Holy Spirit has abdicated His relation to the assembly no more than to the individual Christian. It is only by the Holy Spirit that every believer can say that Jesus is Lord; but the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each to profit withal, for to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit. If there are external ornaments taken away, we can and ought surely to justify God; but He withholds nothing that is really necessary or profitable and for His own glory. Just as of old, soit is now: - one and the same Spirit works all, dividing to each one severally as He will, for He is sovereign; and woe be to those who presume to control Him! He abides therefore for the blessing of the church and individual saints to Christ's glory (Joh_14:16).
The wealth of our privileges in the present gift of the Spirit corresponds to the nearness of relationship with the God and Father of Christ, and to the oneness with Christ into which the Christian only is introduced. Yet these are every one of them blessings not more intimate, and rich beyond all other times, than permanent: of none is this predicated more emphatically than of the Holy Spirit, that other Paraclete Whom the Father sent in Christ's name, that greatest of privileges, the Spirit thus personally given. But the unbelief of Christendom apprehends none of them as now revealed. Yea, even God's children for the most part are a prey to doubt and darkness as to each, through the spirit of the world that has invaded them all but universally, even where they have not become victims of the delusion of the enemy in a vain pretension to a special revival. From all this evil on either side faith preserves the soul in peace.
For if the Holy Ghost is still "poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour" (and to deny this is in principle to deny the perpetuity of Christ's body and of the personal Pentecostal presence of God's Spirit), there is no room for a restoration of what God never took away. But, again, if the Spirit is still here in person, constituting God's assembly, how sad and shameless for those who believe in it to allow arrangements, which grew out of unbelief in His presence and oppose His free action in the assembly, or by the gifts of the Lord for the edifying of His body! Would that they who err in spirit might come to understanding, and they who murmur might learn doctrine! "In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength;" so wrote the evangelical prophet.
Now comes the design of God. His kindness and His philanthropy appeared in saving according to His own mercy, and with all fulness of favour at this present moment: - "That, having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to hope of eternal life" (ver. 7).
It is a mischievous mistake to suppose that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on us richly is in order to our justification, as some have strangely conceived. All scripture proves that the gift of the Spirit follows faith, instead of being a preparation for justification. The effect is bad; for the Holy Ghost identifies His work with us: what He effects in and by us is ours. This accordingly would make the new work and walk of saints a means of justification, and thus grace would be no more grace. Not only does scripture elsewhere uniformly prove the fallacy and the evil of such a view, but the very clause before us refutes it. For we are said to have been justified by the grace of God; or, as it is expressed in Rom_8:34, "It is God that justifieth." Certainly the believer is the last man to justify himself. God justifies, instead of laying anything to the charge of His elect, who abhor themselves before Him, owning not only their sins but their nature as vile and corrupt. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom_3:24).
Here it is put as a fact emphatically. "Being, or having been, justified by His grace." It is already done. Now grace on His part excludes desert on ours. "To him that worketh the reward is not reckoned as of grace but of debt; but to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness" (Rom_4:4-5); or (as applied in Rom_11:6) "if by grace, no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace." Work justly calls for wages or reward; but what can justify the ungodly (and such were we once) save God's sovereign favour?
The grace of God assuredly produces works suitable to its source and its character. Holiness of walk follows in its train. But His grace implies necessarily that there was no good thing in us. It is in no way a question of desert in the object of His grace; who on the contrary is saved expressly and exclusively when a lost sinner. From the moment of new birth he becomes a saint and is called to walk thenceforth as such. But in this context it had been already and with precision laid down, "not out of works in righteousness which we had done, but according to His own mercy He saved us." The "we" or "ourselves" abandons all self-righteousness. Christ dead and risen is the sole possible means of God's salvation; and His work of redemption is the righteous ground, that it may be God's righteousness in contrast with ours. For our passover also was sacrificed, Christ, Who died for our sins, having suffered Just for unjust, to bring us to God Who is glorified thereby, as never before, nor so by aught possible again.
But it is well to note that the apostle speaks of justification with a triple connection. In Rom_5:1, it is justified by or out of faith. There is no other principle on which it could be without compromise. We look out of ourselves to Christ, and rest only on Him raised from among the dead, Who was delivered for our offences and raised for our justification. Therefore we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is of faith, not of works of law; and these were the two competing principles. If any works could justify a man, it must have been the works of God's law. Works of man's device could have no value with God. Works of law would have been all well, if man could do them. The truth is that man, being now a sinner, could not possibly face them, save in the blind and mad presumption of flesh. "All sinned, and do come short of the glory of God," which becomes the measure, now that Eden is lost by sin. All his works are necessarily vitiated by
his fallen condition, even if he had not been as he is, powerless through sin. Works of law therefore are wholly unavailing, save to detect and manifest the ruin of a sinner. If he is to be justified, it must be through Another by grace; and therefore it can only be by faith (ἐκ π.), not by law works. That the apostle in Rom_5:1-2, asserts, with its blessed results for our souls toward God, past, present, and future.
But in ver. 9 of the same chapter we are told that we were justified in virtue of (ἐν) His blood. Here the adequate power comes forward. Without the blood of Christ no sin could be purged really and for ever before God. But the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses from every sin, as 1Jn_1:7 declares. Hence if God justifies us, it is in virtue, or in the power, of Christ's blood; and as being now justified in or by His blood, " we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Our sins were the great difficulty, as the believer truly felt; but now they are gone, we were justified and shall be saved. Such is the confident assurance to us ofthe apostle: a monstrous piece of presumption and cruel cheat, if he had not been inspired of God to declare it as righteous and true.
In our text, Tit_3:7, we are directed to the efficient cause from which justification flows. It is the grace of God, and not any merit in its objects. All glorying in flesh is thereby excluded for ever. It is therefore an unfailing source, with a ground in Christ's work which justifies God no less than the repentant soul who lays hold of Christ by faith. "Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace." The result is according to the mind and love of God, "that, having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to hope of eternal life." We have therefore a title according to hope of life eternal, which was first in God's purpose and will be fully realised in glory.
It is difficult to conceive anything more complete than these three statements of the same apostle. The accuracy of the form too is as striking as the truth conveyed is blessed to him who believes. Indeed it is a threefold cord which cannot be broken for him who by grace, trusts God and the word of His grace.
Some object to "heirs" standing alone; but it is all the more absolute because it does. In Rom_8:16-17, we are told that we who believe are children of God; and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and Christ's joint-heirs. It is not inheriting this or that but "heirs also," and to make it indefinitely rich, "heirs of God and Christ's joint-heirs" Again, in Gal. 4, the believer is nolonger a bondman but a son, and if son, heir also through God (assuredly not through man, him. self or others). Thus we learn the double truth, that by faith, not by works of law, we are heirs of God, and this through God. What can be less tied to limits than this title? All is sovereign grace. It is He Who made us His heirs; and we are to inherit what Christ will inherit in glory. To Titus the apostle speaks so as to leave us "heirs" all the more largely, because it is quite indefinite. It was all by God's grace; and what of good for us has He withheld?
Yet we have important words which accompany it: "Heirs according to hope of eternal life." This life in Christ is the believer's now; but we have it in a body full of weakness, compassed with infirmities, and in fact mortal. Our bodies will enjoy the life when our hope is accomplished at the coming of Christ. Eternal life will be no longer hid with Christ in God, but manifested according to all the power of His glory, as it is even now the gift to faith, the inestimable gift of God's grace. "For our governing state subsists in the heavens, from which also we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, Who shall transform the body of our humiliation into conformity with the body of His glory according to the working whereby He is able to subdue even all things to Himself" (Php_3:20-21).
So in the Epistle to the Rom_6:22 we read, "Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end life eternal." The glorious future is here before us; then and there alone will the full character of eternal life be unhindered. But it is no less really true now, as verse 23 seems to show; for if the wages of sin is death, "the free gift of God (flowing from His favour) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." We have at least the present title of His free gift in Christ. Both Gospel and Epistle of John assert its present reality as ours. What a privilege for the believer to enjoy now! What a responsibility to walk accordingly and bear a true witness to Him! It is nothing less than Christ in us the hope of glory. When He comes to Israel, the glory will be possessed and manifest. We have Him as life while He is hidden in God; and when He shall be manifested, then shall we also with Him be manifested in glory.
Nor was the apostle content with his full and clear statement of the gospel. He draws the attention of Titus to its importance and value in a formula not uncommon in the pastoral Epistles. "Faithful [is] the saying; and concerning these things I will that thou affirm strongly, in order that those who have believed God* may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men; but foolish questionings and genealogies and strifes and legal fightings shun, for they are unprofitable and vain" (vers. 8, 9).
*Tyndale is right here, and Wiclif, for with the latter "believen to" is equivalent to our "believed" simply. It is strange that the Rhemish did not cleave to the Vulgate which is correct, but errs with the later English Versions. Believing "God" means receiving His testimony, especially in the gospel, as just laid down, no less incumbent on and needed by Jews than by Gentiles. Besides this, we believe on (ἐπὶ) God and in (εἰς) Him, as made known to us in raising Christ from the dead (Rom_4:24; 1Pe_1:21). But this goes farther, and we have to distinguish things that differ.
There is no real ground for doubt that the apostle is here looking back on the development of the truth which had just occupied him. The salvation of God from first to last was simply and briefly stated in 1Ti_1:15-16. It was here more fully explained. The relationship of the Holy Ghost to it is brought out as an added privilege, no less than the grace of God as the spring of it all. In 1 Tim. 1 it is just the plain truth of Christ come into the world to save sinners. Certainly the object of faith is not left out here; and the Holy Ghost is said to be poured out richly, besides His renewing us, that, being justified by God's grace, we might be made heirs according to hope of eternal life. We are not waiting for life or salvation as to our souls; we do not wait for righteousness, being already justified; for we by the Spirit do of faith wait for the hope of righteousness (Gal_5:5), when eternal life shall swallow up our bodies also, and this in heavenly glory.
It may be alleged, no doubt, that "faithful is the saying" precedes in the former case, whilst it follows here. But 1Ti_4:9-10, is a clear proof that the order may vary without in any way affecting the certainty of the apostolic application. The A. V. like some others is at least ambiguous, if not misleading; for one might infer from it that the faithful saying was merely the call of believers to maintain good works. This however is a rather unworthy sense; which the text, as well as the truth generally, disproves. The apostle is laying down the only ground of power for a fruit-bearing course; and hence is urgent with Titus, that he should insist constantly and thoroughly on the sure but exclusive truth of salvation by grace in all its fulness as well as reality. This was the apostle's first theme for individual souls everywhere and always; he now presses it on Titus. Without it there is no readiness or power for good works; without it conscience is clouded, and the heart hardened: there is neither life nor peace where it is unknown.
But when we are saved after this divine sort, we are able to take everything to God as well as from Him. In a world which cast out Christ and where Satan reigns, trials and sorrows are expected for the faithful, yet do we give thanks; comforts and joys are given of God, and we give thanks. Faith sees and hears Him Who guides and guards, whatever the difficulty or danger. His will is acceptable as well as holy and perfect. We love not His commandments only but His word, having found its value in our deepest need, as He by it made known His love to us in spite of our alienation and hatred. Now we can say without presumption, we love Him and His honour. We desire to do His will, and to please Him; and this is the will of God, even our sanctification; for He has called us on terms of holiness, and we are ourselves taught of God to love one another: so the apostle has ruled.
Known salvation therefore, by God's grace in Christ our Lord, is the basis which the Holy Ghost lays for the walk of a Christian according to God. Nevertheless there is need for exhortation; and the word is full of cheer as of warning, the encouragements being varied and strong, to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. Perhaps it is not too much to say that, if His grace justifies us, our fidelity thenceforth ought to justify Him, however poor our measure may be.
It may be well also to protest here against lowering this expression ("to maintain good works"), as if it only echoed ver. 14. It is not so. The expression may be similar; but the context is clear that the object of God differs in the two verses, as we shall see by-and-by. Undoubtedly ver. 14 has an important bearing; but it is of a narrower and lower character. In ver. 8 good works have nothing to do with "necessary uses," and must be taken in all their extent. They are the honourable works, which become a believer, not benevolent merely but suitable to the objects of divine favour and of everlasting blessing, in a world where evil abounds and God is unknown save to faith.
It is also well to add that it is not believing in God here as in the A.V., but "believing God." They have set to their seal that God is true, having accepted His testimony. Therefore they bowed to His conviction wrought inwardly, that they were hateful and hating one another, but oh! how thankfully also that according to His mercy He saved them. Yet if all the Trinity concerned itself in this truly divine salvation, without the cross it was not possible. Christ suffering for sins had made it righteous for God to exercise His grace without stint. Therefore is it God's righteousness. This the Holy Ghost can crown with the richest enjoyment and with real power for practice.
"These things are good and profitable to men." Here it need not be doubted that the apostle includes the maintenance of good works on the part of believers; but why should any wish to exclude the faithfulness of God's salvation from a still more direct and important place? The cause is surely of at least equal moment with the effect. In contrast with these good and profitable things the apostle bids Titus "shun foolish questionings and genealogies and strifes and fighting about law." It is the same apostle who told Timothy, as indeed we all know, that the law is good if a man use it lawfully. How so? It is not made for a righteous man but for the lawless and unruly, an unsparing weapon against all evil. What will produce honourable works? Nothing but the gospel of the glory of the blessed God which was committed to Paul and pressed on Titus no less than Timothy.
Here then the apostle denounces the misuse of the law. As it puffs up man who, ignorant of his sin and powerlessness, builds on it, so it engenders foolish questions and genealogies and strifes, and legal fightings. Gospel truths are "good and profitable to men"; legal squabbles are "unprofitable and vain"; and such is the misuse of law to which man's mind is ever prone, if indeed he pays any heed at all. The truth of the gospel, as it reveals grace, so it commands both heart and conscience of the believer. Where faith is not, there is the power of death unremoved, and darkness Godward. So is it with the race in its natural estate, which no rite can alter - only the Deliverer received in faith.
From questions dark or trifling and in either way quite unprofitable or even injurious, to which legalism tends, the apostle next warns of a still darker result which is too apt to appear, the uprising of party spirit in its most extreme shape, which scripture designates "heresy." 1Co_11:18-19, is the first occurrence of the phrase αἵρεσις in the apostolic Epistles, which can alone precisely define its Christian application. "I hear that schisms exist among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that the approved may be made manifest among you."
Hence we learn how ordinary language differs from scripture. Men regard "heresy" as a departure from sound doctrine, which is apt to end in a separate party or sect characterised by it. In short they regard "schism" as the severed result, whether with (as generally is the fact), or without (as may be), the heterodox root. Now the inspired word appears to be irreconcilable with such thoughts. "Schisms" already existed in the church at Corinth. As yet there were no "sects" or separate parties; but this the apostle regarded as inevitable. Splits within lead naturally, and (as men are) necessarily, to splits without or sects. This was imminent at Corinth, unless grace gave self-judgment and thus nipped the bud, so that the evil fruit should not follow. But the danger was at work in the "schisms" that afflicted the Corinthian saints, though all as yet ate of the one loaf. If they did not repent, the issue would surely be "heresies" or sects, as in Gal_5:20.
It seems plain from this survey of usage, that the word in neither Epistle necessarily involves strange doctrine, however often this may be and is the animating spring of a party. The carnal preference, which set up Cephas against Paul, or Apollos against both, formed "schisms" in the assembly; and this, if not judged as sin, would issue at length in outward factions, or "heresies." For such fleshly feeling ever grows more hot and intolerant, so that Christ the centre of unity is overlooked, and the Spirit, being grieved, ceases to control those who are thus selfwilled and insubmissive to God's word.
But there is another step in the path of evil, of which we find the expression in the Second Epistle. Of Peter (2: 1). Here there is marked development; for we hear of false teachers (ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι),who are characterised as bringing in privily "destructive heresies," or sects of perdition (αἱρέσεις ἀπωλείας). The context is clear, in this case alone, that it is not only personal or party selfwill breaking away from the unity of the Spirit, but that the factions or heresies anticipated by the apostle have the darker dye of ruinous heterodoxy also. Not a. hint of this appears in the usage of the word for the Galatians and the Corinthians. Bad as the case in its mildest form is, it ever presents a violation of church unity. It is only when the term is contextually enlarged and weighted with the distinct imputation of false teaching that we can tax the "heretic" with heterodoxy. Hence the unbelieving cavils of De Wette, etc., have no real ground. The traditional and mistaken sense of a later day does not apply to the Pauline usage of αἵρεσις.
Now this is of importance in helping us to a true and just discernment of the apostle's injunction to Titus, where there is an advance in fact on the warnings to the Corinthians and the Galatians. It does suppose that there was, or might be, a sect-maker in Crete, who had to be dealt with. Such an one had gone out in the pride of his heart and was after admonition to be declined. "An heretical man after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such a one is subverted and sinneth, being self-condemned" (vers. 10, 11).
Here the evil is not expressed in the aggravated form of false teaching; and consequently we are not entitled to lighten the sin of faction in itself, of which alone the passage speaks, by supplementing the case with its far more serious shape when denounced by Peter at the later day. By "heretical man" the apostle means any one active in originating or adopting a sect, even if he were orthodox. Not content with "schisms" inside, such were forming a separate school without. They might, as a general rule, fall into destructive views, more or less diverging from those whom such had wilfully and deliberately left, in order to justify themselves or oppose others vainly. But the apostle does not add a word, either here or elsewhere, to the evil of "faction" or "sect" in itself. Titus was to admonish once or twice. For there might be differing measures in his selfwill that had gone outside: one so determined that a first admonition would prove enough; another not so far gone might encourage the Lord's servant to persevere and admonish a second time.
Hence also explains, at any rate in part, why there is not a word about putting away the evildoer. Titus was to "eschew" or "avoid" him. Now παραιτοῦ is said of shunning old wives' fables (1Ti_4:7), younger widows (v. 11), foolish and uninstructed questions (2 Tim. 3: 23), as well as a heretic in the scripture before us. In no case is excommunication meant, but just avoiding alike things or persons. It is granted that the Epistle does not embrace within its scope, like 1 Corinthians, all ecclesiastical a