Lisa Scheffler, author
For generations, the Jewish people waited for their Messiah. They looked for a savior and ruler who would free them from oppression, restore their land, and bring them to a place of prosperity that they had not seen since the days of King David.
When the Jesus, the true Messiah came, he brought the offer of freedom and restoration to the whole world. Through his death and resurrection, he defeated a much bigger enemy than any occupying nation. All who put their faith in him and call him Lord will be redeemed now and experience their final victory over sin and death when he returns
According to Paul, believers should be joyfully giving thanks to God the Father, because through Jesus, he “has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:12–14). Paul also insists that our citizenship is heaven (Philippians 3:20), and in our lives now, we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Therefore, our home is with Jesus, and our ultimate allegiance is to him.
In our “Dual Citizenship” series we’re considering what it means for followers of Jesus to be citizens of earthly nations. How does our heavenly citizenship affect the way we view our country’s leaders and laws? How does it shape the way we think about politics?
What we’re discovering is that kingdom citizens are free to be a blessing to everyone. We aren’t restricted by geography, nationality, or political ideology. Our call is to love and do good for all people. We’ll explore this idea more in Titus 3:1–11
The passage we are looking at this week comes from Titus, a letter Paul wrote later in his life to a trusted coworker ministering on Crete, a large island in the Aegean Sea, near Greece, that was under the control of the Roman Empire. Through Paul, Titus had become a gentile convert to the way of Jesus. He is mentioned numerous times in Paul’s letters, was present at key events during Paul’s ministry, and is clearly someone the Apostle trusted and relied. In the greeting to this letter, Paul calls him a “loyal child in the faith” (Titus 1:4).
As he does in almost all his letters, we’ll see in Titus that Paul has a way of expertly marrying the theological and the practical. In his instructions to churches, he not only tells Christians how to live, but he tells them why they should live that way in light of the gospel. He encourages people to think deeply about how the commands he gives reflect both the character of Christ and the transformed identity of those who have put their trust in him.
In the chapter before our central passage, Paul has included a “household code” — instructions to each member of a household as to how they should relate to one another. In Titus 3, he reminds the believers in Crete of their responsibility to the government and to one another in the family of God. Notice the reasons he gives for why.
3 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
What do verses 3–8 tell us about why should Christians behave the way verses 1–2 and 9–11 say?
Here Paul calls Christians to act according to who they’ve become in Christ. They are to leave behind their old ways and embrace the changes the Spirit has made in them.
In Colossians, Paul appeals to the church as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” and likens these changes to ridding yourself of sinful behavior and clothing oneself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience — all traits that resemble Christ (Colossians 3:12). In Ephesians Paul describes these changes as “walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Here in Titus, Paul reminds believers of the rebirth and renewal they’ve encountered through the Holy Spirit.
Something marvelous and glorious happens to us when we trust in Christ and it affects every facet of our being. We are reborn and renewed and placed on a journey toward greater and greater Christlikeness. Thoughts and behaviors that would have seemed completely alien to us before we knew Christ are not only possible, but expected. Paul’s message throughout his letters is something like, “be who you are.”
There is no aspect of our lives that we can wall off from our relationship with Christ. We can’t separate our church-self from our work-self from our vacation-self. We can’t seek the transforming power of the Spirit to change who we are as a spouse or parent, but not as a boss or an employee. And we certainly can’t ask him to draw a line around our role as a citizen.
God wants all of us, because he loves us. It is best for us to do what Jesus told us to do and “give to God what’s God’s” — our whole life. (Matthew 22:21)
With that as our premise, we’ll dive further into Titus 3:1–11 tomorrow.
Why would someone who has experienced rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit be a good citizen of an earthly nation?
Pray and ask God to search your heart. How much thought do you give to being a citizen of your nation? Is that an area of your life that is under the control of the Spirit? Or are you more influenced by the culture around you?