Today: [Titus 3:] Are Believers Required to Obey those that Oppose Them? In Titus 3 Paul calls on believers to maintain an attitude of grace and submission toward those in positions of power. This was a problematic proposal because both local and Roman rule was particularly hostile toward the church. What is to be our attitude toward those in power today? Are we free to denigrate and resist those in rule that we disagree with? What is Paul’s teaching in this regard?
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[Tit 3:1-15 KJV] 1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, 2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, [but] gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. 3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 [This is] a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. 9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. 10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. 12 When I shall send Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto me to Nicopolis: for I have determined there to winter. 13 Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. 14 And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. 15 All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace [be] with you all. Amen.
In Titus 3 Paul begins with a reminder regarding attitudes toward those in government and other positions of authority. This is an important issue because both local government and Roman despotism were very harsh toward early Christianity. In spite of this Paul insists that the people remain subject to authority and prompt in keeping the duties incumbent upon them as citizens. In our culture, if Christianity were brutally oppressed as these doubtless were what do you think the teaching regarding attitudes toward government would be? When Paul says to be subject to principalities and powers and to obey magistrates the wording used means to be subordinate and obedient toward those in power. He immediately follows up instructing that they speak evil of no man. What if you don’t agree with them politically? Are we free to speak evil of government officials whose policies or positions we don’t agree with?
If politicians and government leaders are hateful and ungodly, most Christians feel completely at their leisure to say any disparaging thing about them they wish, in fact, most feel it is their Christian duty to do so. Yet Paul in speaking of subjection to authority reminds us that the leaders he is referring to were anything but godly. In v. 3 he says we are to remember that we as these leaders currently were at the time were foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. That was the character of the leaders Paul says we must be respectfully subject to. If a leader is malicious toward our values, we are to be subject to and obedient toward them. This is definitely not an American gospel. Let’s just dispense with this altogether shall we? This surely must be one of those passages where Paul is saying something only applicable to the culture at that time and certainly has no bearing upon those of us in the modern world now does it?
The reminder for us when we seethe with hatred against those in power is that God (v. 4) in his kindness and love saved us by His mercy we are to likewise have a posture of humility and grace even toward those that oppose us. We are to avoid (v. 9) foolish questions and striving about the law. Paul hasn’t changed his topic of conversation. He is still speaking about submission to those in authority. Where does that put the “birthers” who for 8 years of the previous administration continually questioned the legitimacy of a president who quite certainly was no advocate of any of the values most Evangelicals hold dear? Paul calls all such controversies (v. 9) unprofitable and vain regardless of whether the candidate of your political persuasion is in power or not. Paul is so insistent regarding this that he instructs Titus (v. 10) that a person not in agreement with what he is saying is to be considered a heretic and rejected if they refuse to come into cooperation. Does that mean we have no permission to engage in the national conversation? Not at all. We have a civic duty to do so, but we are called into account to remember our Christian values and to conduct ourselves with grace and humility when everyone else is doing anything but.
Paul reminds Titus in v. 12 that he will spend the winter in Nicopolis and desires that Titus would meet him there with Zenas the lawyer and Apollos his fellow worker. His concluding words are that believers be reminded to learn to maintain good works for necessary reasons that they might not be unfruitful. What is the conclusion? As believers, we must remember that our uppermost goals are spiritual and not political. Our hearts are to be set on the supremacy of the gospel and not our political party. Since the Reagan years, the church in America has shifted away from kingdom emphasis to political ambitions, and we have not gained in so doing neither have we brought honor to the cause of Christ.
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