If you’ve grown up under a law based mentality it’s easy to think that being free under God’s grace means that people will live lazy or desperately sinful lives.
Romans 6:15 “ What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?”
In the letter of Titus, Paul is confident that this message is able to produce a harvest of good deeds:
“teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives” (Titus 1:1) and “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching (Titus 2:1).
What is the truth he keeps talking about through Titus? Is it the law? Titus gives us some clues that prove he is talking about the message of grace. First in the next verse he says,
Titus 1:2 “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began”
The law does not give us confidence that we have eternal life. On the contrary it creates doubt because man knows he cannot keep the whole law. Paul also describes people who are opposing this truth message as people who insist on keeping the jewish law.
Titus 1:10-11, 14 “For there are many rebellious people who engage in useless talk and deceive others. This is especially true of those who insist on circumcision for salvation. They must be silenced, because they are turning whole families away from the truth by their false teaching… They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth.”
Titus 3:9-11 “Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.”
Paul knows they hold to the law and argue it as a way for salvation but they themselves do not keep it and so he shows how fruitless that teaching is.
Titus 1:12-14, 16 “Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, “The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.” This is true. So reprimand them sternly to make them strong in the faith. They must stop listening to Jewish myths and the commands of people who have turned away from the truth… Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.”
Finally he describes this message of truth and it’s proper consequence in these verses:
Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.“
(Most translations say “It [God’s grace] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions…” showing that grace is responsible.)
Titus 3:4-8 “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.”
Paul does not subjugate God’s grace to how well we keep good works, rather he commands us to hold tightly to the word of grace which is able to produce a harvest of good works in us. Notice the simple logic, “insist on God’s grace (the truth)” so that all who trust in God will “devote themselves to doing good.” In Paul’s mind, God’s kindness and grace motivates believers to live lives devoted to God full of good works. Whereas those who argue about keeping jewish commands are fruitless and need to be corrected. It serves as a simple illustration of being under law vs being under grace.
Romans 7:4-6 “So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.”