We talked about some pretty heavy stuff at Bible study on Wednesday night. Who knew Paul’s little letter to Titus would bring up such intense topics? The doctrine of election, the problem with legalism, the need for confrontation and rebuking. Yucky, Yuck, Yuck, Yuck. I reminded the ladies that the reason we talk about this stuff is because of Weak Women and Worms. We don’t want that now, do we? So open up your Bible and check out Titus 1.
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth…” Titus 1:1a
Paul starts with one of his famous run-on sentences. And this one little word tries to sneak past us, but we’re too quick to let that happen, so we catch it and dig in. Did you see it? God’s elect. Oh boy, here we go. An incredibly simple definition of the doctrine of election is this: By God’s sovereign will, He chose who would be a part of the body of Christ. Now go get your Bible. Seriously, you need to read each of these verses because if you skip past this part, you’re not going to get this! So go get it! (Or you can click here to look them up online.) Now read each one of these verses. Take your time and think about what each of them is saying.
1. Colossians 3:12
2. Romans 8:33
3. John 15:16
4. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
5. Acts 13:48
6. John 1:12-13
7. 2 Timothy 2:10
8. 1 Peter 2:9
9. Revelation 17:14
10. Ephesians 1:3-14
We had quite the debate about this doctrine of election business. Some of us said that we believe that God knows who will follow him and who will not but that he doesn’t choose who will follow him and who will not. Now, I was raised a good little Baptist girl and I’ve grown into a good little Baptist pastor’s wife. I grew up believing that. But here’s the problem I’m facing – the Bible doesn’t say God knew. The Bible says God chose. Each of the verses above reference the fact that God chose us for salvation. We absolutely can’t get around it. That’s the word. He chose us. (I even checked the Greek! Yep, he chose.) So let’s let go of the idea that God didn’t choose us, that he only knew we would choose Him. Let that idea go. If we begin to entertain the idea that he chose some of us and not others, we might start to think that something incredibly unfair is happening here.
Read Romans 9:14-21. There is no injustice with God. Do you believe that? He’s absolutely just. We may not understand his ways, but we can rest in the truth that he is absolutely just. Even if it doesn’t make sense to us, he is always just.
John McArthur has a very helpful, simple perspective that he shares on his website. You can read that here: Is the Doctrine of Election Biblical? Here’s what he has to say in a nutshell:
“How these two sides of God’s truth – His sovereignty in choosing us (Romans 9) and our responsibility to confess and believe (Romans 10) – reconcile is impossible for us to understand fully. But Scripture declares both perspectives of salvation to be true (John 1:12-13). It’s our duty to acknowledge both and joyfully accept them by faith.”
So did God choose us or did we choose Him? The answer is simply, yes.
And if that’s not enough to leave you scratching your head and searching your Bible, let’s talk about the problem with legalism. In Titus 2:10, Paul throws “The Circumcision Party” under the bus for their legalistic views. A simple definition of legalism is this: Legalism is strict adherence to rules and regulations, to the exclusion of grace. Read Colossians 2:20-23 to find out what Paul had to say about legalism. (He wasn’t a fan.) This group was made up of Jewish converts who had accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ but continued to hold onto their Jewish traditions. To the Jew, circumcision was a sign of covenant relationship with God. The idea that you could have a covenant relationship with God through Jesus and not through circumcision was appalling to the Jews. Paul had four words for Titus in regard to these false teachers:
“They must be silenced.” Titus 1:11
So in what ways are you tied to legalistic beliefs today? Don’t think about other people. Think about YOU. What rules or laws or traditions are you holding onto? How can we “hate the sin but love the sinner?” In which areas do you need to show more grace? Are there any areas that we need to remain legalistic about? Why?
Do you ever feel like studying things like this leaves you with more questions than answers? That’s ok. Paul calls it “working out our salvation” in Philippians 2:12. It’s a good thing!
If you keep reading in Titus, you get to verse 13, where Paul tells Titus that he needs to rebuke these false teachers. This idea isn’t new to you if you studied 1 and 2 Timothy with us. Paul tells his understudies over and over again to rebuke false teachers. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18. We are supposed to confront sin in the body of Christ. OY. That’s definitely not something most of us are comfortable doing, is it?
So when is a rebuke necessary? According to Scripture, a rebuke is necessary when someone is in sin, or when a brother sins against you. But why can’t we just sweep it under the rug? If we ignore it, maybe it will go away, right? Wrong.
“Better is an open rebuke than hidden love.” Proverbs 27:5
And check out these other reasons too: (Don’t skip this!)
1. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2. 2 Timothy 4:2
3. 1 Timothy 5:20
4. Matthew 18:15-20
Why don’t we practice rebuking and confronting each other? My guess is because it’s incredibly awkward. Very few people enjoy confrontation. But Scripture requires it of us so that we will be complete, equipped for every good work, to bring restoration and so that we can learn from our mistakes. What would happen if we obeyed these commands? How would the church look if we practiced correcting and rebuking? I wonder if relationships would be restored and we would be complete. That’s what God said would happen, right? So let me encourage you with this: The next time you have a beef with a sister in Christ, go to her immediately. The next time you see a brother in sin, go to him immediately. Don’t go to your friend or your pastor or your mentor or your mom. Go to the brother or sister who needs the rebuke. See if God doesn’t keep that precious promise of restoration and redemption!
God gave me a beautiful song this week after a conversation I had with a friend who seems to really be struggling with questions about the doctrine of election, legalism and confrontation, among other things. Sometimes it’s hard and confusing and strange and exhausting to figure out what you believe. As I prayed for her, God brought this song to mind. The words were written in the late 1800s but they very much apply to our study of the hard things this week. Are you in need of a resting place? Check this out: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.
It is ENOUGH that Jesus died for you. When he hung on the cross, he said IT IS FINISHED (John 19:30) If you’re in a place where you feel lost or confused about all the details of your faith and belief system, my prayer for you is that as you work out your salvation, you would rest in the knowledge that it is enough that Jesus died for you. You need no other argument. You need no other plea. You don’t need to know all the details. Jesus died for you and that is all you need.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…Comment here, message me on Facebook or chat with me in person.
My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed,
I trust the ever living One, His wounds for me shall plead.
Enough for me that Jesus saves, This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him, He’ll never cast me out.
My heart is leaning on the Word, The living Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name, Salvation through His blood.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me.