The bulk of the instructions concerning elders pertain to moral qualifications (see also 1 Timothy 3:1-7). The particular duties that elders are to carry out are somewhat secondary to their moral character. What an elder is to do is not as pressing as what kind of person is qualified to be an elder. This is not to suggest that duties that an elder performs are unclear or unimportant; but it is perhaps a strong reminder that the elders are to first and always seek to model in their own life, what they teach and lead others to be and do. No church has the right to either diminish the standards for the elders (or deacons) as established in the New Testament or elevate any other standards as though they would then be equal to those explicitly commended by the true Head of the church Himself.
The salvation that has been received in Christ by the Spirit, which in no way is secured by works; nevertheless, does most certainly result in works. The new way of living that was stated back in 3:1 is revisited: “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (3:8). Works are necessary in a very important sense related to salvation. They are not necessary in order to earn or obtain salvation but they are a necessary evidence or outcome of salvation. Salvation is not by works, but salvation is through a grace that works.
Lust is the disordered love of the desires and pleasures associated with marital love. The problem is neither the desires nor the pleasures. Lust is another disordered love that is manifested in many distorted ways of living. Many of these distorted ways of living are found in activities occurring outside of marriage: fornication, adultery, prostitution, pornography, incest, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, same-sex relations, etc. But the distorted life of lust may also be found within a monogamous marriage where the physical relationship between spouses is self-centered, abusive, or limited to loveless physical gratification.
Gluttony involves food and drink, but it is not merely about eating and drinking. Gluttony is an inordinate desire for food and drink. However, food and drink, the act of eating and drinking, and a proper measure of enjoyment with these experiences are good, God-given gifts. Man was created with very sensitive taste buds to enjoy a range of flavors and a strong natural desire to quench his hunger and thirst. Gluttony describes a distorted life involving eating and drinking dominated by a disordered love for food and drink.
But more than an unquenchable craving for more stuff drives greed. Greed is extremely religious (Colossians 3:5). Greed strives to obtain from the stuff of life what can only be found in God. So greed is built upon fabricated worship practices of a false god. Greed, in chasing a life without thought of God, is another picture of a distorted life with disordered loves. As an idolatrous pursuit, greed searches for one’s identity and security through the acquisition of things. Money and the things that money can buy become the source for happiness at the present and the assurance of things hoped for in the future.
Since slothness is not simply physical laziness, it shows itself in the total inactivity of the couch potato but also in the restless distractions of endless activity. So, the apathetic inertia of the lazy person or perpetual motion of the busy person reveals the vice of sloth. A slothful person lives his life for himself; therefore, he balks at surrendering His will to God. The slothful dread and even disdain being interrupted by the demands of the Lord but also the needs of others. The practical starting point of sloth begins with apathy toward the Scripture. This apathy is captured well in Hebrews 5:11-6:12 as the section opens with “you have become dull of hearing,” and concludes with, “that you may not be sluggish.”
The enslaving and condemning effects of sinful anger were dealt with at the Cross. Sin left its life-distorting and love-disordering effects on all of humanity. Sin has resulted in man being unjustly angry with God and God being justly angry with man: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11). The Cross reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin but also the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the sacrifice of his Son. Through repentance and faith in Jesus, there is forgiveness of sinful anger and release from its bondage. So now, the grace of God differentiates a before and after: “we ourselves were once…slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy” (Titus 3:3). Since believers have been forgiven and shown mercy in Christ, living a life that is eager to show mercy and ready to grant forgiveness is a way to experience joy in Christ in battling sinful anger.
In Titus, the grace of Christ accounted for how the believers in Crete were no longer characterized as “passing our days in malice and envy” (3:3). Training grace was in full operation! How does grace provide a cure for the spiritual sickness of envy? One of the most beautiful illustrations of the opposite of envy is also found in the narrative of Saul and David. The opposite of envy is pictured in the life of Saul’s son, Jonathan. Jonathan is a portrait of God’s grace. While Jonathan had every reason to envy David as a competitor to the throne, instead “Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). Opposite of envying someone is to love someone (1 Corinthians 13:4). In place of criticizing David, Jonathan advocates for David, sheltering and supporting him against his own father. In place of complaining, Jonathan gives David his royal robe and armor anticipating “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you” (1 Samuel 23:17).
Pride is often labeled as the queen of all sins; it is often suggested as the first and greatest sin. Of the seven things that God is said to explicitly hate, pride or “haughty eyes” (Proverbs 6:16) is listed first. Pride is suggested as the core issue that resulted in the fall of Lucifer and eventually man. The Scripture declares: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). The essence of pride is self, setting itself in contention with and opposition to God Himself. Pride is thinking much about one’s self and thinking about one’s self much. Pride is inordinate self-love where there should be love of God and love for others. Pride is anti-God and anti-others. God is opposed to the proud (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). Pride defies: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
This is how God’s grace works: in His Son, God loves sinners as they are. He finds sinners in their confused state of pride and foolishness, in the mess of rebellion, enslavement, and condemnation. But while this is where grace meets sinners, God is not content to leave them as He finds them. Sinners who trust Jesus are adopted into God’s family. Grace then provides strong parental direction, guidance, aid, and empowerment. As a result, His children begin turning aside from their entrenched patterns of vices and toward acquiring new patterns of virtues. The grace of God that was embodied in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is now active by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s children.
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