The book of Titus has several themes running through its three short chapters, but perhaps the most remarkable theme is the idea that Cretans, who are by nature “always liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons (1:12),” can be transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, in Christ even these immoral pagans can be sanctified to live righteous and godly lives. Titus 3:3 is a verse that reminds us that it is not just the Cretans who need to be transformed and redeemed.
“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” – Titus 3:3 (Other passages to consider: Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:17-19; Romans 6; 1 Peter 4:3)
The first thing we must observe is this: It is a THEOLOGICAL FACT that ALL believers, before coming to faith in Christ:
- were once enslaved to lusts and pleasures (in a word, sin; John 8:32-36);
- were once deceived by the devil about our sinful state and about our terrifying fate;
- were once foolish and either intentionally or unwittingly made unwise choices;
- were once disobedient and willfully opposed to the commands of Scripture;
- malice, envy and hatred marked our lives.
Whether openly and shamelessly manifested or disguised under a layer of respectability and joviality, all men without Christ are helplessly sinful and live in a constant state of rebellion against God and against His holiness. Indeed, all their thoughts are marked by sin (Genesis 6:5; Hebrews 4:13), whether those sins are manifested or not. Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born into the kingdom of rebellion and darkness, and the only way to change kingdoms is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
So it is a theological fact that all men and women without Christ are slaves of sin (Romans 6) and are helpless (Romans 5:6) within themselves to change. Of course, sinners love the darkness (John 3:19-20) and so have no desire to forsake their sin, but if there was somehow some spark of a desire for holiness, there would be absolutely no ability to ever take the smallest step in a righteous direction.
Here in Titus 3:3 Paul is once again emphasizing the absolute nature of salvation and is making clear that you are only and fully in either one camp or in the other. You are either a saint who now loves righteousness and obedience and holiness or you are still lost and so still love sin and disobedience and rebellion. All people are in one group or the other and there is an infinite chasm between the two that can only be bridged by the cross. And we were ALL once foolish ourselves.
The question is, “Have you been rescued? Have you received Christ and His salvation? Or are you still foolish and enslaved to various lusts? Have you surrendered yourself fully to the Lord Jesus Christ or are you still a defiant rebel? There is no middle ground. If you have not willfully passed over from death to life (John 5:24), then you are still lost, no matter how genteel and proper and upright you may appear to be. Repent, therefore, and come to Christ.
SDG rmb 8/9/2017