Praying For the President (Titus 3:1-8)

May 12, 2024

Book: Titus

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(Transcription of the Sermon)

May 12, 2024

Please stand as we come to the reading of God’s word from Titus chapter 3 beginning there at verse 1.

In Titus 3 beginning there verse 1 here the word of God.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men, for we ourselves were once also foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another, but when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying and these things I want you to affirm constantly that those who are believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable
to men.

Thanks be to God for the reading of this holy and this perfect word.

Let us pray.

Gracious heavenly Father as you give us these words on this day we pray in your providence that your Holy Spirit would not only apply these things to our minds but to our hearts as well that we may live and live boldly in the spirit of your truth and in Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

You know as I told the kids these eight verses are a lot and you know I have to start by telling you there’s no way I’m going to be able to preach every word of these eight verses and keep it in a time that does not have your casserole get burnt by the time you get home. There is a lot that Paul wants to say and there’s a lot that Paul needs to say not just to the people at Crete and not just to Titus but to us as well and it begins at the very center of why Paul preaches the Gospel, why Paul goes out of his way to every corner of the Roman Empire to make sure that everyone hears the testimony of truth that Christ died for sinners. That is the very heartbeat of the Christian faith. If we don’t start there then we miss everything about the rest of the Bible.

If we don’t begin with understanding that the Gospel is central to life
then we just become another set of moral people doing good things for no reason. You see there is an eternal goal with every single command that comes in Titus chapter 3. There is an eternal reality with why you are to love your neighbor as yourself. There is an eternal foundation for why you are to obey authorities and why you are not to return evil for evil and why you are not to engage in difficult conversations with difficult people because there are more important things in the world than merely being right. There are more important things in life than seeking out your own ways and your own ideas and your own conversations and your own witnesses. Paul at the very heartbeat of what he wants Titus to do at Crete is to ensure that the heartbeat of the church at Crete is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes that means they are going to be against things. Yes that means they are not going to engage in cult prostitution. Yes it means that they are not going to worship the false gods of Rome and Greece and of the Jews, but what it means most directly again to repeat myself is that the Gospel is the foundation of everything that they do. That’s why the center of this passage is reminding the people at Crete that they used to be pagans, that they used to be those who were in rebellion against God and the truth of the matter is that if they had rested and trusted in Jesus Christ they were no longer those things. They did not worship Zeus and they did not worship Jupiter and they did not worship Mercury and they did not seek after the things in this world because their hearts their minds were focused on something vastly more important and that is the eternal life that they had been given in Jesus Christ by his life death and resurrection by his ascension to heaven and by the sure promise that there was a day coming when he will return in power and in glory. So yes you are to be subject to rulers and authorities. You are to obey and you are to be ready for every good work.

You as Christians are not to speak evil of anyone. You are to be peaceable. You are to be gentle. You are to show all humility to all men. Again, why is this the case? Because what is Christ shown to you? And that is what we all must come to terms with in our own walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to understand that we are sinners say by grace alone that there is nothing within us nothing that we have done nothing about who we are that recommends us to the forgiveness of sins other than the fact that we were foolish unbelievers like that is the only thing that recommends us the love of God is that we are in rebellion against him and the good news is that all of us right all of us were in rebellion against him because all of us descend from Adam you know both by ordinary generation, in other words, everybody here is related, not just in the sense that all of y’all are Faulkner’s and McGill’s and Davidson’s and all of these things, right there is a greater relationship that we all share in Adam because we are all human beings and what we share in Adam is his sin what we share in Adam is the fact that when Adam ate
the fruit in the garden we did as well we were united to him by the covenant of works we were united to him in that covenant and when that covenant was broken we broke it too and so when we are born we are born in sin, we are born as fallen men and women, we are born as that those
who have no hope, no nothing within us again which is good.

Paul as he’s laying out the nature of the gospel in the opening chapters of the book of Romans again cobbles together a number of verses from the Old Testament to confirm that this is the case in Romans chapter 3 verse 9 he says:

“To the Jews what then are we better than day that is better than the Greeks not at all for we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin as it is written there is none righteous no not one there is none who understands there is none who seeks after God
they have all turned aside they have together become unprofitable there is none who does good no not one and as if that wasn’t clear enough Paul continues by saying their throat is an open tomb with their tongues they have practiced deceit the poison of asks is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness their feet are swift to shed blood destruction and misery are in their ways and the way of peace they have not known there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Again this is true of every single one of us and why again do we need to hear this why do we need to be reminded of this because God has called us to something greater than disobedience and God has called us to obedience unto him and it doesn’t matter if you are a dead sinner or you are living in Jesus Christ you are called to obey the living God and so for those of you who are saved those of you who have come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who have recognized that you fall short of the glory of God and have humbled yourself, thrown yourself at the feet of the cross and have received the name which is above every name well guess what therefore what does God call you to do but to be subject to rulers and authorities to obey to be ready for every good work and how is it as Christians that we are ready for every good work, but by again being humble before the living and true God of recognizing what God has called us to do as his covenant children we are told by the Lord Jesus Christ that we are to do what, we are to deny ourselves, we are to deny ourselves and what are we to do, we are to pick up our cross and follow after the Lord Jesus Christ and there is a very certain path that we are called to live and to do as those who are following after Jesus we are called to be reminded every day that we need Jesus and Jesus is the power of our life he is not just the one who leads us but he is the one who walks through and in us in the Christian life. You know Jesus is not there to kind of come alongside and pick us up when we get low.

Titus is telling the people of Crete that if they are to rightly follow after the Lord Jesus Christ then they must understand that they are united to him by faith and that he is ever present with them and the only reason they are ready to do good works is because we look unto Christ first and foremost and then follow in his wake. Tere’s a witness to this in the Old Testament as the Israelites are in the Wilderness after they had left Egypt and after they had walked through the Red Sea and as they’re going this way and that way what is present before them? Well during the day there is the great cloud and at night there is the pillar of fire and what does the Bible tell us is present in the pillars well it’s the Lord Jesus Christ himself again Israel is to follow after the Lord Jesus Christ as they go through the wilderness and how are they to follow Jesus but by looking up at the cloud and following where the cloud goes again the thing about all this is it isn’t supposed to be complicated and it’s not supposed to be hard. See God’s given us 66 books of the Bible to teach us and to tell us what it means to follow after Jesus and the problem of course is that what we do we not obey the 66 books of the Bible. Why? Because we’re sinners and because we’re sinners what do we need to do we need to look unto Jesus we need to see in Jesus the fullness the forgiveness of sin and the fact that he is the one that shows us the way forward. S if we think in the Christian life that we only need Jesus in the moment of our conversion and then we need Jesus when he comes back then, we are foolish, we are missing the point that Christ told the disciples again we must keep Jesus always in the forefront of our faith and most certainly in the forefront of our obedience unto God because it’s only in the power of Christ that we can obey the law. That’s why Paul breaks up this testimony of commands with the reminder of who we were. We were are also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures living in malice and envy and hateful and hating one another but when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward us appeared what happened? Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us through the washing of generation and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

One of the pictures of this in the Old Testament that Moses taught the people was of circumcision, not circumcision of the flesh, but circumcision of the heart. And the prophet Ezekiel picks up this image for us when he says one of the things the Holy Spirit does for us is he changes out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. To make sure that we understand the metaphor we get right after that in the 37th chapter of the book of Ezekiel the testimony of the dry bones and again one of those stories in the Bible that I’m sure y’all know well. Right the story of the dry bones the bones that are in the valley God tells the prophet to go and preach to the dry bones and he preaches and what happens, the Holy Spirit appears and what does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit takes the bones and puts them together. Then bones are going to rise again as the bones are coming together? That’s not the fullness of the way the gospel works, God doesn’t just put us together and send us on our merry way. After the bones are put together then the flesh comes on the bones. Do we think that once they are in the appearance of a man and as they are putting on flesh is that where things stop? Well no.

Ezekiel continues to preach continues to proclaim God, continues to proclaim the gospel, and as he’s preaching and as the bodies come together what happens but the Holy Spirit appears and breathes life into those bodies. Now at any point in time in the story of the dry bones do the dry bones ask the Holy Spirit to come upon them? At any point in time do we see the bones cry out for Elijah to come and preach to them?

Of course the answer is no. Again what is being testified to us here in the book of Titus is the nature and the way of salvation that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ not because we have responded, but because God has called us out of darkness and into the light of his marvelous
Grace. There’s no point in the call of the gospel where God shuts up and waits for us to do something. You see Titus here is being told by the apostle Paul to make sure that the gospel he preaches is a gospel that actually converts sinners. A gospel which testifies that we have come to love the Father because God the Father has first loved us. That’s what the apostle John testifies to and in the first letter of John and again keeping this always in mind is central to our obedience, and the Lord says we must have the foundation of our obedience be Christ or it’s no obedience at all. It’s merely law-keeping and the Bible tells us is if you hope to get into heaven by being a good person then you are condemned already because there’s no way that you can do enough good works to earn the favor of the living and the true God because to do that how many good works would you have to do? Well you have to do all of them!

Now let’s take a moment and think how many times have you sinned today, let alone in your life, probably more than we can count right? You know I’d have to take my shoes off to get that high. But again the testimony that we see here is a reminder that our salvation is purely by the
grace of the Lord our God not of works less any man should boast but our boasting should be what? In the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s why Christ must always be at the forefront of everything that we do. His command, his law, his word, must be the center of our life.

As a practical matter then how do we know what it means to be subject to rulers and what does the word tell us? Well again Romans chapter 13 testifies to this it tells us:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God therefore to resist the authority resist the ordinance of God and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves for rulers are not a terror to good works but evil do you want to be unafraid of the authority do it is good and you will have praise from the same for he is God’s minister to you for good but if you do evil be afraid for he does not bear the sword in vain for he is God’s minister an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

That is the the testimony of the Bible as to why we are to be subject to governing authorities. Now when the Bible talks about governing authorities who are they talking about? Again it’s important to be reminded that in a sense right the Bible has always taught what we refer to as separation of church and state. Now that is not a separation from God and the state. What it means is that the church has a responsibility and the state has responsibility. The civil magistrate has the authority of the sword to put to death those who seek to destroy man and the church has been given the sword of the spirit to slay the hearts of men that they might not receive the condemnation of eternal death, but might receive eternal life. So the state and the church have different responsibilities different callings, and so as citizens of the state what is your responsibility? It is to be subject to the governing authorities.

Now we don’t have time for me to get into all the details of this but functionally you know if you’re a first century Jew or a first century Greek or a first century Roman citizen well how do you live under a wicked and evil Caesar? Not everything that Caesar tells you to do is wrong. Jesus confronts this issue in Luke 22 when somebody asks him about paying taxes and what does Jesus say render under Caesar things are Caesar’s, and to God things that are God’s. Ultimately everything is God’s but the state has the lawful right to impose tax and so what should we do? We should pay our taxes. The Bible didn’t say we have to like it but what does it say? We’re to be subject to governing authorities. Now we also see something in the book of Acts and we touched on this in Sabbath school this morning what happens when the state asks you to commit what is evil?

What if the state forces you to disobey Jesus Christ?

Well what we see in the Scriptures is a fairly straightforward response.

We are to obey God rather than man. Now the way we go about doing that is an important testimony again to the gospel you know we see this in the life of Daniel. In chapter one as we spoke about last week, when he and his brothers have been kidnapped into the town into the city of Babylon all right they’re given an option to eat at the king’s table or to not eat at the king’s table not, really given an option, but all right what option does Daniel? He picks to obey God rather than man and he will not eat of the of the table of the king and he is ready and willing to face the consequences of not eating at the table of the king. And so the question here of being submissive to ruling authorities means that sometimes being submissive means submitting to God rather than man.

Now part of that is wisdom, part of that is taking into consideration the nature of what you’re being asked to do and if you’re being asked to openly defy the law of God then the only response you can give out of love for your authority is to say no. Because as Paul says what are the ruling authorities there to do in God’s kingdom? They are to be a terror unto evil and they are to bless good works.

Traditionally in the Reformed faith we’ve had this doctrine called the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. The basic understanding of that is that if the president of the United States is asking you to worship Baal what are you to do you’re not worship Baal. That’s one of the messages again of the book of Daniel right? If the president builds a big statue of himself and tells you to bow down to it what should you do? You should not bow down to it. Now what happens to the men who refused to bow down right? They’re thrown into the fiery furnace. Now God in his mercy right saves those men from the fiery furnace but remember something about the nature of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their response to Nebuchadnezzar? They say that even if we die in the furnace what do we know? We know that the Lord will save us. We know that the Lord will bring us unto himself. And that’s part of again of having a gospel and eternal focus upon the world in which we live. Like we are those who live with an eternal focus in our lives and sometimes that’s going to mean temporal consequences in this earth but we are to bear those consequences with joy, with thanksgiving, with mercy, because what did Jesus say to his disciples? How did the civil magistrate treat Jesus when they put Jesus to death? Jesus tells the disciples that if they did this to the master guess what they’re going to do to the disciples?

Practically speaking, how does this apply today? We are, if not already, getting closer and closer every day to a world in which certain vocations are just going to be something that Christians can’t enter into anymore because there’s certain things that we may not be able to do anymore and what should our response be to that should be? Should it be to just to go away and kind of pout and say well I guess we can’t do that anymore?

We’ll just get the consequences. Well again what does the Bible say about our submission to those in authority? We are to bear burdens with joy for sure. But it doesn’t end there. First Timothy chapter 2 verse 1 says “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications prayers intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men for kings and all who are in authority then we may lead a quiet and peaceful life and all godliness and reverence.” And so if the civil magistrate whether it be the mayor of Clover or whether it be the president of the United States who tells you to do anything evil what are you to do? You are to prophesy against them. You are to speak the truth in power against their evil. You are not to take the sword upon yourself, you are not to act wickedly against the king, you are not to curse the king, you are not to be as an unbeliever toward the king, but you are to show mercy and grace to him as a wicked person.

Now why is that? It goes back to the gospel. You who were once in rebellion against God what has God shown to you but mercy and grace and so what are you to respond when someone is doing evil to you but with the same mercy and grace that Christ has shown unto you. We are not to return evil for evil, we are not to revile when someone reviles us, we are to turn the other cheek. It is sin to speak wickedly of those authority over us but again that doesn’t mean we cannot speak against them. First Timothy 2 is making it abundantly clear that we should and there’s different avenues we can do that. The church in itself can petition the civil magistrate. If a law was passed in York County that said that we weren’t allowed to do something that the gospel requires of us then our first measure should be, as I told the children, to pray for the magistrate that he would change his mind, that he would be convicted by the Holy Spirit. As we are praying what should we do we should go to city council meetings, we should go to the county commission, we should go even to as much as the law allows to personally witness against a wicked magistrate, but again do we do that in order to build ourselves up in order to show ourselves on Facebook how proud we are of our disobedience?

No we are to do all things humbly, we do all things with grace, we’re to do all things with mercy, we are not to curse, we are not to revile, we are to show love unto those who hate us. Again the witness that Titus has for the people of Crete is that we are to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men and so yes be actively engaged in the political system.

The Christian faith is not quietness. We are to be bold in speaking against the wickedness of civil magistrates. That is largely why we are here today and we talked a little bit about this last Lord’s Day evening about how the Associate Church got here to begin with. One of the key reasons we’re here today is because the civil magistrate in Scotland was trying to tell the churches who their ministers could be.

That through the local lord they were self-selecting ministers and big shock what kind of ministers do you think they were putting in the churches under their control? Ministers who liked them, ministers who said nice things about them, ministers who didn’t preach against their sins. In the light and if that would happen if the state would get involved with that then what should we do? Should we stop meeting? Should we just accept whatever minister the civil magistrate would give us?

Well no. We should do as they did. There our covenanter brethren met in caves, met in vales, met in groves, and in some cases were killed by the king of Scotland for their boldness in being unwilling to sin against the Lord.

Now do you think they were able to keep their jobs if they were witnessing against the King? In that way, well the answer was no. Most of our Associate and Covenanter forefathers died penniless because they rather would have obeyed God rather than men. But again that’s part of the call that Paul is laying on Titus. To tell the people in Crete that at some point in time Christians are going to have to stand and do that which is right and that which is good, that we are to be zealous for good works. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important that Titus organized the church at Crete well so that there are godly elders and deacons, because what happens if you lose your job because you refused to bow the knee to Satan and bow the knee to a wicked magistrate? Well what’s the church here for? We’re here to bear one another’s burdens and that’s not just a spiritual thing. We’re here to bear one another’s burdens, because you lost your job because you refused to do wicked and evil things. We are here to ensure that you get fed and your children are fed and that we can assist you and help you in finding a place where you can be in employment so where your conscience is not violated daily.

But again those are hard and difficult things and that’s why the church of the Lord Jesus Christ must be strong not just in knowing what’s wrong, but knowing the gospel, like knowing the forgiveness of sins, knowing the power of Jesus Christ, knowing the certainty that we have in Jesus Christ and we must be separate, we must be different than the world around us because the temptation always is present that we would soften the gospel in order to maintain the quality of life that we want on in this present evil world. But that’s not the way things often work. Is it? We read often of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria and South Sudan and in other hot spots of the world and what often do we hear we hear about? These roving gangs of Muslim terror groups murdering and killing them, setting their churches on fire, but why are they able to maintain their obedience to the Lord? Why are they able to meet again the next Lord’s Day? Because they believe the gospel, because they believe in the power of God, they believe in the certainty of the testimony of Scripture, of the promise that God is sovereign over all things. How easy are we moved away from the worship of God? How easy is it for us to allow
even the most minor inconvenience to keep us from the worship of the Lord our God? And it’s not just you know things going on in life but we don’t want to come to church because somebody is there, we don’t want to come to church because you did something, something is just not working right, and if the devil has to put in that little bit of effort to keep us from worshiping Christ how are we going to be able to withstand the effect of wickedness which is coming upon us if it’s not already here?

If you’re going to claim Christ as your savior then you must be sure to live in him, you must be sure to rest in his truth, you must be sure to believe in his authority over the kings and wicked men of this day. Because remember what Romans 13 says, that every soul be subject to governing authorities why there is no authority except from God and what does the Bible tell us will happen to those civil magistrates those rulers who attempt to destroy the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well they’ll be destroyed themselves.

One of the most comforting passages of the Bible is in Acts chapter 10 when we see the apostle James beheaded by Herod. After he’s beheaded there’s much wailing much lamenting much sadness as there should be at the death of one of the Lord’s saints, but what happens at the end of that chapter what happens to Herod is he dies, he’s eaten by worms. What happened to Rome? What happened to Greece? What happened to Babylon? What happened in Assyria? What is happening even to the United States? This nation too will be destroyed for its disobedience to the Lord and we must remember again why we’re here. We’re here to worship Jesus Christ, we’re here to give thanks to the mercy, the grace, and the love that God shows to us in the gospel. Gor that is our foundation, that’s why we sing that’s why we do good works to one another, because God Almighty has done a good work in us through his Son. He has given us new life in himself because he has washed us with regeneration he has given us again this gift of mercy, he has saved us through the washing of regeneration, renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our savior, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life this is why we do what we do, because what God has done for us. Let us love the Lord our God, let us show mercy to those who need mercy, let us pray for those who persecute us, for those who seek our destruction, let us not curse the king, let us pray for him, that he would love the lord Jesus Christ, and then he would remember that he is God’s minister, and if he refuses this then we know that Hod’s judgment will be upon him, but let it not be on our conscience that we shared not the good news with him for that is what we are called to do as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, to preach Christ, to preach him boldly, to live in him boldly, and to rest in him both this day and forevermore

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.