“Still More Tactics for Life and Ministry from
A Bible Study of Titus
See Good Works in Light of God's Grace - Titus 3
Salvation is a gift of God's grace. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (2:11). We do not work our way to heaven. That's because no "good" work we do is good enough to compensate for our sin. Good works aren't even in the ballpark when it comes to consideration as just compensation for our sin. But didn't Paul end chapter two describing the followers of Jesus as "His own special people, zealous for good works" ? (2:14). That speaks of a place for good works in the life of the believer. But just what is the proper perspective on good works for the believer? That is what Paul will address in this final chapter to Titus.
Jesus was once invited to a meal with a proud Pharisee. As they were dinning a woman who was a known sinner entered to room and began to wash Jesus' feet with her tears of repentance. This display was met with indignation and revulsion by the Pharisee. Jesus then shared a parable about two people who owed a debt. One owed a small debt. The other owed a very great debt. Jesus said the creditor decided to forgive both their debts. Then He asked the Pharisee who he thought would be more grateful and love the creditor more. The Pharisee said the one who had been forgiven the most. Jesus said he was right. Then Jesus spoke to the heart of the Pharisee pointing out he hadn't given Jesus any water to wash His feet but the woman had washed Jesus' feet with her tears. The Pharisee hadn't kissed Jesus. The sinful woman hadn't stopped kissing Jesus' feet. The Pharisee didn't anoint Jesus with oil. The woman had poured fragrant oil on His feet. Then Jesus concluded, "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:36-50).
Now I share this account of Jesus to point out that the sinful Cretans to whom Titus ministered would likely be like this sinful woman who was thankful for God's forgiveness. He who is forgiven much loves much. When you've lived a dark sinful life and encounter Jesus and His good news that you can be forgiven all your sins and receive a fresh start in life, that is an incredibly deep heart moving revelation. But with such thanks there is a danger. The danger is that works of thanks somehow become the focus or our attention rather than the Person to whom we are pouring them out on. Paul directed Titus to be sure to direct the Cretans in the proper perspective of their works.
The works of the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears didn't save her, they were merely her expression of thankfulness for God's forgiveness received by grace through faith in Jesus. She had evidently experienced forgiveness for her sins as she received the message of Jesus by faith delivered in His teachings to this point in the gospels (e.g. Luke 4:42-44; 5:32). Works should never be seen as a means to earn God's favor. Works should always be an expression of our love for God whose favor we have by His grace.
The inclination of humanity it to earn or work for things. That may be a foreign concept in an age with a spirit of entitlement, but it is nonetheless a part of fallen sinful human nature. The beginning of the spirit of working one's way to heaven began at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). This spirit of human attempts to reach heaven by works has been perpetuated throughout history in various religious systems; even some that name the name of Jesus. So ingrained in the nature of humanity is this spirit of works-righteousness that it even infects those who have experienced the second birth at times. When Christians attempt to work their way into favor with God it leads to frustration, futility, and failure.
When we work to secure the favor of God we miss the mark. It is only when the Christian works from a sense of security that they already have the favor of God through faith in Christ as a gift of God's grace that one experiences His abundant life. We work from a position of having God's favor in Christ. We don't work to earn God's favor by our works. Works are an expression of our loving appreciation to God. Works are not to gain God's appreciation for our works. We receive God's favor. We don't earn God's favor. This is one of the most important life realities and revelations of God to learn in life. When we live from a position of knowing we have God's favor by His grace, it opens the flood gates of understanding and blessing.
Humanity often has the notion that we can barter with God. In our day we watch popular reality series on television about modern day frontier people rich in independence, self-reliance, and ingenuity. They barter animal skins, meat, and hard labor to pay a neighbor for something they need in the wilds of Alaska or some other remote location. That's their way in the wilderness. But venture down to the contiguous fifty states, enter a suburb or city and it's a much different cultural and societal system of living. Enter a department store and try to buy clothes with a fresh salmon and they'll call security. You'll be hard pressed to find a gas station where you can buy gas with a beaver skin. Walk into a supermarket and try to buy food with some Grizzly bear claws and they may be impressed, but you're not walking out with the food. If you insist, you may be arrested for disorderly conduct or some other breaking of the law. In a more cosmopolitan environment try to compensate the broken law and the judge who enforces it with a couple of fish, a beaver skin, or Grizzly bear claw, even offer to wash the judges car and well, you'll likely be met with an incredulous snicker, or just an uncomfortable silence. No doubt or its very likely you'll wind up doing hard time.
The ways of the wilderness are vastly different from the ways of the "civilized" world, but really not even close to illustrating the contrasting ways between Holy God and sinful humanity. The only way reconciliation between God and humanity could ever occur is not by any work of humanity, but by God's righteous, condescending, merciful, loving, gracious saving work on our behalf through Jesus Christ.
When a person tries to get into heaven by their "good" works, it's like approaching the pearly gates with a smelly dead fish. You can't get into heaven with the sweaty trappings of your works. You can't get into heaven with the proud bear claw trinkets of your life conquests. None of our works are enough for what is required. Our works may impress us, but they don't impress God. God owns all the fish, beaver skins and bear claws and anything and everything else in HIs creation. There is nothing we can give that God needs. There is nothing we can give that God doesn't already have an abundance of. Our fish smell. Our skins are too small. And our beaver claws are meager cheap medals to Almighty God. The reality and truth is that our "good works" are as filthy rags to God (cf. Isaiah 64:6). The only way we can get into heaven is by the gracious forgiveness of your sins as a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
That's what we need to keep in mind as we proceed through this final chapter of Paul's letter to Titus. We need to consider good works in light of God's grace.
Remember to Live Graciously in Secular Society
3 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
"A large part of any pastor’s public ministry is reminding people of what they already know." Paul here reminds Titus to remind his flock in Crete ("them") to "be subject to rulers and authorities." Just as Paul has instructed Titus on the relational areas involving "older men," "older women," "young women," "young men," "bondservants," and "masters," here Paul instructs Titus on what to teach his flock about living as good citizens who are agents of God's grace in a secular society. Paul gives seven aspects of such gracious citizenship.
First, gracious citizens are "subject to rulers and authorities." To be "subject" (Greek hypotasso) means to be under obedience to, subject to, submitted to someone or something (e.g. laws.) Here "rulers and authorities" refer to the governing authorities in place. This expresses the general spirit of what a good citizen should be. Generally speaking a gracious citizen of God should seek to cooperate and be subject to the government under which they live. We are born and live under governments according to God's sovereign determination. This doesn't mean that a person subjects themselves to governing authorities unquestioningly. When Roman soldiers arrested the apostles because their preaching was stirring up the masses and causing a disturbance of the peace and breaking of the laws of Rome's Pax Romana, the apostles didn't stop preaching. But we also don't see apostles or Christians picketing or demonstrating politically. We do see members of Caesar's household coming to faith in Jesus (e.g. Phil. 4:22). The move of the Spirit in the New Testament is more of an infiltrate and influence rather than a demonstrate and denounce.
The United State's democratic system was never meant to be run by career politicians. Those who served in government at the beginning did so as a sacrifice. They left their employment and served the common citizenry at great personal expense. And because they weren't career politicians and planned to return to their work in the world they maintained a connection with citizenry; their legislation was therefore more inclined to be practical and positive for the populace. As the nation grew and prospered service in government because more demanding until the concept of a career politician developed. On one hand this meant government would have a leaders who were skilled in governing. But over time it has evolved to a situation where those voted in to represent a constituency are so immersed in the culture of government and politics have lost touch with the common citizen. Politicians go to school and become ideologues who run in political circles. They go to schools where professors who are also out of touch with the real world indoctrinate the student with concepts and theories that are lofty but when put in place prove not only impractical but conflict with the best interests of the populace. An example of this is refusing to consider social media statements of immigrants because of "intrusiveness" and therefore allowing terrorists into our land. We are a nation swept up in political correctness. We are a nation overwhelmed with true government intrusiveness. The government enslaves the populace under the guise of providing for the needy.
There is an abnormality in those in politics. Those in political positions live in ivory towers and enact legislation that for the common person demonstrates no common sense. And this proves to be a source of great frustration. The temptation arises to demonstrate and denounce. But if we are going to follow the New Testament it would be better for Christians to infiltrate and influence. The problem is that those who seek to infiltrate and influence end up being more influenced by the political system of the establishment than influencing it for the glory of God. This is a product of depending more on human strength than the power of God. We need Spirit filled scripturally sound and discipled people answering the call of God to infiltrate and influence as the Spirit leads in all areas of society.
Governments are in place by God's sovereign determination (Romans 13). That would include sinful governments. All governments are run by people and all people are sinful, therefore all governments are sinful (e.g. Romans 3:21-23). But before we set out to demonstrate and oppose the powers that be in government we need to seek the Lord in His word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The United States was birthed through the efforts of many godly people. But it was not a casual or thoughtless or prayerless effort. Such godly people sought God's direction in prayer and study of God's word. Then and only then did they act in revolt. There is a great deal of dissatisfaction and disgust over the decline of government in our day. But our strategy must remain as close to the Scripturally revealed ways of the Spirit as possible. That is the way of a gracious citizen of God.
Second, gracious citizens "obey." "Obey" (Greek tharcheo) means to be persuaded by a ruler, to submit to authority, to conform to advice, obey magistrates. This is the general spirit of a gracious citizen. We shouldn't be looking for opportunities to be disobedient to authority. To be a gracious citizen means to live in submission to the laws of the land even when no one is watching, even when you could break the law and probably get away with it. This is an expression of character.
Third, gracious citizens are "ready for every good work." To be "ready" (Greek hetoimos) for every good work means to be prepared for every good work. A gracious citizen should be on the look out to do good around them. They should be known for acts of good citizenship that benefits those in society around them.
Fourth, gracious citizens "speak evil of no one." To "speak evil" (Greek blasphemeo) means to vilify, to speak irreverently, defame, rail on, revile, slander, speak abusively, speak evil of. Paul wrote Timothy that those in authority should be prayed for (1 Timothy 2:1ff.). Today there is a great deal of dissatisfaction and frustration with people in political positions. Much of the dissatisfaction is warranted and well deserved. However, if we are not praying for those in authority we have no basis for criticizing them. And even if those in authority act in godless and sinful ways, it still doesn't give us license to speak irreverently about them. A gracious citizen, if they do speak critically of those in government, speaks truth in love nonetheless (e.g. Eph. 4:15).
Fifth, gracious citizens are "peaceable." "Peaceable" (Greek amachos) means not a brawler, not contentious, not a fighter. This doesn't mean a gracious citizen is a passive citizen. It does mean that they aren't someone who is always looking to pick a fight politically.
Sixth, gracious citizens are "gentle." "Gentle" (Greek epiekes) means gentle, moderate, patient, equitable, fair. In other words a gracious citizen is not motivated by political party spirit but is fair in assessing those in authority. A gracious citizen gives credit where credit is due and is not just a railing political party spirit.
Seventh, gracious citizens show "all humility to all men." "Humility" (Greek praotes) refers to strength under control, meekness. This describes a person whose temper is always under control, who bears wrongs done to them while showing courtesy to all.
These are the seven aspects of a gracious citizen. In Titus 2 Paul's expressed objective was "that the word of God may not be blasphemed . . . . that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (2:5 and 10). These two objectives should also be kept in mind as we live as God's gracious citizens in a secular society.
Remember Where You Came From
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
It's easy to look at the behavior and lives of the godless and adopt an indignant haughty attitude toward them. That's especially the case with those in governmental positions. We look at the unsaved and the sinfulness they act in and we denounce and criticize them for their stupidity. But we need to remember that they are where we once were. The Christian product of God's grace isn't better than the sinner, they are only forgiven.
A portion of humble pie for the believer should be a steady part of their diet. We need to keep things in proper perspective, otherwise pride will creep in. And God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5-6). Cretans saved by grace might be tempted to get a bit full of themselves. But they (and we) needed to remember from whence they came.
Cretans and Christians were are "also once" types of people. When and if we point the finger and criticize, speaking evil of people and getting proud we need to remember that we were at one time just like them; just like the sinners we are criticizing. We may not have physically been responsible for the death of anyone like some leaders are, but how many times have we murdered someone in our thoughts. We may not have committed adultery with anyone like some leaders do, but how many times have we committed adultery in our thoughts. Jesus said what we think is included in determining just how righteous we are (cf. Matthew 5). Yes, if we are honest we will be humbled by what God has saved us from. And it is only in such humility that we are in a position to speak to the sin in others.
Notice too that Paul includes himself and Titus as this "also once" group of people. He, they and we were "also once" "foolish" (Greek anoetos) or literally stupid, sensually driven, unwise, acting as if God didn't exist (cf. Psalm 14). We were "also once" "disobedient" (Greek apeithes) or pig-headed, unpersuadable, stiff necked, stubborn. We were "also once" "deceived" (Greek planao) or roaming aimlessly, erring, seduced, wandering without direction, living outside the parameters of God and His word. We were "also once" "serving various lusts and pleasures" or living a selfish self-centered self-serving sinful life. We were "also once" "living in malice and envy" or living a life filled with (Greek kakia) depravity, malignancy, wickedness, ill-will, and (Greek phthonos) jealousy. And we "also once" lived "hateful and hating one another" filled with (Greek stygnetos) hate for others and hate from others, just a (Greek miseo) a hatred, detesting of others so much so that you were willing to persecute them lovelessly, mercilessly. It's not a pretty picture when we consider the depth of sin and depravity the sinner, (which included us at one time) lives in.
While we should not obsess over our past we should not forget it either. We should be thankful for being saved from such sinful darkness. And God does save us from such darkness. We needn't wallow in regrets about the past. That isn't what Paul is pointing Titus to do with his people. We need to have a healthy remembrance of where we've come from in Christ so that as we move on in Christ we will do so with a healthy humility.
Remember Where You Are By Grace
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 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, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
"But" is a grammatical device to introduce a contrast. As dark and depraved as the sinner once was, they can be delivered and completely and totally cleaned up by God's grace. These are wonderful verses folks. It's incredible what God has done for us by His grace. Only these inspired words can begin to tell the incredible story of God's gracious provisions. All we can do is try to take them in with the illuminating help of the Holy Spirit. Take them in and enjoy them.
The "kindness" (Greek chrestotes) of God speaks of His moral excellence, goodness, kindness, integrity, mercy, and generosity. It speaks of God acting on our behalf but not at the expense of His holy, just and righteous ways. The kindness of God is in line with His holy nature.
The "love of God our Savior toward man" (Greek philanthropia) refers to God's fondness toward humanity, His love toward humanity, His benevolence toward humanity. We get the term philanthropy from this word. It is love that intervenes and helps. This is love in action. True love acts on behalf of the object of its love. Thank God for His loving favor toward us!
When this love toward humanity "appeared" (epiphaino) or shined on, became visible and known to us it was "not by works of righteousness which we have done." Do you see that? Take that in my friend. God's plan of salvation which Paul is inspired to speak of to Titus here is "not by works of righteousness which we have done." This is so clear. Salvation is not earned on the basis of human effort. Stop trying to work your way to heaven. It's offensive to God. It will only lead to frustration, uncertainty, futility and failure.
Instead of relying on our own efforts to save us we need to trust in, " but according to His mercy He saved us." "Mercy" (Greek eleos) is compassion, it is pity plus action, God's good will towards those who were miserably afflicted with sin. God made and makes a way for the sinner to be "saved" (Greek sodzo) made safe from, healed, preserved from, made whole from the effects of their sin. God has a complete and thoroughly effective way to deal with the negative effects of sin. What are the effects of God's salvation in us?
First, God's kind, loving, merciful salvation involves "the washing of regeneration. . . of the Holy Spirit." "Washing" (Greek loutron) speaks of bathing, washing. We see this symbolically in baptism where a person testifies to the world that they are plunged under water as a kind of burial as well as a kind of washing in water and then raised cleansed from sin through faith in Jesus. This washing from sin takes place at the point of the Spirit's "regeneration" (Greek paliggenesia) or rebirth, a new birth, being born again, spiritually renewed, a spiritual renovation. This is the spiritual birth or being "born again" (John 3) that Jesus spoke of as a necessity for entering the kingdom of God.
People are by nature spiritually dead (e.g. Eph. 2:1-3). They may be alive physically and mentally but they are dead spiritually. In this deadened state they cannot please God and they are incomplete and unfulfilled because their sin separates them from God. The sinner gropes in darkness for fulfillment and their reason for being but apart from God they live in relative emptiness (cf. Ecclesiastes). The Spirit then mercifully moves into and reaches out to the lost sinner. The Spirit convicts the sinner of their need of salvation (John 16:8-11). This is prevenient grace, the grace that goes before to awaken the sinner. And when the sinner responds by repenting of their sin and receiving Jesus as their Savior and only means of forgiveness for their sin, then the Holy Spirit indwells them regenerating them and giving them spiritual life. All of this is a product of God's kindness, love, mercy and yes, grace.
Second, God's kind, loving, merciful salvation involves, "the renewing of the Holy Spirit." "Renewing" (Greek anakainosis) speaks of renovation, a complete change for the better. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of a time when God would make a provision for people to receive a "new heart." He stated: "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them." (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27). This promise of a new heart and indwelling Holy Spirit is realized by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
By His grace through faith in Jesus Christ we are given a spiritual heart transplant. This new heart is filled with the love of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit works and renovates us into a home that we wouldn't even recognize if it weren't for His revelation (Gal. 5:22-24). It is a total transformation by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 12:1-2). It leads to a renewing of our mind and a new world view (Eph. 4:23).
It is only with the Holy Spirit residing within us that we can begin to comprehend and grow in the things of God (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-14). The Holy Spirit within us enlivens us spiritually and leads us into all truth (cf. John 14-16). That is why Jesus said it is a necessity that we be born again. You must be born again (John 3).
Third, God's kind, loving, merciful salvation involves the Holy Spirit being "poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior." The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us speaks of the empowerment of the new believer for service. Jesus instructed the first disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received Promise of the Father which was an empowerment. "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (cf. Acts 1:1-8). The apostles and disciples, 120 in all, waited obediently and prayerfully in the Upper Room for the Promise of the Father. And shortly thereafter the Holy Spirit came upon them and empowered them (cf. Acts 1:12-14; 2:1ff.). That 120 empowered by the outpoured Holy Spirit, changed the world in Jesus' name. The world has never been the same since. What was started in the Book of Acts continues today. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit to empower the believer for service is a product of God's grace.
And this outpouring of the Holy Spirit is poured out on us abundantly." "Abundantly" (Greek plousios) means richly, copiously, abundantly. The idea is that "through Jesus Christ our Savior" the Holy Spirit has been poured out on us abundantly. This empowering outpouring of the Holy Spirit is from Jesus Christ. "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Acts 2:32-33). This power of the Spirit flows from the cross and throne of Jesus. And Jesus isn't stingy in pouring out the Holy Spirit on us. He is rich in this outpouring and He will pour out this empowerment on all who ask. All we have to do is ask. Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him " (Luke 11:13). We just ask God to forgive us through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we can just ask God to empower us with the Holy Spirit once we are saved.
Fourth, God's kind, loving, merciful salvation involves ”having been justified by His grace." "Justified" (Greek dikaioo) speaks of being rendered or declared innocent, made righteous, freed from the legal penalty for sins, made legally what is necessary and justly required for salvation and eternal life. To be justified is to be given a legal standing just as if I'd never sinned. The righteousness of Jesus is actually transferred to our account when we put our faith in Him as Savior (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:21). This is offered to us "by His grace." "Grace" (Greek charis) is undeserved, unmerited favor. Grace is God acting on our behalf not because of anything in us but only based on His gracious nature. God didn't have to send Jesus to die for us and pay the penalty for our sins. "Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (2:14). He could have thrown humanity on the scrap heap of eternity and been just in doing so. But God in kindness, love and mercy chose to freely to take pleasure in making a way for lost humanity to be saved and reconciled to Him. And to that all we can say is GLORY TO GOD!!!!!
Fifth, God's kind, loving, merciful salvation involves "we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Therefore we aren't trying to earn God's favor. We have been given God's favor by His grace. God has our best interests at heart. God loves us. He is kind hearted toward us. He looks at us with eyes of mercy. He adopts us and treats us as His heirs. Our inheritance is eternal life. And we will realize and enjoy that inheritance upon our death.
But really, that eternal life begins now. We by His grace can now walk with Him through faith in Jesus. We are now spiritually alive and can and should know God and grow in our relationship with Him day by day.
Remember to Urge Others to Work by Grace
8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
"This is a faithful saying." What is a faithful saying? That God in kindness, love and mercy saved us with a salvation that washes us from all our sin and regenerates us giving us spiritual life through faith in Jesus. That He pours out His Holy Spirit on us to empower us for life and ministry and that He does so abundantly through Jesus Christ. That all just legal requirements of God's holy law have been satisfied through faith in Jesus Christ by His grace. And that we are heirs of God and all His goodness. That is all "faithful" (Greek pistos) trustworthy and reliable.
This statement about God's grace is faith-full; it's full of faith. We enter into this statement about God's grace by faith. We continue in it by faith. And when we do so, it perpetuates our faith and the faith of others who God reaches through us. Are you living a faith-full life by the grace of God?
And because what Paul has been inspired to share is reliable and trustworthy he wants Titus (and really all of us) to "affirm constantly" (Greek diabebaioomai) or confirm thoroughly, constantly, confidently and strongly this faithful saying.
The expressed purpose of such a constant affirmation of this faithful saying is "that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works." No Christian couch potatoes here! These constantly affirmed wonderful truthful words should motivate us to "maintain" (Greek proistemi) or practice continually good works. "Good works" are anything and everything we find as it relates to this faithful saying as well as it fulfills in life the word of God.
The gracious life is one lived with an others orientation. That is why Paul says, " These things are good and profitable to men." "Good" (Greek kalos) means valuable, beneficial, worthwhile. "Profitable" (Greek ophelimos) means helpful, serviceable, advantageous, profitable. The things Paul has shared with Titus will serve to bless and build up spiritually those he shares them with.
Remember to Avoid Graceless Works
9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
While Paul encourages Titus to train his people to practice good works, he also instructs Titus to guard against getting involved in graceless works. All of the things Paul instructs Titus to avoid here are acts of gracelessness.
"But avoid" (Greek periistemi) means keep away from, stand apart from, avoid, steer clear of. This means to literally turn away from so as to face in the opposite direction. What is it that Titus is to avoid? First avoid "foolish"(Greek moros) or dull, stupid, heedless, blockheaded, "disputes" (Greek zeteseis) debates, controversies. Something is foolish when it fails to factor God into it or disregards His word (e.g. Psalm 14:1). Then Paul says Titus should avoid "genealogies" which refers to the practice of false teachers who would sue Old Testament genealogical lists and insert fictitious or mythological exploits to the people on these lists. "Contentions" (Greek eris) refer to quarrels, arguments, divisive conversations. "Strivings about the law" refers to literal fights, combat, (Greek mache) about the law. These are legalistic battles based on the Mosaic Law. These things are to be avoided because "they are unprofitable and useless" (Greek anopheles and mataios) meaning useless, of no spiritual value, and devoid of power, devoid of truth, purposeless, empty. Titus wasn't to get caught up in things that weren't beneficial to the ministry. All of these things are void of grace. They all depend on human issues and human "strength."
"Reject" (Greek paraiteomai) means to beg off, shun, decline to be involved in, excuse yourself from, refuse to be drawn into, ask as a favor not to be involved in. It is a "divisive" (Greek hairetikos) or a schismatic, one given to follow false doctrine, one who makes factions, one who chooses to be known by a group. The term "heretic" is taken from this word. Paul instructs Titus to warn or "admonish" (Greek nouthesia) rebuke and warn such a person twice but after this they are to be rejected. Paul justifies this rejection by stating "knowing such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned." "Warped" (Greek ekstrepho) means perverted, twisted, turned inside out, inverted, changed for the worse, corrupted. "Sinning" (Greek hamartano) means missing the mark, trespassing. The grammar of this verb (Present/Active/Indicative) conveys the idea of one caught up in a lifestyle of sin; constantly sinning. "Self-condemned" (Greek autokatakritos) means condemned by one's own actions.
There are some instances when a minister should not spend a great deal of time. The minister needs to follow the leading of the Spirit to discern who they should minister to and for how long they should do so.
Remember "Grace Be With You All."
12 When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. 14 And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.
Paul ends his letter to Titus with some personal information. We Paul was when he wrote this letter is unknown. That he mentions his decision to spend the winter in Nicopolis (on the coast of the Adriatic Sea coast of Greece) indicates he may have been there at the point of his writing or was on his way and intended to stay the winter when he arrived there. It also tells us that winter was approaching so that Paul likely wrote this letter in late summer or early fall.
Paul was sending either Artemas or Tychicus to Crete to relieve Titus so Titus could join Paul in Nicopolis. We know nothing about Artemis. Tychicus was mentioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:12 at the end of that letter.
Paul then mentions "Zenas the lawyer." Zenas is only noted here in the New Testament. We know nothing about him other than that he was a lawyer. Perhaps Paul asked for Zenas to assist him in some legal issues in ministry. The use of a lawyer is not unspiritual but in fact is a prudent move when necessary. "Apollos" is a more familiar figure in the New Testament. That Titus was in Crete and he asks Titus to send Zenas and Apollos seems to indicate that these two were also in Crete. "That they may lack nothing" was Paul's way of telling Titus to make sure they had what they needed for the journey. This was common practice of the day; that churches would provide for the journey of ministers (e.g. 3 John 6-8).
Paul's last words of advice stating, " And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful" may mean that the Cretans needed to learn how to provide for minister's expenses. He didn't want them to be "unfruitful" but fruitful in that their financial support would make a deposit in their heavenly accounts (e.g. 1 Timothy 6).
The last lines of the epistle read, " All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen." It isn't known who were with Paul at the time of his writing this letter. Paul's benediction of Grace be with you all" indicates that while Paul was primarily writing to Titus, this letter was to be shared with the church as a whole.
So how do we view works in light of God's grace? I'd like to share a personal story to perhaps provide a fitting illustration in response to this question.
I grew up in a very dysfunctional home where my parents were constantly fighting. When I was four or five years old my family moved up state, "to the country" to live with my grandparents. Grandpa was very sick (terminal cancer) and grandma needed our help. The emotion of the situation only added to conflict. On one occasion my parents were really getting into it. The battleground was the kitchen and there was a lot of screaming and yelling. Mom began ripping open drawers and throwing knives and anything she could get her hands on in the direction of my dad. I remember him holding up a chair as a shield. Thankfully she was a bad shot. But it was clear my dad had to leave so some cooling down could take place. All of this tore me up. What could I do to stop the fighting? I loved my mom. I loved my dad. I didn't know who was truly to blame. I couldn't take sides. It was a lot to process for this little guy who was me.
My dad busted out of the kitchen and made his way to the car to leave. I ran outside to tearfully beg him to stay. I remember the crunch of our steps on the gravel driveway. I was overloaded with emotion. I loved my mommy, but that was my daddy too. He had to go. I knew it; even at that young age I knew he had to go. That was the reality. But I had to do something to show him how I felt, something to express my feelings. I had to do something in response to what was going on. But what can a little kid do in such a situation?
My grandmother loved bird-watching. We'd sit at the window and look for the different kinds of birds that would fly around her garden. Then we'd look in her bird book to see what kind of bird it was we'd saw. She loved birds. She had made her garden to attract the birds. Anything connected with birds was good for her. And that passed on to me. Flowers and birds were all good.
As I ran after my dad I looked down on the ground and saw a bird feather. Quickly, more on impulse than anything else, I reached down and picked it up. I ran to my dad as he was getting in the car and gave it to him. "Here dad, maybe this will bring you luck," is what I remember saying to him. He looked at me, received the feather, smiled, and without a word got into his car and drove away. It was just a feather. It was all I had at the time. But I gave him what I had. It was all I could do.
My father eventually returned. There were more years of fighting. But my father remained faithful to my mom. I don't think he ever really considered leaving my mother for good. Oh, there were times where he'd leave and spend the night in a motel. My mother would rant and rave and talk to the walls. But eventually things would cool down and he'd be back. It was a pretty chaotic and painful life.
My mother was diagnosed with a mental illness. She received treatment and there was a bit of stability gained. But the real peace didn't come until Jesus entered our household. First my sister received Jesus as her Savior, then my mother, then me, then my dad, and even grandma received Jesus as her Savior. And Jesus brought blessed peace to my family. Don't get me wrong, our family wasn't perfect after that. But we certainly were far, far better off with Jesus than we could have ever been without Him. I learned to love Jesus.
Years later when my father died I was going through his personal items I found a small box hidden away in his desk. There were some keep sakes in it. But what caught my eye was something small and neatly in place. It was a little feather. He had kept the feather I had given him after all these years. It didn't seem like much at the time. But it was all I had to give. And God took what I gave and used it to make a lasting impression on a man in need.
That's the lesson to learn in all of this. It isn't that our works add anything of true value to God. It's what God is able to do with our weak works. Our works express our love to God. (Or at least they should; that is the proper motivation for them.) We may feel what we have to offer isn't very much, but to God they mean a lot. "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men." You may not feel that what you have to give is much, but give it to God. Give for God's sake anyway. He has a way of making a lasting impression with what you offer.
 Litfin, A. D. (1985). Titus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 766). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.