Christ-Like Conduct towards the World

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

After the Apostle Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment he and Titus went to Crete an island in the Mediterranean Sea. It was noted in the Book of Acts that on the Day of Pentecost Cretans were there to witness the Apostles teaching after their filling of the Holy Spirit. “Cretans and Arabs–we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:11) When Paul and Titus arrive in Crete the Gospel of Jesus was not knew to them. It is probable that Paul established a Church there and commissioned Titus to minister to the Church. “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5)

The people of that day were much as the people of today living in and for the world we all share. They were loud rebellious talkers who expressed their half and twisted truths in order to deceive men into their own shallow thinking. They as well as those of Palestine opposed the rule of the Roman Empire over their lands. Crete was the home of the god Zeus who had lived and died on the island of Crete. This false teaching of the god Zeus influenced much of the religious thought in Crete. Also the Judaizers we there with their false mixture of Jewish tradition incorporated into the Christian faith.  Paul made reference to them as those of the circumcision, as they believed that the Gentile Christians should be circumcised in the flesh as the Jews were. This was one of the missions of Titus to bring this mixture of people into Godly living and to practice God’s grace to all men who lived on the island of Crete. “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” (Titus 2:10-12)

Paul had already taught the Cretans how they were to live as Christian citizens but Titus had to remind them of Paul’s teachings. Christians must know that it is God who establishes the rulers of the government. God rises them up and He takes them down. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.” (Daniel 2:21) If God appoints the rulers according to His purposes, then we as His people are to obey them and submit to their authority. The only exception would be if the ruler required us to do something against the law of God. “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2)

Their authority comes from God and their purpose is to rule in just righteousness. “Behold, a king will reign righteously And princes will rule justly.” (Isaiah 32:1) The ruler leads the people in order, in justice, and protects the people from those who would cause harm. He enforces the law that all might obey and none would suffer injustice. When the king rules in integrity the people rejoice because there is harmony in their society. If the king should become wicked then the people would grieve. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2) Instead of being dragged down into political augments the Christian should be always prepared to do the good work that God has set before them. By being prepared and willing to do the good work it would be a benefit to all the people and the authorities that govern them. The Apostle Peter explained it this way. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Many of the people who lived in Crete in that day were not of good character. In Paul’s letter to Titus he quoted a philosopher name Epimenides (600 B.C.) who wrote this of the Cretans, “Cretans as perpetual liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” As Paul restated in his letter. “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” (Titus 1:12) If Christians were to be as said by their Lord, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) How would the world know the truth of God’s light if the Christian did not display it by their life?

As a Christian we have to live in the midst of the world in a way that is representative of the Kingdom of God. How else would people be drawn to a righteous life style? The Christian must guard his mouth and actions, as they are his strongest testimony of the Lord they serve. People will often say and do cruel things but if the Christian repays evil with evil they are no witness of righteousness. The Christian must remain cool when the evil forces attack. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Proverbs 15:18) This is Christ-Like, this is the example of our Lord. “And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23)

The Christians lives by the grace of God and therefore should be graceful to all. The Christian has opinions too and we often do not share in the beliefs of others. This is not an excuse to become angry or fall into an intense argument. “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” (Provers 17:14) Arguments do not change hearts they harden hearts.

A follower of Christ is to be a gentle person. (Matthew 5:5) If we are humble and speak softly they will penetrate deeper than a loud trumpet. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” (Proverbs 18:8) The power of God’s truth is all the aggression that is needed. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The Christian is the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) and we bring the peace of God’s love to all mankind.

We live today in a time much like Crete filled with people who are rebellious and speak empty words filled with speculations build on twisted half-truths. We live in a time when the only opinions allowed to be expressed are those in opposition to what we believe is truth. Yet it is not are calling to change hearts or minds, we are to boldly speak and live in the truth that will set others free. “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:21)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, December 1, 2016

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