According to Mercy
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
In v. 3, Paul describes us when we were hostages to sin. This is a pretty bleak picture but it’s an accurate one of humanity apart from God.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan laid a trap for Adam and Eve, they fell for it and were taken captive to sin and death. Because of that Fall, all of their descendants are born into a state of sin and are spiritual hostages. Because our captivity begins at conception, we grow up knowing nothing but that captivity and think it normal. We don’t need to be “tied to the chair” because we have no desire to “escape the room!”
In this verse, Paul describes who and what we were before Christ saved us.
– we were fools because we lived as though God did not exist
– we disobeyed the law of God written on our hearts
– we were deceived and could not even see reality for what it is
– we gave ourselves completely to the pursuit of our own pleasure and when anyone got in the way of that pursuit, we got angry
– if someone had more than us, we grew jealous
– we treasured up the hurts life brought us and became bitter and hateful.
Titus 3:4-5a 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,
The main idea, the core truth Paul is sharing here is this truth: because of God’s kindness and love, He saved us!
Verse 3 is what man has done – Verse 4 is what God has done! We may deserve judgment and wrath, but God, because He is kind and loving, has shown us mercy instead of judgment.
Mercy means not getting what’s deserved. God’s mercy is more than a feeling, it’s an action. His mercy was made visible by the coming of Jesus Christ who took our place and offered the ransom price to set us free from our captivity.
Hostage rescue is a dangerous business, and sometimes the rescuers pay the ultimate price. Such was the case in the daring rescue of the Jewish hostages at the airport in Entebbe. A jet full of Jewish travelers was hijacked by terrorists and diverted to Uganda. The passengers were taken off the plane and herded in to a terminal at the airport. While Israeli negotiators stalled, a commando team was quickly assembled. Under cover of darkness, in a fast strike, they infiltrated the terminal and took out the terrorists. The only casualty suffered by the rescue team was their commanding officer; he sacrificed his life that the hostages could be free.
Jesus came to set at liberty those who were bound, but at the cost of His own life. His blood was the ransom paid for our freedom.
Did God save us because we were so good and loveable that He was compelled by His sense of justice to save us? Absolutely not!
V. 3 makes it very clear who and what we were before He saved us. No, God saved us, BECAUSE HE IS KIND AND LOVING, not because we are worthy or deserving.
Titus 5:5-7 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.
It’s not BY works of righteousness we’ve done, but ACCORDING to His mercy that He saved us.
If we were saved BY mercy, then it would mean that God’s mercy is the agent of our salvation. But mercy isn’t what saves us – Jesus saves us! It’s His work on the cross that’s the effectual means of our salvation. God’s mercy is what moves Him to apply Christ’s work to us.
When Paul says that God saves us ACCORDING to His mercy, he’s speaking about how far that salvation goes. God’s ABILITY to save us comes through the finished work of Jesus Christ, but He’s MOVED to save us because He is merciful and kind! That mercy, because it is God’s mercy, is perfect and inexhaustible.
In Psalm 136, 26 times the Psalmist tells us “His mercy endures forever.” His salvation will see us safely to the heavenly shore, free from the threat and danger of sin. In Phil 1:6, Paul says, “I’m confident of this very thing; that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 says
22 Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Every morning when you rise, a fresh supply of mercy is available to you; yesterday’s failures do not “use up” God’s supply of mercy and grace, they are new every morning.
Titus 3:8 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.
Paul made it crystal clear in v. 5 that we are not saved by good works, but this verse gives us the right perspective on the role of good works in the Christian life.
While we aren’t saved BY works – we are saved TO them!
It is not lost on the world how arrogant Christians can come across sometimes. All too often we come across as self-righteous and superior, we look down our noses at the lost. We forget that the salvation we now enjoy is NOT the result of our own work and goodness but God’s work and goodness. We forget that we are saved by grace, according to the mercy of God. Instead of the most profound humility toward God and tenderness toward others, we come off as strident and haughty.
Listen, if we’ve been truly saved, if we’ve been rescued from captivity to the sin mentioned in v. 3 to the life described in vs. 4-7, then the mercy that marks God will come to mark us.
If we’re saved according to His mercy, then we’ll become a people OF mercy; not pride, nor arrogance, nor superiority.
Besides the mercy and humility we ought to show to the lost, what about one another within the Body of Christ. If we are those redeemed by grace, then where is the grace toward one another? If we are saved according to God’s mercy, then where is the mercy toward one another when we fail one another?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s be careful that we don’t put a heavy yoke on those who are new to the faith and demand that they suddenly adopt a lifestyle of total holiness and complete compliance to what we think is fitting and proper.
Of course God calls us to holiness, but the means He has given us of getting there is loving support and fellowship. All too often the church becomes a seething cauldron of gossip and criticism as people pass judgment on one another. Just as the kindness and love of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ, God wants Jesus Christ to become visible in the quality of life of His people, especially as we gather with one another in fellowship
As we live according to the mercy of God, we do what v. 8 says. The salvation of God becomes visible through our lives. The Bible reveals the Word of God in black and white. But when we LIVE what this says, then the Word of God is revealed in all the colors of the rainbow.
Based on a sermon by Pastor Lance Ralston of Calvary Chapel of Oxnard.