The Duties of Good Citizenship, Part 1
Scripture: Titus 3:1–3:2
The Duties of Good Citizenship
Text: Titus 3:1-2
April 27, 2014
The gospel not only creates the church but also brings order to it. Paul has argued in this letter that a rightly ordered church places the gospel at the center for church leadership (1:5-16) and church membership alike (2:1-5). There is one more area where the gospel brings order, namely how Christians are to live in society as good citizens (3:1-15).
A. Paul’s Concern
It is important to understand that Paul’s concern moves beyond mere civic righteousness (i.e., external conformity to the laws of the state). Serving as models of good citizenship goes beyond that which is defined by the state as consisting in good public civility. For example, Cretan believers and unbelievers alike can pay taxes to the Roman government. Paul is concerned that God’s people exhibit good works for the sake of the lost who observe their behavior (3:8). So, he moves beyond mere “Christian civility,” to the conversion of unbelievers (i.e., evangelism is his concern).
B. Gospel-Driven Citizenship
This letter grounds the virtues of church leadership, membership and citizenship in the gospel of the grace of God (1:1, 9; 2:11-14; 3:4-7).
I. Remember the duties of good citizenship (3:1-2).
A. The believer’s duties to government authorities (v. 1).
Why does Paul begin with the believer’s duties to government authorities?
“Christians, accordingly, appeared most dangerous people; they would not share in this basic pledge of loyalty to the state. Of course, on their principles, they could not. Jesus had laid the foundation of the distinction between the realm of God and Caesar in his answer about the tribute money, and his followers pursued this line of demarcation. Caesar should be honoured but not worshipped. They would not bow the knee or sprinkle incense to Caesar. How could they? They belonged to another divi filius [“son of God”]; they owed allegiance to another imperator [“commander”]; they were securely related to God through another pontifex maximus [“chief priest”]. Both Christ and Caesar claimed world dominion. A Christian could not consistently say ‘Caesar is Lord’ if he professed ‘Jesus is Lord’. The reason is obvious enough, and compelling; but the impression given could not but be one of political disloyalty. And, as Pliny’s letter to Trajan makes plain, when a man persisted in refusing to make the customary gesture to the traditional gods and the imperial statue, then he was clearly actionable for contumacia, criminal obstinacy. This was, to Pliny’s experienced legal mind, eminent justification for the death penalty.” Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church,
1. The cross is the way of God’s saving grace.
2. Christians are called to live their lives in obedience to the civil authorities in order to refute unfounded rumours against a Christian as being a man of ill-will or a threat to the peace and welfare of a city.
3. Christians are called to live their lives in such a way as to be viewed by their unbelieving neighbors as generous benefactors who are proponents and advocates for the peace and welfare of their city.
© John Fonville
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More in Titus
January 18, 2015Demonstrate the Charity of Good Citizenship, Part 2
September 14, 2014Demonstrate the Charity of Good Citizenship
August 31, 2014Threats To Good Citizenship, Part 4