You People are Different [1-2]
Having handled the impact of the gospel on internal relationships amongst God’s people, Paul now specifically calls Titus to set the churches straight in terms of their relationships to outsiders.
In reality this has been Paul’s burden throughout the whole letter [e.g. 2.10]. He wants healthy churches in Crete for the sake of the people in Crete who don’t yet know Jesus. None of this happens in a religious vacuum. We are always God’s sent people, being made holy for the sake of His mission to the multitudes still in darkness [John 17.15-19]. Our lives will either help draw people to Jesus or block people from Him.
The more we get our lives and relationships in line with the gospel, empowered by the gospel, the greater the sway the gospel will have in the city.
Most of us will have stories (perhaps even our own) of those who came to Christ barely needing any persuasion since they saw enough in the revolutionary kinds of relationships on display in the church community. They knew God must be real because they saw how the believers treated each other.
That is what Paul is on about.
This will be an incentive for bringing friends to church. They should see something different – even compelling – amongst us.
Specifically Paul wants Titus to look for submissiveness to those in authority – and courtesy to all people. These things need emphasising as it is easy for Christians to fall into a very ugly superiority complex and self-righteousness in dealing with ‘sinners’ without God.
Perhaps this was especially worth nailing in Crete – with its reputation for squabbling people. The gospel sets us free from the kind of grasping attitude that makes us embittered towards those in authority. Trouble is believers can swap one antagonism for another showing their new zeal for the Kingdom for God by becoming pretty obnoxious.
Remember the Old You? 
The root of this nastiness is pride. So Paul typically goes back to the gospel to get us down to earth. He rubs our faces in the hideous human condition without grace (and this leads to one of the most densely packed gospel descriptions in the Bible).
Isn’t it striking how God sees humankind (and God sees things as they are)? It’s an ugly list of evils. It’s also striking that it is not limited either to things we perpetrate (foolish, disobedient, malicious, envious, hating one another) or to things we suffer (led astray, slaves to passions, hated by others). None of us can hide behind our grievances – as though God couldn’t understand. God sees both the wrongs we have done and those done to us – and looks with compassion.
All of us must bear the responsibility of sin. And this is why we need to be saved.
Look What He Did [4-7]
The concept of salvation is odd enough in our culture to make many Christians – even preachers – awkward about using it. Many would rather reduce the gospel to self-help, or moralising, or having a social conscience. All this talk of needing to be saved seems over the top – from a less sophisticated age and culture. But our blindness to our need is just another symptom of the need.
And this blindness leads to religion – where we put together a spiritual construction (God, gods, a force, whatever…) to suit our preferences. But such a thing can have no power to change and rule over us. No more than any kitchen appliance.
The answer for mankind comes not from somewhere within. Our only hope is from someone outside. And this is just what has happened.
Look at how he has saved us. There are a couple of ideas locked up together in verse 5 which come together especially in the phrase ‘washing of regeneration’.
These words allude to promises made back in Ezekiel 36.25-27. God knew that the state of the human heart would always prevent his people from living for him. Something more radical than mere law – even law with great threats – was going to be necessary.
Firstly they would need to be made all over again. That is what this word regeneration is getting at. Paul is saying that, through Jesus, God’s grace has appeared in a new way – a way that was promised centuries before.
And in fact, this grace is not destined for the mere personal fulfilment of some nice religious types. God is bringing his new creation (gk: paligenesis) to the cosmos. Yes, people get to be born again – but that is because the universe will be born again – and God is just starting with people.
So be careful asking Jesus into your life – you are playing with a fire hose.
Secondly they would need to be cleansed, washed – forgiven. Ezekiel gets at this and Paul picks it up here. You word washing may well allude to baptism – but only as an outward demonstration of something which happens through the work of Jesus. Water itself will not deal with our sins. This is why the saviour gave his blood.
The result: we are declared righteous because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus and given a new nature as part of God’s renewal of the whole creation.
Can this actually be true? Are there really people of whom this is true? In Brighton? They would really stand out, right?
So Love The Lost As You Have Been Loved