Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the November 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“Good for You” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Lesson Aim: Understand that we are saved to do good for others, not merely for personal benefit.
By Mark Scott
Thanksgiving is not just a national holiday observed this coming Thursday. It’s an acknowledgment of the goodness of God and his call to believers to live out that goodness. Doing good is a strong emphasis in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 2:10; 4:6; 5:10, 25; 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:21; 3:17; Titus 1:8; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14).
Ancient and modern philosophers debated what constituted goodness. In a world without absolutes, how can it be defined? Is it knowable? Is it relegated only to aesthetics? In Scripture, goodness is rooted in the person of God (Mark 10:18). God can declare what is good (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 1 Timothy 2:3). Paul had to remind Titus that goodness had moral and ethical connotations since on Crete those connections had all but been jettisoned (Titus 1:12).
The Call to Goodness
Lots of learning is relearning. There are reasons the Epistles are filled with “reminders.” The best things in life are worth coming back to again and again. Paul told Titus to remind the people of the call to goodness. These two verses contain seven imperatives. The section near the middle is key: remind them to be ready to do whatever is good. People committed to goodness will leverage that for the best witness in their communities.
This call to goodness will show up in submission to governmental and civic leaders. Even the phrase to be obedient means “to obey a person in authority.” This call to goodness will cause one to put away slander (blasphemy), to be peaceable (not disposed to fight) and considerate (fitting, appropriate, or suitable), and gentle (meek).
The Redemption Behind Goodness
The goodness we are called to is not just do-goodism. It is certainly not goodness for goodness’ sake. It is rooted in God’s redemption of us in Christ and made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul set up one of the greatest salvific passages in the New Testament by reminding Titus of their prior state of depravity (v. 3). There were eight marks of this fallenness. We were foolish (literally “not knowing”), disobedient (unwilling to be persuaded), deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures (hedonistic). We lived in malice (strife) and envy (malignity at the sight of excellence), being hated and hating one another.
But in contrast to the ugliness of verse 3 is the beauty of verses 4-7. God’s kindness (usefulness or profitableness) showed up when Jesus came (the love of God our Savior appeared). Paul had in mind the historical event of the incarnation. [Notice that God and Jesus are both referred to as Savior in these verses.] When Jesus showed up, people were saved, but it wasn’t because of anything they had done to deserve saving. God worked his mercy (tender kindness) in them, and they participated by saying yes to his washing of rebirth (regeneration or restoration, which is typically an eschatological term; cf. Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21) and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2; John 3:5). This is new creation language (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This newness was begun by the Holy Spirit, who was poured out on us generously. God did the providing, and believers do the partaking. This new birth demonstrates God’s justice (having been justified by his grace) and makes believers heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The trustworthy saying could refer back to the salvific text just discussed or it could lean forward and refer to the call to goodness displayed by redeemed people. Regardless, goodness does not come about for the Christian by simply trying to be and do better. It results from the new birth and shows up in things that are excellent (beautiful) and profitable.
The Derailing of Goodness
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to derail what is perfectly good (Genesis 3:1-13). Christians can undo goodness by word games, majoring in the minors, battles, and divisiveness. Controversies result when there is an exchange of words rather than a search for truth. Genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law show a strong Jewish tendency to some of the word battles. These are unprofitable (serve no purpose) and useless.
Divisive people derail goodness. These people are to be warned twice (Matthew 18:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15) and then “shunned.” They show themselves to be warped (to turn something out of its place or to pervert), sinful, and self-condemned.
In his mercy, our good, redemptive God transforms us from what we were into a people who genuinely do good for others.