This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly…
The things that Titus is to "affirm constantly," as we shall see presently, are the doctrines of Christianity. What for? "In order that they which have believed in God" might be orthodox? Guarded against heresies? Certainly! But something more than that. In order that they might "give their minds to being foremost," as the word might be rendered, "in good works." That is what you are to preach your theology for, says Paul; and the only way to make sure that your converts shall live sober and righteous lives is to see that they be thoroughly saturated in the great and recondite truths which I have taught you.
I. THE GOSPEL IS DEGRADED UNLESS IT IS ASSERTED STRONGLY. "These things I will that thou affirm constantly"; or, as the word might be rendered, "asseverate pertinaciously," persistently, positively, affirm and assert constantly and confidently. That is the way in which Paul thinks it ought to be spoken. "These things." What things? Well, here they are (vers. 4-7). There are all the fundamentals of evangelical Christianity packed into three verses. They are all there — man's sin, man's need, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the act of faith, the inheritance of eternal life. And these are the things which are to be asserted with all the energy and persistency and decisiveness of the speaker's nature. Paul did not believe in fining them down because people did not like them. He did Dot believe in consulting the "spirit of the age," except thus far, that the more the spirit of the age was contrary to the truth, the more need for the men that believed it to speak out.
II. THIS POSITIVE ASSERTION OF THE TRUTHS OF REVELATION IS THE BEST FOUNDATION TO LAY FOR PRACTICAL GODLINESS. "I will that these things thou affirm constantly, in order that they which have believed might be careful to maintain good works." Rightly understood and presented, the great body of truth which we call the gospel, and which is summarised in the preceding context, grips daily life very tightly, while, on the other hand, of all the impotent things in this world, none are more impotent than exhortations to be good, which are cut away from the great truths of Christ's mission and work. The world has been listening to these ever since it was a world, and it is not a bit better for them all. There is only one thing that supplies the requisite motive power for practical godliness, and that is the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His indwelling in our hearts. The motives that the gospel gives for goodness, for holiness, for purity, for self-sacrifice, for consecration, for enthusiasm, for widespread sympathy and benevolence, for contempt of the material and the perishable — the motives that Christianity gives for all things that are lovely and of good report — are the strongest that can ever be brought to bear upon men, as regards their fulness, their depth, their sweetness, and their transforming energy. Then, if it be true that the best foundation for all practical goodness is in the proclamation and the possession of the great message of Christ's love, two things follow. One is that Christian people ought to familiarise themselves with the practical side of their faith, just as Christian ministers ought to be in the habit of insisting, not merely upon the great revelation of God's love in Jesus Christ, but upon that revelation considered as the motive and the pattern for holy living. And another consequence is that here is a rough but a pretty effective test of so-called religious truth. Does it help to make a man better? It is worth something if it does; if it does not, then it may be ruled out as of small consequence.
III. THE TRUE TEST AND OUTCOME OF PROFESSING FAITH IS CONDUCT. In the text the fact that these Cretan Christians "believed in," or rather, perhaps, we should translate simply, "believed God," is given as a reason why they ought to maintain good works. That is to say, those who profess to have Him for their Lord and Father, those who avow that they are Christians, are by that profession bound to a conduct corresponding to the truth which they say they have received; and to conformity to the will of the God in whom they say that they have believed. Religious knowledge is all very necessary, but what is it for? It is to make us like God. Religious emotion is very necessary, too, and very delightful. It is right that Christian men should feel the glow of love and gratitude, the joy of forgiveness, the lofty and often unspeakable delights of calm communion with Him. All these are essential parts of a deep and true Christian character, but all these are for a purpose. If we are Christians we know God and we feel the emotions of the religious life, in order that we may be and that we may do.
IV. NO ONE WILL KEEP UP THESE GOOD WORKS WHO DOES NOT GIVE HIS MIND TO IT. "That they...might be careful to maintain." The word that the apostle employs is a very remarkable one, only used in this one place in the New Testament; and the force of it might be given by that colloquialism which I have ventured to employ — "Giving their minds to maintaining good works." You have to make a business of it if you would succeed in it. You have to make a definite effort to bring before you the virtues and the excellencies which you ought to possess, and then to try your best to have them. And my text suggests one chief means of securing that result, and that is, the habit — which I am afraid is not a habit with a great many professing Christians — the habit of meditation upon the facts of the gospel revelation looked at in their practical bearing on our daily life and character. We should bring ourselves into that atmosphere, and saturate our minds and hearts with the thoughts of God's great love to us in Jesus Christ's death for us, of the pattern in His life, of the gift of His Spirit, of the hope of inheritance of eternal life. We should, by frequent meditation, submit ourselves to the power of these sacred thoughts, and we shall find that in them, one by one, are motives which, twisted together, will make a cord of love that shall draw us up out of the pit of selfishness and the mire of sense, and shall attract us joyfully along the path of obedience, else too hard for our reluctant and unaccustomed feet.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
WEB: This saying is faithful, and concerning these things I desire that you affirm confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men;