Christmas Eve – Epistle

by Crossings

Titus 2:11-14
Christmas Eve
Analysis by Paige G. Evers

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He it is who gave himself for us so that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

DIAGNOSIS: Worldly Passion Leads to Wrath

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Untrained Lives
The letter to Titus offers a give and take between moral exhortation and confession of faith. Both are needed for this new Christian community in Crete, which is made up of people who are still figuring out their identity as God’s people and what that identity means for their behavior. Earlier in the letter, the writer rants about those who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (1:16). Our text for Christmas Eve implies that embracing “impiety and worldly passions” (v. 12) was part of how the new Christians denied God by their actions even as they claimed to know him. That sounds a lot like wearing a “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pin while chasing a full shopping cart down the Target aisle, or setting up the nativity scene only for the holy family to become hidden by the pile of presents as the countdown to Christmas gets underway, or being so merry in the gathering of friends, family or coworkers that you drink enough to not remember the party in the morning.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Impure Hearts
The Cretans’ bad behavior exposes a deeper problem. Their hearts are not pure. Their “passions” (v. 12) are not for God, but for the things of the world. These passions create behaviors that are far from “self-controlled, upright, and godly” (v. 12). The letter-writer wants the hearers to renounce their passions because their bad deeds flow from impure hearts. The new Christians in Crete are in trouble because their hearts are bent on iniquity. Their hearts need to be purified (v. 14).

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Hopeless Future
With impure hearts like these, the Cretan Christians are condemned to pay for their iniquity on the day of God’s judgment. They are doomed to suffer eternally for their ungodly passions. The hearers of this letter to Titus cannot control themselves, let alone redeem themselves, because they have neither the training nor the purity of heart to live according to God’s will. Without divine intervention, they are left to face God’s wrath alone, with no hope of salvation.

PROGNOSIS: Divine Grace Leads to Life

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Grace Appearing
Divine aid does come. “For the grace of God has appeared” (v. 11) the letter-writer proclaims. Jesus Christ is the grace of God, lying in the manger. This baby is grace personified. Jesus alone can save the Christians in Crete from their iniquity and rescue them from God’s wrath. The incarnation and the crucifixion come together in this passage as this Child of God takes sin upon himself and lavishes his grace on the unworthy Cretans and on us. Jesus Christ, the grace of God, “gave himself for us so that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own” (v. 14). The cross is the gift that brings salvation to all.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Heart Training
Jesus Christ, “our great God and Savior” (v. 13), transforms hearts as he transforms believers’ eternal future. The grace of God has appeared. Like a good coach, Titus’ correspondent announces that God’s grace is “training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly” (v. 12). The results of this training don’t arise from our own strength or our own will to change. Later in Titus the writer emphasizes that we are saved “according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (3:5). Renewal, transformation, and training create faith-filled hearts in the present age-hearts that give Christians the patience and stamina to wait for the promised future, the coming of “the blessed hope and the manifestation of glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (v. 13).

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Zealous Living 
What to do while waiting for Jesus Christ’s return? Or more immediately, what to do during the long dark night of waiting for Christmas morning? The letter to Titus suggests living as forgiven sinners have been trained to live-as a people claimed by Christ “who are zealous for good deeds” (v. 14). Sharing the good news that this baby in the manger brings grace and hope to the world, telling others that God’s salvation is for all who believe, offering oneself in service to others: these are all “good deeds” that become concrete through the particular lives of God’s people in every time and place. Good deeds that flow from faith offer a world mired in hopelessness a preview of the blessed hope of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birth the angels sing.


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