Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:1–7, ESV)
“For we ourselves were once.... But when....” What were we once? And have we had our “but when?” Verse 3 says we were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves of various passions and pleasures. Paul says, “… passing the days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” That is who we once were. That is depressing!
Then the “But when” shows up. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us….” We spoke evil of each other and we quarreled, but Jesus appeared. He showed up. He transformed us!
How did he save us? He saved us “according to his…mercy.” He didn’t save us by our works of righteousness. He washed us with the Holy Spirit. Regenerating, recreating, renewing us by pouring out the Holy Spirit on us though Jesus Christ. Why would he do this? So that we might be heirs of the hope of eternal life, being justified by his grace.
In your relationships, are you living in your “once were’s” or in your “but when’s?” In other words, are you quarreling, envious, and enslaved to pleasure and foolishness, as you once were? Or are you obedient, doing good works, living in gentleness and courtesy toward all people? When the Holy Spirit has come upon your life (verses 5 and 6), you may have a few moments of “once were’s,” but you will increasingly have a lifestyle of “but when’s.”
Lord, you are a God who transforms. You have made me new through Jesus your son. You are pouring out your Holy Spirit on my life. Because of your work in me and your help every day, I can be obedient and gentle. I can have the hope of eternal life….