Paul is addressing a universal reality in this passage to Titus.
Paul writes of purity and defilement here. In this case, he is not talking about sexual purity, but the purity or the defilement of the mind and the conscience. This, then, is not just a simple exhortation to be good in some culturally, or legally defined sense. Rather, it is about knowing the difference between truth and falsehood in matters concerning our common faith, and about how we are to conduct our daily lives in accord with God’s will. Do we choose the order and purity of God’s truth or do we choose deception and disorder in our lives. Ultimately it is about life and death and the condition of our eternal souls.
Paul is addressing a universal reality in this passage to Titus. It is not a new phenomenon that there are those within any community who are rebellious. There have always been those who have a way with words who, for some personal gain, attempt to lead the unwary, the uneducated, the innocent down dangerous paths. Paul had gotten word that this was happening in the Cretan community and he is writing Titus, whom he addresses as, “my true child in the common faith,” to encourage and to support him in the great and important effort to, “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (verses 4 and 9)
We are to hear Paul’s words directed at us as well, for the duty to teach sound doctrine in accordance with the teaching of our common faith is in our hands now. We are to know the difference between true and false in all discourse of mind. We are to understand God’s truths well enough that we can be saved from conjecturing wrongly about them ourselves, and to be able to recognize when we are in the presence of one who is, with fine words, attempting to lead us away from God. We are, in Paul’s words, called to be pure. If we are, all of the things we say and do will also be pure and life giving.
To be pure, then, is to live in accord with the sound doctrine of our common Christian faith. A pure conscience is a conscience that has been shaped by this sound doctrine. A pure conscience aids us in living the life that Jesus commands of us, that is, to love as he loved. A pure mind is shaped by this love. It does all things for the greater glory of God and for the good of one’s neighbor. The defiled mind, unlike the pure mind shaped by sound doctrine and love, does all things for the self. Those with defiled minds and consciences are the source of great suffering and injustice in the world. As Christians, we understand that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore, as Christians, we understand ourselves to be called by God to develop pure minds and pure consciences in accord with his will. To be otherwise is to go against our nature and Nature’s God.
Lord, increase in us a deepening desire to know the truths about yourself which may prepare us for all your other truths for our lives. Give us the grace to develop pure minds and purity of conscience so that we will recognize false teachings and not be lead astray. We pray this in the most holy name of Jesus. Amen!
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