Tuesday, 19 June 2018
…who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:14
The words, “who gave Himself for us,” are speaking of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” of the previous verse. Being God, and as we are fallen, He must judge our sin. However, He gave Himself for us, and thus He is our Savior from that fallen state. Paul then further explains “who gave Himself for us” with the words, “that He might redeem us.”
We required redemption; a price had to be paid for our sins, and it is God Himself who took on that debt, coming in the Person of Jesus Christ, and dying on a cross as our payment. The blood He shed was the proof of His death. It is through this precious blood of the Lamb that our redemption is secured (1 Peter 1:19). Thus He redeemed “us from every lawless deed.”
God has a set law. Infractions of that law are lawlessness. Christ Jesus came to pay the penalty for those deeds. His perfect life was exchanged for our fallen, imperfect ones. But not only did He pay the debt for our lawless deeds, He died in fulfillment of the law. For those in Christ, we also die to law. Thus sin can no longer be imputed to us. Truly then, the redeemed of the Lord are redeemed from every lawless deed.
But Paul continues. He says that Christ also came to “purify for Himself His own special people.” The words Paul chooses here are taken directly from the Old Testament Greek (the Septuagint) when speaking of Israel. Vincent’s Word Studies notes that the term is found in Exodus 19:5; Exodus 23:22; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; and Deuteronomy 26:18. He says that, “The phrase was originally applied to the people of Israel, but is transferred there to believers in Messiah – Jews and Gentiles.”
We have been redeemed in order that we can become a special people to God, just as Israel was. In this act, and in the use of this term by Paul, many scholars then make the jump in logic that this means the Church has now replaced Israel, thus becoming “spiritual Israel.” This is a category mistake, and it is gigantic error. Just because we have become a special people to God, it doesn’t mean that we have replaced God’s chosen people, Israel. We have simply joined into the commonwealth of blessing of which they already participate in.
To understand this, we can think of two baskets of olives. God chooses one basket and draws it out for Himself, Israel. He takes the fruit out of it as needed for His oil. At some point, however, the olives in the basket which are good are so few in number that He then draws out another basket, Gentiles. That basket has an immense supply of good fruit, so much so that it becomes the predominant fruit used for oil. The oil runs into the bottles is mixed with an almost insignificant amount of Jewish oil. However, that is still coming from the basket of Israel. The two baskets remain separate and distinct.
Now, over the many centuries, the basket of Gentile fruit is starting to really get crummy. The number of good olives is rapidly diminishing, but the number of Israel fruit is on the increase. The categories have never changed, and one did not replace the other. It simply has become the predominant source of oil for a period of time. Although not a perfect analogy, one can see that each basket remained the same. One did not replace the other. While the Gentile basket is being predominately used, Paul then says that we are God’s own special people for a reason. It is to be “zealous for good works.”
Here Paul uses the word zélótés. It is the same as a Zealot, as is described in Luke 6:15, and Acts 1:13. It denotes a person who “boils over with passion,” and thus is an enthusiast (see HELPS Word Studies). God has redeemed us, and now it is anticipated that we will work out that salvation in good works which are in gratitude for the salvation we have been given.
In all, Paul’s words reflect a process which began with God in Christ Jesus, which leads to our redemption, and which is then to be acted upon by us. Paul explains this process to Timothy, calling it the mystery of godliness –
“God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
In this mystery, there is an anticipated response from us, which is to continue to share this good news, and to act upon it with lives of holiness, and which are dedicated to accomplishing good works in gratitude for our salvation.
Life application: Care needs to be taken when evaluating verses which are taken from the Old Testament and then applied to the church. It is true that the same term concerning God’s special people is applied to the church that was once applied to Israel. It is false that the Gentile-led church has replaced Israel. Categories matter. Don’t mix up the boxes!
Lord God, how good it is to know that You have kept Your promises to Israel which are found in the Old Testament, and which are repeated in the New. Their faithlessness has not negated Your faithfulness. Instead, You are shown even more faithful as they have carelessly wandered from You. Your word cannot be nullified through our actions. And what a great reassurance for each of us concerning our individual salvation. Hallelujah! We are saved with a guarantee. Thank You for this reassurance. Amen.