Writing to Titus, Paul twice mentions the hope of eternal life. To begin, he writes that it is because of the hope of eternal life that he’s writing the letter:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before times eternal and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; (Titus 1:1-3)
And, near the end of the short letter, the phrase pops up again:
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 lovingkindness 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)
According to these two mentions of the hope of eternal life, what can we conclude?
We can conclude that the hope of eternal life is a sure hope, based on God’s promise before history began and carried out through Jesus Christ and the preaching of his gospel. We can conclude that the hope of eternal life is an undeserved hope, not given because of good works, but given according to God’s mercy to deeply unlovely and malicious people. And we can conclude that the hope of eternal life is an inherited hope, secured by God’s grace to sinners and passed down to them as a father would pass down his inheritance to a son with whom he is well-pleased.
But even these conclusions are aimed at something else. In the next verse, Titus 3:8, Paul writes:
The saying is trustworthy and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
So God’s goodness and lovingkindness appeared in history in Christ Jesus and he saves those who believe in him, and what is his aim in doing this? Why does he give those who have believed in him this sure, undeserved, inherited hope of eternal life? Here Paul stresses to Titus that God has done this so that those people would take care to be devoted to good works. Christ died to redeem this people from all lawlessness and to purify them, so that they might be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). This grace of God and hope of eternal life are the source of good works. Fools, slaves and haters are enlightened, freed and transformed that they might be gentle, obedient and show perfect courtesy to all people. In other words, Christ died so that, in his people, his goodness and lovingkindness would run wild.
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