Conduct Toward Those Outside the Church

3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. 3:2 They must not slander anyone, but be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.
Don’t confuse courtesy with compromise

Those who seek to ‘contend for the faith’ should be careful not to confuse courtesy with compromise. A ‘zeal for the truth’ can sometimes be insensitive or even hateful. This can drive people from the church and cause harmful and unnecessary tensions. Such an attitude found expression in an anonymous letter to the late Prof William Barclay, following the tragic and recent death of his daughter:-

“I know why God killed your daughter. It was to save her from corruption by your heresies.”

Barclay says, “If I had known the writer’s address, I would have written back in pity, not anger, saying, as John Wesley once said, ’Your God is my devil.’”

3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.
3:4  But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 3:5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior.

‘God’s mercy is free. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy, because we are polluted in our blood; nor force it. We may force God to punish us, but not to love us. ‘I will love them freely.’ Ho 14:4. Every link in the chain of salvation is wrought and interwoven with free grace. Election is free. ‘He has chosen us in him, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ Eph 1:4. Justification is free. ‘Being justified freely by his grace.’ Rom 3:24. Salvation is free. ‘According to his mercy he saved us.’ Tit 3:5.  If God should show mercy to such only as are worthy, he would show none at all.’ (Watson)

3:7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

Summary of the Letter

3:8 This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works. These things are good and beneficial for all people.
3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty.

Genealogies – Cf. 1 Tim 1:4.

The following passages deal with church discipline: Mt 18:15-18; 1 Cor 5; 2 Cor 2:5-11; Gal 6:1; 2 Thess 3:6-15; 1 Tim 5:19-20; Tit 3:9-11.

3:10 Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. 3:11 You know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself.

Cf. Tit 1:10.  The ‘divisive person’ is clearly one who engages in the sorts of ‘foolish controversies’ mentioned in the previous verse.

Guthrie notes that ‘the Greek word hairetikos translated a divisive person is to be distinguished in meaning from the English word ‘heretic’ derived from it. It was only in later times that it acquired a more technical meaning of ‘one who holds false doctrine’. Here it refers to one who promotes division by his views.’

Final Instructions and Greeting

3:12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 3:13 Make every effort to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; make sure they have what they need. 3:14 Here is another way that our people can learn to engage in good works to meet pressing needs and so not be unfruitful. 3:15 Everyone with me greets you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.