Life in the Present Age
“Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”- Titus 2:12
Among the other things Paul teaches in Romans 12:2, his admonition to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” informs us that right thinking is necessary to right living. Those who believe the wrong things will not be the kind of people whom Christ is proud to call His brothers (Heb. 2:11). This link between proper thinking and proper doing is not a new revelation during the era of the new covenant; rather, it was known even under the old covenant. The Ten Commandments, for example, begin with the assertion that the creator God is the Lord and Savior of Israel (Ex. 20:1–2). Keeping these commandments was and is impossible for any person who does not trust in the Creator alone.
Renewal of the mind is impossible without regeneration (John 3:3). John Calvin writes, “Meditation on the heavenly life begins with regeneration. Before we have been regenerated, our desires lean towards the world, and rest on the world.” With regeneration comes a new mind able to receive God’s truth and a new desire to do His will. This will, Paul says in Titus 2:12, includes the renunciation of ungodliness and worldly passions. The apostle is characterizing the whole of the Christian life, which is a turning from all that Scripture calls unrighteous unto the Lord and everything He defines as righteous, whether or not the world recognizes it as such. In short, Paul calls us to a life of repentance.
The grace of regeneration and the affirmation of sound doctrine not only move us to deny evil but to become good — people who are “self-controlled, upright, and godly…in the present age.” All three of these virtues were esteemed in the wider Greek culture of Paul’s day, but he invests them with Christian content, reminding us in context that such things do not please God apart from personal faith in the saving work of Christ (Titus 2:11–14). We must submit to Jesus as Lord and work towards self-control, uprightness, and godliness, but let us never forget that pleasing God in these areas is begun and completed by grace. Augustine comments that we dare not attribute any progress in righteousness to ourselves but to the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT vol. 9, p. 299; hereafter ACCNT 9).
The renunciation of ungodliness and worldly passions is something that must be done daily and can only be accomplished by the grace of God through our reliance on the Holy Spirit. What ungodly behavior have you been indulging in that needs to be renounced this day? Turn to Christ from this temptation and ask Him, by His Spirit, to help you overcome it. Find another believer who can encourage you to do this on a regular basis.
Passages for Further Study