At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. (Titus 3:3)
Paul means that at one time we too were non-Christians, because in the next verse he tells us that we are now different because Jesus Christ has saved us. His description of what we were is at the same time a description of what non-Christians are now. And because the apostle writes by God’s Spirit, this is also God’s view of non-Christians. Thus God regards non-Christians as foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, living in malice, envy, and hatred.
Christians tend to show too much restraint in belittling the intelligence and character of non-Christians, and in many cases they even praise them for being astute, charitable, and so on. But Christians who do this not only defy what the Bible says about non-Christians, but they also defy what the Bible says they were like before Jesus Christ saved them. If we used to be what the non-Christians are now, then to soften our criticisms against them is to soften our criticisms against what we were before our conversion, and to praise the non-Christians is to praise what we were before Jesus Christ saved us. While many Christians think that they are being winsome fellows, they are nothing other than ungrateful bastards. They are concerned with the feelings and approval of men, and so they arrive at this approach with no consideration for God’s truth and honor.
We sin against Christ not only when we directly deny that we were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved, and so on, but also when we do not declare that non-Christians are foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved. If you refuse to call non-Christians stupid, wicked, depraved, and worthless, then this means you refuse to admit that you were these things before Christ saved you. It means that you think you were not as bad as he says you were, and that he did not do for you as much as he claims he did. When we fail to demean non-Christians, we demean the blood of Christ that saved us.
Humility is one of the most distorted virtues. The previous verse instructs us to “show true humility toward all men.” The word translated “humility” refers to meekness, gentleness, or “courtesy” (ESV). Christians often demonstrate what they regard as humility or courtesy by declaring that, in many essential aspects, they are still like the non-Christians. They insist that they are still foolish. However, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ has enlightened us, that he himself has become our wisdom so that we even have the mind of Christ. Do we call him impotent or stupid? They sing that they are still sick with sin. But the Bible says that by his stripes we have been healed. Healed! False humility says that Christ did no such thing. Then they say that they are poor beggars. But the Bible says that Jesus became poor so that we might be made rich. The Christians say that we still have nothing, just like the non-Christians. This is not humility or courtesy, but unbelief, hypocrisy, and supreme arrogance. It is a denial of the work of Christ, and it is blasphemy.
Therefore, God’s word condemns two rampant errors. The first is the denial of what we were, and of what Christ has saved us from. The second is the denial of what we are, and of what Christ has made us to be.