Focal Passage: Titus 3:1-15
You may know the name William Wilberforce from the excellent movie, “Amazing Grace.” Wilberforce’s impact on the British world came from the position he held in Parliament. Though mired in the minority, he relentlessly pressed the cause of slaves and the poorest of the poor. While he was noted for helping educate children and improving living conditions for textile workers and other low wage-earners, he was most identified for his stalwart efforts to end the slave trade. After his evangelical conversion in 1785, Wilberforce took to rising early in the morning to read his Bible and write in his journal. One of his greatest character traits was his steadfast devotion to the spiritual values he deemed right and good.
Britain’s eventual abolition of slavery came within days of Wilberforce’s death.
Preceding Wilberforce, a humble Quaker by the name of John Woolman was influencing folks throughout the eastern seaboard of America regarding the evils of slavery. Woolman and a friend spent weeks in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina observing slavery. As a preacher and layman, Woolman consistently spoke against it. Greater than his words were his actions. He boycotted using products made with slave labor. He refused to take free lodging in places where slaves were employed. Unlike some who dogmatically defend on principle, Woolman invited dialog and disagreement, that he might learn from them and share an opposing view. Woolman and Wilberforce were good men, motivated to good works because of their Christian faith.
Good works are important testimonies to the Christian’s faith. We should consciously seek to do as much good as we can (v. 8). We should remember, however, that works always follow faith, and faith comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul identified this inward working as the “washing of regeneration,” a “renewal by the Holy Spirit.” In the poetry of verses 4-7, the key word is “He” – God as Father, Son and Spirit.