Titus 3:3-7 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. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
You could say that this is the long-form version of Ephesians 2:8-10. One thing that shows that Paul’s letters are trustworthy is their internal consistency; he doesn’t contradict himself. That’s because he wasn’t saying one thing to one group and something different to another. That reflects both honesty and integrity. The Japanese term for integrity uses characters that are very clear: “unity of words and actions.” We sometimes forget that’s what “integrity” means. Paul didn’t try to manipulate people, he simply spoke the truth in love, just as he told others to do. (Ephesians 4:15) That characteristic can be found in a number of great teachers down through the centuries, and when someone deviates from that pattern, we need to pay close attention and be on our guard. For example, Mohammed started his ministry in Mecca, and the part of the Quran that was written then is very accepting of Jews and Christians, “people of the Book.” However, once he moved to Medina and started functioning more as a warlord than a spiritual teacher, his writing in the Quran becomes very aggressive toward Christians and especially Jews. When those who follow him want to seem peaceful, they quote the first half of the Quran, but the official position is that “the later writings are more authoritative,” and that can justify great violence. There is no integrity there! Some people accuse the Bible of the same thing, with the Old Testament being the “violent” part, but they are actually cherry-picking a very few passages that are easily explained by the holiness of God. We need to absorb as much as we can of the whole Word of God in the Bible, so that we may walk in growing faith and personal integrity, just as Paul did.
I have had several people say things about my similarity to Paul, but I don’t know if that’s a compliment. After all, his preaching put people to sleep! (Acts 20:9) However, I do seek to have the sort of integrity Paul displayed, speaking not what is convenient or would please my immediate hearers, but what God is speaking to and through me. I am very aware that my own imagination doesn’t produce God’s results! There are many, many differences between my ministry and that of Paul, but I do seek to please the same Lord he did, and like him, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) Everything else is secondary.
Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of serving You. Help me do it with integrity indeed, not in my own strength, because that isn’t up to the task, but with Yours, because just as Paul said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Thank You. Praise God!