In Tit. 3:1-2, Paul gives a reminder for godly living. In vv. 3-8, he gives the reason for godly conduct. The reason includes a majestic summary of the meaning of our salvation from sin. Note the conjunction, “For,” in v. 3, which indicate the reason. The reason is that we were slaves to sin once but now saved and transformed in Christ to live the godly life. We were foolish, disobedient slaves to our sinful passions. But when the goodness of God our Savior appeared in Christ, He saved us. He transformed us by the power of the Spirit to live the new life.
“For we ourselves were once foolish” (Tit. 3:3). The adverb “once” (pote) means “of the past once, formerly.” (Gingrich) “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy” (Rom. 11:30). Isn’t that what we were before Christ saved you from your sin? Most of us here were “once” slaves to sin.
Paul then writes about seven sinful attitudes that we used to live by. These are the paradigms of the heart; the thoughts and intents of our sinful nature. The first four are inward sinful attitudes; and the last four, outward. The inward sinful attitudes concern our own selves; and the outward, other people.
First, we were once “foolish” (anoetos), which means, “without understanding, foolish (GA 3.3), opposite σοφός (wise).” (Friberg) It refers to being “insensible . . . to spiritual values.” (Marshall) It does not mean that we were once unwise, thoughtless, or crazy. Rather, to be foolish is to lack spiritual understanding about God.
Second, we were also once “disobedient” to God. “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient (Tit. 1:16).
Recently, we baptized three people in Bacolod City. One was brother Samson, a senior who’s still single. He’s been attending Bible studies and worshiping in our church there. He told me that he lived a long, sinful life. He used to do all the bad things he can think of—all the vices—smoking, drinking, gambling, and womanizing, etc. Whenever he talks, there’s always a cuss word every two sentences.
Pastor Dan told me that Samson is ready to be baptized. They’ve seen major changes in his life. Samson wanted to share his testimony of new life in Christ. He told me how the Lord has changed him, point to another guy next to him. He said, “I was a sinner once. I brought that man, another sinner like me.” I’m glad that Jesus is in the business of saving sinners like us.
Like Samson, we were once disobedient to God.
Third, we were being “led astray” (planao), which means “be misled or deluded, wander about.” (Gingrich) Being led astray is being misled from the right path to the wrong path and thus getting lost. The Cretan believers were led astray before by their pagan religions and by pagan values. Many of us were led astray once also by false religions, false beliefs, and false values.