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Titus (long version)

A Compact Introduction

Titus 1:1-4

Paul wrote this short letter to his friend and son in the faith, Titus, some time between AD 65-68. He was evidently at liberty during this period, as there is no mention of his imprisonment. Scholars believe it was written after 1 Timothy, but before 2 Timothy. It deals with much the same subjects.

Its purposes seem to be these:

  • First, to teach Christian conduct, both for leaders and ordinary Christians.
  • Next, to give direction for the operation of the local church.
  • Finally, to deal with certain problems between Jewish and Gentile Christians of the day.

It begins with a very compact salutation, an introduction which can be taken apart and examined with what might be hoped to be great profit.

(Titus 1:1-4 NIV) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- {2} a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, {3} and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior, {4} To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Paul

We know many details of Paul’s life, but in this short introduction we learn much about Paul, the real human being.

Who
  • Paul describes himself as a “servant of God.” The word used actually would be more correctly translated “slave.” It means one who has been sold into slavery, for a price. That price was paid at the Cross.
  • It is a common self-description of Paul, for he was constantly aware that he was not his own. It is an example to us; how many of us are constantly complaining about “my time,” “my money,” or “my work?” Paul saw all these things from the point of view of the bondslave, and a different viewpoint it is. He could say, “I am not my own.”
  • The phrasing varies as to God or Christ; it is Paul’s casual demonstration of the equality of God the Father and God the Son.

He then proclaims himself an Apostle of Christ.

  • The word carries with it the idea of being an ambassador –one endowed with a certain authority. It is the authority of one who is to establish rules for church governance and, as well, spread the truth. It was the highest office of the ancient church. Some balk at the word “office” – but it was both an office (in the sense of authority) and a gift (a spiritual gift, carrying with it miraculous power.)
  • An apostle had to meet certain qualifications. Foremost, he must be an eyewitness of the Resurrection (which might explain why we have none today). He also had to receive the office as a gift from God – there was no long line in which to volunteer.
  • The functions of these apostles included proclaiming the revelation of God (in a sense, they were entitled to write Scripture, as in write it down); they were to evangelize the world; and they were to establish church organization. This is the major function we see in this letter.
Why

God grants no authority without purpose, especially so high an authority as that of an Apostle. Paul therefore explains why God would do such a thing.

  • “For the faith of God’s elect.” In this context, it is to establish the correct doctrine for those who follow God. By the authority of the Apostle, we may rely upon the Scripture written, for that authority is given by God.
    The “elect,” as mentioned here, often causes debate about predestination. One thing is certain: God certainly predestined grace, as we shall soon see. We are the “elect” of God; we did not elect ourselves to grace, for we have no such power. We have only the power of acceptance. But when we make that acceptance, we recognize the authorities God has put in place. Like Apostles.
  • “For the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” This phrase deserves some minor expansions. First, that word “knowledge”: in the original Greek, it means “full knowledge” – not just a nodding acquaintance with the truth.

“Truth,” in this context, is a very powerful term. Our first thought is that it means the Scripture. That’s correct. But it also means the Holy Spirit, for whom we are to be the temple. And most importantly, we are to know the Truth in the person of Christ.

This truth is not just an academic concept, however. It has a purpose: to lead us to godliness. Remember that Scripture is inspired, not so that we can predict the stock market or the next war in the Middle East, but for instruction in righteousness. That is the purpose of all Christian instruction.

 

Faith and Knowledge

The balance of the Christian life – faith and knowledge – is shown here. Knowledge is what we have for certain; faith is the reliance on the logical conclusions of that knowledge. These rest on solid pillars.

Hope of eternal life

The word used here for hope means “utmost confidence.” It does not mean “wishful thinking.” And this particular bit of hope is in eternal life. The word for life used here is biological life – so this is specifically referring to the resurrection of the dead. What is the knowledge on which this hope is based? Nothing less than the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that the enemies of Christ attack the faith upon the point of the Resurrection.

Which God, who does not lie

The second pillar of our hope is in the character of God himself. Paul brings this up because the people of Crete are noted in this time as the greatest liars of the ancient world – Baron Munchausen lived there, so to speak. They were the ones who would tell you the greatest whoppers.

There’s a difficulty in the faith here. If you’re a man who regularly tells tall tales, it’s difficult to get it through your head that this is not just another one. After all, if you lie profusely, doesn’t everyone else? It breeds a cynicism which helps prevent faith.

But the core of God is truth. He is his attributes; He is Truth – itself. It is by the character of God, who can’t lie, that we know that the resurrection of the dead is coming.

Promised before the beginning of time

There is a staggering statement in this. The phrase would be translated, literally, “before times of ages.” What Paul is telling us here is that God planned for the redemption of mankind before the creation. It means that before space and time began, at the creation, God foresaw the need for the Cross. What a great measure of his love: to know that we would need the salvation of the Cross and still proceed with the creation.

How

God, it seems, has some funny ideas about how things should be done. He is rather immune to our advice about how and when things should happen – he has his own methods.

His appointed season

It means that God picks the time. That this is so can be determined by reading Daniel, in which the time of Christ is clearly identified. He picked this time because it was a time of peace throughout the Roman Empire – ideal conditions for the spread of the Gospel (yet another reason to pray for peace.)

The word to light through preaching

We must remember that what is being revealed – for it is a revelation, not a discovery – is the very word of God. As John told us, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. So we are dealing here with the dual concept of the Word: first, the Christ, and second, the Scriptures that reveal Christ.

Paul tells us they are “brought to light.” The phrase means to be made manifest, or to be “made clear.” It is not just that they are revealed, written down and passed out – they must be made clear. There must be explanation; the correct conclusions of doctrine must be reached. That is why we read the writers of years gone by, to see if we have missed something in our view which was lit up in their time. It is a lesson for those who rely on their own skill and knowledge. The word comes to light through preaching – not through your own opinions.

At the command of God our Savior

Anyone who preaches the word must remember that it is done at the command of God.

  • It is not an option. If you are called to preach, preach at his command, as his word states. If you teach, teach the faith handed on by the Apostles.
  • There is accountability for this. The teacher is not the owner of the doctrine; he is the steward. His Lord will hold him responsible for its teaching.
  • Command must have authority. All authority in heaven and on earth belong to Jesus Christ, so there should be no question of that. But if that were not sufficient, there is also the matter of the word “Savior.” It is not just his authority, it is what he has done for me that matters. As Paul put it, “Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel.” Both by authority and by obligation for what he has done, this teacher passes on the Gospel brought to light by the preaching of the Apostles.

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