Now THAT’s a Greeting!

Posted: January 26, 2009 in Titus

Titus 1:1-4, “Now THAT’s a Greeting!”

Who was Titus? We don’t know too much about his family background. He’s actually (strangely) not mentioned in Acts at all, though he seemed to be present at the Acts 15 council with Paul as proof of God’s genuine conversion of the Gentiles (Gal 2:1-3)… Titus was probably a direct convert of Paul (1:3), though we don’t know when/where his conversion took place. Eventually he became one of Paul’s trusted emissaries…he had been dispatched to Corinth to see their progress & help them get the financial offering for Jerusalem organized (mentioned 8 times in 2 Cor!). Towards the end of Paul’s life, Titus had left Rome for Dalmatia (present day Serbia/Bosnia – old Yugoslavia) most likely to continue spreading the gospel (2 Tim 4:10). Bottom line: Titus was someone that could be trusted with the gospel – he was a proven minister for the Lord.

At the time of this letter, Titus seems to have been in Crete (MAP – 1:5). He was left there by Paul just like Paul had earlier left Timothy to minister in Ephesus. Crete had a pretty bad reputation (1:12-13) & part of Titus’ task was to not only help the church organize in a Biblical manner, but behave in such a way as to not look like the stereotypical Cretan. When the world can look at the Church & not see a difference from itself, it’s a problem. And that’s not just something specific to ancient Crete, but the present day church in America as well!

As for today, we’re not going to get much further than the greeting – but what a greeting! With the (notable) exception of Romans, most of Paul’s epistles start with a quick introduction & description of Paul himself – a bit of theology about Christ – a bit of theology about the Church – and the famous “grace & peace”, and then heads directly into the meat of the letter. The letter to Titus has the same general pattern, but Paul goes into much more depth than usual & there’s much to see. Paul touches on everything from his roles in the body of Christ – to the believer’s walk with Christ – to God’s eternal plan – and the glorious proclamation of the gospel. Not bad for 4 verses. 🙂

Titus 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ,

A. Paul was a slave: “bondservant” (Gk doulos) is commonly translated “slave” or “servant” throughout the NT. In the Greek culture, it was the lowest possible servant in a household – the person born into servitude. In the Hebrew culture, it was quite a bit different…the Hebrew bondservant was a willing slave. Every 7 years, slaves were to be set free… If the slave loved his master or his family, he had the choice of staying & serving him forever (Exo 21:5-6). Considering Paul’s background, the Hebrew thought is more likely the intent – but both mesh together really well in the gospel. When Paul was born again, he died to the slavery of sin, but was born as a slave to righteousness – yet this wasn’t a slavery of burden, but of joy! Jesus’ yoke is easy & His burden is light…
__a. Is servanthood a bad thing? Not when the Master is Almighty God. The psalmist declares he’d rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than dwell in the tents of wickedness (Ps 84:10). To serve the Lord is to experience true freedom, because we’ve been set free from sin & death, and are now free to worship God as He created us to do.

B. Paul was sent: At its most basic level, the word “apostle” simply means “sent one/messenger.” Paul had been sent out by the Lord Jesus to take the gospel to the Gentiles. More specifically, Paul had been an eyewitness of the Risen Son of God & entrusted with the responsibility of helping to lead the church in evangelism & doctrine.
__a. Note the paradox here: Paul is both a humble slave & a respected ambassador. On the one hand, he is simply a servant in the household of his God; and on the other, he has been personally sent out by the King of Kings to help plant churches around the world.
__b. We may not share in that specific gifting, but we all share in that calling – because we’ve all been given the Great Commission…we’ve been called by the Lord Jesus to be witnesses of Him in whatever situation He’s placed us.

C. Question: Did Paul need to remind Titus of all this? Of course not – which gives us a very good indication that Paul expected this epistle to be read to the entire church at Crete. It establishes his apostolic authority up front, and shows that although Paul is passing on personal instruction to Titus, the entire letter is written with the church in mind. (Meaning you & me, too!)

…according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness,

A. How is Paul a bondservant & apostle? “according to the faith” – this is due to the gospel. Paul never stopped being amazed at the fact that God would take a murderous hateful Pharisee, save him, & turn him into a servant of God. And neither should we. 🙂 We’re who we are today as Christians because of the work of Jesus, as proclaimed through the gospel. We’re new creations according to the faith.

B. Who’s faith is it? “God’s elect,” i.e. the Church. As a born-again believer, you have been elected by God to salvation. Salvation never starts in the heart of man; it starts in the heart of God – He is always the initiator and we love Him because He 1st loved us (1 John 4:19). Before time began, in the eternal mind and counsel of God, He looked forward & chose us for His own. Romans 8:29-30 (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. [] Do you see the wonderful news here? God knew you by name, chose you to Himself, and the entirety of your salvation is in His hand. There’s no more wonderful place to be!
__a. ‘Doesn’t the Bible also teach that we have to choose God?’ Yes…without a doubt. God gave His only begotten Son for the entire world (John 3:16) – He is not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9) – He commands that all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) – and whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13). Those who choose to remain in sin and not call upon Jesus for salvation will not be able to blame God in eternity, nor charge Him with any wrongdoing. God has given us the Lord Jesus Christ & His gospel; we must respond.
__b. Can the two thoughts be reconciled? Sure – by God. So often when our minds fail to reconcile God’s sovereign choice of us & our responsibility to choose God, we think that one of the ideas must be false. But the fault isn’t in the truth of the Scripture, it’s in our limited human brain. From our perspective, we choose God; from God’s perspective He chooses us.
__c. ‘So how do I know if I’ve been chosen?’ There’s only one way to find out: choose Jesus. 🙂 Turn from your sin and trust the Lord Jesus for your salvation – entrust your life to Him as the Risen Son of God.

C. The interesting thing about mentioning the elect of God here is that Paul immediately balances it out with man’s response. We know we are God’s elect when we come to “the acknowledgement of the truth” – when we come to a precise, experiential knowledge of the truth of the Gospel. ‘Precise’ in that we truly understand we are sinners in need of salvation & that God provided that salvation through Jesus Christ’s death & resurrection. ‘Experiential’ in that we don’t leave that information at the front of our brain, but we’re so convinced of its truth that we act on that knowledge and receive Christ as our Lord.

D. What goes with the knowledge of the truth? “Godliness” in living. Godliness always accompanies the truth of God. Christians ought to live and behave as if they’ve been bought by Christ & given new life. This is going to be what Paul comes back to over & over again in Titus.
__a. That doesn’t mean that Christians are perfect & reach a state of sinlessness. It does mean that we’re new creations… That we war against the flesh… That we’re to press on in Christ’s forgiveness…
__b. Just like we tend to polarize God’s election & man’s response, we also tend to polarize faith & works… But the two go together! We’re saved by grace through faith & not of works (Eph 2:8-9), but our faith is never without works or else its dead (Jas 2:17). Our godly living is the evidence of our faith.

2 in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,

A. What’s the end of faith in Christ & the acknowledgement of the truth? The “hope of eternal life…” The good news is good because it promises forgiveness from sin and eternity with Jesus. We all may have an appointment with death once – but for the Christian, never more. We will have forever life in the presence of our God.

B. How assured are we of that hope? We have the word of God Himself on the matter. And God cannot lie. Note, it’s not that God WILL not lie; God CAN not lie. Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? [] When we say God is “omnipotent” we tend to think that it means God can do anything. Granted, all things are possible with God – but there are some things God can not do: God cannot be tempted by evil (Jas 1:13) – God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13)…and God cannot lie. When God speaks, things come into existence (creation!), thus everything God says is true as He is true.
__a. This tells us something pretty crucial about lying. We tend to think that of all various ways we could sin, that lying isn’t that big of a deal (even though it breaks the 9th Commandment). How bad is lying? It’s something that God cannot do; it’s antithetical to His very nature. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6); when we lie, we engage in something that is the complete opposite of Jesus Christ! No wonder all liars have their part in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8)…
__b. Again, bring it back to our salvation. If you’ve repented & placed your faith & trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation as the Son of God who died for your sins & rose again to new life – if you’ve been born again of the Holy Spirit – you can be sure that you’re saved. Romans 10:8-9 (8) But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): (9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [] That is a statement of fact, and God has given us His word. God does not lie about the promise and gift of salvation. Let God be true & every man a liar! (Rom 3:4)

C. When did God promise the gospel? “before time began…” Jesus may have gone to the cross when He was 33 years old, but the Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). God was never surprised by sin & Adam’s fall – when He called out to Adam in the Garden, it wasn’t because He didn’t know what had happened; it was that He wanted Adam to repent. But God had provided for Adam’s sin long before Adam ever existed. (Which means there’s nothing we do that’s a surprise to Him either! Don’t keep sin unconfessed…confess it to Jesus & receive His forgiveness & cleansing!…1 John 1:9)

3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;

A. Jesus may have been promised before time began, but He came incarnate to earth in due time (born of a woman – Gal 4:4)… He came at just the right time & in just the right way. Well over 300 prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus’ 1st coming, dating back to the Garden of Eden (a logical impossibility & a true miracle in itself!)…including the timeframe between the commandment to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity until the coming of the Messiah (Dan 9:25). According to some calculations, this works out to the very day Jesus presented Himself in the temple on Palm Sunday prior to His crucifixion. “In due time” indeed! The Jews were looking for their Messiah (re: John the Baptist) – the Pax Romana ensured that missionaries could travel in safety in the known world – and the gospel could travel speedily to the ends of the earth. It was at this point that the eternal Son of God became incarnate, & provided the good news of salvation.

B. “His word”: In Greek, “logos”, but this seems to be a reference to specifically to the gospel (which always points to Christ anyway). Whereas the promise & hope of eternal life was referenced throughout the Scriptures (beginning in Gen 3!), after the death, resurrection, & ascension of Christ Jesus the gospel is now completely manifested & proclaimed.

C. Note that the gospel wasn’t invented by Paul or even discovered by Paul; it was committed/entrusted to Paul. IOW, the focus isn’t so much on the messenger as it is the message. Paul’s not the big deal; the word of God – the faith – THAT’s a big deal! God commanded that Paul would go forth and proclaim the word that He had committed to him to the world – and like an imperial secretary, Paul was faithful to that commission.
__a. This is the same message that’s been entrusted to the church – and one reason why the church should be adamant to be faithful to the truth. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ – not invented by us, but committed to our care. We’ve been charged by the Lord Jesus not to preach health & wealth, but salvation…we don’t have the right to change it at our will.

D. God is our Savior! Keep in mind this is one of the primary descriptions of God. Throughout the Bible, God is described as “God our Father” – the “God of our fathers” (esp. in OT) – as “God of our salvation” – as “God our refuge” – and “God our Savior.” Our prayers tend to be focused on God as our provider, or our healer, or our justice… Although He definitely is all of that; His primary method of describing His role is as our God, our Father, and our Savior (and He wouldn’t be our Father if He wasn’t our Savior to begin with!). There’s been an off/on trend since the 1800’s to portray the primary message of Christianity as social justice – but that’s not the primary message of God’s own description! He’s given us Christ Jesus not to make our earthly life better; but to make eternal life possible… We need to be saved & God is our Savior!

4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith:
A. “true son”: Titus was one of Paul’s personal converts…

B. The faith we have is a faith that’s shared…it’s common to all of us. “common” = koine (Koine Greek)…something that’s held in common by all the people; shared ownership (as in marriage). Our faith is shared among all the body of Christ. Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, AG, CC – anyone who’s a born-again believer in Christ Jesus shares a common faith, even if we have doctrinal differences.
__a. We have a tendency to major on the minors when it comes to theology…and it ought not to be so. There’s a time & place for vigorous debate – but if we agree on the essentials of the faith (that Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son, died on the cross, rose three days later, is coming again), then we ought to be able to lock arms with one another instead of dividing – and praise God for our common faith.

… Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.

A. Similar to Paul’s common greeting… Not all translations have “mercy” – this is one area in which the Greek manuscripts vary. Some (not all) of the older extant manuscripts omit the word – but the vast majority of manuscripts include it (which is one reason I use the NKJV). There’s good reason to believe it’s an accurate rendering since both of Paul’s other pastoral letters to Timothy also include “mercy.”

B. Where do grace (the unmerited favor of which we don’t deserve), mercy (the awesome forgiveness of sin), and peace (reconciliation with the God of the Universe) originate?
__a. God the Father: Because He has showered down His mercy and grace upon us through Jesus Christ, we can call God our Abba Father. Before our salvation, we were children of wrath & of the devil as we rebelled against our Creator. But in Christ, we’ve been given the spirit of adoption & made joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:15-17).
__b. The Lord Jesus Christ our Savior: Not only is God our Savior (1:3), but the Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior too (emphasizes the Trinity…). It’d be tough to get too much more descriptive of Jesus than this. He is the “Lord” – the King, invested with the same authority as God because He is God. He is the “Christ” – the anointed & chosen One of God to be King over Israel, and to fulfill every prophecy. He is the “Savior” – Jesus has the only name given among men by which we must be saved. Praise God for Jesus!

What does all this greeting tell us as believers?
A. We have an identity & a calling… As Christians, we’re all slaves/servants of Jesus… We also have a calling from Him for service…

B. God loved us from before time’s beginning. He promised us the gospel, chose us for salvation, and manifested the good news when we heard the gospel & received Christ as our Lord & Savior…

C. Our salvation is completely wrapped up in God. It’s assured through His unbreakable promise – founded in His eternal Fatherhood over us – and demonstrated in His awesome Son…

Why start off the letter with this kind of depth? I suggest that it’s to provide the foundation for the coming call to righteous living. The reason our faith “accords with godliness” is because we’ve been saved. We’ve encountered God the Father – we’ve been brought to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ, the very Son of God who died for our sins & rose from the grave. There ought to be no way we could walk through that experience and NOT have our lives drastically change! When Isaiah had the vision of God on the throne, all he could think of was his own dreadful sin until it was purged, and then all he wanted to do was to serve his God & Savior… Likewise with us… …

Maybe you’re at the point where you’ve never had that life-altering realization of Jesus Christ. Every single one of us is going to come face-to-face with Jesus one day, and we’ll have to give an account for every deed, every word, and every thought we’ve ever had. All of our lies, our self-centeredness, our hate, our lusts, and more are going to be brought before the God of the Universe – and when that happens, who can stand? We’re utterly deserving of everlasting punishment. But this is the good news: before time began, God made a promise of salvation precisely because He desires to show mercy and grace to us. That’s why Jesus went to the cross – died the death of a criminal – and rose again 3 days later…


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