My Child in the Faith

1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began, and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. – Titus 1:1-4 ESV

This letter from Paul to Titus is one of several examples in Scripture of Paul’s personal correspondence. Unlike his pastoral epistles, written to local congregations, this letter was addressed to a single individual and was intended for his encouragement and instruction. Titus, like Timothy, was one of Paul young protégés or disciples. It is most likely that Paul had played a role in leading Titus to faith in Christ and he had chosen this young man to join him in his ministry of spreading the gospel and planting churches among the Gentiles. Titus, who was Greek, had been a part of Paul’s ministry for quite some time and had accompanied the apostle on one of his trips to Jerusalem.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. – Galatians 2:1-3 ESV

Titus had been a faithful companion to Paul on many of the apostle’s missionary journeys and had even delivered one of Paul’s letters of rebuke to the church in Corinth. Paul had great confidence in this young man. So, it is not surprising to find that, after visiting the island of Crete, Paul had left Titus behind with specific instructions and responsibilities.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. – Titus 1:5 ESV

We are not certain of Paul’s location when he penned this letter, but a widely held view is that he was in the city of Ephesus. He wrote this letter with the purpose of providing Titus with more details instructions regarding his responsibilities. The content of this letter, while personal in nature, is focused on the spiritual well-being of the fledgling congretations on the island. Paul knew Titus had his hands full and that his efforts to “put what remained in order” was not going to be easy. The believers in the churches on Crete were in the minority and lacking in godly leadership. In Paul’s absence, Titus had become the primary source of instruction and oversight. So, Paul was attempting to share with his young co-worker all his years of experience in planting and building churches.

When you consider that this was a personal letter, written to someone whom Paul knew extremely well, the situation appears somewhat formal and out of place. In fact, other than in his epistle to the Romans, this introduction is the longest found in any of all Paul’s letters. But its length and formality probably reflect Paul’s seriousness and his desire that Titus see his role with a certain sense of gravity. What Paul is sharing with Titus was not to be taken as mere human counsel, but the words of a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul served on behalf of God and spoke as a messenger of Jesus Himself. The Greek word, apostolos, referred to a messenger or one sent forth with orders. Paul wanted Titus to receive his instructions as if they had come directly from the lips of Christ. And, as if to convey his humble attitude, Paul stressed his role as a servant, a doulos or bondslave of God.

It is likely that Paul wanted Titus to share this same attitude of selfless submission to the will of God and sober awareness of his role as a spokesman for Jesus Christ. In a sense, Titus was Paul’s personal representative on the island of Crete, acting in his place and wielding his authority among the local congregations.

Paul begins his letter with a reminder to Titus that their ministry was “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth” (Titus 1:1 ESV). And that their knowledge of the truth was intended not only for their salvation but their sanctification as well – their growth in godliness. And the focus of it all was the “hope of eternal life” which God had promised long ago through the prophets and had made possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a sense, Paul is reminding Titus that their job was to preach the gospel so that the lost might come to salvation. But it was also to ensure the sanctification of the saved – their growth in Christlikeness. And, finally, to make sure that Christians remain focused on the ultimate purpose behind their calling: Their future glorification and the promise of eternal life.

It is so easy to focus on any one of the three aspects of God’s plan of redemption while ignoring the other two. Some put all their energy and efforts into sharing the gospel while ignoring the need to grow those who come to faith in Christ. They lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ but never take the time and energy to see that these new believers grow up in their salvation. And these infants in Christ remain so, stuck on milk and unable to handle the meat of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:2).

There are others who place all their focus on discipleship, insisting that believers grow spiritually. If not careful, these individuals can make it all about the here-and-now, and fail to remember that this life is not all there is. Without a proper emphasis on the hope of eternal life, discipleship can become an endless quest for righteousness in this life, while failing to recognize that our glorification is unachievable this side of heaven.

And yet, there are those who can spend all their time thinking about eternity and lose sight of present reality. They end up being so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good. We must maintain a constant balance between our earthly existence and our heavenly future. Paul wrestled with maintaining this balance. He knew he had a responsibility to lead people to Christ and to make sure they grew in their knowledge of and relationship with Christ. But he also longed to be glorified and experience the joy of eternal life. He wrote of this internal struggle to the believers in Philippi.

I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. – Philippians 1:20-24 NLT

With his lengthy introduction over, Paul addresses Titus with love and affection.

To Titus, my true child in a common faith – Titus 1:4 ESV

Titus was much more than a co-worker or ministry companion to Paul. He was like a son to Paul. And this letter will reflect Paul’s loving heart for his young friend and the believers to whom Titus had been given the responsibility to lead. This entire letter was written out of love. Paul had a shepherd’s heart and a deep desire to care for the flock over which God had given him responsibility. And Paul knew from experience that Titus had his work cut out for him. His task was not going to be an easy one. The building up of the body of Christ was a full-time job that came with few perks and even fewer expressions of gratitude.

Which is why Paul ended his greeting with the words: “May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace” (Titus 1:4 NLT). Paul longed for Titus to experience the merciful kindness of God in his life. He knew that Titus was facing difficult days ahead and he would need God’s grace to survive and thrive. And Paul also desired that Titus know the peace that comes from serving God faithfully and selflessly. Even amid opposition and the likely obstinance of those under his care, Titus could experience the peace that comes from doing the will of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.s

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Loving Others. Not Self.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? – 1 Corinthians 9:1-7 ESV

While Paul was on the issue of rights and the Christian’s need to die to them, he took the opportunity to address his rights as an apostle. There were evidently those in Corinth who were questioning if he really was an apostle at all. Others may have been by confused by some of Paul’s actions, because at times he did not appear to behave as an apostle. Some of this had to do with how Paul had handled himself when he had ministered among the the Corinthians. Rather than allow the Corinthians to meet all his financial needs and provide him with food and shelter, Paul and Barnabas had chosen to work (Acts 18:3). Evidently, other apostles, like Peter, had a reputation for bringing their wives with them while doing ministry and the churches were expected to cover their expenses as well. Paul didn’t fall into this category because he had no wife. But Paul’s point is that he had every right to expect the Corinthians to care for him while he was ministering among them. And if he had been married, he would have had the right to bring his wife with him and expect the church to pay her way. But Paul didn’t do those things. And yet that did not make him any less an apostle of Jesus Christ. He met the criteria. First of all, he had seen the risen Lord and had been commissioned by Him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He was every bit an apostle as much as Peter, James or John. And the Corinthians themselves were living proof of his apostleship, because their lives had been changed because of his ministry.

Paul gives three illustrations from daily life to prove his right to expect compensation and care from the Corinthians. First of all, he uses the example of a soldier. No member of the military is expected to pay his own way. He serves on behalf of the people, giving his time and, if necessary, his life in defense of his nation. In return, the citizens of that nation pay his salary and supply his needs for food, clothing and shelter. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement. The second illustration Paul uses is that of a farmer and his vineyard. No farmer in his right mind would plant a vineyard and not expect to benefit from the fruit that it yields. He is the one who tilled the soil, planted the vines and harvested the grapes. As a result, he had every right to enjoy the fruits of his labors. The final illustration Paul gives is the shepherd. To deny a shepherd the benefit of the milk his flocks provide would be ludicrous and unfair. He is the one who has provided for and protected the sheep, keeping them well-fed and safe, so he should be the one who enjoys some of the benefits of his hard work.

As we will see a little later on in this same chapter, the main concern Paul had was not regarding his rights but about the integrity of the gospel. His primary goal was that the gospel not be hindered in any way. That is why he and Barnabas had chosen to work rather than demanding their rights and expecting the Corinthians to pay their way. These two men did not want the Corinthians to resent their presence or reject the gospel because of a financial burden. So they willingly gave up their rights. Remember, this goes back to chapter eight and Paul’s warnings about those in the church who were allowing their “knowledge” of right and wrong to cause their brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. They were allowing their rights to cause them to do wrong. And Paul was simply using himself as an illustration of how dying to one’s rights is the right thing to do some times.

At the core of the gospel is the message of love – God’s love for mankind. He sent His Son to die in the place of sinful men and women, out of love. Jesus had told His disciples that they were to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ESV). In the very next verse, Jesus gave what He believed to be was the greatest expression of love for another human being. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV). And in keeping with His teaching, Jesus would do just that, giving His life as the consummate expression of His love for mankind. The apostle John wrote, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:12 ESV). And that was Paul’s primary point in his letter to the Corinthians. Just as Paul had been willing to give up his rights and lay down his life for them, he was expecting them to do the same. The gospel is not about rights, but about righteousness. It is about dying to self and living for God, which means loving those whom He has made in His image. God did not save us to make us isolated islands of self-righteousness where our rights rule the day. He saved us so that we might die to self and live for Him. And one of the best ways we can express our love for God is by loving those around us, sharing the gospel message of reconciliation in both words and actions. Jesus Himself made it perfectly clear and simple: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 15:35 ESV).

Delivered and Determined.

Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – Galatians 1:1-5 ESV

Paul wrote this letter to believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. The churches there were likely founded by Paul on his first missionary journey, so he had a vested interest in the spiritual well-being of their congregations. It seems that they were under the influence of the Judaizers, a group of Jews who claimed to be Christ-followers but who demanded that all Gentile converts follow the Mosaic law and honor all the Jewish rituals and regulations. These individuals seem to have popped up wherever Paul planted churches and their presence caused much confusion and consternation to the new converts that Paul left behind. And because of Paul’s constant travels, he was left no other recourse than to address this issue through the use of letters.

Because of the vital importance of the content of his letter, Paul opens up with a brief defense of his apostleship. There seemed to be no shortage of individuals who were willing to question or even deny the validity of his claim to being an apostle. After all, every other apostle had been a disciple of Jesus. They had been personally chosen by Him and spent three years of their lives following and learning from Him. But Paul was a late-comer. He claimed to have been appointed to his position as an apostle by the resurrected Lord. Luke records the testimony of Paul as he shared it before King Agrippa:

I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” And I said, “Who are you, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” – Acts 26:12-18 ESV

Paul’s fantastic “Damascus road experience” was constantly coming under question by those who opposed him. They denied he had the right to speak on behalf of Christ as one of His apostles. I am sure they raised questions such as, “Who can verify your claim?” or “How are we to know that any of this ever took place?” They most likely denied Paul’s credentials and raised concerns about his former lifestyle as a pawn of the high priest and his personal persecutor of Christians. But Paul vehemently defended his apostleship in virtually every one of his letters. And this one is no exception. He opens up by describing himself as “Paul, an apostle.” The title “apostle” meant “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” (“G652 – apostolos (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). It was a common Greek word and was not unique to Christianity. Which is why Paul quickly clarified that he was an apostle “not from men nor through men” (Galatians 1:1 ESV). In other words, he had not been sent by men or had not received his message from men. What he shared he had received directly from the lips of Jesus Himself. Just a few verses later in this letter, Paul will explain, “I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12 ESV).

Luke records that immediately after Paul’s conversion, Jesus had appeared to a disciple names Ananias and told him to go to the house where Paul was and lay hands on him so that he might regain his sight. Jesus told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 ESV).

There was no doubt in Paul’s mind that he was a messenger sent from Jesus. Which is why he boldly claimed that he was an apostle “through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1 ESV). The Greek preposition Paul used is dia and it can mean “by reason of” or “on account of” (“G1223 – dia (KJV) :: Strong’s Greek Lexicon.” Blue Letter Bible. http://www.blueletterbible.org). Paul was not a self-proclaimed apostle, but a God-ordained one, by virtue of the resurrected Christ. His salvation had been made possible by God and his message came directly from God. He will spend the rest of this letter defending not only his apostleship, but the gospel itself, because that was what was really under attack.

Paul’s desire is that the recipients of his letter enjoy the grace and peace of God. He wants them to comprehend the magnitude of the gift they had received. Jesus Christ had given himself for their sins so that they might be delivered from the present evil age. The world in which these new believers lived was hostile. It was anti-Christian and intolerant of their beliefs. Many of them had already suffered persecution for their beliefs. They had been rejected by family members and ostracized from society. They were under constant pressure to give up their faith or simply compromise it. We face the same threat today. But we must remember that we have been delivered from this age. Yes, we are still here, but our future is secure. We have been promised by God an eternal existence in His presence, free from the effects of sin – no pain, no sorrow, no death. Yet as we wait for that day, we are to live as children of God. The apostle John reminds us, “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3 NLT).

Paul’s call to his readers will be for them to remain steadfast. He wanted them to remain committed to the truth of the gospel and faithful to the call of Christ on their lives. It would not be easy, but it would be well worth the effort in the long run. Regardless of what they might be experiencing, they were smack dab in the middle of God’s will for their lives.

 

Consider Jesus.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. – Hebrews 3:1-6 ESV

The Jews had a high regard for angels as God’s heavenly messengers, sent from God. But they were nothing when compared to Jesus, the Son of God, the greatest if divine messengers with the greatest of messages. When it came to the topic of salvation, the Jews knew of no greater savior than Moses. He had single-handedly rescued their forefathers from captivity in Egypt. As a result, they held Moses in high esteem. So the author of Hebrews asks his audience to “consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1 ESV). The Greek word for “consider” means “to fix one’s eyes or mind upon” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). It would be like saying, “take a long, hard look at.” Jesus was the apostle or messenger. He was sent by God with the good news regarding salvation by faith in Him alone. But He was also our high priest, a title the author will elaborate on in greater detail later in his letter. As high priest, He offered a better sacrifice, a one-time, never-to-be-repeated sacrifice that completely satisfied the just demands of a holy God and provided complete forgiveness of sins and a way for man to be restored to a right relationship with God.

As messenger and high priest, Jesus was faithful to God. And the author compares His faithfulness to that of Moses. Moses was chosen and sent by God to the people of Israel with a message of deliverance. God had told Moses to go to the people in Egypt and tell them, “Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has appeared to me. He told me, ‘I have been watching closely, and I see how the Egyptians are treating you. I have promised to rescue you from your oppression in Egypt. I will lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey’” (Exodus 3:16-17 NLT). Moses did what God commanded, although somewhat reluctantly. He obeyed God and, as they say, the rest is history. God delivered His people through the faithful leadership of Moses. And as great as Moses was considered by the people of Israel for what he had done, “Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses” (Hebrews 3:3 ESV). Why? Because Moses was a faithful servant, but Jesus was the faithful Son.

It is important to recognize the seriousness of what is going on here. For the Jew, Moses was the founder and architect of their entire religion. While Abraham was the father of the nation, it was through Moses that they had received the Law, the sacrificial system and the tabernacle. Without Moses, they believed, they would never have escaped Egypt and become a nation. So when the author gives Jesus greater glory than Moses, he is treading on sacred ground for the Jew. But his point seems to be that Jesus, as the Son of God, the divine messenger and high priest of the faith, has ushered in something far greater and more significant than the law, the sacrificial system or the tabernacle. And he will spend the rest of his letter expounding on and explaining why he believes that to be so.

The author makes a strong statement regarding the deity of Christ when he compares Moses, servant of God, with Jesus, the Son of God. Moses deserved honor for what he accomplished, much like a newly constructed home deserved honor for its beauty. But the real glory should go to the builder, not that which was built. Moses, though faithful, was an instrument in God’s hands. None of what he accomplished would have happened without God’s help. But Jesus, as the Son of God, is different, because “the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4 ESV). Jesus was divine, the Son of God and the creator of the universe. Remember how the author opened his letter? “…he [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:2 ESV). Jesus was not just a messenger sent from God, He was God in human flesh. As such, He deserves the same degree of glory as God the Father. “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT).

Moses had helped establish the house of Israel. He had played a significant role in leading the people of God to the land promised to Abraham, their father in the flesh. But Jesus had come to establish a new household of faith, a family of God made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and based on a righteousness that comes from faith, not works. Paul referred to it as “the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). He told the Gentile believers in Ephesus, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19 ESV). The Jewish Christians to whom this letter was addressed needed to be reminded that their allegiance was no longer to Moses and the law. Their hope was not to be in the sacrificial system. They were to consider Jesus. They were now part of His household of faith. But the author warns them that they must “hold fast” their confidence in Jesus. They must boast in the hope they have in Him. There was nothing and no one else worth boasting about or placing their hope in. They were to keep their eyes fully focused on Jesus, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

How easy it is to consider anything other than Jesus. We can place our hope in our religious upbringing, our spiritual accomplishments, or the fact that, at some time in the past, we placed our faith in Jesus as our Savior. But the walk of faith is always looking forward, not backwards. It is about the hope that lies ahead. It is always considering Jesus, the founder, and perfecter of our faith. In other words, we are always living expectantly and hopefully, trusting God to finish what He started in us. The work of Christ in our lives will not be fully complete until He glorifies us. We are works in process. And we must hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope – in Him.