Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Study Of Titus - Greeting , Part 1

Today we are going to begin our study of Titus by looking at the first four verses. In this greeting we will see that Paul introduces himself, states his purpose for writing this letter, and addresses the recipient. We will look at each of these one at a time.

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, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 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;

4 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)

The first thing that Paul writes here is that he is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. We lose something in most of our English translations, because they typically translate the Greek word doulos as servant or bond-servant, when in reality the word should be translated slave.  Dr. Zodhiates writes that a doulos is:

A slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other. [1]

This is the word that Paul uses in verse 1 when he writes that he is a servant of God. What Paul is saying here is that as a servant of God he is in a permanent relation of servitude to Him and that his personal will is altogether consumed by the will of God. This is exactly the attitude that every Christian should have, remember that even when Jesus taught us how we should pray one of the things He told us is that we should pray, "Your kingdom come,  Your will be done..." (Matt 6:10). We also see in Romans 6 that as a follower of Jesus Christ we go from being a slave of sin to being a slave of righteousness (Rom 6:17-18); in other words we are no longer to live to fulfill our own sinful desires, we are now to live to fulfill the will and desires of our Heavenly Father. John MacArthur here writes:

There is a general sense in which every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has “been freed from sin and enslaved to God,” a bondage that results “in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (Rom. 6:22). To be a Christian is to be a bond-servant of God. We are not our own but “have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20), being “redeemed [not] with perishable things like silver or gold, … but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19). And because we no longer belong to ourselves, we “should no longer live for [ourselves], but for Him who died and rose again on [our] behalf” (2 Cor. 5:15).[2]

The next thing that Paul says about himself is that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. The Greek word that Paul uses here is apostolos, which literally means “one sent forth.” [3] Daniel C. Arichea  and Howard A. Hatton expand on this when they writes that an apostle is "one who is sent with a message and a mission and who can therefore act on behalf of the sender."[4]  And John MacArthur adds:

[The word apostle] carries the basic meaning of “messenger” and was sometimes used of even the lowliest person who carried a message on behalf of someone else. But the term was used most often of a special messenger, a type of ambassador, who was sent with a specific message and spoke with the authority of the one who sent him. The authority of the message, therefore, did not derive from the messenger but from the sender.[5]

So in his greeting Paul is letting us know that not only does he consider himself to be a slave of God, he also recognizes that he is merely an ambassador - a messenger - of Jesus Christ.  He is not at all concerned with his own will and desires; he is only concerned with the will of God. He is not bringing us a message that is his own; he is bringing us the message of Jesus Christ. And he goes on here to explain that he is a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ not for his own benefit, but for the faith of God's chosen people; to lead them in the knowledge of truth into godliness, the result of which is the hope of eternal life. So let's break this down and look at it in a little more detail.

The reason that Paul is a doulos and an apostolos is for the sake of the faith of God's elect. The word that Paul uses here is the Greek word eklektós, which means to choose or select. And note that the verse here says that they are God's elect - in other words Paul is writing for the sake of the faith of those who have been selected by God, and for their knowledge of the truth. But what do the selected do to become God's elect? A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments says this:

This election has its ground, not in anything belonging to those thus distinguished, but in the purpose and will of God from everlasting (2Ti 1:9; Ro 8:30–33; compare Lu 18:7; Eph 1:4; Col 3:12). Ac 13:48 shows that all faith on the part of the elect, rests on the divine foreordination: they do not become elect by their faith, but receive faith, and so become believers, because they are elect. [6]

So we are talking here about a group of people who are chosen by God to be His people purely because He chose them. There is nothing within them that caused God to choose them; they were not chosen because of their faith, Ephesians  2:8-9 tells us that faith is a gift from God. Am I saying that the elect do not have faith? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that, like the quote above states, they have faith because they are the elect, they are not the elect because they have faith.

And Paul is telling us here that he is 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. This means that what Paul is writing here is meant to strengthen our faith and increase our knowledge of the truth leading us to be more godly. Why then did I just say that faith is a gift from God and that we believe not because we have faith but because God has given us the faith to do so? The answer is yes, God gives us the faith to believe, and our salvation originates in Him, but that does not nullify our responsibility to grow in our faith , which we do by gaining more and more knowledge of who God is; as we study God's word and see Him working in our lives we get to know Him and as a result  we trust Him more and our faith increases. To this end John MacArthur writes:

Godliness is the manifestation of the Spirit’s work of sanctification. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,” Paul later explains, “instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12; 1 Tim. 4:7–8). Divine truth and godliness are inextricably related. No matter how sincere our intentions might be, we cannot obey God’s will if we do not know what it is. We cannot be godly if we do not know what God is like and what He expects of those who belong to Him.[7]

And that is why Paul is a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, and why he wrote this letter. It is to help us grow in godliness by increasing our faith and our knowledge of the truth.

I am going to stop part 1 here and pick up with verse 2 & 3 next time because I want to try to keep these posts short and there is a lot in these two verses that I want to take my time working through.

Until next time, may God richly bless you in Christ Jesus.

[1] Zodhiates, Spiros: The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. electronic ed. Chattanooga, TN : AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993, S. G1401
[2] MacArthur, John: Titus. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, S. 2
[3]Vine, W. E. ; Unger, Merrill F. ; White, William: Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1996, S. 2:30-31
[4]Arichea, Daniel C. ; Hatton, Howard: A Handbook on Paul's Letters to Timothy and to Titus. New York : United Bible Societies, 1995 (UBS Handbook Series; Helps for Translators), S. 8
[5]MacArthur, John: Titus. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, S. 3
[6]Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Tit 1:1
[7] MacArthur, John: Titus. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, S. 6

Monday, August 12, 2013

A New Study On The Book Of Titus - Preview

Other than a few videos and some sermons that I found to be helpful I haven't really posted much of anything in several months. In order to correct that I am undertaking a short study of Paul's letter to Titus (and yes I know that I said a short study - those who know me know that whenever I do a study it tends to be anything but short. We'll see).

I decided to undertake this study because in the ESV's introduction to this book it states the following:

Paul instructed Titus to complete his assigned job of establishing overseers (elders) for the churches under his care. He described what sort of people these leaders should be ...

Think about that, Paul is, in this letter, describing the what sort of people the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ should be. But I don't want to approach the study from the perspective of  if you want to be a leader in the church this is what your life should look like. Instead I want to approach it from the perspective that all that Paul is describing here is what a mature Christian's life should look like, and that the principles that he lays out in this letter are not limited to just those among us who are in positions of leadership (pastors, elders, deacons), these characteristics apply to all believers. After all, what Paul is really saying here to Titus is that he is to look at who the mature believers are in the churches that are under his care, and appoint those men to positions of leadership within these churches.

There are many other things that we will see in the short letter, but my plan is to tie them all back to this same topic - this is what it look like to be a mature believer in Christ.

And no, I am not saying that I have attained all of this in my own life, or that I don't have any work still to do. I am still growing just like everyone else and I am looking to this letter as an description of the things that I need to work on myself (and by work on what I mean is is that I need to surrender more and more to Christ and allow Him, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to make me more like Him. I am not in any way advocating any kind of works salvation). So as we work though this study know this, that if in the course of our time together you feel like your toes are being stepped on, mine were stepped on first.  

In addition to this letter showing us what our lives in Christ should look like, this is also a letter that emphasizes evangelism. In  his introduction to Titus in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Dr. MacArthur writes:

Titus is an evangelistic letter whose ultimate purpose was to prepare the church for more effective witness to unbelievers... Paul knew that the saving truth of the gospel message falls on deaf ears when those proclaiming it live ungodly lives that show no evidence of redemption. When Christians live in open sin, they can hardly expect unbelievers to heed a message that purports to save men from sin. One of the most compelling testimonies a Christian can give is that of a righteous, holy, self-giving life. It was for that same reason that Paul reminded Christians on Crete that our Lord “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (2:14). And it was for that reason that the Lord Himself commanded, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

God is a saving God, who saves people that they might live godly lives in order that others might also be saved through the proclamation of gospel truth supported by the testimony of transformed lives. God demonstrates His saving power through saved people. Although Paul was speaking in Titus 2:10 specifically of bond-slaves, the life of every Christian should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. For the grace of God has appeared,” he continues, “bringing salvation to all men” .[1]

I am looking forward to where God is going to take us in this study, and I hope to have the first post completed and up in the next day or two.

[1]MacArthur, John: Titus. Chicago : Moody Press, 1996, S. 0

The Gospel

Monday, May 6, 2013

Leprosy And Satanism

Here are a couple of very convicting sermons by Pastor Trevor Hammack.These are well worth taking the time to listen:

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Kindness And Severity Of God

Continuing in my reading of Matt Chandler's book The Explicit Gospel I came across this section on the kindness and severity of God, 
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
 Romans 11:22

Pastor Chandler rightly points out that we do not talk nearly enough about the severity of God, he writes:
God's responses of kindness and severity both come from His perfect and holy self-sufficiency, they are both extended justly to His creation, but the chief difference between them - and the reason we don't talk about it as much - is that only severity is deserved.
He also notes that the severity of God is not taught today because it does not present God as warm and fuzzy, he says:
Paul says to note God's severity. Mark it down. Remember it. Consider it. But we are disobedient. Because God's severity is not as warm and fuzzy as God's kindness, we not only don't study or contemplate it, but we don't even note it. We live in a day and age when, from pre-seminary all the way through seminary, prospective pastors are fed pablum about church growth. Then once the hit the playing field of ministry they are fed it more and more. From books to classes to seminars to conferences, the church is absolutely consumed with growing at all costs.Forget whether the members of our churches have any real depth or substance to them; we just want to be able to measure and count the three Bs: buildings, budgets, and butts in the seat. The Bible does say a few things about churches growing in those ways, but today this has become the prevailing mind-set of ministry in evangelicalism, and it is a bibically perverted, missionally distorted mind-set.
He then goes on to say:
The avoidance of the difficult thins of Scripture - of sinfulness and hell and God's severity - is idolatrous and cowardly. If a man or woman who teaches the Scripture is afraid to explain to you the severity of God, they have betrayed you. In the same way that it is not loving or kind not to coach your children on the dangers of the street and the dangers of the swimming pool, so it is not loving not to warn men and women about the severity of God. 
He then goes on the illustrate how we can address this topic by quoting Matthew 3:11-12 and showing how John the Baptist addressed it:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 
Matthew 3:11-12
Then Pastor Chandler writes this:
We get the impression from the Old Testament that the universe is God's threshing floor. John is warning his hearers that Jesus is going to get to work on the universe, and He's going to gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will He will burn in unquenchable fire. This is the purpose of Jesus's arrival. (Note in this passage both the kindness and the severity of God.)
Pastor Chandler goes on to give a description of Jesus' use of the word Gehenna, which is translated hell in our English Bibles; he talks about how Gehenna was a refuse dump on the south side of Jerusalem and how Jesus used this to illustrate the severity of God toward those who reject Him (the chaff in the verses above). He writes:
When Jesus used the word Gehenna, He's saying, "It's like this ravine, the valley of Haman; this is what I am talking to you about." The image to hold in our mind is putrid and repulsive, it is dead and deadly; it is smoldering when not blazing. It is utterly desolate, spiritually dark, and endlessly oppressive, and it is the established picture even in these extremes of the slightest falling short of God's glory.
So I want to leave you today with two verses:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23

For our God is a consuming fire. 
Hebrews 12:29

Spend some time today meditating on these two verses and think about the kindness and severity of God, and how both are related to the Gospel.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Explicit Gospel

I just started reading Matt Chandler's book The Explicit Gospel; here is the description from the flyleaf:

Even if you go to church, it doesn’t mean that you are being exposed (or exposing others) to the gospel explicitly. Sure, most people talk about Jesus, and about being good and avoiding bad, but the gospel message simply isn’t there—at least not in its specificity and its fullness.

Inspired by the needs of both the overchurched and the unchurched, and bolstered by the common neglect of the explicit gospel within Christianity, popular pastor Matt Chandler writes this punchy treatise to remind us what is of first and utmost importance—the gospel.

Here is a call to true Christianity, to know the gospel explicitly, and to unite the church on the amazing grounds of the good news of Jesus!

As I read through this book I hope to do a series of posts based on what I am learning and on what God is teaching me through what Matt has written. Let me begin today with a brief quote from the introduction: 

Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death.My sin in the past: forgiven. My current struggles: covered. My future failures: paid in full all by the marvelous, infinite, matchless grace found in the atoning work of the cross of Jesus Christ.

Now that is good news! Because of the gospel I don't have to worry about my past sin, my current struggles, or my future failures - they are all covered by the blood of Jesus, and I am forgiven not because of anything I have done or will do, but because of what He did for me.

I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while, and I hope that you will pick up a copy and join me. Let's be amazed again by the grace and mercy of our God expressed in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ.