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

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