Reading: Titus 1, 2, 3
Good morning my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is truly wonderful to be among you all again.
This morning I would like to look at our third reading of the day, Paul’s letter to Titus for our exhortation and see what we can learn that will help us in our daily and ecclesial lives.
First, a little bit about Titus himself. The apostle Paul calls him “mine own son”, a phrase reserved for just three people in Paul’s life; Titus, Timothy, and Onesimus.
Like Timothy and Onesimus, Titus was a fairly young man. While not recorded in Acts, he was part of the group that went to Jerusalem from Antioch in Acts 15, which Paul reveals in Galatians 2:1, which is the time period of the Jerusalem Conference. We are also told in Galatians that Titus was a Greek (2:3). Some expositors have suggested that Titus was the brother of Luke, but I have not looked closely at their evidences to make a decision for myself.
Sometime after the Jerusalem Conference in AD 49, Paul’s writings bring to light that Titus had been in Corinth fixing what was too hard for Timothy to do (no slight intended on Timothy), and was supposed to meet up with Paul in Troas. During the time Paul was in Troas, Titus did not show up, and Paul was deeply anxious about this (2 Cor. 2:12-13), but he moved on to Macedonia where there was work to do. This did not give Paul the comfort he was looking for because he and his companions “were troubled on every side” (2 Cor. 7:5). But finally comfort came with the arrival of Titus, who brought news of the Corinthian ecclesia (v. 6-7) and how they had treated him well (v. 13). During his time in Corinth, Titus had developed a deep and tender affection for this ecclesia (v. 15), and because of this Paul ended up sending Titus back to Corinth to help them finish their collections for the poor saints (8:6, 16-24). Other than a brief reference to him in 2 Cor. 12:18, this is the last we hear of Titus until sometime after Paul had been released from prison in Rome, and that is in Paul’s letter to him while he was in Crete. This was written between Paul’s two letters to Timothy. The very last reference to Titus is in 2 Timothy 4:10.
As Paul moved on from his preaching in Crete he left this courageous young man there to further straighten up the mess that had developed in the ecclesias. This letter was designed to help give Titus further direction on his task, and what a task it was. There were no elders or overseers in the ecclesias, Judaizers were causing whole families to lose their faith, there was fighting, gossiping, disrespect of the governing authorities, immoral living, arguments over genealogies (probably referring to their own pedigrees), controversial topics, and contentions over the Mosaic law.
With all these problems, Paul still managed to write a concise letter to Titus. There’s even a positive message all the way through it, and that message is emphasized more than once. And that message is what I want to concentrate on today.
The message or theme that Paul details through this letter can be condensed as follows:
By adhering to the faithful word of God, we develop healthy doctrine, which keeps us healthy in the faith, and that put into practice with good works helps us acquire healthy speech that cannot be condemned.
Let’s start looking at the development of this theme in Paul’s letter. After listing the qualifications that elders need to have in their personal lives, Paul states in 1:9:
Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort (call to ones side) and to convince (admonish or rebuke) the gainsayers (disputers).
A solid understanding of the Scriptures is essential for an elder, specifically the sound doctrines of the Gospel. It is only by these that the elder is able to refute the challenge of the disputers. Notice that the purpose to this is to gain their brethren, not drive them away.
The disputers of the apostle’s day were Judaisers, but here in Crete they had also adopted the attitudes of the society around them along with their desire to go back to the Law. Paul declares that they were (1:10-11):
… unruly and vain (empty) talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped (bridled), who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake (on account of base gain).
A healthy doctrinal foundation would allow the elders to correct the situation, and allow for proper decorum to return to the ecclesia.
Paul emphasizes the importance of doctrine three more times in this short letter. In chapter 2:1, the exhortation is directly to Titus:
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.
This direction to Titus was for the purpose of educating the older brothers, and older sisters of the ecclesia, and also the young men. He was also warned that he had to be absolutely free of corruption in his doctrine, so that he could lead by example (2:7):
In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity.
In his instructions for the servants, Paul wanted Titus to remind them of their responsibilities as followers of Christ, which affected they way they were to work for their masters (2:9-10):
Exhort servants to be obedient (subject) unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again (disputing); not purloining (petty theft), but shewing all good fidelity (faith); that they may adorn (display as beautiful) the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Let’s reread that with 21st Century eyes so we can bring it home to ourselves.
Exhort employees to be obedient (subject) unto their employers, and to please them well in all things; not answering again (disputing); not purloining (petty theft), but shewing all good fidelity (faith); that they may adorn (display as beautiful) the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
What we learn in all these cases is that holding onto sound doctrine changes the way we live, and allows us to counter false teachers, and bad behaviour.
“Faith is the confident anticipation of things hoped for, a full persuasion of things not seen … without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that He exists, and He is a rewarder of them that search thoroughly for Him.”
With adherence to sound doctrine, it gave Titus the authority and ability to deal with Judaizers. There was, of course, a purpose behind these corrective measures (1:13):
…rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.
Titus was to redirect these wayward brethren back to the foundation principles of the Truth so that they could once again be sound in the faith. Currently they were reprobates because they were not sound in doctrine, or in faith, and their actions showed it (1:16):
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
Titus was to use the sound doctrine to educate the older men in the ecclesia to live and act according to faith (2:1-2):
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience.
These are essential qualities to develop as they will help the older men educate, and show by lifestyle and compassion the way of truth to the younger generation. Being sound in faith will help the younger ones learn that the truth has to be applied in daily life, especially if that younger person is a servant, which we have already read in 2:9-10.
Now if you join me in 2:3, you’ll notice Paul uses the word “likewise”. This means that the previous statements also apply to what he is about to add for the older women:
The aged women likewise (be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience), [and] that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers (diabolos), not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober (to act sensibly), to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet (moderate), chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands (see Gen. 3:16), that the word of God be not blasphemed.
Notice all the words for both men and women, young and old, have to do with daily living. It is faith put into action, aka, good works. This point is emphasized over and over again in this letter. By putting our doctrine and faith into action we develop the armour to defend against the challenges to the truth.
1:6-9 - If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
2:3-5 - The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
2:7-8 - In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
2:11-12 - For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world...
3:1-2 - Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
3:8 - This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
The purpose of all these instructions to these young ecclesias in Crete was to insure that the believers became more like the one who saved them through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite their background, and the society they grew up in, God offered them redemption in Christ, not for any of the works they had done, but freely, so that by accepting Christ and making their new faith active, they may be made heirs of eternal life (3:4-8).
Brother and sisters, as we pause now to remember the sacrifice of our dear Lord Jesus, “who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”, let us consider these things and strive to “hold fast the faithful word” that our doctrine, faith and speech may be sound, so that we can “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts” and “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world”, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus”.
Written by Matthew Smith
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