We began to study Paul’s pastoral letters near the end of last year; and last week we reached the end of 2 Timothy. And it makes sense to me that we should go on now and complete the pastoral letters by studying Paul’s letter to Titus. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are known as Paul’s pastoral letters because these are letters written, not to a church, but to church leaders; and they contain Paul’s instructions to those church leaders on various pastoral matters to do with the church. So, he taught Timothy, for instance, about elders and deacons and about worship and widows and money and there were warnings about false teachers and how Timothy needed to guard the gospel and to keep it intact so that he would be able to pass the gospel on to the next generation of preachers. And Paul wrote to Timothy about how he must always be ready to preach God’s word, which is God-breathed and useful for his ministry. Those are some of the things Paul wrote to Timothy about when Timothy was serving the church in Ephesus.
And in the letter before us today, Paul is writing to Titus who was on the island of Crete. If you glance down to verse 5 of chapter 1, you’ll see that Paul says he left Titus in Crete to straighten out what was left unfinished. So, Paul and Titus had come to Crete at some point. We don’t know when. And presumably churches were established at that time. Paul had moved on from Crete, but had left Titus behind to carry out some necessary tasks and to complete what had been left undone. And though this is a short letter, it contains some remarkable sayings. Take a look at verse 11 of chapter 2:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
That’s a magnificent statement, isn’t it? I frequently quote from it in my prayers on Sundays. Then take a look at verse 3 of chapter 3:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
That’s another magnificent statement, isn’t it? And what about verse 14 of chapter 3?
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.
In that verse Paul is getting very practical, isn’t he? What should we do? We should devote ourselves to doing what is good. We should not live unproductive lives, but we should live productive, or fruitful, lives. So, we can look forward to studying those things in the coming weeks.
Today we have Paul’s opening greeting to Titus. And while this is a fairly long opening greeting, it follows the usual pattern. Paul describes himself and his work. He then addresses the recipient of his letter. And then there’s the greeting itself. And let’s turn to study this now, though we’ll concentrate on what Paul says about himself and his work.
Servant and Apostle
And look how Paul describes himself in verse 1. He refers to himself as a servant of God and as an apostle of Jesus Christ. So, he’s a servant and an apostle.
All of us are servants of God. We’re servants of God because he made us. And he made us so that we that we might honour him. That’s what we’re for. That’s why we’re here on this earth. Our chief end in life is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. So, he made us to honour him. To live for him. To glorify him in all we do and say. And whenever we’re tempted to think that we’re free to do whatever we like, we need to remember that we’re not free to do whatever we like, because we belong to God who made us. ‘This earth belongs to God’, we sing in that song which is based on Psalm 24. ‘The world, its wealth and all its people’. Why does the world, its wealth and all its people belong to God?’ Because ‘He formed the waters wide, and fashioned every sea and shore.’ We belong to him because he made all things including us. And he made us so that we might live for him as his servants.
That’s true of everyone. And, of course, this is one of the reasons we need God’s forgiveness, isn’t it? We need God’s forgiveness because though we are his servants, all of us have failed to obey him as we should and all of us have fallen short of doing his will. He made us to honour him, but we have instead dishonoured him. He made us to do all things for his glory, but we have instead lived to please ourselves. And so, we need his forgiveness.
And the good news of the gospel is that God sent his only Begotten Son into the world to pay for our sins and shortcomings with his life. He offered up his life on the cross to make up for what we have done wrong. He died to set us free from the condemnation we all deserve for what we have done wrong. He died to deliver us from God’s wrath, which is what we all deserve for not living our lives for God and his glory. And everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is pardoned by God and set free from condemnation.
And having been set free from condemnation by trusting in Christ, what are we do do? Well, we’re to do what we were made to do. So, we’re to live as servants of God in the world. We’re to do all things for his glory. We’re to live for him and not for ourselves. We’re to be servants of God.
And so, we now have two reasons for serving God. We ought to serve him because he made us. And we ought to serve him because he sent his Son to deliver us from his wrath and to free us from the condemnation we deserve. Because he made us and because he saved us, we should live our lives for him and for his glory as servants of God.
So, all of us are servants of God. But none of us are apostles of Jesus Christ. None of us are apostles of Jesus Christ, because the apostles were that group of 12 men, appointed by Christ to be his official eye-witnesses of the resurrection. And as his official eye-witnesses, he sent them out in his name and with his authority to proclaim his death on the cross for sinners and his resurrection from the dead. And after the first 12 men were appointed, Paul was appointed by the Risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. And so, Paul was also an official eye-witness of the resurrection, because he too saw the Risen Lord Jesus, who appointed him to go and preach the good news to all. And by referring to his apostleship here, Paul is referring to his authority. Like the other apostles, he had been sent out in the name of Christ and with the authority of Christ to proclaim the good news.
All of us are servants of God. But none of us are apostles of Jesus Christ. But we belong to a church which is founded on the apostles, because the message we proclaim here and the message we are to believe is the same message which Paul the Apostle preached and its what all the apostles preached. It’s the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became one of us and who died to bring us to God and who was raised to give us life. That’s the message Paul preached and it’s the message we’re to believe, because salvation is found in no one else than in Christ the Lord.
Faith and Knowledge
So, Paul introduces himself as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Why was he appointed an apostle? What was he to do? Look at the rest of verse 1. He was appointed an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and for the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.
Wherever he went, Paul proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ so that those who heard his message would believe and put their faith in Christ as the only Saviour of the world. But in order for anyone to believe and to put their faith in Christ as the only Saviour of the world, they needed to know the truth about Christ, didn’t they? And so, Paul didn’t just go around, summoning people to believe. He went around from place to place, teaching people the truth about Jesus Christ and about how Christ gave up his life to pay for our sins and how he shed his blood to cleanse us and how he was raised from the dead to give us life so that whoever believes in him and puts their faith in him receives forgiveness from God and the hope of everlasting life. Paul taught people the truth about Christ so that people would put their faith in Christ.
And so, we have these two things side by side: faith and knowledge. Faith without knowledge is no use, because then you’re believing in something you know nothing about. How can you believe in Christ, if you don’t know anything about Christ? And knowledge without faith is no use, because we’re justified — pardoned and accepted by God — through faith. When the Lord Jesus was on the earth, the teachers of the law knew the Scriptures inside out. They were the Bible experts. But all of their knowledge did them no use, because they did not combine what they knew with faith in Christ. And there have been plenty of Bible experts since that time who know lots about the Bible, but they do not believe. So, knowledge without faith is no use. We need both.
And what should faith and knowledge lead to? It should lead to godliness. Do you see that? Godliness. In Paul’s brief letter to Titus, there’s a big emphasis on living a godly life and saying ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions; and living self-controlled and upright and godly lives. Paul tells Titus to remind the people they need to be obedient and they need to be ready to do whatever is good. He told Titus to teach the people to be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. And so, faith and knowledge should lead to godliness. It should affect how we live our lives and it should mean we live, not for ourselves, but for God. Faith and knowledge should lead to living a life of good works.
But did you notice that Paul refers to God’s elect? He was appointed an apostle ‘for the faith of God’s elect’. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians Paul praised God because God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. And then Paul added: For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In other words, before the creation of the world, before the world existed, before you and I or anyone else existed, God chose his people.
When I was a boy, and we wanted to play football in the school playground, we lined up against the wall while the two captains chose who they wanted on their team. And do you remember? They started by choosing the person who was best. Then they chose the person who was second best. Then the person who was third best. And so on, down the line until they were left with the worst ones. That’s what we do. We choose the best. Is that how God chooses his people? Does he start with the best? Well, remember what Paul said to the Ephesians. He chose his people before the creation of the world. And so, he chose his people before they existed. And that means he chose his people before they had done anything, whether good or bad. He didn’t choose his people on the basis of who was best, because — in a sense — he had nothing to go on. They hadn’t yet done anything. So, why did he chose his people? None of us knows the answer to that question. But what we do know is that none who have been chosen by God can claim that they deserved it, because they did nothing to deserve it. God simply set his love upon them and chose them in Christ Jesus before the world was made.
And that, of course, is good news for us, because all of us can look at our lives and the bad things we have done and the people we have hurt and we can think about all the things that we’ve done wrong; and even now, when we remember some of those things, we are still ashamed with ourselves, because what we did was so bad. And if God only chose the best, there would be no hope for any of us, because we don’t come near to being the best. In fact, we’re not even good.
But the good news for bad people is that God didn’t choose his people on the basis of what we have done. He simply set his love on them. And they hadn’t earned it and they didn’t deserve it. And so, it was down to God’s grace and mercy and goodness and kindness. And having chosen his people, he enables them to repent and to believe the good news about Jesus Christ so that they receive forgiveness and eternal life.
But, of course, none of us knows in advance who is chosen and who is not. It’s not like there’s a mark on our faces which lets us know who is chosen and will believe and who is not chosen and will never believe. And so, Paul preached the gospel to all. He preached the gospel indiscriminately. He preached to all and declared to all that whoever believes will be saved. And that’s what preachers must always do. We preach to all and declare that whoever believes will be saved. And whoever believes will be saved.
Are you a believer? Then you will be saved from God’s wrath to come. Are you not yet a believer? Then I say to you that if you believe you will be saved from God’s wrath to come. So, now is the time to believe. Now is the time to confess your sins to God and to ask him to forgive you for the sake of Christ who died for sinners to bring them to God. Now is the time to believe. And whoever believes will be saved.
And whoever believes receives the hope of eternal life. Do you see how Paul introduces the thought of eternal life in verse 2? Why is he an apostle? He’s an apostle for the faith of God’s elect and for knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness. So, faith and knowledge of the truth lead to a godly life now. And faith and knowledge of the truth also lead to eternal life. That’s the great hope which underlies everything Paul did as an apostle. He went about teaching the truth about Jesus Christ in the hope that people will believe and put their faith in Christ so that they will receive the hope of eternal life. And that’s what we all need, isn’t it? We all need hope. We need the hope of eternal life, which is eternal life in the presence of God in the new and better world to come.
Think about this life. Think of what we’ve all experienced recently. We’ve been dealing with Covid-19 around the world for two years. And we’re still dealing with it. And then recently we’ve been hearing about the trouble in Afghanistan and the millions of people who are starving and who can’t afford to buy what they need. And now there’s this senseless war in Ukraine and all the death and suffering and destruction which has been caused and the millions who have had to flee from their homes and who have to throw themselves at the mercy of neighbouring nations. And while it’s all happening thousands of miles from us, it’s also affecting us because of the rising cost in fuel prices. And we watch our TVs and we wonder sometimes what will be next? What will happen next?
We live in an uncertain world. That is, it’s uncertain to us, because none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. It’s not uncertain to God, because he knows all things. He knows what will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next. And the reason he knows all things is because he has planned all things. God’s will is the ultimate cause of all things. And we know he’s wise and good and we can trust in him and in his fatherly care for all that we need.
And because we need to trust in him and in his fatherly care, we should all humble ourselves before him and pray to him for his help in these difficult days. And so, join us on Wednesdays at the midweek when we all humble ourselves before him and seek his help in prayer.
But while we go on living in this troubled world, we’ll face all kinds of trials and troubles. That’s true of everyone. But for those who have put their faith in Christ, there’s the hope of eternal life in God’s presence in a new and better world to come, where there will be no more sorrow or suffering or disease or death, no more tears, because the former things of this life, the sorrow and suffering of this life, will pass away and all of God’s people will enjoy perfect peace and rest forever. That’s what we can look forward to, because of the hope God gives us through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And if it ever seems too good to be true, Paul assures us that God does not lie. That is, he is not a liar. He is free from deceit. It’s not that he does not lie, but he cannot lie. He cannot lie because God is true. He is infinitely, eternally and unchangeably true. He cannot cease to be true, because he would then cease to be God. And the God who cannot lie has promised his people eternal life. And so, he’s given us a hope which is certain, and not uncertain.
And Paul teaches us that God promised eternal life to his people before the beginning of time. So, before the world was made, he promised to give eternal life to his people. And at his appointed season, he brought his word to light. Notice it’s ‘his appointed season’, because God is the one who determines all things. His will is the ultimate cause of all things; and therefore he determined when the time was right to bring his word to light. And at his appointed time, he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to Paul by the command of God our Saviour.
So, before the world began, before time began, God chose his people in Christ Jesus and he promised that he would give them eternal life in his presence. And then, at his appointed time, God sent Paul to preach the good news about Jesus Christ so that sinners might know the truth about what Christ has done for them; and put their faith in him. And God has continued to send preachers into the world to preach the good news about Jesus Christ so that sinners in every generation might know the truth about what Christ has done for them; and put their faith in him.
And whoever believes in him receives the hope of eternal life in the new and better world to come. God planned it before time began. And, at the right time, God brought it to light. And so, Paul is able to call God ‘our Saviour’, because he’s the one who planned our salvation and he’s the one who accomplished our salvation through his Son and he’s the one who gives us salvation through the preaching of his word. And so, we ought to give thanks to God our Saviour and we ought to live as his servants in the world, doing his will and bringing glory and honour to his name.