Thursday, 24 May 2018
To Titus, a true son in our common faith:
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 1:4
Titus is the addressee of Paul’s final pastoral epistle. Not much is known about him, and he was never mentioned in the book of Acts. He is only referred to in a general way in the epistles. He is mentioned 8 times in 2 Corinthians, twice in Galatians, and once in 2 Timothy. The most pertinent personal information about him from any of these references is that he was an uncircumcised Greek, not a Jew. That is recorded in Galatians 2:3. Paul also calls him “my partner and fellow worker” in 2 Corinthians 8:23. He also calls him the more general term “brother” in 2 Corinthians 2:13.
Titus had been with Paul for quite some time, and was at one of the church’s important early gatherings though. In Galatians 2:1, we see that he was with Paul at the council in Jerusalem which is recorded in Acts 15, even though he was not specifically mentioned at that time.
In this greeting, Paul chooses yet another title for Titus by calling him, “a true son in our common faith.” The word translated here as “true” is the Greek work gnésios. It literally means, “born in wedlock.” Thus it signifies “legitimate,” or “genuine.” However, it came to carry an affectionate or endearing sense. Therefore, Paul’s words are not only identifying Titus as a true Christian, but as a true son of his because of their like-faith in Christ. This is the same term he used when speaking to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:2. The bonds were as strong as if Titus was Paul’s own legitimate offspring. Paul personally took him under his wings, and Titus stayed with Paul while so many others at times had faithlessly abandoned him. The “common faith” spoken of here is faith in the finished and fully sufficient work of Christ.
Next, Paul writes, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.” It is a very similar greeting as that to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:2. The only real difference is that there it says, “and Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is substantially the same greeting as he makes in all of his letters, but here, and in his other two pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy), he adds in the word “mercy.” It is widely speculated as to why he adds in the word “mercy” to the pastoral letters. The reason is probably because he knew being a pastor is a job which requires a great deal of mercy from God. It is a delicate, complicated, often frustrating, always tiring, and very sensitive job. Where those under a pastor often feel it necessary to heap trouble on him, mercy is all-the-more necessary from the other direction. Without this endowment from God, the job will quickly lay low the pastor of strongest faith and resolve.
Therefore, Paul petitions for these things – grace, mercy, and peace to be bestowed upon this beloved son in the faith. And the petition is “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.” This is in line with the petition for grace, mercy, and peace. As a father would grant such things to his own son, so Paul knows that God will grant such things to His sons in the faith, a faith which is grounded in Christ Jesus. And as God is the Father of Jesus, the petition for grace, mercy, and peace will naturally flow from Jesus to the Father’s other true children as well. Finally, as Savior, it speaks of Jesus’ fully sufficient work which reconciles fallen man back to God, who is our heavenly Father. Paul’s salutation is a great example of a complete understanding of the workings of God towards His ministers who are also His sons by adoption.
Life application: Paul’s addition of mercy to the blessings upon Titus (and thus all pastors) is only as necessary as the congregation he leads fails to understand the nature of the job, and the ability of the pastor to effectively handle that job. Hundreds of pastors every week leave the pulpit due to the pressures of the job. The more mercy the congregation bestows upon their pastor, the less will be needed from above. In regards to the pastor, show a little mercy when he shows his humanity. After all, he is only human.
Lord God, help us to be attentive to the needs of our church pastors, just as they attempt to attend to our needs. And in the process, help us to not heap too much grief upon them as they attempt to sort through all of the difficult issues that come their way. May we be careful to not expect more of them than any other person, knowing that they are men dependent on You, just as we are also dependent on You. Amen.