Monday, 21 May 2018
Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, Titus 1:1
Welcome to the book of Titus! It is the third of the three “pastoral epistles,” and it is comprised of a mere 46 verses. Thus, it will take us (one day at a time, just as we rise to begin our daily activities) one and one-half months to analyze it. It is hoped that you will be blessed as each verse brings marvelous insights into this beautiful epistle from the mind of God and through the hand of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
His initial greeting of verse 1 is unique. Paul has a knack of changing his introductory comments somewhat at times. In the case of this letter to Titus, he seems to be a bit more formal than in his letters to Timothy. As Timothy was his protege, and his “son” according to the faith, there was seemingly less need to be as formal as he is here with Titus.
He begins the epistle by identifying himself. He is “Paul, a bondservant of God.” A doulos, or “bondservant,” is an individual who is the property of another; having no ownership rights of his own. This would seem to be a position lacking dignity; but in ironic fashion, it is that of the highest dignity when applied to a person in the New Testament who is in such a relation to God and Jesus Christ. For Paul, he gladly states this position in relation to God.
He next identifies his apostleship with the words, “and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He is a messenger of the Lord, having been called by Him personally to perform this weighty duty which has been so amazingly fruitful for the past two thousand years. This is his one claim to the authority of writing a letter of doctrine, and it is with this authority that he thus writes.
He next notes concerning his apostleship, “according to the faith of God’s elect.” The words “according to” don’t properly convey what Paul means in the Greek. The Greek word isn’t speaking of the faith of the individual, but rather of the “norm or standard of faith which is set for God’s elect” (Vincent’s Word Studies). In other words, a standard – that of faith – has been determined according to God’s call, and Paul has been selected to reveal that standard. The ESV more precisely translates this, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect.”
In addition to this standard, Paul then adds in, “and the acknowledgment of the truth.” The gospel contains a message which is truthful, and which can be both understood and applied to one’s life. Paul’s commission is to reveal this truth in a way in which this can come about. This is contained within the purpose of his apostleship, and it is that “which accords with godliness.”
The truth of the gospel which Paul conveys is that which is intended to lead to a right honoring of God through lives which emulate His character. It is unthinkable that one would profess faith in Christ, and then not want to emulate Him. It is He who demonstrated what it means to be holy, righteous, just, and godly. In calling on Christ by faith, believers are accepting the truth of the gospel, and are then to live their lives in accord with that high and honorable calling.
Life application: Although believers can ignore their call to godliness, they will lose rewards for doing so. Further, they will set a pathetically poor example for others in the process. This is evident by the great deal of immorality which permeates churches today. The church has adapted the ways of the world, and it is becoming harder and harder for those in the church to even hear the message which can bring them to salvation in the first place. Be sure to know the gospel; that of salvation by grace through faith. And then, be sure to live out the gospel in godliness.
Lord God, You have not just called Your people to salvation by grace through faith, but You have called them unto godliness. Help us to understand the simplicity of salvation, but to also understand the responsibility which follows after our reception of Your gift. May we never attempt to disassociate our lives in Christ from lives honoring of Christ. To Your glory we pray. Amen.