Truth & Training from Titus - Part 2: Chapter 1 vv 2-4
Stephen Baker, Manchester
This article is part of an on-going study in which the writer’s intention is to look at each phrase and statement in the letter and to glean a simple understanding of what Paul was writing to Titus about. There will not be a lengthy introduction to each article so it would be advantageous to read the previous article, either in the printed edition of the magazine or online via www.preciousseed.org.
‘In hope of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began’, v. 2.
The truth of this verse is tremendous. The first thing that grabs my attention is this: God cannot lie. Paul is writing to a man who is working for God on an island among people who have the reputation for being habitual liars. You could not believe a word they said, at times. Local residents would always be watching their backs, wondering if they could really trust someone; where did the truth really lie in any statement? Paul, however, had come with a message from the true and living God who was incapable of lying. He is truth; He speaks truth; His promises never fail, and He is to be trusted, full stop, no further discussion, 2 Cor. 1. 18. It is so important to really understand that part of the character of God because, if we don’t, we will have no foundation for our faith, as it all depends on the word of God, i.e., on what God says!
In the modern world, the word ‘hope’ indicates the possibility that something might, or might not, happen. As a biblical phrase, it means some event or action, still in the future, which will definitely take place. Here are some examples from other passages in scripture where the idea of hope is expressed:
- In Romans chapter 8 verses 23-25 Paul describes the hope of the Christian as we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. In that day there will be no more suffering. This ‘hope’ is something we wait for patiently and have a taste of through the work of the Spirit in our lives today.
- 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 3 describes a similar idea. Peter says that we have been born again ‘to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’. So our new birth not only brought about the salvation of our souls, 1 Pet. 1. 9, but it gave us a living hope. Here, again, hope is not just a vague possibility, but, on the basis that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, all saints have the hope of being physically in His presence and enjoying the fullness of salvation.
Eternal life is, therefore, described in this letter to Titus as a hope. It was promised before the world began and Paul has been called to preach about this hope, to live with the knowledge that it was promised, it has been provided in Christ, and it will come to its ultimate fulfilment in a day still to come.
‘But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed to me according to the commandment of God our Saviour’, v. 3.
We have in verses 2 and 3 of this chapter a triplet of past, present, and future. The promise of eternal life was made in the past, the complete fulfilment and application of eternal life will be fully seen in the future, and the announcement of the availability of salvation is being made in the present.
The timing of the commencement of gospel preaching was not accidental but at just the right time in God’s calendar. Our God is very precise when it comes to His timing. Galatians chapter 4 verse 4 states, ‘when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son’. When the Lord Jesus started to preach the gospel of the Kingdom in Galilee, Mark records that He said, ‘the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand’. It is an interesting study to look at the precise timing of biblical events and to notice the divine attention to detail.
‘God’s communication of the message’
When someone is communicating a message, they would be wise to decide how they will communicate, i.e., the terms they will use to communicate effectively, to fix the time when the information is to be made public, and to define the method of communication that will be used to get the message out. As the message of salvation belongs to God, it is appropriate that He was very particular about all of the details that I have described above. Among other passages, Romans chapter 1 verse 1 describes the message of salvation as ‘the gospel of God’. The terms of the gospel message are very clearly defined in many of the New Testament writings, but, in particular, in the Epistle to the Romans. The Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples to evangelize and spread the message of the gospel personally.1 So, in this verse, Paul is saying that God carefully chose His time to launch the message of ‘eternal life’ to a godless world. As the announcement was so important, God handpicked specific men to spread the word. Indeed, Paul looks on his calling to this task as a commission; he was being entrusted with the message of ‘the Almighty’ so that mankind would clearly understand that God is a saving God.
‘To Titus, mine own son after the common faith’, v. 4a
This is not the first time we come across Titus in the scriptures. Although he is not specifically mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, it would appear that he was a travelling companion of the apostle and that he had been sent to work for Paul on a number of occasions.2 This verse could be better translated ‘my genuine child in our common faith’, which would possibly indicate that Paul played a part in pointing Titus to the Lord. It definitely teaches us that Titus was showing by his life that he was a child of God.
A vital truth: It is important that believers show clear evidence of their salvation by the way that they live.
The other vital truth in this verse
is that the common thread that links all believers is their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that this word has been translated in some places ‘unclean’ or ‘unholy’, the thought here is not of a derogatory term but the idea that we all share in this faith, it is the mutual experience of all true believers. Jude makes a similar point when he talks about ‘common salvation’, Jude 3. In Acts, Luke uses the same word when he describes the fact that believers shared their possessions.
Key principle for Bible study – When trying to work out what a word means, take into account the setting (context), as well as the literal meaning of the word.
‘Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour’, v. 4b
This method of opening a letter is a lot more formal than we would be used to currently. When we take time to consider the implications of the greeting, the truth of them should really thrill us. Paul is reminding Titus that he (like every saved individual) is the recipient of the grace of God, the mercy of God, and the peace of God. Reread this verse: ‘to Titus
. . . grace, mercy and peace’. It’s a personal wish list from the apostle to Titus. He knows that this is the happy privilege of every believer but he wants Titus to know it, to experience it, to enjoy it, to rejoice in these spiritual blessings.
Grace – showering on Titus the good things of God. A limitless resource of spiritual blessings to be enjoyed in a limited sense now (the limit being due to our ability to grasp what is going on). However, Titus can soak up the prospect of eternally basking in the grace of God while, at the moment, he can hardly imagine the wonders of what is in store for him (with all of us).
Mercy – to never face what we really deserved. To be free from guilt! To be acceptable in the sight of the Father and the Son! What a glorious truth! This mercy is effective because we are acceptable to the Father because of the saving work of the Son. The mercy is ‘from God the Father’ (just as the grace is) because we had transgressed the laws of God and had no standing with Him. But the work of the Son is to make us accepted in ‘the beloved’, Eph. 1. 6. What a term mercy is!
Peace – the ultimate outcome of the preceding truths. The grace and mercy of the Father and the Son has resulted in peace for us. Peace personally, but, more importantly, peace in a legal sense. We were at a distance from God, and had no open lines of communication. In a real sense, we were at war with God; but the blood of the cross made peace and we, at the point of salvation, entered into the good of it.
We now have a relationship with God; we can call Him Father. The danger has passed; we have a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not skim over these expressions; they are rich in truths that describe the essence of what happened when we trusted Christ.
In these early verses of the Epistle Paul has bared his heart by telling us what God has called him to do – preach the gospel for ‘the faith of God’s elect’, and teach the word so that believers will be godly in their behaviour. He has traced the purposes of God back to before ‘the world began’ and demonstrated the perfect timing of God in ‘manifesting his word through preaching’. The apostle has confirmed that faith is common to all believers, just as salvation is common to all believers in Jude verse 3.
I hope that the truth of the early verses of this letter will thrill you as much as they have thrilled me.
1 Matt. 28. 19; Mark 16. 15.
2 From the references to him in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Timothy.