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A Brief Look at the Letter to Titus

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Bible, Sermons

A tired, older ex-convict once sent a letter to a younger minister of the gospel. The two had worked together for years, and now the younger man was venturing off on his own. The older man had traveled extensively for the sake of the gospel and wanted his younger protege to do well in the face of significant challenges. He would need guidance in some critical areas, courage to face the inevitable challenges to gospel ministry in a hostile land, and a heavy dose of reminders about the grace of God. We call this writing, "The Letter of Paul to Titus."

That Paul wrote it is beyond dispute, though that hasn't stopped people from actually disputing it. You can check out this shorter and this longer article if you want to research that on your own. The fact he wrote it late in his ministry is an educated guess based on the fact that it concerns Crete, which Paul did not visit as a free man in Acts, and Paul speaks as one no longer imprisoned in Rome (Titus 3:12). A reasonable guess is that he wrote it after being released from his Acts 28 house arrest but before his final imprisonment in Rome (2 Tim 4:9-18).

The letter is a mere 45 verses long, so memorizing the entire thing is well within reach. Yet, for its brevity it lacks nothing in terms of power. Perhaps it is the toughness of Titus' ministry that inspires Paul to be so forceful. After all, Titus is in Crete, and even the people who were from there could say some harsh things about its people: "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (Titus 1:12). In such a climate, Titus would need boldness and raw moral courage: "Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (2:15).

But such forcefulness is far from the whole story. This letter is filled with the grace of God and especially how that grace is supposed to result in a truly transformed life. Some of the richest gospel passages in the NT are in Titus. In fact, you could make a good case that the three greatest sentences on the gospel in our Bibles are contained in Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

One thing to notice about that first sentence is the way that it begins with "the grace of God" and ends with "zealous for good works." That idea is critical to see. The grace we have received from God first saves us but then changes us. It actually "trains us" (2:12) to become different than we were. Though before we could be described as "hated by others and hating one another" (3:3), now God's grace builds in us lives of "good works."

These "good works" in Titus affect how we live as men and women (and younger women and younger men) (2:1-6). They connect to how elders should act and speak (1:5-9). They involve our speech so we know when we fight for truth (1:9) and when we need to run from foolish controversies (3:3:9).

It is no exaggeration to say that from its first words to its last words, Titus has something to say to us.

If you get a chance before the series begins on March 19, read it several times. Listen to it while you workout and drive. Let its truth go deep in your soul to help you know our "God, who never lies" (1:2), his Son who is "our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2:13), and his Spirit who brings true "renewal" (3:5).

"Grace be with you all" (3:15).


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