Pastor Scott Andrews | August 29, 2021
Imagine with me a conversation. It’s a common conversation – one you probably have at least once, maybe several times a week. It goes something like this: Nice to meet you. My name is (fill in the blank). Are you new to Boone? What brings you here? New job, school, retirement? Where are you from? Eventually we get to, what do you do, or, what’s your major, that is, what do you plan to do? Lots of normal questions, harmless questions. Questions many ask, and most can answer. But I would suggest all of those, in a roundabout way, ask this simple question: who are you? What do you want me to know about you? What is most important to you about yourself? And that’s my question for you today – who are you? How would you answer? How do you, if I can use an overused, somewhat senseless term, self-identify? By what you do? Where you’re from? Your family of origin? Where you went to school? How you see yourself?
By the way, lots of discussion about that today: how you self-identify, as if self-identification is reality – you know, how you see yourself is who you are. Interesting – I heard it once said there are three of you – how you see yourself, how others see you, and who you actually are. Again, how you identify yourself is a big discussion – but, is your identity based in truth, fact – or, does truth even matter when it comes to self-identity? Doesn’t seem to. You see, I could say I’m a millionaire – but it wouldn’t change my checkbook balance. I could say I’m a young black man, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m an older, white man. Lots of confusion about identity today.
But I go afield. Who are you? Supposing you don’t live in a dream world – who are you in reality, in truth? What is most important for people to know about you? When asked the question, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many – even most, it is bound in productivity – what you do, or what you’re planning to do. And I suppose there is some truth in that – I’m a pastor, a doctor, a lawyer, a professor, a musician, teacher, aid worker, chef, a mom, a dad, etc. There is much to be said about what we do.
I do wonder, though, how long it would take before we got to who God made us, through the work of His Son. That is, how long would it take us to say something like, I’m a believer, a follower of Jesus, a Christian. Is that the first thing that comes to mind? A sinner saved by God’s marvelous, matchless, unearned and undeserved grace? Is there really anything more important than that? Now, I know we’re sitting in a church building, with the church, and so I’m sure we’d answer, well no, there’s nothing more important than that. But how important it is really, to our conscious identity?
A couple weeks ago, I did a little biographical sketch of the Apostle Paul as we are ready to study his letter to Titus. And he actually had a fairly impressive resume. Who are you, Paul? I guess he could say, I’m Paul, from Tarsus in Cilicia. I’m a Roman citizen. I’m a tentmaker. I’m well-educated, in one of the finest universities of the day. I’m a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. More, I’m a Pharisee, and I trained at the feet of Gamaliel. Is any of that – much of that what we consider to be most important – is any of that what he would say? Consider what Paul said in Philippians 3:
4 …If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh [if anyone else has a reason to brag], I far more:
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;
6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
All those things that Paul said he used to hold dear in identifying who he was – all those things we so often hold dear – he said, I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ – I count them but rubbish that I may gain Christ. You want to know who I really am? The salutations in his letters identify him. In the order he wrote them:
Galatians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father).
I and II Thessalonians 1:1 – (simply) Paul and Silvanus and Timothy.
I and II Corinthians 1:1 – Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
Romans 1:1 – Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
Ephesians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
Philippians 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
Philemon 1:1 – Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus.
I Timothy 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope.
II Timothy 1:1 – Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
And our letter today, Titus 1:1 – Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Here’s my point. Notice, Paul knew most of those to whom he wrote – not all, but most. And as was customary in letters of that day, he would introduce himself as the writer. What would your salutation say? What would you want your readers to know first and foremost about you? We don’t identify ourselves in the salutation, but what would the end of your emails, letters, say. Sincerely… For Paul, a man with an impressive pedigree, he simply wrote, I am a bond-servant of God, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. What is more important than that – our own accomplishments, or God’s accomplishments and calling in us? Let’s read our text for today, Titus 1:1-4.
Notice, as Paul identifies himself as the writer, dare I say he self-identifies with two descriptive nouns – in a sense, with what he does. First, he said I am a bond-servant. The word is literally slave, but because of the ethnic and horrible history of our own country’s slavery, the word is typically translated bond-servant or bond-slave. The bond-slave was purchased by the owner. The slave could have become so as a prisoner of war, been born into it, or the person could have sold him- or herself into slavery to satisfy debts. It was often for economic gain – and it was seldom the result of ethnic oppression. It is said that as many as one-third of the Roman Empire was made up of such bond-slaves. They were often treated as employees, or even family members. They were often well-trained in business or domestic affairs or education, etc. That is not to imply they were all well-treated – they weren’t. But in most cases, it was economically advantageous to be a bond-servant. In fact, in many cases, due to the economic benefit, the slave could purchase his or her own freedom.
But don’t miss this – they were still owned by the master, and responsible to the master to obey his commands – his bidding. Further, the master was responsible for the well-being of his servants. And so, this is how Paul self-identified. He saw himself – in reality – as owned and provided for by the Master. He said it this way in I Corinthians 6:
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
When speaking to the Elders of Ephesus, He said in Acts 20, 28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Peter wrote in I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession…”
Here’s the point I’m trying to make – God sovereignly and graciously and lovingly owns you, and you could not have a better Master. If you know Jesus, you are a bond-servant of God, purchased to do His will, and to be His child.
Paul goes on to call himself an apostle of Jesus Christ. Now, the word apostle simply means one sent – a sent one. It speaks of an authoritative messenger sent with the message and authority of the sender. We remember from Paul’s biography that, as Saul, he was on his way to Damascus with letters of authorization to arrest followers of the Way – followers of Jesus. But Jesus met him on the way, converted him, and called him to be an apostle – the one sent with the message and authority of Jesus and His gospel – to the Gentiles.
Paul never forgot that. As we saw earlier, he often identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Owned by God, sent by Jesus. This is how Paul self-identified. It would not take long in a conversation with him before he got to Jesus and the gospel. Even when he was writing letters to Timothy and Titus, his sons in the faith. Yes – he expected the letters to be read to the churches, so this self-identification lent authority to Timothy and Titus as they read the letters. But this is how Paul saw himself first – and I’m suggesting, it should be the way we see ourselves – owned by God, and sent with His message of the gospel.
From there, through verse 3, Paul goes on to glory in the gospel he has been sent to share. Verses 1-4 are actually one, complex sentence. It’s the second-longest of Paul’s salutations, second only to Romans. And is this one sentence, he gives a glorious explanation of the gospel he came to give. If I outlined the sentence, it would look like this:
- The Writer Paul
- A Bond-servant of God
- An Apostle of Jesus Christ
- For the Faith of God’s Chosen
- For the Knowledge of Godliness-producing Truth
- For (In) the Hope of God-promised Eternal Life
- Promised Long Ago
- Manifested at the Proper Time
- Through His Word
- Through my Proclamation
- The Recipient Titus
- Paul’s True Son
- Through a Common Faith
- The Greeting
- Grace and Peace
- From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior
Do you see how complex and full and glorious this salutation is? It is filled with gospel truth. So we know that Paul, a bond-servant of God and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, is the writer. But now, Paul tells why he was called to be an apostle – the purpose for which is he was called and sent. We see three things specifically:
First, for the Faith of God’s Chosen. Verse 1, I am an apostle of Jesus Christ for this purpose: for the faith of those chosen of God. The word faith here speaks of soul-justifying faith. It speaks of the faith that is expressed in the gospel that saves God’s chosen people. The word chosen is the word from which we get our word elect. So he’s saying this: I am an apostle – one sent with the message of the gospel for the faith of those chosen or elected for salvation by God. Don’t get bothered by that – God is the one who chooses and elects for salvation. That’s His job, not ours. Our is to proclaim the gospel so that those chosen will exercise faith – they will believe and be saved. Let God do His job – you do yours – share the message of the gospel so that people will believe. Paul said it this way in II Timothy 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen (or the elect), so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
Second, Paul says I am an apostle for the knowledge of godliness-producing truth. An apostle of Jesus Christ for the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness. Please notice – to believe the truth of the gospel results in justification and a knowledge of the truth that produces godliness. In other words, true justification results in sanctification. You don’t just believe and go on living a life of self-gratifying sin. No – we receive the knowledge of the truth, saving us, making us new creations, and setting us on a life-long, Spirit-empowered pursuit of godliness. A life-long transformation into the image of His Son.
Third, I am an apostle of Jesus Christ for the hope of God-promised eternal life. Now, the fact that God promised eternal life through the gospel is enough. But Paul makes several glorious qualifications of the promise. First, the promise came from our God who cannot lie. Numbers 23 says it this way, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” – that means, change. Now, Paul is making this point now, because later in the chapter, he’s going to talk about the false teachers, among whom are Cretans, who are always liars. But God is not a man that He should lie. He cannot lie. Hebrews 6 says:
17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath,
18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.
That author of Hebrews says the same thing – God made promises, and since He does not change, and it is impossible for Him to lie, you can rely on the promise. We can count on the rock-solid truth of the promise of eternal life – granted us through the gospel. As I’ve talked about many times, hope in the Scripture is not a wistful longing for an uncertain tomorrow – it is based on the promise and character of God, so it is absolutely certain. Eternal life is unshakably, undeniably yours. Paul will end the book with this promise, 3:7, “so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Now notice, God promised this eternal life long ages ago – literally from times eternal. Throughout the Scripture, we read God’s plan of salvation was made in eternity past. Consider:
Ephesians 1:4 – just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.
II Thessalonians 2:13 – But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren loved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
II Timothy 1:9-11 – who [God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which He granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.
Revelation 13 says the book of life of the Lamb was written from the foundation of the world.
I could go on; I think you get the point. This plan of salvation was foreordained before creation – in eternity past. Which means, the cross and resurrection of Christ – and your salvation – was not plan B. It was not an afterthought. God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world. Which means, when God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, to include humanity with a free will – Adam and Eve – and put them in the Garden with one prohibition – He knew they would fall into sin. And yet, He created them anyway. He created them knowing they would sin – even planning for them to sin – and He planned that His Son would die for the sins of His people. How could He do that? Why would He do that? Ephesians 1 tells us why three times – to the praise of His glory:
Verses 5-6 – He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…to the praise of the glory of His grace.
Verse 12 – to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
Verse 14 – who [the Holy Spirit] is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
God so ordained all that is – to include our creation, rebellion, and salvation to the praise of the glory of His incredible grace. Our salvation is so He gets the glory, which is why it is all – from beginning to end – of Him.
Back to Titus. Verses 2 and 3, so this was planned and promised from ages long ago – from eternity past, but was at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I [Paul] was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior. Remember II Timothy – this promised plan was revealed at the proper time through the appearing of Jesus Christ.
The word of truth – the word of the gospel was manifested at the proper time. It was a mystery in ages past, but now has been made known. One of my commentators pointed out – this eternal plan intersected within time at the proper time. I Timothy 2 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” Galatians 4 says, “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
And the proclamation of this gospel was entrusted to Paul according to the commandment of God our Savior. We remember from Paul’s biography, when he made it to Damascus as a blind, converted believer, that God appointed him to be His chosen instrument, to bear the name of Christ and His gospel to the Gentiles. And Paul spent, and in fact gave his life carrying out that commission.
Which brings us quickly and by way of conclusion to the recipient of the letter in verse 4. Of course, it is Titus. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Titus’ name doesn’t appear in the book of Acts, which covers Paul’s three missionary journeys. We find out from Galatians and II Corinthians that Titus was a trusted colleague of Paul – one Paul sent from place to place to operate on his apostolic authority. In fact, we find Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to set things in order.
We also found that Titus was a Greek. He wasn’t a circumcised Jew, not even a circumcised proselyte to Judaism. He was simply a believer in Jesus. And here, we find he was Paul’s true child in a common faith. Paul also called Timothy his son in the faith. That simply means that both Timothy and Titus – who become Paul’s apostolic delegates and receive these pastoral epistles – these men had become Christians – followers of Jesus – through Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Through Paul’s proclamation of the gospel.
So the recipient of the letter is simply Titus, a believer, Paul’s son in a common faith – a common faith in Jesus. Which brings us full circle to the introduction. When letters were written at this time, the writer would often praise the recipient – citing their lofty positions or accomplishments. But Paul simply calls Titus a true child in a common faith. That’s how he identified the recipient. Not by his accomplishments, not by accolades. Not a long list of educational letters after his name. Simply a follower of Jesus. So again I ask, when asked to identify yourself – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?
Finally, Paul offers his usual greeting of grace and peace. But notice, from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Savior. But wait a minute – back in verse 3, Paul called God our Savior – now he calls Jesus our Savior.
Exactly. He could use the term Savior interchangeably with God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. You see, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. God’s eternal plan of salvation was carried out by the God the Son, and is applied by God the Holy Spirit. In that sense, we can speak of God our Savior, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit our Savior. The entire Trinity is intimately involved in our salvation – from eternity past, to the fullness of time when the Son came, to today, when the Spirit regenerates us – makes us alive in Christ. To the praise of the glory of His grace.