Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reading Through Titus

51yRNhigr7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, written by John Stott. My analysis of the letter to  Titus is below. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

Titus was a Gentile convert who served and traveled with the apostle Paul. He had been sent by Paul to work with the Corinthian church. Paul had left Titus in Crete to pastor the church there and appoint and train leadership. Titus is last mentioned in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia). Paul and Titus planted the church in Crete soon after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. It is likely that Paul wanted Titus to join him for a missionary trip to Spain in the spring of 64. According to tradition, he later returned to Crete and lived the rest of his life there. Titus is mentioned 13 times by  Paul in his letters and this letter fits well with those situations. 

Paul wrote the letter to tell Titus to organize the work in Crete and supervise the appointment of church leadership, to exercise his authority to oppose false teachers and dissenters and rebuke immoral behavior, and to arrange for Titus to come to Nicopolis to prepare for the next missionary journey. Paul reminded Titus that receiving God’s grace obligates us to be devoted to Jesus Christ and to show it with our gracious lifestyle. The overall message of the letter is "The church must be trained and organized to teach and live out God‘s grace before the world."

Titus Chart ColorFirst, the Church must be organized to minister God’s Grace. The basis of ministry is God’s gracious calling through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and all ministry must rest on God’s Word and promises which are absolutely reliable. God entrusts his message to people who must preach it at His command and live in right relationship with God and with other believers. The task is to organize and train the church to grow and minister in God’s grace. This requires mature leadership who are above accusation in their family relationships and the character of their ministries, and are gracious in the use of their homes and in their relationships.  Leaders must hold to biblical truth and be able to teach and defend it by resisting false teachers who do not preach the Gospel of God’s grace.

Three valid tests to apply to any and every system...First, is its origin divine or human, revelation or tradition? Secondly, is its essence inward or outward, spiritual or ritual? Thirdly, is its result a transformed life or a merely formal creed? True religion is divine in its origin, spiritual in its essence and moral in its effect. Titus 1.14-16, 183.

The key institution in the church is the seminary or theological college. In every country the church is a reflection of its seminaries. All the church’s future pastors and teachers pass through a seminary. It is there that they are either made or marred, either equipped and inspired or ruined. Therefore we should set ourselves to capture the seminaries of the world for evangelical faith, academic excellence and personal godliness. Titus 1, 184.

Secondly, Titus was to teach people in the church the godly behavior that must result from applying God’s Grace. Each group was to act appropriately so that their behavior is in agreement with God’s Word, are examples of a respectful Christ-like lifestyle, and focuses on honoring Jesus. Reception of God’s grace obligates us to be eager to do what pleases God because it assures hope for the future and freedom from the past, and if we really understand that we belong to Jesus we will want to be like Him. So, we are to teach one another to live godly lifestyles through our gracious words and example.

Christian pastors and teachers are called first to teach both doctrine and ethics; secondly to teach them in relation to each other and show how they ‘fit’; and thirdly to relate duty to doctrine, not in general principles only but in detailed applications. Titus 2.1-15, 186

Christian doctrine is salvation doctrine, a jewel called ‘the teaching about God our Saviour’ (10). So either we give no evidence of salvation, in which case the gospel-jewel is tarnished, or we give good evidence of salvation by living a manifestly saved life, in which case the gospel-jewel shines with extra lustre. Our lives can bring either adornment or discredit to the gospel. Titus 2.1-10, 191–192.

Grace disciplines us to ‘renounce’ our old life and to live a new one, to turn from ungodliness to godliness, from self-centredness to self-control, from the world’s devious ways to fair dealing with each other. Titus 2.11-12, 193.

We need to say to ourselves regularly the great acclamation, ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.’ For then our present duties in the home will be inspired by the past and future epiphanies of Christ. Titus 2.13-14, 196

Finally, Titus was to work hard TO ACT according to what God‘s grace had made him TO BE. He was to remind people that their lifestyle must show Christ’s character to the world and reflect who they are by God’s grace, not who they were in their own flesh. He was to oppose and avoid anyone who demeans God’s grace by teaching or lifestyle, while working hard to give God’s grace to others as He has given grace to us.

The only reason we dare instruct others in social ethics is that we know what we were once like ourselves, that God nevertheless saved us, and that he can therefore transform other people too. It is not enough to affirm that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (2:11); we must be able to say that he saved us (3:5), even he saved me. Titus 3.3-8, 200–201.

Doctrine inspires duty, and duty adorns doctrine. Doctrine and duty are married; they must not be divorced. 3, 213

True teaching of Grace never leads to license. It leads to devotion and sacrifice.

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