Titus 1:1-4 – Greeting From Paul to Titus

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Titus 1:1

  1. Paul and his companion Titus had previously been together on the island of Crete to start a church, but for some reason Paul had had to leave and so sends these instructions to Titus so that he can continue the work on the island.
  2. Paul probably wrote this letter around the years 62-66 at about the same time as he wrote a similar letter to Timothy.
  3. In ancient times, it was not uncommon for a superior to send his subordinate so-called “mandate letters” to give instructions and to confirm his position before the local people.
  4. Paul writes this letter to Titus in part to confirm to the church in Crete that Paul stands behind Titus. But above all, he writes this letter to give instructions to Titus on how to structure and lead the newly started church on the island of Crete.
  5. Where it says “servant” in English, it says “doulos” in Greek and actually means “slave”. Paul sees himself as a servant and/or slave of God.
    1. In our Swedish context, it may be difficult to relate to the word “slave”, but in Paul’s time, Roman and Greek society consisted of up to a third of slaves.
    1. It may be easier to relate to words like “child of God”, “friend of God” or something similar, but here Paul calls himself “slave of God”. Different words may have different significance in the course of our lives. Sometimes it may be necessary to just rest in faith and trust that one is a child of God, but sometimes it may be right and proper to think of oneself as a slave of God, diligently and disciplinedly carrying out God’s will.
  6. Where it says “apostle” in English, it says “apostolos” in Greek and actually means “sent” or “envoy”. 
    1. Paul is “sent” by Jesus to testify about Jesus to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).
  7. God has a people whom he has saved and given eternal life. This people consists of all who believe in Jesus and have confessed him as their Lord. Paul is chosen by Jesus to teach this people how to live this new life.
    1. Paul struggled to lead people into this salvation, but he also worked hard to teach these people to live godly lives.
    1. Once we are saved, a life of “sanctification” awaits us, a life in which we constantly grow in our faith and learn more and more about this new life.
  8. In general, this letter is about how Paul intends this new people to be led into a life of godliness. Paul instructs Titus on how the church should be structured and how to behave toward one another.
    1. By extension, this is of course instructions for us today as well. For the church to function and grow in godliness, it is important that there is exemplary leadership, sound doctrine and good relationships among us Christians.

Titus 1:2

  1. Everyone who believes in Jesus receives “eternal life” from God (John 3:16). Even if we humans die and are buried in the earth, we know that one day we will be resurrected and have new eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). There are several images in nature that help us understand this:
    1. When you bury a seed in the ground, it takes on new life and grows up.
    2. A caterpillar may be ugly and caterpillar-like, but when it becomes a pupa after a while, we know that it will soon have a new life and become a butterfly.
    3. In the same way, we live in the hope that one day we will become a “butterfly”. When we die and are buried in the earth, we know that we will be resurrected to eternal life with Jesus.
  2. The fact that God does not lie is probably self-evident to most people and is written down long ago in Num 23:19.
    1. The reason Paul writes something as obvious as that God cannot lie is because in Paul’s day there was a proverb that read, “Cretans are always lying, beasts, ravenous and lazy” (see verse 12 for a more detailed commentary on this).
    2. The fact that God does not lie further confirms that we can trust in our hope for eternal life. Even if we sometimes feel like worms and caterpillars, we know that one day we will have new eternal life and become like butterflies.

Titus 1:3

  1. When you read the whole of Titus, you notice that Paul uses the word “savior” very often, and you also notice that he alternately refers to God as savior and Jesus as savior. Paul uses the word “savior” twelve times in all his letters, and half of them are in Titus.
    1. The prophet Isaiah is clear that there is only one saviour (Is 43:11), and that saviour is YHWH, our God. How is it then that Paul describes both God and Jesus as our saviour? Well, because Jesus is God! In Titus 2:13 Paul writes: “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”.
      1. “God our Savior” (Titus 1:3)
      2. “Christ Jesus our Savior” (Titus 1:4)
      3. “God our Savior” (Titus 2:10)”
      4. “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)
      5. “God our Savior” (Titus 3:4).
      6. “Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:6).
    1. The Apostle John writes in his Gospel that “the Word was God” (John 1:1) and “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a) and further declares that “no one has ever seen God. The only-begotten, who is God himself, and is with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:18). God thus became man and “took up his dwelling among us”. The sad thing is, however, that John also writes that “he came to his own, and his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). Not until the end of John’s Gospel does one of the disciples confess who Jesus is: “Thomas answered him: “My Lord and God!” (John 20:28). 
      1. Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus has always existed but was born as a human being and is therefore 100% God and 100% human at the same time.
      2. Jesus does not force us to confess who he is, but rather he demonstrates this in word and deed (Mark 2:5-7) and then waits for the Father to reveal this in our hearts (Matthew 16:16-17).
    1. The Roman senator and writer Pliny the Younger wrote about the first Christians in about 110: “They met on a certain day before daylight, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a deity.”
      1. From the very beginning, Christians have both confessed and worshipped Jesus as Lord and God.
  2. The timing of Jesus’ birth was perfect!
    1. There was an international language, Greek, which a lot of people knew.
    2. There was a well-developed postal system, so that Paul could send letters to the churches all over the Roman Empire.
    3. Because of the Roman peace, the Pax Romana, people could move freely throughout the Roman Empire.
    4. There was a well-established network for travelling, both by sea and by land. The Romans were good at building roads so it was easy to get from one place to another.
    5. God always has a “timing” when he wants to do things. Maybe you are praying to God for healing or some other answer to prayer, but God is not answering. There are many different answers to the question of why you don’t get an answer to prayer, but one of them may be that God is not answering because the timing is not right yet. Then it is a matter of being humble, realising that God is God, we are human beings, keep praying and wait for God’s right time.
  3. Do we really need preachers and leaders in the Church? Can’t everyone read the Bible for themselves? Of course everyone can read the Bible and the more people who do, the better. But it is also important that the message of Jesus is “passed on”. Those who have lived a long Christian life need to pass on their knowledge and experience. Those who have studied the Bible in depth need to pass on their understanding.
    1. The Christian life is not an isolated individualistic phenomenon, but a community with structure and leadership. This is one of the things that Paul is trying to convey through this letter to Titus.
    2. God presents his word through “proclamation”. Although God’s will is written in the Bible, language and culture change over time. God’s word needs to be proclaimed and explained so that ordinary people understand in their own language and culture.
      1. Sometimes a story is told from the South Sea mission field. When the missionaries had to translate the Bible into the local language, they had difficulties when they came to the word “lamb”. The islanders had never seen a lamb and did not know what it was. In order for the islanders to understand God’s word in their own language, the missionaries translated “lamb” into “pig” and it became easier to understand.
      2. Similarly, the Bible must be constantly preached and explained in a language that ordinary people understand. Each new generation has more or less a new way of speaking and preachers need to constantly develop their way of preaching so that ordinary people understand.
      3. When you look at a parish, it is often very easy to think that “it was better in the past”, the parishioners don’t pray as much as they used to, not as many people want to go to the pulpit as they used to, etc, etc… But personally, I don’t think the problem is that it was better in the past, but that times have changed and we haven’t kept up with them. You should never adapt the message, but you should definitely adapt the way you deliver the message. The Gospel always has to be translated into a new time, into a new language and into a new culture. We can’t expect young people to always want to sing old hymns and victory tunes and then be disappointed and complain that they are so unspiritual and don’t want to go to church.
      4. In different times, revivals have looked different. When the Spirit of God breathes life into us Christians, it shows up in a few different ways.
        1. The end of the 2nd century saw the start of what might be called a “desert revival”. Many young men became interested in God and longed to spend more time with him in peace and quiet, so they went out into the desert and lived alone in caves. Imagine how absurd it would be if we Christians today still complained that there was so little revival because so few young men today go out into the desert and live in caves. Exactly how a revival manifests itself is often culturally conditioned and it is therefore foolish to try to mimic these expressions in an attempt to recreate a revival, but its inherent longing to draw closer to God, that is something to strive for and long for.
      5. But while the Bible and God’s message need to be proclaimed and explained into each new age and language, it is important to note that it is not just any “proclamation”. The message is fixed and cannot be changed or adapted just because there is a new time. Times come and go but God’s word stands firm. If our lives and values are not in line with God’s message, it is we humans who need to change, not God.

Titus 1:4

  1. Titus is mentioned a number of times in 2 Corinthians (e.g. chapters 7 and 8) and was, according to Galatians 2:1-3, a companion of Paul and of Greek descent.
  2. Since Paul calls Titus “my true child in the faith”, it is very likely that Titus, like Timothy, would have been saved through Paul’s teaching and missionary work.
    1. An important lesson from this is that when Paul had led someone to salvation, he welcomed him as a companion. Paul took care of those who had been saved and gave them a task.
    1. Before Paul gave Titus the responsible task of leading the church in Crete, Titus had to follow Paul and see and learn. In doing so, Paul knew that Titus was a person to be trusted.
  3. Although we don’t know much about Titus as a person, we do know from the Bible that he was:
    1. A true child of faith (Titus 1:4).
    2. A “brother” of Paul (2 Corinthians 2:13).
    3. Paul’s friend and co-worker (2 Corinthians 8:23).
    4. Followed in the footsteps and worked in the same spirit as Paul (2 Corinthians 12:18).
    5. Titus had learned from Paul how to be a good Christian leader (Phil 3:17) and could therefore be an example to other Christians (Titus 2:7).
    6. Titus was a reliable person. When Paul needed to control a situation in Corinth but could not go himself, he sent Titus (2 Corinthians 12:18).
  4. The Christian faith is not an isolated phenomenon. While it is of course up to each person to decide whether or not to accept Jesus as their Lord, the Christian life and Christian doctrine are not a private matter.
    1. The English expression “each one will be saved by his own faith” is not correct according to the Bible. You cannot decide for yourself what Christian doctrine should look like or who you think Jesus is. If you want to be a Christian, you should accept basic aspects such as the Bible being the Word of God and Jesus being Lord.
      1. If you want to be “godly”, you can’t pick and choose from the Bible’s messages. You can’t paint a picture of God as a kind old man with a beard handing out Christmas presents just by asking for it. God is who he is and we have to bow to that. Nor can you pick and choose in Christian doctrine. You cannot opt out of the teaching of Paul, for example, just because you don’t “like” it.
        1. However, it may be that one does not “understand” Christian doctrine or has not yet come to know God and therefore does not really know what he is like. Of course, this is not as serious as understanding but not accepting.
  5. The greeting “grace and peace” is very common in Paul’s letters. Personally, I think it is very nice because it shows that we have received grace and forgiveness for our old life and instead receive peace for our new life.
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