“Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; but hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior; to Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”
The apostle Paul and one of his spiritual sons, Titus, preached in many cities on the island of Crete. The fruit of their labors was that in many of the cities there was a gathering of those who were converted by the Holy Spirit to the Christian faith. However, Paul was able to stay only a short while. This left much work to be done in the continuing spiritual development of these groups. So Paul appointed Titus to stay and continue the work so that churches could be organized (Titus 1:5).
This brief letter of Paul to Titus contains a list of the things that Paul did not have time to do. Paul asks Titus to do those things that were incomplete (wanting). This letter presents a good perspective of the work that must be done in a group of young believers so they might be organized as an instituted church of Christ.
Paul identifies himself in our text in three ways.
That about which the apostle is the most conscious is that which he states first: “a servant of God.” Literally, a slave. This was the perspective of Paul, James, and Peter: Romans 1:1;Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; James 1:1; II Peter 1:1. Would that be the first way I would identify myself?
A slave is one who is owned by his master and is always obliged to do only what the master desires. Paul is God’s servant/slave from three perspectives: by virtue of creation, by virtue of redemption, and by virtue of his calling! The wonder of being a slave by redemption is that the very grace that redeems is also the grace that makes Paul and us willing to be slaves of the Most High God. Grace makes it our joy to belong to our faithful Savior and Lord!
As a slave of God, Paul is conscious of his dependence on his Master. He is dependent on his Master’s constant flow of grace to desire to be in His service. He is dependent on his Master to supply him with the energy to do his calling faithfully. And he is dependent on his Master for any “success” in his work.
Second, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” An apostle is literally one sent out by Jesus Himself. Like the other eleven (but by special revelation, Acts 22:14, 15; Gal. 1:12ff.; II Cor. 12:1-7), Paul was called, equipped, and sent out by Jesus Himself to serve the entire church. By identifying himself this way Paul is showing the weight of this letter. It is not just friendly, fatherly advice. Rather, Christ is speaking through Paul to Titus (and to us).
Thirdly, Paul identifies himself as a preacher. To him was committed the task of preaching God’s Word (3). Paul was entrusted with this calling by nothing less than divine command. God, our Savior, commissioned him. He must obey! And when he carries out this calling of preaching, Paul (and all those so commissioned) may be assured that God will use that preaching of His Word to save and to give grace.
What was committed to Paul? God’s Word concerning the Savior. The good news of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, was spoken of in the Scriptures as Paul had them. As he was inspired to write to Timothy, those holy scriptures were able to make wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, for all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (II Tim. 3:15, 16). Further, committed to Paul was the responsibility to preach, i.e., to serve as a herald of the King, to proclaim authoritatively the gospel.
Paul has this calling for three specific purposes.
Our text expresses the first purpose as: “according to the faith of God’s elect.” The calling to preach is given “with a view to” God’s elect. God’s elect are those God chooses in eternity, giving them to and uniting them with Christ forever to save and take them to eternal glory. By saying that he preaches with a view to God’s elect, Paul is assuming the perspective God has for the preaching, namely the means of grace for God’s chosen children. Paul does not know (nor does he need to know) who are the elect in order to perform his commission. He does not have to be concerned about identifying them. But he is to be concerned to preach so they can identify themselves as God’s elect (cf. Canons I, 12).
Paul was commissioned to preach God’s Word, and the faith of the elect hearers responds by holding it for truth, by believing it, by delighting in it. So Titus is to preach with an eye toward the elect gaining an accurate knowledge of the truth, which, in turn, will lead to their glad recognition of this redemption truth in Christ and what it means for them. Note too that it is the knowledge of the objective truth that frees the elect from errors and falsehood—from vain talkers and deceivers (11).
Second, right preaching of God’s Word is to be with a view to the elect holding the truth “which is after [according to] godliness.” Paul admonishes Titus and Timothy to reject any preaching and teaching that tends to vain curiosity (fables and commandments of men,Titus 1:14), to foolish questions and contentions, and to striving about the laws (Titus 3:9). Positively, Titus’ preaching must have in mind that which becomes sound doctrine, namely godliness. Godliness is the conscious, reverent bowing in obedience to God in everyday life. It is living as before the face of God. It is a conscientious devotion to God. It is the fear of the Lord.
Paul instructs Titus so to preach and teach that the young Christians on the island of Crete would be instructed to live a lifestyle that flows from sound or healthy teachings (Titus 2:1). The goal of the faithful preaching must be more than giving head knowledge. In the second and third chapters of this short letter, Paul identifies what it is that constitutes godliness. It is a life that adorns the doctrine of God our Savior (Titus 2:10), that does not bring blasphemy on the Word of God (Titus 2:5), that shames their critics (Titus 2:8), and that exhibits a zeal unto good works (Titus 2:14).
Third, Paul preached, and admonishes Titus (and every minister) to preach, so that the elect might have the “hope of eternal life” (Titus 2). The elect are taught how to live “in this present world” (Titus 2:12), but also they are taught to look to eternal life. We live here, but we also long, with confident expectation and patient waiting, for the fullest development of salvation in Jesus Christ. This hope is to be a very real part of the thinking and life of the elect.
God promised eternal life “before the world began.” In eternity past, God made a promise concerning the eternity to come! This is similar to having God’s grace given to us in Christ before the world began (II Tim. 1:9). The fulfillment of God’s decree to elect unto eternal life is so certain that it can be spoken of as having been already given. Our salvation is traced to its origin in God’s eternal plan, just as in Romans 8:29, 30; I Corinthians 2:7; II Thessalonians 2:13, and elsewhere. What makes the promise of eternal life so certain is the fact that this is the promise of “God that cannot lie.” It is likely that this is added because Paul is writing to Cretans, who were known to be liars (Titus 1:12). God is faithful. He never lies, for to do so would be to deny Himself (II Tim. 2:13).
Right preaching keeps the hearers in mind of the promise of eternal life.
The commission to preach is given and accomplished with the assurance of blessing (4). The normal introduction of Paul’s epistles includes a blessing. So here. But here it must be connected to the commission of Paul and Titus (and every minister) to preach God’s Word. And this is an efficacious declaration. It is not a mere wish, nor is it just an offer. It is efficacious because it originates in the Father and was merited by the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the content of this blessing? “Grace” is God’s unmerited favor—a love that pardons—that continuously is given to God’s children. The salutation of grace assures Titus of God’s pardon operating as a spiritual power in his life and ministry. He may be assured that he will be carried in the performance of his work by all-sufficient grace. And this amazing grace will use even a weak means like him to accomplish God’s will in the saving of the elect.
“Mercy” is God’s earnest desire to bless His miserable but beloved children. Mercy puts action into tender compassion. The salutation of mercy assures Titus of God’s loving kindness in his difficult labors and in every situation of life. Mercy, given as continuously as grace, will be present in every moment of Titus’ work on Crete.
“Peace” always follows grace and mercy. Peace is the consciousness given to God’s children that they are reconciled with God through Jesus. God is not at war with them. On the contrary, He is in a relationship of wonderful friendship with them. The salutation of peace assures Titus that what was broken by sin is made whole. He may perform his labors in the assurance that God is his Friend and constant Companion.
Titus and every called/sent preacher are to know that God has called and commissioned them to preach His Word as God’s servants. The God who cannot lie assures them that He will bless them with His grace, mercy, and peace. May they preach and teach so God’s elect come to a conscious faith that is evidenced in godly living and a lively hope.