Week One – Introduction to Titus

Anytime you start new book, it is practical to ask yourself “who, what, where, when, why”. This teaches a skill that transcends this study. Most likely you learned this skill in Journalism class 101.

Why is so important to ask these questions when reading the Bible? After all, it’s really God’s Word to us, right? Can’t we just read it like God is writing directly to us? Well, yes and no. The Bible is God’s Word to us, and he did direct human authors to write it so that we can learn from it. It’s given to us so that we can learn who God is and how to worship him by living according to his design. But God gave the Bible to us in a unique manner – through human authors writing for certain circumstances, to certain audiences. Therefore, we should read the Bible in the manner in which God chose to write it. In doing so, it is important and helpful to ask the “W” questions.

We are studying the book of Titus this year. Titus is an epistle, which is just a fancy word for “letter.” When we are studying an epistle, we do ourselves in injustice if we gloss over the who, what, when, where and why. At best, we won’t get out of it all that God intended for us. At worst, we will misinterpret Scripture as we fail to understand what it is really saying.

Example: a letter. Read the following excerpts from this letter, without any background information.

 “I don’t want you to become sad, I still live somewhere else, where you can’t see me and can’t hear me, but I will see you and know how you are. And I will wait for you until you come to me. Everybody has his time and will move sometime. I am guilty that I raised your hopes about wedding, marriage, children and family”… “You ought to be very proud, because it is an honor and you will see the results and everybody will be happy” The last page of the letter (shown above) translates to: “Remember what you are and who would deserve you. I hug you and kiss you on your hands and on the head. And I thank you and apologize for the very wonderful, hard five years that you spent with me. I am your prince and I will pick you up. Goodbye!!”

Your man forever
Ziad Jarrah
10-9-2001

Now read this background information about the author, and see if it changes your understanding of the above letter.

Ziad Jarrah was the hijacker-pilot of United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed into a field in a rural area near Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing all 44 people on board. Jarrah was 26 years old and was also one of the masterminds behind the September 11 attacks. On September 10, Jarrah spent the last evening of his life writing a four page letter to his girlfriend Aysel Senguen in Bochum Germany whom he had made marriage plans with. The letter never reached her because she had moved out of her apartment after entering witness protection shortly after the attacks. The letter was returned to the United States by the postal services, where it was discovered and delivered to the FBI. In the first page translated from German he writes (read it again):

“I don’t want you to become sad, I still live somewhere else, where you can’t see me and can’t hear me, but I will see you and know how you are. And I will wait for you until you come to me. Everybody has his time and will move sometime. I am guilty that I raised your hopes about wedding, marriage, children and family”… “You ought to be very proud, because it is an honor and you will see the results and everybody will be happy” The last page of the letter (shown above) translates to: “Remember what you are and who would deserve you. I hug you and kiss you on your hands and on the head. And I thank you and apologize for the very wonderful, hard five years that you spent with me. I am your prince and I will pick you up. Goodbye!!”

Your man forever
Ziad Jarrah
10-9-2001

 

Does knowing more about the author change how you read his writing? Does it change your emotions as you read his words?

This is an extreme example, but the same is true, to a certain extent, with reading Biblical letters. Our reading and understanding changes as we know what we can about the who, what, when, where and why. Take the time to pinpoint this information when studying epistles. In fact, let’s do that with the epistle of Titus.

Who

Paul – Paul’s exact date of birth is unknown. It is reasonable to surmise that he was born within a decade of Jesus’ birth. He died, probably as a martyr in Rome, in the mid to late a.d. 60s.

Paul’s birthplace was not the land Christ walked but the Hellenistic city of Tarsus, chief city of the Roman province of Cilicia.

At some point, he moved to Jerusalem, where he was received rabbinic training. He spoke at least Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. only a couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion (ca. a.d. 30), Paul’s hostile attitude toward the latest and most virulent messianic movement of the time underwent radical change. As he traveled the 150 miles from Jerusalem to Damascus armed with legal authority to hunt down Jewish Christians ( Acts 9:1-2 ), bright light and a heavenly voice stopped him dead in his tracks. It was to Paul’s chagrin that Jesus was not a dead troublemaker but the risen Lord. Paul’s conversion was never the focal point of his preaching. He preached Christ, not his personal experience ( 2 Cor 4:5 ) but it does not fail to influence him in later years ( Acts 22:2-12 ; 26:2-18 ).

After his conversion, Paul went on three missionary journeys, spreading the gospel all over the Roman world. He returned to Jerusalem. Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem was followed quickly by his arrest and a two-year imprisonment in Caesarea Maritima. Thereafter he was shipped to Rome on appeal to the imperial court of Nero. There (see Acts 28) he apparently wrote his so-called prison letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was probably released from prison, and likely wrote Titus during this time. We know that Paul was once again imprisoned, where he wrote 2 Timothy, and was ultimately martyred at the hands of the Roman government.

Why does it matter that we know these things about Paul? So that we understand his authority in writing such a letter and his deeply vested interest in the welfare of the church in Crete.

Titus – Gentile convert who had served and traveled with the Apostle Paul (Gal 2:1-3). He had also functioned as a faithful emissary to the troubled church in Corinth (2 Corin 7:6-7). In approximately AD 63-64, after they left Timothy behind in Ephesus, Paul and Titus traveled on to Crete. After a brief visit Paul then left Titus behind to help provide leadership for the Cretan churches. Later, Paul wrote this letter to Titus and had it delivered to him in Crete.

Why does it matter if we know these things about Titus? So that we understand his relationship to Paul, that these things were being written out of love and parental concern. And so that we understand Titus’ role and authority in the Cretan church.

What

This is an Epistle. It’s a New Testament letter with a salutation, body, closing. These were occasional documents meaning something was happening in the local church that prompted this letter. This one is addressing the false teachers in Crete who were disrupting the local churches. Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint leaders and make sure everything was in order.

Where

Titus is in Crete and Paul’s location is unknown.

When

Mid 60s….prob 62-64 A.D. This was written roughly the same time as 1 Timothy. 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter and 1 Timothy and Titus were written toward the end of his life. Note that these are known as “pastoral epistles.” Paul is addressing young men he has raised up in the faith to carry out his mission. Paul had left these men behind on their missionary journeys, presumably at churches that needed such leadership. While these men were obviously very capable and very grounded in Scripture, they needed encouragement and instruction in building healthy churches that would carry out the gospel.

Why

Paul’s purpose is to remind Titus to put the local churches in order. Specifically, He is to rebuke the false teachers and their ungodly lifestyles and teach doctrine that accords with godly living.

 

Themes in Titus

In this letter I want to point out 3 gospel themes throughout. Be on the lookout for these themes throughout the whole study:

1. Belief in the gospel should always lead to godliness and good works. (There is an inseparable link between belief and behavior!!!)

Hopefully as you completed question 9 in the homework, you saw some of these words or similar words repeated in the book of Titus.

When we say the gospel what do we mean? The gospel literally means “good news.” The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ obediently followed his Father’s will and became a man. He lived a perfect, sinless life, but was crucified for the sins of the whole world. He was crucified for your sin and mine, both those we have committed and those we will yet commit. He died for our sins, but death could not hold him. He rose again and defeated sin and death forever. He is forever seated at the right hand of God the Father. The good news of the gospel is that as we recognize our miserable state as sinners, we can turn to the extravagant grace and mercy offered by Jesus, through his work on the cross. We can believe and follow him and be forgiven. And not just forgiven, and but adopted as daughters of the King.

When Paul writes of “sound doctrine”, “the trustworthy word” and the “word of God”, he’s talking about the gospel.

What happens if we just believe in the gospel without growing in godliness and good works?

2. The gospel is the only true basis for godliness and good works in the lives of believers. (Good works and godly character must be grounded in the gospel!!) Titus 3:4-8

What happens if we do good works out of our own strength and motivation?

Holier than thou

Discouragement

Legalism

3. The gospel lived out rightly in the lives of believers (through godly character and good works) will commend it to the unbelieving, watching world.

What does the world need so much? It needs to see Christians who are living out what they believe. This is how we tell the gospel. Not apart from words. We need to use words to share the truths of the gospel. But words apart from action are ineffective. People need to see our deep love for our Savior.
There are so many hot topics in our society right now. The world needs to see gospel living. People need to hear the truth of God’s Word in the context of seeing it change our lives. Through our study of Titus, we should grow in both our understanding of the Word of God, and our desire and ability to live out the Word of God.

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