Last week we learned from Mary that it is very important when reading a letter to know the background of the author and his purpose so that we correctly understand what he is trying to communicate. We got a brief introduction to Paul and his ministry – but this week we are going to zoom in. What is Paul saying about himself in this week’s passage – why does it matter?
Read Titus 1:1-4:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.
Here in verses 1-4 we get A LOT of information!!!! Paul describes himself as a servant and an apostle. I think most of us have an understanding of what being a servant means – to belong to your master, and to do as he wishes you to do. How many of you have seen Downton Abbey? Mr. Carson is the butler at Downton – he does not seem oppressed or burdened by his status. No, instead he seeks the good of his master, Lord Grantham. He delights in serving him. I imagine this kind of serving when Paul describes it here and elsewhere. It is a service by choice – a willing service to one who deserves to be served.
So, we get the servant part. How many of you REALLY understand what an apostle is? The word apostle means “one who is sent.” Does that mean all our global workers are apostles? Yes, but not in the same context of the word here. The book of Acts, in chapter 1, establishes 3 criteria to be given the authority of an Apostle, the authority to directly represent Christ (with a capital A to denote this specific group of men).
- Seeing the risen Christ in order to be an eyewitness of his resurrection. 1:22
- Being personally taught by Him (Jesus). 1:22
- Receiving a specific commission from Christ Himself. 1:17, 25
All three of these were met by Paul, which you can read about in his letter to the Galatians. Therefore, he is an Apostle – one sent by Jesus Himself with specific authority and purpose.
Paul describes himself as a servant and as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He goes on in verse 1 to explain the purpose of that authority – “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.” Whew! There are a lot of clauses in these 4 verses! Let’s start with the first three – for the sake of the faith of God’s elect. Right away, these clauses should bring you incredible joy – instead of the fearful English class flashbacks I am seeing on some of your faces right now!! Why joy? Because Paul just said that he was sent out by Jesus for the sake of the faith of God’s elect – and sister, if you are a Christian, YOU are one of God’s elect! Paul was sent out for your sake! For the sake of your faith and for the sake of your knowledge of the truth!
Wait. What? “Knowledge of the truth? That sounds like homework. I’m perfectly happy engaging with my heart and having faith.” Sisters, if that is what you are thinking right now, then…well, I am so glad you are here! See, we have been called to love the Lord with all our hearts – yes. AND with all our minds! We desire to equip you to love the Lord with your heart – your emotions – AND with your intellect. Paul desired it, too! He said so right there!
But, why Kelly? Why do I have to pay attention to sentence diagrams and word definitions and cross references and all that other stuff? I didn’t like doing it in school, and I really don’t remember how to do it now…
Okay, I am being a bit dramatic – maybe. But, out of curiosity, how many of you had a tiny thought like that when you were asked to look up the definition of “accords” this week? Did you look it up? Like, in a dictionary?
How many of you don’t actually have the word “accords” in verse 1? Let’s talk a minute about that. Did you know, the Bible was not originally written in English?! I know, shocking, right? The original languages of what we call the Bible today were Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Anyone out there able to read in those languages? Besides Whitney and Mary? What you have in your hands is a translation. Translations – of which there are many – fall on a spectrum of what we call equivalency. Stick with me.
On one end, we have Formal Equivalency, or Literal Equivalency. These translations at the very end of the spectrum seek “to mimic the wording and words of the source language, paying little or no attention to the quality of the sentences he is composing” At the other end is what we call Functional Equivalency, or Dynamic Equivalency. The translations at this end of the spectrum try “to mimic the message – knowledge, emotion, and motivation of the source language – making no effort to match the words and wording of the source language.” So on the one end, you get a translation that is as close to word for word as possible and still make sense (although there have been some that don’t even make sense they were so literal), and at the other end you have a translation that sticks to the main idea, but the actual words used to communicate the idea may or may not be anywhere close to what the original text said. Where does your translation fall? For the purposes of my “brief” lesson on Bible translation, I will give you three examples. The first, The New American Standard Bible, or NASB. It would fall down here, closer to the Formal Equivalency end of the spectrum. One of the more literal translations, not so smooth to read. The second, The New International Version. It falls down toward the Functional Equivalency side – but not so far as to land it in Paraphrase territory. The last is the English Standard Version. This is the version we have used for the most part in our preparation for this study. It lands here, to the literal side of the middle. I use all three when I am studying, each for different reasons. You can actually look at the introduction of your Bible, and the translators have actually written a bit about which philosophy and methodology they have used in that translation. If you want to talk more about that, come see me, or one of the other teachers afterwards.
Back to the word “accords”. The ESV says accords, but the NIV says “leads.” What does Paul say the truth leads to? Godliness. We are seeing the beginnings of what Paul will develop into his major theme in this letter. We’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about that “truth”.
What is the truth he is talking about? Verse 2:
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began, and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.
How many of you were surprised by how many observations you were able to make about God from these two verses? I was. As we go through the letter, Paul is going to flesh out what he means by hope, but let’s look a minute. The hope of eternal life was promised by God before the ages began. Before the ages began. Who has the NIV? What does that translation say? Before the beginning of time. Who did he promise it to before the beginning of time?
At first I thought this was a reference to the promise of the serpent crusher in Genesis 3, or the promise of the offspring through whom all the nations would be blessed in Genesis 12. But as I studied, I found that the cross references for that phrase led me to Jesus. In Matthew 25, when Jesus is talking about the final judgment, he says in verse 34 “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” And in John 17:24, Jesus is praying and he says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” That hope of eternal life for us was promised to Jesus (and to us), before any of the swirling, formless and void creation took place.
And then, Paul says it was, “at the proper time manifested in his word”. What is that? John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh. Do you realize that from the time that Abraham was given his promise to the time Jesus was born was just about the same span of time as between when Jesus was born and now? That is a long time to wait and to remember.
Why does all this matter? Aren’t we just reading a short little three chapter letter that is going to tell us more about how older women are supposed to teach younger women? Yes! That’s why this matters! This is what we are supposed to be teaching! This is the Gospel! This is where it all starts! From the very beginning – before even – there was a plan!
God created the earth, placed man and woman in the garden and lived in perfect fellowship with them. Then they rebelled, sought to be equal with God and sinned against him. In what I think is one of the greatest acts of grace in the Bible – not THE greatest, but one of them – God kicks them out of the garden! How is that grace? Genesis 3:22: Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever –“ (ESV). If man had eaten and lived forever, he would have lived forever in broken fellowship and sin against God. But God (two of my favorite words!) had a plan. And that plan required death as punishment. But not any death would do.
It needed to be a perfect death – one of which we are incapable to give. So he sent his Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life we can’t, and to take the punishment we would be unable to bear. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus at the cross, and it was satisfied! Every last drop of wrath was poured out on Jesus – none held back. And it was enough. We know that because three days later Jesus rose from the dead! He had conquered the last battle – the battle over sin and death. And he offers his righteousness to us if we would repent – turn from our sins, and give our lives to him. To follow him as Lord.
Do you believe? Is this truth written on your heart?
Sisters, this is the truth that Paul wants us to know. Why is he briefly touching on it now, and going to explain it further later? Because, in the words of my friend Whitney – he’s about to do some housecleaning! We are going to see in the next few weeks that the Cretan believers are hearing some things that do not line up with this truth. Paul is asserting from the very start that he is the one they should be listening to because he is the one who is preaching the truth by the command of God.
There is so much more we could talk about, and I hope you have talked about it in your groups, and will some more in a minute. I want to encourage you, though, to take this truth and make it your starting place as well. As we continue in this letter to Titus, we will see that what flows out of us as speech, as behavior, as relationships, is determined by where it flows from. If you are here and you have never heard this Gospel before, I would love to talk to you, or your table leaders would. Talk to somebody. This is where it starts. The right foundation is so important. Right belief will lead to right behavior because the Gospel transforms us. We don’t transform ourselves to be saved, we are saved and then transformed.
 Goodrick, Edward W.; Is My Bible the Inspired Word of God; Multnomah Press 1988, page 70
 Goodrick, Edward W.; Is My Bible the Inspired Word of God; Multnomah Press 1988, page 70