Titus 1 1 Commentary: So, we’ve heard Paul tell us that he’s a servant of God and apostle of Jesus. He serves God as one sent with the message of the Gospel.
And he does this according to the faith of God’s elect – so that those who are chosen by God would hear and believe the truth that we find in Titus 2:13-14 – that we’re sinners, that Christ died for our sin, and that he rose from the dead.
And the acknowledging of the truth
But as awesome and important as that is – that God’s elect should come to initially believe the Gospel message – that’s not where Paul leaves them.
Because in the next statement Paul indicates another purpose for which he slaves for God and goes around giving Christ’s message – and it seems to be focused more on the progressive aspect of faith.
and [i.e., according to…] the [acknowledging/knowledge] of the truth
Now, it might not be so obvious in English, but in Greek, the “and” here ties the “acknowledging of the truth” to “the faith of God’s elect” that we saw earlier in this verse.
So, Paul is saying that he’s a slave of God and messenger of Christ for the purpose of seeing God’s elect come to faith in Christ.
And then beyond that, Paul does these things for the purpose of these individuals acknowledging the truth.
So, what does that mean?
Well, there’s a sense in which God’s elect acknowledge the truth initially – but then they also grow in this knowledge.
It’s like a seed that germinates and sprouts – and then grows into a full plant. There’s a point at which that seed goes from being a living seed to then dying and becoming something that looks totally different. And that different thing itself then starts to grow.
And yet, at the same time, we all know that you can put a seed in the ground and have it just die and produce nothing – no new life.
And we can apply that seed metaphor to what Paul is talking about here concerning people coming to faith initially and then progressively acknowledging the truth. That’s the way it ought to work.
And yet according to other passages in the New Testament, most people, in fact – never come to this knowledge at all. And not only do people not come to grow in their knowledge of Christ – they actually never even come to faith in him to begin with.
Paul in Romans 1:28 tells us that there are those who “did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” They didn’t and don’t want to know God – either initially or progressively.
In Romans 10:2 Paul admits with sorrow that his unbelieving Jewish compatriots “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” They are zealous for God – but it’s not the kind of zeal that’s accurately informed by God’s truth.
And in fact, the only knowledge that a person can have of spiritual things before receiving Christ is “the knowledge of sin” – which Paul says in Romans 3:20 is the purpose of the Law.
And yet, some get so close to this knowledge – but they ultimately never attain it. That’s what Paul means when he speaks in 2 Timothy 3:7 of those who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
And actually, the apostle Peter tells us that there are false teachers who “have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” But these people end up entangling themselves in those old pollutions of the world and being overcome. And Peter says of those people that their last state is worse than the first.
So, the Scripture testifies that most people in this world never come to this knowledge that Paul speaks of in Titus 1:1 – the knowledge for which he serves God and for which Christ sends him out with his message.
And yet, that’s not where God wants people to remain in regard to this knowledge. In fact, Paul declares in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God’s desire for those who are apart from Christ is that they would be saved and “come unto the knowledge of the truth.” So, that’s God’s desire.
And therefore, Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 that the servant of the Lord must gently instruct those who oppose the truth – optimistic that perhaps God “will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
And such were some of us – refusing to acknowledge God – or maybe having some sort of zeal about deity, but not a zeal that was according to knowledge – and ultimately coming to know only our own sin. But God desired for us to come to this knowledge – and there were those who patiently taught us – in hope that God would grant us this knowledge.
And here we are now as God’s elect – as Paul spoke of earlier in Titus 1:1. And we now have a new relationship to this knowledge.
This knowledge is now something that we’ve received, according to Hebrews 10:26. So, it can indeed be viewed as something that happens at a point in time that’s kind of an initial entry into the Christian life.
And yet, much of what the New Testament says about this knowledge gives us the idea that this is something that we can grow in and that can grow in us.
Paul prays in Ephesians 1:17 that God would grant to the Ephesian believers – to those who had already received the knowledge of the truth to be saved – that God would give them spiritual wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. So, as believers these Ephesians would have already had this knowledge – and yet, Paul says that it’s something that can be used to grow our wisdom.
In Philippians 1:9, Paul prays that the love of the believers in Philippi would continually grow in this knowledge. Now – they already had love. They already had the knowledge. But Paul – and God himself – wants believers’ love to grow by means of this knowledge.
So – do you want to love more? Then know more – know more about God and Christ.
And there’s certainly nothing wrong with us pointing out that “we don’t just need a head knowledge of truth – we need a heart knowledge.” And that’s very true. What we know needs to affect what we do and how we think and act.
But as we recognize that fact, let’s not forget that we do need knowledge and we need to grow in that area. Being ignorant or lazy when it comes to studying your Bible and knowing your Lord is not a virtue.
So, do you want more love? Do you want to be a more loving person? Then start by getting more of this knowledge.
Well, moving on, in Colossians 1:9-10 Paul reveals to those believers in Colossae that he prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and that they would increase in the knowledge of God.
In chapter 2 of that same book, Paul says that he greatly desires that these believers would better understand this knowledge of God’s mystery – that is, Christ himself.
And then in Colossians 3 Paul tells the believers in Colossae that they’ve put on the new man who is constantly being renewed by means of the knowledge of – knowing – the one who created that new man.
So, for the Colossian believers, Paul is very interested that they continually grow in this knowledge that he’s speaking of here in Titus 1:1. That they would grow in the knowledge of God’s will – grow in the knowledge of God himself – grow in the knowledge of Christ – of the one who created them.
And again, these people would have already known these things on some level. You need to know God and Christ and God’s will on some elementary level at least in order to be saved. But Paul is saying that you need to grow in knowledge in these areas.
And then Paul says something very interesting in Philemon verse 6. He says there that he prays that Philemon’s faith would become effective – that sounds like something we want – effective faith – how do you get it? Paul says that that comes by the knowledge of every good thing that is in you in Christ.
So, not only are we to grow in our knowledge of God and Christ and God’s will – we are to grow in knowing every good thing that’s in us.
And you might think that that sounds conceited. But it’s not – because we’re to come to know better every good thing that is in us … “in Christ!”
Paul says elsewhere that there is nothing good in him. But then he clarifies – that is, in my flesh.
And that’s because there are some good things in you now – in Christ. Yes, we must acknowledge how wretched we are in ourselves. But by God’s word, we have divine testimony telling us that we have some good in us now – now that we’re in Christ.
And the more we understand that, the more effective our shared faith – the faith that we hold in common with one another – becomes.
Well, continuing this theme, but from a different author of Scripture, Peter also points to the ability and necessity of believers to grow in knowledge.
He prays in 2 Peter 1:2 that grace and peace would be multiplied to us.
Is that something you want? Who here doesn’t want more grace and more peace? How do you get it?
Peter says that it comes through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. That’s where grace and peace are to be found – in knowing God better.
And not just grace and peace – but God has given us – according to 2 Peter 1:3 – everything that pertains to life and godliness. And that’s pretty much everything you need right there.
How does he give that to us?
It’s through the knowledge of him that called us.
So, Scripture gives us ample evidence that as believers – this knowledge that we have must grow. Our knowledge of God and Christ and God’s will needs to grow.
Well, how does it grow?
I personally would tend to answer that question with “Scripture” – read your Bible. And that would generally be correct.
But God has a more nuanced answer.
Paul in Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that God has given the church gifted individuals to work amongst us and on us until we all “attain to the unity … of the knowledge of the Son of God.” So, there’s a sense in which this knowledge has an end – has an aim – has a goal.
Every gifted spiritual individual in your life – his or her main goal should be – and God’s goal for him or her is – that you would attain to the unity that comes from knowing the Son of God. This is God’s goal for you as an individual. It’s God goal for your church.
God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers. He wrote Scripture through his apostles – and the Scripture is what is written to grow our knowledge of God. Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers then take that Scripture and help us understand it and help us live it – they help us grow in our knowledge of God in that way. And the end goal is that we are all brought together to know the Son of God through the ministry of these gifted men.
And to bring it back to Titus 1:1, Paul says that he – as one of these gifted men – serves God and goes out with the message of Jesus Christ according to – or for the sake of – the knowledge of the truth.
This is the knowledge that God desires for all to have – but some will never attain. It’s the knowledge that as we speak with those who oppose the truth, we need to be careful to be gentle with them because God might just give them this knowledge. And it’s the knowledge that once we receive, there’s a possibility that we could go on sinning willfully – and that would not be good for us.
But positively, it’s a knowledge that is effectual for the elect – for those chosen by God. And its why Paul serves God with the message of Jesus Christ.