Titus 1 1 Commentary: I’d like us to meditate on the first 18 words of the New Testament letter to Titus. So, let’s turn our focus to Titus, chapter 1.
Titus is a letter written with a great emphasis on healthy Christian living. It turns out that a number of people in Crete were in need of several corrections regarding their behavior and lifestyle. And so, this letter is written to challenge these people to be “sound in the faith.”
And the letter begins as pretty much all New Testament letters do, with an identifying of the one who is sending the letter.
Titus 1 1 Commentary Paul
So, Paul starts this letter in verse 1 by introducing himself. He gives his name first.
KJV Titus 1:1 ¶ Paul,
And then he’s going to describe what he is and does.
And of course, the recipient of this letter – whom we discover to be Titus later on – he would have known the following things about Paul. And yet Paul feels the need to state who he is to this man who already knows that information.
And this could be for the sake of reminding Titus or perhaps Paul was looking forward to the possibility that Titus might end up reading this letter to the church which he was shepherding.
Titus 1 1 Commentary A servant of God
So, here’s one thing that Paul is.
a [servant/bond-servant/slave] of God,
So, Paul serves God. He is – as it were – a slave whose main task in life is to please his master.
This phrase “servant of God” first appears in the book of Acts in relation to Paul. In fact, it’s in Acts 16:17 where the fortune-telling slave girl in Philippi kept following Paul and Silas and proclaiming, “these men are servants of the most high God.”
And even though Paul rebuked her for that at the time, it seems like what she was saying was actually true – and this term becomes a title that Paul would later proudly wear. He’s a servant of God.
Now, it’s more common for Paul to speak of himself as the servant “of Christ.” And so, right here in Titus and back in Acts 16 are the only two places where Paul is given this title “servant of God.”
But other people in Scripture also take on this title. Paul gives Epaphras this title (Col 4:12). And James takes on this title for himself (Jam 1:1).
Peter says that all believers are to view themselves as servants of God (1Pe 2:16).
And then there are several references to servants of God in the book of Revelation. Including those who will be taken out of the earth (Rev 7:3), prophets (10:7), Moses (15:3), those around God’s throne (19:5), those entering the new heaven and new earth (22:3), and those who read and believe the book of Revelation (22:6).
So, Paul is just like so many other people in his relationship with God – he’s a simple servant. He slaves for God. That’s his life. He’s nothing special in his own eyes. He’s just a slave.
And that might come in handy for Titus’ people to know later on in this letter. Because Paul – as a slave himself – if going to be addressing how slaves of human masters ought to treat those masters. Paul is just one of them. He knows what it’s like to live that life – in his case, for a heavenly master.
And this is the posture for all of God’s people to take – that we’re simply slaves of God.
- Maybe you feel like your life is unfulfilling.
- Do you feel like your life ought to be more exciting? Or more comfortable?
- Do you feel restrained and restricted in certain ways in terms of where you’re going and what you’re doing in this life?
- Do you wish you were able to do just whatever you please and you’re wondering why now – ever since you’ve been a Christian – that just doesn’t seem to work anymore?
It’s because you are like the Apostle Paul. You are a slave of God. Your life is no longer based on your own desires. Your life is now focused solely on pleasing God – on serving God – on knowing and loving and making known God.
So, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all slaves of God. Paul was. We are, too, if we know him through his Son, Jesus Christ.
So, this is the first way in which Paul wants to be identified. As a slave of God.
Titus 1 1 Commentary And an apostle of Jesus Christ
And then, Paul wants to describe himself in terms of his relationship with Jesus Christ.
and an apostle of Jesus Christ,
Now, the term apostle is used to describe one who is sent – a messenger – someone who is sent on behalf of someone important with a special message to deliver.
And Paul is described as an apostle all the way back in Acts 14 where he and Barnabas are given that title. And after that he identifies himself quite freely as Christ’s messenger – his apostle. In 8 of his 13 letters that he wrote, Paul labels himself as an apostle.
So, he’s a messenger sent with a special message. But whose message is it?
That’s where Paul identifies the one who has sent him – Jesus Christ.
And so, as we listen to a book like Titus, we need to keep before ourselves the fact that this is not just Paul’s opinions. What we have written for us in a book like this is exactly the message that the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to hear and obey.
And so, Paul has identified himself with two words so far. He’s a servant. And he’s an apostle – one sent with a special message.
And even though Paul was exceptionally gifted and he’s our human example to imitate – yet we’re not very much unlike him.
We all are servants of God. We’re called to serve God – to live for God – to consider our life-work to be slaving for him in this life. We’re called to lay aside our own interests and focus on God’s interests in this world. We are God’s servants.
And we’re ones who have been sent by Jesus Christ with a message. It’s the same message that Jesus delivered to his followers before he was taken back up into heaven for a time – given in what we call the Great Commission – that as we go, we must make disciples, baptize them, and teach them all the things that Christ commanded.
Titus 1 1 Commentary According to the faith of God’s elect
And as Paul did this – as he slaved for God and was sent out with Christ’s message – the following was his goal as we continue in Titus 1:1…
[according to/for/to further] the faith of [God's elect/those chosen of God/God’s chosen ones],
So, the aim of Paul’s slaving for God and going out as one sent with a message by Jesus was for this purpose. The faith of God’s elect.
Let’s identify God’s elect first. And then we’ll talk about their faith. And then how Paul’s slaving for God and serving as Christ’s messenger plays into this.
Titus 1 1 Commentary God’s elect
That term elect is used for Christ – that he was chosen or choice. And the Scripture speaks of him a few times in that regard.
But the majority of the time that the Bible speaks of the elect it speaks of believers in Jesus Christ.
So, let’s just quickly consider what the Gospels have to say about these people – God’s elect.
Jesus’s parable of the wedding guests teaches us that there are all sorts of people who are called. Everyone is invited to the wedding – or, really, to salvation in Christ. But few are elect – few respond to that invitation. And actually – according to that parable, there’s even one guy who does respond. But he doesn’t have the right kind of clothing. And so, the father kicks him out. So, few respond to the call and are allowed in by the Father.
But those whom the Father does allow in, he’s very focused on. These are “God’s elect” as Paul says here in Titus. They have a special relationship with God.
In fact, this relationship is so special that God hears our requests now. Jesus used that parable of the unrighteous judge who was being annoyed by a woman and that’s what caused him to help her. But in contrast to that uncaring man – Jesus says that God the Father will not delay in giving justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night. God hears and responds to our prayers as his chosen or elect ones.
And it goes further than that. Jesus says that it’s for the sake of these people – God’s elect – that the Tribulation will be limited. And you think of the Great Tribulation that will occur right before Jesus returns to earth – and how important of an event that will be. And it’s a marvel that God will actually limit that unprecedented event in world history – just for the sake of these people – of God’s elect.
And because of this special relationship that the elect have with God and the extraordinary grace that he pours out on us, Jesus characterizes the elect as ones whom it is very difficult to ultimately deceive. He speaks of false Christs and false prophets deceiving people in the last days. And he says that their signs and wonders will deceive – if it were even possible – the elect! And I think that he’s saying that that won’t be possible – but if it were possible it would happen. But the blessed reality is that for those who are truly elect of God – we’re not ultimately deceived by false religion – even when it’s coming in the form of signs and wonders – miraculous events.
And the blessed end of God’s elect is that we will ultimately be gathered together to the Lord. We’re in a special relationship with God. He will limit the Tribulation for people like us. We can’t ultimately be deceived. And so, in the end he will gather us together to him.
So, that’s a summary of what’s said of God’s elect in the Gospels in your New Testament.
Then the section of the New Testament known as the Epistles – or letters to churches and individuals – speak of this group of individuals as well.
Paul in Romans says that it’s impossible to bring a charge or an accusation against God’s elect. Why’s that? Because God is the one who justifies us. He declares us righteous. And so, how could anyone possibly bring a legitimate charge of guilt against those whom God has already declared to be righteous?! It won’t happen.
Paul says in Colossians that we are elect or chosen of God and therefore we are holy and beloved. We’re set apart special for God – holy in that sense. And God loves us.
Paul says in 2 Timothy that the elect obtain salvation in Christ and eternal glory.
And Peter speaks of God’s elect as a people of God’s very own. We belong to God in a special way. And so, the following is expected of us – that we should proclaim the praises or excellencies or virtues of him who called us out of darkness and into light.
And so, we’ve come full circle – we began this discussion of the elect of God noting that many are called but few are chosen. And now here we end with the fact that the chosen were called by God out of darkness and into light.
And we’ll end there with our consideration of what the New Testament says of this group known as God’s elect.
But as Peter reminds us, we’re to be engaged in something right now in response to these blessed truths. We should be proclaiming God’s praises – speaking to others of his excellencies and virtues – and demonstrating those things with our lives.
Titus 1 1 Commentary The faith of
And so, these folks known as God’s elect have something – according to Paul here in Titus 1:1. They have faith. God’s elect ones believe something. What do we believe?
Well, Paul gives the substance of what God’s elect believe even in this short letter. Look at Titus 2:13-14.
Here’s what Paul affirms that God’s elect believe. We are…
KJV Titus 2:13 [Looking for/waiting for] [that/the] [blessed/happy fulfillment of our] hope, [and/in] the glorious appearing of [the great God and our/our great God and] Saviour Jesus Christ;
14 Who gave himself for us, [that he might/to] [redeem us/set us free] from [all iniquity/every lawless deed/every kind of lawlessness], and [to…] purify [unto/for] himself a [peculiar people/people for his own possession/people who are truly his], [zealous/who are eager] [of/for/to do] [good works/good deeds/good].
So, we get the kernel of the Gospel message in those two short verses.
Paul declares that we’re sinners. We need to be redeemed or set free from all iniquity or every lawless deed. We were formerly enslaved to those deeds. We are sinners in need of being rescued.
But Jesus came to this earth to “give himself for us.” He vicariously atoned for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins. He paid the price for us to be forgiven and released from slavery to sin. Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath for our sin. He didn’t deserve it – we did. But we didn’t take it – he did.
And if there’s going to be a glorious appearing of this one who died for us, then it means that he had to be raised again. Jesus rose from the dead.
And Jesus Christ will return for his elect. He’s coming again and that is our blessed hope.
This is – in a nutshell – the faith of God’s elect. This is what we believe.
Titus 1 1 Commentary According to
But how does a person come to believe this message of Christ’s dying for our sins and coming again?
This is where Paul’s efforts come in. Where his slavery to God and his being sent out as Christ’s messenger with a special message – with this very message – comes in to the picture.
Paul slaves and is sent forth according to this faith of God’s elect. He serves God’s interests and not his own like a slave would do – with the goal of people hearing and believing this Gospel message. Paul is happy to be sent out by Christ all over the place in order that God’s elect would demonstrate that they are indeed God’s elect by believing this blessed truth of the Gospel.
And we’ll stop here for now. But as we go to prayer we have a number of realities that were just revealed to us that should fuel our praying.
We should pray from the position of slaves of God and those sent by Christ with his saving message. We should pray that our efforts and the efforts of our missionaries would meet with a response of faith. And we ought to pray that as God’s elect we would proclaim the virtues and excellencies of God in this community and beyond.