September 10, 2006

Mission Possible

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Titus Scripture: Titus 1:1–4


Mission Possible

Titus 1:1-4
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Have you ever found yourself in what appears to be an impossible situation?

For the past three weeks Julie and I drove well over 3,000 miles with three young children while sleeping in seven different locations. Difficult, but not impossible. On a more serious note, we buried my mother a week ago. Continuing life without a person who has always been by your side, again, very difficult, but through the grace of God, not impossible. These dealings as unpleasant and painful as they may be are part of life, events common to human existence.

But for a young man named, Titus, his situation was much different or shall we say impossible?

Nearly 2,000 years ago he was dropped off on the Mediterranean island of Crete. His responsibility was to carry on in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Do you think this placed some high expectations on the young pastor? Paul left and Titus was called to shepherd the church, to "set in order what remains" (Tit. 1:5). Based on a general reading of Titus, this entailed appointing elders (Tit. 1:5-9) and providing a proper understanding of correct theology (Tit. 2:11-14; 3:4-7) and practical instruction regarding Christian character (Tit. 2:1-10).

Rebellious and deceptive (Tit. 1:10) false teachers had infiltrated the church and needed to be "silenced" (Tit. 1:11). They were "upsetting whole families" (Tit. 1:11), causing "strife and disputes" (Tit. 3:9), contributing to actions that were "unprofitable and worthless" (Tit. 3:9). So Titus was to "speak and exhort and reprove with all authority" (Tit. 2:15) and if necessary "reject a factious man after a first and second warning" (Tit. 3:10).

And if all of this were not difficult enough, the young man could not count on the support of his congregation. They were people known to be contentious, divisive and disobedient to authority (Tit. 3:1-2). It would not take long before not only the world and the false teachers, but even the church itself aimed her guns at the new shepherd. And Titus' responsibility? To instruct these not only rebellious, but also immoral people to turn to "good deeds" (two words found six times in this short epistle - 1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). Yet these people were known as "liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons" (Tit. 1:12). As a matter of fact, "to act as a Cretan" became an idiom meaning "to play the liar." Turn them around, Titus! How would you like to pastor a crew like that?

So there was Titus. A daunting responsibility before him. As he watched Paul's ship sail over the horizon he probably thought to himself, "What have I gotten myself into?" To the naked eye, his situation was impossible!

This Fall I would like to preach through the short biblical book named "Titus." Unfortunately this letter often gets lost in the shadows of the other two Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy) and is ignored due to its brevity. That's a shame because I trust this inspired letter will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring great encouragement and instruction and application not only to the life of a church leader, but also to the church in general. So without further say, this morning in our abbreviated time, I plan to cover the opening four verses of Paul's letter to Titus written probably from Corinth in AD 63.

1. PAUL'S CHILD (1:4)

Let's start in with the first point, "Paul's Child."

You can see in verse 4 that the recipient of the letter was Titus. And in that verse Paul refers to him as "my true child."

Beyond Titus, only Timothy (1 Tim. 1:1) was privileged to receive this endearing affirmation. Paul was not Titus' biological father, but most likely led him to faith, discipled him and became very attached to the one he adopted as his spiritual son. "My true child in a common faith" (Tit. 1:4).

Can you sense the affection, the warmth and the love these two had for each other? Can you testify to the depth of this Christian relationship in your own life and in the life of the church today? Why is it that most Christians struggle to identify five dear friends in the Lord? Why is it that the average pastor is attacked less by the world and more by his own church?

We often fail to appreciate and enjoy the intimacy that should exist between two children of God, two siblings in the faith. Too often today, churches are filled with backbiting, faultfinding, and departing rather than forbearing, persevering, and loving. Consequently, in our flesh we deprive ourselves of so many blessings and disregard the words of our Lord who told us to show the world we are His disciples by our love for one another (Jn. 13:35).

What made the relationship between Titus and Paul different? I believe one thing that kept this bond so strong was their partnership in ministry. When we are active, when we are fighting the attacks of the true enemy, we do not have the time or desire to wound our own fellow soldiers through friendly fire. We would be foolish if we were fighting the good fight. We stick side-by-side and often forge the deepest relationships as we press forward depending on each in order to survive a shared conflict. Paul and Titus had their share of mutual conflicts.

Galatians 2 describes the tense account when Paul appeared before the Apostles early in his ministry and he brought along Titus an uncircumcised Gentile who served as a test case when the Judaizers insisted that the Jewish ceremonial works were necessary for salvation (Gal. 2:1-10). Another hairy situation was when Titus delivered Paul's "severe letter" to the church in Corinth. And then Paul painfully waited for him to return with a report as to whether or not the church was repentant and supportive of their pastor (2 Cor. 7:6, 14). You remember how messed up that Corinthian church was!

Beyond their battle for sound doctrine and resolving conflict, Titus traveled with Paul on his often-grueling missionary journeys, planting and strengthening churches around the Mediterranean world. Even during Paul's final imprisonment, said by scholars to be a dark, germ-infested hole in the ground, we find Titus with his spiritual father prior to his departure to Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10). It is no wonder we find Paul calling Titus my "brother" (2 Cor. 2:13) and my "partner" (2 Cor. 8:23) and my "fellow worker" (2 Cor. 8:23) and my "true child" (Tit. 1:4). The selfless Titus was one of Paul's most trusted friends and closest companions.

Yet despite the fact that Paul was a spiritual father to this young man, Paul also acknowledged that they shared a "common faith" in verse 4. I long for the day when I can see my three daughters more as three sisters in the Lord, siblings on equal ground in a common faith. Despite their differences in age and maturity and nationality, in the eyes of God, Paul and Titus were bound together on equal footing, equally loved and equally saved by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

And to the son, this brother in the faith, Paul writes a letter encouraging him and strengthening him and instructing him how to effectively pastor this wayward church(es) (Tit. 1:5a) in Crete. And as he writes he sends "grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior."


We have seen a little about the recipient, Titus. Now as we move to the second point, let's look at the author, Paul.

Obviously Titus knew who Paul was, but I find it interesting that Paul chose two ways to identify himself in verse 1. While he could have called attention to his visions or divine calling or miraculous conversion or brilliant theological mind or diverse giftedness, Paul first identified himself as "a bond-servant of God" (Tit. 1:1). What a demonstration of humility!

The Greek word is doulos. That was the same word used in the language for the slave, the lowest person on the social ladder, one without property or rights, totally under the authority and will of another. First and foremost we learn Paul saw himself not as a slave of man (Gal. 1:10; Eph. 6:6; Col. 3:22; 1 Thes. 2:4), but as verse one indicates, a slave "of God." And every Christian continues in this proud lineage with Paul (i.e. Col. 4:12; 2 Tim. 2:24) as those bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23) to turn from sin and devote their lives to serve the living God (2 Cor. 5:15). Freed from sin, enslaved to God (Rom. 6:22).

Now those terms "servant" and "slave" do not sound very attractive. "I don't want to be a servant; I want to call the shots." "A slave- can anything be more degrading, insensitive and offensive?" Yet Paul considered these terms his badge of honor and proudly identified himself by them. What did he see that we often fail to understand?

First of all, the servant may not be esteemed in the eyes of man, but is highly regarded in the eyes of God. Listen to the words of Christ. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:25-28). Our God is a giving God. We emulate Him and walk in the footsteps of Christ when we have adopted an attitude that takes pleasure in meeting the needs of others. Servants! Such people, last in the world, yet always first in God's kingdom (Mt. 20:16).

Second, and this is an essential paradox for the Christian to understand, true freedom is only found when we become slaves to Christ. First Corinthians 7:22, "For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman." Romans 6:18, "having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." Without Christ we are in bondage to sin (Gal. 5:1). With Jesus, we have been set free from sin to live as the people God created us in His holy image to be, a life that is filled with purpose and meaning and satisfaction. Freedom comes not from taking pleasure in sin. Freedom comes from being able to overcome our slavery to sin. Every human is a slave - either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ.

In addition to being a "bond-servant of God," something all believers share in common, Paul also identifies himself in verse 1 as "an apostle of Jesus Christ." That was a title reserved for a select few in early church history. Though we are all called to serve Christ, each of us serve in different ways based on our gifts and calling. Paul's special role in his service to Christ was to minister as His apostle. Literally, His "sent one" or "messenger."

Why should Titus listen to Paul and accept his words as authoritative? Why should the church in Crete listen to Titus as he implements Paul's instruction? How could Titus, 2:15, "speak and exhort and reprove with all authority (and) let no one disregard (him)" as he followed Paul's letter? Answer: Because Paul was an apostle. And as an apostle, one sent by God, his words carried the same weight as Christ's words. He was a spokesman for the Master. Remember, it was upon the apostolic declaration that Christ would build His church (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 2:20). And the same authority that Paul's words had for the Cretans is the same authority that Paul's words have for us today. And combining Paul's two titles, obedience to the words of Scripture reveals whether or not we are truly bond-servants of Christ. The words of Scripture are the voice of the Shepherd and as the Shepherd said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (Jn. 10:27).

3. PAUL'S CALLING (1:1B-3)

Finally, as we move to the third point, "Paul's calling," the author will expand the specific nature of his apostleship from the remainder of verse 1 all the way to verse 3. Notice the three components.

First, Paul says he is an apostle "for the faith of those chosen of God." God from eternity past has called men and women from every tribe, nation and tongue to Himself (Eph. 1:4). But in order for these people to come to salvation, they must hear the Gospel and place their faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Romans 10:17 declares, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." As the saving message, the Gospel, is proclaimed, the chosen of God are granted faith from God (Eph. 2:8) and are enabled to believe and become children of God. Proclaiming the good news whereby God might draw people to Himself through faith was Paul's priority. In another Pastoral Epistle, Paul likewise wrote, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10).

Second, in addition to the salvation of souls, Paul was also concerned for the spiritual growth of those souls. God may have spiritual children, but He does not want spiritual babies. He desires that we all grow and mature in respect to our salvation (2 Pet. 3:18). Again the process is similar as before. The Holy Spirit uses the teaching of God's Word to make us progressively more like Jesus, or we could say more godly.

This is Paul's point in the next clause. That through coming to a better knowledge of the truth we might grow in godliness. Actually this is the purpose of God choosing us! Ephesians 1:4, "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him."

The accumulation of biblical knowledge as an end to itself is not the point. Furthermore such a pursuit is dangerous (1 Cor. 8:1b). We are talking about knowledge as a means whereby one is instructed as to how he or she may rightly please God (Col. 1:9-10; 2 Pet. 1:3). We are talking about knowledge acted upon. We are talking about learning the Word so we may become a doer of the Word (Jas. 1:22)! The Apostle Peter made a similar comment: "Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord" (1 Pet. 1:1-3).

In addition to the salvation and sanctification of believers, Paul's third objective was to encourage believers, verse 2, "in the hope of eternal life" (cf. 2:13; 3:7). Though we commonly view hope as wishful thinking, hope when used in the Bible speaks of a "confident expectation." It is a divine guarantee that the God who cannot lie will bring about what He promised from eternity past, verse 2 (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9), and He has revealed it though His Word, verse 3. It is a hope based upon the sufficient work of Jesus Christ and not on my feeble attempts to gain righteous approval in God's sight. It is a hope conditioned on the unchanging and unwavering character of God (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29) and not on my feelings that often speak to the contrary.

This was Paul's ministry, his stewardship and command from God as he tells us at the end of verse 3 to proclaim the truth for the building of Christ's church. But now it was up to Titus. Paul had departed. The torch has been passed, the mission clearly identified. His call seemed like an insurmountable task. An impossibility? What do you think?

other sermons in this series

Dec 17


The Good And The Gloom Of Body Life

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 3:9–15 Series: Titus

Dec 10


Prepared To Meet God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 3:3–8 Series: Titus

Nov 26


The Biblical Response Toward Authority

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Titus 3:1–2 Series: Titus