For the week commencing 23 June 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Titus 1 – Dear Titus… love what is good
Our holiday series takes us through Paul’s letter to Titus. Here is the outline:
30 June… love what is good Titus 1
07 July … teach what is good Titus 2
14 July … be ready to do good Titus 3
DAY 1: Read Titus 1:3 (It’s not very long!)
Welcome to Titus. This is a short but rich letter and was written by the apostle Paul to his trusted co-worker Titus (Galatians 2:1, 3). Titus was a Gentile, probably converted under Paul’s ministry (Titus 1:4). He accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey, and we know Paul sent him to Corinth at least once to help manage some difficult situations (2 Corinthians 2:12–13; 7:5–7, 13–15; 8:6, 16–24). Titus was probably in Crete around 60-80AD based in the city of Gortyna under Roman rule.
We know little about how the church was established in Crete. The only reference to Paul’s time there was a brief stop as a prisoner en route to Rome. It seems unlikely that he was able to evangelise the people in such a short time. It seems more likely that the missionary work was conducted during his other travels but not recorded in Acts. Scholars agree that Luke’s account of Paul’s travels is not exhaustive. The early Christian community may have begun when Jews living on Crete travelled to Jerusalem and were present at Pentecost (Acts 2).
The truth that leads to godliness (1:1). We live in a culture where ‘fake news’ is the excuse for every misunderstanding. The letter to Titus is continually punctuated with references to the gospel concept of truth. This keeps Christianity well and truly on the margins of society. Notice how many references Paul makes as he exhorts Titus to bring order to the Cretan church: ‘the truth that leads to godliness’ (1:1), ‘God, who does not lie’ (1:2), ‘preaching entrusted to me’ (1:3), ‘Titus, my true son’ (1:4), ‘trustworthy message’ (1:9), ‘This saying is true’ (1:13), ‘those who reject the truth’ (1:14), ‘but to show them that they can be fully trusted’ (2:10), ‘this is a trustworthy saying (3:8).
Why does Paul remind Titus and us of the importance of truth and trustworthiness so deliberately? Today it has relevance as we navigate conversations about science and its relationship to faith. Science may be empirically proven and therefore true, but it has no power to save us from sin. Paul is speaking of the ‘truth that leads to godliness’.
In the context of 1st C Crete, the concept of truth was at odds with Greek mythology. Crete’s claim to fame was that Zeus, the chief god of all the Greek gods, was born in Crete. Zeus was famous for seduction and lying to get his way, the opposite of Jesus who was faithful and truthful. Even worse, the Greek word for liar is kretizo, ‘to be a Cretan’. In Cretan culture, truth was not a strong value.
Question: How important is it to you that the gospel is true? When does this get challenged? How do you respond? What is the relationship between truth and godliness?
DAY 2: Read Titus 1:4
Titus’ resume. Paul describes Titus as his true son. Despite this warm endorsement we know little about Titus from Acts. We know from 2 Corinthians that Titus accompanied ‘the brother who is famous among all the churches’ Luke (2 Cor 8:18, 12:18) and was Paul’s go–to disciple for managing conflict. He is described as a genuine brother to Paul (2 Cor 2:13), a partner and fellow worker (2 Cor 8:23) and that he walked in the same spirit and manner as Paul (2 Cor 12:18).
“He seems to have been a man of great common sense; so that, when Paul had anything difficult to be done, he sent Titus. When the collection was to be made at Corinth on behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem, Paul sent Titus to stir the members up, and with him another brother to take charge of the contributions.” (Spurgeon)
Paul sent Titus to bring order to the Cretan churches and to do so with integrity, trusting in the truth of their common faith.
Question: What has God given you to do on his behalf this week? Do you share a common faith with a brother or sister in Christ in your ministry? What difference does that partnership make? How might you strengthen it?
DAY 3: Read Titus 1:5-9
A leader’s job description. The interesting thing to notice is that Paul is very clear about a leader’s character and reputation and not about the church’s structure or organisation. There is no list of required qualifications or minimum levels of experience. He makes no suggestions about process or structure. Instead, Paul is reminding Titus to look for men of character. Their character can be observed by the way they manage their family life and the way they manage themselves. They must love what is good (1:8). Most importantly they must hold onto the trustworthy message as it has been taught. They are to guard and protect the gospel and not allow it to be added to or subtracted from. This was the warning in 1 Timothy, and it is echoed here.
Question: How would others describe your character? Is this how you think of yourself? What might help you to be a person who ‘loves what is good?’
DAY 4: Titus 1:10-16
Cretans had a very bad reputation. Cretan culture even by Ancient world standards was notorious. They were mercenaries and pirates, they encouraged corruption and greed, they were treacherous, violent and liars – remember ‘kretizo’. Even their own prophet Epimenides described them as liars, brutes and lazy gluttons (1:12). This corruption affected leaders in the church as much as anyone else, which is why Paul warns Titus to rebuke those who fail to do good, who are corrupting whole households. They seem to be lacking in character.
‘Now with few exceptions, you could find no habits prevailing in private life more steeped in treachery than those in Crete, and no public policy more inequitable’ (Polybius 6:46-47)
Question: What do ancient Cretans have in common with our post-modern, post-Christian society? How has corruption affected our society? What is a Christian response to ‘kretizo’?
Resources: 1-2 Timothy & Titus Philip Towner
1 & 2 Timothy, Titus Gordon D. Fee
Titus for You Tim Chester