Perspectives In Titus: The Fellow Worker Of Paul

463ca-ladies2bstudy2b01In our study of Paul’s letter to Titus today, I want to use the fourth verse of Chapter 1 to offer a character sketch of  Titus. Normally I would ask you to read the verse in context, but in this particular case we’ll just use it to introduce Titus (next week we’ll examine it in context with Paul’s letter).

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (ESV)

Paul addresses Titus as his true child,  indicating that he led Titus to the Lord. Luke never mentions Titus in the book of Acts, so we have no way of knowing when or where Paul met him, nor do we know the details of his conversion. Yet various epistles that Paul wrote enable us to piece together enough facts about Titus that we can glimpse his faithfulness to both the Lord and to Paul.

To begin with, Titus was a Gentile, as evidenced in Galatians 2:3 by the fact that he was uncircumcised. His Gentile heritage matters in respect to the Council of Jerusalem. Commentor Albert Barnes believes Titus was present at the Council of Jerusalem  (Acts 15:1-35), where the apostles determined that Gentile Christians needn’t be circumcised. If indeed Titus attended that Council, he would have been a concrete example of God’s grace to extend salvation to the Gentiles.

According to Galatians 2:1 he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem on an earlier occasion when James and the other apostles verified Paul’s conversion, so the conversion of Titus occurred within fourteen years of Paul’s. This fact suggests his maturity in the faith by the time the Council of Jerusalem took place.

The close relationship between Paul and Titus shows up most explicitly in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. As you look at the verses I’m about to cite, please notice both Paul’s trust in Titus and the character Titus displayed that earned Paul’s trust.

In 2 Corinthians 8:23 Paul calls him his “partner and fellow worker.” Clearly, Paul considers him an equal.  Furthermore, they evidently worked together in establishing at least the Ephesian church. Commentators believe that Titus was with Paul in Ephesus, based on the fact that he helped Paul write  1 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 7:6-9 says Paul sent him to Corinth to follow up on their response to Paul’s first letter. The same passage tells us that Titus returned to Paul with the glorious news that the Corinthians had repented. 2 Corinthians 8:1-6 tells us that in Corinth Titus took up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem. In reference to that collection, 2 Corinthians 12:18 attests to his integrity.

As we approach this epistle, we learn that Paul left Titus in Crete (Titus 1:5) to finish establishing churches there and to appoint elders. Obviously, he had the character qualities befitting a church leader  (Titus 1:6-9). This seems to be a temporary arrangement since Paul planned to send Artemas or Tychicus to relieve him so he could join Paul in Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Titus was with Paul during Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome, but it appears that Paul agreed to his going to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

I’ve spent this time going over these Scriptures to help you see that Titus held the necessary qualifications to continue Paul’s work in Crete. These passages demonstrate that Paul recognized Titus as a trustworthy man. This trustworthiness brings us to the letter we’re studying in this series. So join me next Monday as we discuss the mission Titus had in Crete.

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Inviting Unbelievers To Church

Finding hymns on YouTube lately has become frustrating. In efforts to update them, recording artists frequently omit verses (usually ones that mean the most to me). I just spent an hour going through numerous versions of My Jesus I Love Thee, none of which included verse 3.

I need a break from the Sunday Hymns feature on this blog, so I’ve decided to replace them with short videos from solid Christian teachers. Pastor Gabe Hughes has an excellent series called WWUTT (When We Understand The Text) that addresses a wide variety of issues by examining Scriptures on those matters in 90 seconds.

Today’s WWUTT video answers the question, “Should I invite unbelievers to church?”

Saturday Sampler: February 12 — February 18

bible-samplerContinuing his series on discernment, Tim Challies writes Deadly Doctrines: The Pattern and Protection to demonstrate how churches fall into error. Having personally witnessed a few churches undergo this process, I can attest to Challies’ accuracy. Thankfully he also shows how churches can protect themselves.

On Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. features a guest post by her brother, Pastor Dean. His essay, Learn to Discern: What Is Biblical Christianity?, works through the marks of a true Christian based on Christ’s words in John’s gospel.

I really wish I’d written Ladies, Please Consider: Who is the Subject of Your Bible Study? But Jen Oshman of The Oshman Odyssey beat me to it.

Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace pleads, Please Stop Saying — “God Told Me”. He raises arguments against this practice that I’d never considered, but which ring true. I hope you’ll make this article a priority.

In The World’s “Ten Commandments” (1-5), Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes examines five popular attitudes that govern non-Christians. She answers each attitude from Scripture.

Eric Davis of The Cripplegate again takes on the doctrine of praying in tongues with his blog post, Addressing Continuationist Arguments from 1 Corinthians 14 by looking at the historical and structural context of the chapter. I appreciate his reasoned approach to this emotionally charged topic.

Jesus definitely taught things that make me uncomfortable. In her article, Forgiveness: A Hard Teaching of Jesus, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day challenges us to look at how Jesus forgives us instead of how others have wounded us. Gulp!

Continuing her series on the fundamentals of the faith, Michelle Lesley writes Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority. Before you dismiss it as nothing new, take a look at what she has to say. No, she doesn’t offer new revelation, but her perspective isn’t common.

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A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

93a68-wordjudgesheartYesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days.  I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that   many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice.  Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to  believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first.  Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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The Personal Side Of An Ex-Gay Pioneer

frank-worthenFrank Worthen was well-known in Charismatic, ex-gay circles, and probably would have be a bit puzzled at being eulogized in a blog that stands for Reformed Theology. Or maybe amused, now that I think about it. Inconsistencies often amused him. Actually, many things amused him, which was a big part of his charm, if you ask me.

Frank, an associate pastor at Church of the Open Door in San Rafael, California, was my pastor. As founding director of Love In Action (the ex-gay ministry I worked for), he was also my  employer. In the past 20 years, he was simply my friend. I say “was” because things changed this past Saturday.

Frank went Home to Jesus Saturday morning, February 11, 2017 after a fairly brief battle with cancer. He would have turned 88 on February 24.

Other bloggers, who knew Frank better than I, have already written about his courageous founding of the ex-gay ministry model, and this tribute by Joe Dallas is arguably the most definitive. He characterized Frank as a hero for offering hope to men and women trapped in homosexual sin. Frank himself had escaped the homosexual lifestyle after 25 years of it, and dedicated the rest of his life to ministering to others with that struggle.

Joe’s essay does a wonderful job of celebrating Frank’s accomplishments in ex-gay ministry,  and I’d be wrongfully intruding if I tried to add to his words on that topic. I instead want to make a couple comments on Frank’s marriage to Anita and on his sense of humor. Those two very human aspects about him, as prevalent as they were, haven’t been mentioned much this week, as people have focused on his ministry, yet those two things epitomized him as a man.

Frank enjoyed life well enough as a bachelor, investing himself in Love In Action. But when the Lord brought Anita into his life, he absolutely blossomed! Since their wedding in late 1984, his smile rarely left his  face.

He immediately put Anita to work in the Love In Action office. I know he did so partly because he liked being with her 24/7, but he did it mostly because she fell in love with the ministry. Sometimes he’d joke that she loved the ministry more than she loved him. He adored her, obviously doing anything in his power to please her.

He happily accepted the new entity of “Frank and Anita” as leaders of Love In Action, though she clearly submitted to his leadership. Once,  with a characteristic twinkle in his eye and chuckle in his voice, he told me, “Whatever Anita wants, Anita gets.” Yet I knew these weren’t the words of a henpecked husband. He gave willingly to his wife out of joy. He saw her as the asset to his ministry that she truly was.

In short, he deeply loved and treasured his wife. Without her, he still would have had a powerful testimony, reaching thousands with his message of freedom from homosexuality. But she added a dimension of joy to his life that enhanced his work. I love Anita for many reasons, but I’m especially grateful that  the Lord brought Frank such delight through their marriage.

Frank, being mild-mannered, had a dry, subtle wit.  Curiously, he could also be a little outrageous. I remember, for example, the 1985 Exodus Conference in San Francisco. A group of gay activists had threatened a protest on Wednesday night, making several of us apprehensive. Some of us gathered at the site where they’d scheduled the protest, waiting for them. After 30 minutes, it became evident that they’d changed their minds. While most of us sighed with relief, Frank was visibly disappointed. “I wanted to see the show,” he explained (again with that characteristic chuckle). He was serious!

My theological differences with Frank in no way diminish my respect for him. He loved the Lord, and he spent most of his life proclaiming the truth that Jesus Christ offers freedom from all sin, including the sin of homosexuality. Quite properly, everybody is remembering him for that message right now. But I hope they’ll also remember his joyous marriage and his wonderful sense of humor. Those two things are what endeared him to me.

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Wycliffe’s Source Of Discernment

sola-scriptura-02A few weeks ago, we saw that John Wycliffe stood against the Roman Catholic teaching on Transubstantiation, and that he violated church policy by translating the Latin Vulgate Bible into English (thus diminishing papal authority). Wycliffe didn’t effect the powerful changes that the 16th Century Reformers would bring slightly more than 100 years after his death, but he certainly signaled a beginning to the movement that would eventually restore Biblical Christianity to the world.

Amid our thankfulness for John Wycliffe and those who came after him, we need to recognize the role of discernment in their refutation of Catholic dogmas. These men weren’t purely malcontents. Admittedly, Wycliffe had been denied a post that he wanted, and this disappointment undoubtedly colored his attitude toward church leadership (a proper rendering of history demands that we report facts that we would prefer to sweep under the rug), but I believe any bitterness he might have initially felt gave way to genuine conviction that the Church violated Scripture in both doctrine and practice.

Wycliffe had the educational advantage of being able to read Latin, which in turn enabled him to read the Bible for himself. In doing so, he saw discrepancies between what Scripture taught and what Rome said and did. In other words, as he read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit gave him discernment to see that the Roman system deviated from the Bible’s teachings. As Wycliffe grew in his knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, he questioned transubstantiation, Indulgences, church involvement in town government and the opulent lifestyles of popes, cardinals and bishops. He also came to believe that salvation comes through faith alone rather than through the sacraments.

As you’d probably expect, Wycliffe’s discernment came, not from mystical hunches like present-day Charismatics claim to have nor from a desire to appear superior to Rome, but from a conviction that the Bible held greater authority than Roman Catholic tradition. And there you have my point.

Scripture brings real discernment.

In studying the Reformation, then, we can witness discernment in action. The Reformers, even with all their imperfections and sins (such as Luther’s anti-semeticism), model a commitment to judge things through the lens of Scripture instead of unquestioning reliance on tradition and papal proclamations. 21st Century believers can, should and absolutely must imitate Wycliffe in trusting Scripture to inform our theology.

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Perspectives In Titus: Paul’s Mission And God’s Plan

Bible And WorshipLadies, today we begin our weekly Bible Studies, this time exploring the letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his protege Titus. If you haven’t read Titus yet, please go to this link and read the epistle (it’s only three chapters) to get some context. Or, if you prefer, read it in your own Bible or Bible app. But please take time to read it before continuing in today’s lesson.

Rather than introducing Titus today, which would arguably give us good background in studying the book, I’m going to tell you about him when we get to verse 4. Instead, let’s spend time discussing Paul’s salutation,  which will orient us to the apostle’s mission as it fits into God’s eternal plan. These three verses will in turn lay a foundation for Titus in his ministry to the churches in Crete.

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; ~~Titus 1:11-3 (ESV)

Paul wastes no time in describing himself as God’s servant. Do not miss this very important point! As we will see when we meet Titus, Paul is writing to a young pastor, instructing him on godly ways to conduct ministry. By establishing himself as God’s servant, Paul indicates the fundamental attitude Titus needs to adopt. The authority God gives them must be regarded as a vehicle for serving Him.

Furthermore, Paul demonstrates his servant’s attitude as he states his position as an apostle, or ambassador, of Jesus Christ. The term “apostle” denotes being sent out as someone else’s representative. Therefore, Paul serves God by representing the interests of Jesus Christ.

But Paul represents Jesus Christ for the sake of God’s chosen people. That’s an added layer. So he serves the Lord essentially by serving others. Yet he serves those others by exercising his authority to teach them. He ministers to develop their knowledge of the truth, as he will explain momentarily.

Before Paul tells us how he delivers the knowledge of the truth to the elect, however, he explains that this knowledge accords with godliness. The Greek word translated in the ESV as “accords with” has, in this context, the meaning of having an end result. Thus, Paul regards doctrine as a gateway to holy living. He elaborates on this point in Chapters 2 and 3, especially in Titus 2:11-14.  God calls His elect to understand right doctrine so that we can live in holiness.

This godliness, he says in verse 2, leads to hope of eternal life. Here, the word for hope, in contrast to the anemic wishful thinking that we commonly call hope in our culture, actually means assurance. Paul wants his ministry to assure Christians of eternal life. He emphasizes this assurance with an appeal to God’s promise.

Notice that God’s promise is predicated on two points, neither of which we can discuss in detail right now. First, Paul asserts that God doesn’t lie. We can expect eternal life because God has promised it. Second, God made this promise before time began. He didn’t make it on the spur of the moment, in other words. This promise has always been firmly established in God’s will.

Verse 3 continues Paul’s thought by adding that God brought His promise about at the time He decreed. Apparently, Paul just can’t pass up an opportunity to celebrate God’s sovereignty!

Finally, Paul returns to his point that he serves God by bringing the knowledge of the truth to the elect. He accomplishes this task by preaching God’s Word. Those of you who read The Outspoken TULIP  often know that I’d love to write an entire blog post on this one clause! So tune in  next Monday, and we’ll talk about just that.

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