Perspectives In Titus: When “All” Doesn’t Mean “Each And Every”

Titus 2 v 11

My summer break from writing Bible Studies has drawn to a close, and I’m happy to be getting back to work. Before I get started, through, let me briefly remind you that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching men. Therefore, unless you’re my husband or an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth providing spiritual oversight, I respectfully ask gentlemen not to read these studies.

Now ladies, I hope you’ve reviewed the studies we’ve done in Titus so far. You’ll recall that the apostle Paul had left Titus in Crete to organize the churches there. The Christians in Crete struggled against two forces: the self-indulgent culture and false teachers who tried to impose Jewish legalism on Gentile converts. To counteract these forces, Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders of high moral character who could effectively silence false teachers by both their behavior and their mastery of sound doctrine.

Paul then told Titus how to instruct various groups within the churches. Each group, while bearing similar responsibilities to each other and to elders, had a specific emphasis which helped them live in contrast to the Cretan culture. Thus their lifestyle would be consistent with the Gospel.

Today we transition into a passage that articulates the purpose of the Gospel and the impact of God’s grace. We’ll only make it through verse 11, but let’s look at the whole passage to get some context.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Verse 11 equates the Gospel with God’s grace, so I want to say just a little bit about what grace is. Grace refers to God’s favor, particularly in terms of redemption. According to John MacArthur, Jesus Christ Himself embodies God’s grace (see John 1:14). We need this grace because of our corrupted human nature as a result of the Fall.

Paul’s phrase, “has appeared,” carries the idea of shining forth, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. They use Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:79 as substantiation. The imagery of light shining in the darkness fits well here, since Paul’s main theme revolves around the importance of Titus training Christians to shine in contrast to the moral darkness of the Cretan culture.

Moreover, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that this grace had been hidden before the advent of Christ (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10). Like MacArthur, they point out that Jesus Himself bears this grace as “he Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Commentator John Gill writes that Paul simply meant that God’s grace appeared through the Gospel.

Grace alone brings salvation. Notice that salvation doesn’t come from human obedience, as the Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches of Crete claimed, but from grace (Ephesians 2:8). Paul emphasizes that the “doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) always directs us away from ourselves and to the Lord.

Many Christians use the phrase “bringing salvation to all people” as a proof-text refuting Limited Atonement. However, if we look back at verses 1-10, and forward to verse 14, we readily see a) that Paul has just been writing instructions to various people groups within the church and b) that God redeems a distinct people for Himself.

Both Thayer’s Greek Dictionary and The Complete Word Study Dictionary contend that, although the Greek word translated here as “men” can refer to individual men when used with certain modifiers, its primary definition denotes mankind in general. Again, then, we see the idea that God’s grace is not restricted to any one race or social class (Galatians 3:28).

Those who insist that the Lord’s death atones for every individual acknowledge that some people die without appropriating His grace. Of course, I can’t chase that rabbit today, but I hope I’ve demonstrated that Titus 2:11 doesn’t substantiate their belief. As we continue studying this passage next Monday, we’ll see that Paul’s thrust isn’t really about the scope of grace but about the practical impact of grace. Please join me then.

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I Can’t Contain My Joy (But Why Would I Want To?)

Knowing the horrifying depth of my sin enables me to appreciate the immense grace God has lavished on me through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Far from an academic understanding of the atonement, the reality that Jesus took the punishment that rightfully belongs to me, assigning His righteousness to me, fills me with irrepressible joy!

That’s why I love today’s upbeat hymn. It overflows with both documented truth and unrestrained celebration as it rejoices in God’s grace. Try singing along as you think about the amazing truths in the lyrics. I believe you’ll end up feeling as joyful as I feel.

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Saturday Sampler: August 13 — August 19

Birds SamplerElizabeth Prata gives us tiny glimpses into why The Bible is so amazing in The End Time. What a wonderful encouragement to be in God’s Word regularly!

I implore you to go to excatholic4christ to read Tom’s post, An evangelical writes to “Your Holiness,” the pope. Incidents like the one he reports show me why we need education on the Protestant Reformation.

For a better understanding of the theological deterioration of evangelicals, visit Leslie A.’s blog, Growing 4 Life and read Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: America’s New Religion. This blog post explains a lot about why we have drifted away from Biblical Christianity. Leslie also offers a Biblical response to this escalating problem.

Iceland boasts that 100% of women who test positive for carrying unborn children with  Down Syndrome choose to abort. Writing in adayinhiscourt, John Ellis repudiates Iceland’s Genocide of Babies with Down Syndrome to remind us that abortion can never be justified. As someone actually living with severe birth defects, I find the practice of aborting disabled babies thoroughly reprehensible!

Lara d’Entremont of Renewed in Truth Discipleship recently asked several Christian bloggers how they schedule their personal Bible Study time. She compiles their responses in How Crazy Busy Women Make Time For God’s Word as an encouragement to us. You’ll find several practical ideas here to jumpstart your own time in Scripture.

Modesty involves external obedience, certainly, but take a look at Sunny Shell’s blog post, Our External Sensuality Reveals Our Internal Depravity in Abandoned to Christ. A good reminder during hot August weather.

If Lara’s post didn’t give you enough ideas for your time in God’s Word, check out One Degree to Another for Scott Slayton’s 4 Biblical Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters. I found some things that I might try.

Once we read God’s Word, of course, we gain the responsibility to actually obey it. In  Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture, Michelle Lesley tells it like it is. Her blog post may not be comfortable reading, but it definitely says things all of us need to hear. Please make this one a high priority.

Writing for Bible Thinking Woman, Kesha Griffin lists 5 Benefits For Bible Thinking Women. I haven’t fully vetted this blog yet, but Kesha writes this particular essay from a solid Biblical standpoint, giving me hope that the rest of this website proves equally solid.

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Discernment Ministries That Lose True Discernment (Avoiding Their Mistakes)

Discern YourselfTwo days ago I wrote about the necessity of using wisdom in discernment ministry. Sadly, I got more caught up in the attacks Brannon Howse is making on Justin Peters than I’d planned, and consequently had little time left to write about my real concern. I hope I can rectify that omission today.

As I said Wednesday, there’s definitely a time and place for naming false teachers in discernment ministry. I’ve done so many times in this blog, and I’m planning an article for next Wednesday on another evangelical trend that needs to be exposed. But I fear that, in our zeal to warn people of dangerous teachers and trends, we may have distorted the concept of discernment, forgetting that its real purpose lies in our Christian maturity.

Consider the argument that the writer of Hebrews makes as he pleads with Jewish Christians to lay aside their efforts to earn salvation in favor of resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross:

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~~Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)

Here, discernment has precious little to do with generating conspiracy theories or calling out false teachers, and everything to do with helping these believers live in fidelity to the Gospel. Discernment isn’t sanctified gossip used to ruin reputations; it is the means of learning how to conform to God’s will.

Oddly, some bloggers and podcast hosts seem to have lost sight of this true purpose of discernment. They ironically fail to discern when they cross the line into fault finding for the sake of parading their supposed discernment skills. In so doing, they forget basic principles of Scripture, such as respectfully expressing disagreement while recognizing someone as a brother or sister in Christ unless they teach outright false doctrine.

Biblical discernment calls us, first and foremost, to distinguish good from evil in our own lives. How obedient are we to the Lord? Are we understanding His Word properly? Do we apply it correctly to our own lives before we hold others to its standards? Sisters, these questions make me uncomfortable, and they draw me to repentance. They confront me with my need to exercise discernment in my own life well before I call out anyone else.

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When Discernment Lacks Wisdom

Discern WiselyA few years ago, everybody wanted to bill themselves as having discernment. Myself included. At that time, many people equated discernment ministry with calling out false teachers and exposing unbiblical trends within evangelism.

Certainly, discernment ministry includes such activities, and Christians shouldn’t apologize for speaking against people and movements that contradict Scripture. If anything, more Christians need to brace against the many deceptions that continually creep into the church. So please, as you read this article, understand that I most assuredly believe discernment ministry encompasses exposing people and practices that oppose sound doctrine.

Having said that, I’ve learned that some Christians limit discernment ministry to nothing more than heresy hunting. Such people, despite their claims of being discerning, fall for conspiracy theories and impugn genuine brothers and sisters in Christ over secondary issues. Brannon Howse obviously comes to mind in his attacks on James White, Phil Johnson and Justin Peters.

The attacks on Justin Peters is perhaps the most interesting, and the most instructive.

Both Brannon and Justin have ministries that they call discernment ministries. Both believe they call out false teachers (and indeed, both have done so). As a matter of fact, both have publicly disagreed with James White’s Interfaith  Dialogue with Yasir Qadhi.

Justin, however, refuses to label James White as a heretic. While he disagrees with the methods James employs, he trusts that James submits to the leadership of his local church and that he’s motivated by a real desire to evangelize Muslims. For those reasons, he won’t join Brannon in denouncing James.

As a result, Brannon has now declared that Justin Peters supports Islam and has compromised his ministry. Brannon’s Facebook page bulges with invective comments against Justin, almost gleefully predicting the demise of his ministry.

I question whether or not Brannon Howse truly understands discernment. If he researched even a little bit, he’d quickly realize that none of the people he’s denounced in this matter compromised with Islam. True discernment would cause him to disagree with James White’s approach (as Phil Johnson and Justin Peters have) without trying to discredit them. True discernment would seek unity on primary issues and graciously accept differences on matters of preference.

Discernment ministry goes far beyond naming false teachers. It discerns when to make something an issue and when to quietly disagree without breaking fellowship with Bible-believing Christians who hold to sound doctrine. Furthermore, it rejects conspiracy theories in favor of loving enemies (like Muslims) enough to respectfully dialogue with them about the differences between Islam and Christianity so that we can effectively evangelize them.

Discernment is a great deal more than publicly calling out false teachers, particularly when someone actually teaches sound doctrine. True discernment investigates a person’s overall ministry to determine if he or she consistently upholds Scripture or consistently makes mistakes. True discernment, moreover, doesn’t distort that person’s words in order to win a fight.

Above all, true discernment seeks to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Even in calling out false teachers, true discernment points people back to the Lord, helping others understand the Gospel. In fact, it affirms efforts to proclaim the Gospel to people caught in deceptions like Islam. As long as someone presents the Gospel fully and without minimizing its components, we should rejoice that someone cares enough to bring it to Muslims.

Discernment is necessary to Christian maturity. So let’s use it, not just to identity people and practices that contradict God’s Word, but to conduct ourselves in ways that honor the Lord.

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Italian Renaissance Art, My Bucket List And The Protestant Reformation

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The Holy Family by Botticelli

During my freshman year of college, I took an overview class on Italian Renaissance art (fall semester) followed by a class on High Renaissance art (spring semester). I loved all of it, and developed a desire to visit Florence and Rome to see some of the pieces I’d studied in person. Especially Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Shortly after moving to the Greater Boston Area to marry John, complications from my disability curtailed my ability to travel. Providentially, however, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has hosted several exhibitions of Italian Renaissance art, allowing me to see works by Titian, Tintoretto, Donatello and even sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo! Last month we saw an exhibition of Botticelli which also included works by Fillippo Lippi and Verrochio.  Okay, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I praise God for bringing these artists to my doorstep.

Therefore I’ve been content about never visiting Italy. That contentment has grown as I’ve learned more about the Protestant Reformation and the events that led Martin Luther to post his 95 Theses.

As I’ve explained in numerous blog posts, Luther protested the selling of Indulgences, Pope Leo X’s primary means of financing the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, offended that the Roman Catholic Church preyed on the fears of poor people by propagating the unbiblical notion of Purgatory. Terror stricken peasants eagerly purchased Indulgences in hopes of minimizing time in Purgatory, never realizing that Christ completely paid  for the sins of all who believe in Him.

In other words, Rome exploited the fears of people who believed their false doctrine of Purgatory for the purposes of financing Saint Peter’s Basilica. Really comprehending that horrible fact made me kind of glad that I can’t go to Rome. It sours my taste for seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling (though I might enjoy his Last Judgment fresco, in which he put Leo X in hell).

A couple days ago, however, John and I watched a YouTube video called Introduction to the Life of Martin Luther on Bruce Gore’s channel. Gore reiterated the account of Luther being grieved by the sale of Indulgences, mentioning the role of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Then he remarked that Protestants can enjoy the Basilica as the catalyst for our Protestant heritage.

Although I still feel content with the marvelous Italian Renaissance art that the Lord has brought to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, I greatly appreciate the perspective Bruce Gore articulated regarding Saint Peter’s Basilica. Though I’ll only see it through books and Internet articles, I’ll know that God used the evil means of financing that building to bring about the Protestant Reformation. Doesn’t He do all things well?

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Yes, I’m Giving You Homework!

Perspectives in TitusA migraine Saturday changed my plan to resume the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study today. Maybe that’s  the sovereignty of God giving us time to review the passages we’ve studied so far. You can find most of the studies (in reverse order, I’m sorry to say) by clicking this link. Perhaps spending this coming week going over the epistle will help us remember the context of the passage we’ll study next Monday.

Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the importance of maintaining context or continuity when I decided to take a summer break from the study, nor did it occur to me last week when I decided to start back up again today. Apparently I thought I could plunge right into Titus 2:11-14 without recalling what Paul had written to Titus up to that point. I’d forgotten that we’d need to review the situation Titus faced in ordering the churches of Crete, and how those churches would need to respond to the Cretan culture.

Titus 2:11-14 overflows with wonderful doctrine on God’s grace and His purpose in electing us.  In my September 5 article, Our Teacher: Grace, I used this very passage to demonstrate the relationship between grace and holiness without paying much attention to the rest of the chapter, and I believe I did so without violating its meaning. I love this passage so much that I refer to it daily in my prayer time.

Although this passage can, in a sense,  stand alone, studying it within its larger context next Monday will increase its power. We will see how it connects to the groups Paul addresses in Titus 2:1-10, as well as to the challenges the Cretan Christians had in distinguishing themselves from the false teachers in their region. Finally, we’ll apply its principles to ourselves.

So, dear sisters, let’s use this week to read back over the lessons in this series before we move forward. My migraine Saturday may have prevented me from barging back into the study without proper attention to how Paul got to this marvelous exposition on grace, leaving us unprepared to fully appreciate it. Please take advantage of this opportunity to review our Perspectives In Titus Bible Studies.

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