Category Archives: Faithfulness

The Grace Of Absolute Truth

2th 3v5The continued exodus from Biblical Christianity doesn’t shock me as much as it used to, but it saddens me. Friends whom I once greatly respected as sterling examples of Christians, both for their doctrinal fidelity and their moral purity, have been embracing liberal theology and/or moving into blatantly sinful behavior patterns. A few, but only a very few, are honest enough to acknowledge that they aren’t following the Lord. Most, however, foolishly believe that He has led them to make these tragic choices.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

There have been far too many times I’ve looked down my sanctimonious nose at erring friends, not so secretly congratulating myself that I would never go into sin like they did. Really? In my eagerness to judge them, I’d conveniently forget the times I’ve tried to rationalize certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the Bible, knowing full well that I violated God’s standards.

At other times, I admitted my deviation from the truth, and seriously considered turning my back on Jesus in favor of following my selfish desires. Sometimes I still feel that way. No room for self-righteousness here!

But I always come back to the Lord, repentant and convinced that He is my only hope of salvation. You see, when all is said and done, I actually believe everything the Bible says. As a result, I believe I’d spend eternity in hell if I embraced my sinful desires in rebellion against Him.

I’d also miss the joy of fellowship with Him and His people. Sin just doesn’t offer the deep satisfaction of a right conscience before Him. Sacrificing my relationship with Christ for the transient pleasures of sin simply isn’t worth it. I’ve seriously tried to compromise my faith, and I’ve tried to abandon it altogether, but I’ve always come back to wanting the Lord and knowing that He is the Truth.

I can’t leave Jesus, even when I’d very much prefer going my own way, nor can I reassemble my understanding of Him to accommodate my rebellion. Despite the prevailing philosophy that all truth is relative, I am sure that Jesus is the Truth. His Word, the Bible, is absolute, and therefore not subject to personal interpretation. Simply stated, Jesus has a hold on me.

As I watch dear friends pervert Scripture and distort their lives, I must credit the Lord for keeping me anchored in Him. Why He hasn’t given me over to deception puzzles me. I can’t take credit for my steadfastness, though I’d like to believe I’m that much of a spiritual giant. Jesus keeps me following Him, however imperfectly, by convincing me that Truth is exclusively in Him.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: Holding Fast To Trustworthy Doctrine

Titus 1 v 9As we move along in our study of Paul’s letter to Titus, we find that Titus 1:9 really needs to be treated in its own blog post. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that it stands in isolation from its context. Rather, there’s simply too much in it to discuss it in the same essay with verses 5-8, and verse 10 begins a new paragraph.

As always, let’s look at verse 9 in context, just to remind ourselves of Paul’s flow of thought.

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

Paul has been instructing Titus on the qualifications of an elder, and has just outlined the type of character a man must have in order to assume this office. Now he changes gears, ever so slightly, to a prospective elder’s ability to handle God’s Word.

An elder, Paul insists, must hold firm to God’s Word, not compromising it to accommodate the ideas of others. He needs an undivided loyalty to Christ and His teaching (see Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13). Even though Paul here is talking about much more than the tension between God and money, the principle of single hearted devotion still applies. Barnes elaborates on this concept by commenting:

This means that he is to hold this fast, in opposition to one who would wrest it away, and in opposition to all false teachers, and to all systems of false philosophy. He must be a man who is firm in his belief of the doctrines of the Christian faith, and a man who can be relied on to maintain and defend those doctrines in all circumstances.

So an elder must hold firm to Scripture. This exhortation brings us to the nature of Scripture, which makes it worthy of holding firmly. Paul calls God’s Word trustworthy. Elders, and Christians in general, can absolutely rely on it!

I want you to notice the phrase, “the trustworthy word as taught.” Vincent’s Word Studies  tells us that this phrase, “as taught” literally means “according to the teaching” and therefore communicates the idea of agreement with the teaching of the apostles. Embellishments to it, such as those Paul alludes to in verse 14, dilute it, turning people away from its pure principles.

An elder must hold firm to God’s Word  for the purpose of teaching his people sound doctrine. He doesn’t teach vague ideas or worldly wisdom, but the clear teachings of Scripture. He avoids seeker-sensitive models that incorporate popular ideas of the   world into the Gospel.

He also must hold firm to God’s Word  in order to rebuke those who contradict it. In context, Paul apparently means false teachers. We’ll see the application of this clause next Monday as we look at the group of false teachers who disrupted the church in Crete.

Elders aren’t the only Christians who need to hold firm to God’s Word, however. You and I also bear a responsibility to cling tenaciously to the sound doctrine of the Bible, teaching it to our children and to other women. For that reason Titus 1:9 applies to each of us. We can join our elders in holding firmly to the trustworthy Word of God, confident that it will never fail.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: How To Be Above Reproach

Lady's BibleAs I hope you’ll remember from last Monday’s Bible Study on Titus, ladies, the apostle Paul left Titus in Crete with the task of appointing elders in every town. Paul instructed that these be men who were above reproach. Today we will take a more detailed look at how elders could actually be above reproach.

But before we examine Titus 1:7-8, let’s read these verses in their immediate context.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus (ESV)

You can see from this passage that Paul repeats his injunction for overseers to be above reproach, as if to emphasize the importance of this characteristic. Overseers, or elders, must be above reproach, we see in verse 7, because they are God’s stewards. A steward  cares for and manages someone else’s property or affairs. Therefore, they need reputations that make accusations against them difficult to believe.

How are elders to cultivate such reputations? Interestingly, Paul introduces this practical discussion by enumerating ways that an elder should not behave.

To begin with, an elder mustn’t be arrogant (some translations say self-willed). The sense conveys an arrogance that presumes  on the office. In appointing elders, Titus should avoid men who would rule as autocrats.

Going along with that thought, Paul continues by instructing that an elder must not be quick-tempered. Amid the inevitable frustrations of ministry, anger could expose an attitude of self-will. He needs the ability to bridle his temper.

A steward of God’s Church must not be a drunkard. Believers Bible Commentary points out that First Century Mediterranean culture used wine as a common beverage (probably like we use coffee). So Paul’s point here really focuses, not on abstinence, but on self-control.

Along with sobriety in terms of wine, an elder mustn’t be violent. This refers specifically to physical violence .

Lastly in this list of negatives , an elder must not be greedy.  Paul doesn’t want these men exploiting the Gospel as a way to make money. Many false teachers did (and still do) use religion as a means of personal profit. That motive is unacceptable.

In contrast  to these negative qualities, in verse 8 Paul lists characteristics  that actually do befit an elder.

Firstly, an elder must be hospitable. In first Century Mediterranean culture,  hospitality had a special importance,  and Christians  needed to open their homes to strangers. Elders  had the responsibility  to set an  example  of such hospitality.

Next,  Paul says that an elder must be a lover of good. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown  tell us that the Greek  implies  that they are a lover of all that is good, whereas  Barnes expands this notion with the idea that an elder should love people of good character regardless of their outward  appearance  or circumstances.

Following  this quality, an elder  should be sober, which carries  the idea of being  sensible enough to make sound judgments.

Additionally,  an elder must be upright, or just. By this we mean that he is able to deal fairly and honestly  with others, particularly as a steward of God’s Church.

An elder must also be holy. One might consider this as an obvious point, but Paul has reason for including it.This idea points to an attitude of devotion  towards the Lord. Therefore, a steward of God’s Church must maintain a deep and robust relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally,  Paul directs that an elder  must be disciplined, or able to control his passions as well as his outward  behavior. Perhaps this point sums up  these two verses.

Before we conclude that verses 7 and 8 apply exclusively to elders, please remember that elders serve as examples to the rest of us. God calls all Christians to live obedient lives in accord with Scripture and by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. Our elders merely demonstrate how we can live above reproach.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: Putting Things In Order

Bible contextContinuing our study of Titus, we’ll look at verses 5-6 today.I had hoped to cover verses 5-9 in this post. Once you stop laughing at my unrealistic expectations of myself (yes, it’s funny that I thought I could get through five verses in one shot), let’s read the passage to get our bearings.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. ~~Titus 1:5-9 (ESV)

As I prepared this study, I realized that verses 5 and 6 present a theme of putting things in order. Hmm, maybe it’s God’s providence that I will only get through these two verses.

Starting with verse 5, we learn that Titus remained in Crete to finish Paul’s work and to appoint elders.

Jamieson Fausset and Brown comment that Paul spent the winter there on his way to his imprisonment in Rome. So, coupled with the fact that Cretan Jews heard the Gospel at Pentecost (Acts 2:11), the Gospel had gotten to Crete. But Paul left, a prisoner, before the church could be fully organized, so he charged Titus with the responsibility of organizing the church. Gill argues that Paul left Titus there after his second visit.

Paul wanted Titus to “set in order” what remained of constituting the Cretan church.  Vincent’s Word Studies says that the Greek word translated “set in order”   was “Used by medical writers of setting broken limbs or straightening crooked ones.” In verses  10-16 of this chapter we’ll see why the Cretan church needed correction.

Paul directed Titus to appoint elders in every town of Crete. Elders were responsible to care for the  spiritual needs of local congregations. Thus they had to be men of maturity. For that reason, they had to be men whose personal lives reflected order.

Titus 1:6-8 parallels 1 Timothy 3:2-4  in listing the qualifications for being an elder.  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown  comment that the reiteration of qualifications in this epistle contrasts the wickedness of the Cretans (see Titus 1:10). An elder, because he will reprove unsound doctrine and behavior, must exhibit godliness in his own life.

Therefore he must be, first of all, above reproach. Obviously, no elder can be completely sinless, but God’s Word through Paul requires that they be men of integrity.  The rest of this passage details how he should be above reproach.

An elder’s blamelessness begins with how well he orders his family life. Faithfulness in marriage, therefore, is essential. Commentators vary on how strictly this principle applies in the case of remarriage, but the general idea is that he be a model of sexual fidelity. They also note that this clause doesn’t disqualify unmarried men from serving. The point is that they be chaste.

His children, the English text says, must be believers. According to Barnes, the Greek word here rendered “believers” simply means that they live respectfully toward the Christian faith. The issue is more about his ability to govern than about whether or not God has given his children the gift of faith  (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Timothy 3:5  Paul explains that a man who can’t manage his own household probably can’t manage God’s church.

Nobody should be able to accuse an elder of spending excessive money or time on selfish pursuits (here called debauchery) or in rebellion against authority. Some commentators believe that this clause applies to the elder’s children.  That explanation seems most consistent with the  text.

As women, of course, none of us will be church elders. But really, every Christian should have the level of integrity that Paul prescribes for elders. Are we faithful to our husbands?  Are we helping our husbands raise well-behaved children? Do our personal lives qualify us to serve our churches?  If not, perhaps we need the Lord to put us in order.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Perspectives In Titus: A Meaningful Salutation

purple-bibleFor a few reasons, we’ll continue our Titus Bible Study by remaining in verse 4 of Chapter 1 today. Primarily, we’ll do so because last Monday we used this verse to introduce Titus rather than exploring how it fits in with the rest of Paul’s salutation. Its context makes going on to verses 5-9 awkward since we didn’t really examine it last week.

As I’ve just mentioned, verse 4 concludes Paul’s salutation to Titus. This salutation can’t be skipped over lightly because of its rich doctrinal content. Most of this epistle centers around the practicalities of church structure and function, leaving Paul little opportunity to proclaim doctrinal truths, which probably frustrated him just a bit. For that reason, he took full advantage of the chance to pack theology into every crevice of his letter to Titus that he could find. You see, Paul proclaimed doctrine as a way to express his worship of Christ.

Let’s look at the entire salutation, remembering the great doctrines of God’s sovereignty and His election of believers that we saw in our study two weeks ago.

 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;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. ~~Titus 1:1-4 (ESV)

Paul has just introduced himself as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, stating his mission of bringing the Gospel of eternal life to the elect. Notice how he delights in the details of God’s sovereignty? But now he realizes that he needs to finish his salutation, so he greets Titus by calling him “my true child.”

That phrase conveys far more than mere affection. Most commentators believe that Paul led Titus to the Lord. They base their assertion on the fact that Paul uses similar language to describe Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17) and Onesimus (Philemon 10). The apostle reminds Titus of the spiritual bond they share.

But he quickly erases any thought that he’s spiritually superior to Titus by adding the phrase “in a common faith.”  Here Paul suggests that Christians have a faith shared by both Jews and Gentiles,  common to all believers regardless of their position within the Church. As an apostle who is ethnically Jewish, Paul considers this Gentile convert as his equal

This phrase also may allude to the Council of Jerusalem, where the possible presence of Titus may have demonstrated the erasure of distinction between Jews and Gentiles. If indeed Titus had been present at the Council, this allusion would have served to encourage Titus in the genuineness of his ministry. Such an affirmation would help Titus in exercising his pastoral authority in Crete.

Paul’s epistles often open by wishing the recipients grace and peace, so this occurrence of that phrase shouldn’t surprise us. Since none of the commentators I read said much about it, I will simply remark that grace and peace come through Christ Jesus our Savior. In the previous verse, God is called Savior, implying Christ’s shared deity with the Father. Both Father and Son impart grace and peace.

As we close today’s study, perhaps we can think about the wonderful truth that, by God’s grace, each of us participates in a common faith. By grace, we stand before the Lord as equals with each other. Therefore we must avoid attitudes of spiritual pride, accepting each other in love and humility. As we progress through the book of Titus, we’ll discover how such love and humility plays out.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin