Saved to Serve
Saved to Serve225
Saved to Serve (Titus 1:1-4)
Main Idea: The salvation we have received in Jesus Christ leads to a life of godliness and service to God our Savior.
- We Are Servants of Our Lord (1:1).
- We are slaves.
- We are sent.
- We are selected.
- We are sanctified.
- We Are Secure in the Lord (1:2-3).
- We have His witness (1:2).
- We have His word (1:3).
- We Are Separated unto the Lord (1:4).
- We share a common faith.
- We are in God's family.
It is a fortunate man who knows who he is and why he is here. Such a man was Saul of Tarsus, the man better known as the apostle Paul. A persecutor of Christians and an enemy of Christ, he stood in support of the murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Acts 7:58 says those who killed Stephen "laid down their robes" at his feet. God, however, had a sovereign plan for this young radical. As Paul was traveling on the Damascus road with the intent of destroying Christian lives226 and homes (Acts 9:1-19), the risen and glorified Lord Jesus appeared from heaven and saved him. He saved him, not just to take him to heaven; He saved him, like He saved you and me, to serve.
Here in Titus 1:1-4, in one of Paul's longest introductions, the apostle begins a short three-chapter, 46-verse letter that weds in a beautiful duet the Christian sonnet of doctrine and deeds, belief and behavior, conduct and creed. Being sound in doctrine and zealous for good works are twin themes that tie this short, powerful epistle together.
This is a bargain-basement letter. You get more than your money's worth as Paul packed in so much truth and so much teaching in such a short amount of space.
We could consider the theme to be "An Apostolic Manual for Church Planting." Here is a blueprint for planting and building churches that will survive and thrive for the glory of God.
Paul begins by telling something about himself, something about salvation, something about preaching, and something about his son in the faith, a man named Titus. What then is his message for us today? What do we need to know about who we are and why we are here?
We Are Servants of Our Lord
We Are Servants of Our Lord
"Paul," which means small, little, or humble, was his Greek/Roman name and was perhaps taken in honor of his first Gentile convert on his first missionary journey, a man named Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7-12). Paul, the greatest missionary-theologian who ever lived (he saw no difficulty in bringing the two together), was in his later years. While his eyes may have been growing dim at this time in his life, his spiritual vision had never been clearer. He saw clearly just who and what he was "in Christ."
We Are Slaves
Paul identifies himself as a "slave of God." Only here does he call himself a slave of God; normally it was "of Christ." For Paul there was no difference. He was God's slave, bought and paid for by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Pet 1:18-19). He was now no longer his own (1 Cor 6:19); he was a slave of God. This demonstrates the humility that should characterize our lives as servants of our Lord.227
We Are Sent
Paul also calls himself an "apostle of Jesus Christ." Apostle is both a technical and a general term in Scripture. Technically, it refers to the Twelve, the disciples who were eyewitnesses of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. Paul was also an apostle, but "one abnormally born," one placed into the office at a different time and in an unusual way (1 Cor 15:8). The term apostle also has a general meaning that applies to every one of us, for we are "sent ones" as those who go on behalf of Jesus Christ. This speaks of our calling and authority as missionaries of our Savior.
We Are Selected
In the remainder of verse 1, Paul expresses the purpose for which he was called—a purpose that we too share as believers. Watch carefully! Don't miss it. He says his apostleship exists for "the faith" (here is human responsibility) "of God's elect" (here is divine sovereignty). Paul sees no dichotomy, no contradiction between the sovereignty of God and the human responsibility of man. Salvation from beginning to end is the sovereign work of the grace of God (Eph 2:8; Heb 12:2). And yet no one will be saved who does not repent and believe, and all who repent and believe will be saved (Rom 10:13).
I understand Paul to be a theological and soteriological compatibilist. He believed God elected and predestined people to be saved but did so in such a way as to do no violence to their free will and responsibility to believe the gospel. The great prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once commented on this issue: "He saves man by grace, and if men perish they perish justly by their own fault. 'How,' says someone, 'do you reconcile these two doctrines?' My dear brethren, I never reconcile two friends, never. These two doctrines are friends with one another; for they are both in God's Word, and I shall not attempt to reconcile them" ("Jacob and Esau," in New Park Street, 5:120). And neither should we.
I am convinced Paul stood against anything that questioned the sovereignty of God and he stood steadfast against anything that would harm a red-hot passion for missions and evangelism. Here we see the purpose of our ministry. It is a ministry that exists for the salvation of the lost among all the nations through the proclamation of the gospel.228
We Are Sanctified
The faith of those belonging to God was also for a purpose. Saving faith moves one to a full knowledge of the truth that results in a new life of godliness. A knowledge of the truth and godliness are intimately connected in Christianity. One commentator states this well: "A profession of the truth which allows an individual to live in ungodliness is a spurious profession" (Hiebert, Titus and Philemon, 21). The gospel should lead to godliness. In other words, what I believe will affect how I live, and how I live will demonstrate what I believe!
Vance Havner, commenting on the church's failure to move from faith to knowledge to godliness, said, "We are challenged these days, but not changed; convicted, but not converted. We hear, but do not; and thereby we deceive ourselves" (Hester, Vance Havner, 1963).
The child of God is to live a sanctified life, a holy life, a pure life, and a godly life. Here the genuineness of the truth of the gospel is lived out for all to see. This speaks of our maturity as followers of Christ and further describes the purpose of our ministry. As servants of God, we exist to seek both the salvation of the lost and growth in godliness in the life of the believer.
We Are Secure in the Lord
We Are Secure in the Lord
We are not only servants of our Lord, but we are also secure in the Lord. Paul understood that radical service for the Lord Jesus Christ must be grounded in a security in Christ that sets us free to serve Him with an otherworldly abandonment that knows, no matter what: I am His! In verses 2-3, Paul places before us two avenues of a sure and certain security. One is God's witness; the other is God's Word.
We Have His Witness (Titus 1:2)
Paul here addresses one of the great promises of Scripture, placing all its weight on the character of God. Note the wonderful "chain reaction"! The saving faith of those who belong to God leads to a knowledge of the truth, which will lead to godliness, all of which rests on the hope of eternal life in a God who cannot lie! What a promise! What a hope!
Hope is a confident certainty and expectation of something that is not yet ours but will be. Eternal life is the very life of God. It is both a229 quantity of life (forever) and a quality of life ("Christ in you, the hope of glory," Col 1:27). This "hope of eternal life" is founded upon the character and integrity of the God "who cannot lie" (cf. 1 Sam 15:29; Heb 6:18). In stark contrast is Satan, who "is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44), as well as the Cretans, who are described as being "always liars" (v. 12). Paul points out that this hope of eternal life was "promised before time began." The plan of salvation, the promise of eternal life, looks both ways down "God's highway of grace"; it runs into eternity past and it lasts into eternity future (Hughes and Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 277).
Some theologians see in verse 2 an allusion to what is called "the covenant of redemption" whereby the Father showed His love for His Son by promising Him a redeemed people who would love, serve, and glorify Him forever (cf. John 6:37, 40; 17:23-24, 26). However, to complete the picture we must add that the Son showed His love for the Father by becoming the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:19-20) and that the entire plan of redemption was an eternal promise made to sinful humanity as a demonstration of God's love for us. Our salvation is no afterthought with God. He planned it down to the last detail a long time ago. Our security and confidence in the Lord rest not only in His witness; they also rest on His word.
We Have His Word (Titus 1:3)
The eternal promise of eternal life entered time and space at "just the right time" (NLT). The HCSB says "in His own time"; the NIV says "at his appointed season"; Peterson in The Message paraphrases: "When the time was ripe, he went public with his truth." Now the "chain reaction" of God's wonderful plan adds another crucial link.
The eternal promise of eternal life from the God who cannot lie stepped into history as the Word of God made known through preaching, which message had been entrusted to Paul (and now us) by the commandment of God our Savior (cf. Titus 2:10; 3:4).
Amazingly, God has placed His eternal plan of salvation in the hands of people like you and me. We as heralds of the gospel are recipients of a divine trust, a sacred treasure. The message we preach is not our word; it is His Word. This is our commitment. This is His commandment. This is our calling. We preach His Word and no other word. We preach His gospel and not another gospel. Certainly some may preach the gospel better, but no one will preach a better gospel.230
We Are Separated unto the Lord
We Are Separated unto the Lord
Paul now introduces us to the recipient of this letter, a man named Titus. Titus is mentioned 13 times in the New Testament (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6, 13, 14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18 [2 times]; Gal 2:1, 3; 2 Tim 4:10). He was a Greek, a non-Jewish convert who became something of a "test case" for the gospel and the fact that one does not need to become a Jew, evidenced by circumcision, to be saved. Titus had a special relationship to the troubled church at Corinth, and his work there and here on the difficult island of Crete revealed Paul's confidence in him. Playfully, we can say he was Paul's "hit man," his "Green Beret," his "spiritual Navy Seal" who could go into the hard places and set things in order, get things fixed, make things right.
Paul again provides a word of encouragement concerning our security in Christ and the fountain of blessings from which we drink as we draw strength for service.
We Share a Common Faith
Titus was a "true son in our common faith." Paul used this same expression "true son" for Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:2. It suggests that Paul was their spiritual father, having led both to faith in Christ. The phrase "common faith" may refer to the same saving faith both Paul and Titus had experienced. More likely it refers to "the faith," the body of Christian truth, "that was delivered to the saints once for all" (Jude 3).
Titus was to preach the same message Paul preached. It is the faith that was to be taught in the first century, and it remains the faith that is to be taught in the twenty-first century. Like Titus we share in this common faith and have been entrusted to proclaim it faithfully. While methods may change, the message always remains the same. The "sound teaching" (v. 9) necessary to build a vibrant, dynamic, and genuine New Testament church is rooted and grounded in this common faith. There is no room for wavering or compromise on this.
We Are in God's Family
Many beautiful metaphors and images describe the relationship of God to His people. We are His temple, a building, a body, His bride. We are also family, and that was Paul's focus as he brought his greeting to an end.231
When we receive Jesus as Savior we also receive God as Father. As "God our Savior" in verse 3, the Lord (deity) Jesus (humanity) Christ (God's anointed) is "our Savior" in verse 4. The title Savior appears 12 times in the New Testament, six of those times in Titus. The question of who is Savior must have been an issue on the island of Crete. Three times it is applied to God (1:3; 2:10; 3:4), and three times it is applied to Jesus (1:4; 2:13; 3:6). The equality of essence as God and yet their distinction in person is plainly and clearly revealed.
Because we are family, we are loved by our Father and our Savior. Flowing from that love are the three Christian blessings of grace, mercy, and peace. "Grace" is unmerited favor; it is what gets us into the family. "Mercy" is unlimited compassion; we could say it is what keeps us in the family. "Peace" is unsurpassing wholeness; it is what we enjoy once we're in the family. All of this and more is ours because we share a common faith and we are a part of God's family.
Grace inspires godliness. Salvation inspires service. Those who understand that God's love for them and His desire for their salvation originates in eternity past and continues through eternity future will be compelled to love Him and serve Him. They will do so not out of obligation but out of gratitude, "gospel gratitude." A man who is captured by the love of his wife will return that love not because he has to but because he wants to. A person captured by the love of Jesus will love Him in return, not because he has to but because he wants to. He saved you that you might serve Him. He saved you that you might enjoy Him.
Reflect and Discuss
Reflect and Discuss
- What is your purpose in life? What is God's grand purpose for His church? How does your purpose contribute to God's purpose?
- What is the relationship between servanthood and apostleship? Is it possible to be called and sent out without being a slave of God in Christ? Why? How is this, in turn, related to sanctification?
- How does theology sometimes interfere with missions? Should it? How should theology sometimes empower and propel missions?232
- Does the balance of ministry in your church favor seeking the salvation of the lost or growth in godliness of believers? Is this the way it should be?
- What passages of the Bible provide you the most assurance for "the hope of eternal life"?
- Do some Christians have a greater gift for communicating the gospel? Do some have a greater or lesser responsibility to do so? How can those with less of a gift fulfill their obligation?
- Do you know of anyone who has a special ability to go into difficult situations in church communities and make things right? What gifts are employed in those situations?
- In two or three sentences, what is the "common faith" shared by Paul, Titus, and us?
- What is your favorite analogy for the people of God—His temple, His body, His bride, or His family? Why?