I have the honor and privilege of preaching regularly at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville. As a church, we preach through books of the Bible on Sunday mornings. Our style is expository preaching, or preaching that finds its message through the message of passages of Scripture. Each week we look at passage in a book of the Bible, and the next week we continue in the same book until we finish it. We started with Colossians, then went through Nehemiah, then Matthew (we are half-way through it and are taking a break this summer but returning to it this Fall), and we just finished up Titus.
There so many blessings of expository preaching: a sermon is rooted in the Scriptures and what the Scriptures value; varies topics are addressed as passages of Scripture address them; difficult passages in books are preached on; the congregation is taught how to read and think about Scripture and exegesis and theology; there is a simplicity in what is preached on next [the next passage in the book]; etc.
Some of the texts have been more difficult than others to preach on, like 2 chapters of mostly genealogies in Nehemiah. But interestingly, what I have found is that often times the texts I thought were going to be most difficult to preach on because they seemed the most irrelevant, turned out to hold unexpected and wonderful blessings.
This has been the case as I worked on Titus 3:8-15. Here’s the text:
8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. 9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. 15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.
At first glance, this appears to be a rather challenging text to preach on and hard to find relevant. It contains some closing instructions to Titus on what he is to teach (8, 14), how he is deal with those who oppose the teaching (9-11), instructions regarding Titus’ departure and other co-workers (12-13), and final words (15). One might ask, ‘What does this possibly have to say to a Christian living in the suburbs of Chicago in 2018?’ As I pondered what the text said, actually I was surprised by how much this has to say to me and all believers today.
Looking at the text we see that it flows out of a rich explanation of the gospel (3:3-7). Paul reminds us that such a message is “trustworthy” (8). This gives us courage and confidence in the gospel in an age that doubts the Bible. Paul tells Titus to insist on this message, which would lead to a good works in a believer (8). We see that filling our minds and hearts with truth about God leads us to do good works for Him as a result of worship, love, and gratitude. (The exhortation of good works is found in 3:8 and 3:14, and this is a theme found throughout the book of Titus). Today I need to remember that the gospel is trustworthy and fill my mind and heart with it, so that I might out of an overflow of love for God then love my neighbor with good works.
As we continue in the text we learn about how to deal with that which opposes the gospel. We are shown a path of wisdom in dealing the practices in verse 9 and a path of wisdom in dealing with divisive individuals in verses 10-11. False teaching was around in Paul’s time and is today; we have here wisdom to help us as we encounter it. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see it and we don’t need to be ignorant in how to handle: God has given us wisdom right here in Titus 3:9-11!
Paul’s instructions to Titus and about different individuals then follows in verses 12-13. While we certainly can’t literally obey these instructions—all of these individuals are physically dead!—what we can do is be reminded of a structure of leadership God has placed in the church. Jesus is the head of the church (Col 1:18) and the apostles and their teaching (the NT) is the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). Under these God has called qualified men to be elders of local churches (1 Tim 3) to lead and guide. Here then we are reminded of God’s order and wisdom and care for His church; we aren’t left alone, but God uses people to minister to people today. We aren’t the head of the church or even have the right to think we should lead it. God has chosen some to lead it and we would do well to heed His wisdom and seek those who are qualified to be elders (Titus 1:5-9).
As the letter to Titus concludes we hear Paul send greetings from those with him to Titus and from himself to believers in Crete. What we see here is the relational nature of the Christian Faith. We are not called to be solo Christians, but Christians who are in community with one another. We are saved into a family. Such a posture goes against a hyper-individualistic Western mindset, but is something that is beauty and good for our souls. This final verse inspires to strive to enter into this deeper today with other believers and causes us to set our hope on our future lives on the New Earth where we will live with other believers in glorified, sinless bodies forever.
The final word in Titus is grace: “Grace be with you all.” Paul prayed for God’s grace to overflow and be the final word to Titus and the Cretan Christians, and it is something that we need today as well. We need God’s grace to save us and sustain us.
Those are just some thoughts from Titus 3:8-15, our last passage in our Titus series. Just a brief look at the text reveals there to be much gold in a passage we would normally not preach on. Such is one of the blessings of expository preaching.