TITUS: A Church Planter’s Reflection– Titus 1:1-3
“1 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, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 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 1:1-3 (ESV)
Despite what some modern commentators have claimed, we have good reason to believe that the Apostle Paul really did write this letter to Titus (see Towner’s commentary). Paul’s designation of himself in the opening lines of this letter “servant” and “apostle” show both his humble attitude (servant) and entrusted authority (apostle). The apostles were Christ’s authoritative teachers whom God used to lead and guide the Early Church. Their words were uniquely inspired, in a way unlike any generation that followed them; their words carried Christ’s authority. The Early Church was obligated to follow them and so are we. As a church planter I want to imitate Paul’s servant attitude—praying often ‘God I am your servant, use me today’—and submit to God’s Word given through the Apostles.
Paul tells us that he is an apostle “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” This means that Paul sought to encourage the faith of God’s people and to equip them in their understanding of the truth. This is something that those around us desperately need. We live in world that has forsaken any notion of objective truth, and the faith of the elect continues to need to be strengthened. While we don’t face physical persecution, we do daily face the assaults and lies of the devil and the world and the flesh.
Paul continues: “in hope of eternal life.” Eternal life is not some quaint idea of previous generation, a fickle promise weak people believe in. Rather, it is the vital need of every person. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and our sin has brought about death (spiritual now and physical later). We all physically die, but those who embrace Christ receive eternal life–a state free from sin and death. I try to preach this to myself as a church planter: I have eternal life in Christ! Everyone needs eternal life in Christ! May we be faithful to sharing the good news that eternal life is freely offered in Jesus.
In the next line we’re told something about God and something that God has done. First, were told that “God cannot lie.” This means that we can trust all of his words, promises, and warnings. Second we’re told that this ‘non-lying’ God promised to bring about eternal life before time even began (v 2) and that now He has manifested the reality of this “at the proper time through the preaching.” It is difficult for me—impossible—to get my head around how God promised eternal life before time began. How is that possible? Though we can’t fully understand it, it did happen and it was displayed in human history “at the proper time.” When was that? The proper time was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus who bought about the possibility of eternal life for all who believe (Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7). God’s timing is always perfect. I want to remember that as we trust God to open doors to share the gospel and build our core team. I also want to remember that God’s Word is trustworthy and knowable—something constantly denied in our culture.
Today, this eternal life is manifested as we preach the gospel. We preach the gospel and God opens people’s hearts and people receive eternal life! Miraculous! Wonderful!