Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bible Briefs: Titus

Series Introduction: Bible Briefs are a short introduction and summary of the overview of a book of the Bible, with a view to helping people take up their Bible and knowing what it's about.

When Paul sent Titus to the island of Crete, he wasn’t there for a poolside holiday. There was work to be done in leading the church and appointing elders. Paul’s letter to Titus enables us to read over Titus’ shoulder as God shows us what a growing church should look like.

Throughout the letter, there’s a constant refrain. It’s the theme tune that repeats over and over again, heard in every section of the letter: believing and behaving go together. What we do will flow out of what we believe. We’re called to live lives of integrity - where our faith and deeds match up.

We find it in the opening verse: ‘Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.’ (1:1) our knowledge of the truth must lead to godliness - believing brings behaving. The qualifications of the church leaders echo this (1:5-9), as does the testimony of the false teachers - ‘They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him’ (1:16).

As the letter progresses, there is specific application for various groups and profiles of people - old men, older women, younger women, and young men - all under the heading of ‘You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.’ (2:1) Healthy teaching must lead to right behaviour. Similarly with the slaves, their actions and reactions will be a sign of their faith ‘so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive.’ (2:10).

This was the very reason Jesus Christ came: ‘who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness [the truth] and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. [godliness] (2:14). The same theme is loud and clear as we come into the final chapter, where our relationship to the authorities and to the world around us is dealt with. Reflecting on the kindness and love of God which appeared, in order to save us, Paul urges Titus to teach these things: ‘so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.’ (3:8).

As we rejoice in the glorious good news of the Saviour who came to redeem us, that grace must bring change as it ‘teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ (2:12-13)

No matter how far along the path of discipleship we have travelled, there’s always more to do in pursuing godliness - but don’t be downhearted, because God’s grace is the encouragement for godliness. Let’s keep going and growing together.

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