"Titus: Grace for All"

When we work closely with other people, we usually learn quite a bit about them. We learn some of their personal likes and dislikes. We might even learn something of their family members and loved ones. Over the course of time we will learn about their character traits, as well. We will learn how they respond under pressure, deal with challenging circumstances and whether or not they have leadership potential. Those things are important, especially for one in a prominent role within a company or organization. Some of those same principles apply in the church. In Paul's letter to his minister friend Titus, he points out the importance of one's character when selecting leaders for the church. Paul has left Titus on the island of Crete to organize the church's converts and leaders. It was a challenging task, to say the least. The people of Crete were known for their laziness and gave little thought to being quality leaders. Yes, Titus was in a tough position, yet Paul knew he would be up to the challenge. In this letter Paul offers instruction on Christian doctrine. He gives guidance as to the type of person that would be an effective leader. He also emphasizes the need and the importance to do what is good. As we work our way through this letter, I hope we take to heart Paul’s words. They apply to us today as we think about living a disciplined life and one with good Christian traits. Join us now for the next few minutes as we study Paul's letter to Titus.

 

>>LESSON

If someone were to describe your character, what would they say? Would they praise you for your kindness and compassion? Would they mention something about your hospitality and love? Would they even say something about your generosity and the many good works you do for other people? Or, would they say anything good at all? Well, hopefully they would not identify things like selfishness and greed. Surely they would not mention that you were lazy and dishonest and sat around doing nothing all day. All of us want to have a good reputation. We want other people to recognize that our character is good and it is something worth considering and following. Laziness and gluttony and dishonesty were some of the things that characterized the church on the island of Crete a long time ago. Their moral character had dropped to an all-time low, and that was their reputation among other people on the island. They thought of these individuals as people who were selfish and who only thought about themselves, who pursued their own interest and desires and really did not care about anyone else. The Apostle Paul writes a letter to his friend Titus, who is living there on that island; in fact, Titus was one of the traveling companions with Paul. He traveled with him to places like Corinth and Ephesus and even here on this island. They did missionary work together and they shared the gospel of Jesus with many individuals and established a number of churches. Well, this letter was written about the same time as the letter of 1st Timothy, somewhere around 63 or 64 AD. Timothy and Titus were about the same age and they had some of the same responsibilities. Timothy was in the city of Ephesus working with the church there, and Titus was here upon the island of Crete and he was working with the church which he and Paul established. Now both of them needed some guidance on how to work with the people, and some administrative things, in working with that church and how to organize and to direct the affairs. Well, Paul addressed things that would be beneficial to both, first to Timothy in Ephesus and then Titus here on the island of Crete. After Paul's first release from his first Roman imprisonment, he met up with this young man. They worked together here on the island sharing the good news of Jesus and establishing the church, and yet it came time for Paul to leave and to move on; but, he encouraged Titus to stay put and to set in order some things that were wrong and then to identify some leaders. Yes, there was much work to do and Titus was to be responsible to fulfill those duties. The church was not in good shape. They were not organized. The members were not good representatives of the Lord. They did little good for other people and they had no capable leadership. Yes, the church and everybody living on the island was a mess. Their reputation was shot. Their character was absolutely worthless. And Paul, having been there, accurately described the situation on that island. He even quotes some of their own poets. Notice these words in the 1st chapter verses 10 through 14.  “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach; and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true; therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths, or to the commands of those who reject the truth.” Paul then goes on to add these words in verse 16. “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” What an indictment. Paul does not write anything good about those people. There’s nothing good going on in their life. That is a very sad commentary, not only on the people in the church, but for all of the people living on the island of Crete. You know, it makes me wonder what Paul might write about some churches or even some cities today. Some of these people, as we go to the text, were rebellious and deceptive and dishonest. They were a bunch of liars who pursued evil and divided entire households, and it was all for the sake of financial gain. The people said anything they wanted to say and others would hear them and pay them to be taught. Well, the people of Crete were not civilized. Their moral character was not any good; and yet, it was into this environment that Paul and Titus started the church. These two faithful servants of God shared with these individuals the Good News of Jesus Christ. More than anyone else, the people of Crete needed to hear the Good News. Now, that reminds us today, Jesus and His Church are available for everyone. And it does not matter what one's life looks like, Jesus is in the business of changing people's lives. Jesus is in the business of changing the bad into good. He's in the business of giving people a brand new start through a relationship with Him. And that's what these people on the island of Crete needed more than anything else. They needed a new start. They needed a new direction to go. Well, the letter of Titus is evidence that the church is not to function only in respectable environments. It is to function in places where people need Jesus. It is to function in places where people are spiritually sick and in need of a savior. No doubt that is something for us to consider, as we think about doing missionary work, as we think about going somewhere and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with people who have never heard it. All people everywhere need the opportunity to hear and to receive the Good News message of the Lord. Now, obviously a change was needed here on the island of Crete. It would start with good leadership. It would start with men who would step up to the task and provide a good example for others to follow. That was one of Titus’s responsibilities, to identify those good leaders, to set them in place so they could provide an example for the Christians there in the church. Now, a list of qualities or characteristics of such a leader is found in the very 1st chapter. As we look at this list, we notice that it compares to the list that Paul gave to Timothy, in 1st Timothy chapter 3. It's very similar. It’s almost identically the same. Timothy needed that as he set in place some leaders in Ephesus and now Titus needs the same thing here on the island of Crete. Both of the lists begin the same way. We notice here in verses 6 of chapter 1, Paul states that “a man is to be blameless.” The first thing in 1st Timothy chapter 3 is that a man is to be above reproach. Basically the same thing, to be above reproach is to live a life of integrity, to be blameless is for someone to live such a life that nobody else can point to him and say you are to be blamed for some kind of wrong doing in your life. Yes, both lists are very similar, and both lists begin with a man who is a man full of integrity and who has nothing to be blamed for in his life. Now, based upon that, there are other things that are to be identified within such a leader. He is to be devoted to one woman only. His children are to honor and obey him. This man is not to be greedy for money or for alcohol. He’s not to constantly get drunk, but he is to have a good reputation among others. And no doubt, these two lists provide a good example and a good list of characteristics and qualities of those leaders who will be able to lead people closer in a relationship with the Lord. You know, the men who practiced these things would provide a good example for others to follow, and in doing so it would help them overcome their bad reputation and it would allow them to grow in the kind of character with which God would be pleased. Oh, the point behind both letters, 1st Timothy and Titus, was for them to identify a new standard by which the people were to live, and that standard was to be based upon Jesus Christ. It was to be based upon a life that was devoted to the Lord, a life that had been changed by Jesus Christ even to the point everybody else could see and notice the changes that were being made. Yes, once this standard was implemented, the people on the island hopefully would begin to make those changes and good things would happen. It’s interesting, as we study through this letter, several times Paul states the importance of doing what is good. Now, obviously he states that so many times because very little good was being done. I want to highlight several passages where we find the command to do what is good. The first one is found in chapter 2 and verse 7. These words are directed to Titus himself. “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech.” He goes on in chapter 3 beginning in verse 1. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men.” Here's another passage, chapter 3 verse 8. “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Then finally verse 14, “Our people must devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.” Obviously the point Paul makes here is that people are to change their way of life and start doing what was good. Well, the Christians, evidently, were not doing that. They were not living a good life. They were not setting an example for others to follow. Now, they were not to do these good works to gain salvation. They had already received it through receiving the message Paul and Titus had shared with them. They were not to live a good life in front of their friends just to say to God, “Well look at me, I am worthy and I am deserving of the salvation which You offer.” No, it has already been provided. Rather, they were to live that good life so that their unbelieving friends and others would recognize the difference Jesus had made in them, and how He could make this same difference in their life also. One of the best ways to live that good life was simply to get along with one another, and that is where Paul goes in the 2nd chapter. The 2nd chapter addresses those personal relationships. Instructions are given to the older men and to the older women to be good examples to the younger men and younger women. Paul mentions how masters and slaves are to get along with each other and to offer mutual respect. Oh these things, plus a host of many more, will change their reputation among the nonbelievers, as they see them doing something good. Their character will improve and eventually they will develop into the kind of believers and into the kind of leaders that God desires them to be. Now, these changes will all come about when the people pause long enough to reflect upon what God has done for them in their life. When they begin to recognize that, yes, God loves them and He has provided salvation for them through Jesus Christ. In fact, they had received it. They had responded to that Good News message, which Paul shared, and now they were to allow that to make a difference. They were to allow those things to change their heart and their life. Yes, what God did revolved around His amazing grace. And that may be Paul's most important point that he makes here in the letter of Titus. He emphasizes several occasions that God's grace is what provides this salvation and gives you the opportunity to make that change and to grow in your walk with the Lord. Two statements are found here in Titus that emphasize God's amazing grace, and I want to spend just a few minutes talking about each one. As we do, recognize these two statements are still at the heart of a believer's faith and life today. The first one is found in chapter 2. Let’s begin reading with verse 11. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no to ungodliness and to 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 Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” Once again we find that phrase, that the people are to be eager to do what is good. You know, the salvation these people had received came as a result of not only God's grace, but what Jesus Christ did for them on the cross. Jesus redeemed them. Jesus set them free from sin and death. And that's what they accepted, that's what they received, and it all came about because of God's grace and love for them. And when they recognized that, they would then begin to do those good deeds and make a difference in the world around them. They would quit living that evil life and they would pursue holy living. No, their good deeds did not bring about salvation. Their good deeds did not make them more righteous in the sight of God. Their good deeds were simply an expression of gratitude and thanks to God for what He had already done. Yes, the Lord's salvation, His grace, His love, produced a pure life that would stir up those good deeds so that others would come to know Jesus Christ, as well. And that, perhaps more than anything else, was what was needed on the island of Crete. Here's the second passage I want us to notice in regards to God's grace. It’s found in the 3rd chapter, beginning with verse 3. “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” That passage sounds very similar to the one we just read in chapter 2. The point Paul makes is that at one time we were like everybody else. We were sinful and evil and disobedient; yet, because God's grace came, and because of the redemption effort of Jesus Christ, we've been changed. We don't live like that any more. We live a brand new life in the sight of Jesus Christ. Well again, Paul emphasizes, salvation does not come from what one does but from what God has already done. It does not come from one's own effort or good deeds; but rather, we receive that salvation and that begins to make the difference. You know these two passages, in chapter 2 and chapter 3, are at the heart of a believer's faith, still today. They are some of the most important and influential, significant teachings that are found in the Bible. They are critical for us to know and to understand and to apply. In three short chapters, the apostle Paul addresses four big things; number one, how to get along with one another; number two, the importance of doing good deeds; number three, the qualities of leaders, who will lead others in the right direction; and number four, an appreciation of God's love and salvation. And those four big things are still big and important for us today. As we begin to draw our lesson on Titus to a conclusion. There are two things that I do not want us to miss. They are both found in chapter 2. Number one, God's grace not only saves us, but teaches us to rely upon Him for our salvation. Sometimes it’s easy to rely upon our own efforts and our own good deeds, believing that we are saved by and through them; and yet, that is not the apostle Paul’s point at all. Rather we are saved by God's goodness, His kindness and His amazing love. And the second thing is this: Paul points to the coming of the Lord. Sometimes we are so consumed with the things going on in this world that we forget about Jesus Christ coming back. Those are two things that we need to always keep before us; God offers His grace and salvation to everyone; and, there is coming a day when He is coming back. We are to be grateful for one and we are to anticipate the other. As we close our study today, let me offer this for our final consideration. No matter what else we might read and learn and study from the letter of Titus, let us keep this one thing in mind: God's amazing grace and salvation is available for every single person. It does not matter who we are or where we live, it doesn't matter what our past or our current situation looks like, through God's grace and love He can change a person into the kind of person He wants them to be.

 

>>SUMMARY

The apostle Paul’s letter to Titus is about identifying and selecting leaders for the church. One is to possess certain qualities that identify him as a person with good Christian character, and who is grounded in the Christian faith and doctrine. The letter serves as a guide for churches today. It offers necessary instruction for selecting those who will be a spiritual blessing and an asset to the people they serve. Another important message in this letter focuses on God's grace. It is available to each and every person. Paul reminds us that nobody is saved through their own good efforts; rather, we are only saved by God and what He has done for us through His one and only son, Jesus Christ.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for joining us for today's program. Hopefully this message from Paul's letter to Titus offered some insights concerning your character as a Christian. It is important to always consider how we are living and representing the One who saves us. The message is available to listen to or view again through our website; keytothekingdom.com. You can easily download the audio, written or video version, and it is free to do so. The same is true with all of the previous lessons we have shared. A number of other things are on the site as well and I hope you will take time to look at what is offered. When you call the number on the screen, you can request a free Bible study to be sent to you by mail. It is a six-part series and it will assist you in your own personal study of God's Word. The study requires no commitment, and we would love for you to have it. Other ways to access us are through Roku® Television and a free app for your smartphone. You might even consider following us on Facebook. Thank you so much for being our guest today. I invite you to join us again, at this same time next week, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."