I’m going to be posting some of the sermons I’ve delivered over the past few months. This was delivered at the Austin Stone Intern & Residents Chapel last month.
Good morning. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Travis Whitehead. I’m one of the church-planting residents here, and I serve at the West campus doing connections ministry because it fits into my incredibly bubbly, outgoing personality.
I’m excited to be with you this morning, and for this interns and residents chapel to become a regular part of the rhythms here at the Stone. And my prayer is that this time is a blessing to you. I pray that during this time, God draws you to Himself, and molds and shapes your heart with the truth of the gospel.
The other CPRs will be preaching through the next few months that we are doing this chapel, and we’re going to be going through the book of Titus. What I want to do today is introduce this book, introduce the author, and a couple of main ideas and give you a general direction for where we are going during this time together.
The letter was written by Paul to Titus after Paul has spent years of his life, traveling around the Roman empire, preaching the gospel to the gentiles. We don’t know a whole lot about Titus, other than the times he is mentioned in Galatians and the letter to the Corinthians, but he has been sent to Crete with the task of organizing the churches there. Specifically, he is going to be appointing elders for these churches, dealing with false teachers, and instructing the Christians in Crete as to how they should live in relation to each other and those outside of the Church.
The dominant theme of this letter that we will see again and again is do good works, in response to the saving work of Christ, and for the sake of outsiders.
Today, by way of introduction, we’re going to look at Titus 1:1-4, where Paul introduces himself, and his purpose for writing to Titus. What we will see is this: The hope of the gospel is our motivation and assurance to obediently follow our calling.
Read with me Titus 1:1-4
“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, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began, 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.”
Paul opens his letter by introducing himself with two titles: a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Some of your texts might say “bondservant” and some might say “slave”, and this translation is from the Greek word “doulos”, which means “slave”. There are men and women far smarter than me arguing for which translation we should use, given our cultural understanding of this word, so I just want to point out what we should understand from it. Doulos refers to someone who has completely surrendered himself to the will and authority of another. Often it was used of one who had sold himself into slavery to serve a master. For Paul, with this title, he is showing that his will is no longer his own. His purposes are no longer his own. His actions are no longer his own. His whole life is owned by a Master.
Then Paul says, “and I am an apostle of Jesus Christ.” “Apostle” means “sent one”. It would be used of a delegate or a messenger sent on a mission with authoritative credentials as the personal representative of another. So what Paul is saying is that, “I am a slave of God – my will is devoted to His purposes – and I am a representative of Christ Jesus.” And the order of these titles is paramount. For Paul to be an apostle, for him to represent Christ, he must be a servant, a slave, of God.
Paul received this calling from Christ himself, on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared, and knocked him from his horse. And this task of preaching the gospel to the gentiles is accomplished through wholly surrendering his life to God. Our ability to be and do what God has called us to is directly related to living as servants to God. I say that simply because you can’t profess to be a servant of God and insist on carrying out your own will. Can we just agree on that? You can’t say, “Yeah, I’m this dude’s slave, but he lets me make my own calendar.” It doesn’t work like that.
So Paul introduces himself as a bondservant and an apostle, and then he explains his mission: “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” Paul’s mission is to mature the faith of the church in Crete, which is nurtured and developed by a knowledge of the truth. Faith is a heart response to the gospel, but it must also possess the mind. We don’t grow in faith of God separate from knowing God’s truth as revealed in His word.
Listen to me. You cannot grow in faith without spending time in Scripture. You can’t. I don’t care how often you walk along the beach and repeat that footsteps story to yourself that you’ve got on your bookmark. You can read every word of Grudem a million times, you could memorize C.S. Lewis’ collected works and read everything published on Gospel Coalition. If you are not in God’s word, reminding yourself of and growing in your knowledge of God’s truth revealed in His word, you will not grow in your faith. You cannot separate these two things. Grow in faith. Grow in knowledge of the truth.
And just so we don’t think that this is an entirely head-oriented thing, Paul clarifies that “knowledge of the truth .. accords with godliness.” Knowledge of the truth leads to godliness. It makes godliness its aim. Godliness is an important concept in this letter, even though the word is used only once, but the phrase “good works” will be used six times in this short letter. And the point Paul is making here is that Godly behavior characterizes knowledge of the truth. If you are growing in your knowledge of God’s truth – actually growing – you will be able to look back on your life and see the fruits of that growth manifested in your life. You will be able to look back and say, “As I grew in understanding of God’s grace and mercy, I was able to forgive that person who cut me so deeply.”
This isn’t going to be a light switch sort of thing. You’re not going to read Romans 8, agree that God is sovereign, then walk out your door never to sin again. There will be those of us who experience radical transformation, where sins we struggle with are miraculously, and graciously removed from our lives, but for a majority of the time, this transformation takes place over a lifetime.
Hebrews 3:12 says this, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We are constantly preaching the Word to ourselves, to each other, because the knowledge of the truth transforms us. Holiness is not the product of your will power, but the work of God’s grace through faith in Christ, so we must seek to grow in our knowledge of the truth.
“For the sake of the faith of God’s elect, and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” and he continues on in verse 2, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”.
The motivation and assurance for Paul’s ministry and mission is hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“In hope” points to the basis on which all of this rests. Paul’s ministry; his apostleship; the faith of God’s elect; their knowledge of the truth that promotes godliness – ALL of this rests on the hope of eternal life. So often I think of “hope” as this timid, meek sort of thing. “Man, I hope the Mavericks win the championship again. I hope traffic isn’t bad on my way home.” That’s a wish. But hope is a confident expectation and anticipation. Hope looks toward the future with expectancy that motivates and moves us in the present. Paul says this hope is for eternal life. We grow in faith, we grow in knowledge of the truth, and godliness in HOPE of eternal life.
Why is hope foundational? Because our hope is what motivates us. Our hope in eternal life is what frees us to forsake the pleasures of this world. Our hope of eternal life is what brings joy in the morning when we’ve wept through the night. Because we know that there is a future where Christ has set all things right, when he wipes every tear from our eyes, when we struggle with sin no more because it has been removed, when our faith is made sight.
As believers, our hope is not simply something we will one day possess, but a reality now through trusting Jesus. John 3:36 says, “The one who believes in the Son HAS eternal life.” Eternal life is a reality now for those who are in Christ, and it is something that we wait on and look to with expectancy. This is not some distant event, but a near and present reality that controls, directs, and moves our lives. Hope is what frees us to forsake everything for the cause of the gospel and the call God has placed on our lives.
So hope motivates, but how does hope give us assurance? Two reasons. First is this: We are assured by hope because of the character of the God who promises. Paul says, “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.” The promise of salvation – of eternal life – is made by the God who cannot lie. One way you might translate this phrase is to say “the without deceit God”. The hope of eternal life does not rest on your ability to get your life in order. It doesn’t even rest on the strength of your faith. It rests entirely on the sovereign God of the universe who promised this reality before the creation of the world, and in His very essence cannot tell a lie.
Your hope does not rest on the strength of your conviction. It rests on the strength of your Savior. Christian, your eternal life rests on the veracity of a God who cannot lie. His promises are sure and He is faithful to fulfill them.
Paul continues on in verse 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.” Here’s the second reason hope is an assurance: We are assured by hope because of the intervention of the God who promises. God has promised eternal life in ages past, but NOW, in His perfect timing, He has made His word known, in the manifestation of the Word in Jesus Christ. We see this same truth in John 1. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father.”
Salvation was purposed and settled in eternity past, but the manifestation and the proclamation of this reality was made known in God’s own time, according to His own purposes. So in the Old Testament, there was anticipation of this salvation through the prophets and the pictures of the tabernacle, the priesthood, the sacrificial system, ALL of which points to Christ’s arrival, and now that reality has come to earth as Jesus and has been witnessed in His life, death, and resurrection. And it is the preaching of this truth, this reality that Paul and you and I and every believer has been entrusted with, by the authority and command of Jesus Christ himself as we see in the Great Commission to go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them and instructing them in this truth.
And WHY do we do this? Because we are servants of God. Because we are his emissaries. Yes, these things are true. We are faithful to God’s call on our lives because we have the hope of the gospel. Hope is our motivation and confidence. We see its promise in Scripture. We realize its reality now in our lives, molding and changing us. And we look forward in eager anticipation of Christ’s return, the realization of our faith made sight.
It’s interesting that Paul’s final writings are what we call the “pastoral epistles” – these letters to Titus and Timothy with instructions on how to set the church in order in Crete and Ephesus. Paul wrote ten letters that we know about before these three came. Why were these not first? Because, as important as the organization of the church is as the spiritual body of Christ, it must be based on a living faith, a knowledge of the truth of the gospel which transforms and shapes our lives, and is rooted in and looking to the hope of salvation in Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ. Future ministers, future pastors, future worship leaders, and connections directors, and faithful church members, where is your hope?
As you set out to make disciples and serve the church, where is your hope? What are you eagerly anticipating? What is moving you? Is your hope in Christ allowing you to take risks, allowing you to forsake everything for the gospel because you are looking forward in expectation to eternal life?
Is your hope in your ability, your steadfastness and iron will to wrestle in that sin you’ve been struggling with, hiding, hoping no one finds out about? Or is your hope in the reality of the gospel – the reality that you have been set free in Christ, washed by His blood, and declared totally righteous – is that reality moving you to confession, moving you to find joy and satisfaction in Jesus?
Is your hope in your ability? Is your hope that you will reach a certain level of expertise or skill that puts your ministry over the edge? Or is your hope resting on the truth of the gospel that changes hearts and transforms lives and the sovereign God of the universe is drawing people to Himself not because you are talented but because He is God?
Brothers and sisters, this is freedom – that your life, salvation, and ministry rests entirely on a promise made by the God who cannot lie, settled before time began, manifested in Jesus. Where is your hope?