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 — a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,
To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. — Titus 1:1-4
Titus is one of the more neglected books of the New Testament, but it is rich with truth. There are two key observations you should help your disciple discover. They will unlock the treasures of this book. The first can be found by paying close attention to Paul’s greeting in 1:1-4. After identifying himself and his purpose, Paul gives his usual salutation. . . sort of. He says, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”
Did you catch it? If you are used to reading Paul’s letters, that might have sounded odd to you. Flip back through your Bible and look at his letters. Read the salutation he uses in every letter. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
If you actually did that you should have noticed the formulaic greeting he uses in all his other letters: “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and on and on, he uses that phrase every time he writes a letter, without fail. That is until he gets to Titus. In this letter, instead of calling Jesus “Lord,” he ascribes to Him the title “Savior.” In fact, if you scan through the rest of Titus, you won’t find a single instance of Paul using the term “Lord.” Instead you’ll find repeated instances of him calling Jesus the “Savior.”
That might not seem significant to you, but hear me out. In all of Paul’s letters he uses the term “Lord” 257 times. In every single letter he uses it repeatedly. Even in the extremely short letter to Philemon he calls Jesus “Lord” a half a dozen times. The Lordship of Jesus is constantly on his lips. But he doesn’t use it once in all of Titus.
By contrast he only uses the word “Savior” twelve times in his writings. Fully half of those occur in his letter to Titus. 0/257 for Lord, and 6/12 for Savior. Doesn’t it seem like Paul is trying to make a point? Jesus is the Savior, the Savior, the Savior, the Savior. Why the emphasis?
Great question. The answer can be found in key number two. If you scan through Titus again (or better yet, read it thoughtfully), you’ll find a recurring phrase in addition to the recurring title of Savior. Before you continue reading this, read over Titus and see if you can find it.
Here it is. Are you ready?
1:8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good.
1:16 They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
2:7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good.
2:14 [Jesus Christ] 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.
3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.
3:8 And 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.
3:14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good. Do what is good, do what is good, do what is good.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Titus was the pastor of the church on Crete. Crete was a nasty place. According to their own prophet Epimenides, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” In this setting, Paul’s chief exhortation to this pastor is to call his people to live righteous lives. Paul knew that on that dark island the Gospel would shine brightly in the lives of the redeemed. Thus the repeated calls to do what is good.
Paul also knew that it was important not only that they live righteous lives, but that they did so from the right motivation. Some mistakenly believe that we are to obey Jesus simply because He is the Lord. That is, they believe the proper motivation for obedience is fear of the punishment He has the authority to bring. While he is of course the Lord and ruler of all, it is not His lordship that motivates us to obedience. Rather, it is His grace that He offers us as Savior, that moves us to obey.
It is for this exact reason that in Paul’s strongest letter on obedience and righteous living that he utterly neglects the office of Lord, and emphasizes, and even over-emphasizes the office of Savior. We are to do what is good, do what is good, do what is good, because Jesus is the Savior, the Savior, the Savior, the Savior.
It is critical to understand these two keys (and thereby the point of Titus). Jesus wants His people to be different, but not just different: better. According to 2: 14, He gave Himself for us, not only to redeem us, but also to make us into a people that are eager to do what is good. Grace is not a license to sin; it is an invitation to a higher quality of life altogether. Titus 3:3-8 is a parallel to Ephesians 2:1-10 and a summary of the Gospel. Take a look at the two passages and you’ll see what I mean.
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 renewal by 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. This is a trustworthy saying. And 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.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In Titus 3:8, after summarizing the Gospel of grace, Paul says, “And 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.” That is, it is the story of the Savior that we are to constantly repeat, in order to lead obedient lives, marked by goodness.
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