Truth & Training from Titus – Part 11
Stephen Baker, Manchester
This article is the final part of these studies. The writer’s intention has been to look at each phrase and statement in the letter, and to glean a simple understanding of what Paul was writing to Titus about. It might be helpful to read the previous articles either in the printed edition of the magazine or on-line via www.preciousseed.org.
This article considers the remainder of the chapter, which covers Paul’s concluding comments and a benediction.
It might be helpful, at this stage, to give a summary of each topic in the chapter:
- Good citizenship, v. 1;
- The delegated power of politicians, v. 1;
- Radical Christianity in the community, vv. 1, 2;
- What we were by nature, v. 3;
- The reason for the change at conversion, v. 4;
- Saved by grace, v. 5a;
- New life and new power, v. 5b;
- The Holy Spirit in conversion, v. 6;
- Heirs with Christ, v. 7;
- Rock solid truth, v. 8a;
- Christians should do good works, v. 8b;
- Focus on truth, v. 9;
- Helping and disciplining habitually disobedient people, vv. 10, 11;
- We all need each other, v. 12;
- The lawyer and the preacher, v. 13;
- A course in kindness, v. 14;
- No one is excluded, v. 15.
Concluding comments and a benediction, vv. 12-15
Here Paul makes some personal requests which he would like Titus to carry out, vv. 12, 13; he gives him some final words of advice, v. 14; and exchanges final words of greeting, v. 15. It is touching to see the care that the apostle has for those who serve God with him, and his desire to see Titus. In the midst of these comments he cannot resist reminding Titus of the ultimate proof of faith – practical acts of kindness. Wiersbe states that in this verse Paul was reminding Titus ‘of the main theme of the letter’.1
We all need each other, v. 12
Paul is no different to any of us; he needed the fellowship and company of others. He must have spent many a long hour on his own, travelling, studying, writing, praying, and in isolation in prison, and so he longs for the company of those he loves and trusts.
Artemas is unknown to us, but we have come across Tychicus before. He was a travelling companion of the apostle, Acts 20. 4. On previous occasions, he had been sent to bring news of the apostle to the church in Ephesus, Eph. 6. 21, 22; Col. 4. 7, 8. Tychicus appears to have been very dear to the apostle, and someone whom he could really trust. Paul calls him a ‘beloved brother’ and a ‘faithful servant’ in the aforementioned passages. He could be trusted to pass on information truthfully and he had the ability to encourage the Lord’s people. These are outstanding qualities that bring great benefit to the Lord’s people. We would be wise to cultivate them.
Paul was going to send one of these two brothers, which I assume means that he would be left with at least one of them for company. However, he is most concerned that Titus would join him at Nicopolis, Macedonia. Presumably, Titus needs to get there before winter. Journeying would not be easy at that time of the year and Paul had decided to remain in Macedonia and wanted Titus to be there as well. Who would you want to spend the cold nights of winter with? It is quite a compliment to Titus that Paul was so keen to have his company.
It wouldn’t be easy to get to Nicopolis, nor were there any guarantees that Titus would arrive, so Paul encourages Titus to make every effort to come. James writes in chapter 4 verse 15 that we should say, ‘if the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that’. Life is uncertain and making plans is normal and biblical, but we need to make them in light of the will of God. In Romans chapter 1 verse 10, Paul plans to have a prosperous journey to Rome by the will of God. This theme of planning and yet deferring to the will of God recurs regularly in Paul’s writings.2 Paul did eventually arrive in Rome but not in the way he had envisaged. So is life and the will of God.
The lawyer and the preacher, v. 13
It has been suggested that Zenas and Apollos acted as postmen to carry this letter to Titus. Once again, we have two men, one of whom we know nothing, the other who has appeared on the page of scripture before. Often God harnesses together men with different backgrounds. Zenas is a lawyer, yet unknown. Apollos is a preacher with great eloquence who is well versed in the scriptures. We are told that ‘variety is the spice of life’, and it is clear that our God is a God of variety and uses men and women from all backgrounds, with differing intellects and levels of ability in His service. This is a wonderful truth which is illustrated very effectively in local assembly life. The truth of the body is the most vivid expression of this truth.
Titus is instructed to bring them on their journey diligently. The idea is simply that he was to assist them in whatever they needed. He was to help them, to make every possible effort to assist them, and to go beyond the normal call of duty in how he went about this task. They were to have everything they needed, and to lack nothing. We are not given any more details, but in our day that could mean providing things such as help with visas, providing money, arranging accommodation, the provision of food and clothing. The list is endless. What lengths do we go to help our fellow believers when the need arises? John writes that it is the proof of divine life, 1 John 3. 17-19. As you examine the closing passages of many of Paul’s Epistles you will see that there were many saints in his day who did exactly what he is exhorting Titus to do. I thank the Lord that the present-day believers I know still have the same mindset.
A course in kindness, v. 14
Good things and good works are a recurring theme in this short book, so it comes as no surprise that the penultimate verse of the letter stresses, once again, this important truth.
I am also challenged to note that Paul doesn’t hesitate to remind the believers in Crete that they need to learn to devote themselves to good works. Please note that he calls them ‘our people’, or ‘our’s’, because he has an ongoing personal interest in the spiritual development of these saints. In chapter 2 verse 7, Titus has been told that he has to be a pattern to the young men in this very matter. He needs to model this truth so that those who are watching him will mould their lifestyles to match his. The power of the role model is as real today as it was in the days when the New Testament was being written. Learning to do something can be a long and painstaking process, so Paul says that they need to be focused, disciplined, and apply themselves to the task.
When we want to learn a new skill, we need to think about what is required, set aside time to practise, revisit what we have done and check how we are doing. It’s a ‘work in progress’ we say! And so it is in this aspect of Christian life. It won’t just happen. It’s learned behaviour motivated by our love for the Lord and inspired by our desire to please Him.
These good works are to meet pressing needs. They are to provide assistance in urgent situations. They are for specific cases where help is essential. A Christian should be known for acts of kindness. We should not be known for ignoring needs when they become apparent. To do this effectively we need to know what is going on in our communities, to be aware and to care. Inward-looking Christians who never see the needs of the people in their cities and towns will become detached, irrelevant, and ineffective in reaching out with the gospel. James writes ‘to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin’, Jas. 4. 17. The author of the Hebrew letter writes, ‘But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased’, Heb. 13. 16. Paul writes to Timothy, ‘That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate’,
1 Tim. 6. 18. And, finally, Paul writes to the churches of Galatia, ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith’, Gal. 6. 10. It seems pretty clear to me that we should be known for devotion to good works.
The ultimate reality is that good works are good for the recipients and they are good for the believers who do them. Without them, Paul says we will be unfruitful. We shall be unproductive in developing spiritual qualities if we do not live out what we believe. The statement in James chapter 2 verse 22, ‘Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?’ is to be put into practice in the lives of these believers.
No one excluded, v. 15
Paul ends his letter by passing on the warm regards of all the believers who are with him. He then sends his regards to those in Crete who are faithful.
Sadly, there will be, from time to time, those among the Lord’s people who are false. They need to be identified and dealt with. Paul starts his letter thinking along those lines, 1. 9-16. He ends his letter sending greetings to those who love him in the faith. This is a wonderful group of people who value and obey the word of God, who love the Lord that bought them and who love all those who love the Lord. Paul is delighted to send his greetings to them.
His final words are – ‘Grace be with you all. Amen’. This is the theme that dominated the life of the apostle Paul. Sometimes he writes, ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all’; on other occasions, it is as we have here. Grace started the journey when conversion took place, and grace will bring us to the end of the journey when we enter the presence of our Lord and Saviour.
May ‘grace be with you all. Amen’.