DUNCAN/A bond-servant of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
Please turn to Titus 1:1-4. In this letter, Paul is writing to Titus who has been commissioned to establish the Christian church on Crete. Specifically, Paul wants to help Titus pastor Christian congregations in the context of an immoral culture and to encourage those Christians to adorn the gospel of God our Savior in all of life by the way that they live. The gospel has the moral power to transform lives and social relationships, and that gospel power serves as a witness to the world around us that the gospel is a reality worked in us by the Holy Spirit. And so Paul has in view an exhortation to Titus to help this people adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is just Paul’s word of greeting, but in it we observe three things. First, in verse 1, we see the title of the messenger. Then, in verses 1-3, we see the service of the messenger. Finally, in verse 4, we see the blessing of the messenger.
I. The Title of the Messenger.
First, in verse 1, Paul says that he is “a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” When Paul says that he is a bond-servant of God, he is saying that he is willingly self-committed to permanent service of the Lord. And when he says that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, he is telling us that he did not call himself to the ministry. Instead, he was sent by Christ into the ministry. Notice how even in that title, Paul is supplying us with truth which serves as not only an example as to how to live the Christian life in an immoral culture, but it also serves as an exhortation to us to commitment and to mission. As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul has a clear sense of his mission. He knows what his purpose is in life, and he not only knows his mission, he is gladly, willingly, wholeheartedly, and permanently committed to it.
There were individuals in these local Christian congregations who were being pastored and nurtured by Titus who were being influenced by the world around them. They had forgotten their mission and purpose in life which was to adorn the gospel of God in all things. And so Paul’s sense of mission and his commitment to that mission serve as an example to follow for the Christians that Titus was ministering to and to us as well. When we are living lives that contradict our profession of faith in God, one of the things that is always going on is that we are forgetting who we are. We are forgetting what God called us to, what He made us for, and what our purpose is in life. Our purpose is to glorify and enjoy God forever. And that purpose evokes a permanent willing commitment to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The Service of the Messenger.
In verses 1-3, Paul says that the service of the messenger is aimed at three things which include saving faith, sanctifying truth, and encouraging hope. First, Paul says that his ministry is aimed at promoting saving faith among the chosen of God. Paul’s desire is that those who have been chosen by God will believe and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation as He is offered in the gospel. God’s choice of them is at the root of their response to God in faith, but Paul’s purpose in ministry is to teach and to preach and disciple so that the chosen of God will exercise faith. He longs for them to respond to the free and gracious overtures of the gospel by trusting in God, and in Jesus Christ, and in the gospel.
Secondly, he also says that he is an apostle for the knowledge of the truth that is according to godliness. In other words, Paul is saying, “My ministry is aimed at producing a sanctifying knowledge in the people of God. I don’t simply want them to have more information than other people. I don’t simply want them to be smarter than other people. I’m not interested in them knowing certain facts that other people don’t know. My goal in ministry is a true knowledge that is productive of real godliness and piety.”
Thirdly, Paul is saying, “My goal in ministry is with a view to the faith of God’s people and the sanctifying knowledge of the truth in light of the hope of eternal life.” The motivation for Paul’s labor and the motivation for their living of the Christian life is this hope of eternal life. It is a hope that has been promised by God who cannot lie. It is a hope that has been promised long ago but is now being manifested to the full in the proclamation of Paul and the apostles.
III. The Blessing of the Messenger.
In verse 4, Paul tenderly concludes this salutation with a word of blessing. Specifically, he says, “To Titus, my true child in a common faith…” and then he pronounces the blessing, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Titus, your encouragement in ministry in that local setting is not going to be drawn from the congregation, its circumstances, or the culture. It’s going to be drawn from God. So just as the Christian life begins with God’s grace and peace, I pronounce God’s grace and peace on you so that you will remember that if this ministry is going to prosper, it’s going to be because of God’s grace and peace.”
The Christian life starts with God’s unmerited favor reaching out to us first. We simply respond. But until God’s grace is there, the Christian life has not yet begun. And the Christian life begins with God’s peace, because when God’s unmerited favor comes to us in Jesus Christ, the just condemnation which He has against us is dealt with, and our enmity toward Him is dealt with, so that for the first time in our lives we begin to experience true fellowship and communion with God. So the Christian life begins with grace and peace, but the Christian life ends with grace and peace as well. And it is the grace and peace of God that supplies the encouragement to the Christian in every circumstance, in every congregation, and in every culture.
The Christian longs to experience God’s unmerited and undeserved favor eternally and everlastingly and the peace that flows from His grace. Not just a peace which means the cessation of God’s judicial judgment against us, but a peace which means all of the blessings of being in the family of God and a child of God. May God grant that we would believe the sanctifying truth of the Word; that we would have instilled in our hearts and stoked by the Spirit the hope of eternal life; and that we would live reliant upon His heavenly benediction.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.