Titus Sermons: Priorities of Faithful Ministers (Tit 1:1-4)




Priorities of Faithful Ministers


From Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began. But now in his own time he has made his message evident through the preaching I was entrusted with according to the command of God our Savior. To Titus, my genuine son in a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!

Titus 1:1-4 (NET)



What are the priorities of a faithful minister? Our priorities are important because they demonstrate what our focuses are. As believers, our priorities should be very different than the world’s. Our different priorities lead us down very different paths to different outcomes, including eternal ones. As we consider our priorities, we should consider Paul’s priorities in Titus 1:1-4 in order for them to instruct ours. He calls himself “a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ” (v. 1). He was a faithful minister of God. Also, as with many modern letters or papers, he introduces some of his main priorities in the first few sentences of it, which we’ll consider.


Intro to the Letter


However, first, we’ll consider the letter of Titus as a whole. In Titus, Paul writes a letter to his true son in the faith. Titus, apparently, came to Christ during one of Paul’s missionary journeys. Titus was a non-Jewish Greek. When there was a battle raging over whether Gentile believers had to become like Jews by becoming circumcised, Paul brought Titus to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, as an example of a Gentile believer who was not circumcised (Gal 2:3-5).


Titus later became Paul’s trouble-shooter. When there was immorality and false teaching happening in Corinth, Paul sent Titus there to minister to them (2 Cor 7:5-8). After Titus returned with good news of their repentance, Paul sent him back to help the Corinthians prepare an offering for suffering Christians in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:6, 16-17). Like the Corinthians, the Cretans were a very difficult ministry. The church was probably planted by Jewish Cretans who heard the gospel at Pentecost, as they are mentioned in Acts 2:11. It says, “both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great deeds God has done!” These believing Cretans eventually returned to their country and probably planted churches. Crete is an island southeast of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s about 160 miles long and 35 miles wide. At some point, most likely after Paul’s first imprisonment, he stopped there with Titus to evangelize the lost and encourage the believers. Eventually, Paul left Titus in Crete to set things in order. Titus 1:5 says, “The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.”


Purposes of the Letter


In the letter, Paul has many purposes. (1) First, he wanted to warn Titus and the Cretans of the many false teachers in the church that needed to be silenced. Apparently, there were many Jewish teachers, teaching Jewish myths and obedience to the Mosaic law, probably including the need for Gentiles to be circumcised in order to be saved. He alludes to the teachers and their teachings throughout the letter. Titus 1:10-11 and 3:9 says,


For there are many rebellious people, idle talkers, and deceivers, especially those with Jewish connections [also translated “circumcision party” in the ESV], who must be silenced because they mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught.


But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels, and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty


(2) Secondly, in part because of these false teachers, Paul wanted Titus to set up elders in the Cretan churches (Tit 1:5-10). Titus 1:5 says, “The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” Setting elders in each church would be crucial for building up the local believers and protecting them from false teaching and division (Tit 1:9, 3:10).


(3) Third, Paul emphasizes the importance of salvation throughout the letter, that believers are saved by grace through faith. In fact, the word “savior” is only used twelves times in the New Testament, and six of those are in Titus. Three times “savior” is used of God and three times of Jesus. Paul wanted to emphasize to the Cretans that they were saved by God’s grace and not their works. Titus 3:4-7 is one of the clearest texts in all of Scripture on the believer’s salvation. It says,


But “when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”


(4) Fourth, Paul emphasizes the need for sound doctrine throughout the letter, impart because of all the false teaching (1:4, 9, 13; 2:1, 2, 7, 8, 10; 3:15). He says this about a potential elder in Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.” Titus 2:1 and 7-8 says this:


But as for you, communicate the behavior that goes with sound teaching… In your teaching show integrity, dignity, and a sound message that cannot be criticized, so that any opponent will be at a loss, because he has nothing evil to say about us.


Daniel Akin, the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said this, “Sound teaching may be the heart of Titus. The phrase occurs four times in the New Testament, all in the pastorals [1 and 2 Timothy, Titus], with two of those in Titus. Literally it is ‘healthy teaching.’” (5) Fifth, Paul wanted to emphasize that the Cretans were not saved simply from judgment but specifically to good works which are a fruit of sound teaching. Good works are mentioned six times throughout the book (1:16; 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). Titus 2:14 says this about Christ, “He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” Titus 3:8 says, “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works…” In this world, God is purifying for himself a people who are eager and devoted to doing what is good. This was especially important for the Cretans to hear because they were known culturally for being an unruly and dishonest people. The Greeks developed the word “cretize” which was a synonym for lying. In fact, Paul quotes one of their philosophers, Epimenides, to emphasize their dishonest and unruly culture. Titus 1:12-13 says,


A certain one of them, in fact, one of their own prophets, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” Such testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply that they may be healthy in the faith


In fact, Titus might have been discouraged, as he worked in this difficult context; therefore, Paul wrote to instruct and encourage him to be faithful in this ministry. Often, God places us in difficult contexts as well, but no doubt, God’s grace and his Word are available to us, so we can also be faithful.


(6) Sixth, a minor theme related to the previous one, Paul emphasizes being an evangelistic witness through good works throughout the letter. In Titus 2:10, Paul told slaves to obey their masters “in order to bring credit to the teaching of God our Savior in everything.” He also told wives to submit to their husbands “so that the message of God may not be discredited” (2:5). In Titus 3:8, Paul reemphasizes the importance of good works and their benefit to all people by saying, “This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works. These things are good and beneficial for all people.” As Christians love God and serve him by serving others, it should draw the lost to Christ. Peter taught the same thing in his letter. First Peter 2:12 says, “maintain good conduct among the non-Christians, so that though they now malign you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God when he appears.” No doubt, they will glorify God when he comes instead of crouching in fear because they accepted Christ because of the believers’ faith manifested in love around them (cf. Gal 5:6).


As mentioned, in Titus 1:1-4, we see the priorities of a faithful minister. Paul, as an apostle of Christ and slave of God, shares his priorities as an example for Titus but also as an example for the Cretans who no doubt had many worldly priorities. As we study them, may God instruct and correct us, so we can have godly priorities which lead to great fruitfulness.


Big Question: What are priorities of faithful ministers as demonstrated by Paul’s priorities in Titus 1:1-4?


A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Recognizing God’s Call on Their Lives and Submitting to It


From Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, … But now in his own time he has made his message evident through the preaching I was entrusted with according to the command of God our Savior.

Titus 1:1, 3


At the beginning of the letter, Paul establishes his authority to write this letter both to Titus and to the Cretans who would hear this letter read in their local gatherings (cf. Titus 3:15). When Paul called himself a “slave of God,” it literally means a “bond-slave.” “One Greek scholar called it ‘the most abject, servile term in use among the Greeks for a slave.” A bond slaved owned nothing, including the clothes on his back. The master owned everything. When Paul called himself a bond-slave, it demonstrated his humility both before God and others. He was a servant of God. However, the terminology was also an honorable term to a Jewish audience. Moses, Joshua, and the prophets were called servants of God (Josh 1:2, 24:29, Amos 3:7). Amos 3:7 says, “Certainly the sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” In the Old Testament, the prophets saw themselves as owned by God and therefore representing him when they spoke and served. This title would have been a challenge to the Jewish false teachers who heard the letter read. Like the prophets in the Old Testament, Paul represented God, and therefore, they should listen to him.


However, Paul also called himself an “apostle.” This term just means “messenger” or “sent one.” It was used of any messenger, even a lowly one. However, in the New Testament, it is often used of special messengers, specifically the twelve disciples who Christ mentored and were official witnesses of his resurrection. They and their associates wrote the entire New Testament. Paul, though not an original apostle, saw Christ after his resurrection and was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Gal 1:16, 2:7-8). Paul ministered to Jews as well, but he was specifically called to preach to Gentiles, calling them to faith in Christ. Certainly, as the Jews in Crete would have recognized and respected the term “servant of God,” the Gentile Cretans would have especially recognized Paul’s call as an apostle to the Gentiles.


Therefore, a priority of faithful ministers is recognizing God’s call on their life and submitting to it. He is their master who they must seek to honor with their thoughts, attitudes, and actions. He is the one who commissions them for service whether that be to the people in their family, at work, or in a specific region or nation. First Corinthians 6:19-20 says,


Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.


Are we submitting our body, thoughts, actions, and overall life to God? This is something that often does not mark the immature in Christ. They may give God their Sundays but not their Mondays. They may give God their work but not their money. They may give God their morning quiet times but not their entertainment. There are some aspects of their lives that are off-limits. However, Paul, as a faithful minister, saw himself as the lowliest slave—one who owned nothing, not even the clothes on his back. Everything he had was God’s, and he was sent by God to do his work. John MacArthur’s comments are helpful in considering a faithful minister:


All effective, fruitful, and genuinely spiritual leaders in Christ’s church have a deep awareness that they are under divine authority. That awareness becomes the controlling reality of their lives. They do not seek to fulfill personal agendas, create personal fame, or build personal empires. They are content and feel honored for the privilege of being wholly subject to the Master who has chosen and sent them.


Do we see every part of our lives as under “divine authority?” First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” This is a priority of every faithful minister—recognizing their lives as under God’s authority and submitting to him.


Application Question: How do we discern God’s specific call on our lives?


In Acts 9, while Paul was on his way to put Christians in jail, Christ appeared to him and called him to be God’s servant and an apostle to the Gentiles. How do we discern God’s call on our lives—the unique ways we’ve been called to serve God?


Everybody has a general call. The general call is to obey God’s clear instructions in Scripture, such as loving God and others, reading his Word, faithfully serving the church, and reaching out to the lost, etc. However, as we obey God’s general call, God often will make clear his specific call on our lives, including our gifts and the communities he may be calling us to focus on serving. Mark 4:24-25 says:


… Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you. For whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.


As we are faithful to God’s general call, often he will make clear his specific call on our lives, even as he called Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Psalm 25:14 says, “The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.” (1) Often, God will guide us by giving us the desire to serve in specific ways. Philippians 2:13 (NIV) says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God will give us desires to work with youth, serve in administration or leadership, mercy ministries, teaching, homemaking, etc. (2) God will then open doors to serve in those areas. (3) He equips us and make us fruitful in those areas and (4) confirms our call through the encouragement of others. As he opens doors, equips, and confirms (sometimes in a different order), he will often increase our desire to serve in those areas. As we’re faithful with our general call as found Scripture, God will often make known specific ways he has called us to serve.


Paul recognized God’s call on his life as an apostle and slave of God, and he submitted to it, as all faithful ministers seek to do. We must do the same.


Application Question: Are there specific areas in your life that you struggle with giving God full control over? How is God calling you to submit your will to his in this season? In what ways has God gifted you and called you to serve? Is there a specific person or people God has specifically called you to focus on serving or potentially serving in the future?


A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Evangelizing Unbelievers


…to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began. But now in his own time he has made his message evident through the preaching I was entrusted with according to the command of God our Savior.

Titus 1:1-3


Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean when talking about “furthering the faith of God’s chosen ones?”


When Paul says, “furthering the faith of God’s chosen ones,” he is either referring to leading the elect to salvation or furthering their faith after they are saved. However, since his next words, “the knowledge of the truth,” seem to cover the second meaning, most likely, Paul is talking about leading the elect to salvation by the phrase “furthering the faith of God’s chosen ones.” This is similar to what he says in 2 Timothy 2:10: “So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God [also translated elect], that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.” We see something of this in Acts 13:48 when Paul preached the gospel to Jews and Gentiles in Antioch. It says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.” “Appointed for eternal life” can also be translated “chosen for eternal life” (NLT) or “ordained for eternal life” (KJV). As Paul preached the gospel to the lost, the elect accepted Christ. That was God’s mission for Paul, and therefore, that was one of his priorities in ministry. This should be true of us as well, since we’ve all been called by Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19).


The Paradox of God’s Election


With all that said, election is a mystery that is difficult to understand and has caused great controversy amongst believers. “If God elects to salvation, why is there a need for a person to put his faith in Christ?” some would ask. However, Scripture clearly teaches both human responsibility and God’s sovereignty in salvation, including within Titus 1:1. When Paul says, “faith,” he is referring to the human side of salvation. To be saved, we must put our faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Also, John 3:16 says, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” No one can be saved apart from putting their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Because of our sins and God’s righteous judgment, Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, so we could have eternal life. We cannot be saved by being raised in a Christian family, going to church, being baptized, serving the marginalized, or any other good work. We must believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior. Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


But here lies the mystery of salvation, we are saved by putting our faith in Christ, but we are also saved by God’s sovereign choice. In verse 1, after saying “furthering the faith” which reflects human responsibility, Paul says “of God’s chosen ones” or “of God’s elect” (ESV) which reflects God’s sovereign choice. When did God choose us? Verse 2 tells us that God promised to save us “before the ages began.” Likewise, Ephesians 1:4-5 says,


For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will


This is a tremendous mystery. Again, Scripture teaches both human responsibility, as we need to put our faith in Christ to be saved, and God’s sovereignty, his divine right to choose those who will be saved before time. Some teach that God simply knew who would accept him before time, and therefore he chose based on that knowledge (cf. Rom 8:29, Matt 7:23); however, that is not really a choice at all. That’s merely a confirmation. In describing God’s election of Jacob over Esau to be the heir of promise, Paul said this in Romans 9:10-16:


Not only that, but when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our ancestor Isaac—even before they were born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose in election would stand, not by works but by his calling)—it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger,” just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.


God’s election of Jacob over Esau had nothing to do with anything they would do in the future. It had everything to do with God’s sovereign right to show mercy on sinful people, even before they were born and before they had done anything good or bad.


Someone described election this way: Before a person is saved, it’s like standing and looking at a door that says, “Whosoever wants to come, may come.” Then, after that person walks through the door and looks back, and the other side of the door says, “Elect, chosen before time.” It truly is a mystery, but that’s what Scripture teaches. It may be difficult to understand for us, but we can be sure, it makes perfect sense to God.


When coming to Scripture, if we believe it is truly inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16), though written by humans, we should expect paradoxes, things that won’t make perfect sense to us. If someone infinite inspired Scripture, then there should be difficult things for finite people to grasp. And that’s true when it comes to understanding many things in the Bible such as the Trinity—God being three and yet one—Christ’s incarnation—him being 100% human and 100% deity—and the mystery of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty both in salvation and all things. Ephesians 1:11 says God, “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” For many, they have seen these types of mysteries as proof of the Divine origin of Scripture. Humans don’t intentionally write these types of mysteries. We write to be understood, accepted, and convincing. When we look at Greek gods, they make perfect sense because they are just like humans. They become angry, lie, war, and lust. They are sinful just like humans. They make perfect sense. But, the God of the Bible, the one who became a poor man, died for the sins of the world, and then resurrected so we can have eternal life, does not make sense. It’s paradoxical which is what we would expect if Scripture was truly inspired by an infinite being. Therefore, paradoxes like human responsibility and God’s sovereignty in salvation, though difficult to understand, should give us confidence that Scripture is ultimately Divine in origin.


God’s Promise Before Time


In addition, as we consider salvation, we should have confidence in God’s completing our salvation because he promised it before time. Again, in verse 2, Paul said, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began.” God was not taken off guard by Satan tricking Eve, and Adam following his wife into sin. God planned for the salvation of a remnant, including those who put their trust in him, even before he created the world; therefore, nothing can stop the salvation of the elect. They are eternally secure. Paul said this in considering the surety of the salvation of God’s elect in Romans 8:33-39:


Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Therefore, since God cannot break his promises, we should have ultimate confidence in God’s saving and keeping the elect. They are eternally secure because God cannot lie or break his promises, which he made before time.


Hindrance to Evangelism


With all that said, some people struggle with election because they see it as a hindrance to preaching the gospel. They say, “Why preach the gospel if people are already chosen for salvation? Won’t they ultimately be saved anyways?” However, that is not how Paul viewed election and that’s not how we should view it as well. The God who chose some to salvation also chose the means of their salvation, and it is their hearing of the gospel. Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” Likewise, Romans 10:14 says: “… And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?” The elect must hear and respond to the gospel to be saved. Therefore, election instead of hindering evangelism should encourage it. Election should give us confidence when we preach the gospel to hard hearts, because some will respond. Again, in considering election, Paul said this in 2 Timothy 2:10: “So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God [also translated elect], that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.” And this is what he is emphasizing in Titus 1:1 when he says he was called to “further the faith of God’s chosen ones.” Election should then inspire us to evangelize and not hinder it, because God has promised some will respond.


Again, one of Paul’s priorities as a faithful minister of God was to evangelize—to share the gospel with all, so God can save the elect. Who are the elect? The elect are those who respond to the gospel with faith. Evangelizing must be our priority as well if we are going to be faithful ministers of God.


Are we still sharing the gospel with others?


Application Question: What is your experience with evangelism? Is there a person or persons you are praying for their salvation and hoping for an opportunity to share your faith with? How can a person grow in being more faithful in the area of evangelism? What is the doctrine of election? What is the most difficult part about it? What are different views about it? In what way(s) is it comforting or encouraging, if any?


A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Educating and Encouraging Believers


and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began.

Titus 1:1b-2


Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean when talking about “the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life?”


But not only was Paul concerned with the lost being saved, he also was concerned with educating and encouraging believers. Again, Titus 1:1-2 says his goal was to “further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness.” This is very similar to the Great Commission where Christ calls us to “make disciples” and to teach them to obey “everything” he had commanded (Matt 28:19-20). Likewise, Paul spent time with these new believers and young church plants to teach truths about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, creation, and the end times. In most of Paul’s letters, he taught the believers doctrine and corrected false doctrine. However, the doctrine was not just to help them be orthodox but also to help them with orthopraxy, living out the faith. He taught them truths, so they could learn how to pray, conquer sin, raise their children in the Lord, serve their spouses, be godly workers, persevere through trials, submit to imperfect government leaders, and make disciples. He taught them the “knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness,” and so must we.


Like Paul, God has not only called us to minister to the lost but to the church. Later in Titus 2:1-10, Paul will specifically call Titus to teach the older men to be sound in faith, the older women to teach the younger how to oversee their homes and serve their husbands, the younger men to be self-controlled, and the slaves to obey their masters. In addition, Paul called Titus to not only to teach people but be an example by his godly life (2:7). We are also called to teach God’s Word and live out our faith within the body of Christ. We should share God’s truth with our believing family members, peers, youth, and those senior to us. We all, as God’s ministers, must be invested in educating the body of Christ, so it can become holy and fruitful.


Certainly, God has given the church especially gifted members, such as pastors and teachers, for the purpose of educating the saints by teaching them Scripture (Eph 4:11-15). However, it’s something we all must strategically participate in. This certainly happens as members mentor and come alongside one another, invest in children and youth education, but also in worship, which is the singing of Scripture, and small groups where we read, explain, and discuss Scripture. We all must seek to equip the saints by teaching the truth, meaning God’s Word. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV) says this, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”


Encouraging


Furthermore, Paul did not only evangelize through sharing the gospel and educating the saints with doctrine that led to holiness, but he also encouraged believers to “hope” in eternal life (v. 2). Hope is another word for faith; however, it is faith in something future. There is a sense in which we have eternal life right when we put our faith in Christ. Christ said this in John 17:3, this is eternal life for them to know God. Eternal life is not just living forever, because everybody will live forever in one of two places. Eternal life is a quality of life with God, which we now have as believers. However, the full measure of eternal life will not be realized until we have resurrected bodies and therefore are free from sin and every hindrance to living with and experiencing God moment by moment. This will ultimately happen as Christ’s second coming. Later, Paul calls this the believers “blessed hope,” or it can be translated “happy hope.” Titus 2:13 says, “as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Christ is our God and Savior, and we should wait with hope for his coming.


Application Question: What happens when believers have little hope in their coming eternal life?


1. Believers who do not live with this hope typically become toppled by their trials, as they live as though this life and our current happiness is all that exist.


For example, Paul said the hope of eternal glory helped him to not despair as he lived with a physical body that was wearing out. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 says,


Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.


2. In addition, believers who don’t have hope in eternal life typically become worldly believers, consumed with worldly comforts, success, and sin.


In Luke 12:45-48, Christ gave a parable where a servant starts to think his master has delayed his coming and therefore starts to overeat, get drunk, and beat up the other servants. The master then returns and disciplines him. To lose hope in Christ’s coming and the eternal life he brings leads to sin and worldliness. On the contrary, hoping in Christ’s coming and our eternal life leads us to holiness. In 1 John 3:2-3, John said this:


Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.


Therefore, part of God’s mission for Paul and every faithful minister is to help believers maintain their hope in Christ and their ultimate salvation.


Application Question: How do we maintain our hope in eternity and encourage others to do the same?


1. We maintain our hope in eternity by being careful of temporal treasures and even sin which dampen our spiritual fervor.


In Matthew 6:19-21, Christ said this:


Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Earthly treasures often become idols in our hearts which damper our desire for eternal things. Therefore, we must be careful with them. Sometimes, that means getting rid of them like Christ told the rich man. At other times, it means being disciplined with our use of them so that we don’t become consumed with them (1 Cor 7:30-31). This must be true of many things like social media, entertainment, hobbies, electronics, and even relationships.


In 1 John 2:15-17, John said it this way:


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever.


2. We maintain our hope in eternity by fellowshipping with other believers who are hoping in the Lord as well.


Hebrews 10:25 says, “not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” By being faithful in church, small group, and other fellowship opportunities, serving, and being challenged by other believers, it kindles our hope in Christ’s coming. If our relationship with the church is weak, our hope in eternity, where we’ll dwell with and serve with other believers forever, will be weak as well.


3. We maintain our hope in eternity by practicing spiritual disciplines which help us focus on eternal things and not temporal things.


Colossians 3:1-4 says,


Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him.


We keep our mind on things above by disciplining ourselves spiritually, including living in God’s Word, prayer, worship, serving our king. If our spiritual disciplines are weak, again our hope in eternity will be weak as well.


If we are going to be faithful ministers like Paul, we must seek to educate and encourage the church. Christ gave his life for the church and now lives to make intercession for her in the heavens (Heb 7:25) and daily washes her through the ministry of the Word (Eph 5:25-26). We must likewise be invested in educating and encouraging the saints.


Application Question: How has God used other saints to make a strong impact on you through educating and encouraging your faith? What are your spiritual gifts and how has God called you to strategically deploy them to build up the church? Why is hoping in eternity so important? What are your major hindrances to hoping in eternity?


A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Depending on and Partnering with Believers


To Titus, my genuine son in a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!

Titus 1:4


In verse 4, Paul mentions Titus who was his “genuine son in a common faith.” When calling him a genuine son, this possibly refers to how Paul led Titus to Christ, or it simply refers to how Paul discipled him or both. Paul also called Timothy his “genuine child” in 1 Timothy 1:4. As mentioned, Titus was a trouble-shooter for Paul. When the church of Corinth was plagued by immorality and false doctrine, Paul sent Titus to help correct them (2 Cor 7:5-8). And when the church of Corinth needed to support the struggling saints in Jerusalem, Paul sent Titus to prepare the offering (2 Cor 8:6, 16-17). In 2 Corinthians 8:23, Paul called Titus his “partner and fellow worker.” At the writing of Titus, Titus was ministering to a difficult people in Crete, who were also plagued by false teachers and immorality. Titus was someone Paul could trust and someone who could get the job done.


However, Paul did not just partner with Titus but many other Christian workers. Though Paul was exceptionally gifted and possibly the greatest apostle, he was no lone ranger. He knew his weaknesses and therefore depended on God and the body of Christ. He constantly asked the churches for prayer, depended on them for financial support in certain ministries, and partnered with them for missions.


At the end of most of his letters, he sent greetings to many of his friends and co-workers in the faith, and he often had other fellow workers with him, like Titus, Luke, Timothy, Demas, and others. When Paul gave the conclusion to the book of Romans, he greeted twenty-seven believers by name and many others who were unnamed. He loved the body of Christ and partnered with them to do the work of ministry.


John MacArthur comments are helpful when considering our need to invest in and partner with the body:


Throughout history, the most powerful and effective leaders in the church have been involved in developing partners and fellow workers who extend and perpetuate the ministry of Jesus Christ. Although Paul was the most highly gifted of the apostles, he never ministered alone, never attempted to carry on a single-handed ministry. Until his death, he was intimately associated with an amazingly large network of preachers, teachers, and other leaders in the church with whom he was a partner in service. He extended himself through others, knowing that the Lord did not call him to function alone. He realized the importance of delegating responsibility and of preparing others to carry on the ministry.


Even Christ spent his life and ministry developing relationships with others, pouring into them, and at times receiving from them (Lk 8:3, Matt 26:38). Certainly, for some, this will be more difficult because of temperament and personality. The introvert has to stretch him or herself to meet with people, be transparent with them, seek prayer, and to serve them. Likewise, the extrovert has to stretch himself to be alone to excel in prayer to God and time in his Word. God has called us to do both as we serve him.


How are we loving the body of Christ and partnering with her to do the work of ministry? First Corinthians 12:20 and verse 27 says:


So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” … Now you are Christ’s body, and each of you is a member of it.

1 Corinthians 12:20, 27


While faithful ministers depend on the body, just like the hand depends on the eye, unfaithful members tend to be independent. They have no one to confess their sins to and ask for prayer. Whereas Paul had a strong network of believers to partner with and depend on, they have few or none. When they do serve, they often try to do things alone and in their own strength and commonly fail or burn themselves out.


Consider what Paul said to the Philippians while he was in prison awaiting a possible death sentence: “for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:19). Not only was Paul dependent on God’s Spirit but also the prayers of that small congregation. In fact, it can be translated “your prayers and the consequent supply of the Spirit.” This means Paul believed God’s Spirit worked on his behalf as the Philippians prayed. Therefore, he was dependent on their prayers for deliverance. Paul believed that the prayers of that small church plant could conquer the plans of Rome. He depended upon the body because he knew God’s grace came through the body for healing, refreshment, deliverance, and fruitfulness.


Consequently, this means that those who don’t depend on the body spiritually impoverish themselves. There is a lack of power to conquer sin, persevere in trials, and reconcile relationships. Again, while faithful ministers depend and partner with the body, unfaithful ministers often don’t rely on the body at all. Their pride and independence keep them from confessing their sins to anybody, seeking their help, and partnering with them for ministry. Therefore, they lack much of God’s grace.


Are we depending on and partnering with the body? Paul partnered with Titus to minister to the Corinthians and later the Cretans. He also considered Titus family, his genuine son in the faith who he was knit to and dependent on.


Again, there are no lone rangers in ministry, at least not any effective ones. How is God calling you to depend more on the body of Christ—to stretch yourself to love and build them up and also depend on them for ministry? Who is your mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters in the faith?


Application Question: Why is depending on and partnering with other believers so important for ministry and the Christian life in general? Who are your spiritual parents, siblings, and children? How is God calling you to grow in dependence and partnership with the body of Christ?


A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Praying for Believers


Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!

Titus 1:4b


Finally, after addressing Titus, Paul greets him with “grace and peace” from God and Christ. However, this was no trivial greeting; it was Paul’s earnest prayer that God would bless Titus in every way. Grace refers to God’s unmerited favor. No doubt, Paul desired for Titus to have favor over his health, his relationship with God, and the difficult community he ministered to. He also desired God’s peace for him. This referred to peace in his relationships, both with God and others, but also peace of mind and in his circumstances. This surely summarized all the prayers that Paul offered up for Titus and his ministry to the Cretans. He wanted God to bless Titus’ ministry in selecting elders, rebuking false teachers, winning the lost, and equipping the saints for good works.


Likewise, this was true of most, if not all, of Paul’s letters. He commonly prayed for grace and peace over those he wrote to and also shared his other prayers for them. Paul prayed for the Ephesians to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God more, to know themselves as God’s inheritance, and to know the power of God working within them (Eph 1:15-19). He prayed for them to be strengthened in the inner man, to know the depths of Christ’s love, and for them to be filled with the fullness of God (Eph 3:12-20). With the Colossians, he prayed for them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, to bear fruit in every good work, and to be strengthened with all power to persevere through their trials (Col 1:9-14). With the Thessalonians, he prayed for them to excel in loving one another (1 Thess 3:12). Paul faithfully prayed for the churches and the people within them. In Ephesians 6:18, he taught the Ephesians to be watchful and to make intercession for all saints, including those they did not know personally.


Our Savior, Jesus, prays for his saints, as he sits at the right hand of God (Heb 7:25), and as his ministers, we must constantly do the same for our local church and the universal church. We should pray for our spiritual leaders and that Christ would wash his church with his Word and make her a pure and blameless bride who blesses their communities and their nations (Eph 5:25-27).


Are we faithfully praying for God’s church? Faithful ministers prioritize prayer for God’s saints (cf. Acts 6:3-4).


Application Question: What are common distractions to prayer? What are some disciplines which can be practiced to help us pray for our local church and its members, as well as the universal church? How is God calling you to grow in your prayer life in general?


Conclusion


What are priorities of faithful ministers? We can discern these by considering Paul’s introduction to his letter to Titus.


1. A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Recognizing God’s Call on Their Lives and Submitting to It

2. A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Evangelizing Unbelievers

3. A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Educating and Encouraging Believers

4. A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Depending on and Partnering with Believers

5. A Priority of Faithful Ministers Is Praying for Believers


Application Question: What stood out most in this study, and how is God calling you to grow as a faithful minister?



Prayer Prompts


• Pray for God to continually reveal his clear calling (personally and corporately) including where to serve, who to serve, and how to serve for his glory. Pray that God would give his people supernatural wisdom and grace and put them in strategic places to be a blessing.

• Pray for God to enable us to love the lost, to reach out to them, and share the gospel with them. Pray for believers around the world to excel in evangelism.

• Pray for the lost in our community and the world that God would draw them to himself, deliver them from spiritual blindness, and that they would repent and believe the gospel.

• Pray for God to educate and encourage the saints in our local church and the universal church through his Word, prayer, fellowship, worship, and service. Pray that God would deliver his body from all discouragements and lies of the enemy.

• Pray for a spirit of unity in God’s church that they may love one another, serve one another, and reach the world together. Pray against all pride, conflict, and division that would hinder the work of God.

• Pray for God to give his saints grace to excel in prayer for one another and the world.


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