Community Through God’s Word - Titus 1:3-4
Depression is a disease of loneliness.
That’s the headline to an article I read from The Guardian. The article began by quoting the American author Thomas Wolfe from his novel, Look Homeward, Angel. He wrote,
“Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth … Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”
Pretty dark stuff, and yet oddly relatable because each one of us has at some point or another felt alone.
The author of the article went on the quote a study that found that 1 in 10 people in the U.K. said they had no friends.
It’s sad, but not surprising. We live in a world where we have “friends” online but we all know that it’s not the same. At the end of the day there is only a handful of people that we’d call if tragedy struck.
Even though the world we live in is so “connected” it’s just as easy to experience isolation and loneliness.
The Bible is really no stranger to loneliness either. David wrote in Psalm 25:
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. So it’s certainly not true that if you’re a Christian you’ll never experience loneliness.
Isolation, loneliness, and depression are sad realities of this fallen world. But we learn in Titus that there’s community within the body of Christ.
How does the Christian faith create community? It creates community because:
The saving power of God’s word is necessary for all people.
The saving power of God’s word is the same for all people.
You can find this outline on page 6 of your worship guide.
Recap of Last Week
In case you missed last week, Titus was a Gentile Christian who was probably converted under the ministry of Paul. Frankly, the Scriptures give us very little information on the man, Titus. Most of Paul’s travel companions are mentioned in the book of Acts, but Titus is not.
But from other testimony in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Timothy it appears that Titus accompanied Paul on his 2nd, 3rd and for a part of his 4th missionary journeys.
Paul’s letter to Titus is really a guide for church planting. Although, Paul wrote directly to Titus he intended to have it read to the churches in Crete so they would know how churches should be organized as well.
And last week we looked at verses 1-2 and learned that the foundation to truth begins with knowing the grace of Jesus Christ as your Savior and that knowledge will permanently change you.
And just as truth begins with knowing Jesus Christ, community begins with knowing Jesus Christ - because as we’ll see in verse 3
1. The saving power of God’s word is necessary for all people.
Verse 3, is best described as a parenthesis to what he said in verse 2. Paul is saying that from eternity God promised life everlasting but “at the proper time” revealed it.
He’s not saying in verses 2 and 3 that heaven in all of its beauty, glory, and fullness was literally exposed to man, rather he’s talking about the manner in which God’s word revealed the gospel message.
That’s why he refers to “life everlasting” in verse 2 and “his word” in verse 3.
Several weeks ago, Stacey preached a message on the hope of Jesus Christ from Genesis 3:15. You might not expect to find the gospel three chapters into the Scriptures, but it’s there.
You can find the gospel message from Genesis to Revelation.
But it’s most clearly seen in the New Testament.
Well, why wasn’t Jesus Christ explicitly mentioned and revealed right after the fall of Adam and Eve? It was not the proper time. God chose not to reveal himself all at once, rather he has chosen to slowly reveal himself throughout history. This process is often called, “progressive revelation.”
It’s sort of like going from a well lit hallway into a dark room. As you open the door you see the light shine on more of the room.
Since you and I live after the work of Christ we’re blessed to know more about God’s plan and it’s outworking than those living during the time of the Old Testament or Old Covenant. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the Old Testament Scriptures because we need all of Scriptures in order to fully understand who God is. Jesus actually said, in John 10 that the Scriptures cannot be broken.
We need the New Covenant in order to understand the Old Covenant. And we need to Old Covenant to understand the New Covenant. We need all of it.
The way God works is so different from our culture of instant gratification. Why would God reveal himself in a progressive manner? Naturally, I think all of us want answers from God and we want them right now.
God doesn’t tell us why, but He sovereignly rules over all things.
Psalm 115 says, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
The Lord works according to his proper time.
And this gospel message that is found in the whole of Scriptures goes out to all people through preaching. The gospel message is of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection and that through him there is life everlasting. The gospel message is for all people, everywhere. Needless to say, we don’t know how people will respond, but everyone should have the opportunity to respond to the life-giving gospel message.
Paul says something fascinating in verse 3, which is, he has been entrusted to preach the gospel. In fact, he was entrusted by God to preach.
Preaching the gospel is a weighty responsibility and an overwhelming work. It’s a message that everyone needs hear - so there’s a lot of work to to be done.
And yet, only some are “entrusted” with the responsibility of preaching the gospel because it’s important that preachers get the message right.
That’s why our denomination, the PCA, puts so much emphasis on testing a man before sending him out to preach. He’s entrusted with the gospel.
When I say all people should hear the gospel, I’m not necessarily talking about the remote tribe in the Amazon jungle. Those people certainly need the gospel.
But I’m also thinking about people right here in Florence.
Preaching should clarify God’s word and lift up Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, it’s naive to think that every church does that.
And please don’t think I’m saying that to pat myself or Stacey on the back, like we have it all figured out. That’s not my intention. Preaching the gospel is a heavy responsibility because how you understand the good news of Jesus Christ will deeply impact how you live.
And preachers can either clarify or conceal the gospel.
The mother of someone I know bought into the prosperity gospel. She genuinely thinks that if she just had enough faith - God will bless her with health and wealth.
Well, his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the way his mother dealt with it was she refused to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition. She thought if she believed his cancer doesn’t exist, God will bless her and it will go away. It was so bad that she wouldn’t even let her son say the word “cancer.”
Eventually, he passed away from the cancer and she blamed her husband for his death -- because he didn’t have enough faith to get well. Frankly, it’s sad because she had been so deceived by the false gospel of prosperity.
The prosperity gospel conceals the true gospel and what she desperately needed is the true gospel.
The clear implication from the Scriptures is that suffering is a part of the Christian life. Christians should expect suffering.
Psalm 34 says, Many are the afflictions of the righteous.
But really the point of that story isn’t about suffering. I wanted to illustrate to you the power that false teachers have over people and how important it is that people hear the true gospel.
My friend’s mother bought into the lies of the prosperity gospel and it deeply impacted the way she treated her family.
She has a clear need for the gospel and she doesn’t even realize.
If she understood the gospel of grace and biblical doctrine she’d know that suffering is a part of this life and creates a desire in our hearts for our heavenly home. But she so deeply deceived. This is one example and sadly, there are probably thousands just like it. Many people simply don’t see their need for Jesus Christ.
The saving power of God’s word is for all people because we’re all sick with the same disease of sin. What brings us together into community is recognizing our common need for Christ.
And just as the saving power of God’s word is for all people it’s also the same for all people. Which leads us to verse 4 and our second point.
2. The saving power of God’s word is the same for all people.
In verse 4, at the end of Paul’s introduction, he finally addresses Titus. And interestingly, he calls him a “true child.” It sort of sounds like an insult. No one wants to be told your acting like a child.
But obviously Paul’s point is that Titus is a child in the faith. The implication is that he’s a father in the faith.
The metaphor of the family is used throughout the Scriptures in order to describe the relationships among God’s people. And it really helps us understand the nature of Paul’s relationship with Titus.
Sometimes you’ll hear people refer to their church family because spiritually, Christians are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers.
The church should be the most loving community that you and I are aware of - because we should take the commands of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself seriously.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case - because the church is made up of sinners! Yet, we should strive to love one another since Christ first loved us. But there’s something else going on when Paul refers to Titus as a “child.” It’s that Paul has wisdom to share with Titus - a father imparting wisdom to his child.
The whole point of the letter is to share his knowledge with Titus! And you’d assume that Titus took the advice of Paul seriously.
This raises an important point: you and I need to respect, appreciate, and look to our spiritual fathers and mothers for wisdom.
I know it sounds crazy, but people that have been Christians longer than you might have some good advice to pass along to you. And we should be willing to receive it with humility.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 28 like me or if you’re 68 - you still have fathers and mothers in the faith and we should respect and value them enough to listen to what they have to say and be humble enough to learn from them.
And yet at the same time, we share as Paul says to Titus, a “common faith.” Every true Christian is saved by grace through faith. In other words, no one is “more saved” or “less saved” than anyone else.
A spiritual child is just as much of a believer as spiritual mother.
Each one of us had to admit our need for a Savior. And because of our admission - there isn’t any room for judgmentalism or pride.
Once you realize that it’s only because of Jesus that you can stand before God -- comparison and competition dies.
In fact, it inspires the opposite of comparison and competition. The work of Christ should prompt you to forgiveness, understanding and love.
Salvation by grace through faith is equally effective for all people. One of the amazing things about Christianity is that everyone so different in so many ways but we’re also all the same.
The saving power of God’s word transcends socio-economic standing, race, where you live, and anything that would distinguish you from another person.
The Paul pronounces grace and peace on Titus. Paul actually pronounces grace and peace in many of his letters.
So, he certainly thought that grace and peace were worth mentioning over and over again. One person commenting on verse 4 wrote,
“When a person becomes absolutely convinced that their standing before God is based entirely on his grace and not on any goodness in themselves, peace comes.” The peace that comes is the end of hostility between God and man because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Grace is the fountain from which peace flows. Once you’ve experienced the grace of God you’ll experience peace as well.
It’s interesting at the end of verse 4, Paul designates God the Father as our Savior. Certainly, we’d all expect him to refer to Jesus as our Savior. But God the Father?
Did God the Father have a role in redeeming a people to himself?
The answer is yes!
The Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world for our redemption. And Jesus acquired our redemption on the cross. So God the Father deserves the designation of Savior just as much as the Son does!
Geese fly in a “v” formation because its aerodynamic and helps them conserve energy. But did you realize that a major reason it’s so aerodynamic is because they perfectly time the beat of their wings?
This means that they have to quickly alter the flap of their wing based on the who’s in front of them. The unity of the group allows them to fly for hundreds of miles.
The church at large, in the world, is powerful not because of you or me. The church is powerful because we’re united by faith in Christ.
Although we are different in so many ways, it’s our commonality our union with Christ that bonds us together.
It’s as Paul says, a “common faith.”
And our bond in faith is what’s powerful. There’s something that’s even more powerful going on when we gather together for worship on Sunday morning: we get a tiny glimpse of heaven.
Despite what any song says, heaven isn’t a place on earth, but we do get a little glimpse right here this morning.
What’s interesting about Paul writing to Titus is that they were very different. Paul was Jewish and circumcised, Titus was a gentile and uncircumcised. These were major ethnic barriers.
It was their faith in Christ that bonded them together. Spreading the gospel message across the world transcended any barrier.
However, it’s still easy to feel isolated and alone. No one has experienced exactly what you have experienced. You can often feel like the odd man out. You may think that no one can really understand what you’re going through.
But the truth is there is someone that can understand your pain. Christ faced isolation when he was abandoned by his disciples.
Christ encountered exclusion. He experienced loneliness.
And He faced the cross so that you could have life in Him. There’s community of people that glory in the cross of Christ.
Do you know this community of people sharing a common faith? Or are you out there by yourself trying to figure it all out on your own?
The American author Thomas Wolfe from his novel, Look Homeward, Angel asked, “Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”
We’re strangers on this earth because it’s not our home. We belong in eternal communion with other believers at the feet of Jesus Christ in heaven.
The power has never been in our ability to overcome isolation and loneliness, the power has always been in Christ through his word.
May the pain of isolation and despair pail in comparison to the love and joy found in community of those that share Christ.
Let’s pray together.