The Truth of God's Grace - Titus 1:1-2
In case you didn’t know, “fake news” was declared the 2017 “Word of the Year” by Collins Dictionary.
You might be wondering how two words are chosen as the word of the year.
And if you’re wondering that, you’re in good company because I was wondering the exact same thing. Seems like it should be the phrase of the year or something.
I don’t know. I’m just telling you all what I’ve read.
It’s certainly fair to say that the phrase “fake news” has been thrown around a lot over the last year.
What’s makes a news story “real” or “fake”?
Is a story “real” or “fake” based upon an author or journalist’s political perspective?
I read one article that attempted to define “fake news” but their definition raised more questions than answers.
A far more important topic is hidden behind the curtain of “fake news”: the truth.
Frankly, there is so much confusion and debate over the truth. Everything is disinformation or fake news.
We’ve all had conversations with family or friends that have ended with “that might be true for you but it isn’t true for me.”
Various professions debate over the truth. Lawyers debate over what the Constitution actually says.
There are debates over how we understand history. Have you ever heard someone say that the winners write the history books?
Even indisputable facts have to be interpreted. Someone has to explain what’s happening.
The question that our society is constantly wrestling with is: can we know anything to be true?
Because deep down we know that what we believe to be true affects the way we live.
The Scriptures teach us that, yes, you can know the truth, and more than that, the truth will set you free.
Titus 1:1-2, tells us that the foundation to truth begins with knowing the grace of Jesus Christ as your Savior and that knowledge will permanently change you.
So how does knowing God’s truth change you?
We see two things from Titus 1:1-2,
- The truth of God’s grace changes your current desires.
- The truth of God’s grace changes your future desires.
You can find this outline on page 6 of your worship guide.
Because we’re starting a new series in a new book of the Bible it’s important that we first get some background information on the book of Titus in order to better understand the issues that Paul was addressing.
BACKGROUND ON TITUS
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.
Paul wanted Titus to appoint godly, mature, elders.
One of the main reasons Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders was so that they could deal with false teachers.
False teaching was a major issue in the New Testament and it continues to be a major problem in the church.
Look at verse 9 with me. It says that an elder,
“... must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
In other words, one of the primary responsibilities of an elder is to guard and protect the church from false teaching.
But in order to fulfill that duty an elder must, as verse 1 says, have knowledge of the truth.
An elder must know and understand God’s word in order to protect the church.
I’ve heard it said that federal agents don’t identify counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits, rather they study the real thing.
The same is true for false teaching. The only way you’ll recognize it is by knowing what the scriptures actually teach.
It’s especially true for elders but it’s true for all of us.
You and I must have knowledge of the truth. Everything begins with knowing Christ as your Savior - that’s the foundational truth.
And knowledge of God’s truth changes everything - including what you desire now.
The truth of God’s grace changes your current desires.
V 1. Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness
Paul begins Titus by describing himself in two ways: a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. The word servant is often translated as slave.
The word servant really gives you a glimpse into how Paul understood his relationship with God.
He didn’t think of himself as someone partnering with God and every now and again offering God some useful bits of advice.
It’s quite the contrary. Paul views himself as a slave to God. He viewed himself as someone at God’s complete disposal. He brought absolutely nothing to the table.
And yet, at the same time he calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ.
An apostle is someone that was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ and sent out as His official representative.
Just as a brief side note: The early church needed the apostles to instruct and guide them because they didn’t have the Scriptures.
But the office of apostle is no longer needed today because we have the Scriptures. There is nothing new to be revealed to us because we have the Bible.
Paul apostleship gave him authority to give guidance, instruction, correction to the church.
So Paul describes himself as a humble follower of God and yet at the same time as one with authority over the church.
There’s a beautiful mix here: humility and authority. It’s a rare combination. Normally you see arrogance and authority.
Or you see despondence among the powerless.
But the combination of humility and authority is what we all desire to see from people in leadership positions.
But it’s even more unique when you think about Paul’s background. On the road Damascus Paul encounters Christ as he’s on his way to kill Christians.
Is that the background of the man you’d want to write the most books of the New Testament?
Of course not!
If you had the chance to interview Paul, you’d probably want to ask him about his ministry experience and if he’s ever worked with youth before.
But that wasn’t God’s plan. He put a Christian murderer in a position of authority over the church. Doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?
He’s giving Titus instructions for organizing the church in Crete!
This is the unsearchable depth of God’s grace! A murderer is a slave to God and an apostle!
Paul was a humble leader on a very specific mission. The apostles were the tip of the spear in carrying out the Great Commission.
Paul’s apostleship is directly connected to his mission.
His mission was “for the sake of the faith of God's elect…”
It’s similar to what he says in Romans 1, that he is “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations”
Simply put, Paul wanted to see people from all over the world come to a saving faith.
Paul saw it as his mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
People come to know the Lord through by hearing the gospel message.
That’s why Paul says in Romans 10,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
Preaching the gospel and seeing people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ was Paul’s mission.
But what does Paul mean in verse 1, by “God’s elect?”
The word “elect” can be translated as “chosen.”
The idea of behind Paul’s use of “God’s elect” is that God’s saving grace and mercy has been and will be set upon some people and that it will pass over others.
Some might think this sounds unfair and you might want to object to this. If you’re thinking that, then let me give you a few thoughts:
- The doctrine of election is plainly in this text. What I’m explaining to you is right there on the page.
- As Christians we’re not called to believe only the things we like, we’re called to be biblical. This often means submitting yourself to things that you might not like.
- Lastly, let me offer you this thought: do you think God would have been fair to send the Apostle Paul to hell? After all, he was on the road to Damascus breathing threats and murder against Christians. If it was up to me, murderers would have a one-way ticket to hell. But God is far more gracious than I am.
Paul certainly didn’t do anything to earn God’s saving grace.
And the same is true for you and me. Why are you entitled to God’s saving grace? For that matter, why is anyone entitled to God’s saving grace? No one is entitled to it.
And that’s the point, you didn’t do anything to deserve God’s grace. That’s the beauty of salvation.
But you might be thinking well, in Titus 1 Paul has this evangelistic call on his life to God’s elect. Evangelism and God’s sovereign election? Aren’t those two things at odds with one another?
Paul didn’t think so, otherwise he wouldn’t have said what he said. Evangelism is the God-ordained tool by which He spreads the gospel.
They’re not at odds with one another but instead work together because at the end of the day you and I don’t know who the elect are - therefore we must be committed to sharing good news of Jesus Christ with all people.
Because no one deserves God’s grace anyone can receive it.
We don’t know what God is going to do. No one is beyond the saving grace of God. Not even a murderer.
Everyone is within God’s reach.
Just as God’s grace changed Paul from a murderer to an apostle of Jesus Christ, it has the power to change you and me as well.
Because he was enlightened by the knowledge of the truth of God’s grace, he wanted other people to experience it as well.
That’s why he was concerned with their knowledge of the truth.
In verse 1, Paul connects faith with the “Knowledge of the truth.” The Christian faith is not opinion. It’s not mystical or uncertain.
You can have knowledge of the truth which will only bolster your faith.
So how can you have knowledge of the truth? By studying God’s word.
Yet I consistently come into contact with people that have grown up in the church unsure of what Christianity teaches. So they wind up treating the Christian faith like a buffet line.
I believe this thing, but I don’t believe this other thing.
The problem with this approach is that it’s completely absent of the Scriptures.
If you’re a Christian you should want to go back to the source of our faith: the Bible.
We should desire to know the riches of God word because they’re life-giving. Once God opens your eyes to the truth found in his Word you realize something: you weren’t ever living.
Your life had been aimless up and to that point, and when of experience the rush of God’s grace your desires change.
About a year ago, I had a gospel conversation with a friend of mine from Virginia. And he told me he was an atheist. He was very open and not hostile at all about it. So, I asked him how he came to that view.
So, we talked for a while so I could understand why he considered himself an atheist. And finally, we got to the heart of the matter.
He told me he didn’t want to change his life. He enjoyed his lifestyle too much and he knew that Christianity would require something of him that he wasn’t ready to give up.
I learned a lot from that conversation. The chief thing was what you believe affects how you live.
A denial of God’s truth is directly connected to how you live your life.
But reception of God’s truth is directly connected to how you live your life as well.
Wasn’t this true for Paul? Once he understood the truth of God’s grace his life did a complete 180. He went from taking lives to spreading the life-giving message of the gospel.
The same is true for each one of us.
The truth of God’s grace changes the desires of your heart. That’s why Paul says that the “knowledge of the truth accords with godliness.”
Your knowledge of the truth is directly tied to godliness.
Once you’ve experienced God’s grace and have a knowledge of the truth - you no longer want to live for yourself. You realize that your life has purpose beyond your personal pleasure.
Your knowledge of the truth of God’s grace creates a desire in your heart to honor the Lord.
What’s influencing how you live? Is it the knowledge of the truth or some other distorted knowledge? But the truth of God’s grace doesn’t simply change the way you live. It also changes what you hope for.
Which leads us to our second point.
The truth of God’s grace changes your desires for the future.
V. 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
It’s pretty easy to see how verse 1 is connected to verse 2. If you have knowledge of the truth concerning Jesus Christ you can have hope in eternal life.
Paul’s mission is for faith and knowledge but it all rests on the hope of eternal life. He truly believed the promises of God and therefore had a sense of urgency in spreading the gospel.
You and I can have confidence in what God says - that if you trust in Jesus Christ for salvation you can have hope for the life that is to come.
Part of the reason we can have hope is because God, as Paul tells Titus, never lies. The Lord fulfills his promises. You and I can take that to the bank.
The Scriptures are crystal clear on the reality of heaven and the hope that we can have in it.
But Titus probably already knew that. So why would Paul reiterate to him that God doesn’t lie and that he promised it before the ages began?
It’s actually very simple. Although Paul has been commissioned to take the gospel of grace to the nations - the message didn’t originate with him.
The gospel message was originated by the Lord.
Paul is an apostle and has authority over the church, however, he’s carrying out the call that the Lord had put on his life.
In other words, Paul wants Titus to know that he is a messenger of God. What he is going to tell Titus in the rest of the letter isn’t from him but from God!
Paul knew his salvation was secure which allowed him to live as a man with deep hope.
He understood his mission and looked forward to being with Christ in heaven. That’s why he was able to write in Philippians:
My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.
He desired to be with Christ in heaven.
Recently, I read a story about a man named, Ron Flewett who was terminally ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Doctors gave him only 3 years to live.
So Mr. Flewett decided he would travel the world and try to see 50 countries in 3 years.
He said, 'When I was first diagnosed with IPF I was absolutely devastated. My whole world fell apart. Maxine and I were up all night crying.
'But then a few days later, his wife, Max said to him "Right, what do you want to do? Let's make a list". And that was how it began.
He said, 'There has always been so many places I've wanted to see, it was just a case of trying to get around to seeing them as quickly as possible.'
The real tragedy of Mr. Flewett was that he believed his life on earth was as good as it got. That’s why he wanted to live life to the fullest before his time on this earth was up.
I think too often you and I are convinced just like Mr. Flewett that this world is it. And once it’s over it’s over.
That’s why we’re constantly searching for next thing or experience that will make you happy.
Because we all know there has to be more. Everyone is hopeful.
For the Christian, we have hope of eternity in Christ, but for the non-Christian, they’re searching for the greener grass on the other side of the hill - that doesn’t exist.
It’s misplaced hope in things that will inevitably let you down.
In a few minutes we’ll be partaking of the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s supper is a physical reminder of the grace, mercy, and hope we have in Jesus Christ.
The bread and the wine should strengthen your faith and hope in Christ. You can have hope as long as you know the truth.
Once we see the truth everything else sort of comes into focus.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the truth. We can experience God’s grace and have Him change what we desire in this life and the next because of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection.
Do you know the truth of God’s grace?
C.S. Lewis was very cognizant of how his faith in Christ helped him interpret what he saw around him.
He wrote the following in his book, The Weight of Glory,
The waking world is judged more real because it can thus contain the dreaming world; the dreaming world is judged less real because it cannot contain the waking one. For the same reason I am certain that in passing from the scientific points of view to the theological, I have passed from dream to waking. Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
The world makes sense in light of the truth of Jesus Christ. He is truth.
You don’t need to be confused over misinformation or fake news. You can know the truth
2017 may have been defined by the word “fake news”, but may the truth of Jesus Christ define 2018.