How Do We Measure Up?
A Study in Paul's Letters: Titus
November 1, 2001 - What relevance do the Letters of the Apostle Paul have for us today? This continues our exploration of Paul's writings with the book of Titus. Our prayer is that through these studies you will come to live more fully in the grace of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.
by Kay Arthur
For the first 29 years of my life, I had a religion but not a relationship. I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. I had been baptized and confirmed, I taught Sunday school and led youth groups, but I had little interest in the Word of God. To me, it was boring and difficult to understand. I read the Bible a little, but I never bothered to bring it to church on Sunday mornings.
When I was 29, however, my life radically changed. On July 16, 1963, in the privacy of my bedroom, I cried out to God and was gloriously born again. I didn't know that was what had happened to me then, but once I opened my Bible and began to read, I understood.
It wasn't but a month after that when the onslaught came that caught me off guard. I was sitting at my desk at work, when the thought came to me that Jesus Christ wasn't who I thought He was, that everything I believed was a lie.
How did I handle it? What convinced me that it wasn't a lie? The supernatural transformation in my life. My character and desires had changed. Someone could look at my "deeds" and know that I was different—and I knew that only Jesus Christ could do that in me.
How important are "deeds" in our life? What role do they play in our Christianity? Survey results about the Church today indicate what the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus is typical of many people today: They "profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed."(1) Consequently our society disdains us as Christians and excuses its own behavior by our moral laxity and seeks to discredit Christianity any way it can.
When Paul wrote his letter to Titus in about the year A.D. 62, Paul's concern was for godly leadership and sound doctrine, and for a purified people zealous for good deeds—living according to God's precepts rather than the world's standards. God's concern for the Church is the same today. As we study Titus, the question we need to ask ourselves is, "How do I measure up?"
If the Church in general would take to heart Paul's instructions in his Epistle to Titus regarding the qualifications of church leadership and the behavior of men and women, young and old, slaves and masters (employees-employers), I believe then we would come out of the low moral state we are in and our fractured relationships would be mended and restored.
Titus lived on Crete, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, slightly southeast of the "s"-shaped peninsula of Greece. And what was the general character of the inhabitants of this island? One of their own prophets said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."(2)
But "the grace of God has appeared [on that island], bringing salvation, ... instructing [them] to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age."(3) The grace of God had appeared, but not all believers were living that way. Things in the Church at Crete needed to be "set in order"(4)—as is true in the Church today. Our marriages, relationships, roles, morals, lifestyles, ambitions, passions and standards are in great disarray. Paul's Letter to Titus has incredible instructions that if obeyed can help us put them back in order.
I want you to do more than read this article. See for yourself the awesome truths in the Letter to Titus—and know that this is what God says, what He expects, what He promises. Therefore, I urge you to study the Letter for yourself.
As you read through the Letter to Titus, color or underline every reference to Titus himself—every pronoun, every synonym. Then list everything you learn from each reference you marked. If Paul tells Titus to do something specific such as "set in order what remains, and appoint elders,"(4) put a red arrow by the verse. This method will help you see every instruction that Paul gives Titus. You will see that Paul wrote this Letter to Titus, his true child in the faith—Paul knew that Titus' faith was genuine. Can people tell that your faith is genuine? How do they know?
One of the key words repeated in this Letter is the word deeds. Read the Letter to Titus again and highlight every reference to deeds in its own distinctive color. Then list everything you learn from the context in the places in which the word appears.
As you observe the text, you will see that Paul had been with Titus on the isle of Crete and had left him there to set in order what remains and to appoint elders in every city as Paul directed him. Thus it seems that these are follow-up instructions to Titus telling him, among other things, what he is to speak to those under his care. The Letter includes two doctrinal passages that deal with our salvation: Titus 2:11-14, which emphasizes the fact that deeds accompany genuine salvation; and Titus 3:4-7, which shows that salvation is possible through conviction and the leading of the Holy Spirit toward God.
Titus, Chapter 1
The first chapter of the Letter to Titus deals with the qualifications of those whom Titus will appoint as elders. Paul refers to them also as overseers.(5) The Greek word is "episkopos," which can also be translated as "bishop." These men are responsible for the oversight of the Church. Paul delineates their character and behavior because there were "many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who [needed to] be silenced."(6) They were upsetting entire families by teaching things they shouldn't be teaching—and all for the sake of "sordid gain"(7) which the elders were not to be fond of. Their god was their appetite—their greed. And what made them dangerous was that they professed to know God, yet because of their deeds,(8) Paul knew that they didn't. There's a contrast between the true and the false. That's why we need to be careful about those we appoint to leadership. Take a moment and list everything you learn from the Letter about the elder/overseer, and see how today's leaders measure up.
Chapter One of the Letter to Titus not only sets before us two groups of men (leaders and deceivers), it also shows that it is important for godly men to do three things: to hold fast the faithful Word, to exhort the people through sound doctrine, and to refute those who teach error.(9)
Refuting error isn't popular today. We seem to be inclusive in our doctrine when we say, "We love Jesus!" Yet Paul was adamant about the importance of holding fast to the Word of God and to sound doctrine. Read through Titus 1-2 again and mark every reference to these key words: the Word of God, and sound doctrine. I use a blue pen to mark these words.
Notice the connection between knowing truth and godliness.(10) The rebellious men were anything but godly—it was evident by their deeds.(8) That is why sound doctrine (teaching) is critical. It exposes error(9) and reproves people so that they can be sound in the faith.(11) If our doctrine is to be pure and we are to "adorn"(12) it, not dishonor it, by the way we live, then we must know the Word and live accordingly. Knowledge is never to be divorced from behavior.
When our deeds validate our doctrine, we "adorn [decorate, make attractive] the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect."(12) When our deeds don't match up to our doctrine, we need to check out our lifestyle.
Titus, Chapters 2 and 3
And how are we to live? This is what Titus 2 and 3 are all about. Paul wrote Titus to "speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine."(13) If you mark every occurrence of "speak," you will see that all occurrences appear between Titus 2:1 and Titus 3:8. The "things"(13) to be spoken are the way believers are to behave, their character.(14)
Paul emphasized again that these are the things Titus is not only to "speak [but also to] exhort and reprove with all authority."(15) Speak, exhort, and reprove, in Titus 2:15, are present-tense imperative verbs. Paul commanded Titus to do this continually, habitually. Speak, in Titus 3:8, is also the present tense. We continually need to be reminded of these precepts so that we don't stray from godliness.
Read the Letter to Titus again, and list what Paul wrote the older men and women to do, and the younger women and men, including the bondslaves and the masters, and why this is possible. The passage shows a way of living that we don't see often enough among Christians—and why our society isn't so affected by the Church as it ought to be. Among other things, we don't live sensibly. "Sensible" is another key word worth noting, for we are a woefully undisciplined Church and society.
Titus, Chapter 3
Finally, as Paul wrote Titus the things of which Titus is to keep on reminding the believers, namely, of what we were before we were justified by God's grace(16) and of our responsibility to engage in good deeds. We are not saved by good deeds,(17) but grace empowers us through the Holy Spirit to live what we profess.
We need to set in order our doctrine, our leadership, our character, our priorities, our behavior. We need to reprove the factions (those who contradict these teachings in word and deed). Seize the day by being an example of good deeds with purity of doctrine.(18) We need to study and live His Word so that we won't be ashamed at the appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.(19) God wants to purify us for Himself—and this happens by our staying in the Word of God.
Finally, may we determine that we will "adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect"(12) by denying "ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly,"(20) beginning now and until we see Jesus face-to-face.