Read an Excerpt
The Macarthur New Testament Commentary Titus
By John MacArthur, Anne Scherich
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1996 John MacArthur
All rights reserved.
Commitments of a Faithful Leader
Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior; to Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (1:1-4)
The first four verses of this letter, which form the salutation, comprise one long, involved, and poignant sentence. The greeting is somewhat more formal than those in either letter to Timothy, but the purpose of all three letters was much the same—to encourage and strengthen a young pastor who had succeeded the apostle in a difficult ministry. As will become apparent throughout this epistle, the emphasis is on God's saving work (both God and Christ are repeatedly called Savior: 1:3,4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6). The opening greeting sets this theme by centering on the nature of gospel ministry.
Because Paul had spent much less time himself in founding and establishing the churches on the island of Crete than he had spent with the single congregation in Ephesus (where Timothy now pastored), it was particularly important that believers in the Cretan churches understood that Titus was not operating on his own but ministered with the designated authority of Paul. Titus was the direct legate, envoy, or ambassador of the apostle, sent to Crete to strengthen the churches for the purpose of effective evangelism in that pagan culture. Anyone, therefore, who attacked the authority and teaching of Titus would be attacking the divinely delegated authority and teaching of Paul himself.
But Paul's opening statement about himself (one of the clearest representations of his ministry anywhere in the New Testament) is much more than a dogmatic declaration of apostolic authority. Although he had deep personal feelings and even certain personal objectives in ministry—such as his desire to bring the gospel to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) and to Spain (Rom. 15:24)—he did not write under the impetus of emotion or personal desire, much less of impulse, but under the compulsion of divinely revealed absolutes from the Lord in the power of the Spirit. God, who desires to save sinners, wanted to prepare Titus for the building of congregations able to reach the lost.
In this rich salutation to Titus, Paul reveals five core features that guided his living and his service to the Lord, foundational principles on which the service of every dedicated leader in Christ's church must be built.
Committed to God's Mastery
Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, (1:1a)
The first feature is that of commitment to God's mastery. Above all else, the apostle saw himself as a man totally under divine authority, as expressed in the phrase a bond-servant of God.
As mentioned in the Introduction to this volume, the apostle's Hebrew name was Saul, after the first king of Israel. Soon after his miraculous conversion and calling by Christ, however, he came to be known exclusively by his Greek name, Paulos(Paul).
With full truthfulness, Paul could have identified himself as a brilliant scholar, a highly educated Jewish leader who also was learned in Greek literature and philosophy. He could have flaunted his inherited Roman citizenship, an extremely valuable advantage in that day. He could have boasted of his unique calling as apostle to the Gentiles, who was granted full privilege and authority alongside the Twelve. He could have boasted of being "caught up to the third heaven, ... into Paradise" (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), of his gift of miracles, and of being chosen as the human author of a great part of the Scriptures of the new covenant. He chose, rather, to identify himself foremost as a bond-servant of God.
Doulos(bond-servant) refers to the most servile person in the culture of Paul's day and is often translated "slave." Paul was in complete, but willing, bondage to God. He had no life that he called his own, no will of his own, purpose of his own, or plan of his own. All was subject to his Lord. In every thought, every breath, and every effort he was under the mastery of God.
Because Paul refers to himself as a bond-servant of God only here—at all other times referring to himself as a bond-servant of Christ (see, e.g., Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1)—he may have intended to place himself alongside Old Testament men of God. John calls Moses "the bond-servant of God" (Rev. 15:3), and the Lord Himself spoke of "Moses My servant" (Josh. 1:2). His successor, Joshua, is called "the servant of the Lord" (Josh. 24:29). Amos declared, "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Through Jeremiah, God said, "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets" (Jer. 7:25).
Because many of the false teachers in the churches on Crete were Judaizers, "those of the circumcision" (Titus 1:10; cf. v. 14), Paul may have desired to affirm his authority as the bond-servant of Yahweh (Jehovah), the covenant name of the God of Israel.
There is a general sense in which every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has "been freed from sin and enslaved to God," a bondage that results "in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life" (Rom. 6:22). To be a Christian is to be a bond-servant of God. We are not our own but "have been bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20), being "redeemed [not] with perishable things like silver or gold, ... but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18-19). And because we no longer belong to ourselves, we "should no longer live for [ourselves], but for Him who died and rose again on [our] behalf" (2 Cor. 5:15).
Paul's specific duty to God was to fulfill his servanthood by being an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1). Even as he neared the end of an extraordinarily blessed and fruitful life, he was still driven by the desire to be an obedient bond-servant. His apostleship, in fact, had brought increased duties of servanthood, demanding greater faithfulness, greater submission, and often greater sacrifice.
Nevertheless, Paul counted his bondage to God and his escalating suffering to be a blessing. He testified to believers at Philippi that "even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (Phil. 2:17). He reminded the elders from Ephesus, "I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
Apostolos(apostle) carries the basic meaning of "messenger" and was sometimes used of even the lowliest person who carried a message on behalf of someone else. But the term was used most often of a special messenger, a type of ambassador, who was sent with a specific message and spoke with the authority of the one who sent him. The authority of the message, therefore, did not derive from the messenger but from the sender.
Above all things, Paul was an ambassador of his divine Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 9:15-16; 22:14-15; 26:15-18). Just as calling himself a bond-servant of God may have been meant to establish his authority with Jews in the churches on Crete, his referring to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ may have been meant to establish his authority with Gentiles in the churches there.
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.
Committed to God's Mission
for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, (1:1b-2a)
Because of Paul's devotion to God's mastery, he had unswerving commitment to God's mission. It is the same mission that binds every preacher and teacher and, in a more general sense, every church leader and even every believer. As seen in this text, that mission includes evangelization, edification, and encouragement.
for the faith of those chosen of God (1:1b)
Paul first recognized his responsibility to help bring God's elect, those who are chosen of God, to saving faith in Jesus Christ. About a year after he wrote this letter, the apostle told Timothy, "I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10). Paul was called as a divine bond-servant and apostle to proclaim the message of the gospel in order that the elect might be brought by the Holy Spirit to faith, which is required to activate, as it were, their election by God. As he explained to believers in Rome, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17).
Faith actuates justification, God's gracious act by which He considers and declares as righteous those who have placed their trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. "To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Yet even "faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe ... [is] a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:22, 24). "By grace you have been saved through faith," the apostle explains in his letter to the Ephesian church; "and [even] that [faith is] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8).
Paul himself rejoiced in his own reception of this grace when he wrote that he was found in Christ "not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith" (Phil. 3:9). All the other aspects of salvation attend this justification by faith—including regeneration and conversion, by which the believer not only is declared righteous but is transformed into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).
We sometimes hear even evangelical preachers and teachers say that the simple biblical gospel is not "relevant" to modern man and needs to be bolstered and adorned by various cultural adaptations to make it more attractive and acceptable. But how presumptuous it is to think that an imperfect, sinful human instrument could improve on God's own message for bringing men to Himself! When the gospel is clearly preached to those who have been chosen, at some point the Holy Spirit will awaken them and they will believe and enter into the full benefit of their election.
Even as an apostle, Paul knew that the saving faith that he was called to preach could not be produced or enhanced by his own wisdom, cleverness, persuasiveness, or style. In his first letter to the immature and worldly church in Corinth, he reminded them that "we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:23-25). "When I came to you, brethren," he added a few verses later, "I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The simple but infinitely powerful truth of the gospel of "Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" will never fail to elicit saving faith at the appropriate time in those chosen by God. The reality of divine election is all through the New Testament. It is the foundation of the whole building of the redeemed.
Jesus told the Twelve, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you" (John 15:16). Because Jews were the original chosen people of God to evangelize the nations under the old covenant, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first," Paul and Barnabas told unbelieving Jews in Pisidian Antioch. But "since you repudiate" the gospel, they continued, "and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For thus the Lord has commanded us, 'I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that You should bring salvation to the end of the earth.' And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:46-48). The church, taken from all nations (not excluding individual Jews), has replaced Israel as God's chosen people until "the fulness of the Gentiles" has been completed and Israel is restored (Rom. 11:25-27). God has chosen sinners from all nations to save and to bring to Himself eternally, a vast gathering of elect individuals.
As divine sovereign of the universe He created, God is able to say with perfect justice and righteousness, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Rom. 9:15; cf. v. 18). To those who ask, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" the apostle replies, "Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?" (Rom. 9:19-21).
Paul reminded believers in Ephesus that God "chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will" (Eph. 1:4- 5). To believers in Thessalonica he said, "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). He told Timothy, "Join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (2 Tim. 1:8-9).
Peter addressed his first letter "to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:1-2). Later in that letter he refers to them as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (1 Pet. 2:9). From eternity past, every believer's name has been "written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).
The duty of evangelization can be summarized as preaching the gospel clearly, because of which the Holy Spirit will sovereignly and miraculously cause the elect to believe and be saved. That is the priority ministry of all who are servants of God and messengers of Jesus Christ.
and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, (1:1c)
Paul's second responsibility in fulfilling his commitment to God's mission was to edify those who believed by teaching them the full counsel of God's Word so that they might be sactified by the knowledge of the truth.
Knowledge translates epignosis, which refers to the clear perception of a truth. Paul has in mind saving truth, the truth of the gospel that leads to salvation. It is that aspect of the truth that he mentions in his first letter to Timothy, in which he assures us that "God our Savior ... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 2:25). By contrast, a person who does not genuinely seek God or His way of salvation is "always learning [but] never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" that saves (2 Tim. 3:7).
Upon salvation, the believer is given an appetite for thistruth, which causes him to desire to know more and to grow and mature according to godliness. Saving truth leads through salvation to sanctification as it produces increasinggodliness, without which salvation cannot be considered genuine. Godliness is the manifestation of the Spirit's work of sanctification. "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men," Paul later explains, "instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12; 1 Tim. 4:7-8). Divine truth and godliness are inextricably related. No matter how sincere our intentions might be, we cannot obey God's will if we do not know what it is. We cannot be godly if we do not know what God is like and what He expects of those who belong to Him.
Excerpted from The Macarthur New Testament Commentary Titus by John MacArthur, Anne Scherich. Copyright © 1996 John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.