Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to walk through the book of Titus and learn what the Lord would have to teach us through this great book.
- Today Dave opens the series on Titus by looking at the first four verses.
These are the opening words of a lengthy salutation. In Paul’s epistles only two are longer. The present salutation in Titus 1:1-4 resembles that of Romans more than it does any other. Here as in Romans Paul calls himself both servant and apostle, and speaks about a promise now fulfilled. Also, as in Romans and in several other epistles, he traces grace and peace, though the wording varies.
Here as elsewhere (especially in the lengthy salutations) the salutation is in line with the character and purpose of the epistle. Thus, it comes as no surprise that in Titus, which stresses the idea that sound doctrine goes hand in hand with the life of sanctification and the doing of good works, the very salutation already mentions godliness (“the truth which accords with godliness,”), and over against the mendacious character of the Cretans (Titus 1:12) makes mention of the never-lying God.
Paul is God’s servant and has received his authoritative commission directly from Jesus Christ, being therefore His apostle.
The service and apostleship are exercised “for the sake of God’s elect” that is, they are carried out in order to further or promote the reliance of God’s chosen one’s upon him, and their glad recognition or confession of the redemptive truth which centers in Him; a truth which in sharp contrast with the vagaries of false teachers accords with godliness, the life of Christian virtue, and the spirit of true consecration.
Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began “
Paul’s service and apostleship are in the interest of the faith of God’s elect and their acknowledgement of the truth which accords with godliness—rests on the hope of eternal life, on God, who never lives, promised before the ages began. This hope is earnest, yearning, confident expectation, and patient waiting for “life everlasting” salvation in its fullest development. It was this salvation which the God who cannot lie “promised before the ages began.”
Just as God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” (II Timothy 1:9), so also everlasting life was promised “before the ages began.” Before the ages began to roll alone in their never-ending course, grace was given and the life was promised. When God decides to call into being a people for His own possession, the fulfillment of this decree is so certain that the grace which they will receive can be spoken of as having been already given, just as the life is described as having been already promised. The context implies that it is for the benefit of the elect out of Jews and Gentiles that this promise is made. That is in the covenant of redemption from eternity such a promise (of the Father to the Son in the interest of all the elect) was actually made is clearly implied in the fact that believers are viewed as “given” to Christ by the Father, in order that they may inherit life everlasting in its most glorious manifestation.
Titus 1:3, “and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;”
From eternity God promised life everlasting and at the proper time revealed it. It was not life everlasting itself in its glorious heavenly phase that was revealed to earthly-dwellers, but the Word of God with respect to it. Hence the change from “life everlasting” in verse 2 to “his word” in verse 3. In the form of (or by the means of) the good news which Paul proclaimed and which by order of “God our Savior” had been entrusted to him, this word of God with respect to Christ and His gracious gift that has now been made manifest.
This statement is in complete harmony with Paul’s teaching throughout. That teaching may be summarized as follows:
Full salvation in Christ for both Jew and Gentile, considered as equals, a salvation viewed as based solely upon Christ’s merits appropriated by faith, was:
- Objectively given and promised from eternity (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:4; II Thess. 2:13; II. 1:9; Titus 1:2);
- Hidden—i.e., the message with reference to it was hidden— in preceding ages and from the eyes of former generation (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:5, 6, 9; Col. 1:26); hidden, namely in the sense that it was not fully proclaimed, nor fully realized, nor fully understand by men of previous ages, though it had been foreshadowed (Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Gal. 3:8; Is. 60; 61; Joel 2:28-29; Amos 9:11-12; Micah 4:12; Mal 1:11; Psalm 72:8-11, 17; 87).
- Now fully manifested—i.e., the message with reference to it was fully manifested—by means of universal gospel-proclamation (Rom. 16:26; Eph. 3:3-9; Col. 1:26-29).
- The glorious fact that the proclamation of the good news concerning life everlasting had actually been entrusted to one so unworthy as Paul, a fact which caused the heart of the apostle to overflow with gratitude, accounts for this interruption in the steady flow of the sentence.
Titus 1:4, “To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.”
The words of address slowly resemble those in II Timothy 1:2 and even more closely those in I Timothy 1:2. Notice here how apostolic authority and tender love are beautifully blended.
Titus was Paul’s child because it was to the apostle as a means in God’s hand that he owed his spiritual life, though the time, place, and circumstances of his conversion have not been revealed.
Paul considers himself the father of Titus, not in the physical sense but “in a common faith” that is with respect to the faith common to Paul and Titus. It is best to take faith, as here used, in the subjective sense, a true knowledge of God and of His promises revealed in the gospel and a hearty confidence in Him and in his redemptive Christ-centered love.
Upon this genuine child the apostle now pronounces grace and peace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor in operation in the heart of his child. It is his Christ-centered pardoning and strengthening love. Peace is that child’s consciousness of having been reconciled with God through Christ. Grace is the fountain, and peace is the stream which issues from this fountain (Romans 5:1).
This grace and peace have their origin in God the Father, and have been merited for the believer in Christ Jesus. These two are the one source of grace and peace. But though in all the other Pauline salutations (Romans 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; III Cor. 1:2; etc., including all the Pastorals) Christ is called Lord, He is here called “our Savior”. For the meaning of this word Savior, which occurs as often in Titus as in all the other Pauline epistles put together (six times: Titus 1:3-4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6), and in this letter is used both with reference to “God” and to “Christ,” see 1 Timothy 4:10. Here in Titus 1:4 the term is used in its full, redemptive meaning. Christ Jesus is the One who rescues from the greatest evil and bestows upon the rescued ones the greatest good.