Friday, September 7, 2012

Knowing the truth which leads to godliness



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 to godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Saviour;To Titus, my true child in a common faith:Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.(Titus 1:1-4)

There two fundamental characteristics of the Christians – FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE, leading to GODLINESS AND HOPE OF ETERNAL LFE. This is what I would like us to consider in the next Sunday evenings. How our knowledge that led to faith and as a result we have continued to amass more Biblical knowledge can produce those two things in great measure so that we may be more biblically godly in the church, (chapter 1) at our homes (chapter 2) and in the world (chapter 3) as we eagerly await the second appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. All the commentators I read agree with this division.
He we have the third longest introduction of Paul to Titus. The first is to the Romans – 93 words, (which so much resemble this one with Paul calling himself both a servant and an apostle in both, with the talk of promise now fulfilled and grace and peace all coming from the same source). The second longest is in Galatians with 75 words.
He introduced himself as, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. In this Paul is calling himself a slave or a bondservant of God. Just like Old Testament Prophets were called servants of God, Paul takes this same designation. This is a title of humility because it shows one who is bought so that he doesn't have any personal right – he is owned by God and can only do and say only what He is told to do and say. How is he a slave of God?  He is supposed to serve God without question or any reservation. He is fully and totally under God’s direction and guidance. He is to obey God absolutely. Whereas many of those who call themselves servants of God also designate for themselves awful titles like right reverend to get noticed so as to be respected. We are to be aware that such titles are liabilities to one’s spiritual life because in them is no humility.
Paul is also an apostle of Jesus Christ. An apostle is literally a messenger. The twelve Apostles were received a very unique call when they appointed by Christ, because He then commissioned them and gave them great power and authority as His inspired messengers to carry on the work of establishing the church.  Those who call themselves by this title need to know that the qualifications for one were given when the eleven replaced Judas Iscariot the son of perdition. These qualifications are given in Acts 1:21 and were the following:
i)                   Man (as opposed to woman, there wasn’t a woman appointed by Christ).
ii)                 Who had been with Jesus and the eleven during His ministry (from John’s baptism to ascension)
iii)               A witness to the resurrection 
But there is one exception to prove the rule, one called Paul of Tarsus who was commissioned by the Lord Himself and taken to Arabia to be with Christ for personal instruction.
He therefore described Himself thus:
i)                   Christ last of all appeared to Paul and he is the last and the least of the apostles (1Cor. 15:8)
ii)                 Received the gospel through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:13)
iii)               Commissioned personally by the Lord to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (Gal. 1;15
iv)               He had an apostolic authority as to rebuke even Apostle Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11-14)
This leaves no room for additional apostles today. This is because the Apostles and the Prophets are the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) and there can only be one foundation laid by the twelve and Paul. Therefore those who call themselves apostles are lying imposters and have no authority.
Then Paul goes on to explain the purpose for which his servant hood and apostleship is given him. It is given in the interest of establishing, promoting and nurturing the faith of God’s elect, their knowledge of the truth (and only the truth that leads to godliness) and their hope of eternal life promised by God before the ages began and revealed now through the preaching of the word of the gospel that has been entrusted to Paul by the command of the saving God.
William Hendriksen explains it like this in his commentary on Titus:
“The service and apostleship are exercised in the interest of … the faith of God’s elect and (their) acknowledgement of the truth which accords with godliness, that is, they are carried out in order to further or promote the reliance of God’s chosen ones 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, the spirit of true consecration.” (Titus p. 340)

CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRISTIANS

1.      FAITH
Those who have been elected by God have faith and confident trust in Him as the one to keep them to all eternity. Anyone who purports to the elect of God and lacks faith is liar.  Faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8) and is given as the evidence of the eternal plan of God to bring to salvation those that He had placed His grace upon. All those who are in the family of God are believers because the family of God is of faith. This is how Paul elsewhere describes Christians in Galatians 6:10 – the household of faith. No one who lacks in faith can belong to God because without faith it is impossible to please Him for whoever who would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (Heb.11:6).
The Bible clearly teaches various degrees of faith so that our faith need to increase once it has been established by God in His grace. The disciples prayed to Jesus to increase their faith (Luke 17:5). Furthermore Jesus rebuked those who had little or great faith. Apostle Paul was overflowing with thanksgiving for the growing faith of the Thessalonians (2 Thess.1:3). There are those of weak faith (Rom. 14:1). Also there are those of false faith like the demons (James 2:19) and dead faith (2:17, 26). What type of faith do you have? You notice that makes all the difference in the making of elect because faith makes the election sure (2Peter.1:10).
Can anyone be a Christian without faith? NO! Therefore examine your faith to make sure it is genuine. Every Christian has to have faith in Christ firmly established and increasing and growing abundantly. As the faith grows then you are established. The growth in faith leads to Christian maturity so that one fully depends on the Lord Jesus Christ for life and godliness. You need to look at your Christian maturity to know whether your faith is growing and increasing.
Those who preach the gospel have the responsibility of establishing, nurturing and promoting this kind of faith among all people by preaching the word of God which able to make them wise for salvation. This is what Paul told the Romans that faith comes by hearing the word. We have to preach the gospel only.
You have to live this life by faith only, fully and wholly by the grace of God. Always remember that there is no amount of works can secure a single blessing for you from God. Paul knew this and so he said that by grace he was what he was. You have to know that by grace you are made and this is the only hope for you to obtain permanent and enduring peace with God as Paul wished Titus (v.4).
But there are those here who do not know anything about the saving faith in Christ. You are running aimlessly in vain and you will achieve nothing until you stop depending on yourself and instead trust and depend on Christ. I encourage now instead to put your faith, your trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ because He receives everyone who comes to Him in faith. As long as you continue to trust in your own merit you lose. The grace is obtained by trusting in Christ to give it instead of trusting on yourself because by your efforts you can achieve nothing.
2.      KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH
Christians are brought to faith by hearing the solid truth of the Word of God. This knowledge is not some secrets construed somewhere by a group of people who by their human cunning and understanding purport to be know (gnostics), but it is the objective truth coming from God who never lies. This is the trustworthy word and worthy of full acceptance so that all those who have it come to faith in Christ and then are saved.
Our knowledge of truth is also to grow just like faith – in fact the two grow together. Apostle Peter warns us to take care that we are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose our own stability. But we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Peter 3:18). Paul is saying here that it was his responsibility to establish this knowledge of the truth, nurture and promote it in his apostleship. This is my work as well as your pastor – to labor hard so that you grow in the knowledge of the truth. But how will I know that you are growing in truth?
Growth in truth is marked by godliness. The truth that is of God produces leads or accords to godliness in believers. Whoever says that he knows truth but does not live holy life is untruthful and does not know the truth. Apostle John in giving assurance to his readers and he keeps on telling them ‘we know’. Some of the remarkable statements he makes is that the reason for writing his fist letter who not just to inform the mind, but to inform the mind with an aim that they may not sin (2:1). Therefore knowledge of truth has to lead to godly living.
Paul himself is only committed to presenting the word of God entrusted to Him by the command of God our Saviour. This is the truth he is talking about and this is the knowledge that he desires of his readers. The preachers who are committed to anything else other than the truth of the word of God are completely mistaken. As ministers of the Word of God, we have to have a commitment like this: “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled it is veiled to those who are perishing” (2Cor. 4:1-3).
3.      HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE
Faith and knowledge have to produce one more thing that marks a genuine Christian – the hope of eternal life. Because you may ask, how is that our Christian hope, in contrast to all worldly and secular hopes, is so sure and secure and so reliable in full assurance of the eternal joy in the life after death? God Himself guarantees the hope of Christians. There isa fourfold guarantee from God in this passage of the eternal life in which we hope:
i)                   God promised eternal life before ages began
We could not be so sure where not for the fact that we are hoping in something that God promised us before the time began. This shows that is firmly established by God upon His own initiative and so nothing can go wrong since it depends on Him alone. See Ephesians 1:3-10 and 2Timothy1:9
ii)                God who made the promise never lies
Cretans were liars but the character of the eternally thrice holy God does not lie, he cannot lie, he never lies because He is faithful and cannot disown Himself (2Tim 2:13) and on this premise the Christian hope is sure and secure.
iii)              God has manifested this promise to us at the proper time by His word
God has revealed this promise to us which makes it binding because of His holy character to keep it. We are sure because it has been made public to us by God Himself and we know He will honor His word.
iv)               God has entrusted this message to preachers by His command
The gospel message bringing in knowledge and faith thus hope, continue to be preached to invite others to come to this hope f eternal hope. This makes us sure that our hope is founded on the promises of God and will come to pass. The promise, the character and the gospel message and messengers are the hope for us.
Paul commends Titus such a Christian in that he is his true son in a common faith.  This is to say that Titus has such a saving faith that Paul has. Titus has the same desire to grow and increase in the genuine faith as Paul in this they are one. Just like Paul, Titus was nurturing and promoting the faith of other people in the knowledge of truth, faith and hope – for these he lived. Titus has a true knowledge of God and his promises revealed in the gospel and a hearty confidence in God and in His redemptive, Christ centered love. We have Titus very well commended in the letter to the Corinthians in the second letter 9 times:
Just to have a glimpse of who Titus was in the ministry, Paul says, “But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you.” So Titus was appointed by the churches to travel with Paul and co. to take their contributions to Jerusalem. Titus is Paul’s partner and fellow worker for their benefit (8:16-24). Titus and Paul acted in the same spirit (12:18). They indeed had a common faith.
Paul therefore wishes Titus the very best from God – grace (the unsolicited and unmerited favor to overflow in him in Christ) and peace (the reconciled relationship with God). These two most gracious blessing are appropriated to the Christians believers by the Lord Jesus Christ and comes form God the Father.
God the Father is here called the Saviour (although a little strange, salvation is planned and effected by the Triune God, so there is nothing strange in this little but profound statement.) Jesus Christ is the Saviour with the Father (and the Spirit).

APPLICATION:

v  We are Christians, aren’t we? Much has been entrusted to us in terms of knowledge. What have we done with it? Has it translated to a more godly life? Do we love the Lord more and fear the Him more? Do we feel, think and do as those who belong to the family of God?
v  What do you have to show for your faith? Is it godliness?
v  What do you have to show for your knowledge of the truth? Have you sought to share it?
v  What is the anchor of you hope of eternal life?

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