This sermon was originally preached in 2016.
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 Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior
Titus 1:2-4 ESV
Last week, in the opening of our study on Titus, we saw Paul’s twin self-identifications and purposes. He readily called himself both a slave and an apostle of Christ. As a slave, he placed his life entirely into the hands of his Savior, and as an apostle, he considered himself sent into the world to proclaim the good news that Jesus saves. The sent-servant then expressed that he slaved to increase the faith and knowledge of the truth in God’s chosen people, growing them toward godliness.
We conclude Paul’s greeting this week as he continues to provide his motivation for writing to his disciple. If strengthening the faith and knowledge of God’s elect was Paul’s purpose, then the hope of eternal life is his goal. Hope is the future expectation of faith. While faith is the daily assurance of things hoped for, hope is faith in the things to come. We are saved through faith, and our hope is in the completion of our salvation.
Paul goes on to explain that our hope of eternal life is secured by a promise from God, who never lies, and is manifested in God’s word through preaching. This emphasis upon God’s trustworthiness was likely especially poignant in comparison to the unreliability of the Greek and Roman gods. Finally, Paul closes his greeting by reminding Titus of the grace and peace that we have in God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE // VERSES 2-3
If the first verse of Titus was the purpose for Paul’s writing, this is his aim or goal. His purpose is to strengthen the faith and knowledge of God’s elect, but his aim is that they would have faith that leads to a hope in eternal life. Hope is the sort of word that we may feel we understand, but when thinking upon it deeply, we realize that we cannot explain it. It is similar to how Augustine said that he knew abstract concepts when he did not have to say anything about them, but when asked about them, he did not know them anymore. What then does hope mean? What does it mean to hope in something?
Nowadays, we use many words outside their biblical understandings. Hope is one such word. We use it quite frivolously as a substitute for “wish”. Biblical hope is much concrete and certain. Hope is tied to faith. The two cannot be separated. Faith is believing in God, trusting in and having confidence in Him. Faith means we have the ability to walk with God. A parachute is a great analogy for faith. We may say that we trust a parachute to support us, but actually jumping out of a plane is a realistic indicator of that confidence. Faith is believing in God. If faith is walking with God in trust on a daily basis, it is then a present living hope. And hope is the future goal of faith. Hope always seems to bring a future tense along with it. Hope is, by definition, looking forward to something. It is looking into the future and having faith that something will happen. Hope is future faith, and faith is present hope. The two are intertwined.
Romans 8:23-25 says that all of creation “groans inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” This is Paul saying that just as creation is groaning for everything to be set back into order, for God to destroy sin once and for all, we are also longing for God to give us the redemption of our bodies. This means that one day our bodies will be without sin. One day we will have fleshly and physical bodies that are not longer subject to sin. We groan for that day. In this hope, we are saved. That longing for glorification with Christ is the hope for which we are saved. That life spent in God’s presence, loving Him for all eternity without sin, is our hope of eternal life.
If our faith is not grounded in hope of eternal life, then it has no substance. This hope is also tied into the godliness of verse one because if our hope is truly set on eternal life, we will live differently in the present. You cannot know that you were made for eternity and live like everything is dependent upon the now. If you truly know that what truly matters are things and events that happen ten billion years from now, there will be things in this life that become small. If we simply look at our lives over the span of seventy to one hundred years, there may be problems that look and feel massive, but if we view them from a fixation of eternity, many of our troubles become very small. Hope of eternity leads to a transformed life in the present.
God, Who Never Lies, Promised
This is the first of two securities that Paul provides for our hope of eternal life. We can have faith in our future hope because God promised it. God promised before the ages began (Eph. 1:4). God set into motion our salvation before Genesis 1:1 ever happened. If there is any person’s promise that we can trust, it is God. Paul did not have to place the clause “who never lies” in the verse. There are likely two reasons for including that clause.
First, remember that at this point in the first century, most of Paul’s fellow citizens worshiped Greek or Roman gods. Any quick reading of such mythologies will show that these gods were liars and cheaters for their own personal gain, and this was not exclusive to Greeks and Romans. Most societies lived in fear because their gods were selfish and less than honest. Paul, however, reminds Christians that our God is different. He loved us so much that He died for us. Our God is loving and completely truthful.
Second, Paul could be setting God as opposite to Satan. Jesus warns in John 8:44 that the devil is “a liar and the father of lies.”
Manifested in His Word
Our second security that our hope will not fail us is that God has manifested that hope of eternal life in His word. Do you want to be able to see the promises of God for security? Look then to the Scriptures. The hope has literally appeared in His word. To remember and fix our eyes upon the hope of salvation, we turn to the Bible. We do not seek inward mediation or outward performances. We read God’s words, hearing what He says to us.
Romans 10:13-17 describes the importance of learning the word of God through preaching:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 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? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
In order to get this hope of eternal life, we must call upon the name of the Lord, and He will save us. We trust in Him as our hope, security, and salvation. But then Paul brings us through a succession of questions and answers. How can someone call on Him if they have not believed? How can they believe if they have not heard? How can they hear without someone preaching? It should go without saying that God could save anyone by appearing to them visibly; however, His principle way of working is to use us. Though He could do everything Himself, He chooses to let us be a part of it, to use us as His instruments. He wants to give us the joy of being a piece of His redemption of the world.
Of course, there is a special entrusting upon those called to preach the word before a congregation; however, pastors and teachers are not alone entrusted with the proclamation of the Scriptures. Instead, in a very real way, everyone is a preacher, as a Christian. We are all called to declare the word of God. For most of us, this proclamation will happen on an intimate or interpersonal setting, such as with coworkers or family members. We are each commanded by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer in Christ, you have been entrusted with the gospel. God does not simply give the gospel to save us but gives it to us to share with others so that we can be the means through which God saves people.
MY TRUE CHILD // VERSE 4
Though we know little about Titus, most scholars assume that Titus came to know that Lord through Paul’s ministry and then became Paul’s disciple. Paul uses the same terminology of child with Timothy, who was very close to the apostle. Thus, Timothy and Titus may have been Paul’s spiritual children in the faith.
The phrase “in a common faith” would have had a special meaning with Titus. We do know that Titus was a Gentile and that he was uncircumcised (Gal. 2:3). Circumcision was a massive issue within the first century church (as we will see later in the letter). In short, beginning with Abraham, circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with His people, Israel. Most of the first Christians were also Jewish, so they began to ask about circumcision’s role in following Christ. Eventually, the church fully concludes that because Jesus alone is necessary for salvation, circumcision should not be required of Gentile Christians. If we make anything other than Christ necessary for salvation, we create a false gospel. Thus, Paul writes this phrase (“in a common faith”) in order to emphasize that the uncircumcised Titus is of a common faith with all other Christians. Paul essentially put his arm around Titus, including him in the Christian faith and brotherhood.
Grace & Peace | Father & Savior
This is one of Paul’s favorite greetings to give, his proclamation of blessing to other brothers and sisters in the faith. Grace and peace represent the culmination of both testaments. Grace is the summation of the New Testament. It is the free gift of God that we have received in Christ Jesus. Grace encapsulates the New Testament ideas better than just about any other.
Likewise, peace is a summation of the Old Testament theology. In Hebrew, it is shalom. Though we translate it to peace, it is actually far more. Biblical peace also meant a perfect harmony with God. Sin severed our relationship to God, but the gospel has restored our shalom with Him. God’s grace has given us His peace.
He then states that this grace and peace come from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Paul has already called God our Savior, which is a favorite of Paul in this letter. Savior is used twelve times in the New Testament, and six of those are found in Titus. By calling both the Father and Jesus our Savior, Paul affirms the divinity and deity of Christ. Therefore, this opening greeting is a concise and succinct summation of the gospel across both testaments of Scripture.