Becoming Bond-Servants (Titus 1:1, 4)
I. Titus the Trustworthy Representative (verse 4)
Titus’ assigned mission was to “set in order what remains and appoint elders” (Titus 1:5) in the new churches on the island of Crete. The churches faced a number of dangers: they didn’t yet have leaders, they were facing the opposition of false teachers, and they were living on an island known for its godlessness. One of the functions of this letter is to put Paul’s stamp of approval on Titus in the eyes of the churches, making sure they know that Paul has appointed him in Crete as his apostolic representative for this task. Though Titus was still a young man at this point (Titus 2:6-7), Paul was certain that he would be true and faithful to what Paul had taught him, which is why Paul calls him his “true child in a common faith.” As the letter was read out loud to the churches, they would have heard from this introductory greeting that it was written by the Apostle Paul, they would have heard that Titus is designated by Paul himself as his representative, and they would have heeded Titus’ authority—despite his age—in the same way they would have heeded Paul’s.
- This same pattern of authority and representation is true of all leaders in the church today. It’s an authority given solely for the purpose of leading God’s people in the truth of God’s word. When authority is used for any other purpose than promoting the truth of God, it’s an ungodly abuse of it. How should this affect the way we view and treat the leaders God has placed over us? How should it affect the way we listen to sermons?
II. Paul, the Apostle Slave
Typical to letters of his day, Paul begins the letter by introducing himself as the author, and he describes himself as an Apostle Slave. On the one hand, Paul is a man of authority, because he is an Apostle of Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, Paul is a man of full submission, as a bond-servant of God. In fact, first in Paul’s order of priorities is not his authority, but his submission. Paul was, first of all, a bond-servant, before he was an Apostle.
The word that Paul uses is literally “slave.” Whatever the reason might have been for a person to become a slave (financial debt, crimes committed, etc.), it meant the complete relinquishment of all personal rights. They were now considered the property of another. All believers, the moment they are joined to Christ, objectively become slaves of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:15). We have bought with a price; we belong to Him. When we are saved, we are set free from all that we were once enslaved to (sin, fear, guilt, condemnation), in order that we might become slaves of God (Galatians 5:1, Romans 6:17-18). It is a slavery full of joy and delight in the will of God, just as Jesus became a slave to the will of His Father and delighted in doing what was pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:6-8; John 4:34).
- How does Romans 12:2 serve as great motivation for us to submit our lives entirely to the Lord’s will, as His bond-servants? Is there any good outside of God’s will? Is it ever wrong to do God’s will? What are the reasons you are, at times, sinfully reluctant to live as a bond-servant of God?
III. Paul’s Ministry: Faith, Truth, and Godliness
The first purpose of Paul’s ministry was the faith of those who are chosen. There is no greater incentive and confidence in evangelism than knowing that God will not fail in His determination to save His people (2 Timothy 2:8-10, Acts 18:9-10).
Second, he says his ministry was for the knowledge of the truth. To come to a knowledge of the truth is to come to a saving knowledge of the gospel, which then leads to an ongoing desire to know more of our Savior. Christians are to be always increasing in the knowledge of our God and our salvation (Colossians 1:9-10).
Third, if we truly come to a saving knowledge of the truth and are being built up in that truth, our lives will reflect it in growing godliness. It’s impossible for someone to truly come to a knowledge of the truth without having their lives being totally altered by that truth. Wherever knowledge is gained that doesn’t lead to godliness, it’s a sign either that it’s not really truth, or that we’re not really receiving it in faith.
- Because he is a slave of God, because he has been set apart as an apostle of Christ, he is also a slave to God’s people. If we love our Master, we will love what our Master loves, and will desire what our master desires. He loves His church, and so what more could we pursue than the salvation of the lost and the sanctification of those who are saved! In what ways are you becoming a bond-servant for the sake of those around you, specifically in pursuit of their faith, knowledge, and godliness?