Learning to Grow in Godliness from Titus 1:1-4

As any parent can attest, the return to routine for children after the excitement of a holiday, especially Christmas, can prove quite challenging. However, the tension to return to routine allows for a parent to re-calibrate the relationship between parent and child. This provides opportunity for the parent to re-establish the parental plan for the child’s life.

A parent’s desire should be to let their children know God’s grace, help their child to grow in godliness, and to teach the child to respect the relationships that can help them know His goodness, both now and in the future.

God uses Paul’s letter to the young Titus to help teach about His parental plan for His children. Paul wrote to Titus, whom he left in Crete, to set right what was left undone and to appoint elders that would rightly represent Gospel living so that Christianity would remain in Crete for good, without false teaching interfering.

Titus was left in Crete to continue the work of establishing Christianity there. Paul had a mentoring relationship with the younger Titus and was entrusting him to lead the Christians in Crete. This allowed Paul to continue his work elsewhere, while mentoring Titus in how to grow as a leader.

In the opening greeting to Titus, the apostle Paul establishes his authority to address Titus and his purpose in writing:

Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to build up the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. In His own time He has revealed His message in the proclamation that I was entrusted with by the command of God our Savior:

To Titus, my true son in our common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:-4, HCSB)

Paul first identifies himself as being fully committed to being for the purposes of God and Jesus Christ, then states his purpose to “build up the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness, in the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:1-2). He was introducing his desire to build up faith and knowledge.

One area of concern Paul was quick to address was the struggle between grace from the law and the expectation to live rightly. A question that is still being wrestled with today, “If through salvation in Jesus Christ, one becomes free from the penalty of sin, why then should someone want to live according to rules that might restrict their freedom?”

Imagine for a moment two men sitting in an airplane preparing to jump from the plane. One man has a parachute on and the other does not. They both jump from the airplane. Which is more free as they fall from the plane towards the ground? Both are bound by the laws of physics that are pulling them closer to the ground, however only one has the freedom of enjoying the ride down and landing comfortably.

If there were no reason for Christians to remain on earth after being saved, then God would take Christians straight up to heaven after being saved. Since that is not the case, there is clearly a reason why Christians are left on earth between salvation and glorification. That purpose is to participate in God’s plan to reveal His glory to the nations. Christians help to reveal His glory by working toward becoming more like Him.

Paul’s letter to Titus is Paul’s attempt to help the Christians in Crete understand how to live their lives in a way that was not bound by the law, but not free to indulge in sin. The book of Titus helps readers to know that Christians “are to give one another a vision of the gospel that creates a life of good works, that changes our lives so that we are profitable in God’s service” (Titus For You, Tim Chester, p. 10).

The grace that has been received should in fact compel godliness. Hughes and Chapell in their commentary 1-2 Timothy and Titus: To Guard the Deposit writes, “Grace has an effect upon its objects. Those who learn that God’s love for them originates in forever past, extends to forever future, is proclaimed now at the command of God, required the blood of Christ, and allows repentance without fear of rejection will desire to honor the One who loves them so” (p. 310).

We must increase in our knowledge of God and live a life that rightly represents the Gospel in order to defend against false teaching, so that others will learn about Jesus through us. We live a life according to the Scriptures, not to prevent ourselves from being punished by the penalty of the law, but so that others may receive Jesus through seeing His goodness through us.

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