This past Sunday we wrapped up our brief seven week series on Titus. Riccardo preached on our final text, Titus 3:9-15, in which Paul continued to exhort the church in Crete to advance the gospel and be a church that serves others in Jesus’ name. If you would like to hear the sermon for the first time or hear it again, please do so here.
But before we land there, let’s do a quick recap of the prior six weeks of our journey through the letter.
Pastor Ricardo kicked off the first sermon explaining Paul’s purpose for his letter to Titus (Titus 1:1-9). Paul was sending a letter to the church at Crete which was primarily composed of gentiles and didn’t have a historical background of the Old Testament or knowledge of the one true God of Israel. Paul first explained how he was called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, not by his own will, but divinely appointed by God in his service. We are reminded that this call is all for our sake, who are the elect of God, that we may grow up to maturity in Christ, building up the body in the knowledge of God for his glory and our ultimate good. God, who never lies, has given us eternal life and sealed us for the future glory to come. Pastor Ricardo set up the history and background of the church at Crete so that listeners can grasp the message in more detail, and to remind us that the focus continues to be gospel believing produces gospel living.
In week two, Pastor Tyler Johnson, our lead pastor over all of Redemption Church, preached on Titus 1:10-16. Paul’s focus was on Titus appointing Godly leaders who understood and lived out the gospel in everyday life, while rejecting and recognizing false teachers. The leaders were exhorted to continue to model godly character in their ministry and their own households. Paul addressed how older, and younger man/women, are to teach each other. He also addressed slaves and masters and how they should conduct themselves in reference to godly living. For those who were appointed as elders by Titus, Paul gave sound requirements. All elders should be humble, able to teach sound doctrine, have a heart of service, patient, not addicted to wine, not greedy, manage their households well, and ultimately, live above reproach while advancing the gospel. They are to be leaders who model and are convicted by what they believe and do so in all of life.
The following week, Riccardo preached on Titus 2:1-10, in which Paul told Titus to make sure sound doctrine is preached. Everything stems from understanding the truth of God’s word. But even with his word, there have been many, for one reason or another, who have swerved from the truth, teaching others with authority to do the same. It’s very unfortunate and causes many to miss the point of God’s command. When error is taught then the only direction for the hearers is to live in error. Truth flows from God’s word and so sets the order of things. Paul exhorts Titus that…
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
This is God’s command that leads to a healthy, well-balanced church that thrives in submission to Christ.
In week 4, Riccardo preached on Titus 2:11-15. The focus of this portion of the letter is to exhort Titus to remind the church at Crete of the grace of God. As the church walks as one body in Christ, we should continue to rely upon God’s grace, which motivates us to live for Christ’s glory. Our lights should be shining brightly in our homes, work, recreation, and families in service to the Lord. Our freedom in Christ was bought at great cost and gives us the ability to live godly lives that are motivated to please our Savior. As we grow together, we are to motivate each other to live free in holiness, seeking to build up our brothers and sisters. This is when Grace appears.
Switching things up the next week, Will Vucurevich taught us from Titus 3:1-7. Here we asked, “What does it mean to “be ready for every good work?” Will honed in on this Scripture in bringing us back to the basics of having a heart of service. God loved and served us when he put on flesh to dwell among us, leaving us the best example of self-sacrifice. Paul told Titus to “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Simple enough, right? Seems that way until we actually encounter adversity and when our faith is tested. I recommend if you haven’t heard this sermon, take your time and check it out here. Let it soak in; you will surely be blessed!
In week 6, Riccardo zeroed in on a single verse, Titus 3:8, in which he fleshed out what it means to be devoted to good works while blessing others. Paul told Titus to let the saints at Crete “be careful to devote themselves to good works.” God reminds us in his word to be careful and make sure our focus is to bear fruit for his glory and the good of the body of Christ. God’s work in us leads us to good works that blesses others. Ricardo blessed us with an in-depth understanding of how to apply this text to our lives which are saved for good works.
Finally, in our seventh week, Riccardo wrapped things up preaching from Titus 3:9-15. He began this sermon with childlike story that has gospel principles. Being one of the coaches for two of his sons’ teams is a great joy of Riccardo’s. One of the stories he has told us a few times is about a natural athlete who has great gifts, but is misunderstood. “Boastful Bubba” is his name, and baseball is his game. The story starts off with kids who attend school with Bubba and began to realize he has natural ability that they would love to have. A few of the kids overheard Bubba boasting about his big muscles, nice shoes, great bat, and how good he is at baseball. A little girl approached him and asked where he his shoes and bat, physical fitness and athleticism. He admitted that all of these things came from his parents. The girl in essence was showing him he has no reason to boast. The next day, Bubba was doing the same thing. The little girl approached again to confront him but soon realized that he was in fact he was giving praise to his parents for all that he received from them. It’s a great story to remind kids not to be prideful, and hopefully it doesn’t bypass our hearing. We are reminded that all we have comes from our Father in heaven, and only God deserves our praise. Such a simple story; such a simple life in Christ.
Paul speaks to potential pride in verse 9, exhorting us to“… avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” Why is this so important for the church at Crete and for us believers today? Well, for starters, all of those things Paul mentioned point directly back to pride, and we know from James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Pride literally destroys communities and individual lives. We see it every day in the news. The pride Paul speaks of brings only division in the body and Christ and tears down all that it touches. The church in Crete had a number of Judaizers who wanted to put those free in Christ under ungodly laws that they were freed from in Christ. It was all for power and self-gratification.
I remember my years in college playing football. Our coaches were constantly appealing to us not to get caught up in our own glory. Looking back on it, there were quite a few Boastful Bubbas in the true sense of the name. Oh the stories I could tell. I use to think “I’m pretty sure these coaches are tired of reminding us that this is always going to be a team effort, and how there is no way one person can win a single game by himself.” Well, in a sport where you’re rewarded for standing out from the crowd, that proved to be a difficult task for many. I didn’t play enough in my mind to boast about much (which turned out to be great), but for those that did, the task of keeping their mouths zipped at times seemed too daunting. Such were the Judaizers of that day who crept into the church with their false teaching, probably being proud of their heritage. They wanted to subject the gentile believers to follow the Mosaic Law which Christ had already fulfilled.
In commenting on Titus, John Mac Arthur explains that “Except for the warning about false teachers and Judaizers, the letter gives no theological correction, strongly suggesting that Paul also had confidence in the doctrinal grounding of most church members there, despite the fact that the majority of them were new believers.” Pastor Ricardo gave a contrast to what the Judaizers were trying to teach by explaining “When you respond in such a way that you are building up others in the response to your love for Jesus, it is good for all people.” He continued explaining that Christ died so we would be one. Separating over nonessential “open-handed” issues only causes more division in the body. Ricardo quoted theologian Tim Chester:
It may be true that our preaching stresses the gospel. But our conversations so often stress controversy. The letters and emails stress controversy. The points that people raise stress controversy. We agree on the kindness of the Father, the renewal of the Spirit, the grace of the Son and the hope of eternal life. And these things are excellent and profitable. But we put our energy into controversies, quarrels. We do this even though Paul says these things are unprofitable and useless or worthless.” – Tim Chester
So what do we do if a person is divisive? Paul tells us to warn the person once, then twice, and if they continue to cause dissension, then we’re to no longer have dealings with them. Common sense assures us that if we continue communicating with this person, we are affirming their behavior and are not taking their sin seriously. God has no gray areas and will not put up with sin. It’s best that we follow his command to ignore the troublemaker. Perhaps our steadfastness and the Spirit’s urging will lead them to repentance.
Paul wraps up his letter with a theme that has been flowing through each section. “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” We are to serve the Lord by being fruitful and serving others. That means eliminating selfish ambitious, getting rid of pride, seeking God’s wisdom, trusting ourselves to the service of the Lord, eliminating unfruitful dissension, and serving those in need. And we can see this theme throughout the entire New Testament, starting with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who sets the perfect example of true love. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) May we strive daily to walk as our Lord walked as living sacrifices in service to our great God and Savior, with peace and power!