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How a man introduces himself can be very revealing. We may quickly learn about his origins, background, work, etc. Often he will begin with what is most significant for his identity. This applies to the Apostle Paul at the beginning of his letters. In a few words he can get to the heart of his gospel ministry. Here he writes to Titus, one of his Gentile converts who was left by Paul to complete the establishment of the church in Crete. We consider Titus 1:1-3 A gospel to proclaim.
1. Gospel goals
As Paul introduces himself as ‘a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ’ (v1), he sets out the goals of his ministry. Though not apostles, we are servants with a ministry. Note:
- Faith: ‘for the faith of God’s elect’. His first aim is to build the faith of God’s people. He desires that people will come to faith in Christ and grow in that faith. There is no other way to salvation. Behind the sinner’s response is the sovereign election of God (see Ephesians 1:4, Acts 13:48). This gives great hope in our gospel ministry.
- Knowledge: Paul aims to increase believers’ ‘knowledge of the truth’. This is not salvation by intellect, but knowledge of the basics of the gospel is essential. This knowledge is relational – knowledge that feeds a living relationship with the Triune God.
- Godliness: the outworking of this ‘leads to godliness’ – a life of devoted service to the Lord and increasing likeness to him. This is a proof of the genuineness of a profession. God empowers and is the pattern for Christian living (1 Peter 1:16).
2. Gospel hope
Paul turns to consider ‘the hope of eternal life’ (v2), the foundation of faith and knowledge. Biblical hope is confident expectation, full of certainty (Romans 5:5). Note 2 aspects of hope:
- Eternal life: ‘the hope of eternal life’ (v2). We already possess eternal life (John 5:24), but resurrection glory lies ahead, with the end of death itself (Revelation 21:4)
- Sure promise: a wonderful reminder from ‘God who does not lie’ – he cannot and will nor break his word. He ‘promised before the beginning of time’ and his promise is absolutely certain. Our hope is not built on us but on God’s sure promise and cannot fail.
3. Gospel preaching
How is the gospel to be made known? There is an application of Paul’s words to all believers:
- The time appointed: God’s work takes place ‘at his appointed season’ – an outworking of God’s sovereignty. All steps in the provision of salvation take place in ‘the fulness of time’ (Galatians 4:4). That provides great assurance in gospel work as he leads us.
- The message revealed: ‘he brought his word to light’. The gospel is a revealed message from the Lord, not the product of mere human reasoning. It is vital we understand our message is revealed truth, given by God himself.
- The messengers entrusted: ‘the preaching entrusted to me’. As an apostle Paul had a foundational ministry, but all believers are to be witnesses – Acts 1:8 was not fulfilled by the apostles alone. We have a great privilege and a great responsibility.