Titus 1:1-4 Paul

Sun, 17/05/2015 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

Today we start a series of sermons looking together at the letter of Titus. It’s a short letter, written by Paul. Most of Paul’s letters were to churches. Titus was written to an individual, Titus. Although, as we’ll see, he very much expected the church to be eavesdropping.

I think it’s going to be really exciting to look at Titus. But it’s just possible that not everyone shares my excitement. So I thought we’d think today about why this is such a good way to spend the next few Sundays.

It might seem an odd to look at a letter written by Paul.

The past few months, we looked together at part of Matthew’s gospel. That meant we got to look at the things that Jesus said and did. It’s obvious why a Christian would want to do that. But why would we want to read something written by Paul? Who was Paul anyway?

In fact, Paul is decidedly out of fashion in certain circles today. The result of last week’s General Election will have greatly pleased some of you, and worried others of you. One Church of England clergyman posted online that it was quite unacceptable. Literally. Christians simply aren’t to accept the result. He was then challenged, as happens if you post stuff online. “Didn’t Paul write that we should submit to the governing authorities, because they’ve been put in place by God”? To which the clergyman replied, “He was wrong”. “You’re saying God is wrong?” “No, who said anything about God? Paul was wrong”.

That’s a move I encounter more and more frequently. You see how the thinking goes: Paul just wrote his own ideas. We’re free to disagree with him. You can’t trust what he wrote – not for certain. Like the rest of us, he made mistakes. We certainly don’t have to live in the light of them. Paul’s writings are simply one man’s opinions, they’re pretty outdated views at that.

So some people would go further than not sharing my excitement at a few weeks in Titus together. They’d say it’s a misguided way to spend our time. We should look at Jesus, not Paul.

Well, happily, Paul introduces himself as Titus opens. He sets out who it is that’s writing this letter. He tells us how he fits into God’s grand plan, and how he fits into our lives today.

So why should we read Paul’s letters? Why should we spend time studying Titus together?

3 reasons.


First, Paul’s writings are life-changing. Life-changing.

Just look at verse 1. Paul is teaching the truth. “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth.” Paul travelled around the Mediterranean teaching, because he wanted people to know the truth. He wrote his letters because he wanted to build people’s faith up. There’s lots to learn by reading Paul’s letters.

But that’s not the end of it. Verse 1 goes on: Their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.

We learn the truth so that we can change the way we live. Habits dropped, new ones developed, character is formed, and so on. God’s truth is life-changing truth. Reading Paul’s letters is life-changing.

When I took my driving test, you went out on the road with a driving examiner. It was terrifying. Before you got into the car, he’d ask you to read a number plate so many yards ahead. Check you can see where you’re going. And before you started the engine, he’d ask you three questions about the Highway Code. What does a red traffic light mean? That kind of thing.

Not long after I passed, the theory test came in. Now, as many of you know, you have 57 minutes to answer a full 50 questions. But it would be strange, wouldn’t it, if they eventually got rid of the road test. All you had to do was the theory. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never driven a car in your life. As long as you know the theory, you can have a license.

And yet that’s how some people view the Christian life. It doesn’t matter how you live. As long as you know the theory. Full notebooks. Overloaded bookshelves. And you’re a mature Christian.

But, no. Paul’s writings are life-changing. The knowledge of the truth leads to godliness, to Christ-like behaviour. Not all at once, but little by little, life changes.

Christianity is not a philosophy, teaching you how to think. Or, at least, it doesn’t stop there. God wants to train us how to live, how to live like him.



Second, Paul’s writings are life-saving. Life-saving.

God doesn’t just want us to pull up our socks. He doesn’t just want us all to live as slightly better neighbours, making the world a better place.

We need rescuing. We need forgiveness for the past. We need safe passage through the judgement to come. Ultimately, we need transforming into renewed people, who no longer sin, who are not just a bit more like God, but who are every bit the people God made us to be.

The good news is: This is what God wants to do for us.

The letter of Titus has a slightly unusual way of speaking about God. Almost all the other of Paul’s letters have a greeting in the opening verses. It goes like this: Grace and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Now have a look at verse 4: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.

And look at the end of verse 3: entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour.

The God of Titus is a rescuing God. A saving God. A God who rescues people out of hell, for heaven.

If you enjoy super-hero movies, there’s some appeal in the character who is strong enough, has enough superpowers, to turn up at the last minute, and rescue people from all manner of perilous situations. I happen to think that part of the appeal of that is built-in to us. We’re hard-wired to look for our rescuer, because God is the ultimate super-hero. He didn’t save us with magical super powers. He saved us by dying on the cross. It’s not spectacular. Shameful, even. But highly effective. It worked.

We said Paul’s writings are life-changing. They are. But that training us in godliness is just a step along the road. The end of the road is being rescued for all eternity. Verse 1: The knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – in hope of eternal life.

Paul’s writings are life-saving.


Life-changing. Life-saving. And third, trustworthy.

We’ve got to be clear: Paul is not just giving us his own ideas.

God’s plan goes back a long way. Verse 2: In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. God planned to save his people even before time began. Before he’d made the earth, the sun or one person, God planned to save his chosen people from their sins. He’d do it by sending his own son to die and rise again. The two of them agreed every detail of what would be done.

Then it was time to create the people who’d need to be rescued. Until finally, just the right time came. Time to put the plan into operation. Jesus lived, died and rose. And then people needed to be told God had to make sure we knew what it was he’d just done. It would be no good God having a great plan to save us, if nobody knew. Even more tragic would be if we misunderstood. If people watched Jesus die, and got it all wrong. Drew the wrong conclusions.

Well, God is not a God to leave anything to chance. He’d gone to the trouble of making his plan to save us. He was going to make sure that we all knew what he’d done. And his answer, was Paul. God would make sure Paul understood it all perfectly. Then Paul could pass it on.

Verse 3 – promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Saviour.

And in case we think Paul’s an egomaniac, with ideas above his station, we have to remember that Peter and the other apostles recognised this unique role that Jesus had given to Paul.

Each month, we contribute to a food bank in Sevenoaks run by a number of local churches. They do a fantastic job, but probably only scratch the surface in terms of the number of families that could use the help. Imagine that a local millionaire, would open the doors to his triple garage every Tuesday morning. He’d take out the cars, and fill the space with tables laden with the finest food. Here’s the deal: Anyone who genuinely needs the food can help themselves.

That would be a wonderfully generous thing to do. But it would be useless if they told nobody. It’s not just that the news needs to get out. It does. But it has to be explained that this food is there to be taken. Unless the millionaire sets out his thinking clearly, people wouldn’t want to come and steal.

God sent his Son to die to save the world. It was a wonderfully generous thing to do. But it would be useless if he told nobody. It’s not just that the news needs to get out. It does. But it has to be explained that Jesus death was to rescue us. That it was to pay for our sins. That the way to say “yes please” is to follow Jesus.

He had to explain what he’d done, and that was Paul’s job. Which is why the early churches kept his letters. These were not just the memoires of someone they were fond of. These were God himself making known his plans. Plans formed in eternity past. Plans put into effect at this moment in time. Plans revealed through this man’s writings.

Paul’s writings were not just his own thoughts. They were God’s thoughts.

Can we trust them? They are as trustworthy as God is. And it’s time to notice the little phrase in the middle of verse 2. God, who does not lie. Or, perhaps more literally, God who cannot lie. The unlying God. He’s not capable of saying anything untrue. He could never mislead anyone. Which means that Paul’s letters do not contain anything untrue either. We can trust them absolutely.

Paul’s writings are trustworthy. Because he writes God’s words. And God is trustworthy.


So why is it exciting to be spending a few weeks in Titus together? Why is it thrilling that the Holy Spirit has preserved Paul’s writings for us?

Because they will tell you how to be changed into the people God wants us to be, people like him.

They will tell you how to be rescued from our past sins, and how to be saved for all eternity.

And they are as dependable as the God who is literally incapable of lying.

Website Section: 
Sermon Series: 
Additional Terms