Friday, March 6, 2015

Our Savior – Titus 1:4

I am writing to Titus, my true son in the faith that we share. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior give you grace and peace. (NLT)
True Son
There must be a reason that Paul called Titus a true son. Paul described Timothy as a son because of the way the two of them worked together (Phil 2:22). He also addressed Timothy as his son without any explanation (1 Tim 1:18, 2 Tim 2:1). Timothy may have already been a believer before Paul met him (2 Tim 1:5) so it is most likely that Paul considered him a son because he mentored him and they worked together. The relationship is not as clear with Titus.
Perhaps the clearest connection why Paul called Titus his son can be found in Philemon 10, “I appeal to you for my child, Ones'imus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment” (RSV). Also, in 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul explains his status as the Corinthians’ father, “For in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (NASB). So it can be seen that when a person was led to Christ by the Apostle, he viewed it as becoming a spiritual father to the convert. Titus was a Gentile and most likely a convert through the ministry of Paul. The emphasis on calling him a true son would be a way of acknowledging that his salvation as a Gentile was no different from a Jew who became a Christ follower.

Shared Faith
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:1 RSV)
Paul said that he and Titus had a common faith (most translations). What was God trying to convey to us when Paul used the Greek word, koinos? Stong’s defines it as, “common, i.e. (literally) shared by all or several, or (ceremonial) profane.”[1] The faith of Paul and Titus was not common in the sense that it is of little value as silver became less valuable because it was common. “And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah”(1 Kings 10:27 ESV). Rather, their faith was the same as the faith that all Christians hold.
That brings up the question of what is common among Christians regarding faith. There are many who call themselves Christians and there is often great disagreement in what is really fundamental in order to be called a Christian. Where did the term start and why were they called Christians? “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26 KJV) answers the first part of the question.
The second part is not as simple. The word, Christian, only appears in Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says that the ending of the word –ianos, was originally used to denote a slave belonging to a great household. Sometime later, it was used to denote the adherents to an individual or party. The ISBE goes on to explain that Christians did not call themselves Christians, as its use was derogatory. In fact, Codex Sinaiticus reads "Chrestian." Chrestos was a common Greek slave name.[2] If you want to call yourself a Christian, then you should go back to the previous blog and see what it meant to be a servant or a slave of Christ.
Peter described our faith in Christ as being equal with his own. That may seem quite absurd, to compare our faith with Peter’s and call it equal. Yet that is the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ. One believer isn’t more saved than another. We are either saved or we are not; there is no vague middle ground where we are wavering in between the two. We will stand before the throne of Jesus holy and blameless in His sight (Jude 24). We may have different functions in the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12) and we may even have different rewards once we reach heaven (1 Cor 3:14). However, neither of these implies that our saving faith is anything different from any other Christian’s.
Grace and Peace
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2 KJV)
Our faith isn’t any different from anyone else’s. It is a gift from God the Father provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That faith provides our justification, which is a legal term meaning that our sins can’t be held against us. Hence the phrase, “Just as if we had never sinned.” The great thing about being justified through Jesus is that God is completely satisfied by Jesus’ death to pay the penalty. If it were you or me, we would still hold a grudge. We would simmer and seethe thinking that the person who sinned against us got off without paying the appropriate price. Indeed, it is true, we didn’t pay the appropriate price for our sins; Jesus did. There is no way we could pay the price because it takes the innocent blood of a pure sacrifice and Jesus is the only one who fits that description.
But God doesn’t hold grudges. It is through Jesus that we have access to His grace. In other words, since Jesus made the payment we must accept the terms, His death instead of ours. This is the only way to have peace with God.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24 NIV)
Paul said that we stand in grace. If we stand that means, we are not moving. We have arrived at our destination. Jesus assures us that the part of the journey to receive eternal life is over. We have crossed over, as it were, a huge chasm. On one side is death and on the other side is life. There is no in between. The bridge across is the cross of Christ. When we hear Jesus calling through His Word, respond by the power of the Holy Spirit, and step across, we are then standing in a new place called eternal life. Sure, there is growth and maturity for this land of eternal life is a broad place in which we have eternity to explore, but without our standing in Jesus, we wouldn’t even be here.

Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. (Lev 19:5 NASU)
The Old Testament is chock full of rules and regulations about the peace offering. There were various reasons for the different sacrifices. Some were to obtain forgiveness for a specific offence such as failure to adhere to the correct ritual performance of the Law or a moral infraction such as stealing. The peace offering was an appeal to God for fellowship. It was sometimes combined with a thank offering; however, it could not be made before a guilt offering if there was an outstanding offence. How could God accept a peace offering if someone had not first admitted his guilt and made the proper offering to receive atonement?
Now that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, we can come to God knowing that we have peace. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice or propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:1-2). Propitiation was a heathen rite that was used to win the favor or avert the anger of the gods.[4] The Old Testament sacrificial offerings were there to point the way to Jesus’ once for all offering of Himself for our sins. The problem with the Old Testament system is that while it averted God’s anger it was only temporary. The animal sacrifices were not perfect and had to be repeated. The atonement sacrifice for the sin of the nation was an annual ritual (Heb 9:6-7). The sinner’s conscience was not cleansed because the repetitive rituals reminded him of his sinfulness; he still knew he was guilty and that this ritual was necessary every year (Heb 9:9). However, the peace we have though Jesus Christ is the knowledge that we have been completely reconciled to God through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and that our conscience has been purified (Heb 9:11-14).
The Father and Jesus
Because we have grace and peace from God, it may be the reason that Christians don’t understand the references to the fear of God that is mentioned in the Old Testament. However, Jesus clearly indicated that there should be an element of fear when we think of God the Father. He said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:26 ESV). This is a dire warning for those who reject Jesus. In context, the concept of fearing God has two aspects. For those of us who trust in Jesus, it is as a holy reverence but also a mind-blowing realization that if we did not trust and follow Jesus, we would end up in hell. However, Jesus followed this by assuring us that we are more valuable than a sparrow that eventually dies and fall to the ground. While God cared for them during their life, their end is, well, the end. But it is not so for us, we have eternity with God the Father and Jesus.
Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. (Acts 2:43 NKJV)
We are so conditioned to believe that fear of God should always be reverence that this verse is translate by many versions to say that awe came upon people. The Greek does not validate that. It is the word, phobos,[5] from which we get the word phobia, a fear of something. This word is used fifty-seven times in the New Testament and each is translated afraid, fear, or terror in the King James Version. It describes the disciples’ reaction when they saw Jesus walking on the water (Matt 14:26), the guards’ reaction at the tomb when the angel rolled away the stone (Matt 28:4), and the shepherds’ fear when the angels announced Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8). To emphasize that there is still a need for us to be afraid of God, great fear or terror gripped the church after God killed Ananias and Sapphira because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). We should be afraid of God when we sin and act contrary to His will. We should also know that when we confess our sin and seek His face, He will restore us to fellowship (1 John 1:9).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8 NKJV)
This is a familiar verse but it points out just how grace and peace come from God the Father instead of fear of everlasting punishment. It tells how Jesus is our Savior. Jesus died around two thousand years ago. But in God’s cosmic timetable, it was while we were still sinners. Jesus died for my sins as if I had been there, a Roman soldier who scourged Him, mocked Him, put a crown of thorns on His head and pounded it into His scalp, and spit on Him (Mark 15:15-20). I would have been the one who pounded the nails in His hands and feet then gambled for His clothes (Matt 27:35). I would have been the thief who insulted Him (Luke 23:39). As much as I would rather identify with Peter or the thief who made a last minute confession, the truth is that until Jesus saved me, I would have done all those things to Him. Because of being a sinner, I am just as guilty as if I did it all before Jesus died.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. … You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 14:27, 15:14 ESV)
Between John 14:15 and John 15:17, Jesus tells about sending the Holy Spirit, His love of us, the Father’s love of us, peace, abiding in Jesus and the results. These are all tied together by obedience to God’s commands. While we know and understand that we have friendship with Jesus, it is a conditional friendship. We are only His friends if we obey Him. We don’t have fear of God, but peace when Jesus is in our hearts. Just to be clear, the obedience is not because we are good and it doesn’t earn our standing with God. It is a demonstration of the standing we have with God through Jesus. James put it well, “How foolish! Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:20 NLT).
Our Savior
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4 NKJV)
The phrase, our Savior, is not common in the Bible. Paul uses it nine times, Peter once and Jude once. Six of Paul’s uses are in the book of Titus. This is one of the reasons I like Titus. Paul uses the same phrase to indicate that God is our Savior (Titus 1:3, 2:10, and 3.4). After each of these references, he speaks of Jesus our Savior (Titus 1:4, 2:13, and 3:6). The conclusion is that Jesus and God are viewed equally in our salvation even though each has a different function. There would be no salvation without the Father or the Son. Later, we will see that Paul also shows that without the Holy Spirit, there would be no salvation as he explains His part (Titus 3:5).
A lot of people look at the book of Titus and remember that it is a pastoral letter telling Titus how to run a church. While this is true, there is also a lot of great theology where we can learn how to appreciate our Savior God and Savior Jesus Christ and grow in obedience and love of God.

[1] NT:2839 koinos (koy-nos'), Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc. 
[2] Ibid. “Christian.”
[3] Unfortunately, this drawing came in an email without any credits.
[4] International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. s.v. “propitiation.” You may think it strange that John used a heathen word to describe what Jesus did on the cross; however, there simply isn’t any Greek word that conveyed any closer meaning for what Jesus did on the cross as represented by the Hebrew words for an atoning sacrifice. The Hebrew word for atonement has a much broader meaning, including “to ‘cover,’ hence expiate, condone, cancel, placate; to ‘offer,’ or ‘receive a sin offering,’ hence, make atonement, appease, propitiate; ‘effect reconciliation,’ i.e. by some conduct, or course of action. Of the Greek words the meanings, in order, are ‘to be,’ or ‘cause to be, friendly’; ‘to render other,’ hence to restore; ‘to leave’ and with preposition to leave off, i.e. enmity, or evil, etc; ‘to render holy,’ ‘to set apart for’; hence, of the Deity, to appropriate or accept for Himself” (Ibid., “atonement”).
[5] NT:5401 phobos (fob'-os); from a primary phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright: (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. 2006 Biblesoft.)

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