Friday, January 15, 2016

Declare Good Theology: Part 1 – Titus 2:13-15

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. (KJV)

Declare It
In verse 15, most versions say we are to speak these things. Others are more dramatic saying we are to declare or must teach them these things. However, the emphasis is still there. Paul has just unloaded a significant amount of theology in one sentence. Starting with grace, which was covered before, and ending with our response, Paul has affirmed the deity of Jesus, his atoning sacrifice for our sins, and our sanctification. In most cases, this message is sufficient to encourage people or rebuke those who try to bring a different gospel.

When we are speaking the truth of the gospel and biblical theology, we have Jesus’ authority backing us up. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore …” (Matt 28:18-19 NASB). It would be a mistake of our authority to minimize or be ashamed of any of these doctrines. How would you feel if your doctor diagnosed you with appendicitis with words like, “I think you might have appendicitis, but it might be gas. So I’m going to take a survey of other patients and see what they think.” How ridiculous, but that is exactly what the world does with theology. We have a sin problem and the authoritative answer to the problem is in the Bible. However, those in opposition to the Bible look to philosophers, gurus, TV personalities, and other for remedies other than the cross of Jesus Christ.

When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matt 10:19-20 RSV)

Paul asserts that there is no reason for us to be despised when we share the counsel of God’s Word with others. OK, reality tells us that many will despise us and the Bible affirms that some will even be arrested for sharing the gospel. But look at the assurance we have when we yield to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit will speak through us. God the Father through His Spirit will be speaking. When using the gifts God gives us, we are speak oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11). So, when Paul says, “Let no one despise you,” he isn’t saying that we should put someone in a headlock and make him say, “Uncle.” But he is letting us know that what they think can’t be what drives our sense of worth. We are not out to please men but to please God. Man’s attitude toward us is not to what we use to measure our success.

Going back to verse 13, let’s look at some of this great theology that we are to declare. I’m not going to take the doctrines in the same order that Paul presented them.

God and Savior Jesus Christ
To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 25 NASB)

Take a good look at what Jude says here and what Paul says in verse 13. Jude says that God is our Savior through Jesus but Paul says that Jesus Christ is our God and Savior. Are they saying the same thing in two different ways or are they contradicting each other? If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you have been confronted with the doctrine of the Trinity, One God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the way orthodox Christianity explains how the Bible can call Jesus God and Savior as well as the Holy Spirit Lord.

However, the doctrine of the Trinity is probably one of the hardest things for us to explain and understand. It was not easy for the early church patriarchs and it has not become any easier for us in the 21st century. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to explain it completely and satisfactorily in this blog. However, Titus has always been one of my favorite books when it comes to recognizing that the Trinity is a solid biblical doctrine.

Starting in Titus 1:3, Paul says that God is our Savior. Then in the very next verse he calls the Father God and Jesus our Savior. Again in 2:10, he reiterates God is our Savior, followed by verse 13 where we see Jesus is our God and Savior. Once again in 3:4, he states God is our Savior followed by stating that Jesus is our Savior in 3:5. Three times in three chapters Paul reaffirms that God the Father and Jesus Christ are both God and Savior. The conclusion must be inescapable that God is at least both Father and Jesus Christ.

Salvation is also described in 3:5 as we are washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. While this is not as strong evidence that the Spirit is also God, we can turn to other verses that describe the way the Spirit works in our salvation. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 also states that we are sanctified through the Spirit when we are saved. In this Because the Holy Spirit is active in our salvation, He is also Savior. To show that He is also God, we can turn to 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “Now the Lord is the Spirit … For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (ESV). Clearly, only God is Lord and Paul unequivocally says that the He is the Spirit.

The way Paul switches the words around in his writing it is clear that Paul recognizes the equality of the three persons of the Trinity. But the question could be asked, is the Trinity an invention of Paul? Not at all. Jesus clearly set the standard when He commissioned the disciples. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19 NIV). He did not specify baptism in His own name, just the Father, or any other combination. Equality of the Persons of the Trinity and the singleness of our one God is firmly established in the New Testament.

For to us a child is born, to us  a son is given;  and the government shall be  upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful  Counselor,  Mighty God,  Everlasting  Father, Prince of  Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace  there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it  with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isa 9:6-7 ESV)

The Old Testament is not as clear about the Trinity as is the New Testament. However, there seminal verses like Isaiah 9:6-7 that should make any thinking person understand that the truth of the Trinity is also contained in the Old Testament. The incarnation is predicted in the coming of the Messiah and His description cannot be misunderstood. His equality with God the Father and identification with Him is overwhelming: Might God, Everlasting Father. He is to be a son and He will rule forever. The child that is born will never die and reign as the Sovereign of the world. As in Titus, the Spirit is in the background and not as evident. While the Old Testament did not identify the Holy Spirit as the Wonderful Counselor, He is identified as the Counselor in John 14:26 (NIV and RSV).

The use of ’ĕlŏhîm, the plural name for God when the singular was also available,[1] is used throughout the Old Testament. Every time God is mentioned in Genesis 1, the plural form of God is used. In verse 26, it is clear that this is not just a convention of writing but a keen way of showing that the one God of the Old Testament is more complex than a single person. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’” (Gen 1:26 NIV). Not only is the plural used for God, but the plural is applied to His action and His likeness.

Next time, I’ll continue with more of the doctrines contained in these verses.

[1] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: the Doctrine of God, (Wheaton. Ill: Crossway, 2006), 418-419, Kindle.

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