The Grace to Grow
What is the key to growing as a Christian? That is a question that is most likely asked quite often. Remember back when we had Christian bookstores? If you do, then you will also remember walking through the multiple aisles of books listed under the “Christian growth” section.
There is something driving all of those authors to write and publish their theories and suggestions about the best way to develop as a Christian.
What many of those books have in common are a list of steps we should follow including a list of tasks we should do. Most of those tasks and steps are really good. But they are still actions that are focused on our actions. When Paul wrote to Titus, he provided three chapters worth of actions to do and steps to follow to help the church in Crete become a spiritually mature body of Believers who are equipped for, and effective at, reaching the lost for Christ. But, before Paul launches into his list of things to do, he begins by focusing Titus’ mind on one foundational concept that must be embraced by every Believer: pursuing grace.
Paul begins his letter to Titus by stating the most important things about himself: his identify (who he is), and his occupation (what he does). “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…” (Titus 1:1)
The word “servant” or “bond-servant” in our text is translated from the Greek word “Doulos,” which is most accurately translated as “slave.” When the word is used as a verb, it means “to bind.” To be the slave of someone means that you are bound to them. Saying that you are a slave of someone is a much stronger statement than just saying that you are a servant. There is a different Greek word for servant. It is the word that Paul uses in 1 Timothy to describe the office of “deacon.”
Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chooses to use the word slave. What is he saying? Paul is saying that he is bound (tied) to Christ as a slave is bound (tied) to his master. To most of us, if someone is called a slave, it would be like calling you a bad name. Most people believe that being successful in life means that you are served, not serving. But for the Believer, the idea of success is different from the world’s.
For the true Believer, the word “slave” communicates ownership, possession, loyalty, dependence, and submission. Saying he is a slave of God; Paul communicates that he has surrendered completely to Christ as his Master…his owner.
That is the very same position that you and I are in…those who have responded to faith in Christ. We have been purchased from the slave market of sin. (1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 2 Cor. 5:15) Christ paid the penalty for our sins that we could never pay on our own and purchased us. If you have responded to faith in Christ... If you are truly a born-again Believer, then the reality is that Jesus owns you. — He is your master, and you are His slave.
Paul knew who he was. He could have boasted about being the best Pharisee in the world, of the highest pedigree, with the best education. But, he didn’t. He considered all those things as garbage…compared to his true identity…the truth that defined him...he is slave of God.
If a slave of God was his identity (who he is), then what does he tell us was his occupation (what he does)? “…an apostle of Jesus Christ...” (Titus 1:1a) What did Paul do? He apostled. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ.
The word “apostle” basically means sent one. It carries the meaning of “messenger.” In the first century, the word was sometimes used of the lowliest person who carried a message on behalf of someone else. “But the term was most often used to describe a special messenger, a type of ambassador who was sent with a specific message and spoke with the authority of the one who sent him.”
The messenger or apostle’s authority did not come from himself, but from the one who sent him. So, Paul is saying that his highest occupation in life...is being a messenger boy for Jesus. Paul, the leader of the 1st century world-wide missions’ movement, was boldly proclaiming the reality that he was under the divine authority of the Godhead.
As soon as Paul lets Titus know what the most important characteristics about him are, he presents Titus with the grace of God. The fact that Paul is able to call himself a slave of God and apostle of Jesus shows us the measure of God’s grace. Paul was at one time a persecutor of Christ’s church and a murderer of Christ’s people. Paul was an enemy of Christ. (Acts 7:58, 9:1-4, 22:4-5, 26:9-11)
But now this persecutor of the church calls himself an apostle, a chosen messenger of Christ. The fact that Jesus would…and could use Paul helps us to begin to understand the vastness of God’s grace. It’s so much greater than what we can imagine. God will pardon the worst of sinners and will grant useful service to those whose sin is unspeakable... And all the while there is no human reason why God would express such a divine love...except grace.
When you read Paul’s opening greeting to Titus, he isn’t communicating what must be done to qualify as one of God’s elect, but instead speaks of the faith that characterizes those who belong to God. Those who believe are “God’s elect,” meaning their eternal status is determined by the love of God’s heart...not the work of human hands.
The grace of God is the priority in Paul’s mind. Paul is more concerned that Titus is more focused on growing in a committed relationship with God rather than having a bunch of head knowledge of religious facts. So, he spends the rest of his introductory greeting expressing the characteristics of God from which His grace flows.
If you were to read through Titus 1:1-4, you would see that God is a God who chooses; edifies; is the hope giver; is truth; is the eternal promise keeper; is planning/purposeful, entrusting, commanding, unifying, grace giving, and peace providing; and is our Father and Savior. All those characteristics and more are the truths about God: who He is, and from which His grace flows.
Our growth in godliness is rooted in and driven by our understanding of God’s grace. Our embracing of God’s grace will flow from our understanding of God’s character. When individuals become absolutely convinced that their standing before God is based completely on God’s grace and not on any goodness in themselves...true peace and contentment come.
Do you want to grow as a Believer? I hope so. Did you know that you can do all the Bible studies and Christian service events in the world and still not truly grow unless you first come to the place where you understand the Truth…that without God’s grace, it is not possible? God’s grace and mercy enable us to be able to grow and serve. Without embracing grace...our worship of...and service to the Lord will be empty and misdirected.
As Paul prepares Titus to hear all the advice and instruction that will follow his greeting, Paul points Titus to the grace of God. I think that Paul wanted Titus to understand that his focus on embracing grace and growing the quality of his relationship with the Lord was to be placed first. As Titus would grow in the quality and depth of his relationship with the Lord, then he would be enabled to prepare for the quantitative growth of the church.
The same principles that Paul shared with Titus can apply to our lives today. To prepare for all that the world and ministry will throw at you, you need to first and foremost understand, and fully embrace God’s grace.
Our godliness and spiritual development as individuals as well as the numerical growth of our local church ministries, are totally and absolutely dependent on and enabled by God’s grace.
Here is a link to our sermon archive: https://www.wellspringbiblechurch.net/archived-sermons
John F. MacArthur Jr., Titus, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 4.)