For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 2: The objective of the church’s mission

Author’s note: My faith is in Jesus Christ; therefore, I must rest in the Scriptures, which are inspired by God, inerrant, absolutely authoritative, and utterly sufficient. I am convinced the issues churches and individual Christians are facing today, including the controversies, could been null and void if we would only submit to the word. For that reason, I am blogging through Paul’s letter to Titus. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

The first post served as an introduction to this series and began to address the opening section of the letter, Paul’s introduction and greeting in Titus 1:1–4. Specifically, I wrote about Paul’s authorship, his statement of being a slave of God, and his affirmation of his own status as an apostle of Jesus Christ. As we continue, here is that text again, Titus 1:1–4 (NASB):

1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,

4 To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Ask your average attender of a modern evangelical church what the purpose of the church is and you might get as many answers as there are people whom you ask. Hopefully part of the answer includes something about the propagation of the gospel, the only means by which sinners are saved.

The content of the gospel of Jesus Christ – what it is and is not – will be the subject of one or more future posts in this series; however, in looking at Titus 1:1 we see the purpose of the church boiled down to rudimentary basics.

Paul introduces his letter by calling himself God’s slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Implied in that is obedience to what God desires and has decreed, and the reality that as those who have been freed from sin to become slaves of righteousness, we are His ambassadors, the plenipotentiaries of the Lord, to carry His message to the world. Yet, how is that accomplished?

“Evangelism” is the answer, right? But what constitutes evangelism is a matter of far too much debate nowadays. Some believe the church’s goal, or at least one of them, is to redeem the culture, such that those outside the church will come to see how much greater Jesus is and come to Him. That is a laudable aspiration, but misguided.

If you really want to get down to the brass tacks, the objective of the church’s mission is laid out very succinctly in verse one. It is “the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is in accordance with godliness.” Sadly, as I see it, this runs very much against the grain of modern evangelical churches – even a great many which would identify as conservative and with an inerrantist position on Scripture.

Continue reading “For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 2: The objective of the church’s mission”

For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 1: Identity, slavery, mission

Author’s note: My faith is in Jesus Christ; therefore, I must rest in the Scriptures, which are inspired by God, inerrant, absolutely authoritative, and utterly sufficient. I am convinced the issues churches and individual Christians are facing today, including the controversies, could been null and void if we would only submit to the word. For that reason, I am blogging through Paul’s letter to Titus. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

Along with the two canonical letters to Timothy, Paul’s letter to Titus is often referred to as a pastoral epistle, for the contents of the letter are, to a large degree, intended to instruct Titus, and by proxy local churches, how they ought to conduct themselves (c.f. 1 Tim 3:15). In other words, the pastoral epistles are about telling (no, commanding) the church how to be the church.

And I feel the need to emphasize from the outset that command part, because ours is a day in which many evangelical Christians are quick to say the Bible is the word of God. Many of those will also be quick to say the Bible is inspired by God, inerrant, authoritative, and even sufficient for us. Many say those things. But let’s be honest. Ours is also a day given to pragmatism in the church and the exaltation of feelings above all.

Pastors avoid preaching on hard topics because of how it might make someone feel (or the backlash they’ll get because of those feelings). Very few churches take the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin seriously enough to practice church discipline. Why? More than any other reason: feelings. And as a I write this, the biggest controversy on Christian social media is about comments one pastor made regarding Beth Moore, specifically, and women preaching more generally; and I would argue that controversy would not be a thing if many in the church weren’t, whether they realize it or not, elevating feelings even above their commitment to the word of God.

Now I realize that last statement might be enough to cause some of you to stop reading, or if you’ve clicked on this through Facebook, leave an “angry” face instead of liking it. I encourage you to wait, though. Be patient.

I realize in the age of Instagram, Facebook, and 280 character Twitter posts blogging is passé. Nevertheless, what I intend to start now and follow through to completion over the next few days or weeks is walk through Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the three pastoral epistles, and think through what it says, what it means – including what it means to the church and the implications thereof. So join me, and let’s look at Titus.

Continue reading “For the faith of those chosen of God (Titus 1:1–4) – Part 1: Identity, slavery, mission”

Our racist past, murderous present, and eternal hope

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Tomorrow is another anniversary. I post this in between intentionally.

I’ve been reminded in recent days about the sinfulness of sin when it comes to racism, particularly in this country. The 2011 film The Help has been playing on TNT in recent days, and it is one of the favorite films my wife and I can agree on. It’s just a wonderfully told story, a period piece of the South in the 1960s. It’s absolutely infuriating at times. That final scene where Abilene gets fired comes to mind. But more than that, it angers me that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations not only condoned such behavior, but took part in it.

That righteous anger was reinforced when my wife and I rented the recent film The Butler from Redbox the other night. It is the story of an African-American boy who sees his mother taken away to be raped and then his father killed before his eyes by a stereotypical white Southern plantation owner. He becomes a house servant and eventually leaves, circumstance taking him to the employ of the White House, where he serves from the Eisenhower administration into Reagan’s second term.

The film is engaging until it absolutely comes apart in the final twenty minutes, when it strips off all pretense and reveals itself to be little more than a propaganda piece. Even so, the depictions of racism are real, particularly in the scenes where the butler’s son is a participant in receiving ridicule, injury, and arrest because of the color of his skin. Righteous anger wells up.

I start to be thankful for how far it seems our country has come in such a short time on race. To be sure, America has seen its citizen push forward in several ways to realize the key ideal of Dr. King’s most famous speech, that men are judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

I start to be thankful, but then I consider how many African-American children were slain yesterday, and will be today, before they ever take a breath. I remember that tomorrow is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. I remember that the religion of abortion has a temple called Planned Parenthood, and its Solomon, Margaret Sanger, built it to eradicate the black race from Harlem. I remember, and I lament.

We still have so far to go.

And yet I have joy… and hope, for I remember what Paul said to the Athenians in Acts 17:24-27:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;  nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;  and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

To quote another Pauline phrase, creation groans. We groan within ourselves, but not without hope. Jesus has made us all. There really is only one race — the human race — and Jesus saves sinners in that race from the consequences of their sin every day. One day He will return and make all things well. Until then, we grope for Him, knowing that the days are evil, but salvation is here… and coming.

While we wait for that great day, let us contend to abhor the very idea of racism, and the very idea of abortion, for they are both broadsides in the spirit of Satan against the very image of the One we were created in (Gen 1:26-27).