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A Foundational Greeting

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
February 13, 2023 1:00 am

A Foundational Greeting

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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February 13, 2023 1:00 am

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If you have your Bibles, please open to the book of Titus. We're going to be looking at chapter 1 verses 1 through 4. Before I read tonight, it's just a couple items I'd like to address. First, it was nice to see two gentlemen who've had recent hip replacements move up and down these stairs, Bruce and Eugene moving.

It appears to be pain free and we prayed for that and so we praise God for that. Wendy and I had the opportunity to visit with Jeremy, yesterday, Jeremy and Marie, and I just would like to share with the congregation. As you pray for him this week, I asked Jeremy, I said, how are you doing? And he looked up and he said, vulnerable. And so we need to pray for God to strengthen, for the Spirit to strengthen his Spirit. I shared with Jeremy, we're all vulnerable.

I mean, where you're at, I understand what you're saying. But unfortunately, we walk through life thinking that we're unstoppable. And it is only by God's grace. And we need that grace every minute, like Jeremy right now needs the support and love from his wife and from this church. So pray that God strengthens his Spirit.

But a good report, able to communicate, glad to be home. So, you know, just keep him in your prayer. As we look at the scripture text tonight, we're looking at the greeting of Paul as he's writing to Titus.

And he says this starting in verse one, Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies, promised before the ages began, and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior, to Titus, my true child in common in a common faith, grace and peace from God the Father, and Christ Jesus, our Savior. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we come tonight and we ask that your Holy Spirit teach us your word. Father, I pray that as we work through this text, we see and learn what you have for us to know about who you are and what you are about what you have accomplished for us about where we can rest and about our true identity in you. Lord God, let it be your word that is spoken.

Keep me from error in the text. And Lord, may you be honored and glorified as we work through it. And it's in Christ's name we pray. Amen.

I am going to share two self-deprecating items with you as we work through tonight. First of all, I love our church. Our church and the people in this church are brothers and sisters in Christ to the level that we can have great fellowship and communication. I had the honor to be in the missions committee meeting and Steve Jessen was presenting what MNA is doing in disaster response. And they told him I was preaching tonight.

And Steve was like, Oh, how much time do you need? And before he finished his sentence, one of the people on the committee said, all of it. So I apologize that I require all of it, but hopefully as we work through tonight, we are going to see what God has for us.

But there is a truth to that. And the other one that I'm going to share as we open into the verses, you'll understand where I'm going and why I'm sharing it. As I prayed about what to preach about for tonight, I've had the opportunity most every month to preach. And I decided if I'm going to have this regular opportunity, what would God want the body of grace?

What do I need as we're going through? And as I prayed and it just became clearer and clearer through session meetings and different things that have been going on. And then it was just reinforced this morning when Doug looked at us all and he said, Grace Church, we are to be the light and the salt to the world around us, to the community. The session has been working and praying on what more is there Grace Church can be doing to take the gospel of Christ to those around us.

And we have been praying about that and looking at different avenues. And Titus, when you read Titus, it is a pastoral letter from Paul teaching Titus and the church what Christian living is about false teaching, of course, but what the outworking of the gospel looks like and why that outworking occurs. And so over the next few times that I get to preach, hopefully we can work through Titus and see not just what is important for Grace Church, but what Paul is calling Christians to understand what it is when he talks about us working out our faith in works in the world.

And that is what I hope we will touch on over these next few times that I preach. The context of the book itself, it is an instructional letter. It's written by Paul. Very first opening line, Paul, a servant of God.

So there is no question who wrote it and who it's to. It is to Titus. And who is Titus that he is writing to him? If we move to the Acts of the Apostles, it's very weird, we do not see Titus listed in the book of Acts. But we do see Titus and we see him, excuse me, we see him in the book of Galatians. Titus is mentioned there in chapter two, verses one through three. We read this, then after 14 years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.

I went up because of a revelation and set before them, though privately before those who seemed influential, the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. So we see that Titus is someone who is not a Jew convert to Christianity, but he is a Greek.

He is a Gentile that came to faith under Paul because in verse four, we read, to Titus, my true child in a common faith. And when Paul uses that, it's indicating that Titus, under the ministry of Paul, came to faith in Jesus Christ and was mentored and tutored and taught by Paul. So we definitely see that the letter itself is an instructional letter to Titus, and it's about instructing how to bring order to the Cretan church, the church at Crete, and set her up to move out and take the gospel out to those and how to protect the doctrine within the church. We also see, though, that this letter is to be a letter to the churches also, to be read out to us. In chapter three, verse 15, in his closing, Paul uses the term eu in the Greek in the plural. So if he was closing to Titus, he would not use a plural address. So we know that the letter is meant to be shared within the churches for the teaching, and then to confirm that, we have the letter before us that is given to us by God as Holy Scripture that we're to learn from. And so that gives you the context of what Titus is going to be. It is very similar to 1 and 2 Timothy. It is Paul instructing a man, a pastor in a church, and in that instruction, that instruction is also for the church.

Why? Because the church is composed of believers who are apostles, messengers of the gospel. The church is composed of servants of God or servants of Jesus Christ. And so as we even open the text and look, we see that the teaching is not just Titus's. It's not just for the church at Crete. It is for the church at Grace Harrisburg. It is for all here, not just the pastors or the elders or the deacons. And we are to learn what the Holy Spirit and God has for us from this text.

I told you I would share two self-deprecations. The second one is as we start to dive into the text, we are going to look at the first four verses, which is one sentence. A while back in a session meeting, a gentleman saying that he was complimenting me said, Jay has a gift where he can say a whole lot without saying a lot.

And I was told that that was a compliment. What I'm going to propose to you tonight is in the first four verses that we read, it's one sentence. It starts out, Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness in hope of eternal life, which God who never lies promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of our God and Savior. To Titus, my true child and common faith, grace and peace from God, the Father and Christ Jesus, our Savior. In that one sentence, in those four verses, Paul says a whole lot.

Number one, about what the faith is that this church is going to walk in and what that faith produces in the one who believes it. It is amazing as you look at four verses, one sentence, the amount of theological teaching that Paul touches and teaches. And many times we open a book like Titus and see greeting as the topic of the section and think, oh, we can breeze through this.

But my contention tonight as we look at this greeting is this is a foundational greeting. It is a foundational teaching that the rest of Titus' letter is going to be built upon. And it is for a reason that it is given in this sense for Titus and for the church. When we look at that and try to start to think why would Paul have to address Titus in a personal letter that way, it made me begin to think what are the truths that we may overlook and what I would like us to meditate on tonight are two big truths I would say out of the text. There are many and we could spend a lot of time on these four verses alone. But what I would like us to do in our brief time is to look at truth number one is the truth of our identity in Christ.

And truth number two will be the great and sure benefits of the gospel. As we look at the text and we see Paul introducing himself in a letter to who we already see, he has mentored and brought the gospel to and had Titus come to belief under his teaching. He opens a letter to Titus and to the church saying, Paul, a servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ.

Why does he say that? Did Titus not know that? Did Titus not understand who Paul was as Paul shared the truth of the gospel as he participated in Paul's ministry?

So we know that Titus understood this. If we take the idea that the letter is meant for the church in a larger sense, yes, Paul is using it in order to set his bona fides that he is called by Christ to be an apostle or a messenger of this gospel. And Titus, as he brings you teaching and training, it is under the authority of Christ through my apostleship.

I agree with that. But I would believe the churches would have an idea of Paul's authority already. This letter is written roughly in 60 to 62 A.D. So there is, I would think, an understanding by the church at large who the apostle Paul is at this point. There is the thought process that there and because as we get into Titus, there are Judaizers, there are Jewish Christians in Crete, and part of the false teaching that is going to be spoken against is them trying to drive back to the law and to the customs of Jewish tradition. And so Paul, especially with the wording he uses, and I want us to compare the wording in one. The first five or seven words in Chapter one, Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.

I went through each one of his letter openings in Romans 1-1. We hear Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. In 1 Corinthians, Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 2, Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. In Galatians 1, Paul an apostle, not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father. Ephesians, Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. And in Philippians, Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus. In Titus, it is Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Why? If he is responding to the Judaizers, if he is setting his bona fides to them, this is what gives me the authority. That statement then can be traced back to the Old Testament. And in Amos chapter 3 verse 7, we read this, For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants, the prophets. So Paul claims to the Judaizers in this opening, I have the authority level of the Old Testament prophets, those who spoke for God. And I agree with that a hundred percent. But I think there's even more.

I think there's even more to you and I. When we read those opening words and they say, excuse me, Paul a servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, it is a declaration of identity that Paul uses to the people for them to understand as believers what their identity is to be. It amazes me when I do have the opportunity to preach on a Sunday evening how often something Doug has touched on in his sermon ties to a point that I am going to work through even though they are separate in the truths they're trying to convey. This morning, Doug took some time to speak about identity issues that are going on in the culture.

He talked about the transgender or the gender issue that's out there. And as we sit and look at what Paul is making a statement concerning here, he is setting forth the truth of the identity of a believer in Christ Jesus. That is my contention.

I am going to hold to that contention by use of scripture. But if you look at the world around us, what Paul is teaching is how a believer, how we are to identify ourself in this world. And it is a unique thing to discuss at this time in our cultural upheaval. You know, as a young man growing up in the late 70s and the 80s, politics was starting to take a forefront because news cycles were becoming more prevalent. And what you had is the arising of, in the populous, an identity you're a conservative or you're a liberal. So we have political identities. We always have identified by race. Any time that I went to fill out a job application, any time I fill out a tax form, there's always a question of race. So there's an identifier by race. We identify by gender or sexual orientation.

I do. I work in the healthcare field and have for 34 years. I will tell you that it is important that I know whether I am treating a woman or a man because drug dosages change based off that one indicator. It is not something that I don't want to belittle what your thought process is.

It's important for, if we don't dose right, especially some of the medicines that I help to give, can cause severe side issues. And gender, correct gender, is important for us to do that correctly. But we have identifiers of that.

What we've seen rapidly over the last five years is a great confusion in our society about our identities, either individual or groups, and the importance of identifying ourself. And Paul is saying, Christian, I am making a statement here. I, Paul, am a servant. And if you've been in this church for any time, Doug has taught on this word, the Greek word doulos, and that word means slave, and so literally interpreted Paul a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. That is my identity. As I present myself to you, I present myself as a slave of God.

Why? Well, if you have your Bibles open, flip to Romans chapter 6. What we see in our culture today and what we see through history repeated over the years back, man wants to be something, and he wants to be his own something. He wants to make his declaration. He wants autonomy.

He wants to be able to set the rule and the limit. Paul, when he's teaching the church in Rome, starting in verse 15, says in chapter 6, What then are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace by no means? Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death or of obedience which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, who were once slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

But what fruit were you getting at the time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. He finishes that out by saying, for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul in his teaching to the believers identifies them who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as slaves of God. So when he is addressing Titus, when he is addressing the Judaizers and correcting them and addressing the church, he is founding them to understand what their identity is. In a world of upheaval where we have concern about the sin that is diluting people's mind, what we must stay firmly established in is that there are only two possibilities that man can be. Man can either be a slave of sin which is the natural position of man. When Paul makes this declaration in his greeting, he is unnatural, he is counterculture, he is the opposite of what the natural state of man is because in the fall we all come under that identity, slaves to sin. And not until Jesus Christ is brought to reality by the Holy Spirit regenerating the heart at the preaching of his word does God move us from that slaves of sin to a slave or servant of God.

So as we look at this foundational greeting, that first introduction is a foundation of who the believers in Crete, who the believers at Grace Church are to be. Are you a slave to God? What does that even mean? We have harmed the word slave to a degree because it is a negative connotation but basically a slave is one who is owned by another. Paul is saying, I, Paul, owned by God. And on what right does he have to be owned by God and be a messenger? And he shares that in his teachings that he was bought with a price and that price is the blood of Jesus Christ. So this small statement is huge and a foundation for a church of what they are to see themselves in.

We today live in a society that wants to say I'm a this Christian or I'm a that Christian or I'm another and it's wrong. We are servants of God most high purchased by the blood of his son Jesus Christ. Paul explains that in this identity that his role is a messenger or an ambassador of the gospel being an apostle of Jesus Christ and he says that he is these things for the sake and listen of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness in hope of eternal life which God who never lies promised before the ages began. Paul is God's slave and apostle of Jesus in order that he may proclaim for the benefit of the people who are elected by God the very gospel that will save them and in that proclamation of the gospel building them in the knowledge of truth in the knowledge of Jesus Christ who is the truth and what happens whenever they're built in that. It says it accords with godliness. Ladies and gentlemen, the good works that we are called to do in Scripture are not meritorious.

They are the result of us being changed by God's grace into servants of God, children of God and that is what Titus is going to go on and explain to the church at Crete several times this outworking of God's servants living that godly life in the presence of the neighbors and the surrounding community. When we look at the greeting and we realize that he tells us in hope of eternal life which God who never lies promised before the ages began we could spend forever right here. This hope is not a wish. Tonight there's a football game that's coming on and there are going to be people who hopes Kansas City win or they hope Philadelphia wins and that is not the type of hope we're talking about.

The word here in the Greek is an expected confidence. We're expecting it because it's completed. We are not wishing it could happen.

We are not in our best dreams. This is the best way it will play out. Jesus Christ has accomplished and it was accomplished through the eternal covenant with God the Father and the Holy Spirit before the ages began. So we see in these opening verses some tremendous truth Paul is setting as the foundation for the church to understand as Titus is going to be given the authority to take that church and move her into being the salt and the light of Crete.

The salt and the light of grace or of Harrisburg and that's what we need to be. As we look at the options that are given in Paul's teaching in Romans 6 it's amazing that the same teaching the God who never lies promised this eternal life in Romans 6 to the Roman church the believers there but now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God the fruit you get leads to sanctification the working out of good works the taking out of the Christian life and eternal life. Ladies and gentlemen, Eugene gave us in the worship service this morning he gave us words of assurance that we are saved that we are redeemed. That means we have eternal life now.

It is also something we long for for full consummation and like Doug said we want to be prepared and it would be great if Jesus came back this very moment and took us unto himself. That should be our hope and our desire but the honest statement Paul is saying is that this movement, this identity, this work of God by the gospel of us being servants or slaves of God leads to sanctification and its end is the full participation in eternal life that we enter upon his salvation. So we see in very few words something that says a great deal to us.

To close tonight I would like to touch on the last part of that and that is the second great truth that I can't see it, sorry, that's horrible. The great and sure benefits of the gospel is basically the truth. Paul's teaching us in verse 1 that the gospel brings faith to his elect. He shows us that that faith and growth in truth leads us to godly acts in response to what God has done but that God who never lies promised us these things so they are sure and we can rest in them. In Romans 6 22 that fruit of the slave we discussed and it's easy for me to stand here and say we can trust God but God tells us that in Numbers 23 19 when we read in Romans 6 22 that it is the fruit that leads to sanctification and its end is eternal life when we read that in hope of eternal life which God who never lies promised we go to Numbers 23 19 and we read God is not man that he should lie or a son of man that he should change his mind. He has said and he will not do it or he has spoken and he will not fulfill it.

Questions asked with the answer being of course he will. How can anyone writing scripture pen that? Because from Genesis to Revelation the word of God has been spoken and fulfilled and ultimately at the cross and the empty tomb and the Ascension we see the fullness of God keeping his word even then he writes that in the proper time in the fullness of time he sent his son. The Jews were delivered from Egypt as was told to Joseph. That wasn't they were stuck there for a while and then God remembered them.

Joseph is actually told at the end of his life in Genesis 50 that God will hear these people and Joseph says take my bones to be buried with my people. We see throughout the New Testament the Israelites straying God's people God bringing chastisement and judgment upon them but remaining a remnant or keeping a remnant in order that his truth would stand and then we come to the New Testament and we see the life the work and the ultimate fulfillment of God's redemptive plan in history in Jesus Christ and what is amazing is from that point on we see God building his church as he said he would and nothing will overcome his church or his people. It is a sure promise as we sit and realize what God has done. As we close tonight this opening is a foundational opening or greeting for the church at Crete and for the believers at Grace. As we leave tonight what do we take from it? First we take what is our identity? As you endure a culture that struggles with a simple question our responses should be very simple God-centered responses there are two identities. You are either of sin or of Christ of God.

The only two identities a man or woman can hold. In that if you are in Christ Jesus these are the things believers that will occur. Our faith will be spurred by the Holy Spirit to full understanding of salvation of justification and the movement of progressive sanctification and our growth in the knowledge of truth will lead us into that sanctification the living out of a godly life into a dark black world in sin. That's what the church at Crete is going to be called to.

That is what Doug told us this morning we are called to. I know that this morning we also talked about persecution and I said to my wife as I was building up to come this book is written in 62 A.D. If we want an example of how to prepare for persecution we need to look at Paul because by this time he has been persecuted greater probably than any of us could imagine enduring and he is going to face the ultimate persecution and martyrdom in a few years.

And this is what he says Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. It is the grace of God that will sustain us through all things. It is the power the strength of the Holy Spirit. It is us growing in the knowledge of truth and taking godliness out.

That's what he's asking. He will supply what we need. Let's pray. Father we thank you for this word tonight. It seems like a simple greeting at the first reading but Father it holds so much truth for us that we can rest. Rest in you rest in what Christ has done. You have moved us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. You have made us yours. You own us by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let us walk in that truth and let us hold that truth to those that come into our midst. Let us be a people that are salt and light in the world resting on your power, your strength, your grace and your mercy. And it's in Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-22 14:45:34 / 2023-02-22 14:57:24 / 12

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