Friday, April 15, 2011

Titus - Part 3

Established in sound doctrine.1  The basis for godliness can be found in only one place—God’s word.  The prophet says, “He has told you, O man, what is good” (Mic. 6:8a).  The proper understanding of Scripture is necessary to live the godly life.  Paul gives Titus seven areas where proper doctrine establishes our walk.

1. Acknowledgment of truth (1:1) – “Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:128).  What was it the psalmist understood that caused such trust in the Scriptures that all other ways would be considered false?  There was a recognition that what had been given as holy writ was true, sure, and faithful.  God had given His word in various ways and portions through His chosen vessels (Heb. 1:1).  That word had been found true according to all the blessings and cursings given.  A proper discernment would establish that it was trustworthy.  The word in written form came in human form (John 1:1, 14), and in His high priestly prayer stated, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17b).  Thus, the Word made flesh agrees that the written word is true.  Moreover, it is only God’s word that is considered true.  We do not follow elaborate tales (2 Pet. 1:16) or the wrangling of men (1 Tim. 6:5).

2. Ability from adherence (1:9) – Scripture works powerfully in the life of the person who lives by it.  Before the conquest of Canaan God gave Joshua a command concerning the law that Moses had entrusted to the people (Josh. 1:8-9).  With the command came a promise of God’s enabling presence and success.  By continual study and meditation on the laws of God, we understand the mind of God.  Each believer may know His character and desires toward, and expectations of, His children.  We grow in wisdom and knowledge, and therewith comes an accompanying responsibility to correct and challenge when necessary being enabled by both Son (Luke 21:15) and Spirit (Matt. 10:19-20).  This responsibility requires diligence in study and careful consideration of Scripture.

3. Proper use in teaching (2:1) – Incumbent with ability is accuracy.  The word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) and is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12).  Carelessness in word or mind-set makes us to be no more than noisome troublers (1 Cor. 13:1).  The Corinthian believers en masse were having difficulty as Paul warns the assembly that “knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1b).  Their difficulty was understanding the freedom that is in Christ (chapters 8-11) without thoughtfulness to the need of controlling love.  The body of Christ has continual troubles with those misusing Scripture-believing Pharisees (Acts 15:5), selfish preachers (Phil. 1:17), Diotrephes (3 John 9-10).  Proper handling of “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is not just a recommendation but a goal of highest calling and comes from the word living richly in us (Col. 3:16).

4. Governs thoughts, words, deeds (2:7-8a) – In Proverbs 2 Solomon records the results of diligently pursuing the Scriptures.  What develops in the chapter is our four-fold part stated in the opening verses: (verse 1) receive and treasure; (verse 2) listen and absorb; (verse 3) ask; and (verse 4) seek—followed by a repeating pattern (outcome – reason) each building on the previous.
  a.  (Verses 5-8) The first outcome mentioned concerns a proper relationship to the Lord. We come to recognize what comprises fear of the Eternal One and caused Isaiah to declare his uncleanness before Him (Isa. 6:5).  It is knowledge of who God is, and what He has declared Himself to be.  This proclamation demonstrates the Lord’s desire to show Himself to His people.  He has all wisdom and knowledge and delights to give it for our protection.
  b.  (Verses 9-19) When we have an understanding of who God is and our relationship to Him, we develop the capacity for knowing what is proper and using it correctly.  God’s abiding word works in our whole person to guard and protect from the evildoer and the one who would bring us down to destruction.
  c.  (Verses 20-22) Resulting from the abiding word is the upright walk.  The good man, who fixes himself on the Lord and His precepts, will dwell securely in the company of the Lord’s people.  He will be steadfast and blameless in all his ways, knowing that the Lord will deal with those who despise His ways.

5. Adornment (2:10) – From the fall of Adam humankind has attempted to clothe themselves to hide their shame.  Physically, this was first accomplished with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7).  Spiritually, righteous acts were attempted which “are like a filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6) for “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9).  Neither proved to be adequate.  In both arenas, God needed to make a suitable change of clothing.  To cover their bodies He made Adam and Eve garments of skins.  For the spirit a change is also required—garments of salvation and a robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).   We can understand the need for garb that covers the seen, but what about the unseen?  Why should it be necessary?  There are three reasons:
  a.  God sees the inner man and demands purity (Lev. 11:44-45; Psa. 51:6).
  b.  The change made to the heart will manifest itself to others in a visible way (Psa. 102).
  c.  Looking to a future day, we see those who rely on the Lord Jesus will be clothed in spotless white as He confesses them before the Father (Rev. 3:5).

6. Authority (2:15) – With the phrase “Thus says the Lord” occurring over 400 times in the Old Testament, there is no question God has the first and final answer in all matters.  Paul’s second letter to Timothy attests to this by stating that all Scripture is inspired or God-breathed (3:16) which points to Him as the originator and author.  This being the case, we can agree with Grudem that “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”2  As we have opportunity to share the Scriptures, we must speak “as one who is speaking the utterances of God…so that in all things God may be glorified” (1 Pet. 4:11).  It is His authority we rely upon “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (1 Tim. 3:16b).  “Man, creed, and church are all subject to the authority of Scripture. God has spoken; we must submit.”3  Nothing about ourselves can claim this authority, nor can we hope to take it for ourselves by force.  It is the authority of the word of God working through us.

1 Continuing the series from Part 2.
2 Wayne Grudem.  Systematic Theology.  Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press and Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994., p. 73
3 Henry C. Thiessen.  Lectures in Systematic Theology.  Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949, 1977, 1979., p. 63

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